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This true-crime doc about a bank robber is one of the biggest Netflix movies in the world

Published Jun 11th, 2024 11:03PM EDT
How to Rob a Bank on Netflix
Image: Netflix

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Robbing a bank is one of the dumbest crimes a person can commit. That’s according to a professor I had in college who previously worked for the FBI — and who assured us all: Try it if you want, but you will absolutely get caught. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but there is only one way that story ends.

Sometimes, though, the end takes a bit longer to arrive, as it did in the story behind Netflix’s hit new true crime documentary How to Rob a Bank.

Holding up a bank is by definition a crime with a certain level of theatricality to it. Which explains why the robber in Netflix’s new film from directors Stephen Robert Morse and Seth Porges adds a touch of Hollywood-inspired flair to his heists. The film, which is also one of the most-watched Netflix’s movies in the world this week, tells the story of the so-called world’s best bank robber — an elusive man who relied on facial prosthetics and makeup, and who pulled off nearly two dozen bank robberies in the 1980s throughout Seattle that netted him millions of dollars.

Law enforcement repeatedly tried and failed to catch him. For a while, at least.

The great thing about the Netflix documentary about this story, the #5 movie on the streamer in the US as of this writing, is not that it explains the logistics of how to pull off a bank robbery. Really, the directors said in a promotional interview with the streamer, the movie “is about our awesome capacity as people to self-mythologize and our unending thirst for freedom — no matter the cost.”

The man behind the robberies, Scott Scurlock, was a preacher’s son who started cooking meth in college. It was seeing the 1991 movie Point Break, about bank robbers and starring Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves, that inspired him to switch to holding up banks. Working with a friend, Scurlock hit at least 19 banks between 1992 and 1996 and walked away with $2.3 million.

“When the FBI teamed up with Seattle’s police department to take Scurlock down,” Netflix explains, “they were determined to prove that no one could outsmart the authorities. What ensued was a thrilling real-life version of cops and robbers with life-and-death stakes.”

Don’t hold your breath about the ending. Give this documentary a try, instead, if you’re at all curious about the kind of person who has no qualms about going Bonnie and Clyde on the world — and who’s dumb enough to thumb their nose at the authorities pursuing them.

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.