Steal the Surroundings
Important stuff is usually protected, making it pretty hard for a thief to just waltz into a place and steal what they want: Safecracking will take too long, the Password Slot Machine is too slow, the structure is too strong to Shoot Out the Lock and they'll be detected as soon as they try to hack into the terminal. But wait, why even bother trying to steal just what they want? They can grab everything surrounding their target, and figure things out once they get the hell out of there. Frequently, an entire building will be stolen, in one way or another. This tactic can be necessary if the objective is protected by a Self-Destructing Security system. Trying to open the device at the scene without the necessary precautions could destroy what's being stolen, while taking the whole thing means someone could work on it later, at their leisure. One of the oldest examples is stealing a safe and breaking into it later. This variant was popular in early radio dramas, and has become a Dead Horse Trope, as a safe not bolted down is rather silly. The modern variant usually involves blowing up whatever the safe is bolted to, and then stealing the safe. See also Safecracking, "Open!" Says Me, Cutting the Knot, Dungeon Bypass, Myopic Architecture and Take a Third Option. Can extend to Monumental Theft when a character's theft involve small buildings dragged by even smaller cars. Not to be confused with Sticky Fingers where someone may steal various items, both big and small, simply because they can.
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- An advertisement from Wal-Mart has a kid going in to try to decide what he wants, and he can't decide. He decides he wants all of it, and connects a rope to the side of the building, and tries to drag it away. Without paying, of course.
Anime and Manga
- Doesn't happen onscreen, but Graham Spector's first reaction to hearing that some other gang of thieves might beat his own to looting Millionaire Row is to order his gang to start dismantling entire houses to find the safes and carry them back to their lair.
- Inverted when the endearingly air-headed pair of thieves Isaac and Miria attempt to steal "history itself" by actually targeting an entire museum. Failing that, they simply filch the door to the building, thinking that nobody would be able to enter the museum if there isn't any door to enter.
- If Lupin the Third of Lupin III can't get the treasure itself, his elaborate scheme frequently becomes stealing what contains the treasure instead. In some variations, he will pretend to steal the container, and when the distracted target goes after him to get it back, it gives him time to double-back and break into the real thing.
- Mouse has the main character steal an entire museum to obtain the golden skull it contains.
- The Gobelins (no, not Goblins) comic has a bodybuilder goblin try to pull the Sword in the Stone out. At first it look like he succeeded, hoisting the sword above his head, but then it's shown he ripped the entire rock it was attached to out of the ground, which then crushes him.
- A staple of Mortadelo y Filemón, used to establish the competence of a thieving Big Bad. In one album, a particularly crafty gang of car hijackers routinely make their hits on manned vehicles, stealing everything except the seat and the steering wheel, without the driver noticing.
- In Astro City, Manny Monkton is abducted along with the entire building he was in, leaving a neat hole where the basement was, and never seen again. He really should not have made up stories about cosmic entities.
- Once in a while, Diabolik finds easier to do this. Usually it's just some large safe (even if the owner of the safe is Genre Savvy enough to have it bolted to the floor or encased in the wall. Diabolik doesn't steal the floor or the wall, but considers penetrating them as an entertaining game, and in at least one occasion stole a bolted-down safe by making it fly), but in one occasion he saw that the only way to steal a large cargo of gold was to steal the train it was on and did just that (this was reproduced in the movie Danger: Diabolik, see below for details).
- In one Uncle Scrooge story, after another unsuccessful attempt by the Beagle Boys to break into his Money Bin, Scrooge decides to move his fortune to somewhere easy to defend. He converts all of his coins into high denomination notes and stores them in a spherical water tank atop a hill completely surrounded by open ground. In one of their better plans, the Beagle Boys trick their way on to the grounds, cut the tank loose and roll it away, with Scrooge still inside.
- German comedy Bang Boom Bang: The crooks wreck a wall to get a safe out. Hilarity Ensues.
- In the 1974 movie Bank Shot, a bank has its office in a temporary mobile home, so the crooks decide to steal the whole building.
- A subplot in Barbershop involves an pair of inept crooks who stole an entire ATM and spent the whole movie trying to break it open in their hideout. Unbeknownst to them, the ATM hadn't had any money put into it yet.
- Authorities in the film Danger: Diabolik try to prevent Diabolik from stealing 15 tonnes of gold from a train by melting it into a single lingot and sealing it into a thick welded steel container, itself welded to the train. Diabolik blows up a bridge that sends the train into the water, where the super villain steals the entire container with the aid of balloons and a mini sub. Once back at his lair Diabolik drills a hole at the top of the steel container to insert a super heated rod to melt the gold inside. He then attaches a hose to a hole drilled at the bottom of the container in order to pour the melted gold into molds so that it can be converted to regular sized gold bars. This was taken step for step from the original comic book (story "Desperate Fight"), except for the means used to move the wagon (in the comic it was a barge with a crane).
