10 Most Brazen Heists of All Time: The Art of Stealing

The world of crime has seen its fair share of audacious heists, leaving us both shocked and intrigued. In this article, we’ll delve into the 10 most brazen heists of all time, from high-stakes casino heists to elaborate art thefts. These famous heists have earned their place in history, capturing the public’s imagination with their daring and often intricate plans as a result. So, buckle up and join us as we explore the biggest heists in history and the masterminds behind these extraordinary criminal exploits.

10 – The Baker Street Robbery: A Daring Heist Straight Out of a Movie

The Baker Street Robbery
The Baker Street Robbery – By Simon Harriyott from Uckfield, England (Juan Pablo Viscardo Y GuzmanUploaded by Oxyman) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
The 1971 Baker Street robbery, or Lloyds Bank heist, captivated London with its daring plot and meticulous planning. Masterminded by small-time crook Anthony Gavin, the heist unfolded like a thrilling movie script.

Gavin, Reginald Tucker, Thomas Stephens, and an inside man teamed up to execute the plan. They rented a store near the bank, dug a 40-foot tunnel from its basement into Lloyds Bank’s vault, and reinforced the tunnel with wooden beams. Walkie-talkies helped them communicate with their inside man and stay on track.

On September 11, 1971, the team broke into the vault and opened over 260 safety deposit boxes, stealing an estimated £3 million in cash, jewels, and other valuables. The loot reportedly included compromising materials belonging to British politicians and high society members.

The robbers’ luck turned when a ham radio operator intercepted their walkie-talkie communications and alerted the police. Officers discovered the tunnel, but the thieves had already escaped. In the ensuing manhunt, Gavin, Tucker, and Stephens were caught, but the inside man’s identity remains a mystery to this day.

09 – The Theft of the Mona Lisa: A Legendary Art Heist

Mona Lisa - Brazen Heists
Mona Lisa – See page for author [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The theft of Leonardo da Vinci’s iconic masterpiece, the Mona Lisa, is a tale that has captivated the world for over a century. On August 21, 1911, an Italian house painter named Vincenzo Peruggia walked into the Louvre Museum in Paris, removed the painting from its frame, and calmly walked out with the prized artwork concealed under his smock.

Peruggia’s motive for stealing the painting was to return it to its rightful home in Italy. He believed Napoleon had stolen the Mona Lisa and wanted to restore it to its country of origin. However, his patriotic act quickly turned into a two-year international manhunt.

In 1913, Peruggia attempted to sell the painting to an art dealer in Florence, who alerted the police. Officials recovered the Mona Lisa, and they sentenced Peruggia to a brief prison sentence. The daring theft and subsequent recovery catapulted the Mona Lisa into the realm of global fame, ensuring its status as one of the world’s most recognized and valuable works of art.

08 – The Lufthansa Airlines Heist: A Sky-high Score

The Lufthansa Airlines Heist
The Lufthansa Airlines Heist – Bundesarchiv, B 145 Bild-F051866-0010 / Wegmann, Ludwig / CC-BY-SA 3.0 [CC BY-SA 3.0 de], via Wikimedia Commons
Notorious for its sheer scale and execution, the Lufthansa Airlines heist of 1978 still holds a place in history as one of the most brazen robberies ever. Orchestrated by criminal mastermind Jimmy Burke, the heist targeted the airline’s cargo building at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City.

On the night of December 11, a group of armed robbers wearing ski masks infiltrated the facility, tying up employees and stealing over $5 million in cash and $875,000 worth of jewelry. The loot was destined for banks and businesses overseas, making it an attractive target for the criminal underworld.

Following the heist, law enforcement struggled to crack the case. Many of those involved were killed or disappeared, leaving few leads for authorities to follow. To this day, the Lufthansa Airlines heist remains one of the largest unsolved cash robberies in American history.

07 – The Brent Cross Shopping Centre Jewelry Heist: A High-Speed Escape

Brent Cross Shopping Centre
Brent Cross Shopping Centre

In November 2012, the Brent Cross Shopping Centre in London became the target of a brazen jewelry heist. Four men on motorcycles roared into the shopping center, brandishing axes and bats, and proceeded to smash the windows of a high-end jewelry store.

