If you’ve ever been stuck indoors and driven stir crazy from lack of social interaction, these trapped movies help you feel not so alone.
Of course, right now, a great deal of the world’s population find themselves trapped at home due to a stay at home order. Business Insider estimates that 95 percent of the U.S. population is under an order to stay at home unless they have “essential” business to conduct.
What is a Trapped Movie?
A trapped movie is a film whose main characters find themselves stuck, stranded, or otherwise unable to escape a particular circumstance in order to return to normal life.
Technically speaking, a trapped movie can take place anywhere. For instance, we could make an argument that The Predator, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, is a trapped movie. Because he is essentially trapped in the jungle with The Predator. Even though it’s outdoors, and he could conceivably walk away, we all know that’s not easy to do when being hunted alive in the middle of an untamed wilderness (if we had a nickel…).
But for the purposes of this list of recommendations, in order to honor the situation we find ourselves in with COVID-19, we’re sticking with a trapped indoors theme.
What Trapped Movies Didn’t Make the Cut?
There are some movies that we strongly considered but chose not to include for various reasons.
While we don’t wholeheartedly recommend these movies, they are in the general vicinity of trapped movies, and you may find some personal gems.
If you haven’t seen these movies, they’re worth a shot. Especially if you have spare quarantine time on your hands.0
An American Crime
An American Crime follows the story of a young woman held prisoner in a private residence and tortured by a sadistic captor. Honestly, Room beat this one out in terms of sheer quality, and we wanted to keep the official list streamlined and only the best-of-the-best. Still, it does fit our criteria, even if the critical opinion and overall quality isn’t quite there. You may want to check it out for yourself to see what you think.
This story about members of a rock band who find themselves trapped in a venue’s greenroom did check all of the required boxes. For the most part. We just didn’t feel confident recommending Green Room along the theme of trapped indoors. Green Room doesn’t convey the long, drawn out claustrophobic feeling that we’re going for with this list, although there are plenty of tense and adrenaline-pumping scenes.
The Mist, which features the most devastating ending in movie history, came the closest of all these near misses to making the final cut. In the end, we just couldn’t reconcile the fact that a good chunk of the movie involves getting from location to location, so they’re technically outdoors quite often. Like one of those rooms on HGTV, it’s an indoor-outdoor movie, so it’s hard to classify as just one or the other. However, it’s still highly recommended, just prepare yourself to be very mad at the world for letting the filmmakers do THAT ending.
We did count this as being technically indoors. Just look, there are doors on that phone booth and he’s definitely on the inside of them. But we generally weren’t fans of this flick, Phone Booth. Also, the main character saw plenty of sunshine and fresh air. Despite the uncomfortable status of “trapped” in a phone booth with a sniper rifle trained on him. That’s not fair to us quarantines.
Technically speaking, Jimmy Stewart‘s character could have left the apartment plenty of times. Stewart’s photographer character found himself temporarily disabled after a work-related accident, but he could have pulled it together enough to use a wheelchair. Or had one of his many drop-ins take him for a stroll. So, while much of the movie’s appeal is the trapped, stir-crazy feeling, much of it is self-imposed. Rear Window is still one of Alfred Hitchcock‘s best movies, and we recommend it for anything but this specifically tailored list.
REC (2007) and Quarantine (2008)
REC is a Spanish film and Quarantine is its American remake. Both movies feature TV journalists trapped inside a quarantined building with a patient-turned-monster. We wanted to include it, because… I mean, the title alone, right? But the 2008 remake got widely panned by critics, and REC isn’t much better. We decided to sidestep the obvious bait and just leave these trapped movies as honorable mentions.
There are so many things that make Shawshank Redemption a perfect movie to watch during this COVID-19 quarantine, but it just didn’t feel like it honored the spirit of a trapped movie. For one, are prisoners trapped? Or are they… imprisoned? The distinction seems pedantic, but it does make a difference. Still, we can’t recommend watching The Shawshank Redemption enough while you social distance yourself.