- The Italian Job does this twice: once with a standard safe and once with an entire armored truck.
- In The Losers, the eponymous group steal an entire armoured car to obtain the hard drive it was carrying.
- National Treasure: Ben does this with the frigging Declaration of Independence! After breaking into the National Archives Building (during a gala), he becomes pressed for time, due to the bolts securing the display case taking longer than he anticipated. When Riley loses his video feed, Ben forgoes the original plan and takes the whole damn thing, the bulletproof glass briefly becoming quite useful when shootings starts. At least as far as the elevator, where he finally removes the Declaration from its display case.
- Used in Revolver when Avi, Zeke and Jake steal Macha's safe where the MacGuffin (drugs) is being kept. The safe is stated to be nigh-impenetrable, so they just rip it right out of the wall and take their sweet time breaking into it later.
- Zoolander - Hansel is tasked to get a vital piece of information out of a computer. Unfortunately, he can't figure out how to do so, so he just takes the entire hard drive...and smashes it to pieces thinking that the data is literally IN the computer. (Fortunately for our heroes, the original owner of the computer has a backup.)
- Batman Forever has a Cold Open with Two-Face using a helicopter to pull a bank vault out of a building.
- In the Oceans Eleven sequels, this is done once straight and once as a variant.
- In Thirteen, a secure case full of diamond necklaces is hauled out of a casino's roof via helicopter.
- In Twelve, the team need line-of-sight to a specific window for a heist at a house built on pylons; the window's too low, so they raise the house until it lines up. (Granted, they only moved the surroundings, they didn't keep them, but it's certainly related.)
- In Fast Five, Dom and Brian decide to rob a corrupt senator in Rio de Janeiro by using Hobbs' armored vehicle to crash through a wall, hooking the safe up to their cars with a pair of tow cables and literally yanking it out before driving away. Dom then proceeds to use it as a battering ram to destroy the cars the corrupt police are using before the crew escapes.
- Donald E. Westlake's novel Bank Shot does this one better. In it, a gang steals an entire bank in order to crack the safe! The bank had temporarily relocated to a trailer while the bank building was being renovated.
- Happens in the Mistborn novel The Alloy of Law, when Miles used a crane to steal loaded train cars right off the tracks and replace them with empties.
- In the Doctor Who Missing Adventures book State of Change, it's revealed that the parallel Earth the Doctor and Peri have spent the book exploring was created when a cosmic entity attempted to copy the TARDIS console. It not only copied the console, but a large portion of its surroundings — ie, Earth.
- A characteristically absurd example in The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, where a Frogstar fleet shows up and flies off with the Guide's headquarters building to get their hands on Zaphod, who was inside at the time.
- In the Discworld series, Sgt. Fred Colon of the City Watch tends to give himself assignments guarding things like the Brass Bridge and the city gates in order to make sure they're not stolen. His policy has been successful—almost none of the city's landmarks have been stolen on his watch, except the Unseen University, but that was just a student prank.
- In Breaking Bad, two crooks steal an ATM. They are shown having difficulty actually breaking into the machine. And then it gets worse, as usual for the show.
- Burn Notice:
- The Doctor Who episode "Smith and Jones" features an entire building being transported to the moon so the Monster of the Week can locate a single person.
- The Firm:
- In an episode, Ray has to steal data off a security system by "Going to the C drive and getting root access". He can't do it and just grabs the whole computer.
- Done again in another episode, where a few thugs are looking for a hard drive at a hacker's house, but as "the place is like a friggin' Radio Shack", they think it is Hidden in Plain Sight, so they start stealing everything to sort it out when they get back.
- Psych: Subverted. A group of safecrackers stole a safe, but it wasn't to steal what was in it, but so the lead cracker could figure out how to open that kind of safe.
- There was a Sesame Street routine in which Ernie, fed up with Cookie Monster stealing his cookies all the time, acquires a safe in which to put the cookies. When Cookie Monster comes by, he realizes that he cannot open the safe, so he just eats the safe.
- Square One TV Mathnet: In the first story arc, "The Problem of the Missing Baseball", a woman's house is stolen in order to find some gold bricks which had been hidden in the house.
- The White Collar episode "Neighbourhood Watch" involved the crooks stealing a vault from a hotel.
- In Warehouse13, Leena's entire bed and breakfast had to be moved into the warehouse and rebuilt outside because of an artifact painting that couldn't be removed from the house. The bedrooms of dead agents are also put into storage in case their personal belongings are needed again.
- On Glee, Puck ends up in juvie when he drives his mom's Volvo through the front of a convenience store and drives off with the ATM.
