Amateur Criminal Movies
Do you enjoy odd movies about amateur criminals?
This page features an updated list of "amateur criminal movies." If you have additional amateur criminal movies to suggest, please contact us, because we're always interested in expanding our pages. Some of the crime capers featured on this page were suggested by our site's readers in fact.
Updated 7 March 2010
Small Time Crooks
Small Time Crooks is a 2000 Woody Allen film starring Woody Allen, Tracy Ullman, and Hugh Grant. Allen plays Ray, an incompetent ex-con who wants to rob a ban, while Tracy Ullman plays his shrewish wife Frenchy. I won't spoil the plot by telling whether or not the heist is successful, but Hugh Grant is hysterical as the gigolo who breaks Frenchy's heart. Small Time Crooks was Allen's most successful American box offic film in a decade, but its box-office record has been broken by Match Point. 2000. 94 minutes. Rated PG for language. 3/10.
City of God (Cidade De Deus)
Rocket is a wannabe photojournalist who lives in a particularly rough favala in Rio. He moderates this amusing and violent story of a gang war in his neighborhood. It is well written, well filmed and especially horrific because it is based on a true story. These thugs can never win, and most kids from this neighborhood are destined to die before they reach old age from a combination of ignorance, drugs and violence. City of God is especially excellent if you like gang stories. Directed by Fernando Meirelles. 2 hours. Rated R. Brazilian Portuguese w/subtitles.
You Shoot, I Shoot
This Hong Kong spoof is about a hit man, Bart, who hires a young director, Chuan, to film his murders. A gorgeous socialite, Ma, hires them to kill her ex-boyfriend and is so pleased she tells all her friends. Their films are so well produced, the team quickly becomes the most sought after assassins in the city. Other photo/hit squads try to emulate their success, but none come close to their combined talent. You Shoot, I Shoot is very funny. 90 minutes. Unrated. 2001.
Big Deal On Madonna Street
Marrcello Mastroianni leads a gang of bumbling Italian thieves in this comedy directed by Mario Monicello. 1960. B&W. 90 minutes. Unrated. Italian w/subtitles.
Bob needs to supplement his meager income, but a life of crime just doesn't seem to suit him. Ken Loach directs this humorous tale of an Irishman trying to raise a little cash for his daughter's communion dress. 90 minutes. Unrated.
Criminal Gus is a middle aged accountant who embezzles a few bucks to help buy his family a new home. Of course he's not very good at anything, least of all crime, and he quickly gets caught. He takes his son and runs off to upstate New York. Criminal Gus is beautifully shot in black and white by Wolfgang Held. The black and white photography amplifies the depressing qualities of this poor schmuck's life. 77 minutes. Unrated. 1994.
No we didn't put the asterisks in; F***/Off is the actual title of this comic tale of two lame bank robbers. Ah Lee is a bank teller who is in deep to his threatening stock broker. He runs into Papa, an incredibly stupid crook wannabe looking for henchmen. They team up for an abortive attempt at a life of crime. This might be considered a Cantonese version of Wes Anderson's Bottle Rocket. Entertaining. Chinese and English subtitles. 90 min.
Ratas, Ratones, Rateros
Angel wakes up, smokes some dope, drinks a slug of tequila, and contemplates the bloody stump of his left pinky. Then two guys with guns bust into the room, and the chase is on. Angel gives them the slip but kills one of his pursuers in the process, and his troubles begin in earnest. He runs to his cousin Salvador in Quito, and they proceed to terrorize their relatives and friends. Angel seems to bring bad luck to all who come in contact with him as he eludes his growing list of enemies. A realistic tale of the wide class difference and squalor in South America's mushrooming cities. The best Ecuadorian film we have seen to date. Let us know how it ends; our copy was missing the last few minutes. 1998. Rated R. Spanish w/subtitles.
The Man Who Wasn't There
Billy Bob Thorton stars in The Man Who Wasn't There from the Coen brothers. It's set in the fifties, and the movie is about a simple man whose life makes a left turn. He toils daily in his brother in law's barbershop, but yearns for a little something better. He decides his way out is to go into the dry cleaning business, but he's short of capital. To raise the cash, he blackmails his wife's boss (James Gandolfini). The photography would make Orson Welles jealous. The Man Who Wasn't There is a wee bit too long, but otherwise this is a film lover's wet dream. 2001. Rated R.
