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A Ranking of All the Characters in the ‘Ocean’s’ Universe

From ‘Ocean’s Eleven’ to ‘Ocean’s 8,’ here is the hierarchy of the members of the heist movies’ ensembles

Warner Bros. Entertainment/Getty Images/Ringer illustration

More than the deliciously convoluted heist plots and the flashy, Soderberghian direction, the Ocean’s movies rely on their characters. And one of the supreme joys of watching these movies is seeing a bunch of famous people get into character and have a really good time together. The characters are what make the initial recruiting montage in Ocean’s Eleven one of the best in cinematic history, and they make the final moment of that movie—in which everyone gathers at the Bellagio fountain before trickling away, one by one—so perfect.

But the parts that make up the Ocean’s ensembles should not be considered equal—there is a hierarchy here. And with Ocean’s 8 adding a slew of new characters into the mix, now is as a good time as any to determine what that hierarchy is. This has never been tried before—no matter what Reuben Tishkoff tells you.


29. Amita

Played by: Mindy Kaling
Appears in: Ocean’s 8

Amita’s entire arc consists of being competent at her job and wanting to find a man. That’s pretty much it. She has one good moment in the movie—“Oui!”—and otherwise just asks a lot of questions and ends up with her Tinder match in France. Girl, you’ve got $38 million—aim higher! —Kate Halliwell

28. Roman Nagel

Played by: Eddie Izzard
Appears in: Ocean’s Twelve, Ocean’s Thirteen

I saw Ocean’s Twelve a few weeks after my high school creative writing teacher (who was the archetypal Cool High School English Teacher) showed the class Dress to Kill, which is the funniest hour and 55 minutes of stand-up in God’s creation. And I was so jazzed to see Eddie Izzard on the screen that I didn’t realize then what a useless part this is. Roman redeems himself as a functional backboard for exposition in the early scenes of Ocean’s Thirteen, but honestly? Eddie Izzard deserved so much better. Michael Baumann

27. Willy Bank

Played by: Al Pacino
Appears in: Ocean’s Thirteen

What does it say about Willy Bank that he doesn’t own the best moment in his most memorable scene? After successfully pulling off the heist that will force Bank out of his own casino, and just before he’s robbed of his diamonds, Danny Ocean confronts the man who shook Sinatra’s hand:

Danny Ocean’s “I know all the guys that you’d hire to come after me; they like me better than you,” is the most vicious way anyone in this series has ever dunked on someone. Imagine threatening someone only for them to grab the knife out of your hand, show you it’s made of rubber, and then use it to stab you anyway. That’s how Willy Bank’s time in Ocean’s Thirteen ends. —Shaker Samman

26. Matsui

Played by: Robbie Coltrane
Appears in: Ocean’s Twelve

I’m still not entirely sure what happened during the Lost in Translation scene with Matsui in Ocean’s Twelve, but I’m pretty confident Linus is a rube and Matsui’s proposed heists provide too small of a reward to help them pay back Terry Benedict, even before the Night Fox beat them to it. Is it purposely confusing? Absolutely. But Robbie Coltrane plays the situation perfectly as Linus supposedly calls his niece “a whore, and a very cheap one.” —Samman

25. Debbie Ocean

Played by: Sandra Bullock
Appears in: Ocean’s 8

Here are the few things we know about Debbie Ocean: She comes from a long line of criminals, including her allegedly deceased older brother, Danny Ocean, but excluding her Aunt Ida. She has a talent for high-end scams that feed her need for Bergdorf Goodman merchandise and Plaza hotel rooms. And she somehow speaks German well enough to trade pleasantries with Heidi Klum. Most crucially, the Met Gala heist that Debbie took five years, eight months, and 12 days to plan is driven by revenge, not romance. She’s a measured, highly capable criminal—and has some historic European diamond necklaces under her coat to prove it. —Alyssa Bereznak

24. Livingston Dell

Played by: Eddie Jemison
Appears in: Ocean’s Eleven, Ocean’s Twelve, Ocean’s Thirteen

