Trains make good subjects for movies. They're big, powerful, dynamic-there's just something interesting about trains. It probably goes all the way back to that urban legend about early movie audiences jumping out of the way in horror as they watched a train move toward the camera. All metaphorically aboard for these four train movies!
Maybe the most famous train movie of all time, Alfred Hitchcock's wild thriller is about two men: One a tennis pro, the other a psychopath, who meet on a train. One of them (guess which) suggests that they "trade murders" in order to kill bothersome people in their lives without getting caught. The movie goes along from there with all the narrative propulsion of a speeding train, even though it's pretty train-free after that first meeting. It's Hitchcock, though, so he gets the free pass on to this list that he so richly deserves.
"The Narrow Margin"
Unlike "Strangers", this classic film noir takes place almost completely on a train, featuring a gangster's widow under police protection from the mob as she takes the train from Chicago to LA to testify before a grand jury. The action is taut, quick, and suspenseful, with at least one big plot twist coming around the bend. Once again, it's the narrow quarters of the train, mixed with the fact that all types of people can ride a train, that really help sell the suspense in this movie.
The train movie isn't just a relic of a previous era. This sci-fi thriller starring Jake Gyllenhaal takes place on a Chicago commuter train that gets blown up by a terrorist's explosive. This is where it gets complicated: Gyllenhaal is actually a government agent of some kind, sent back to the past to relive an eight-minute section of time in order to find out who set the bomb and to stop him from doing it again. Just watch the movie, it makes sense, we promise.
"Murder On the Orient Express"
By far the best Agatha Christie film adaptation, "Murder On the Orient Express" tells the story of a mysterious murder that takes place on board a train. Christie mainstay Hercule Poirot, played to perfection by Albert Finney, is on the case, and he wisely suspects everyone, while suspecting no one, as the old saying goes. Like the course the train must travel, this movie is full of wild bends and daring twists, all leading to the big reveal, something Christie stories do exceptionally well.