In U-Turn, Sean Penn is a small time chiseler stranded in a small Arizona town from hell. The all star cast of murderous loonies includes: Jennifer Lopez, Claire Danes, Nick Nolte, Joaquin Phoenix, Powers Booth, Billy Bob Thornton, Liv Tyler, Laurie Metcalf, Bo Hopkins and Jon Voight (doing his best work since Midnight Cowboy.) Written by John Ridley. Directed by Oliver Stone. 1997. 125 mintes. Rated R. Recommended and reviewed by Mike L.
Love and a .45
Watty Watts (Gil Bellows) makes a habit of robbing convenience stores with an unloaded gun. He checks the I Ching to steel up for the task which he considers his personal art form. His grandfather told him you only need two things in life: "love and a .45". Renee Zellweger is his underage girlfriend Starlene, in case you wondered what she did before she was famous (aside from Texas Chain Saw Massacre 6). Watty has a friend named Billy ('..a speed sucking psychopath') , whom he met in prison, and they occasionally commit crimes together. One of their robberies goes sour, and when a clerk gets shot their lives turn south. Star and Watty have to get out of Dodge, so like all good Texas outlaws, they head for Mexico. They get married en route and honeymoon while on the lam. They are chased by a drug addled trio of low rent debt collectors as well as the full contingent of Texas law enforcement personnel. Peter Fonda is Star's father, Virgil, "a handicapped suburban hippy". He gives them a 1000 mg Sandoz purple acid as a wedding present. Love and a .45m tries too hard to be Tarentinoesque, but it has its moments. Directed by C.M.Talkington. 1995. Rated R. 102 minutes.
O Brother Where Art Thou?
O Brother Where Art Thou is a Coen Brothers' George Clooney showcase and a 1930's update of The Odyssey. George is Everett McGill (Ulysses), a chain gang employee who has Pete (John Turturro) and Delmar ( Tim Blake Nelson) as his chain mates. They make a break for it, and the threesome hobble off through the countryside in search of hidden gold. Their first encounter is with a blind prophet who is slowly cranking a hand cart down the tracks. After the prophet foretells the rest of the film in a decidedly cryptic fashion, the boys amble into the swamps in search of freedom and a recording contract. The film is long on characters and short on story. O Brother Where Art Thou is also a perfect backdrop for Clooney's glib and handsome Ulysses. T. Bone Burnett assembles a kickass sound track that helps to solidly anchor the film in the great depression. John Goodman is one eyed bible salesman (the Cyclops), and Holly Hunter is superb as Ulysses' fertile wife. This will interest most classics majors, Coen brothers fans, and just about anyone stuck on an airplane for at least 103 minutes. PG13. 2001.
Run, Lola, Run/Lola Rennt
Run, Lola, Run is a 90 minute, high energy, German music video masquerading as a full length feature. A non-stop crime movie not unlike Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels; Run, Lola, Run follows the money as the red headed Lola literally runs around Berlin trying to help her boyfriend out of a jam. You'll be exhausted by the end. The DVD includes an excellent voice over track by the director.
Seth is a kleptomaniac who lives with his toothless dad. He meets Marcey (Robin Tunney ) while they are simultaneously pocketing goods at their local drug store. Seth ( Henry Thomas from Spanking the Monkey) is smitten, and his love grows even after he finds out that Marcey has Tourette's Syndrome and is prone to fits of yelling, violence, tics and lots of unusual behavior. Robin Tunney does an outstanding job portraying this misunderstood malady and the writers are certainly not trying to elicit our sympathy. It's tempting to describe this film as 'powerful', but the ending is a bit too pat, even if the subject is otherwise unorthodox. The good parts outnumber the weak spots. 1998. Rated R. 106 minutes.
Jeffrey Reiner directs a spare, tight crime drama about some seriously untalented criminals. Glenn Plummer is Ben, the leader of this low rent posse who have asked to perform a drug sale for "The Dutchman" . With half a million dollars in coke stuffed in a bowling bag, Ben sets out in a Chrysler Le Baron convertible with his two protégés, Chinaman and Jesus, for the big "pop". Bored waiting for the Man, Jesus invites a few hookers out to their desert hideaway, and they dip into the product. Things get bad, then things get worse. smalltime is lots of fun. 1999. Rated R. 90 minutes.
Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels
They need to raise a half million quid in a hurry, or Hatchet Harry will start slicing off their fingers. It seems these four losers dropped a bundle to Harry in a rigged card game, and they go to great criminal lengths in an effort to save their digits. Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels is actually a comedy. It was written & directed by Guy Ritchie. Sting is in it, too. 1998. British w/American sub-titles. Rated R. 106 minutes. 8/16/99
Frogs for Snakes
Actors often say they would kill for a part, but these guys actually do. You need a scorecard to keep track of Frogs for Snakes, a character-filled send up of the New York actor/gangster scene. If you enjoy the joke, you'll find this one entertaining. Directed by Amos Poe, with Barbara Hershey, Robbie Coltrane, Lisa Marie, and Clarence Williams III. 1999. Rated R. 92 minutes.
Jim Jarmusch gets off to a quiet start with Dead Man, a black and white western. Johnny Depp plays William Blake. a Cleveland accountant who wanders west after his parents die. Predictably meek and mild, William manages to catch a bullet meant for someone else. He is nursed by an Indian named 'Nobody' who assumes Depp is the poet William Blake. Blake proceeds to wander around killing people, becoming more adept as he goes. The scenery and the photography are extraordinary. The story is wryly comic though a trifle thin. The cutting dialog and great cinematography more than compensate, and the combination will entertain most Jarmusch fans. The all star cast includes Robert Mitchum as a berserk mill owner, Crispin Glover as a walk-on lunatic, Billy Bob Thornton as himself, Iggy Pop as a cowboy in drag, Gabriel Byrne, and Alfred Molina. 1997. Rated R. B & W. 121 minutes. 8/99
Kiss Toledo Goodbye
When the last independent video store in 100 miles went broke last month, we bought all the films with Christopher Walken or Crispin Glover in them. This one features the former, but he'd probably try to deny it. Kevin (Michael Rappaport) is the long lost son of mob boss Robert Forster. When Forster gets blown up, dad's crew (which includes Walken) adopts him as their new Don. His girlfriend (Christine Taylor) has a problem with that. God, its really awful.
An awful lot of folks wrote to say we overlooked this film. Actually, we thought everyone was a professional criminal in this Tarantino classic. Maybe not. So here it is, we will not bother writing a synopsis of Reservoir Dogs, since if you're here, you've already seen it.
American Buffalo is a powerful David Mamet play transferred to the screen. The movie stars Dustin Hoffman (Teach) and Dennis Franz (Don). In a junk store run by Don, they plan the robbery of a coin collection. Don had enlisted the help of a kid to help with the heist, but Teach convinces him that he is the man for the job. You will seldom see acting this good and dialog so poignant in one place. Don't expect an action movie, it is, after all, a play. The interior of the junk store is perfect. 1996. 87 minutes.
Vincent Gallo is the director/writer/star in Buffalo 66, a film about one of the stupidest people ever born. Billy Brown gets out of jail and can't even find a place to take a leak. He kidnaps Cristina Ricci and takes her home to prove to his parents he is not a loser. But he IS a loser, and they don't care anyway, because they're too busy watching Buffalo play football. We're informed via flashback that Billy went to jail because he made a large and ill advised bet on the same team. Two things are definite: upstate New York is depressing in the winter, and Ricci is a good actress. This movie may actually be brilliant? 1998. Rated R. Thanks to Wilbur177 for the suggestion. 4/99
That Sinking Feeling
Stupid Scottish criminals make off with 200 sinks. The rest of That Sinking Feeling portrays what they do with them. Director Bill Forsythe's first commercial release.1979. In Scottish without English subtitles. Rated PG. 90 minutes.
Digman is a wholesale loser who attempts to assemble a second class criminal team. They manage to rob a Barnes and Noble of their petty cash, but they bungle anything more complex. Bottle Rocket is directed by Wes Anderson, with the entire Wilson family (Owen, Luke, Andrew and Teddy) in the cast. 1996. Rated R. 99 minutes. Thanks to Tuco200 for the recommendation. 10/98.
A Fish Called Wanda
Thomas W. reminded us that this movie falls into this category. He's right. If you haven't seen it, you now have a mission .
