"Because that's where the money is."
—Willie Sutton in response to "Why do people rob banks?" (attributed.)
Robbing a bank. This crime is about as old as banks themselves, but became a standard when banks evolved into large public buildings. Since criminals tend to want money, and banks usually have a lot of money, it's an obvious combination.
Bank jobs range from a simple stick-up by a lone operator who goes for whatever the Bank Teller has in the cash drawer, to elaborate capers requiring months of planning and preparation carried out by a team of experts. The elaborate versions are often the focus of an entire movie.
Over the years, banks have developed many ways of foiling bank robbers or at least minimizing their take, and stories involving modern banks will have to come up with ways to defeat those measures.
Side note: In the United States, bank funds are insured by the FDIC, which makes Bank Robbery a Federal offense and often leads to FBI involvement. In fiction, this means Jurisdiction Friction.
Anime and Manga
- Tomo's dream sequence in Azumanga Daioh (animated version) has her, as a Mary Sue, foil a bank robbery. For some reason she imagines the crooks as her classmates. (Then again, Kaori also dreams of her classmates — some, anyway — as a street gang. Chiyo is a bad influence!)
- Love Mode: Naoya and Kichi are innocent victims in a jewelry store heist, leading to a Hostage Situation and a high speed chase.
- One chapter of Crayon Shin-chan has our young fellow asked if he knew what to bring to the bank. He immediately grabs a kitchen knife, as that's the stereotypical bank robbery weapon in gun-scarce Japan.
- An episode of Detective Conan had a bank robbery hold up with Conan and his friends including Jodie trapped inside. The robbers plot was to transfer money electronically, use hostages without close friends or loved ones disguised as robbers thinking to have died in an explosion accident, and escape as escorted hostages.
- One needs to remember the more important story arc (or arcs) that involves Akemi; she was killed off after a bank robbery.
- In Heat Guy J, Monica has lost her home to arson, and since she is the one who supports herself and her Bottle Fairy mother (ordinarily by taking pictures for a small fee), she feels she has no other options. So she rides her pet donkey up to a nearby bank...only to be stopped by Daisuke.
- Many Comic Book supervillains start their careers with a bank robbery or two before suffering Motive Decay and seeking revenge on the heroes that stop them. Indeed, this one's a pretty standard crime to stop for superheroes and antiheroes alike.
- Subverted in Runaways; the kids run into some supervillains robbing a bank, only to say that they aren't going to try to stop them, since they know the bank is insured; they just want them to hand over the kid in their ranks. Of course, they don't oblige and the kid turns out to be evil too.
- Why do random crooks even bother robbing banks in Metropolis? Seriously.
- Because it's a lot less scary and way safer than trying to rob the ones in Gotham
- The Dalton brothers gang does it frequently in the Lucky Luke comics.
- Asterix and Obelix attempted it in "Asterix and the Cauldron", to recover money that had been stolen from Asterix. They failed, since the bank was empty because of the ultra-high Roman tax rates.
- It was also Played for Laughs, as they actually spent some time spying on the bank from their inn and finding out the habits of the guards and when they could get in. Asterix developed a rather well-thought-out plan, but when Obelix failed to understand it...
Asterix: Forget it -- just get the money and get out.
Films -- Live-Action
- The Dark Knight opens with a gang robbing a bank, with the Joker arranging for each of his accomplices to kill each other off once their usefulness has been expended.
- Firewall, with Harrison Ford, involves a bank robbery via electronic balance transfers.
- Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid both in Real Life and The Movie.
- Jesse James, of course, also in Real Life and many, many fictional accounts.
- Dog Day Afternoon, based on a Real Life bank robbery gone horribly wrong.
- Quick Change. Extremely clever twist.
- The Silent Partner. A bank clerk steals money during a robbery, allowing the robber to take the blame. The robber doesn't like it.
- Take the Money and Run (Woody Allen comedy)
- Maverick (1994): a brief Bank Robbery, the title character is a bystander.
- The Mask: a brief Bank Robbery by the title character.
- Sugar and Spice. Bank robbers who are...cheerleaders?
- The Return of The Pink Panther. Clouseau fails to stop a bank robbery.
- The main action in For a Few Dollars More involves trying to stop a bank robbery masterminded by Indio.
- The crew of Serenity pulls one of these off in the first major sequence of the movie.
- Bonnie and Clyde made a career out of robbing banks and other criminality before their tragic end, both in Real Life and The Movie.
- The Day of the Jackal: when the gang ask The Jackal how they're going to pay for his services as an assassin, he tells them to use their criminal network to rob a few banks. Which they do.
- Almost too obvious: The Bank Job
- Frank Martin's first job in the movie The Transporter is acting as the getaway driver for a group of bank robbers.
- Inside Man has an interesting twist on this.
- The Demolition man in the recent version of Ocean's Eleven was working a bank heist the night he was nabbed by Rusty.
- Cien A?de Perd?: during the infamous Venezuelan Bank Crisis of 1994, four friends decide to rob via take over the main office of a big bank, only to find that the owner, anticipating the bankruptcy and the Government intervention, fled with all the money. A dark comedy.
