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[[quoteright:345:[[Literature/ArseneLupin http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/stolen_image_1834.jpg]]]]
[-[[caption-width-right:345:Dear Wiki/TVTropes: By the time you find this, I will have made my escape with your precious page image.\\
Thank you for your contribution to my collection.]]-]

->''"When any guard wakes up, I'm usually long gone."''
-->-- '''Garrett''', ''VideoGame/{{Thief 2014}}''

The Phantom Thief is a special class of criminal. An elusive and fantastic thief who can be long gone before the victim even knows what hit him. Just as likely to be an antihero as a villain.

There is no single set model of the Phantom Thief, but they usually have some of the following characteristics.

* Steals items that are not merely very expensive but often priceless: fine art, unique gems, historical artifacts.
* Leaves a CallingCard to the intended victim.
* Is a MasterOfDisguise.
* Uses trickery and illusions to escape undetected.
* Has a [[TheRival rival]] in the form of a GreatDetective or a [[SympatheticInspectorAntagonist stubborn police inspector]].
* Has a strict code of honor, ranging from [[ThouShaltNotKill refusing to commit murder]] to outright announcing heists in advance.
* Steals for reasons other than personal gain, such as personal challenge, being a {{Troll}} or vigilante justice.
* May or may not actually [[ImpossibleThief break the laws of physics or the common sense altogether]] to achieve their goal.
* Is meant to be either admired by the audience or at the very least [[MagnificentBastard respected for their wit, audacity and adherence to self-made rules]].

Bonus points given if the character is known for being a SharpDressedMan sporting a CoolHat (especially one reminiscent of nice-looking yet out of style fashions). This is particularly common in Japanese media, stemming from the popularity of Literature/ArseneLupin [[GermansLoveDavidHasselhoff in Japan]]. The Japanese word for it is ''Kaitou''.

Compare GentlemanThief and ClassyCatBurglar, both of which can overlap with this trope. If part of their motivation is the thrill of stealing then they are also TheKleptomaniac. See also LoveableRogue and AntiHero.


[[AC: {{Advertising}}]]
* The UsefulNotes/McDonalds Hamburglar.

