Everyone enjoys a good heist movie, but we’re not sure what that says about our psychology. The films usually convince audiences to root for a criminal activity, as is the case with silver screen classics like Ocean’s Eleven, The Italian Job, The Sting, or even The Fast and Furious franchise. We are fascinated by the tension, teamwork, and intellect needed to pull off extravagant crimes, but in real life heists are successful by keeping the plan simple or finding ineptitude within a security system. Whether a complicated Thomas Crown Affair style art theft or a simple smash and grab, these robberies are genius because they have one thing in common… the thieves got away with it.
Chicago First National Bank (1977, Chicago, IL, USA)
Forget about unsolved, no one can even explain how this million dollars in cash disappeared. On October 7th, 1977, the employees locked $4 million dollars in the vault. Magically, the next Tuesday (it was Columbus day holiday), $1 million in $50 and $100 denominations weighing over 80 pounds was missing when they opened for business. Oddly, $2,300 reappeared in a 1983 drug bust, but otherwise no sign of the loot.
Big Maple Leaf Coin (2017, Berlin, Germany)
Museums have a heavy burden, and in this case a heavy object was taken from Berlin’s Bode Museum. A giant 221-pound coin was stolen by burglars using a ladder to break through a window above railway tracks. They then smashed a protective case, lugged the loot up a flight of stairs, used a wheelbarrow, and climbed back out the window. The gold content is estimated at $4.5 million, which most assume has been melted down.
Oratory of San Lorenzo (1969, Palermo, Italy)
Still one of Italy’s most famous robberies, this heist is assumed to be committed by the mafia but was never linked concretely. Suspects abounded, yet no one was charged. The object was Caravaggio’s Nativity, and stealing it required at least two strong thieves as the artwork is nearly six square yards large. Local legend claims it is passed down through a succession of mafia bosses. Other local lore says the estimated $20 million dollar piece was destroyed as God’s retribution, either by earthquake, fire, or even eaten by animals in a farmhouse where it was hidden.