The Living End (1992)

7 must-watch movies about scammers

Be gay, do crime.

by Tom George
10 February 2022, 2:28pm

The Living End (1992)

With Netflix's Inventing Anna out this week -- based on the true story of a fake NYC heiress who duped her way into the wallets of the city's wealthy elite -- and a new trailer out for Hulu's The Dropout -- based on Elizabeth Holmes and her fake blood-testing kit start-up, Theranos -- scamming is in the air. And we couldn't be happier. Whether it's the family in Parasite, the strippers in Hustlers, or down-and-out gambling addict Howard in Uncut Gems, there's something about a scammer narrative that we can't get enough of.

If you're looking for more things to watch with people stealing from the rich and giving to, well, in most cases themselves, here are seven movies featuring scammers, swindlers, hustlers and con artists. From a South Korean sapphic thriller and a gay 90s roadtrip movie, to Jennifer Love-Hewitt seducing her mum's wealthy husbands and Kristen Stewart wearing an assortment of awful wigs, there's a scam for everyone.

The Handmaiden, 2016

Set in Japan-occupied Korea in the 1930s, this sapphic erotic thriller follows Sook-hee, a pickpocket hired by a conman to become Handmaiden to a sad-girl Japanese Heiress and dupe her into marrying the conman, disguised as a count, so he can take her money and then lock her in an asylum. But in Shakespearean style, the plan becomes twisted. The psychological movie is considered a classic of modern-day South Korean cinema and was nominated for the Palme D'Or at Cannes Film Festival and won the Best Foreign Language Film category at the 2018 BAFTAs. 

Heartbreakers, 2001

In this chaotic crime rom-com, Sigourney Weaver (Alien) and Jennifer Love-Hewitt (I Know What You Did Last Summer) are mother-daughter con artists, Max and Page Conners. For years they've been making a ton of money from their ultimate gaslight, gatekeep, girlboss scheme: Max marries a rich man who Page, in disguise, tricks into being caught in a compromising position with her that then lays the groundwork for Max to divorce him and get a hefty settlement. But just as Page decides she now wants to go solo, the duo realises they have tax collectors on their case and head to Palm Beach to pull off one final mega scam together on the local wealthy elite.

The Living End, 1992

Described at the time as the gay Thelma and Louise, this on-the-run romantic crime drama comes from Gregg Araki, considered one of the founders of New Queer Cinema. It follows hustler Luke and movie critic Jon who, after both being diagnosed as HIV+ and escaping a series of gay-bashing attacks, decide to go on a hedonistic road trip with a chaotic fuck-the-world attitude. With the film being both incredibly horny and incredibly tender, The Living End came at a time when queer indie filmmakers were tired of Hollywood portraying gay men as victims and is a response to the damaging inertia of the Bush administration on the AIDS crisis.  

J.T. LeRoy, 2018

Featuring Oscar-nominated Kristen Stewart, Oscar winner Laura Dern and a ton of absolutely terrible wigs, biographical drama J.T. Leroy tells the true story of the reclusive middle-aged author Laura Albert, who penned books about a teen gay prostitute, claiming they were semi-autobiographical. As the novels became popular the world over, gaining fans like Madonna, Laura hires her non-binary sister-in-law Savannah to pose as the new celebrity writer in public. Diane Kruger and Courtney Love also star in this chaotic biopic about one of the literary world's biggest scandals.

Femme Fatale, 2002

This film comes via the legendary director Brian De Palma, known for a spate of classic movies such as Carrie (1976), Scarface (1983) and Mission: Impossible (1996). Starring Ugly Betty's Rebecca Romijn as Laure, the mercenary thief who double-crosses her partners during a jewellery heist and makes her way to Paris to assume the identity of a recently dead woman. Years later, Laure is living it up as the wife of an American ambassador, but her ex accomplices finally start to catch up to her. Laure hatches a plan that involves seducing a paparazzo, played by Antonio Banderas. Though it received mixed reviews when it was first released, the movie has since become a cult classic.

American Animals, 2018

The Killing of a Sacred Deer star Barry Keoghan leads as struggling art student Spencer who – along with Warren, Chas and Eric, played by Evan Peters (American Horror Story), Blake Jenner (Glee) and Jared Abrahamson, respectively – comes up with a plan to steal rare first edition books from a university library and sell them on the black market for millions. While the plan seems simple enough, and the books are fairly unguarded, a lot goes wrong for the young and hedonistic amateur thieves. Premiering at Sundance Film Festival 2018, the movie is based on a real-life heist from Transylvania University in Kentucky and actually features the art thieves themselves in its final scenes. 

Kajillionaire, 2020

Bizarre queer comedy-drama Kajillionaire follows Old Dolio, played by Evan Rachel Wood (Thirteen), whose con-artist parents have made her an accomplice in their petty theft scams since she was a little girl. With their family dynamic purely transactional, an emotionally-dysfunctional dynamic is put to the test with the arrival of fellow scammer Melanie (Gina Rodriguez of Jane the Virgin fame). The movie, written and directed by Miranda July, was critically acclaimed when it premiered at Sundance and was subsequently nominated for the 31st GLAAD Media Awards for outstanding film with a limited release.

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