Livingston Dell, he of the palms so sweaty that he smears the follow-this-or-the-whole-thing-is-cooked map on his hands to near-oblivion, is nobody’s hero. Particularly not his own. The gang’s go-to electronics guy bombs at stand-up comedy, gets called “Radioshack,” and moves back in with his parents to save money: A suave criminal, in short, he is not. The best summary of his character might be the one he morosely bequeaths upon a lost-in-transit Yen: “He’s the modern man. Disconnected. Frightened. Paranoid, but with good reason. It’s too sad to be funny.” Fortunately for us, anyway, that last bit is wrong. —Claire McNear

23. Isabel Lahiri

Played by: Catherine Zeta-Jones
Appears in: Ocean’s Twelve

I imagine the pitch meeting with Warner Bros. regarding Isabel Lahiri went something like this:

Studio: We loved the first Ocean’s movie, and we can’t wait to get a second. You said this one will focus more on Rusty?

Writers: Yes. We can’t wait to flesh out his backstory. So it turns out the love of his life was an investigator who was on his trail from the start but didn’t turn him in because of love, and she doesn’t chase him after he bails through a bathroom window. Now she’s a high-ranking member of Europol! And her father was an accomplished thief.

Studio: Oh, so she must be exceptionally competent.

Writers: Well, sort of. She forges paperwork, misses arresting her ex-boyfriend like a dozen times, and eventually abandons her post altogether because she got caught skirting due process. Also, she misses her dad.

Studio: Perfect. Let’s make sure she’s not in the last film of the trilogy. —Samman

22. Abigail Sponder

Played by: Ellen Barkin
Appears in: Ocean’s Thirteen

I don’t know why she’s so low on this list. Maybe she got dragged into the Ocean’s Thirteen blowback, or maybe I’m just blinded by my crush on Ellen Barkin, which is so gigantic that I’ve seriously considered watching Animal Kingdom on TNT. If the first three Ocean’s movies have a weakness, it’s that they don’t have great bad guys—Terry Benedict is a blank slate, Willy Bank is a post-Heat growlfest from Al Pacino, and Vincent Cassel’s Night Fox, while stupendously fun, is underutilized. Sponder is glamorous without being flashy, imposing without being shouty, and the kind of ruthlessly competent you’d need to be to keep a casino empire running while Pacino’s off barking at shadows. —Baumann

21. Molly Star

Played by: Cherry Jones
Appears in: Ocean’s Twelve

The problem with Linus, in a lot of ways, is that his whiny pickpocket backstory isn’t as compelling as the other guys’—that is, until his mom, Cherry Jones, shows up. I remember being genuinely surprised by this little twist, which is rare in the Ocean’s movies; I am also consistently charmed by Jones’s combination of international con-woman know-how and motherly pride. It’s a single-scene cameo, but it works every time. Also: great hair tie. —Amanda Dobbins

20. Linus Caldwell

Played by: Matt Damon
Appears in: Ocean’s Eleven, Ocean’s Twelve, Ocean’s Thirteen

Poor Linus. All he ever wanted to do was make his parents, a pair of legendary cons (OK, likely legendary cons, as we never get official confirmation with his mother) who are deep in government cover, proud. Unfortunately for Linus, things never quite work out according to plan: Brad Pitt’s Rusty Ryan seems to take it upon himself to flatten Damon on screen, which he does mercilessly and delightfully, and both mom (in Twelve) and dad (in Thirteen) eventually have to bail Linus and pals out of trouble. You get to wanting to tell the kid to lighten up, but, well, if your parents were Cherry Jones and Bob Einstein (a.k.a. Marty Funkhouser), you might have some trouble keeping it together, too. —McNear

19. Terry Benedict

Played by: Andy Garcia
Appears in: Ocean’s Eleven, Ocean’s Twelve, Ocean’s Thirteen

Terry Benedict’s biggest problem is that his normal speaking voice is a cousin of most people’s whisper. He lingers on certain consonants too long, and his casual conversation is conducted at a low decibel level. Ocean’s Eleven is meticulous and deliberate, but among all the disguises and aliases, Terry Benedict seems like the imposter. Can’t he just speak normally? —Juliet Litman