Our Top 10 Trapped Movies for Film Buffs Stuck Indoors
Now that the preamble is out of the way, let’s dive right in. We hope you find these somewhat soothing during this time of isolation. Stay strong and stay home–you’re saving lives. Maybe even your own.
This is not one of those legendary Stephen King stories that will stay with you for years afterward, but the trapped movie entertains in just the right amount and does contain a dose of that Stephen King charm.
John Cusack plays a paranormal debunking expert who wants to stay in the much-fabled, titular room of 1408 at the Dolphin Hotel. To put it mildly, the hotel room is rumored to be haunted.
This is an interesting one on the list, because it’s an instance of a character willingly putting themselves into a trapped situation. Things get a little complicated later in the story, but Mike Enslin (Cusack) could easily just walk out the hotel room’s door at any point in the beginning.
Sort of like us during quarantine, but we know the potential cost may outweigh the pleasures of freedom.
9) 10 Cloverfield Lane
John Goodman is just too good in this movie.
Mary (Elizabeth Winstead) wrecks her car and gets knocked out. Post car crash, she wakes up in a bunker with Howard (John Goodman) and Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.).
She’s told the world is basically over and they’re lucky to be alive in this fallout shelter, thanks to Goodman, a supposed Good Samaritan who found Winstead just as stuff hit the fan.
But is Goodman a good guy or is he a nut job? Or both? 10 Cloverfield Lane is like the “will they, won’t they” of character judgment, and it keeps you guessing way longer than most movies manage to accomplish.
Hopefully you’re just stuck in quarantine with the equivalent of Elizabeth Winstead, who is a badass in this trapped movie, and not a doppelganger of John Goodman’s character.
Talk about trapped. Buried is about a man, Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds) trapped inside a coffin, which is well… buried. With him to aid his escape, only a cell phone. Oh, and a few creature comforts: a lighter, flask, flashlight, knife, glowsticks, pen, and pencil.
Set in Iraq, Ryan Reynolds plays the main character, an American truck driver. Although we get interaction with other characters, Reynolds is the only person we see on camera. The rest appear only in voice via Conroy’s cell phone.
Director Rodrigo Cortés’ ambitious filming choice heightens the claustrophobia of this trapped movie and really brings out some of Reynolds’ best acting.
It may trigger panic in some of you experiencing similar feelings while stuck in quarantine, although we can only hope you’ll see that things could be far, far worse.
7) The Martian
Andy Weir‘s novel and subsequent sci-fi thriller movie adaptation–perfectly cast with star Matt Damon–features an astronaut stranded (or trapped, eh?) on Mars. So, yes, The Martian is a movie about a man trapped… on an entire planet to himself.
While it seems like that’d make for some spacious feelings, it’s quite the opposite. Mark Watney (Damon) must work in tight little habitats, air locked and pressurized. This makes for an extremely claustrophobic feeling, especially in the many moments where Watney finds himself with even less to work with than which he started out.
Making matters worse, there’s a ticking close element to this sci-fi thriller trapped movie, which makes it feel all the more desperate. Hmm… almost like some folks in this pandemic-influenced economy.
Honestly, this strikes a chord with many of our experiences during this quarantine. We can go outside. We can see outside. Heck, we can even drive around and look out car windows, and we can make supply runs to grocery stores. But we experience isolation at the same time. It’s a strange mix that The Martian, without meaning to, captures surprisingly well.
Yet another Stephen King story (we really can’t seem to stay away from this guy). Misery stands apart as perhaps the quintessential trapped movie.
Paul Sheldon (James Caan) is a novelist who just published the latest installment of his successful series. Although, Sheldon’s book does have a somewhat controversial end to it that has left some fans upset.
When Sheldon crashes his car during a blizzard, nurse Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates) finds him and takes him back to her house. As she begins to nurse him back to health, she reads his new manuscript, and well… she was his number one fan, but now…
Misery is a classic. And while it’s not a biological threat keeping James Caan at bay, it’s a perfect movie for anyone who knows what it feels like to be trapped.
