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Monumental Theft
Gru: We stole the Statue of Liberty...
[the minions cheer]
Gru: The small one from Las Vegas.
[cheering stops]
Gru: I won't even mention the Eiffel Tower... also Vegas.

As much as it would be cool to break into Fort Knox and steal all the gold inside, swipe a priceless Monet from Orsay museum, or abscond with a rare blue rose, it's just not enough. For a theft to qualify as a Monumental Theft, it has to be harder. Such as stealing Fort Knox itself, or the artist Monet, or even the color blue.

Thefts of this trope come from characters who set their sights high, higher than would be even feasible: why raid an Ancient Egyptian tomb if you could steal the pyramid in which the treasure is buried? Sunken pirate ship? No problem, just pilfer the entire body of water under which it's trapped. Even if it's anchored to the Earth's core, or is the Earth's core, and there's no possible way someone could steal it without drawing attention. That is the Monumental Theft.

A surprisingly large amount of the time, it is never even explained how the theft was pulled off. Either the thief applied some phlebotinum or you're just not supposed to think about it. This kind of work is a favourite of the Impossible Thief.

See also: Gentleman Thief, Classy Cat-Burglar, Phantom Thief, Impossible Thief, and Tricksters.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • Le Chevalier Noir (The Black Knight) in Don Rosa's Scrooge McDuck stories is a Gentleman Thief who might pull one off, now and then. At one point, he steals a whole viking ship, whilst completely naked. Even he recognized the impossibility of swiping Scrooge's whole fortune, though, so he planned to disintegrate it instead. Scrooge doesn't find him as honorable as he claims to be, however, because he pulls off such heists to boost his ego, even calling the press beforehand and telling them where to be to cover the story.
  • The Brotherhood of Evil Henchmen, in the Nodwick comic, attempted to become a whole society of Monumental Thieves dedicated to the service of others. They abducted Nodwick, whose henchman "special power" is the ability to haul titanic weights around like other people would their luggage, and tried to get him to reveal the secrets of his amazing cargo-hauling strength. As their own "power" is the discovery and acquisition of small and rare items (magical artifacts, abnormal brains, etc.) for their masters, they hoped to make themselves even more powerful by being able to haul off whole arcane libraries instead of a single magic tome, or sealed buildings full of forbidden artifacts instead of having to break in just for the magic sword. They finally gave up when Nodwick proved to be too much trouble to keep contained for interrogation, and realized that someone's more likely to notice a whole building gone missing long before a book.
  • In one Golden Age Justice Society of America story in The DCU, the Injustice Society held a competition amongst its members to see who could steal the most impressive patriotic item. Targets included Old Ironsides (which is, at least, mobile), the Liberty Bell, Plymouth Rock, the Freedom Train and the Washington Monument! They then stole a stadium full of people to judge the winner.
  • Batman foe Dr Tzin-Tzin once stole the Sphinx and hid it on the bottom of the ocean, for no adequately explained reason. Other than "because he Could!"
  • A group of villains in the DC Comics book Trinity perform ever-more elaborate thefts of items related to tarot imagery, as the first part of a magical ritual. For the next part they switch to items related to the Trinity of Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman: their origins (the space-plane rescued by Superman in his first public appearance, the clay Diana was made from, Crime Alley), their friends (Lois's PDA, Etta Candy's name badge, Jim Gordon's pipe) and their enemies (a vial of Luthor's blood, Max Lord's skull and the Joker's laugh!) That last one, being literally impossible, is what tips them into Monumental Thief territory.
    • Nothing's impossible. You got a few options: any type of successful lethal force, soundproof box, tape recorder and a knife, whatever causes laryngitis, any of the fine movies from the local collection...
    • Ultimately they steal the heroes' status as The Trinity, the three most important people in the world, resulting in history itself changing.
  • In his original incarnation, Superman foe Brainiac used to use a shrink ray to steal entire cities. He's returned to this in modern interpretations.
  • In The Silver Age of Comic Books, Lex Luthor once planted bombs in all the world's great monuments, and threatened to detonate them unless Superman would physically steal them for him. Supes does eventually find a way to disarm the bombs, but not before he has had to carry half the world's monuments to Luthor's hideout.
  • The Prankster, a minor Superman villain who has been around since The Golden Age of Comic Books. How can you not like a guy with no super-powers, whose only real goal is to pull the biggest practical jokes on the largest number of people possible, and whose favorite target is the most powerful being on Earth?
    He once copyrighted the alphabet, so that people had to pay him for writing! While not strictly a theft, it still falls under the heading of "how do you even do that?"
  • The title character of the Italian comic Diabolik is a borderline example, in that what he pulls can be physically done, it's just near impossible to do. The best example is an enormous platinum disk, so great it took a train to move it... That was stolen just as a cop stated it was too big to steal.
  • In some Italian stories, Paperinik (Donald Duck's superhero-avenger of himself alter ego and protagonist of Paperinik New Adventures) is depicted as capable of this, if he was so inclined.
    • In one story he faked a Face-Heel Turn caused by a supposed amnesia and stole half of Duckburg piece by piece (at that point the police just gave up and started playing with flowers), and gave it back once he had dismantled the criminal organization he had set to infiltrate.
    • He also stole Scrooge's money-filled bed while he was sleeping on it in the very first story.

