In the trailer for Ocean’s 8, Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) stares at the Metropolitan Museum of Art with the same gleaming confidence that her brother, Danny Ocean (George Clooney), looked at casinos in other installments in the Oceans franchise. The entire plot of Ocean’s 8 is predicated on a dare that Debbie, a freshly released convict, makes to herself. Can she steal a $150,000,000 diamond necklace off Daphne Kluger’s (Anne Hathaway) neck at the Met Gala? Of course she can. The staples of all heist movies — hijinks and blueprint plans — are certain to ensure.
For Debbie, part of the heist’s allure surely comes in the tremendous financial payoff. But judging by the cool, steely eyed hunger exhibited in the trailer, Debbie and her fellow women masterminds are taking down this cultural institution just because they can, just to prove they’re smarter than the organizers. Debbie’s heist is motivated by ego, not financial necessity. Like the enviably smooth gang seen in Ocean’s Eleven, Debbie’s crew are glamorous, seasoned professionals. You get the sense they don't need the money. They want it. Ocean's 8 allows women to act like men have acted in prior movies: ambitious, logical, ready to beat the system with bravado.
In this regard, Ocean’s 8 deviates from most other women-led heist movies and TV shows. Heist movies starring an ensemble cast of women are rare to begin with. Almost uniformly, though, these movies have one element in common: The women protagonists are not professional criminals, but regular people pushed to criminality by dire — though not exceptional — circumstances. These are women trapped by unwanted pregnancy, bad marriages, and horrible bosses. By staging a heist, the women choose to drill an exit route into a system that had never given them a chance in the first place.
Let's take a look other women-led heist movies and compare. In each, you'll see that the women in the movies are compelled to the heist because of external factors, not internal motivations. In each, crime is a way of liberating an already unfair system.