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Becoming closer to his dream of leading a normal life, a professional safecracker agrees to do a job for the mafia, who have other plans for him.



(novel), (screen story) | 1 more credit »
2 wins & 6 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Barry (as James Belushi)
Tom Signorelli ...
Nick Nickeas ...
W.R. Brown ...
Mitch (as W.R. [Bill] Brown)
Norm Tobin ...
John Santucci ...
Gavin MacFadyen ...
Chuck Adamson ...
Sam Cirone ...
Spero Anast ...


Frank is an expert professional safecracker, specializing in high-profile diamond jobs. After having spent many years in prison, he has a very concrete picture of what he wants out of life--including a nice home, a wife, and kids. As soon as he is able to assemble the pieces of this collage, by means of his chosen profession, he intends to retire and become a model citizen. In an effort to accelerate this process, he signs on to take down a huge score for a big-time gangster. Unfortunately, Frank's obsession for his version of the American Dream allows him to overlook his natural wariness and mistrust, when making the deal for his final job. He is thus ensnared and robbed of his freedom, his independence, and, ultimately, his dream. Written by Tad Dibbern <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

thief | prison | heist | money | criminal | See All (228) »


Tonight, his take home pay is $410, free.


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

27 March 1981 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Der Einzelgänger  »

Box Office


$4,300,000 (USA)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


In the hospital scene, James Caan decided to stare coldly at J. Jay Saunders who played the doctor. This really frightened Saunders and his reaction in the scene is genuine. See more »


The door Frank closes when he first backs out of Attaglia's office is closed, but in the next scene it is slightly open and Frank slams it shut on his way out. See more »


Joe Gags: Look, uh, these people wanna meet you.
Frank: What?
Gags: They're stand-up guys
Frank: If I wanna meet people, I'll go to a fuckin' country club.
See more »


Referenced in The Making of 'Heat' (2005) See more »

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User Reviews

A bit dated but still one of the finest action films ever made
3 February 2008 | by (Worcester, MA) – See all my reviews

"Thief" may fool some viewers into overlooking just how intelligently made it is, mainly because of how dated it initially appears. Its full of quick cuts, a pounding Tangerine Dream score, and flashy cars and clothing. Knowing that Michael Mann later made "Miami Vice", one may fear this will resemble a feature-length episode of that show. Fortunately, one realizes quickly that this is a really quality product. Its dated elements can't really be held against the filmmakers, and considering that "Scarface" was still two years away, this style could be considered a bit ahead of its time. The screenplay is just so powerful and well developed that it overcomes its limitations quickly. Mann is well known for making smart, character-driven action films, and "Thief" is no exception. This ranks with "Manhunter" as his finest achievement in my mind.

As good as the direction and script are, what really makes the film is James Caan. Caan has always been a criminally underrated performer, and as a strangely moral thief who wants to leave the business, he's never been better. He infuses a good deal of nuance and subtlety into the performance that only reveals itself with repeated viewings. Its proof that the man is as good as either DeNiro or Pacino. Tuesday Weld is also fantastic, offering possibly her finest performance (and she still looks terrific fifteen years after her peak of stardom). Even Willie Nelson and James Belushi give good portrayals. "Thief" is a really fantastic hardboiled crime thriller that appears a bit dated but ends up being as potent as ever. (8/10)

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Fans of this film, get the Criterion release NOW! mountainjam819
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Homoerotic subtext with Willie Nelson? hankpink
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