The release of Ocean’s 8, a spinoff of Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s trilogy featuring an all-female heist team led by Sandra Bullock (playing Debbie Ocean, the sister of George Clooney’s Danny), makes a play for gender parity (or something closer to it) in the male-centric world of elaborate cons and heists. With a new eight-member team added to (and occasionally interacting with a few of) the original Ocean’s 11, plus assorted additions made for Ocean’s 12 and Ocean’s 13, it seems like a good time to go through and rank everyone who has been employed by an Ocean sibling over the course of this series—focusing not on their star power or performances, but by their contributions to the “jobs” at hand. Some additional ground rules: To be eligible for inclusion, the character must be part of the titular number in at least one of the four films, a designation that’s not always clearly assigned by the movie in question. Surprise bail-outs (or double-crosses) by friends/enemies/associates of the Ocean’s crew do not count; only team members that were conceivably brought in on the job (even if in secret) are considered here. Sorry, Night Fox!
20. Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia)
Technically a team member because of his participation in the revenge heist of Ocean’s 13, Benedict tries to side-steal the diamonds that the guys swipe as part of that heist, and he brings in Vincent Cassel to do it. He’s also the main bad guy in Ocean’s 11 and one of the bad guys in Ocean’s 12. Basically, he’s hanging onto this list by a thread.
19. Tess Ocean (Julia Roberts)
In Ocean’s 11, Tess is more Danny’s goal than his partner in crime. In Ocean’s 12, she’s an extremely reluctant participant. In Ocean’s 13, she sits out the vengeance-minded heist. So she doesn’t do much for the team—doesn’t particularly want to be on the team, in fact—but you must admit: Tess is very good at impersonating Julia Roberts.
18. Saul Bloom (Carl Reiner) and Reuben Tiskoff (Elliott Gould)
Maybe it’s not fair to lump the old guys together, but Saul and Reuben both have more of a mascot/commentator vibe about them, though Reuben’s Vegas knowledge and Saul’s way with a loud distraction certainly come in handy from time to time.
17. Robert Caldwell (Bob Einstein)
The father of Matt Damon’s Linus, he’s a secret-sauce type ingredient to the Ocean’s 13 heist, but when you run with a crew that pulls this many jobs, popping in once doesn’t really cut it (Linus’s mom also gets a bunch of the gang out of police custody in Ocean’s 12, and she’s not even part of the plan!) (I don’t think).
16. Turk Malloy (Scott Caan) and Virgin Malloy (Casey Affleck)
Maybe it’s not fair to lump the young guys together, but... no, wait, it totally is. The Malloys are knuckleheads, but they get extracurricular bonuses for inciting workers-rights protests down in Mexico during Ocean’s 13.
15. Tammy (Sarah Paulson)
Though Ocean’s 11 boasted an extremely impressive Top Four stars with Clooney, Pitt, Roberts, and Damon, Ocean’s 8 arguably has a deeper bench of people who are famous right now. Sarah Paulson may not be a global superstar, but she’s pretty famous for being like the second-least-famous member of the ensemble. So there may be some dissonance when fans watch the new movie and find that Beloved Emmy-Winner Sarah Paulson doesn’t have that much to do. Her character is supposed to traffic in stolen goods, but though she is plenty involved in the climactic heist, a lot of her business has more to do with sorta-gags about her situation (she’s a mom who wants to get out of the house!) and her past (she keeps a lot of stolen goods in her suburban garage!) than real showcase moments. Points deducted for her not being able to tell a joke. I know that’s actually just a ridiculous character note for her ridiculous character from Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, but it scarred me.
14. Frank Catton (Bernie Mac)
The Ocean teams tend to be, if not 100 percent comic relief, at least 70 or 80 percent, but Bernie Mac, may he rest in peace, still stands out as one of the more purely hilarious guys. He’s not without his skills—he can lower the price on some used cards with nothing more than a firm grip and an insinuating conversation about hand lotion—but his work is often more audacious than precise. He also spends much of Ocean’s 12 sitting in jail without much more than a second thought. Still: Rest in peace, Bernie Mac; you were funny as hell in these movies.
