Millionaire businessman-sportsman Thomas Crown (Steve McQueen) pulls off a perfect crime by orchestrating four men to steal $2,660,527.62 from a Boston bank, along with a fifth man who drives the getaway Ford station wagon with the money and dumps it in a cemetery trash can. None of the men ever meets Crown face-to-face, nor do they know or meet each other before the robbery. Crown retrieves the money from the trash can personally after secretly following the driver of the station wagon, then personally deposits the money into an anonymous Swiss bank account in Geneva, making several trips, never depositing the money all at once so as to not draw undue attention to his actions.
Independent insurance investigator Vicki Anderson (Faye Dunaway) is contracted to investigate the heist and will receive 10% of the stolen money if she recovers it. When Thomas first comes to her attention as a possible suspect, she intuitively recognizes him as the mastermind behind the robbery.
Thomas does not need the money, and in fact masterminded the robbery as a game. Vicki makes it clear to him that she knows that he is the thief and that she intends to prove it. They start a game of cat and mouse, with the attraction between them evident. Their relationship soon evolves into an affair, complicated by Vicki's vow to find the money and help Detective Eddie Malone (Paul Burke) bring the guilty party to justice.
A reward offer entices the wife of the bank robbery's getaway driver, Erwin Weaver (Jack Weston), to "fink" on him. Vicki finds out that he was hired by a man he never saw, but whose voice he heard. She tries putting Erwin in the same room as Thomas, but there is no hint of recognition on either one's part.
However, while Vicki is clearly closing in on Thomas, using the IRS as leverage against his liquid assets, he forces her to realize she is also becoming hemmed in—by her emotions. When she seemingly persuades him to negotiate an end, his point is proven when a jealous Eddie stubbornly refuses to cut any deal.
Thomas organizes another robbery exactly like the first with different accomplices and tells Vicki where the "drop" will be, because he has to know for sure that she is on his side. The robbery is successful, but there are gunshots and the viewer is left with the impression that people might have been killed, raising the stakes for Vicki's decision.
Vicki and the police stake out the cemetery, where they watch one of the robbers make the drop, and wait for Thomas to show up so they can arrest him. When his Rolls Royce arrives, however, she sees that Thomas has sent a messenger in his place, with a telegram asking her to bring the money and join him—or else keep the Rolls Royce. She tears the telegram to bits and throws the pieces to the wind, looking up at the sky with tears in her eyes. Crown flies away in a jet.Steve McQueen as Thomas Crown
Faye Dunaway as Vicki Anderson
Paul Burke as Detective Eddie Malone
Jack Weston as Erwin Weaver
Gordon Pinsent as Jamie McDonald
Biff McGuire as Sandy
Yaphet Kotto as Carl
Addison Powell as Abe
Astrid Heeren as Gwen
The use of split screens to show simultaneous actions was inspired by the breakthrough Expo 67 films In the Labyrinth and A Place to Stand, that latter of which pioneered the use of Christopher Chapman's "multi-dynamic image technique", images shifting on moving panes. Steve McQueen was on hand for an advance screening of A Place to Stand in Hollywood and personally told Chapman he was highly impressed; the following year, Norman Jewison had incorporated the technique into the film, inserting the scenes into the already finished product.
The film also features a chess scene, with McQueen and Dunaway playing a game of chess, silently flirting with each other. The game depicted is based on a game played in Vienna in 1898 between Gustav Zeissl and Walter von Walthoffen.The photography is unusual for a mainstream Hollywood film, using a split-screen mode. McQueen undertook his own stunts, which include playing polo and driving a dune buggy at high speed along the Massachusetts coastline. This was similar to his starring role in the movie Bullitt, released a few months afterwards, in which he drove a Ford Mustang through San Francisco at more than 100 mph. In an interview, McQueen would later say this was his favorite film.
The car driven by Dunaway, referred to as "one of those red Italian things," is the first of only ten Ferrari 275 GTB/4 NART Spyders built. Today, this model is one of the most valuable Ferrari road cars of all time. McQueen liked the car very much, and eventually managed to acquire one for himself. The dune buggy was a Meyers Manx, built in California on a VW beetle floor pan with a hopped-up Corvair engine. McQueen owned one, and the Manx, the original "dune buggy", was often copied. Crown's Rolls Royce carried Mass. vanity license tag "TC 100" for the film.
Sean Connery had been the original choice for the title role, but turned it down—a decision he later regretted. The character was portrayed by another actor who had portrayed James Bond, Pierce Brosnan, in the 1999 remake.
The film was filmed primarily on location in Boston and surrounding areas in Massachusetts and New Hampshire:Second Harrison Gray Otis House at 85 Mt. Vernon St. on Beacon Hill, designed by Massachusetts State House architect Charles Bulfinch in 1800 for Congressman Harrison Gray Otis, was Thomas Crown's residence.
The robbery occurred in what was then the Beverly National Bank (fictitiously renamed Boston Mercantile Bank for the film), at the North Beverly Plaza, Beverly Ma. and 55 Congress St., Boston. The current location is noted as 44 Water Street, the offices of private investment firm Brown Brothers. The interiors were renovated and partially restored in 1999 by the firm GHK, Malcolm Higbee-Glace, Project Manager.
A scene of the car theft was filmed in downtown Beverly across from City Hall.
The money-dumpings were shot in Cambridge Cemetery, Coolidge Ave., Cambridge.
The polo sequences were filmed at the Myopia Hunt Club, 435 Bay Road, South Hamilton.
The golf sequences were filmed at the Belmont Country Club, 181 Winter St., Belmont.
