Wednesday, June 25 by

The 7 Greatest Films That Took Place Entirely on Trains

By Jared Jones

After a year-long creative dispute with Miramax co-founder Harvey Weinstein — the man Gary Oldman would likely refer to as Hollywood’s H.J.I.C (Head Jew in Charge) Bong Joon-Ho’s Snowpiercer is finally set to receive a limited theatrical release here in the States this weekend. This should come as thrilling news to fans of Ho’s previous films, 2006’s epic monster flick The Host and 2009’s similarly excellent Mother, as well as the rapidly increasing number of Americans with train fetishes. As someone who lies firmly in both camps (emphasis on firmly), I quite literally could not be more aroused excited.

Snowpiercer is essentially the story of the Montgomery Bus Boycott reimagined in the ice-age dystopia of 2031, only swap the Cleveland Avenue bus for a train carrying the Earth’s only remaining inhabitants and Rosa Parks for the Flame On guy. If that didn’t sell you on this movie, I don’t know what you’re even doing here. In any case, Snowpiercer got me thinking long and hard (also, firm) about other train-based movies, which can only mean that I am about to rank the ones I can remember in descending order for you because Internet.

#7 – Unstoppable

Denzel Washington stars as a know-it-all, smooth-as-jazz train engineer paired with, get this, a fresh-faced white dude on the first day of his new job. Ropes are shown, wise is cracked. Not before long, ol’ Denzel and his newbee partner are forced to partake in a suicide mission to catch a runaway train carrying more deadly chemicals than George W. Bush could dream up as an excuse to invade a Middle Eastern country (topical). Hijinks and ‘splosions ensue.

#6 – Night Train

Leelee Sobieski might be the worst actress in the history of the world, but she has really nice boobs and this movie was actually kind of decent. Lovecraft-ian, even. Three strangers find a dead body on a train that happens to be in possession of a butt load of diamonds, or maybe they’re emeralds, it’s not really important. Anyway, they all agree to do the logical thing and chop said dead guy into pieces while killing off anyone who dares question them. Co-starring Steve Zahn and the incomparable Danny Glover.

#5  The Taking of Pelham One Two Three

Fun fact: The guy who directed this movie went on to direct Jaws 4: The Revenge, which is quite possibly the stupidest film ever made.  

#4 – The Lady Vanishes

Yesterday I witnessed a shirtless teenager sporting no less than five teardrop tattoos walk into a convenience store and attempt to steal a bag of Cheetos by smuggling them in his ass. I know this because, for whatever reason, the kid’s pants were belted around his lower thighs in what I can only assume was an act of defiance against both the societal norms of dress code and the concept of gravity. Anyways, the kid tried to make a run for it when he saw that the owner had also taken exception to him, and literally tripped over his own pants before being tackled by the owner.

What I’m saying is that I wish we could go back to the days when everyone dressed as classy as the people in Alfred Hitchcock movies. Even homeless dudes had an evening suit back then. It was a simpler, better time, and somewhere out there, there is a 15-year-old picking cheese crumbles out of his ass hair that agrees with me.

#3 – Snakes on a Train

Full disclosure: I have not seen this movie. I have, however, read the film’s plot synopsis on its Wikipedia page, which I will now repeat to you verbatim:

“Although taking the same basic idea from Snakes on a Plane (lots of deadly snakes loose on a claustrophobic, high speed means of transport), the background story of how the snakes end up on the train is completely different.

In the movie, writer Eric Forsberg created a woman who has been put under a Mayan curse which causes snake eggs to hatch inside her belly and eat their way out. In order to recover the “lost pieces” of herself (the snakes), she must travel to Los Angeles where a powerful Mayan shaman can lift the curse. She takes the snakes along with her in small jars. While on the train, bandits attack her, allowing the snakes to escape and endanger the rest of the passengers.

Eventually, and inexplicably, she herself transforms into a gigantic snake and swallows the moving train whole.

Six passengers managed to escape unharmed and one of them performs magic to make her vanish. However one girl is shown to have been unknowingly bitten, suggesting the curse will remain.”

To recap: Mayan shamans, magic, and snakes eating trains. WHERE YOU AT NOW, HITCHCOCK?!

#2 – Under Siege 2: Dark Territory

By far the easiest selection of this list, Under Siege 2: Dark Territory sees Steven Seagal return as Navy cook-turned killing machine Casey Ryback and take on a group of international terrorists who hijack the train he happens to be traveling on with his niece. You know, kind of like how a group of terrorists hijacked the submarine he happened to be serving on in the first film. In any case, Dark Territory is the sort of gritty, powerful action flick that actually dares ask the tough questions, like “Why would a group of highly-skilled terrorists not check the manifesto of the train they were about to hijack to ensure that a counter-terrorism specialist was not on board?” But that’s just for the film scholars to decide when dissecting this masterpiece in 2025.

I love how they refer to Segal’s character as “the cook from Under Siege” in this trailer, as if to say, “This character was so unmemorable in the first incarnation that using his name to hype the second would accomplish nothing.” You gotta appreciate that kind of honesty.

But seriously, this movie is awesome. The only reason I didn’t rank it #1 was due to the fact that it features Kurtwood Smith yet a distinct lack of foots in asses.

#1 – Source Code

Believe it or not, there aren’t that many great films which take place entirely on a train. I blame texting (also, airplanes). Hidden beneath the smoke of such dumpster fires as Atomic Train, Death Train, and the band Train, however, is Source Code, a solid little sci-fi thriller directed by Moon’s Duncan Jones and starring Jake Gyllenhaal.

The plot of Source Code is incredibly similar to this year’s Edge of Tomorrow, in that Gyllenhaal plays an army soldier (pilot) forced to relive the same scenario over and over until he stops some terrorists from blowing up a train with their Tesseract or what the f*ck ever. While some critics have claimed that the film veers toward the overly sentimental with its conclusion, most agree that Source Code is ultimately a great popcorn flick that manages to be entertaining *and* thought-provoking. Movie-going audiences obviously agreed, as the film grossed nearly $150 million worldwide on a $32 million budget. HEAR THAT, MICHAEL BAY?! WE CAN HANDLE THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS, YOU WALKING CAN OF AXE BODY SPRAY.

 

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