[[AC: {{Anime}} and {{Manga}}]]
%%* Tuxedo Mask from ''Franchise/SailorMoon''.
%%* Kaitou Ace from ''Manga/CodenameSailorV''
* ''Franchise/LupinIII'' is based on ''Literature/ArseneLupin''; both titular characters are famously uncatchable, with the half-Japanese character being the grandson of the famous French thief.
* In ''Manga/MythicalDetectiveLokiRagnarok'', Freyr (in his first episode), because every GreatDetective needs a rival.
* Maron/"Jeanne" from ''Manga/KamikazeKaitouJeanne''.
* Saint Tail from ''Manga/KaitouSaintTail'' is a MagicalGirl style thief who uses ImpossiblyAwesomeMagicTrick themed skills to steal back property that was already wrongly taken. Notably, she only leaves calling cards to taunt her KidDetective crush.
* The Man of Twenty Faces from ''Manga/ClampSchoolDetectives'' (and his own manga; note that the manga was inspired by a GentlemanThief by the same name from earlier books, movies, and television).
* More obviously (and recently) Dark, from ''Manga/DNAngel,'' although he steals cursed items to get them uncursed.
* Psiren of ''Anime/FullmetalAlchemist''. [[spoiler:The people of her city don't really want her caught - it's an {{Expy}} of Venice and will soon slide underwater, so she's the only thing keeping people coming.]]
* Kaitou Kid (literally known as the Phantom Thief Kid) from ''Manga/DetectiveConan'' and ''Manga/MagicKaito'' has this [[IncrediblyLamePun in spades]].
** In ''Magic Kaito'' he had a lot of Lupin homages, including the indefatigable Nakamori for Ganimard and Hakuba Saguru popping over from England in place of Sherlock Holmes.
* In the BoysLove manga ''Manga/GorgeousCarat'', main character Ray is also known as Phantom Thief Noir.
%%* ''Manga/ShadowLady''
* X in ''Manga/MajinTanteiNougamiNeuro''. Unfortunately, those aren't [[SerialKiller his only crimes]]...
* Phantom Renegade of ''VideoGame/{{Medabots}}'' steals rare medals in order to keep them out of the wrong hands. He would actually do a pretty good job, if he didn't clumsily lose them right after gloating over his successful heist.
* Robas from ''Anime/{{Kiba}}'', who becomes the thief "No Face" because he's bored and wishes for a challenge. It's also hinted he may be trying to help out his family financially, since their fortune is somewhat on the rocks.
* The Kisugi sisters in ''Manga/CatsEye''.
* And in Tsukasa Hojo's next work, ''Manga/CityHunter'', you have Kasumi Asou alias Theif n°305, who comes from a line of women phantom thieves.
* ''Anime/TimeBokan'': "KaitouKiramekiMan" arc, the two young thieves.
* ''Manga/KingOfBanditJing'': The titular character himself; legends claim he can steal the very stars from the night sky- and he proceeds to live up to his ImpossibleThief status; conceding once- to monument which he admits he doesn't have a pocket big enough to fit. He tends to forgo full disguises as his youth usually works as is; he also enjoys leaving the classic calling card from time to time which all carry his symbol of a black cat face wth wingding eyes.
* ''Manga/{{Mouse}}''
* ''Manga/PhantomThiefPokemon7'' is about a, well, Phantom Thief.
* One of the earliest examples is probably Creator/OsamuTezuka's ''Manga/RainbowParakeet'', whose unusual name comes from his mastery of disguise & ability to mimic voices.
* Played with in ''[[Anime/GhostInTheShellStandAloneComplex Ghost in the Shell]]'' when the Major is Cash Eye. [[spoiler:A false thief created to trap a CorruptCorporateExecutive.]]
* Called out to, but not really played right with [[http://www.mangareader.net/hayate-the-combat-butler/317/6 Fumi and Sharna]] of ''Manga/HayateTheCombatButler''.
* In ''Manga/OnePiece'', Nami can steal practically anything without anyone noticing (as seen in the Drum arc). However she prefers to brag.
* The Black Rose in ''Anime/AshitaNoNadja''.
* Le Bled from ''Manga/SteamDetectives''. Also known as Phantom Thief Le Bled!
* Twenty Faces from Kigitsu Katsuhisa's one-shot manga ''Phase 20''.
* Eroica from ''Manga/FromEroicaWithLove''
* Hailing from ''Anime/KaitouJoker'' is its titular character whose embodies this trope in-universe. His rivals and mentor are also this.
* Manga/TheKindaichiCaseFiles has a female example with male name "Gentleman thief/Kaitou Shinshi".

[[AC: Comic Books]]
* The Rogue from ''ComicBook/TheMazeAgency''.
* ComicBook/{{Fantomas}} (the Mexican comic book version anyway.)

* Sir Charles Lytton, a.k.a. 'the Phantom', from ''Franchise/ThePinkPanther'' and sequels.
* François Toulour (Vincent Cassel), also known as "The Night Fox", in ''[[Film/OceansEleven Ocean's Twelve]]'' and ''[[Film/OceansEleven Ocean's Thirteen]]''.

