Ocean’s Eleven (2001)
“They’re having so much fun it’s illegal,” read this film’s tagline, and fun was indeed the motivation behind director Steven Soderbergh’s remake of the Rat Pack’s 1960 hit. After making a sprawling and very serious take on the drug trade, Traffic (2000)—for which he would win an Oscar—he assembled a friendly group of A-listers, encouraged them to hang out together between scenes, and turned them loose on a light-hearted caper film. The result was one of the best heist scenes in movie history and a huge box-office take.
To get back at the casino owner (Andy Garcia) who’s dating his ex-wife (Julia Roberts), recently paroled Danny Ocean (George Clooney) hatches a plan to simultaneously rob the three Las Vegas casinos Garcia owns. He picks the night of a major boxing match, when he knows one of the casinos will have $150 million in its vault. His team of 11 experts includes best friend Brad Pitt, former casino owner Elliott Gould, pickpocket Matt Damon, con men Carl Reiner and Bernie Mac, and explosives whiz Don Cheadle. The film also features cameo appearances by Las Vegas fixtures Siegfried & Roy and Wayne Newton, entertainers Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gormé, and original Ocean’s Eleven cast members Angie Dickinson and Henry Silva.
For all the fun on screen, Soderbergh brought a lot of expertise to the film. Producer Jerry Weintraub was friends with Kirk Kerkorian, owner of the Bellagio, so they had unprecedented access to the casino. They even used actual surveillance footage from the Bellagio’s security system. Ocean’s Eleven did so well it inspired two sequels, an all-female spin-off (2018’s Ocean’s 8), a Japanese musical, and a loose Bollywood remake.
d. Steven Soderbergh, 116 minutes, DCP
Courtesy of Warner Bros. Classics