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Important stuff is usually protected, making it pretty hard for a thief to just waltz into a place and steal what they want: Safecracking will take too long, the Password Slot Machine is too slow, the structure is too strong to Shoot Out the Lock and they'll be detected as soon as they try to hack into the terminal. But wait, why even bother trying to steal just what they want? They can grab everything surrounding their target, and figure things out once they get the hell out of there. Frequently, an entire building will be stolen, in one way or another.

This tactic can be necessary if the objective is protected by a Self Destructing Security system. Trying to open the device at the scene without the necessary precautions could destroy what's being stolen, while taking the whole thing means someone could work on it later, at their leisure.

One of the oldest examples is stealing a safe and breaking into it later. This variant was popular in early radio dramas, and has become a Dead Horse Trope, as a safe not bolted down is rather silly. The modern variant usually involves blowing up whatever the safe is bolted to, and then stealing the safe.

See also Safecracking, Open Says Me, Cutting the Knot, Dungeon Bypass, Myopic Architecture and Take a Third Option



  • An advertisement from Wal-Mart has a kid going in to try to decide what he wants, and he can't decide. He decides he wants all of it, and connects a rope to the side of the building, and tries to drag it away. Without paying, of course.

Anime and Manga

  • Doesn't happen onscreen, but in Baccano, Graham Spector's first reaction to hearing that some other gang of thieves might beat his own to looting Millionaire Row is to order his gang to start dismantling entire houses to find the safes and carry them back to their lair.
  • If Lupin III of Lupin III can't get the treasure itself, his elaborate scheme frequently becomes stealing what contains the treasure instead. In some variations, he will pretend to steal the container, and when the distracted target goes after him to get it back, it gives him time to double-back and break into the real thing.
  • Mouse has the main character steal an entire museum to obtain the golden skull it contains.


  • The Gobelins (no, not Goblins) comic has a bodybuilder goblin try to pull the Sword in the Stone out. At first it look like he succeeded, hoisting the sword above his head, but then it's shown he ripped the entire rock it was attached to out of the ground, which then crushes him.

Fan Works

  • The Star Wars/Star Trek crossover fic Conquest has the Rebels rescuing people from a prison complex. They tow the entire complex into transports, flee, and storm it once safe.


  • German comedy Bang Boom Bang: The crooks wreck a wall to get a safe out. Hilarity Ensues.
  • In the 1974 movie Bank Shot, a bank has its office in a temporary mobile home, so the crooks decide to steal the whole building.
  • A subplot in Barbershop 2 involves an pair of inept crooks who stole an entire ATM and spent the whole movie trying to break it open in their hideout. Unbeknownst to them, the ATM hadn't had any money put into it yet.
  • Authorities in the film Danger Diabolik try to prevent Diabolik from stealing 20 tons of gold from a train by melting it into a single ingot and sealing it into a thick welded steel container. Diabolik blows up a bridge that sends the train into the water, where the super villain steals the entire container with the aid of balloons and a mini sub. Once back at his lair Diabolik drills a hole at the top of the steel container to insert a super heated rod to melt the gold inside. He then attaches a hose to a hole drilled at the bottom of the container in order to pour the melted gold into molds so that it can be converted to regular sized gold bars.
  • Fast Five: The crew takes this up a notch, stealing a massive vault by towing it with their cars, starting a lengthy Chase Scene where they drag it throughout the city.
  • In For Your Eyes Only, a spy ship goes missing. It turns out that to steal machinery onboard worth millions on the black market, the bad guys sunk the ship, killing everyone on board, so they could retrieve the equipment later by submarine.
  • The Italian Job does this twice: once with a standard safe and once with an entire armored truck.
  • In The Losers, the eponymous group steal an entire armoured car to obtain the hard drive it was carrying.
  • National Treasure: Ben does this with the frigging Declaration of Independence! After breaking into the National Archives Building (during a gala), he becomes pressed for time, due to the bolts securing the display case taking longer than he anticipated. When Riley loses his video feed, Ben forgoes the original plan and takes the whole damn thing! At least as far as the elevator, where he finally removes the Declaration from its display case.
  • Used in Revolver when Avi, Zeke and Jake steal Macha's safe where the MacGuffin (drugs) is being kept. The safe is stated to be nigh-impenetrable, so they just rip it right out of the wall and take their sweet time breaking into it later.
  • Zoolander - Hansel (He's So Hot Right Now) is tasked to get a vital piece of information out of a computer. Unfortunately, he can't figure out how to do so, so he just takes the entire hard drive...and smashes it to pieces thinking that the data is literally IN the computer. (Fortunately for our heroes, the original owner of the computer has a backup.)