In Quick Change, Bill Murray, Geena Davis, and Randy Quaid portray lame bank robbers who can't seem to make their getaway. Tom Whiting wrote us: "Bill Murray is a city planner who decides take his knowledge of city workings to rob a bank. He disguises himself as a clown who's 'crying on the inside.' The fun starts during the getaway in which they can't get out of the (NY) city.
After his second backup plan fails, Randy Quaid asks, 'Is that our plane?' as they miss another flight.
Bill Murray replies, 'No, if that was our plane, it would be crashing.'"
Quick Change features stellar performances from Geena Davis and Jason Robards as the chief of Police. Thanks Tom. 1990. Rated R. 90 minutes.
They set out to rob a jewelry store, but they somehow end up in a bakery. These three friend want to get into crime in the worst way, but lack the talent. Vincent Gallo is notable as normal Jersey guy who just needs to get a life. 1996. Rated R. 90 minutes.
Waking Ned Devine
Poor Ned wins the Irish Lottery, but then he dies from the excitement. Two of his plotting friends decide to cash Ned's ticket, but they must impersonate him to get the winnings. This requires complete collusion among the inhabitants of the isolated seaside village. This tale of wholesale greed is full of funny visuals and has no problem showing saggy old people sans clothes (which was not as shocking as Harvey Keitel in the buff in that piano movie) . Rated PG 13.
The Young Poisoner's Handbook
Hugh O'Conner is a twisted little sod who makes a science project out of poisoning his immediate family. He gets some excellent results, like when all his dad's hair falls out in clumps from arsenic in the tea. Not quite as bizarre as some, until you realize it's a true story. You may have to search pretty hard for a copy of The Young Poisoner's Handbook, and we don't know if it's worth the effort. 1995. Rated R. 99 minutes. 1/99.
What, Christopher Walken playing a mob boss? How unusual. He played a more memorable Mafioso in True Romance, but it is the character that suits him best. Charlie has retired from a life of crime when he gets kidnapped by a pack of well adjusted prep school buddies. Why? There's no point in giving the whole thing away. They stash him in a summer mansion in the Hamptons, duct taped to a desk chair. Most of Suicide Kings is shot around that one set. This could have been a play, and except for the lame car scenes with bad Pulp Fiction dialog, it works fairly well. There are multiple ending on the DVD release, so you can pick your favorite. Directed by Wayne Rice who keeps the whole thing moving. 1998. 103 minutes. Rated R. 5/99. (See also: Good Crime Movies Featuring Italians.)
Another Day In Paradise
Rosie and Bobby are happy robbing vending machines and shooting crank. Then they link up with the professional junky/criminal couple of Melvin and Sid (James Woods and Melanie Griffith) who take them in as apprentices. It's a tough education, and you get to see every painful minute as they learn how to rob, shoot and shoot up. You know this story cannot end happily. Directed by Larry Clark. Natalie Gregson Wagner is Rosie, and Vincent Karthersen is Bobby. 101 minutes. Rated R. 5/99.
They are supposed to be a handpicked group of professional bank robbers, and initially they appear prety hardcore. They bring along an American safe cracking expert, who begins to wonder if these guys really know what they're doing. Killing Zoe all unwinds in a violent, stressful 90 minutes. French/English with subtitles.
Thieves Like Us
Recommended by Stanley Hastins who wrote, "Thieves Like Us is a violent, yet gothic account of a team of bank robbers in the South during the 1930s. It was made in several small towns in Mississippi and stars Shelly Duvall, Louise Fletcher, and Keith Carradine, among others--that same team that made Popeye." Thanks Stanley.
I Went Down
Git gets out of prison and heads straight for his local pub. While away, his girlfriend has hooked up with his best friend, Auto (David Wilmet). Auto is also in over his head with the local bookies, who are prepared to do him some serious harm. Git intercedes, blinding one thug and breaking up another. The local mob boss is pissed that Git has been damaging his employees. To settle the score, he agrees to do a small collection job. Of course if it were simple, this would be a fairly short movie. He gets teamed up with a veteran heavy, Bunny Kelly (Brendan Gleeson), who give him a primer in basic criminal behavior. It's a funny story and almost believable. All the actors are Irish, so I Went Down must be an Irish movie. 1998. Rated R. 118 minutes.
Thanks to Tuco200 for suggesting this page. If you still need more ideas for amateur criminal movies to rent, Filmsite.org has a crime movies section. Not all of them are about amateurs committing crimes though; some of them are professional criminals.
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