[[AC: Literature]]
* Literature/ArseneLupin the TropeCodifier.
* Literature/{{Fantomas}}, an anarchist whose crimes (supposedly) stem from a disdain for modern civilization. Unlike Lupin, he is a cruel, manipulative psychopath with no qualms at all about murdering people and framing the innocent to face the guillotine for his crimes. His titles include "The Man with a Thousand Faces", "The Lord of Terror", "The Master of Crime" and "The Genius of Evil."
%%* Literature/TheSaint
* The Gray Ghosts in the ''Literature/{{Shadowleague}}'' books.
* Conina from ''Discworld/{{Sourcery}}'' once stole some diamonds from a thief who had himself absconded from a jewellery shop ''having swallowed'' them. She's actually a [[NinjaPirateZombieRobot phantom thief illegitimate barbarian hairdresser]].
* The titular character of the German gangster spoof series ''Literature/DickieDickDickens'' has traces of this, being a Chicago gangster in the 1920s who uses trickery, charm and his [[ImpossibleThief impossibly well-honed skills as a pickpocket]] to reach his goal. His son, Donald D. Doberman, is an even clearer example of the trope.
* ''Literature/OldPossumsBookOfPracticalCats'':
--> He's the bafflement of Scotland Yard, the Flying Squad's despair:\\
For when they reach the scene of crime--Macavity's not there!
* Comus from the Creator/ElleryQueen short story "The Dauphin's Doll" in ''Calendar of Crime''.
* The Bishop from ''[[Literature/TheStainlessSteelRat A Stainless Steel Rat is Born]]'' is a retired Phantom Thief. His crowning achievement was stealing shipments of cash from the local equivalent of Fort Knox: a sealed crate of money leaves, but when it arrives at the destination, it contains only a single chess bishop. The Stainless Steel Rat himself is rather more physical: it's a rare crime that doesn't involve guards winding up on the wrong end of a gas grenade or a karate chop, something the Bishop calls him out on.

* ''Series/KamenRiderDecade'': Kamen Rider Diend is actually named has Daiki ''[[MeaningfulName Kaitou]]'', but he's only partway to being a full-fledged Phantom Thief. He has the "theft of valuable objects" and "uses trickery and illusions" bits down but his personality boils down to "real-life {{Troll}}" for his victims (especially [[TheHero Tsukasa]]), and he steals not out of a sense of social justice but because he enjoys it ([[spoiler:though that's just his assertion, in truth it's because he's trying to fill the void left behind by his brother being [[BrainwashedAndCrazy brainwashed by a crime boss]]]]).
* ''Series/IlJiMae'' "Don't worry, I can steal anything. After all, I'm Il Ji-Mae."
* Parker on ''Series/{{Leverage}}'' is this, but she's also crazy and more than a little unsettling due to her lack of understanding for basic social norms. Her mentor, Archie Leech, is this as well, and a GentlemanThief
* In ''Series/TokumeiSentaiGoBusters'': One episode in the last half of the series features Kaitou Pink Buster, a rich woman who steals wearing an outfit based on the Go-Buster's out of transformation uniform, and becomes attached to Red Buster. In the Alternate world Dobutsu Sentai Go-Busters, her counterpart, Pink Cat, is His sister.

