Weird History

The Most Daring Heists in History  

Mike Rothschild
497 votes 221 voters 32.8k views 17 items

List Rules All of the robberies on this list are bold or risky in some way that goes beyond a standard bank robbery.

Anyone can walk into a bank with a gun and demand some money, but this list is about the biggest bank heists in history, and those take a little more thought. To really make your mark as a bank robber, you've got to go above and beyond just putting on a little black mask and handing a teller a note to put some cash in a sack with a dollar sign on it.

You've got to think big, both in terms of how much you steal and how you do it. And the bandits on this list have thought big in both of those categories. They've dug tunnels under banks, blown up walls and safes with bombs, and landed on cash vault roofs in helicopters. Not only that, but they haven't just knocked off a few thousand dollars, but they've stolen millions of dollars in cash, gold and gems - in one case, they took close to a billion.

And forget going solo, these posses have multiple guys, in some cases, more than a dozen. A few of these heists may have even benefitted from the help of a dictator! Here are the biggest and most daring bank and cash heists in history. Upvote the heists you wouldn't even try in a million years, but are pretty impressed these people managed to attempt, or even accomplish!
"DB Cooper"
"DB Cooper" is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Most Daring Heists in History
Photo: via Reddit

On Thanksgiving Eve, 1971, a hijacker who called himself Dan Cooper (the name "DB Cooper" was bestowed on him by the media who mistook a suspect with that name for the real Cooper) boarded a Northwest Airlines flight in Portland, OR wearing a suit and tie. Once the flight was aloft, he ordered a drink and passed a note to the stewardess saying, "I have a bomb in my briefcase. You are being hijacked." He demanded $200,000 in unmarked bills, two parachutes, and a fuel truck. 

When the plane landed in Seattle, "Cooper" exchanged the hostages on the plane for the money and parachutes and ordered the plane to take off again. 30 minutes into the flight, "Cooper" deployed the back stairs of the airplane, jumped out and neither he nor the money has been seen since. The crime remains unsolved.
Was this bold?
The Lufthansa Heist
The Lufthansa Heist is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Most Daring Heists in History
Photo: via Reddit

Immortalized (though not actually shown) in the gangster classic Goodfellas, the Lufthansa Heist happened in December 1978 and was the largest robbery committed in the United States at the time. After getting into a cargo loading area at Kennedy Airport with a key provided by an inside man, Jimmy Burke and his crew burst into a lunch room and ordered the staff to open the vault at gunpoint. Within an hour, they made off with $6 million in cash and close to a million in jewels that had been flown in from Germany.

And, just like in the movie, Burke (named Conway in the film, and played by Robert De Niro) began killing off everyone involved with the heist to keep from being caught. Most of the money and all of the jewels were lost - and of the dozens of hoods involved in the heist, only one was ever arrested for it.
Was this bold?
Brinks-MAT Robbery
Brinks-MAT Robbery is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Most Daring Heists in History
Photo: via Twitter

Thanks to a tip from an insider, six men broke into the Brinks MAT warehouse at London’s Heathrow Airport in November 1983, expecting to find £3 million worth of cash. What they found instead was a massive haul, including three tons of gold and 100,000 diamonds.  The gang beat up and hogtied the guards, poured gasoline on them and forced them to reveal the combination on the facility’s vault. Then they escaped in a van so weighed down that the bottom scraped the ground.

Two of the culprits were eventually arrested, and nearly 20 people with connections to the crime (including a man involved with the Great Train Robbery) were murdered in the decades that followed. Most of the gold was never found, and was probably smelted and sold back to dealers.
Was this bold?
The Banco Central Tunnel Robbery
The Banco Central Tunnel Robbe... is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Most Daring Heists in History
Photo: via Twitter
A group of Brazilian burglars dug a 200 meter long tunnel under the vault of Fortelaza’s Banco Central in 2005. After three months of digging, the gang crawled beneath two city blocks to get to the bank, blasted their way through a meter of steel-reinforced concrete and emptied out the vaults. Nearly $65 million was stolen, and the money wasn’t insured. Some of the cash was eventually recovered, and one of the masterminds of the robbery was found dead a while later, but 18 other culprits were never brought to justice.
Was this bold?