I recently found myself watching an old movie in which diamonds play the primary role. It reminds me that Hollywood has long had a fascination with diamonds. Diamonds lend themselves well to cinema - whether it’s a love story, a crime story, or an action-packed thriller, diamonds provide both the romance and intrigue that moviegoers are looking for. I’ve decided to compile a list of some of my favorite diamond-themed movies, and I hope to hear about yours too..
Flawless - 2007
Although the movie never got the acclaim that producers were hoping for, it was nonetheless entertaining, and made much better by the performance of Michael Caine. The story involves the manager of the London Diamond Corporation, played by Demi Moore, who is repeatedly passed up for promotions in favor of less-qualified men. Despite helping the company to salvage a critical contract with the Russians, she is fired from her job, and becomes disgruntled. Along with a company janitor, she hatches a plot to rob the company of millions of dollars in diamonds. The plot is unraveled thanks to the clever investigative work of Michael Caine, who delivers an impressive performance.
The movie was first released in Germany in 2007, and had a limited release in the USA in 2008. It earned just $6.8 million, despite a $20 million budget.
Blood Diamond – 2006
Most of us in the diamond industry can remember a sense of anxiety leading up to the premiere of Blood Diamond, and the media spectacle leading up to its release. With the casting of Leonardo DiCaprio, who would later be nominated for a best actor for his performance, the movie was widely anticipated, and was played in many countries around the world.
The film depicted an African diamond smuggler in war-torn Sierra Leone in search of a pink diamond the size of an egg. It succeeded in bringing to light some of the atrocities of the war in that country, in which, amongst other things, people had their hands amputated to prevent them from voting. The film's ending, in which a conference is held concerning conflict diamonds, refers to a historic meeting that took place in Kimberley, South Africa, in 2000. This meeting would establish the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme that was aimed at preventing the export of diamonds from known conflict zones.
Despite mixed reviews, the film was a box office success, taking in an estimated $171.4 million, and earning acting accolades for both DiCaprio and supporting actor Djimon Hounsou.
Diamonds are Forever - 1971
The seventh movie in the James Bond series was believed by many at the time to be the last Bond film to feature Sean Connery as the iconic super spy. This was mostly because he stated publically many times that he would never play the role again (due in part to some rather silly scenes involving a stolen moon buggy on a fake movie set in the Nevada desert). The film follows Bond as he impersonates a diamond smuggler to infiltrate a smuggling ring, led by his nemesis Ernst Blofeld, who plans to use diamonds to build a space-based laser weapon.
Although producers had experimented with using other actors to play Bond, the United Artists Studio wanted Connery back so badly that they paid him a (then) record fee of $1.25 million. The film was a commercial success, bringing in $116 million with just a $7.2 million budget. However, some criticized the film for its overall impractical tone.
Snatch – 2000
Following up on his debut smash hit Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Guy Ritchie released Snatch in 2000, featuring a strong cast including Brad Pitt, Jason Statham, and Benicio del Toro. The movie revolves around the theft of an 86-carat diamond from an Antwerp diamond dealer. The fast-paced film sees countless plot reversals and strange twists of fate that lead away from, and then back to, the diamond (that may or may not eventually end up in the stomach of a dog).
The movie was a success at the box office after its release in the United Kingdom, followed by a US debut in 2001. It brought in an estimated $83.6 million.
The Bank Job – 2008
Perhaps the most interesting feature of the 2008 movie is that it was supposedly based on the true events of the 1971 Baker Street robbery in Central London, where thieves tunneled into a bank vault through the basement of a nearby shop. The movie was meant to reveal the truth of the event for the first time, since the real story couldn’t be told because of a D-notice government gag order, allegedly in place to protect a prominent member of the British Royal Family. Many believe that the vault in which the perpetrators tunneled into contained compromising pictures of the late Princess Margaret.
In real life, many of the perpetrators of the 1971 robbery were apprehended and convicted, although not all of those thought to be involved were found. In truth, perhaps only a select few know if the events depicted in the movie were true or not, or what the real motivation of the robbery was. In any case, the movie was a moderate success at the box-office, and an entertaining watch. It grossed an estimated $64.8 million.
