'Ocean's' Inspiration: Greatest Real-Life Heists of All Time

Hollywood heists are often inspired by their real-life counterparts.

ByABC News
May 29, 2007, 12:57 PM

May 31,2007 — -- With "Ocean's 13" poised to explode on the box office this summer is a not-so-subtle reminder of the fascination that heist movies hold. But in this case, it's art imitating life. High-class, big-score heists are very real and happen more often than one would think.

Here is a look at some of the greatest heists in modern history:

The Mark: Brinks Mat Warehouse, Heathrow, England, 1983
The Take: $37 million in gold bullion and $12,000 in diamonds

A group of armed men dressed as security guards entered the Brinks Mat warehouse and subdued the real security staff. Police suspect the group had inside information, as it completely disabled the multilayered, sophisticated security system and enter the vaults.

About 3 tons of gold bullion worth around £25 million ($37 million at the time) was stolen, along with two smaller boxes of diamonds. It is said in some circles that any gold jewelry purchased in London after 1983 is likely to be Brinks Mat gold.

The Mark: National Australia Bank, Belfast, Northern Ireland, 2004
The Take: More than $40 million

An armed gang captured and held hostage two executives of the National Australia Bank, along with their families before the bank opened one morning in December. The gang issued precise instructions to the executives and threatened to kill family members if any alarm was raised. The bank employees were told to go to work and act as if everything was normal, and then, when everyone else had left for the day, they granted the thieves entry to the bank. The robbers calmly stole more than $40 million in bank notes and then released the executives and their families.

Although many officials blamed the IRA and up to seven people were arrested in connection with the robbery, no one has been convicted. The most solid lead on the money was a curious one, as shrink-wrapped bank notes appeared at the Newforge Country Club, a common leisure center for police.

The Mark: Carlton Jewelry Store, Cannes, France, 1994
The Take: Nearly $59.64 million in jewels

The greatest jewelry heist of its time took places in Cannes, France, when three men burst into the Carlton Hotel's jewelry store firing machine guns into the air. As store employees and customers panicked, the thieves quickly packed nearly $60 million worth of jewels into bags and made their escape. Oddly, there were no bullet holes in the ceiling of the store -- the thieves had used blanks.