18. Lou

Played by: Cate Blanchett
Appears in: Ocean’s 8

I have to imagine that the character description for Lou read something like “Cate Blanchett smizes in a bunch of great suits. Also, she likes motorcycles.” On one hand, this goes a very long way—the single shot of Lou strutting across the street in a spangly green jumpsuit prompted spontaneous applause from people in my theater. On the other hand, giving Blanchett so little to do should be a federal crime. In the next movie, let her have some on-page sexual tension with something that doesn’t have two wheels. (Debbie is right there, screenwriters.) —Halliwell

17. Basher Tarr

Played by: Don Cheadle
Appears in: Ocean’s Eleven, Ocean’s Twelve, Ocean’s Thirteen

The first time I saw Ocean’s Eleven, I was young enough to not know what constitutes a “good” accent, so I saw Basher for who he truly is: the third-coolest guy in the movie.

“It’ll be nice to work with proper villains again” is the ethos of a great bachelor party, cupping his balls before detonating the EMP is the most relatable moment of the entire trilogy, and “You had one job to do” is by far the most quoted line from the Ocean’s universe. You can take your Don Cheadle slander and shove it up ya knickers. —Danny Heifetz

16. Rose Weil

Played by: Helena Bonham Carter
Appears in: Ocean’s 8

When you cast Helena Bonham Carter for a role, you know the character will end up being 80 percent Helena and 20 percent whatever is on the page. This worked perfectly in Ocean’s 8’s favor, as Bonham Carter transformed a potentially annoying and flighty character into the charming weirdo. Rose’s best moment comes when she makes her Met Gala debut in a ridiculous headdress and gown that looks exactly like something Bonham Carter would wear on a red carpet herself. —Halliwell

15. Turk Malloy

Played by: Scott Caan
Appears in: Ocean’s Eleven, Ocean’s Twelve, Ocean’s Thirteen

If we’re giving out points for heist-related versatility, the Malloy brothers could probably be ranked higher on this list—any good heist could use someone that can fix things, drive a car, wear really absurd but convincing disguises, and distract security guards with balloon-related skirmishing. The more diminutive Malloy brother, Turk Malloy (Scott Caan), isn’t going to be mistaken for a criminal mastermind like the Ocean siblings, but along with his brother Virgil, he is an indispensable part of any good heist. Besides, isn’t elite Ocean’s comic relief a crucial skill in and of itself? —Miles Surrey

14. Virgil Malloy

Played by: Casey Affleck
Appears in: Ocean’s Eleven, Ocean’s Twelve, Ocean’s Thirteen

With apologies with Turk, we’re putting Virgil Malloy just a tick above his brother by virtue of cosmetic bonus points. If Ocean’s 8 taught us anything, it’s that fashion is the franchise’s most valuable currency, and Virgil has it in spades. The dude has an iconically bad mustache—the type typically reserved for B-movie action villains or ’70s porn stars—on the lanky, Urban Outfitters cashier frame of Casey Affleck. It’s kind of endearing. If nothing else, this arbitrary rankings boost can make up for the time Turk crushed Virgil’s really cool remote control monster truck. —Surrey

13. Yen

Played by: Shaobo Qin
Appears in: Ocean’s Eleven, Ocean’s Twelve, Ocean’s Thirteen, Ocean’s 8

So much of the success of the Ocean’s gang rests on pretty white men in suits having galactic quantities of self-confidence. And while that’s fun, I don’t know if you’d call that skill, necessarily. You know who’s skilled? My man the Amazing Yen.

In such a talky, quippy franchise, you need at least one guy who can pull his weight silently, or in Yen’s case, speaking mostly in Chinese. When he does speak English, it’s mostly in profanities, and to great effect: His “Where the fuck you been?” to Danny and Linus in Ocean’s Eleven is one of the great “you get one F-bomb, use it wisely” moments in a PG-13 movie. Yen is like a great bench player: He doesn’t need many shots, but he can score and improve the players around him when he does get into the game. Great ensembles are built on such characters. —Baumann

12. Constance

Played by: Awkwafina
Appears in: Ocean’s 8

Ocean’s 8 has the tone of a comedy throughout, but it only rarely delivers truly funny moments. Most of these are thanks to Awkwafina’s Constance, who speaks for the sighted population when she declares that Debbie’s probably-not-dead brother Danny is hot. (Look, someone had to say it.) Between stealing accessories left and right and advising Amita on the finer points of Tinder, Constance injects some much-needed humor into the movie’s light-hearted, not-quite-funny banter. You’d subscribe to her YouTube channel. Don’t lie. —Halliwell