13. Constance (Awkafina)
Awkafina’s character in Ocean’s 8 pretty much embodies what’s both good and disappointing about the newest entry in the series. Technically, she is absolutely key to this necklace-stealing operation. She has to lift a necklace off of a movie star’s head without her noticing, then stick around the scene of the crime while pretending to be a caterer. But the movie never really gets further into her skill set than that; though she starts the movie as a potential wild-card wisecracker (and Awkafina looks and sounds ready to play this aspect to the hilt, cornering Debbie and asking her for a MetroCard so she doesn’t have to skateboard to their hideout every day), she pretty much just does her job well and that’s that. There’s something to be said for professionalism (which Ocean’s 8 has plenty of), but the best team members also have surprising invention (which Ocean’s 8 has in shorter supply than its siblings).
12. LeMarc (Albert Finney)
Hardly anyone is at the top of their game for Ocean’s 12, which makes the movie both a clever, underappreciated outlier in the Clooney-led trilogy as well as still probably the least satisfying of the three. A character who only (and barely) appears in 12 doesn’t seem like a strong candidate for this list, but Albert Finney’s wily LeMarc, much-mentioned in the movie but not seen until towards the end, performs some heavy lifting in a movie where various permutations of the crew keeps getting thrown in jail. He seems like a useful guy to have not-quite-around.
11. Livingston Dell (Eddie Jemison)
Most heists these days need tech guys, and in the Ocean’s trilogy, that’s Livingston Dell (no relation to the Dude, You’re Getting a Dell guy). A surveillance expert with nerves that are “not so bad you notice,” as Brad Pitt’s Rusty nonchalantly puts it, he sweats his way through Ocean’s 11 but survives to pass a polygraph in Ocean’s 13. Kind of an underrated team member by virtue of being more of a “hey, that guy!” character actor rather than a “whoa, that guy!” charisma bomb.
10. Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway)
Here’s a ranking that’s appropriate for the faking-heavy Ocean’s series: Daphne Kluger isn’t recruited to be part of Debbie Ocean’s 8. But she’s not their real target, either. She’s an actress the team needs to manipulate into wearing a valuable necklace at the Met Ball, so they can steal it off her neck. She’s extremely necessary while not actually being looped into the plan. This should result in a far lower ranking, but Anne Hathaway is so funny and charmingly narcissistic in the movie that on a more meta level, it’s hard to imagine the routine mechanics of Ocean’s 8 working as well without her. By my own system, Daphne shouldn’t necessarily get extra points because the actress playing her is a movie highlight, but then again, this is the movie series where Julia Roberts played a character who pretends to be Julia Roberts, so a little bit of fudging is in order. Besides, if this was purely based on delightfulness of performance, Hathaway would probably make the top five.
9. Amita (Mindy Kaling)
Forgery is a skill that feels like it’s maybe farmed out a bit by the original Ocean’s trilogy, and while Amita doesn’t exactly build her own 3-D printer, her knowledge of diamonds proves crucial to the creation of a fake necklace. If that seems site-specific, you haven’t thought enough about how often the Ocean crews need to steal diamonds for some reason.
8. Rose Weil (Helena Bonham Carter)
Points for difficulty: Rose is not a professional thief, con artist, impersonator, or tech genius. She’s a fashion designer recruited because of her debt, yet she ably rises to the task with substantially less sweat than Livingston. Also, future Ocean missions may or may not involve elaborate costumes so having a designer on hand could really up any gang’s impersonation games.
7. Basher Tarr (Don Cheadle)
The only proper demolitions expert across these four movies may not seem like a necessity, but when your more outlandish plans include raising a building several inches (in Ocean’s 12) or digging a tunnel with the same drill used on the Chunnel (in Ocean’s 13), you need someone who feels comfortable operating heavy, dangerous machinery. He’s also versatile, dressing up as an aggrieved daredevil to distract Al Pacino’s Willy Bank in Ocean’s 13, barking “PAY ME MY MONEY!” while riffing off of Chuck Berry’s cash-only policy. Some loss of cred over his cockney accent, which is obviously phony and some kind of a long con.
