aka: The Heist
We were discussing the difference between a robbery and a heist. And I think a robbery is where you feel sorry for the victims, and a heist is where you sort of hope they get away with it.Told from the criminal viewpoint, a group plans and executes an elaborate robbery. The criminals are usually more rounded than the opposition, or at least more colorful. Usually contains at least one A-Team Montage or Avengers Assemble sequence. May feature a Plot Tailored to the Party. Alternately called a "heist." May be played seriously or as a comedy. In the former, there is generally a fallout among thieves after the heist, while the latter may end on a note of poetic justice. The Caper is more action-oriented than The Con. Often revolves around a brilliant Gentleman Thief who Just Got Out of Jail hoping to do One Last Job, usually by Putting the Band Back Together (which, in comedies, is usually a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits). Can lead to Just Like Robin Hood as a way of Caper Rationalization. The members of a Caper Crew often fall into standard roles. For targets, see Bank Robbery, Armed Blag, The Casino, Train Job. See also Impossible Mission, The Infiltration and Double Caper. Not to be confused with The Cape. When adding examples, if a work is more noted for being The Con than The Caper, but some episodes were The Caper, please identify the episode, or at least give plot details so that it can be identified.
—Holly Walsh, The News Quiz
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Anime and Manga
- A lot of the filler arcs of Get Backers qualify as The Caper. Even though the titular characters only steal items to return then to their original owners, sometimes the definition of "original owner" can get really fuzzy (especially with Clayman).
- In an episode of Keroro Gunsou, Momoka, Natsumi, and Moa form the "Phantom Thief Troupe: More Peach Summer" to steal the painting "The Birth of Venus"... which turns out to be an embarrassing portrait of Momoka as a baby, naked.
- The point of virtually all Lupin III stories.
- In an early episode of Armored Trooper VOTOMS, Chirico and company hijack a jijirium shipment.
- The Marvel Comics miniseries Super-Villain Team-Up: MODOK's 11 features a destitute M.O.D.O.K. recruiting a group of equally-destitute C-list supervillains to help him steal a powerful energy source, for which he will pay them. Predictably, most of the villains are either working for someone else or trying to screw each other over.
- Superior Foes of Spider-Man revolves around one complicated caper, which gets increasingly convoluted as everyone involved tries to screw everyone else involved over.
- In Dumbledore's Army and the Year of Darkness, Neville and company pull one of these to retrieve the Sword of Gryffindor from Snape's office, complete with seemingly impossible odds on getting inside.
- The Asphalt Jungle - A deconstruction in which The Caper ends badly for all participants. Also the Trope Maker.
- Topkapi, Rififi, and The League of Gentlemen — all were direct inspiration for Mission: Impossible. Rififi is the Trope Codifier.
- Ocean's Eleven (original, remake, and remake sequels).
- The Stanley Kubrick film The Killing.
- The Anderson Tapes, featuring an immediately post-Bond Sean Connery and one of Christopher Walken's first roles. The title refers to the fact that the story was told though surveillance tapes.
- The Bank Job
- Inside Man, in a roundabout fashion.
- The Italian Job - both the new one and the original one.
- The Pink Panther
- Sneakers. Multiple times.
- Both versions of The Thomas Crown Affair.
- How To Steal A Million
- The Danish film-series Olsen-banden and its Swedish and Norwegian counterparts consists of nothing but this.
- The latest St. Trinian's movie (and the older ones, too).
- Used in both straight and subverted forms in The Usual Suspects.
- Vabank (''Hit the bank'' in USA), as a revenge.
- Sexy Beast, though the main character spends most of his energies trying to avoid participation in the caper.
- The first part of Ronin.
- Reservoir Dogs does an interesting version by completely skipping the caper itself, making it a subversion.
- The video game of the film, on the other hand, is all about the heist.
- ''Killing Zoe" is what happens when The Caper is attempted while on heroin. Things don't end well.
- The Ladykillers (both versions)
- The Lavender Hill Mob
- The Day They Robbed The Bank Of England
- Casino Royale (and the 1967 spoof) The idea is to relieve Le Chiffre of all his money.
- Kellys Heroes and Three Kings both feature soldiers going on a caper during war time.
- Who's Minding the Mint?
- How To Beat The High Cost Of Living
- The Great Train Robbery
- I soliti ignoti (US title Big Deal on Madonna Street), a 1958 Italian comedy. Americanized as Crackers (1984) and Welcome to Collinwood (2002).
- The Hot Rock
- Henry's Crime
- Going in Style
- In Inception, the main character's career is doing this with ideas. The plot of the movie is an inversion: They must leave an idea instead.
- Entrapment, which started a heist-film revival after two decades of relative silence on the caper front.
- The Great Riviera Bank Robbery (also known as Sewers of Gold)
- The Brinks Job
- Tower Heist
- The Master's Touch
- A Fish Called Wanda, though it's more a farce
- Woody Allen's Small Time Crooks starts out as one of these, then shifts gears when the cookie business set up as cover for their activities becomes an unexpected success.