- The Wild Bunch opens with an attempted bank robbery.
- The protagonists unwittingly help famous bank robber Babyface Nelson in O Brother, Where Art Thou??
- The villains' plot in GoldenEye is essentially a massive, countrywide electronic bank heist covered up by the use of a stolen EMP warhead.
- The appropriately named How To Rob A Bank.
- Public Enemies, being based on Real Life bank robber John Dillinger, naturally has a few scenes of this.
- Bandits features two ex-cons who rob banks to fund their dreams.
- Subverted in A Fistful of Dynamite. Juan relieves the bank of all its valuables but unfortunately for him its full of political prisoners, not money.
- Heat has a particularly memorable bank robbery in the middle of the film.
- The Parole Officer builds up to this, even though they weren't (originally) there for the money, but for a security tape in a safety-deposit box.
- Sherlock Holmes, "The Red-Headed League"
- The short story "Why Banks is Robbed in Texas"
- Harry Potter and his gang break into the bank in Harry Potter in order to take and destroy a Horcrux.
- Nockman blackmails Molly Moon and Rocky into doing this for him.
- Elmore Leonard has Jack Foley as his Gentleman Thief, who never used a gun on a job and still robbed more than 250 banks. The movie version was played by George Clooney.
- Played for laughs in The Goon Show episode "Dishonoured" (remade as "Dishonoured Again"). The crooked bank manager Grytpype-Thynne gives impoverished new employee Neddie Seagoon the key to the gold vault, knowing that Neddie will steal the gold. Grytpype and his accomplice, Moriarty, then contrive to steal the gold back from Neddie. Hilarity Ensues.
- The Nine, a short-lived television series, centered on the survivors of a bank robbery, and the things that had happened during the event.
- The third episode of the new season on Heroes featured this. It goes rather horribly wrong...
- Done on Burn Notice. Amusing quote about it here.
- The Lost episode "Whatever the Case May Be" reveals Kate's participation as inside woman in a bank robbery.
- Arnold and family are hostages in a bank robbery in the Diff'rent Strokes episode "The Bank Job."
- The Unusuals episode "Boorland Day" opens with one of these being executed by the Boorland crime family...New York's dumbest family-run mob.
- Supernatural had an episode where a man runs into a bank with an assault rifle screaming: "This is NOT a robbery! Everybody get on the floor!"
- The season two opener of White Collar, "Withdrawal," pits Neal and Peter against "The Architect," a Smug Snake of a bank robber who leaves literal calling cards at the scenes of his heists.
- Pops up from time to time in Power Rangers. "The Phantom Phenomenon" in Turbo has Divatox and crew try to rob a bank only to be thwarted by the Phantom Ranger. An episode of Time Force has the villains rob a bank so they'll have cash.
- Top Gear used a bank robbery and getaway as the final test of luxury cars for the Albanian Mafia. Richard Hammond and Jeremy Clarkson managed to escape the police. James May...didn't.
- The UnSub in the Criminal Minds episode "Psychodrama" started out as a bank robber, but ends up degenerating due to a combination of drugs and trauma.
- The subject of Barenaked Ladies's "Bank Job", couched in terms of the blame game in relationships.
- In City of Villains: A PC villain will periodically have the opportunity to perform a special bank robbery mission in order to access additional contacts and missions. Heroes have a corresponding set of missions to prevent the bank robberies.
- Max Payne stops one of these fairly early in the game.
- The Wise Old Man in RuneScape robbed the Draynor bank, killing some guards and Player Characters (Not actual players, it was a cutscene) and stealing an item worth millions of Gp.
- Grand Theft Auto IV contains a rather long and involved bank robbery mission.
- So does Vice City, which is the focus of around 1/4th to 1/3rd of the game.
- In fact, you also do this in San Andreas too. And I'm sure it shows up in Grand Theft Auto II; I have memories of, as the getaway driver, using a police car.
- A bank robbery is part of the set-up for the story of Grand Theft Auto III; additionally, the mission "The Getaway" features the player character serving as getaway driver.
- Thief heroes in Quest for Glory V can rob the local bank twice. Paladin and Magic User heroes can participate in a sidequest to hunt down an NPC thief who robs the bank in their scenario.
- The Thief 2: The Metal Age mission "First City Bank and Trust", in which Garrett must steal an item from a specific safety deposit box.
- Likewise, Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory has Fisher break into a bank to find terrorist financial records then crack the vault to make it look like a standard robbery.
- The penultimate stage in Conkers Bad Fur Day is this, as you empty the Feral Reserve Bank. One of the Multiplayer modes is this as well.
- In The Godfather: The Game you have the option of doing this to various banks across NYC, though it's not necessary for 100% Completion.
- In Hero Smash Dr. Insectro tries to rob a bank, with your Player Character (who can be either a hero or a villain) caught in the middle.
- PAYDAY: The Heist, like you might guess from the name, is mostly about performing heists. As of the game launch, one of them has you robbing a bank.