June 23, 2011

To Steal a Diamond

It's amazing how fascinated people are by material things. Not to sound like I'm above it all. I'm right in there with the rest of the world. I think deep down, we're all a bit materialistic.

Which is why there are always a ton of movies about thieves and robberies and all that jazz. So today we're going to have a little chat about what I think are the 5 best films about stealing diamonds.

In no particular order:

A Fish Called Wanda (1988)

A Fish Called Wanda

So I may have lied a bit when I said that this wasn't in order, because this film is absolutely my favorite film  that I'm putting here. The film follows an odd foursome - gangster and leader George Thomason (a twist on the name of the actor who plays him), crony Ken Pile (Michael Palin), con artist Wanda Gershwitz (Jamie Lee Curtis) and Otto West (Kevin Kline), the latter two having been brought in from the outside.

Honestly, the theft itself is not the focus of the movie, unlike most heist films. In fact, the heist is easy and goes without a glitch, except for one little old lady who happens to see them. So they hide the diamonds and walk away, only to have Wanda and Otto turn in George and try to take the loot for themselves).

Which leads to a huge and hilarious search for the diamonds as Wanda seduces George's attorney, Archie Leach (John Cleese) - a name that once belonged to the great Cary Grant - and leaves his panties in a twist (it's fair to say she's the dominant figure in the relationship). Meanwhile, Ken tries to kill the old lady.

The film is extremely well acted, with Kline winning the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his hilarious and twisted role. Also making the film well known is the infamous topless scene. I can't possibly describe in detail the hilariousness of the film without giving anything away, but I will say that it reportedly caused someone to literally laugh himself to death (a la Who Framed Roger Rabbit).

Excellent film that everyone should see.

To Catch a Thief (1955)

To Catch a Thief

As a huge Hitchcock fan (bordering on obsession), I think it's fair to say that I love this movie. It also doesn't hurt that Grace Kelly is the epitome of perfection. Stunning. But enough about that. The film follows John Robie (Cary Grant), an infamous thief known as "The Cat" who has retired, until robberies across te country lead the police to believe that he's back in business. So he escapes to meet with his old gang of rebels who want nothing to do with him. But he escapes with Danielle (Brigitte Auber), his former love and daughter of one of his former friends.

Now he has to clear his name because clearly, as the hero, the retired jewel thief should never be imprisoned for his crimes. So he goes to find the people with the best jewels on the coast, starting with Jessie Stevens (Jessie Royce Landis) and her daughter Francie (Grace Kelly) and sparks begin to fly.

Or fireworks, more precisely, to hide the sex that they end up having. The climax comes at a masquerade ball when jewels are ripe for the taking. But I won't tell you what happens. Watch the movie.

The film is very well done (it's Hitchcock. I mean, duh) and Cary Grant has as much charm as every while Grace Kelly has the appeal and class of a goddess. It's fun and fast paced and not as deep as many other Hitchcock classics, but I still would absolutely recommend it.

Blood Diamond (2006)

Blood Diamond (Widescreen Edition)

While definitely not in the strain of the other films on this list, they do still technically steal a diamond. Although, it is a bloody pink diamond and Solomon Vandy (Djimon Hounsou) must find it in order to receive help in his quest to save his son (Kagiso Kuypers) from the cruel leaders of Sierra Leone.

Joining him on his quest is mercenary Danny Archer (Leonardo DiCaprio), who wants money from the diamond, and Maddy Bowen (Jennifer Connelly), a reporter determined to uncover the truths behind the blood diamond market.

This is not a journey to find a diamond full of hilariousness and twists. It is dark and depressing but engaging, and although somewhat outdated, reveals a market that once used to dominate Sierra Leone. It's not technically a heist movie, but it expresses the tragedies behind the sparkling beauty we love to enjoy.

The Pink Panther (1963)

The Pink Panther (Collector's Edition)

Ah. The Blake Edwards classic that spawned a franchise and forever left an imprint on comedy history. Originally intended as a vehicle for David Niven (who plays Sir Charles Lytton, a thief known as the Phantom), the film became known as Peter Sellers' defining film for his characterization as the bumbling Inspector Jacques Clouseau.

The film follows Lytton and Clouseau at the same skiing resort as Princes Dala (Claudia Cardinale), the owner of the Pink Panther, the largest diamond in the world with only one flaw- a mark that looks like a panther. So Lytton wants the diamond and uses the help of the idiotic Clouseau's wife, Simone (Capucine). Meanwhile, Lytton's nephew (Robert Wagner) also wants to steal the diamond and falls for Simone at the same time. Then, Lytton falls for Dala, which creates a bit of a conflict of interest.

And of course there's Inspector Clouseau, falling down mountains and destroying parties and essentially ruining everything. Sellers is perfect in the role, which became the icon of slapstick comedy after World War II.

If you haven't seen this film (or its sequel, A Shot in the Dark) all I can say is that, you must. There isn't comedy like this today and it really did make me roll on the floor laughing.

Flawless (2007)


This will most likely be the most controversial film on my list, but I'm sticking by it. I saw this film on an airplane, which would indicate that it's not too good. But then again, I saw How to Train Your Dragon on a plane and that was amazing. And I really enjoyed this film.

It stars Demi Moore as Laura Quinn, the first female executive at the London Diamond Corporation who is stuck in her position due to her gender. But she is smart and full of ideas that others take and pass off as their own. Furious, she enlists the help of Mr. Hobbs (Michael Caine), a janitor who wants to retire, although he has some ulterior motives.

The film is cleanly done and keeps you on the edge of your seat, much more in the vein of an Ocean's 11 style film than any other on this list. This is probably the truest heist movie of any, although I would say it is the least necessary to see. 

Still, I really enjoyed it and think it's a great movie for a Saturday night if you're looking for something fun and exciting that's good. I just happened to love it for some reason, which is why it is going on this list. But seriously, give it a shot. I love it.

I also want to point out how interesting it is that in heist movies, the protagonists are always the thieves. Puts an interesting view on our perspectives on justice.

1 comment:

  1. have you seen The Hot Rock, directed by Peter Yates and starring Robert Redford and George Segal? You might want to add it to your list.
    " To Catch a Thief" is a priceless classic- I agree with that choice wholeheartedly .Keep on watching and blogging!!!