Marathon Man – 1976
Adapted from a 1974 William Goldman novel by the same name, Marathon Man follows an insidious network of diamond couriers who transport diamonds stolen from wealthy Jews during World War II. The diamonds are used principally to finance the hiding of a Nazi war criminal who flees to South America, echoing the real-life escape of Nazi Josef Mengele, known as the ‘Angel of Death’.
Marathon Man features Dustin Hoffman as the lead character, whose brother is at the heart of the diamond courier network. It earned supporting actor Laurence Olivier an Oscar for his role as Dr. Szell, the antagonist in the story. The movie earned over $28 million at the box office, with a budget of $6.5 million.
Titanic – 1997
Although Titanic was of course based on the sinking of the ill-fated ship in 1912, a diamond does feature prominently in the movie. The blue stone, known in the movie as the ‘Heart of the Ocean’, was apparently owned by Louis XVI, and bears many resemblances to the Hope diamond. The 56-carat blue heart-shaped stone is a gift from the story’s antagonist to the lead female character, played by Kate Winslet. At the end of the movie, the stone is dropped into the ocean above the wreckage of the ship, where it finds its final resting place.
Titanic was, of course, a massive success, and one of the most anticipated movies of all time. It still ranks second in total box office revenues at over $2.2 billion, behind only Avatar, which was also directed by James Cameron. The movie tied a record, with 14 Academy Award nominations, and it took home 11 wins, including best picture for 1997.
A Fish Called Wanda - 1988
Written by John Cleese who also starred in the movie, and directed by Charles Crichton, a Fish Called Wanda follows a gang of diamond thieves who repeatedly double-cross each other to find the stolen gems that are hidden by the gang’s leader. The movie continues to present unexpected twists of fate right up to the very last scene. It was nominated for three Academy Awards, and actor Kevin Kline took home the best supporting actor award.
Filmed in London during the summer of 1987, the film earned $62.5 million at the box office. After its success, the cast reunited in 1997 for an ‘equal’ (not a sequel or a prequel) called Fierce Creatures, but the movie failed to achieve any of the success of its precursor.
Thief - 1981
Although Thief never achieved mass box-office success, it is still a highly-rated movie, which Robert Ebert called “one of the most intelligent thrillers I’ve seen”. The movie is based on the 1975 novel The Home Invaders: Confessions of a Cat Burglar by Frank Hohimer, the pen name of real-life jewel thief John Seybold, who wrote the story while in prison. The movie tells the story of a hardened ex-con and master jewelry thief confronted by the mob over the proceeds of his thefts. It features James Caan in the lead role, with some surprisingly good performances from Willie Nelson and Tuesday Weld.
With a budget of $7 million and proceeds of $11.5 million, the movie was never really a big money maker, but was a cinematic gem just the same.
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes - 1953
This classic movie features Marilyn Monroe in the prime of her career as Lorelei Lee, a woman with a passion for diamonds, who believes that attracting a rich husband is one of the few ways that a woman can succeed economically. The movie is perhaps best known for Monroe’s performance of “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend”, a musical number that remains iconic to this day.
The song, along with the De Beers’ advertising campaign featuring the slogan ‘A Diamond is Forever’, helped bring diamonds into the mainstream consciousness of the American consumer, which remains the industry’s most important market. The pink dress that Monroe wore during the performance was described as “the most important film costume to ever come to auction” when it was sold for $310,000 in 2010.
Diamonds will surely continue to feature prominently on the big-screen in years to come, and I look forward to seeing what might come next.
The views expressed here are solely those of the author in his private capacity. No one should act upon any opinion or information in this website without consulting a professional qualified adviser.
Diamond industrialist Ehud Arye Laniado is a man passionate about diamonds. From his early 20s in Africa and later in Belgium honing his expertise in forecasting the value of polished diamonds by examining rough diamonds by hand, till today four decades later, as chairman of his international diamond businesses spanning mining, exploration, rough and polished diamond valuation, trading, manufacturing, retail and consultancy services, Laniado has mastered both the miniscule details of evaluating and pricing individual rough diamonds and the entire structure of the diamond industry. Today, his global operations are at the forefront of the industry, recognised in diamond capitals from Mumbai to Tel Aviv and Hong Kong to New York.