The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)

Movie review by
Barbara Shulgasser-Parker, Common Sense Media
The Thomas Crown Affair (1968) Movie Poster Image
Classic '60s heist film has some violence.
  • R
  • 1968
  • 102 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Don't fall in love with a bank robber. People are willing to give up only so much for love. Every crime has a personality that reflects the nature of the mind that planned it.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Tommy is a suave, refined, wealthy man of the world so bored he needs to commit a perfect crime to amuse himself. Vicki is a brilliant, driven investigator who always gets her man.


Armed thieves point guns at innocent passersby during a bank heist. In the course of a precision robbery, a crew member shoots someone in the leg.


A man and woman play chess in a long scene filled with sexual tension. The woman suggestively caresses a chess piece, eliciting a smile from the man. The scene ends with closeups of them kissing. We see them in bed, presumably after sex. There's no nudity. Someone refers to an affair as a "sex orgy."


The movie was remade in 1999 and another remake is in the works.


Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults smoke cigarettes and cigars and drink alcohol.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Thomas Crown Affair was a stylish offering in 1968 (remade in 1999) that defined characters with clothing, pastimes, music, and editing. The superficial beauty of Faye Dunaway and Steve McQueen might make it easy to miss the dilemmas posed -- what does a rich guy do to amuse himself and can a career woman give up love in favor of collecting the reward for catching a thief? Adults smoke cigarettes and cigars and consume alcohol. A couple kisses, and are shown in bed after sex, but there's no nudity. Someone refers to an affair as a "sex orgy." Armed thieves point guns at innocent passersby during a bank heist. In the course of a precision robbery, a crew member shoots someone in the leg.  

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What's the story?

THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR was a fresh, visually stylish look at a relationship between a successful working woman and a self-made man. Tommy (Steve McQueen) has planned a meticulous, seemingly-perfect bank heist, assembling an anonymous crew, members of which don't know him or each other. Vicki (Faye Dunaway) is the investigator who gets ten percent from the insurance company that paid the bank for its $2.6 million loss if she finds the money. Wearing miniskirts, lacquered talons, and arresting hats, she quickly starts dating her prey, immediately letting him know she's coming after him. He never denies that he's the heist mastermind, but blithely carries on the affair as if nothing about it is odd. They ride his dune buggy on the beach, bake lobsters in the sand, and play chess (in a long remarkable scene full of sexual tension but no nudity). As Vicki falls more deeply for Tommy, she wants to lessen the punitive consequences that he'll face when she nails him, but that love never makes her waver from the ultimate goal -- to catch him and get her ten percent.    

Is it any good?

Taken at face value, The Thomas Crown Affair is an engaging caper. Casting McQueen as a debonair finance guy in a three-piece suit was a canny departure given his usual film persona as ruggedly unflappable cool guy (the hard-driving cop in Bullitt, for example). He gives an Ivy League financier a renegade roguishness, making him believably obsessed with "who I want to be tomorrow." Some viewers may be nagged by the amorality of both the handsome, well-dressed thief and the beautiful, well-dressed lover-antagonist who seeks to bring him down. The lovers' conflict and attraction have the same roots -- Vicki never hides that she's going after him for a reward and he never denies he's committed the robbery. She is proud of being good at her job, even though she loves him, and he's proud of screwing the system, even though the system has been good to him.

Odd editing (framing different simultaneous action in rectangular windows arranged on the screen likes building blocks), an intrusive jazz score (notably famed composer Michel Legrand's hit song The Windmills of Your Mind, which won Best Original Song Oscar), and an emphasis on style over substance makes this film memorable and dated at the same time. Also, notably, the movie never says it aloud, but it clearly addresses the predicament of the few professionally-successful women who were out there 50 years ago. What Vicki probably had sacrificed in her life to become respected and valued at work might have made it extremely difficult for her to give it all up, even for love.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what would lead a man who has everything to rob a bank. Do you think his goal was to set a difficult task for himself and prove he could accomplish it?

  • Does Thomas seem admirable? Could he have taken his genius for planning and helped people in need instead of committing a crime?

  • Do you think the director's use of separate boxed images on the screen at the same time was useful or distracting?

Movie details

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