6. Lou (Cate Blanchett) and Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt)
Every gang leader needs a trusted sounding board, someone who will hear you out when you explain the whole heist plan and maybe raise minor objections but certainly won’t turn you into the police pre-emptively. That’s the role filled by erstwhile Benjamin Button lovebirds Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett in their respective gangs, and even if their character names are “Rusty” and “Lou, they’re both playing sort of fantasy-baseball versions of obviously-not-actually-themselves: Blanchett the hip best friend with great taste and what seems like a tendency toward sardonic quips (hard to tell in a movie that has a disappointing deficit of sardonic quips), and Pitt, the chill, constantly hungry sidekick who doesn’t make a fuss over how handsome he is. They each have actual roles in the actual crimes, but they’re really utility men and their own kind of star handlers; only Blanchett and Pitt can really understand the brains of Bullock and Clooney!
5. Nine Ball (Rihanna)
No one who sees Ocean’s 8 will be fully convinced that Nine Ball, an unflappable tech genius who can also rock a Met Ball gown, isn’t actually just Rihanna under an assumed name, even in the world of the movie.
4. “The Amazing” Yen (Shaobo Qin)
All of these movies contain at least one feat of stealthiness that would be just plain impossible without a diminutive, athletic acrobat to close the gaps of impossibility. Can Tess Ocean hide in a suitcase? She cannot. Can Turk Malloy? Probably, but he would hem and haw about it something fierce. Yes, this has led to potentially dehumanizing episodes, like when he was encased in lost luggage during Ocean’s 12, but the reason the mishap was so potentially damaging is that Yen is essential to this operation.
3. Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock)
Obviously coming up with an elaborate Met Ball heist involving Rihanna while stewing in prison is a major accomplishment, so let’s talk about Sandra Bullock in this movie. Though this movie is predicated on star power, Bullock spends most of the movie holding back her most recognizable go-to moves: the girl-next-door charm of her rom-coms, the uptight-nerd professionalism of The Heat or Miss Congeniality, or even the charged emotions of The Blind Side or Gravity. As Debbie, even her most vengeful feelings have a lid on them, certainly a trait that works well for both heist ringleaders and underplaying movie stars. Bullock’s oft-unsmiling restraint is not unlike the trickery employed by Julia Roberts in Ocean’s 11, where America’s Designated Sweetheart isn’t playing things quite so sweet (Bullock’s second scene in Ocean’s 8 has her performing a series of thefts and scams, the smooth execution of which nearly disguise how petty and compulsive they seem).
2. Danny Ocean (George Clooney)
I don’t mean to engage in older-brother favoritism here, but it comes down to this: We’ve seen just one of Debbie’s crazy heists so far, but three of Danny’s, and his work in Ocean’s 11 remains a series pinnacle in the elegance over its overelaborateness. Slight deduction for possibly being dead (Debbie visits his grave early in Ocean’s 8!), but then maybe the deduction gets redacted when you consider that come on, he’s not really dead, is he?
1. Linus Caldwell (Matt Damon)
Look, Linus isn’t the mastermind. If anything, he’s often stuck in the role of over-enthusiastic kid brother to Danny and Rusty, dying to be let in on their cool-guy plans. But apart from his skills as a pickpocket (the series has a lot of thieves, but light-fingered grace is clearly a major asset to almost any heist), and the family connections that aid the group in Ocean’s 12 and 13, Linus has commitment that outstrips just about anyone else in the Oceans’ orbit. He really, really wants to help, even if it means resorting to company-man speak about “personnel” or donning a fake nose as part of an elaborate seduction con! In a world of laid-back coolness, it’s ultimately pretty clutch to have a guy who cares about this stuff. Danny and Rusty and probably Debbie would never admit to it, but Linus is a major component of their success. Also: the nose plays!