In a matter of minutes, the thieves grabbed an estimated £2 million worth of luxury watches and other items before making a hasty exit. With their motorcycles parked nearby, the robbers sped away, weaving through the busy shopping center and leaving stunned onlookers in their wake.

Despite the chaos they created, the thieves managed to escape without injury to themselves or the public. The Brent Cross Shopping Centre heist remains an extraordinary example of a high-speed, high-stakes robbery that left authorities scratching their heads.

06 – Pink Panther’s Dubai Mall Robbery: A Daring Daylight Heist

Dubai Mall Robbery
Dubai Mall Robbery

The infamous international jewel thief gang, the Pink Panthers, gained further notoriety in 2007 when they staged a brazen robbery at the Wafi Mall in Dubai. Known for their impeccable timing and precision, the gang pulled off an incredible heist that would further cement their legendary status.

In broad daylight, the thieves drove two stolen cars through the mall’s glass doors, creating chaos and confusion. While onlookers watched in disbelief, the gang swiftly smashed the display cases at the Graff Diamonds store, making off with an estimated $4 million in jewels.

In true Pink Panther fashion, the gang left behind a calling card—a small pink diamond, a symbol of their signature style. Although some members of the group have since been apprehended, the Pink Panthers continue to elude authorities, and the Dubai Mall robbery remains one of their most daring exploits.

05 – The Banco Central 2005: A Burrowed Brazilian Bank Heist

The Banco Central 2005 - Brazen Heists
The Banco Central 2005 – Brazen Heists

One of the largest and most audacious heists in history unfolded in Brazil in 2005 when a group of thieves targeted the Banco Central in Fortaleza. The robbers spent three months digging a 256-foot tunnel, which stretched from a rented house to the bank’s vault. The tunnel was equipped with lighting and even an air conditioning system to keep the criminals cool during their subterranean endeavor.

Over the weekend of August 6-7, the gang entered the vault and made off with an astounding 3.5 tons of Brazilian real banknotes, amounting to roughly $70 million. Despite the massive scale of the theft, the alarm system failed to trigger, allowing the thieves to escape undetected.

In the aftermath, authorities arrested several suspects, and some of the stolen money was recovered. However, the majority of the loot and the masterminds behind the heist remain at large, making the Banco Central burglary one of the most infamous unsolved crimes in history.

04 – The Great Train Heist 1963: A Crime That Shocked a Nation

Great Train Heist
Great Train Heist

Few heists have captured the public’s imagination quite like the Great Train Robbery of 1963. In the early hours of August 8th, a gang of 15 thieves orchestrated a daring attack on a Royal Mail train traveling from Glasgow to London.

Armed with little more than cunning and determination, the gang tampered with the railway signals to bring the train to a halt. Once the train stopped, they overpowered the crew and made off with an astonishing £2.6 million, equivalent to over $50 million today.

Despite a massive manhunt, the thieves initially evaded capture. However, their luck eventually ran out. Authorities sentenced most of the gang members to lengthy prison terms after arresting them. The Great Train Robbery remains one of the most audacious and infamous heists in British history.

03 – The Carlton Hotel Robbery: A Jewel Thief’s Paradise

Carlton Hotel Robbery
Carlton Hotel Robbery – By Christophe.Finot (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons
In the glamorous world of the French Riviera, the Carlton Hotel heist of 1994 stands out as one of the most lucrative and bold robberies ever. Cannes, known for its luxury hotels and star-studded film festival, became the backdrop for this incredible crime.

On a sunny August day, a lone gunman entered the Carlton Hotel’s jewelry store, where an exhibition by the prestigious Leviev diamond house was underway. Wearing a hat and scarf to conceal his identity, the thief managed to swipe an astonishing $60 million worth of diamonds and other precious gems in mere minutes.