    Film 
  • Despicable Me:
    • Vector manages to steal a pyramid of Giza and replace it with a giant pyramid-shaped balloon. Not to be outdone, for most of the movie, Gru concocts a plan to steal the moon. (Admittedly after shrinking it to the size of a basketball.)
    • Gru is successful in stealing the Statue of Liberty... in Las Vegas, as well as the Eiffel Tower... "also Vegas".
  • Another phenomenal movie thief would be Fat Bastard in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. He poses as a guard, sneaks up to the cryogenic tube in which Austin's naked body is frozen and employs a giant syringe to literally steal Austin's sexual energy (or "mojo"), which here is depicted in the material world as an icky red substance that looks a bit like melted licorice. Following this theft, Austin (in 1999) is in bed with a woman and suddenly discovers that - for the first time in his life - he is unable to make love.
  • The plot of Men In Black hinges on an entire galaxy being captured by war-inclined alien bugs. (Of course, since it's a microcosmic galaxy only about the size of a marble, this is not as difficult as one might think.)
  • X-Men:
  • The Big Bad of the Show Within a Show in Jett Jackson: The Movie steals whole cities for his own private world. near the climax, he steals another city and checks the sphere where he keeps his world and is happy to see Paris. Naturally, the view is centered on the Eiffel Tower. Bonus points for having the titular actor having to fight the Big Bad instead of his superspy character, who has to deal with the life on a teenager in the real world.

    Literature 
  • Discworld:
    • Jonathan Teatime from Hogfather is an assassin who's spent his spare time developing plans to kill various gods and Anthropomorphic Personifications. Including Death.
    • Conina from Sourcery fits, having stolen treasure that had been swallowed for safekeeping
    • Must be harry-deterry, her father and his Silver Horde managed to steal the entire Agetean Empire.
    • Fred Colon justifies hanging around various Ankh-Morpork landmarks rather than going on an actual beat by the fact that he is guarding them against such grandiose thieves. This is made more impressive due to the fact many major landmarks were designed by Bloody Stupid Johnson, and are thus rather small.
    • In spite of this, Unseen University did get stolen once, but that was just a student prank.
    • As did the Brass Bridge. One wonders if Colon is really up to the job.
  • Jame and her master Penari in P.C. Hodgell's Chronicles of the Kencyrath. Neither steals for money, and both have accomplished thefts considered impossible. Jame frequently steals only the least valuable thing she can on her missions, and Penari uses the giant uncut diamond he stole in impossible circumstances as a paperweight.
  • Arsène Lupin is arguably the first Monumental Thief of the modern era, able to plan and execute heists while never leaving his prison cell (granted, this was because he had the assistance of a well-organized gang, but it was still impressive) and pull off a number of other impossible crimes.