11. Nine Ball

Played by: Rihanna
Appears in: Ocean’s 8

It’s Rihanna; it’s Rihanna as a hacker—that feels like a good enough argument for why Nine Ball ranks this high, but OK, fine, I’ll extrapolate. The funniest moment in Ocean’s 8 is when RiRi is cruising the Facebook page of a security exec looking for a way to exploit him. Looking over his way-too-many posts devoted to his Wheaten Terrier, Rihanna whispers to no one, “You poor man.” It’s perfect. Also, Nine Ball is the only reason Debbie and Co. are able to make a facsimile of the Toussaint necklace, and she’s also the only reason they’re able to find a way around the necklace’s security magnet—so she’s also a valuable team player. —Andrew Gruttadaro

10. Tammy

Played by: Sarah Paulson
Appears in: Ocean’s 8

Tammy is the secret weapon that keeps Ocean’s 8 running smoothly, Peter Pan collars and all. I want a Solo-style prequel about her former life robbing trucks on the highway, with Debbie at her side and the wind in her perfectly balayaged hair. I also require way more background on how she runs an illegal business out of her garage without her husband’s knowledge. And what is this business she’s running at the end of the movie—as The Ringer’s Alyssa Bereznak asked, is it an Amazon competitor? In short, give me Tammy vs. Jeff Bezos in Ocean’s 9 or I walk. —Halliwell

9. Bruce Willis

Played by: Bruce Willis
Appears in: Ocean’s Twelve

Rumor has it that Bruce Willis was originally offered the part of Danny Ocean, but he graciously turned it down so that we could all watch this scene from Ocean’s Twelve:

I will embed this clip in every blog post I can. It’s quintessential Ocean’s: giant movie stars making fun of themselves, and also each other, while also knowing that paying audiences are entirely delighted to watch them joke about SpongeBob and Taos. Then, presumably, they all went out and got Limoncello-drunk in Rome together. Thank you to Bruce Willis the Character for making this possible. —Dobbins

8. Daphne Kluger

Played by: Anne Hathaway
Appears in: Ocean’s 8

It’s hard to imagine why an actress as rich and famous and fawned over as actress Daphne Kluger might want to be part of a criminal operation. But over the course of the Ocean’s 8 heist, it becomes clear that—in addition to craving attention from the press and the public—the over-the-top star also enjoys stirring up and starring in real-life dramas, too. Her abilities to feign utter cluelessness and produce real vomit are the necessary final elements to Debbie Ocean’s masterfully constructed Met Gala robbery. And as a bonus prize to her generous group cut, she picks up the “close female friends” she so desired along the way. —Bereznak

7. Danny Ocean

Played by: George Clooney
Appears in: Ocean’s Eleven, Ocean’s Twelve, Ocean’s Thirteen

Rumors about who could have played the titular Ocean other than George Clooney exist, but they are irrelevant. Clooney’s Danny Ocean is so calculating that the audience never sees him doing the math. He has all the answers to the questions before they’ve been posed. He knows what comes next before everyone else. And even though he doesn’t have the girl, the reunion is a foregone conclusion. Clooney’s talent is that while there’s never any doubt that Danny Ocean will succeed in all of his pursuits, how he does it is a must-watch. Clooney embodies the most swoon-worthy liar-and-thief to such an extreme that I’m not sure he was acting at all. —Litman

6. Frank Catton

Played by: Bernie Mac
Appears in: Ocean’s Eleven, Ocean’s Twelve, Ocean’s Thirteen

Frank Catton once shook a man’s hand so hard that the man did exactly what Frank Catton wanted him to do.

Frank Catton also once called Linus (who was posing as an NGC agent) “a goddamn cracker” and then said, “You might as well call it whitejack!”

