There are a few things a bank robber needs to get away clean: a foolproof plan, a crack team, and — this is important — an outlandish disguise that ensures no one will recognize him as he stuffs wads of cash into that giant duffel bag. High-tech video surveillance is one reason bandits hit the costume shop before pulling off a big job. But we also think it's partially because they have a sense of humor. Consider some of the deranged masks that pop up in Hollywood heist movies. One of our new favorites is the wrinkle-faced nun masks donned by Ben Affleck's crew in his hot new crime thriller "The Town," which opens tomorrow. (We also love their Skeletor look, which was inspired by actual security camera footage the filmmakers saw while touring FBI headquarters.)
But as great as the masks are in the "The Town" they don't quite measure up to the classics of the genre. So, without further blabbering, here are the five greatest bank heist masks in Hollywood history.
Keanu Reeves plays a rookie federal agent who infiltrates a band of gnarley surfer dudes suspected of bank robbery in this 1991 action flick directed by recent Oscar-winner Kathryn Bigelow. Judging from their rubber masks (Reagan, Carter, Nixon and LBJ) "the Ex-Presidents," as they're known, aren't about to let partisan politics stop them from passing some very, very large bills.
"The Dark Knight"
Director Christopher Nolan's 2008 blockbuster opens with an elaborate heist of Gotham National Bank by men in creepy clown masks. These Bozos don't twist balloons into cutesy animal shapes; they hand out live grenades like lollipops while they clean out the bank's vault. Then, recognizing that a heist is no fun without a little destruction, they drive a yellow school bus through the side of the building to get away.
"Set It Off"
While some sisters were still waiting to exhale in 1996, a few were waving around steel and telling everyone to get down on the floor. Burned by the system, four longtime girlfriends from the hood decide to get their revenge by knocking over banks in "Set It Off." For their first job, the girls (Jada Pinkett, Queen Latifah, Vivica Fox, Kimberly Elise) sport identical wigs and sunglasses but they later switch to sinister plastic translucent masks. Each score brings more money but — as Biggie was fond of saying — also more problems.
Sterling Hayden is a tough ex-con heading up a crew of small-time crooks for one last big heist in this inventive 1956 thriller that launched the career of some guy named Stanley Kubrick. The killer plan, in which "no one will get hurt" (they always say that), is for a gunman in a hobo mask to break into the money-counting room at a busy racetrack, where the take on that day is in the neighborhood of $2 million. That was Bill Gates money back then.
In desperate need of some "dead presidents" following four soul-crushing years in Vietnam, a young black man from the Bronx, Anthony Curtis (Larenz Tate), masterminds the robbery of an armored-car. Instead of bandanas or costume masks though, his African American crew coats their faces with white makeup, which makes them look like a bunch of badass mimes. We approve.