  • Donald E. Westlake's novel Bank Shot does this one better. In it, a gang steals an entire bank in order to crack the safe! The bank had temporarily relocated to a trailer while the bank building was being renovated.
  • Happens in the Mistborn novel The Alloy of Law, when Miles used a crane to steal loaded train cars right off the tracks and replace them with empties.

Live-Action Television

  • In Breaking Bad, two crooks steal an ATM. They are shown having difficulty actually breaking into the machine. And then it gets worse, as usual for the show.
  • The Doctor Who episode "Smith and Jones" features an entire building being transported to the moon so the Monster of the Week can locate a single person.
  • In an episode of The Firm, Ray has to steal data off a security system by "Going to the C drive and getting root access". He can't do it and just grabs the whole computer.
    • Done again in another episode, where a few thugs are looking for a hard drive at a hacker's house, but as "the place is like a friggin' Radio Shack", they think it is Hidden in Plain Sight, so they start stealing everything to sort it out when they get back.
  • Psych: Subverted. A group of safecrackers stole a safe, but it wasn't to steal what was in it, but so the lead cracker could figure out how to open that kind of safe.
  • There was a Sesame Street routine in which Ernie, fed up with Cookie Monster stealing his cookies all the time, acquires a safe in which to put the cookies. When Cookie Monster comes by, he realizes that he cannot open the safe, so he just eats the safe.
  • In the first story arc of Mathnet a woman's house is stolen in order to find some gold bricks which had been hidden in the house.
  • The White Collar episode "Neighbourhood Watch" involved the crooks stealing a vault from a hotel.


  • The "steal the safe" variant happens in the original Alias Smith and Jones series.
  • In The Goon Show episode "The Great Bank Robbery", the robbers steal the entire bank, airlifting it away with a zeppelin.
  • CBS Radio Mystery Theater did almost the same thing with King Bankrobber. In that one, the bank was relocated to the top floor of the robber's mansion.

Religion and Mythology

  • Ramayana is possibly the Ur Example. There, Hanuman flies to a distant mountain in order to obtain a herb necessary to cure Lakshmana . Having some difficulty identifying the proper herb, he lifts the entire mountain and carries it back to those who can.

Tabletop RPG

Video Games

  • In Crash Nitro Kart, when Velo wants Crash's and Cortex's groups to race for his amusement, he steals their entire homes with tractor beams and dumps them in his racing arena.
  • Played for Laughs in PAYDAY the Heist. The robber protagonists come up with a plan to steal a very large cache of money and contraband locked in the panic room of a Meth Dealer's hideout. The safe room is very high-tech and virtually impossible to invade during the heist. Instead of cracking the saferoom, the robbers use circular saws to cut the beams to which the room is bolted. They then plant explosives to blow a hole through the roof and floors of the building and lift the entire room out of the complex with a Skycrane.
  • In the game Evil Genius, a lot of the evil plans you can do involve this, up to and including stealing the Sword in the Stone by just grabbing the stone and stealing the Eiffel Tower by shrinking it.

Western Animation

 Robber: "Let's take this bank back into our hideout; we'll break into it later!"

  • In the Star Trek: The Animated Series episode "The Terratin Incident", an entire miniaturized city is beamed aboard the Enterprise in order quickly to save the inhabitants from impending doom.
  • In The Perils of Penelope Pitstop episode "Hair-Raising Harness Race", Penelope takes refuge in a shack filled with explosives. The Hooded Claw lassos the shack, with Penelope still inside, and has the Bully Brothers drag it onto a railroad track.

Real Life

  • Because this is a very real threat for small safes, manufacturers will tout their safes by focusing on the fact that they can be bolted down.
  • There exist security camera recordings of thieves trying to make off with an ATM using either a pickup truck or a front end loader.
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