Crime has always been a go-to genre for Hollywood, and there’s nothing like bringing a story to audiences when real-life events inspire the movie itself. Whether it’s a horror film such as The Amityville Horror or the loosely inspired Texas Chainsaw Massacre, these stories capture audiences’ curiosity. Besides, audiences are always curious about the nature of criminals and the actions they bring to the world. With the release of Ambulance, we thought it would be fun to look at the movies inspired by actual events. Instead of focusing on the criminals, which Hollywood seems to romanticize, we will look at the events and the impact of the films they inspired.
Dog Day Afternoon
One of the most intense standoffs in movie history starred Al Pacino as a desperate man who just planned to rob a bank and ended up in a hostage situation that became one of the most intriguing and unique bank robberies in New York City history. Based on the 1972 robbery at the Chase Manhattan Branch in Brooklyn, the movie details the events of one man’s sheer will in obtaining the money for a bizarre reason. Al Pacino wants to rob the bank to pay for sex reassignment surgery for his partner. Instead of the gun-toting, shootout violence you’d expect from a typical bank robbery film, Dog Day Afternoon is more of a psychological thriller, and tense phone conversations add to the growing situation. Anchored by a truly outstanding cast and excellent direction from Sidney Lumet, Dog Day Afternoon is pretty close to telling the actual story. The real-life robber, John Wojtowicz, praised the actors’ performances but had some reservations about the factual accuracy of the events. The main inaccuracies concern the characterization of his wife and the insinuation that he sold out his partner resulting in his death. Nevertheless, Dog Day Afternoon was a hugely successful film that won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. In terms of sheer entertainment, Dog Day Afternoon is undoubtedly one of Al Pacino’s best performances outside of The Godfather.
The Bank Job
Quite possibly the best character Jason Statham has ever played where he doesn’t display martial arts. The Baker Street Robbery that occurred in London in 1971 inspired this movie. A bank’s vault was robbed after a gang of robbers tunneled their way through the vault’s floor and stole an estimated three million pounds worth of property. Not only was money taken, but safety deposit boxes were emptied. Less than ten percent of the value stolen has even been recovered. The Bank Job is inspired by the rumors surrounding the real-life robbery involving photographs stolen that contained pornographic pictures that possibly involved members of Parliament and the Royal Family. To this day, those rumors are disputed. What makes The Bank Job such a fun movie is the robbery’s planning, execution, and end results. The characters are fully-fleshed out, and the robbery’s consequences come full swing. Two murders possibly connected to the theft remained unsolved. While the movie does implore fictional elements, the method of the theft is very accurate, and the very daring attempt makes this film stand out from the other films in this particular genre.
Bonnie and Clyde
Anyone who thinks of a bank robbery film will never fail to mention this classic 1967 film that starred Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway as the iconic bank robbers who will never be forgotten. This movie is exceptional considering its violence, sexuality, and ending, which is regarded as one of the bloodiest death scenes in cinematic history. The movie is best described as a simplified version of real-life criminals, and it tells the story with grace, excitement, and tragedy. Of course, the film is inspired by the two young lovers who robbed banks during The Great Depression and made a name for themselves around the nation. With great performances by its up-and-coming cast and shocking visuals of violence, Bonnie and Clyde is known as one of the first so-called “New Hollywood” films and a landmark film due to its embrace of violence and openly discussing sexuality. The movie was unapologetic for its display of violence, and since its release, it’s credited as opening the floodgates for future movies to show onscreen violence. Films such as The Godfather, True Romance, Queen and Slim, and The Departed are credited as being inspired by this classic film that dared to challenge the status quo and be unique in its own right. When thinking of Hollywood romanticism of criminals, this is the perfect film to capture that title.
The Old Man and The Gun
Perhaps considered one of the most pleasant criminals brought to the big screen, The Old Man and The Gun is inspired by Forrest Tucker, a career criminal who escaped prison more times than you can count with both hands. Sadly, this movie, the final performance by Robert Redford, examines this character in full swing and the desperate attempts of the police to capture him. He was still robbing banks at the age of seventy and did everything to elude capture. Tucker wasn’t a violent man who hurt people or killed anyone, but he was pretty respectful when committing his crimes. This movie showcases the crimes and shows us the criminal’s character and paints a picture of a kindly older man who is keeping quite the secret. The Old Man and The Gun is a sweet and kind-hearted bank robbery film that tells the story of an older man who does what he does best, robbing banks and truly living the life that made him happy. As he always is, Robert Redford is in top form, and Sissy Spacek is perfect here.
44 Minutes: The North Hollywood Shootout
A television movie that detailed the harrowing minutes that forever changed the face of bank robberies. On February 28, 1997, two men entered a branch of Bank of America in North Hollywood. These two robbers were already successful in their criminal careers and were dubbed The High Incident Bandits. They were already wanted for the murder of a security guard and on this fateful day, these two men engaged the LAPD in open warfare that resulted in one of the most intense shootouts in United States police history. An estimated two-thousand rounds were fired during the forty-four-minute battle that ensued after the robbers exited the bank and were surprised to see the police waiting for them. This movie brings the violence to the forefront and while the film is intercut with interviews, this is one tv movie to not ignore. It accurately reflects the ordeal that the LAPD was faced with considering their weapons were useless against the body armor worn by the robbers and the immense firepower that they brought with them. As a tv movie, it does its job despite the lower budget, but the movie manages to tell the story that the police officers went through that fateful day. Thankfully, only the criminals themselves were killed even though there were many officers and civilians injured during the battle.
With Ambulance now in theaters, we can only hope that no event like that or the aforementioned films ever occur again. Nevertheless, criminals and the actions they take will always fascinate the public for years to come, and the movies that accurately portray the events will continue to pique our interest.