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Thief (1981)

R  |   |  Action, Crime, Drama  |  27 March 1981 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.4/10 from 14,110 users   Metascore: 78/100
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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 »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
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 | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

thief | prison | heist | money | criminal | See All (209) »


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 »


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: I got some A-B-C type information for you, lady. I was state-raised, and this is a dead place. A child in eight-by-four green walls, after awhile you tell the walls 'my life is yours.' What, didja grow up in the suburbs?
Mrs. Knowles: Yes.
Frank: Right! Right!
See more »

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User Reviews

Michael Mann's best movie, with James Caan' best performance. 'Thief' is a hardboiled crime classic not to be missed!
11 March 2003 | by (Perth, Australia) – See all my reviews

'Thief' is one of the most underrated movies of the 1980s, if not of all time. Made in the early 80s by TV veteran Michael Mann, and co-produced by the future "king" of action blockbusters Jerry Bruckheimer, this movie can almost be seen as the transition from 1970s character based crime DRAMA to 1980s flashy but brainless 1980s crime ACTION. In that sense 'Thief' is the last great 1970s movie of the 1980s. Mann made at least two great movies after this ('Manhunter' and 'Heat'), but I still think it is is his best and most satisfying work. James Caan believes that the movie contains his finest performance and I'm inclined to agree with him. Caan is dynamite throughout. He oozes charisma and is impossible to take your eyes off, but also gives a subtle and complex performance. The film works both as an exciting caper movie, and as a human drama. In many ways it is the best crime film to pull that off since Dassin's 'Rififi' in the mid 1950s. Cann is helped by a superb supporting cast, who on the surface may seem a motley bunch, but all are very good - Tuesday Weld ('Who'll Stop The Rain'), Jim Belushi (his movie debut), a memorable cameo from country legend Willie Nelson, and especially a fantastic turn from Robert Prosky. Prosky is probably best known to most viewers as the kindly father-figure he played in 'Hill Street Blues'. His turn here as a ruthless gangster is a complete eye opener! Prosky delivers one of the most vicious lines ever heard in a movie, which is a bit too extreme for me to quote here, but believe me, you will never forget it when you hear it! Many people seem to find Tangerine Dream's dated synth score to be extremely irritating but I actually enjoyed it and thought it helped build the mood. 'Thief' is a hardboiled crime classic and is highly recommended to any fan of the genre, especially those made in the 1970s. It is wildly underrated and deserves to be rediscovered by a larger audience. 'Thief' is simply one of THE great "lost" classics of the last thirty years.

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