Breaking and Entering: How our love of a heist moved from film to TV

Some of the most iconic film moments of all time feature plots about stealing something. From the slick plotting of George Clooney to rob three Las Vegas casinos in Ocean’s Eleven, to the evil, diamond-obsessed penguin in Wallace and Gromit: The Wrong Trousers, heists, theft and robbery have featured on our screens before films even had sound.

So here at The Smartcard Store, we have looted through the ratings of nearly 15,000 films, TV programmes and video games which feature heist, robbery or theft, to find out what we love – and what we are sick of. And, it seems that when it comes to plots about stealing, we are getting a little bored…

The heists we hate: plots that bombed

Our research showed that as viewers, we are fed up of plots which involve friends planning a robbery or heist. Over a quarter (29%) of the lowest-rated (1-3 out of 10) films, TV shows and games that were analysed feature groups of friends carrying out a robbery – perhaps we just don’t find it believable that our loved ones would be tied up with such shenanigans!

We also don’t like being taken in by plots that start off as robberies but turn out to be something else. Take Ebola Zombies, for example, a film rated just 2.7 out of 10, in which an attempted heist turns out to be a discovery of a secret lab running experiments with Sars and Ebola… and, er, zombies. Then there’s the film Samaritan, in which a thwarted heist ends up revealing the main character’s supernatural abilities; a film so unpopular it only gained 2.3 out of ten. Of all the worst-rated films, 11% feature a plot like this – and we’re just not that into it.

We’re tired of plots which use a theft or heist to try to help someone – plots like this make up 7% of the worst-rated films – and another 7% feature plots about searching for things: whether it’s a stolen scroll (Catalina Caper), family diamonds (Padmashree Laloo Prasad Yadav) or a hidden safe (Gag), the story has been done over and over, and we’re not very interested.



The plot that comes bottom of the list is from a 1922 silent movie called Boomerang Bill, one of the oldest on our list. The only silent movie in our research, Boomerang Bill told the story of a wannabe gangster, using robbery to teach the protagonist – and audience – that crime doesn’t pay. However, it seems that crime drama and silent movies don’t pay either: the movie was only given 1 out of 10 by viewers.

In fact, our research shows that we’re less interested in these type of movies full stop: 91% of the worst-rated heist, robbery or theft plots were in films – but whilst we’re less interested in the silver screen, it seems that TV programmes and video games really capture our imagination…


TV thieves top the polls


In recent years, binge-watching TV series has become a hobby in its own right, as on-demand streaming services have boomed – and when we sit down to a marathon viewing session, we’re frequently turning to crime dramas.

Some of the most popular programmes over the last few years have featured theft, robbery or a heist at the heart of their plot. For example, BBC drama Peaky Blinders about the criminal Shelby family has robbery and crime running all the way through it. It not only won a BAFTA award but was also rated 9 out of 10 by viewers.

Sherlock, another BAFTA award-winning BBC series starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes also features in the highest-rated heist plots, particularly for 2010’s episode, The Great Game, which scored 9.1 out of 10. And one US drama series whose individual episodes repeatedly appear on our highest-rated list is Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, which has run for an incredible 25 seasons. Viewers rated it no lower than 9.6 out of 10.

But finding escapism in a good crime story doesn’t just extend to TV drama – it features strongly in some of our favourite comedies as well. Only Fools and Horses appear on the list of our favourite robbery and theft-themed TV sitcoms. Del Boy and friends’ wheeling and dealing continue to warm the hearts of viewers, who awarded the British classic 9 out of 10.

If you need someone to thwart a theft or robbery, then you could always send out the bat signal! One of our favourite superheroes, Batman, appears on our most highly-rated list in the 2008 movie, The Dark Knight, which viewers gave 9 out of 10. Spiderman also rated highly – unusually, not for the film, but for the cartoon series from the early 90s, which also rated 9 out of 10.

Video games are now starting to make an impact in terms of their plot and storytelling – and heists or robberies are a perfect vehicle for gamers to play either the goody or the baddy (the baddy is much more fun, obviously)!  For example, the Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption series scored incredibly highly in our research, earning 9.6 or 9.7 out of 10 from viewers and gamers!

We talked all about security and the worst & best films, TV shows and games plots, so let's have a look at how long it would take you to spot an open padlock in this brainteaser.

This puzzle features an ocean of locked padlocks, but can you spot the one with a key in that is opened?






Thankfully, despite the fact that robberies, heists and thefts are so prevalent in contemporary film and TV, they don’t happen as frequently in real life. However, if you want to protect and secure your business, get in touch with us at the Smart Card Store – we’ll find the right access control cards for your system and help you ensure that the break-in dramas remain in the fictional world.




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