- Day of the Wolves
- The Friends of Eddie Coyle
- The Town
- Mad Money
- The Maiden Heist
- A Nightingale Sangin Berkeley Square
- Fun With Dick And Jane
- Robot And Frank, a scifi dramedy secretly including several caper tropes
- Carry On Matron
- Bottle Rocket is something of a caper parody, with a group of idle rich kids planning a series of ill-advised capers.
- Trading Places
- Thunderbolt And Lightfoot
- The comedy Hot Money, where a group of cleaning staff for the Bank Of England steal some of the old money that's about to be incinerated, by stuffing it in their underwear.
- The Score
- Happy New Year, about a Master of Disguise (Peter Falk) and his Bumbling Sidekick (Charles Durning) planning to rob a Palm Beach jewelry store.
- High Sierra
- The Thieves
- Dortmunder: Every story that Dortmunder is involved in and Dortmunder himself was a comedic version of the author's other main character, Parker.
- And on that note, Parker.
- Locke Lamora being a thief, capers play a large role in the first two novels, particularly the second.
- The Great Train Robbery by Michael Crichton.
- Neuromancer is built around a caper, but stakes in this one rise out of the normal territory as the story progresses.
- The Vlad Taltos novels often have at least elements of this. Jhereg and Yendi are straight examples.
- The novel Thunderball had SPECTRE doing this — rather than an organised crime Cosmopolitan Council, they were a gang of highly-professional criminals who were planning the Empty Quiver heist as One Last Job.
- The Nick Velvet stories by Edward D. Hoch.
- Flawless is the story of the Real Life Antwerp diamond heist, where thieves stole an estimated $100-$400 million worth of diamonds in 2003.
- Goldfinger. While in the movie, Goldfinger was going to irradiate the gold, in the book he was actually planning to steal it.
- The first book of Mistborn: The Original Trilogy is patterned after a heist, where our motley crew of thieves decides the best way to fight the Evil Overlord is to rob his treasury and bribe away all of his armies.
Live Action TV
- Firefly: "The Train Job," "Ariel," and "Trash."
- The Knights of Prosperity, originally titled Let's Rob Mick Jagger.
- Leverage uses this trope as its main premise often mixing it with The Con.
- MacGyver episode "The Heist".
- Mission: Impossible prided itself on its use of The Caper.
- The short-lived series Thieves.
- The FX character drama Thief revolves around this trope, as does the NBC actioner, Heist.
- Farscape "Liars, Guns and Money."
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine "Badda-Bing, Badda-Bang." Although this episode is a direct parody of Ocean's Eleven, even taking place in a Holodeck recreation of Las Vegas.
- Every single episode of The A-Team.
- Hustle usually revolves around The Con, but...
- The season 2 finale, "Eye of the Beholder", is a classic caper plot in which the team steals one of the Crown Jewels. Until the end, when it turns out that the entire point of the caper was to con a bunch of people into buying fakes...
- In an episode in season 5, New Recruits, Hustle pulls a similar "caper" again. This time, they're conning their mark, who had been advertising a completely foolproof security system, into thinking they'd stolen a painting. Really, they just hid it behind a false wall.
- The X-Files episode "The Amazing Maleeni". It's pulled off so ingeniously that you don't even know it's a heist until the later half of the episode.
- Children's sitcom The Legend Of Dick And Dom has an episode called "The Heist"; the heroes have to rob a bank to get back the MacGuffin that the corrupt manager has stolen. Features cunning disguises, a decoy robbery and tunnel digging. And Creepy Twins, just for fun.
- The Community episode "The First Chang Dynasty" has the study group plot an elaborate heist Ocean's Eleven-style to rescue the Dean after Chang replaced him with a doppelgänger and took over the school.
- Spaced episode "Chaos" homages caper films.
- A historical documentary used this format to explore theories on how an Egyptian pyramid was broken into and looted during ancient times. It gave the theoretical participants nicknames like The Mastermind, The Foreigner and The Engineer to illustrate the various social backgrounds and skill sets the people involved would need to have to pull off such a crime. In particular it theorized that The Engineer was probably blackmailed or coerced into participating since he would have been of a much higher social strata than the rest of the crew and the one with most to lose if caught. The show also regularly reminded the audience that the punishment for such a crime in Ancient Egypt was to be burned alive.
- The plot of the Doctor Who episode Time Heist. The bank holds something of great value to each member, which is why they took the job despite having to erase their memories of ever taking it.
- The final quest for the Thieves Guild in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is called "The Ultimate Heist" — rightly so, because it sees you breaking into the Emperor's Palace and stealing one of the titular Elder Scrolls. The preparations for this mission comprise the three penultimate quests that you perform for the Grey Fox himself.
- Some of the subplots of Thief enter into this trope; Garrett sometimes goes through elaborate plans over multiple game levels to enter secure locations.
- Pulling off capers is the primary focus of Fragile Alliance, the multiplayer mode of the Kane & Lynch games.
- Parodied in one Saints Row 2 mission where an elaborate plan is thought up for a heist, but the plan is scrapped in favor of just walking through the front door and shooting everyone.
- Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, in a clear homage to Ocean's Eleven, has CJ robbing a vegas casino with a colourful group of characters (Its GTA, they're always colourful)
- GTAV takes this premise and runs with it - not only are there several heists in the game, each one has a variety of missions associated with it to prepare for said heist. For example, when the team plans to rob a jewelry store, they send in a guy to case the joint and take pictures of the various security systems. Once they have the pictures, the player has to make a decision on whether to go in "loud and dumb" with guns blazing, or recruit a hacker and steal some knockout gas, an exterminator's van, and dress up as exterminators so that people won't question their gas masks. You also need to hire a crew to help you with the support stuff - the more competent they are, the bigger take they demand. And finally, after all that, comes the heist itself.
- The premise of the Sly Cooper series is to plan heists against criminals.
- The Fallout: New Vegas DLC Dead Money, where the player (who's been strapped with an Explosive Leash) is forced to help the insane Father Elijah loot the Sierra Madre casino with the help of three other NPCs, one of which has been at this for two centuries.
- PAYDAY: The Heist is "Heist Film: The Game". Hell, the central bank heist is a huge homage to Heat.
- PAYDAY 2 expands on this further. Containing everything, from bank robberies, to rigging elections, to double crossing meth dealers before a bridge showdown, the game covers numerous heist and action tropes (and even adds several more references to Heat and other caper classics).
- In Mass Effect 2, Kasumi's loyalty mission is to steal her deceased partner's graybox from the man who killed him, while Shepard poses as a guest at his high-society party and subtly acquires the voice-print and DNA-scans for Kasumi to crack the vault. Of course, once they get inside the vault it swiftly goes to hell, leaving Shepard to do what they do best.
- The Dragon Age II expansion "Mark of the Assassin" plays out very similarly to Kasumi's mission. You join up with a Loveable Rogue, infiltrate a high-class party, find your way past the guards to your host's vault...and then it turns out Tallis is actually a Qunari agent. After that, it shifts gears to a kind of medieval fantasy spy drama.
- The Imperial Agent's storyline in Star Wars: The Old Republic includes planning and executing a caper of the top-security facility operated by the Star Cabal in the very heart of the Republican prison planet of Belsavis. Complicating matters is the facility's murderous AI protector that can strike at you pretty much anywhere on the planet and the fact that for your Caper Crew, you have to rely on a bunch of career criminals previously locked up there for life, most of whom naturally turn on you the moment your arrangement is complete.
- The City of Heroes summer event mission "Casino Heist" is based on the tropes of The Caper, with the players taking the parts of the Caper Crew.
- Monaco: What's Yours Is Mine is essentially this trope as the High Concept for an entire game.
- Strong Bad and The Cheat of Homestar Runner occasionally engage in capers. These ventures rarely turn out to be successful. On one notable occasion, Strong Bad gets mad at The Cheat for screwing up one of these capers but then later feels bad about it, which leads to him writing a song about how he's glad The Cheat is not dead.
- Then there's the one where they somehow manage to set Homestar adrift in the Arctic Ocean, and can't for the life of them remember how they pulled off their "greatest caper ever". It apparently started with The Cheat peeing in Homestar's melonade...
- The Sluggy Freelance Story Arc "Displacement" has the Main Characters trying to pull one of these at a Mad Scientist's auction. Then it turns out the Mad Scientist is actually throwing a Nasty Party, and Hilarity Ensues.
- In Impure Blood, Roan's rescue. Since he was a slave, technically a robbery as well.
- In Commander Kitty, outlaw spacer Grootly and his crew think they're being hired for this kind of job. It turns out they've beenlured into an audience with an evil mastermind who wants them for their parts.
- Pay Me, Bug! involves the captain of a smuggling ship being blackmailed into stealing something from The Empire of the Radiant Throne's most secure facility. Good thing he's done this before, right?
- You Have Become Your Avatar: King Kix, trapped in the body of Hildy Gloom, decides to stage a heist on the Seven Dwarves' Mine and get the Rock of Sages, so they can rule over magic. Unfortunately, the Dwarves stole the Rock from under their eyes.
- The lads and gents of Achievement Hunter have done regular "Heist" videos during their Let's Play series of Grand Theft Auto V. Given the people planning them, each is usually a countdown to something going spectacularly/hilariously wrong. Oh, and their perennial targets? Gas station convenience stores.
- The Justice League Unlimited episode "Task Force X" featured a makeshift criminal team executing a daring theft from the League's orbital headquarters.
- The South Park episode "About Last Night" is a Troperiffic example, in which the 2008 presidential election is revealed to be merely a step in a plan to steal the Hope Diamond.
- Spoofed on The Simpsons episode "The Book Job", where the caper consists of writing a young adult fantasy novel. When the publisher changes their manuscript, they execute an actual heist to break into the printer and switch manuscripts.
- In the Futurama episode "Viva Mars Vegas", the gang execute a heist to get the Wong's casino back from the Robot Mafia.
- In "Prisoner of Benda", Bender plans to steal the royal jewels of the Robo-Hungarian Empire, and tries to recruit the others as his Caper Crew. When they refuse, he has to go at it alone, with less than stellar results.
- Parodied in the Chowder episode "The Heist".