* Trilby epitomizes this trope in ''VideoGame/TheArtOfTheft''. He continues to be one in the ''VideoGame/ChzoMythos'', though he soon finds his chosen vocation can be stressful.
* Neeshka from ''VideoGame/NeverwinterNights2'', although certainly interested in money, mostly sees burglary as a sort of competitive game, taking delight in difficult heists.
* ''VisualNovel/PhoenixWrightAceAttorneyTrialsAndTribulations'', Mask☆[=DeMasque=] (yes, [[LuckyCharmsTitle complete with the star]]) is a PhantomThief - and he's your client. Your [[NervousWreck high-strung]], [[CowardlyLion flighty]] client. The same case gives us his self-declared [[GreatDetective Ace Detective]] [[TheRival rival]], Luke Atmey. [[spoiler: Guess what: he really isn't. Further guess what: he really is ''but'' he didn't commit the theft in question - that was Atmey, who was responsible for putting him up to most of his previous heists and was using this one [[CrazyAwesome as an alibi]].]] It's an awesome moment when [[spoiler: you get the [[LoveableRogue loveable little bastard]] cleared of all the crimes he actually did commit, almost by accident]].
* ''VisualNovel/AceAttorneyInvestigations'':
** The game has another in "The Great Yatagarasu", a sort of IntrepidReporter version of the VigilanteMan. The Yatagarasu has two odd quirks compared to other phantom thieves. First; the Yatagarasu doesn't steal much that's tangible. Rahter, the thief makes off with evidence of [[CorruptCorporateExecutive dirty dealings]] and makes them public. Secondly, the Yatagarasu doesn't actually send calling cards to the victim beforehand. Rather, the victim doesn't know that their info was even stolen, until it shows up on the news, having been delivered to the authorities alongside a calling card. [[spoiler:Actually, there's [[CollectiveIdentity three of "him"]], all {{Cowboy Cop}}s. One however is TheMole planted in the group to keep them away from a smuggling ring. They are Byrne Faraday, Detective Tyrell Badd and Calisto Yew (She's the mole.)]]
** Related is Kay Faraday, who claims to be the new Yatagarasu though [[ThePiratesWhoDontDoAnything she doesn't actually ever steal anything]]. Bonus points for managing the unlikely combination of [[HighlyVisibleNinja Highly Visible]] PhantomThief.
* In the ''VideoGame/{{Thief}}'' series, Garrett is a classic PhantomThief and AntiHero, though he steals for his own gain as well as for the thrill of it. The higher difficulty levels impose a code of honor (no killing humans; zombies and the like are fair game). The {{Fandom}} takes it further still, with a common SelfImposedChallenge being the [[StealthRun Ghost run]] - a playthrough in which Garrett gets in, steals everything not nailed down, and gets out again without anyone even suspecting he was ever there. To clarify, Ghosting means leaving no evidence anyone was there. No unlocked doors (lock them again), nobody looked round and asked "What's that noise?", no broken windows, no doused torches (in Thief 2, which this is very popular for, re-lighting torches is easy) and definitely nobody injured or killed. The only difference is all the loot is gone.
* Skye from ''VideoGame/HarvestMoon DS Cute'' is widely known as "Phantom Skye". He doesn't seem to steal for any other reason other than for the fun of it (or, should you choose to woo him, to meet with the player). But Skye steals because [[spoiler: he wants to make really good curry. The items he steals are ingredients and other people's curry dishes (to taste them).]]
* [[ClassyCatBurglar Kasumi Goto]] of ''VideoGame/MassEffect2''.
--> I'm the best thief in the galaxy. Not the most famous.
** She would lampshade leaving notes and signs of her robberies by saying her partner/lover Keiji got her out of the habit.
* ''VideoGame/WarioMasterOfDisguise'' features Wario becoming one of these using a magic wand he took from a ''real'' phantom thief. The game's original title, ''Kaitou Wario the Seven'', is clearly meant to suggest both Lupin the Third and the Fiend of Twenty Faces (since seven is actually how many costumes Wario has, besides the basic thief).
* ''VideoGame/MapleStory'' gets one as a playable character, unsubtly named Phantom.
* ''VideoGame/TheElderScrollsIVOblivion'' has the Gray Fox, who people believe can slip through doors and become invisible. And no one knows who he is, [[spoiler: because he's wearing a cursed Daedric artifact that strikes the wearer's name from history.]]
* The newly-introduced Trickster class in ''VideoGame/FireEmblemAwakening'', a promotion of the standard Thief, is literally described as a glamorous phantom thief. Its members are capable of using healing staves as well as swords.
* ''VideoGame/RhythmThiefAndTheEmperorsTreasure'' gives us the aptly named Phantom R, a thief known for stealing priceless works of art... only to return them days later without a scratch. The Police always fail to catch him, even after they spot him in the act. [[PoliceAreUseless Then again...]]
* [[VideoGame/{{Pokemon}} Hoopa]], a literal phantom thief, is capable of using its portal rings to hide away the treasures it stole.
** Which apparently include entire ''islands'' and ''legendary pokemon''. Hoopa would also classify as an ImpossibleThief.
* The protagonists of [[VideoGame/{{Persona5}} Persona 5]] are looking like they are going to be this.
* The ''Franchise/SlyCooper'' franchise is built on this trope, covering each and every point detailed above.

* Cassidy Cain of GrandmasterOfTheft is a phantom thief in her criminal alter ego.

* Geist from ''WebComic/{{Heist}}''. He lives in a superhero universe and ''only his former clients even know he exists''.
* The unknown rook (thief) in ''WebComic/SnowByNight'', who goes after objects having to do with hearts. Even the other rooks are baffled by this person. Turns out the thief is Snow By Night, a manitou with magic powers, which explains why she is so hard to find.

* [[DarkActionGirl Shego]] from ''WesternAnimation/KimPossible''. It's better to steal things than to buy them, because doing so nets you something important in the tools of the trade: experience.