A gentleman thief, lady thief, or phantom thief (Japanese: 怪盗 Hepburn: Kaitō) is a recurring stock character. A gentleman or lady thief usually has inherited wealth and is characterised by impeccable manners, charm, courteousness and the avoidance of physical force or intimidation to steal. As such, they do not steal to gain material wealth but for the thrill of the act itself, often combined in fiction with correcting a moral wrong, selecting wealthy targets, or stealing only particular rare and challenging objects.
In popular culture
In fictional works, the phantom thief is typically superb at stealing while maintaining a gentleman's manners and code of honour; for example, Robin Hood is a former Earl who steals from the rich to give to the poor, Raffles only steals from other gentlemen (and occasionally gives the object away to a good cause); Lupin steals from the rich who do not appreciate their art or treasures and redistributes it; Saint Tail steals back what was stolen or taken dishonestly, or rights the wrongs done to the innocent by implicating 'the real' criminals. Sly Cooper and his gang steals from other thieves and criminals.
Western gentlemen/lady thieves
Notable gentlemen thieves and lady thieves in Western popular culture include the following:
- Simon Templar, also known as "The Saint" from the novel series by Leslie Charteris.
- Thomas Crown from The Thomas Crown Affair
- John Robie in Alfred Hitchcock's To Catch a Thief
- Scipio Massimo in Cornelia Funke's The Thief Lord
- A. J. Raffles from the A. J. Raffles stories by E. W. Hornung.
- Filibus, an air pirate in the 1915 adventure film Filibus, is a phantom thief in the tradition of Arsène Lupin, carrying out heists for the thrill of it.
- Carmen Sandiego, the title character from the Carmen Sandiego franchise.
- Edward Pierce from The Great Train Robbery
- Jimmie Dale, also known as The Gray Seal, from the series by Frank L. Packard.
- Selina Kyle, also known as Catwoman, from the Batman series.
- Neal Caffrey in White Collar television series
- Oswald Cobblepot, also known as The Penguin, from the Batman series.
- Jim Craddock, also known as Gentleman Ghost, from the DC Comics universe.
- Remy Etienne LeBeau, also known as Gambit, from the X-Men comics.
- Felicia Hardy, also known as Black Cat, from the Spider-Man comics.
- Maurice Leblanc's Arsène Lupin
- Danny Ocean from Ocean's 11 and the Ocean's Trilogy of films.
- Captain Feeney in Barry Lyndon
- David Goldman in An Education
- Sir Charles Litton, also known as "The Phantom" in The Pink Panther
- Sly Cooper from the franchise of the same name.
- Kasumi Goto from the Mass Effect video game series. Her name approximately translates to "phantom thief."
- M. Hercule Flambeau from the Father Brown novels and short stories by G. K. Chesterton.
- Sir Oliver from the Alan Ford comics.
- Flynn Rider in Tangled
- Locke Lamora from Scott Lynch's The Gentleman Bastard Sequence.
Phantom thief (怪盗 Kaitō) is the term for the gentleman/lady thief in Eastern media such as anime and manga. It draws inspiration from Arsène Lupin and elements in other crime fictions and detective fictions.
Notable phantom thieves in Eastern popular culture include the following:
- Arsène Lupin III, from Lupin III (by Monkey Punch), the grandson of Arsène Lupin, according to his creator.
- Henry Agata (Hikaru Agata) A.K.A. Phantom Renegade (Kaito Retort) from Medabots.
- Kaito Kuroba, also known as the "Kaitō Kid", the main character of Magic Kaito and a recurring character in Detective Conan by Gosho Aoyama.
- Kaitō Shinshi. The lady thief in The Kindaichi Case Files. She is the archrival of Hajime Kindaichi. Though her name is "Shinshi" means "gentleman" in Japanese.
- Riko Mine Lupin IV of Hidan no Aria, the great granddaughter of Arsène Lupin.
- Meimi Haneoka, who transforms into Saint Tail, a phantom thief with acrobatic and magician skills, from Saint Tail by Megumi Tachikawa.
- Dark Mousy the angel-like phantom thief from D.N.Angel by Yukiru Sugisaki.
- Daiki Kaitō, portrayed by Kimito Totani, a character who can transform into Kamen Rider Diend from 2009 Kamen Rider Series Kamen Rider Decade.
- Kaitō Reinya, a title character played by and modeled after Reina Tanaka, from the 2009 anime series Phantom Thief Reinya.
- Kamikaze Kaitō Jeanne, the title character in Kamikaze Kaitō Jeanne.
- Kaitō Tenjou, a character in Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal.
- Clara, better known as the phantom thief Psiren, an exclusive character from the first anime adaptation of the manga Fullmetal Alchemist.
- Raphael/Ralph, also known as the Phantom R ("Kaitō Āru"), the main character of Rhythm Thief & the Emperor's Treasure from a Nintendo 3DS video game by SEGA and Xeen.
- Jack, also known as Joker, the title character from the anime and manga Mysterious Joker who sometimes works with other phantom thieves in the series.
- Arsène, Rat, Twenty, and Stone River comprise the Thieves' Empire (Kaitou Teikoku) in Tantei Opera Milky Holmes.
- Arsène Lupin, a character from the otome game Code: Realize ~Sousei no Himegimi~.
- Loser, from Dimension W.
- Keith Harcourt / Black Rose, from Ashita no Nadja.
- The protagonists of the PS3/PS4 JRPG game Persona 5.
In real life
- Charles Earl Bowles (b. 1829; d.after 1888), known as Black Bart, was an English-born outlaw noted for the poetic messages he left behind after two of his robberies. Considered a gentleman bandit with a reputation for style and sophistication, he was one of the most notorious stagecoach robbers to operate in and around Northern California and southern Oregon during the 1870s and 1880s.
- Christophe Rocancourt is a modern-day, real-life example of the gentleman thief.
- D. B. Cooper, the only unidentified hijacker in American aviation history, who, in 1971, extorted $200,000 from an airline before parachuting out of a plane during the cover of night. Said to be polite and well spoken.
- William Francis "Willie" Sutton, Jr. was a gentlemanly bank robber of the 1920s who never harmed a person during his robberies and only carried unloaded weapons during the heists.
- Bleiler, Richard. "Raffles: The Gentleman Thief". Strand Magazine. United States. Retrieved 22 February 2014.
- Bertetti, Paolo (Winter 2013–14), "Uomini meccanici e matrimoni interplanetari: La straordinarissima avventura del cinema muto italiano di fantascienza", Anarres, 2, retrieved 21 November 2016
- Denby, David (2009-10-28). "An Education". The New Yorker.
- "Lupin the Third.com". Lupin the Third.com. Retrieved 2014-02-22.
- Hoeper, George (June 1, 1995). Black Bart: Boulevardier Bandit: The Saga of California's Most Mysterious Stagecoach Robber and the Men Who Sought to Capture Him. Quill Driver Books. ISBN 978-1-884995-05-7. Retrieved July 25, 2011.