The auctions took place in the St. James Ballroom at the Eben Jordan Mansion, 46 Beacon St., Beacon Hill.
Thomas drove his dune buggy on Crane Beach in Ipswich, Massachusetts.
The Schweizer SGS 1-23H glider was flown at Salem, New Hampshire. by Roy McMaster (not Steve McQueen).
The meat shop scene took place at Blackstone and North streets in Boston's North End.
Thomas and Vicki walked in the rain in Copp's Hill Cemetery in Boston's North End.
Thomas and Vicki kissed (wearing formal dress) at the top of Acorn Street on Beacon Hill, a narrow, cobblestoned lane often called "the most photographed street in America."
Other locations included:the Allston-Brighton tollbooths (demolished in 2016) on the Massachusetts Turnpike;
Anthony's Pier 4 restaurant at 140 Northern Ave. in South Boston's Seaport District;
the Boston Common;
the old Boston Police Headquarters on Berkeley Street (since renovated as the Loews Boston Hotel);
Cambridge Street and Linden Avenue, Allston;
Copp's Hill Terrace in Boston's North End;
the North End Greenmarket;
South Station, 700 Atlantic Ave., Boston;
the Tobin Bridge.
the Prudential Tunnel portion of the Massachusetts Turnpike going under Huntington Avenue (then-future Massachusetts Route 9) - years before the Westin Hotel in Copley Square and the parking garage on Clarendon Street were built over the toll highway in a scene where McQueen was driving the getaway car
the then-Dewey Square Tunnel (future Interstate 93) where McQueen emerged onto the Massachusetts Turnpike - a feat technically impossible since McQueen drove into the Prudential Tunnel one scene earlier
the Marliave Restaurant rooftop dining area, Bosworth Street, Boston where Dunaway is shown surveillance photos by Burke of McQueen kissing another woman
the footpath on the Cambridge side of the Charles River, between the Weeks Footbridge and the Anderson Bridge
The film was moderately successful at the box office, grossing $14 million on a $4.3 million budget. Even though it is now regarded as a cult movie, reviews at the time were mixed. Critics praised the chemistry between McQueen and Dunaway and Norman Jewison's stylish direction, but considered the plotting and writing rather thin. Roger Ebert gave it 2 1⁄2 stars out of four and called it "possibly the most under-plotted, underwritten, over-photographed film of the year. Which is not to say it isn't great to look at. It is."
The film won the Academy Award for Best Original Song for "Windmills of Your Mind" by Michel Legrand (music), Marilyn Bergman and Alan Bergman (lyrics). It was also nominated for Original Music Score.
The music was composed and conducted by Michel Legrand, scoring his first major American film. Director Norman Jewison had hoped to hire Henry Mancini for the project, but he was unavailable and recommended Legrand; he wrote his music as long pieces rather than specifically to scene timings, with the film later edited to the music by Legrand, Jewison and editor Hal Ashby. In addition, Legrand also had to prepare an original song to replace "Strawberry Fields Forever," used as the temp track for the glider scene. Taking Quincy Jones' advice, Legrand worked with the Bergmans to compose "The Windmills of Your Mind" and a second song, "His Eyes, Her Eyes"; Noel Harrison recorded "The Windmills of Your Mind" after Jewison failed to get his friend Andy Williams to do it, while Legrand himself performed "His Eyes, Her Eyes." While the film's score was recorded in Hollywood (featuring, Vincent DeRosa, Bud Shank, Ray Brown and Shelly Manne), the album re-recording issued by United Artists Records on LP was done in France under the composer's baton; Jewison said it was the favourite score for any of his films.
The original album was later reissued on compact disc by Rykodisc (with five dialogue excerpts and the inclusion of "Moments Of Love" and "Doubting Thomas") in 1998, and by Varese Sarabande in 2004. In 2014 Quartet Records issued a limited edition CD featuring the previously released album tracks (1-13 below) and the premiere release of the film version.
- The Windmills Of Your Mind – Noel Harrison 2:24
- Room Service 1:41
- A Man's Castle 2:41
- The Chess Game 5:58
- Cash And Carry 2:35
- His Eyes, Her Eyes – Michel Legrand 2:17
- Playing The Field 5:48
- Moments Of Love 2:19
- The Boston Wrangler 2:49
- Doubting Thomas 3:48
- The Crowning Touch 2:59
- The Windmills Of Your Mind 2:22
- His Eyes, Her Eyes 2:15
- The Windmills Of Your Mind – Noel Harrison 2:25
- Knock, Knock 0:50
- The Gang 3:02
- Getaway 0:52
- Escapeline 1:28
- Cemetery 1:20
- More Cemetery 1:19
- Enter Vicky 0:25
- The Windmills Of Your Mind – Noel Harrison 1:25
- Polo 0:47
- Brandy 1:33
- Chess Anyone? 4:26
- Let's Play Something Else 1:18
- Togetherness 1:38
- Don't Bug Me 1:15
- Beach House 1:01
- Love Montage 1:21
- No Deals 1:01
- All My Love, Tommy 3:07
The 1999 remake stars Pierce Brosnan as Crown, Rene Russo as the insurance investigator, and Denis Leary as the detective. The original film's co-star Faye Dunaway also appears as Crown's therapist.
This version is different from the original in that it is set in New York rather than Boston and the robbery is of a priceless painting instead of cash, amongst other story line differences.
In 2016, The Hollywood Reporter announced that MGM is remaking the film again for the second time. Michael B. Jordan will star. The Russo brothers will produce the film.