5 movies like 'Lift' but better

(L to R) Yun Jee Kim, Billy Magnussen, Úrsula Corberó, Kevin Hart, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Vincent D'Onofrio in Lift, a new Netflix movie coming on August 25, 2023
(Image credit: Netflix)

The heist thriller is a well-worn genre that provides plenty of filmmakers the chance to show off glamorous locations, charismatic stars, and intricate plotting. Unfortunately, the Netflix original movie “Lift” succeeds in none of those areas, instead delivering a disjointed story with uninteresting characters, flat performances, and a series of interchangeable luxury locations that have all the distinctiveness of stock footage.

Comedy star Kevin Hart makes an awkward attempt to play a suave international art thief, with Gugu Mbatha-Raw as the Interpol agent who hires him and his team to steal a crate full of gold from a dangerous terrorist. Critics rejected “Lift,” with a 28 percent Rotten Tomatoes rating, and audiences were nearly as unimpressed, giving it a 31. If you’re looking for a more entertaining and well-crafted heist movie, here are five movies like "Lift" but better.

'The Italian Job'

One of the most disappointing things about “Lift” is that director F. Gary Gray previously made a much better heist movie, featuring many similar elements, deployed more effectively. “The Italian Job” even opens with a boat chase through the canals of Venice, just like “Lift,” although it’s much more exciting, suspenseful, and coherently constructed. The plot also involves the heist of a large amount of gold, in this case from a former associate who double-crossed the team of thieves led by Mark Wahlberg’s Charlie Croker.

Wahlberg gives one of his most charming performances as Charlie, and he’s matched by Charlize Theron as the expert safecracker out to avenge the death of her father, Charlie’s mentor. Edward Norton makes for a perfectly smarmy villain, and Jason Statham, Seth Green and Mos Def round out the top-notch supporting cast.

Watch on Paramount Plus

‘Out of Sight’

The dynamic between Hart’s confident criminal and Mbatha-Raw’s tough law-enforcement officer in “Lift” is clearly meant to emulate the smoldering chemistry between George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez in Steven Soderbergh’s classic adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s novel. Clooney plays bank robber Jack Foley, who kidnaps Lopez’s U.S. Marshal Karen Sisco during his escape from a Florida prison. After she gets away, she’s assigned to bring him in, but the line between the pursuit of justice and the pursuit of romance gets blurry.

Soderbergh uses non-linear storytelling and evocative jump cuts to escalate the sexual tension between the main characters, while also delivering an engaging heist movie. Jack and his associates conspire to steal a cache of diamonds held by a wealthy embezzler, and Karen may not exactly be motivated to stop him.

Watch on Peacock

‘Baby Driver’

“Lift” zig-zags across locations around the world as the camera whooshes through artificial, airless spaces, but the movie is completely lacking in style. Edgar Wright’s music-driven thriller doesn’t have much more of an original plot than “Lift,” but Wright’s stylish presentation is what makes “Baby Driver” great. Wright syncs up the action to his killer soundtrack, from the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion to Young MC, breathing new life into the story of a criminal who wants to leave the outlaw life behind after one last job.

Wright stages inventive, immersive car chases and shootouts as getaway driver Baby (Ansel Elgort) attempts to free himself from his obligations to a sinister crime boss. It’s a reminder that a great movie is often about how creatively a filmmaker can tell a story, rather than the originality of the story itself. 

Watch on Freevee

'Triple Frontier'

The logistics of the heist plan in “Lift” are confusing to the point of being meaningless, but one thing the characters emphasize is just how heavy the gold that they’re stealing actually is. That turns out not to matter much in “Lift,” but it’s a central plot point in J.C. Chandor’s gritty, engrossing heist thriller, about a team of former military operatives who plan to steal a massive amount of cash from a drug lord’s remote South American compound.

Ben Affleck conveys the weariness of the team’s hardened leader, who has to figure out a way to get nearly $250 million in cash out of the jungle. Chandor focuses on the details of what could have been a perfectly executed plan, in which the main problem is that the characters have actually taken literally more money than they can carry.

Watch on Netflix

‘American Animals’

It’s hard not to laugh when the characters in “Lift” announce with great fanfare that they’re stealing an NFT, and it’s treated like the coolest thing anybody could do. Director Bart Layton’s self-referential docu-fiction hybrid, on the other hand, knows exactly how dumb its characters’ heist plan is, and Layton doesn’t hesitate to express that directly to the real people who planned it.

The story of a botched real-life 2004 attempt to steal a collection of rare books from a Kentucky university, “American Animals” plays with the conventions of the heist thriller, including a scene that lays out a complex, expertly timed plan, only to immediately dismiss it as unworkable. The actors, including Evan Peters and Barry Keoghan, interact with the real people they’re playing, in a clever meditation on how heist movies have influenced the way that actual criminals operate.

Watch on Prime Video

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Josh Bell

Josh Bell is a freelance writer and movie/TV critic based in Las Vegas. He's the former film editor of Las Vegas Weekly and has written about movies and TV for Vulture, Inverse, CBR, Crooked Marquee and more. With comedian Jason Harris, he co-hosts the podcast Awesome Movie Year.