    Live Action TV 
  • The Carmen Sandiego series of game shows (Where In The World Is...? and Where In Time Is...?) has this, too, of course. That Other Wiki has a nifty episode list which assures that Carmen's henchmen managed to steal, among other things, the Portuguese language, the moon, Malta, the North Pole, The ABC, the Bermuda Triangle, Old Faithful, Ipanema Beach, Mt. Everest, the International Date Line, the Ozone Layer, Cuba, the internet, tai chi, and to top it all, the Milky Way Galaxy. Wrap your head around that. It's worth noting that the alien henchwoman Kneemoi was responsible for most of the more bizarre thefts. Bizarre as in concepts that don't exist in any physical sense, like the International Date Line, Portuguese language, and tai chi. The human henchmen usually stuck to physical objects, even if they were buildings, geological formations, or celestial bodies. And then there was the episode of the game show where her henchmen stole the World Trade Center... which, in retrospect, could have been for the best.
  • Mirai Sentai Timeranger and Power Rangers Time Force start with something like this - the respective Big Bads didn't just stage prison breakouts, they stole the prison.
  • One episode of Michael Bentine's Potty Time had someone stealing Nelson's Column, the Effiel Tower and the Statue of Liberty. It turned out he had only removed them so he could have them cleaned as gifts to the respective governments.
  • The Leverage team specializes in some amazing tactics to get what they're after and leave their client's enemies holding the proverbial bag. The targets of their clever thefts and elaborate con-jobs are never small-time, either. Their first job netted them "retire and buy an island money" (which is why they work on an "alternate revenue stream" for all the jobs after the first) and upset the entire industry of the guy who double-crossed them, on top of causing an international incident. It helps when you have four amazing thieves lead by a grandmaster of the Batman Gambit.
  • After discovering that God is black (as in the race, not the color), Sarah Silverman snarks that she's cool with it and not one of those racists who would wonder if a black God is going to steal the Moon (heavily implying she is EXACTLY that kind of racist). Then again, since God is....well, God, that might actually put the scenario above and beyond this trope.
  • In an episode of Xena: Warrior Princess, a thief named Tarsus manages the steal a huge statue from the coast of a village.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In the episode "The Stolen Earth"... well, you can guess.
    • And in "Smith and Jones", the entire Royal Hope Hospital is transported to the Moon.
  • In Stargate SG-1, the Asgard have been known to remove entire Goa'uld pyramids and armies of Jaffa by beaming them up and not bothering to reintegrate them again afterwards. They've also used this to borrow the Stargate more than once, and one one occasion, pilfer all of the food stores present in Cheyenne Mountain! Really, it's gotten to the point where Thor seems to be doing this simply for his own amusement!
  • A particular skit from a 1990s Turkish satire show drew attention to the issue of historic artifact smuggling and the problems dealing with it due to corruption. The skit ends with an Expy of a well known smuggler speaking to a Parisian buyer in front of the Hagia Sofia...only for the camera to reveal they are in downtown Paris.
    Buyer: "You know, I always respected your abilities, but this...glances at the Hagia Sofia..this is quite something."
  • CSI: Crime Scene Investigation: In "Stealing Home", the CSI team investigate when an entire house is stolen.

    Radio 
  • Carmen Sandiego:
    • In "The Case of the Unsolved Crime" this is subverted almost to the point of deconstruction. In the former, Carmen and henchman Sam O'Nella steal the Pantheon from Rome, Italy. However Carmen, punishing Sam for a past betrayal, ditches him immediately after the heist, leaving him with a thousand-ton stone monument of a white elephant. Sam unsuccessfully tries to sell the stone to be used in paper-weights before being caught.
    • Also subverted in "The Case of the Mysterious Case": henchman Lee Non Mi, wanting to prove herself Carmen's equal, steals Beethoven's Piano from Bonn, Germany. However, it is too old to be used as an instrument, and too hot to be sold as a historical artifact. After a long chase, Lee tries to abandon it in a New York City music school which is where the authorities (and Carmen) catch up to her.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • A notorious WCW storyline had Booker T and his Evil Counterpart Big Tnote  fighting over who would gain ownership of the letter "T." (As WrestleCrap sarcastically put it, the show must have been taken over by Sesame Street.)

    Tabletop Games 

    Theme Parks 
  • In The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man at Universal Studios, Doctor Octopus and the Sinister Syndicate, with the aid of a levitation gun, steal the Statue of Liberty. They state that unless NYC surrenders themselves to them, they will destroy it. This thus propels forth the ride's storyline.

