Best of the last

“Touchez Pas Au Grisbi” (1954).
Rialto Pictures
“Touchez Pas Au Grisbi” (1954).

We were looking for both legit and criminal versions of the last-heist/last-mission scenario, but, as might be expected, the crooks were more popular. Here are five of the best, all reflecting the basic tragedy of life, and, oddly enough, some with happy endings.

She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949)

This second in John Ford’s monumental cavalry trilogy features a crusty John Wayne as a beloved commander whose retirement is interrupted by the crisis following Custer’s Last Stand. He’s assigned a dangerous last patrol and he’s not helped much by the womenfolk he must escort to safety, or his lovesick subordinates. Meanwhile, take in the beauty of Monument Valley, the real star of the show.

Touchez Pas Au Grisbi (1954)

When it comes to French variations on the theme, it’s tough to choose between Melville’s “Bob le Flambeur” (1956) and this perfect blend of ennui, intrigue, and action from Jacques Becker. Reader Justine Elias opts for “Grisbi” because “It was never really about the money. It was about the promise.”

The Wild Bunch (1969)


Loyalty rather than greed compels the title outlaws to their final showdown in Sam Peckinpah’s sublime western. They get nothing for their trouble but a tragic ballet of bullets and blood spurts, the most brutal and eloquent shoot-out in movies. And has there ever been a more gleeful invitation to death than Ernest Borgnine’s chuckle?


Thief (1981)

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In Michael Mann’s moody and meticulous debut feature, it isn’t for the money, it’s for Tuesday Weld, who plays the dame that James Caan wants to settle down with. But that takes money, so . . . Mann would crank up the last-big-heist ampage in 1995’s “Heat,” but some think this is his best film — in part because of the soundtrack by Tangerine Dream.

The Town (2010)

“The Brinks Job” came close to being the Boston entry — but, come on, the final heist in Ben Affleck’s crafty portrait of Charlestown bank robbers takes place at Fenway Park. Noteworthy also for Jeremy Renner’s charismatic psychopath and probably the only positive portrayal of the MBTA in movies.

COMING UP: Probably no character, historical or fictional, has been featured in as many movies as Jesus Christ. “Son of God” (opens Feb. 28) is the latest. Which is the best? And looking ahead to March 2, the Oscar broadcast that evening is a reminder of this year’s biggest snub, best feline performance for the cat in “Inside Llewyn Davis.” If there were such a category, which great cat acts of the past would have won? Cast your votes at

Peter Keough can be reached at