Criminally artful heist films to take your mind off the coronavirus this weekend

Heat up some popcorn and find a welcome distraction with some decidedly non-pandemic viewing

How to Steal a Million (1966), 20th Century Fox film with Audrey Hepburn and Peter O'Toole Pictorial Press Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo

How to Steal a Million (1966), 20th Century Fox film with Audrey Hepburn and Peter O'Toole Pictorial Press Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo

It has been a difficult week for many. In the interest of giving those who need a welcome distraction something to help alleviate the stress, we have collected some of our favourite art heist films over the years. We hope you can find a moment this weekend to sit down, grab some comfort food, and enjoy an hour or two with a cultural caper.

How to Steal a Million (1966)

This classic romantic comedy starring Audrey Hepburn follows an iconic arc: a smart woman who falls in love with a charming scrub of a man, who in this case is trying to steal a forged Van Gogh from her father—the forger behind the work who’s long made a living bamboozling collectors. It’s a ridiculous but fun romp filled with fake masterpieces, father issues and cliched female roles.

Beltracchi: The Art of Forgery (2014)

For documentary lovers, this German film follows the life and trial of Wolfgang Beltracchi, the artist behind the biggest art scandal in post-war Europe. Beltracchi admitted to producing hundreds of fake paintings attributed to famous artists with M Feider, his mentor and mastermind behind the scam that made them millions. If you’re looking for remorse and reform, however, you won’t find it here.

Velvet Buzzsaw (2019)

You’ll be “ensorcelled” by Jack Gyllenhaal’s performance as the normcore, navel-gazing art critic Morf Vandewalt in this campy horror film that starts at Art Basel Miami Beach and ends in blood. It is not exactly a heist film—unless you count the value inflation of contemporary art on the commercial market its plot scathingly follows as a kind of moral theft. But it is worth watching for the mysterious and utterly ridiculous kill scenes.

Museo (2018)

Starring Gabriel Gael García Bernal and based on a true story, Museo follows two middle-class flunkies who somehow pulled off one the largest modern-day antiquities thefts when, in 1985, they stole around 140 objects from the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City. Most of the laughs in the film come from the incompetence of the law officials tracking the two equally dim-witted criminals, who try to trade their loot on the black market for cocaine.

Ruben Brandt, Collector (2019)

Filled with both art and cinema history references, Ruben Brandt, Collector is a portrait of a famous but tormented psychotherapist who conspires with four of his patients—who happen to be art thieves—to steal paintings from 13 great museums, all to rid himself of chronic art-filled nightmares. Light-hearted yet smart, the beautifully animated film is written and directed by the Budapest-based multimedia artist Milorad Krstic.

Pompei (2019)

Set in an unspecified time where society has collapsed and culture has been lost, a band of teenagers spend their days driving around an atmospheric, post-apocalyptic landscape, having lots of sex and looting ancient relics from an unnamed ancient empire to sell for money. There is no clear moral tale to this minimalist French-language drama, which was making the film festival rounds as the coronavirus pandemic exploded, but its bleak outlook certainly vibes with the times.