The Caper

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

Told from the criminal viewpoint, a group plans and executes a 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.

The Caper is more action-oriented than The Con. The members of a Caper Crew often fall into standard roles. See also Impossible Mission, The Infiltration, Armed Blag, Train Job, and Double Caper. Not to be confused with The Cape (trope).

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.

Examples of The Caper include:

Anime and Manga

  • A lot of the filler arcs of GetBackers 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 setup for Princess Principal is pure Stale Beer Spy Fiction— morally-ambiguous agents on both sides, nobody being portrayed as pure good or pure evil, and the agents' lives at stake if things go wrong — but more often than not, a mission plays out as a Caper.



  • Dortmunder: Pretty much every story that Dortmunder is involved in and Dortmunder himself was a comedic version of the author's other main character, Parker.
  • 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+ million worth of diamonds in 2003.

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". The title is spoilered because 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.

Tabletop Games

  • GURPS has the product line "Action!" that strips away all of the game rules that don't support playing a group carrying out a caper.

Video Games

  • 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)
  • Pretty much the entire premise of the Sly Cooper series.
  • 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 basically "Heist Film: The Game".
  • In Mass Effect 2, Kasumi's loyalty mission is to steal her deceased partner's graybox from the man who killed him

Web Animation

  • 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...

Web Comics

Web Original

Western Animation

  • 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.