    Video Games 
  • Carmen Sandiego, the educational entertainment character, had a penchant for stealing historical figures, famous landmarks, and even entire time periods, just for the kicks of it.
    • Sometimes she's able to steal things that aren't even material. She doesn't steal Mona Lisa, or even the Louvre. No, she'll steal the Mona Lisa's smile. She won't gank the Hope Diamond, she'll swipe its shine. She won't abscond with your possessions, she'll take your past, your future, your soul.
    • Carmen's henchmen would also stage some... interesting heists in the games. Such as one in "Where in Time" that stole the Thames river. Appropriately enough, he was wearing a blue trench coat.
  • Evil Genius eventually allows you to develop a shrink ray. Afterward, it becomes a mission goal to steal the Eiffel Tower.
  • Tachyon: The Fringe has a side quest wherein the player, a freelance starfighter, escorts a ship carrying the roof of the Sistine Chapel and protects it from a baron's forces (their master hoping to steal it so they can humiliate another baron in the region).
  • Sly Cooper functions almost entirely off this trope. As a bit of a Shout-Out, one of his ancestors, seen in a picture in the third game, is a dead ringer for Carmen Sandiego.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog Rouge the Bat aspires to this; she won't be happy until she owns all the jewelery in the world.
  • The Thieves from Disgaea; they can steal your enemies' stats.
  • Tyrant Overlord Baal in Disgaea 3 could classify. He, among other things, steals various people's height, stardom, screen time, the letter "a" and a space out of their names, the game they starred in, their anime DVD collection, their innocent heart, an unspecified "item," their friends, and a one billion HL savings account. And after all that, it's revealed that he might or might not have actually stolen all of those things and may have just been engaging in "insurance fraud."
  • Kay Faraday from Ace Attorney Investigations tries to be a Monumental Thief, but fails at it mostly. All she manages to steal are Edgeworth's lines and poses and Gumshoe's supporting role. Her actual goal, stealing the truth is foiled by the fact that her "partner" would rather find it the traditional way.
  • In Final Fantasy Tactics, some games allow the thief to steal hearts, experience, and the like.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time starts with Krang piloting a massive exosuit and stealing the Statue of Liberty on live television.
  • Early in Kingdom Hearts II somebody steals not only an object, but the WORD for that object as well. When characters try to say it nothing comes out. This may have something to do with that part of the game actually being a computer simulation a la the Matrix.
  • In order to make sure that those who have already played the game before or read a guide in advance can't correctly input his name before learning it in-game, the Rumpelstiltskin-inspired Doopliss steals the letter p and hides it in a chest in the fourth chapter of Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door.

    Web Comics 
  • 8-Bit Theater:
    • Thief definitely qualifies. Among the things he's stolen are souls, secrets, things that aren't even there, and a class change to Ninja from the future FROM HIMSELF. Indeed, he claims he can steal anything that isn't on fire and nailed down. And his personal Hell is a world in which he's stolen everything so there's nothing left to steal.
    Thief: Oh Black Mage, you and your delusions... "Thief is trying to rob us of our very souls."
    Black Mage: Wait, I only think that last one out of fear of you. I've never said it out loud.
    Thief: Oh, I steal souls and secrets.
    • Earlier in the comic, Red Mage suggests that Thief should minmax by putting all his skillpoints into pick-pocketing, since it could cover all other thief skills - opening locks by pickpocketing them out of the doors and chests they're attached to, disarm traps by pickpocketing the mechanisms, and successfully lying to people by "picking the truth pocket of their minds".
  • Girl Genius: In Othar's Twitter, he was at one point asked to help after the Louvre had gone missing. It turns out that it had been stolen using a shrink-ray and hidden inside a cake in a refrigerator, because shrunken objects expand when heated.
  • Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal gives us the pickpocket version.

    Web Original 
  • Frenchman in Englishman has a habit of stealing landmarks from other countries and relocating them to Paris.
  • asdfmovie:
    • "Yeah, well I stole your face!"
    • "Aww, you stole my lungs."
    • "Look out! He's got a nose!"