In the aftermath, authorities scrambled to locate the perpetrator, but he vanished without a trace. To this day, the identity of the thief and the whereabouts of the stolen jewels remain a mystery, making the Carlton Hotel robbery one of the most audacious heists in history.

02 – The Diamond Geezers Job: A Heist for the Ages

Hatton Garden robbery - Brazen Heists
Hatton Garden robbery: Brazen Heists – Roger W Haworth [GFDL or CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons
The daring raid on the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Company in 2015 captured the imagination of the public, not only for its audacious nature but also for the age of the perpetrators. Dubbed the “Diamond Geezers,” the group of thieves, most of whom were in their 60s and 70s, planned and executed a heist that would net them an estimated £14 million ($20 million) in diamonds, gold, and cash.

Over the Easter weekend, the gang broke into the vault by drilling a hole through the concrete wall using heavy-duty equipment. Once inside, they ransacked the safe deposit boxes, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake.

After a quick police investigation, they identified the culprits, arrested them, and subsequently convicted most of the gang members. Despite the recovery of some of the stolen loot, a significant portion remains unaccounted for. The Diamond Geezers’ brazen heist is a testament to the enduring appeal of the classic “job” in the public imagination.

01 – The Northwest Airlines Ransom: A Mysterious Skyjacker Vanishes Into Thin Air

Northwest Airlines Ransom - Brazen Heists
Northwest Airlines Ransom – By Gouvernement Fédéral des États-Unis (Gouvernement Fédéral des États-Unis) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
In 1971, an enigmatic figure made headlines with a brazen act of air piracy that continues to baffle investigators to this day. Known only as D.B. Cooper, the mysterious skyjacker pulled off one of the most audacious heists in aviation history: the Northwest Airlines ransom.

On November 24, 1971, Cooper boarded Northwest Airlines Flight 305 from Portland to Seattle. Clad in a dark suit and sunglasses, he handed a note to a flight attendant, claiming he had a bomb in his briefcase. After reading the note, he demanded $200,000 in cash and four parachutes.

Upon landing in Seattle, Cooper released the passengers in exchange for his demands. With only the flight crew remaining, he instructed them to fly to Mexico City. While cruising at an altitude of 10,000 feet, Cooper lowered the plane’s rear airstair and parachuted into the night, and nobody ever saw him again.

The FBI launched an extensive manhunt, but despite numerous leads and suspects, they were unable to identify the infamous skyjacker. In 2016, the case was officially closed, leaving the true identity of D.B. Cooper and the fate of the ransom money shrouded in mystery.

The Northwest Airlines ransom remains a fascinating tale of cunning and daring, a true embodiment of the phrase “vanished without a trace.” It has inspired countless conspiracy theories, books, and as well as films, ensuring that the legend of D.B. Cooper will live on in popular culture for years to come.


What is the most famous casino heist in history?
The most famous casino heist in history is arguably the 1990 Stardust Casino heist in Las Vegas, when Bill Brennan, a casino cashier, walked out with over $500,000 in cash and chips.

Which famous heists have been made into movies?
Several famous heists have been adapted into films, including the 1978 Lufthansa heist (depicted in “Goodfellas”), the 1950 Great Brink’s Robbery (“The Brink’s Job”), and markedly the 1971 Baker Street robbery (“The Bank Job”).

Have any of the biggest heists in history been successfully solved?
While some of the biggest heists have been solved and the culprits brought to justice, others remain shrouded in mystery with the stolen goods still missing and the perpetrators never identified.

As we wrap up our journey through the 10 most brazen heists of all time, we hope you’ve enjoyed this thrilling ride into the world of daring criminal exploits. From start to finish, we’ve explored a variety of famous heists, ranging from high-stakes casino heists to intricate art thefts. These unforgettable tales have left an indelible mark on history, capturing our imagination with their tales of cunning, risk, and audacity. As we ponder the masterminds behind these incredible crimes, one thing is clear: the biggest heists in history will forever remain etched in our collective memory. In conclusion, we can say that these stories serve as a reminder of the incredible human capacity for both creativity and deception, leaving us to wonder what other bold and daring exploits may lie in the future.