Frank Catton is one of the best. I miss Bernie Mac more than I realized. —Gruttadaro

5. Francois Toulour

Played by: Vincent Cassel
Appears in: Ocean’s Twelve, Ocean’s Thirteen

A Bond villain minus the dumb plan is essentially a rich, unconventionally handsome loner with great taste and an unusual conversational pattern. May I present to you: Francois Toulour, a.k.a. the Night Fox, a character built entirely of in-jokes that somehow all land. It helps that he is played by Vincent Cassel, a specialist in inscrutable French charm; it also helps that Toulour lives on Lake Como, where George Clooney (the real one) spends his summers. But all you really need is this:

The guy turned “laser parkour”—for the purposes of retrieving a Fabergé egg—into an iconic image. Respect. —Dobbins

4. Reuben Tishkoff

Played by: Elliott Gould
Appears in: Ocean’s Eleven, Ocean’s Twelve, Ocean’s Thirteen, Ocean’s 8

“You know the three most successful robberies in the history of Vegas?” And so begins a perfect movie montage, narrated by Reuben Tishkoff. Reuben is a beautiful character played by Elliott Gould, who looks like he’s never had so much fun. He is a hilariously small man who cloaks his pettiness in literal gold cloaks. He stabs tufts of romaine lettuce with a desperate vigor I’ve never seen elsewhere. He is Las Vegas personified. —Gruttadaro

3. Tess Ocean

Played by: Julia Roberts
Appears in: Ocean’s Eleven, Ocean’s Twelve

There is no lazier movie plot than one motivated by the loss of a woman—until that woman is played by Julia Roberts. My favorite thing about America’s Sweetheart is that she hates being a sweetheart (and also seemingly just hates a lot of people); running just below Roberts’s winning smile is a strain of disdain and boredom so palpable that they made Runaway Bride about it. In Ocean’s Eleven, Roberts channels her discontent into Tess Ocean, an ex-wife who has turned her rebuilding into a form of revenge: charging Picassos to the enemy. In Ocean’s Twelve, she gives one of the more honest representations of wifedom that I’ve ever seen—skeptical, inconvenienced, and ready to fix everything when the “plans” fall through—and then turns it into a commentary on being the Biggest Movie Star in the World. In both cases, the movie pivots on her annoyance. I’m still waiting for someone to make a movie about mine.

Roberts isn’t in Ocean’s Thirteen—the bad one—because they wouldn’t give her a big enough part. The House may not always win in the Ocean’s movies, but Tess does. —Dobbins

2. Saul Bloom

Played by: Carl Reiner
Appears in: Ocean’s Eleven, Ocean’s Twelve, Ocean’s Thirteen

There’s nothing more relatable than an old guy who sits around and spits at everything the young guns do. Me, I have my grandpa, a man who once corrected the way I held a fork. And the Ocean’s crew, they have Saul Bloom, a hall of fame con man who couldn’t be less impressed with every other human on the planet. When he talks, it sounds as if he’s annoyed that someone made him waste effort and open his mouth. He calls Danny “Daniel,” as in, “If you ever ask me that question again, Daniel, you will not wake up the following morning.” When he hears Tess is dating Terry Benedict, he responds, “She’s too tall for him!”—literally the best and most astute reaction possible.

But at the same time—and just like my grandpa—he’s impossible not to love. You watch him peel an orange, or hear him talk about his girlfriend (who works at the unmentionables section at Macy’s), and all you can hope for is that one day he’ll afford you his begrudging respect. —Gruttadaro

1. Rusty Ryan

Played by: Brad Pitt
Appears in: Ocean’s Eleven, Ocean’s Twelve, Ocean’s Thirteen

The Ocean name is on the franchise, but the first three movies belong to Rusty Ryan. From his iconic introductory shot—inhaling nachos in front of the Capitol Records Building in the background as he waits to give Topher Grace and the WB All-Stars a poker lesson—Rusty is the impossibly cool audience avatar. Now, “audience avatar” usually means someone dropped into a world they don’t understand, but in the case of Rusty, not much gets by him. Instead Rusty is there to eat popcorn; bring up points of order; eat burgers, ice cream, and candy; pop sentimental balloons; provide much needed if incomplete instructions; and eat shrimp cocktail. He is there to say isn’t this all ridiculous—and isn’t this all so ridiculously cool. Chris Ryan