- On The Lost Room, Joe needs an Object stored in a safe. He sticks the safe in the Room and resets it, causing the safe to vanish and leaving the Object inside behind.
- The "steal the safe" variant happens in the Alias Smith and Jones series.
- An episode of Black Books had Manny install a needlessly obtuse security door after the shop was robbed. Later in the episode, the thieves had come back overnight and stolen the security door.
Religion and Mythology
- Shadowrun. The Scramble IC program will destroy the file it's protecting if any attempt is made to steal it. To avoid this, the Scramble program and the file can be downloaded as a package, and the Scramble program can be defeated later on the decker's own cyberdeck.
- In Crash Nitro Kart, when Velo wants Crash's and Cortex's groups to race for his amusement, he steals their entire homes with tractor beams and dumps them in his racing arena.
- Played for Laughs in PAYDAY The Heist. The robber protagonists come up with a plan to steal a very large cache of money and contraband locked in the panic room of a Meth Dealer's hideout. The safe room is very high-tech and virtually impossible to invade during the heist. Instead of cracking the saferoom, the robbers use circular saws to cut the beams to which the room is bolted. They then plant explosives to blow a hole through the roof and floors of the building and lift the entire room out of the complex with a Skycrane.
- In the game Evil Genius, a lot of the evil plans you can do involve this, up to and including stealing the Sword in the Stone by just grabbing the stone and stealing the Eiffel Tower by shrinking it.
- Saints Row: The Third starts out with the Saints stealing an entire bank vault using a cargo helicopter.
- Carmen Sandiego, being the original Impossible Thief, regularly steals locations such as Ancient Rome's Forum and the Mason-Dixon line. Why? Because she can!
- In War Craft III, one mission involves rescuing the captured Illidan from Maiev Shadowsong, who's locked him up in a magical cage and is dragging him away to her base at the very moment you discover her. Even when you defeat the guard and secure the cage, however, there's still a battle raging on. Rather than try to undo the lock and free Illidan in the midst of a war, why not just drag the entire cage back to safety and figure out how to unlock it later?
- Schlock Mercenary had one storyline where the plot was a variation on this trope. Tagon's Toughs are hired by a feminist group to get an offensive and mean spirited make-over show off the air. A little research reveals they can't just get rid of the hosts because the network will just replace them next season and keep making the show. And they can't just blow up the network's studios and offices because (besides the moral implications of all the innocent people who would be hurt or killed) the insurance would get them back in business in no time. So, in typical "no such thing as overkill" fashion, they invoke this trope and concoct a plan to completely destroy the entire corporation's finances AND safely level their building with no casualties in order to fulfill their contract to get one show off the air. While they are at it, they also short the stock on the network and make even more money for doing their job.
- This occurs within the Show Within a Show Police Cops during The Simpsons episode "Homer to the Max".
Robber: "Let's take this bank back into our hideout; we'll break into it later!"
- In The Perils of Penelope Pitstop episode "Hair-Raising Harness Race", Penelope takes refuge in a shack filled with explosives. The Hooded Claw lassos the shack, with Penelope still inside, and has the Bully Brothers drag it onto a railroad track.
- From the Transformers Prime episode "Legacy": Megatron's solution to the Excalibur Expy that is the Star Saber being wedged in a cliff face and impossible to pull out? Cut a chunk of the cliff face off and take the whole thing with him using his warship.
- In the Ricochet Rabbit short "Cactus Ruckus" a Jack and the Beanstalk-type giant outlaw robs the bank by picking it up and taking it to his hideout at the top of a giant cactus.
- Because this is a very real threat for small safes, manufacturers will tout their safes by focusing on the fact that they can be bolted down.
- There exist security camera recordings of thieves trying to make off with an ATM using either a pickup truck or a front end loader, and occasionally succeeding.
- This is also why ATMs are now pretty much all brick-backed, rather than the old bank schtick of including them in the front window glass - it was a bit too easy to simply forklift them out.
- Another technique is to have the cash storage embedded in the (usually concrete) floor, and separately secure from the ATM. Even when in a brick wall, an ATM could still be ripped out fairly easily with something like a front-end loader.
- The above fictional examples of taking data off of a computer by stealing the whole system and working on it later have a great deal of Truth in Television in them. There are several ways of defeating system security on most systems, mostly be booting off of a system cracking disk (usually using Linux) or by plugging the hard drive into another system for analysis. Both are common methods used by forensic computer technicians. Both can be made extremely awkward to use, but once you have the physical system in hand, it is almost inevitable that anything not protected by physical booby traps is going to be compromised.
- On a related point, any encryption can be broken by brute force (trying out each and every possible key) given enough time.