5) Panic Room
David Fincher followed up the edgy Fight Club with the trapped movie Panic Room, more of a psychological thriller reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock.
Meg Altman (Jodie Foster) and her daughter Sarah (Kristen Stewart) have just bought a new house. One nifty little selling feature: a securely fortified room meant to protect the house’s occupants in case of emergency. It’s colloquially referred to as a panic room.
Well, of course, this panic room sees use. Three ne’er do wells attempt to break in and mother and daughter Altman lock themselves in their house’s fortress-like room.
Of course, things grow complicated. We won’t spoil it, but let’s just say the movie isn’t two hours of watching people sit in a room.
This is an especially good movie for today’s situation, because the characters are relatively safe inside the panic room, but danger waits right outside the door. Only the most essential tasks are worth risking a trip outside that shelter.
Before Brie Larson inexplicably became detested by fanboys everywhere, she starred in the heartfelt trapped movie Room.
Joy (Larson) is a young woman, a kidnap victim, held hostage for nearly a decade. Her captor, Old Nick (Sean Bridgers), routinely rapes her and at some point over the years he impregnated her.
So, Joy gave birth in captivity and now does her best to raise her son (Jacob Tremblay) while being held prisoner.
Doubtless, few if any of us are having as horrific a time in isolation as Joy. Maybe that can serve as some solace. But if nothing else, we can’t help but feel connected to the young boy, who believes the outside world outside his four-wall world is just a fantasy.
Many unsatisfying games have been played in households across the world as families shelter in place due to pandemic-related orders.
Jigsaw‘s game takes it to the next horrible level in this trapped movie.
Two strangers, photographer Adam (Leigh Whannel) and oncologist Lawrence (Cary Elwes), wake up in a dirty bathroom after a kidnapper knocked them unconscious.
After watching some creepy videos starring a doll, a mask, and a deep, distorted voice, they learn that a serial killer wants them to complete a puzzle in order to free themselves.
One side effect to watching Saw is that you’ll feel like washing your hands thoroughly. That’s a bonus!
2) The Shining
Stephen King has got to really go stir crazy when writing in whatever underground bunker he chooses to write from within, because he creates scenario after scenario that draws upon isolation.
The Shining is a classic–both the horror novel and this trapped movie. Stanley Kubrick‘s film adaptation of Stephen King’s novel is an intimately pieced together work of art.
The Shining is painstakingly detailed. It borders on mental illness. Much like the main character Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) experiences, as he devolves into madness. A madness at once influenced by ghosts, alcohol, and isolation.
Now, it’s mostly the weather that keeps the Torrance family trapped within the Overlook Hotel. But we say the trapped feeling is all too familiar to today’s climate.
1) This Is The End
There have been plenty of jokes about how this pandemic has apocalyptic vibes. But hey, it could be worse. It could be an actual apocalypse.
This Is The End is hilarious. And it’s one of those movies that will probably be remembered for years after its release. Simply because it’s such a time capsule for that cohort of comedic actors. In that regard, it’s sort of like Animal House. Except the characters find themselves stuck in a house instead of throwing a party in a house.
No, the Coronavirus Pandemic is not an apocalyptic event, and we want to make it clear that we don’t mean to compare it 1:1 whatsoever. Let’s not lose our heads. But still… it might make you feel seen and heard. Especially for those of you out there stuck with some rowdy and, turns out, not-so-nice loved ones.
Final Thoughts: Trapped Movies
None of these trapped movies quite capture the strange feeling of isolation, captivity, agoraphobia, and so much more, of the Coronavirus Pandemic.
But until they make dozens of movies set in this timeframe, for which we can hardly wait, these films will have to do the job.
Did we miss a movie you consider the quintessential trapped movie? Let us know in the comments below!
And one question for you… how’s your toilet paper situation? We take donations…
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