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons has Snake steal the entire Kwik-E-Mart. "I'm taking this thing to Mexico!" It was left unguarded at the time.
  • Futurama:
    • A possible reference in one episode, where a character mentions that New New York had a "super villain mayor" who stole several landmarks, such as the Sphinx and the Eiffel Tower, and put them on the beach at Coney Island.
    • In the aptly named movie, Bender's Big Score, Bender steals everything. Items seen include the Mona Lisa (incomplete), Tutankahmen's death mask, and what has to be the True Cross.
  • "The Once and Future Thing Part Two" of Justice League Unlimited featured Lord Chronos stealing historic landmarks from throughout space and time. And displaying them in the streets of Neo Gotham. This included, among others, the Titanic, the Sphinx, and the Colosseum.
  • The Hoppity Hooper episode "Colonel Clabber—Limburger Cheese Statue" featured a villain who was stealing the world's great landmarks and having them transported to his estate because he was unable to travel to see them.
  • Of course, the cartoon adaptation Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego? also involved Carmen's larger than life heists, but worked hard to make her seemingly outrageous crimes semi-plausible in their execution. True to the trope, she always commits her crimes just to prove she can, and allows the stolen goods to be recovered once the theft's been accomplished.
    • The opening credits have her stealing a Chinese stone lion, The Sphynx, and the Statue of Liberty in rapid succession.
    • The pilot has her stealing the talent of famous athletes and musicians by using a prototype neural scanner to scramble their nervous systems while overlaying her own with an imprint of their abilities.
    • A later plot to steal an uncracked Liberty Bell is accomplished by hijacking a Russian military time-travel project and then using it to travel back to the 18th century.
    • A plan to make her the most famous crook in time by stealing the Roman Colosseum from Ancient Rome, deals with stolen miniature landmarks, ACME's first Chronoskimmer, a bust of a Roman leader, a electric magnet from the future, and Hannibal's elephants.
  • An episode of Totally Spies! featured a villain who used a shrink ray to steal several monuments (i.e. the Taj Mahal and Mount Rushmore).
  • An one-shot villain from Kids Next Door shrank and captured monuments - and his rival, Numbuh 2 - to defeat him in a spectacular mini-golf ("It's miniature golf!") game, also causing the planet to shrink so he could play a galactic golf game. Really.
  • An one-shot villain, Lilliput, is featured in a Darkwing Duck episode. While Darkwing's back is (literally) turned, he steals Saint Canard's skyline. (With a shrink ray.)
  • Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries usually dealt with this kind of thieves.
  • Phineas and Ferb has an episode where Doofenshmirtz steals the Eiffel Tower, among other things, by shrinking them.
  • In the original series Transformers episode 'Thief in the night', the Decepticon Trypticon steals several famous landmarks - including Fort Knox, the Taj Mahal, the St. Basil's Cathedral (mistakenly called 'the Kremlin') and the Eiffel Tower) in return for large supplies of high-quality fuel from the fictional nation Carbombya. The heists were neither very well-planned nor particularly cunningly performed: he basically just went there and pulled the buildings out of the ground before carrying them off (Trypticon is rather a large Transformer).
  • 1973/74 Super Friends episode "Menace of the White Dwarf". The super villain Raven uses a fragment of a white dwarf star to steal the Washington Monument.
  • In The Looney Tunes Show episode "Eligible Bachelors", Colonel Frankenheimer attempts to steal the Eiffel Tower by hooking it to a zeppelin and flying it to Germany.
  • In the first episode of Kim Possible, Drakken steals an entire toy factory.
  • In one episode of Super Chicken (part of George of the Jungle), the villain stole the state of Rhode Island, by towing it out to sea, and hiding it under smog.
  • COPS: As a birthday present for Big Boss, Berserko tried to steal the Cornucopia Bridge, by inflating the world's largest balloon and blowing up the supports. The C.O.P.S. stop him before he can fire the explosives so we don't see the bridge fly, but their reaction upon seeing the huge balloon inflated inside the bridge says that it wouldn't work.

    Truth In Television 
  • Cracked has the 7 biggest things ever stolen.
  • Police in Jamaica have been baffled by a beach theft. What was stolen? It wasn't some random beachgoer's valuables, and it wasn't some easily-resalable asset. It was the beach itself.
  • Bridge outside Cheb, Czech Republic, discovered missing. Fifth such bridge to disappear in East Europe in last year. Reward offered. Culprit may also be hiding other bridges from New Zealand or Poland.
  • It's contagious. A bridge also went missing in North Beaver Township, Pennsylvania. A story just about made for late night comedy.
  • Making a large monument disappear tends to be a standard illusion for television specials. This is almost always done by moving the camera.
  • Technically, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart once stole the Vatican's personal soundtrack. Using only his memory.
  • A particular urban legend celebrates this type of thief: a man chains his shiny new car to the ground with padlocks in an effort to prevent it being stolen, and finds it the next morning still securely locked under the chains... but facing the opposite direction. Inside the car is a note: "If we want it, we'll take it."


Lockpicking MinigameSteal This IndexMooks Ate My Equipment

alternative title(s): Beyond The Impossible Thief; The Carmen Sandiego; The Sandiego; Grand Theft Impossible; Stealing The Moon; Stealing The Impossible; Stealing The Unstealable; Monumental Thief
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