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The most memorable movie scam artists of all time


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    "White Men Can't Jump" (1992) - Billy Hoyle (played by Woody Harrelson)

     

    Billy Hoyle's con takes place on street basketball courts where he poses as a seemingly unskilled bystander. He also takes advantage of the fact that many of the other players underestimate his abilities because he is white.  Billy regularly hustles the unassuming streetballers out of their cash by easily defeating them at basketball.

     

    "Why don't we take all these bricks and build a shelter for the homeless, so maybe your mother will have a place to stay. " -Billy Hoyle


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    “Heartbreakers” (2001) – Max & Page Conners (played by Sigourney Weaver & Jennifer Love Hewitt)

     

    Max and Page are a mother-daughter team of swindlers who use their sex appeal to attract, marry then quickly divorce wealthy men for the settlement money.

     

    "There's no love. It's the trick of the brain. It's the combination of chemicals and hormones." - Page Conners


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    “Six Degrees of Separation” (1993) – Paul (played by Will Smith)

     

    Paul shows up injured at the door of a Fifth Avenue couple claiming to be a college friend of their children. He is actually a seductive con artist who preys on wealthy socialites.

     

    "Every moment in life is a learning experience. Or what good is it, right? " -Paul


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    “The Music Man” (1962) – “Professor” Harold Hill (played by Robert Preston)

     

    Traveling salesman Harold Hill descends on a little town called River City, Iowa. Its famously stubborn folks start to fall for Harold's promises of creating a boys' marching band complete with instruments, uniforms and music lessons. Of course Harold, a con man, has no intention of staying in River City, but he's the one to collect the money for the project.

     

    "Oh this is a refined operation son, and I've got it timed down to the last wave of the brakeman's hand on the last train outta town." -Harold Hill


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    “Identity Thief” (2013) – Diana (played by Melissa McCarthy)

     

    Diana is a loveable, goofy, but ruthless thief who steals identities and spends other people's money on things like buying drinks for everybody at the bar to make people like her.

     

    "I just want to be upfront and say I visually enjoy you." -Diana


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    “The Grifters” (1990) – Lilly and Roy Dillon (played by Angelica Houston and John Cusack)

     

    Another family affair scam pair, Lilly and Roy Dillon are a mother-son team of swindlers who meet their equal in the beautiful Myra, Roy's new girlfriend.

     

    "You're working some angle, and don't tell me you're not because I wrote the book!" -Lilly Dillon


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    “Mo Money” (1992) – Johnny Stewart (played by Damon Wayans)

     

    Lifelong con man Johnny Stewart tries to win Amber's affections by going straight. But when they start dating, streetwise Johnny realizes he needs money to impress her... and he only knows one way to earn a living.

     

    Amber: "Nothing in America is free."
    Johnny: "Love is."


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     “The Sting” (1973) – Henry Gondorff (played by Paul Newman)

     

    In Chicago during the Great Depression, a grifter named Johnny Hooker seeks out another scam artist named Henry Gondorff to teach him "the big con."

     

    "You have to keep this con even after you take his money. He can't know you took him." -Henry Gondorff


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    “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” (1988) – Lawrence Jamieson and Freddy Benson (played by Michael Caine and Steve Martin)

     

    Seductive swindler Lawrence Jamieson is threatened by another con artist named "The Jackal" moving in on his territory. When Lawrence suspects small-time hustler Freddy Benson to be his competition, hilarity ensues.

     

    "A poacher who shoots at rabbits may scare big game away." -Lawrence Jamieson

This weekend on Marketplace Money, we are speaking with a few brave souls about the times when they were scammed out of some money. In a few cases, quite a lot of money. Guest host David Lazarus, consumer columnist at the L.A. Times, will be discussing the scams we fall for -- from robocalls to Ponzi schemes.

Whether it's the hustler on the street or the fake emails we receive from abroad, all of us have had an encounter with a con artist -- and while they make terrible people to know in real life, they are fascinating to watch on film.

In movies, many scammers are portrayed as seductive sociopaths with hearts of gold. But as you’ll hear on Marketplace Money this weekend, most victims of scams never see the cash they were conned out of again. We chose a sampling of some of our favorite schemers -- including the mother-daughter duo of con artists in the film “Heartbreakers” and the streetwise slickster Johnny in “Mo’ Money,” to feature in our slideshow.

Hold onto your wallets and click through to see some of our favorite swindlers from the big screen. Then, take our poll and tell us who you think the most memorable movie scam artist is. If you don't see your favorite con artist on the list, leave a comment and add your own.

Stay safe out there, folks.

About the author

Lindsay Foster Thomas is the Associate Producer of Marketplace's Wealth & Poverty Desk.

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