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Thief (1981)

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Coming closer to his dream of leading a normal life, a professional safecracker agrees to do a job for the Mafia, who has 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 <DIBBERN_D@a1.mscf.upenn.edu>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Tonight, his take home pay is $410,000...tax free.


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

27 March 1981 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Der Einzelgänger  »


Box Office


$5,500,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

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Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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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 »


When Frank is with Joe Gaggs at the restaurant in the booth, Frank looks straight ahead to see Jessie at the counter. Yet, when Frank gets up to pay the tab he has to turn to his right to go to the counter; therefore, the line of sight is inconsistent, and there is no way Frank could have seen Jessie from where he was sitting. See more »


Frank: You're marking time is what you are. You're backing off. You're hiding out. You're waiting for a bus that you hope never comes because you dont wanna get on it anyway because you don't wanna go anywhere. Ok?
See more »


Turning Point
Written by Leo Graham
Performed by Tyrone Davis
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Michael Mann's Masterpiece
16 February 2001 | by See all my reviews

Thief(1981) contains the best performance of James Caan as a professional thief in a rare leading role. He is complex and three deminsional as the protagonist, Frank. Thief(1981) is similar in many ideas to the Dustin Hoffman film, Straight Time(1977). One of the best directorial debut as Michael Mann gives a realistic portrayal of the hardships in being a professional thief. The movie does a good job in showing the corruption that Frank has to go against.

Its much better than Heat(1995) because it focuses on one person instead of trying to interweave in confusing detail the lives of two people who are opposite in job but the same in spirit. Willie Nelson is terrific in the small of of Frank's mentor, Okla. Robert Prosky is impressive as the father like crime boss, Leo. The heist scenes are the highlight of the film. Thief(1981) has to be one of the best movies to come out during the 1980s and is definitely the director's top film.

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