Must-watch movies set on trains

Writer: Florey DM

Have you watched any of these train movies?

Aside from the obvious zombie theme in "Train to Busan", another thing stands out in the South Korean zombie apocalypse thriller: trains (also obvious from that title).

Starring Gong Yoo and directed by Yeon Sang-ho, the movie about a group of passengers fighting for their survival on a train headed to Busan as they try to escape a zombie outbreak has become one of the most talked-about movies of 2016. It has been breaking records in several territories where it opened earlier in August, including being the first Korean film of 2016 to break the audience record with over 10 million moviegoers on 7 August.

Yet to open in countries such as Malaysia and Cambodia, while we wait for the movie, why not enjoy other movies that also involve trains? This list includes not only movies that use trains as the full setting but also movies that use trains as a pivotal point in the stories.

So hop on aboard and follow us on this 'railistic' journey!

"Snowpiercer" (2014)

Before "Train to Busan", there was another South Korean movie (albeit filmed in English) starring Hollywood actors alongside the Korean cast that was heating up the tracks. Director Bong Joon-Ho made his English debut with the sci-fi thriller, which was based on Jacques Lob, Benjamin Legrand and Jean-Marc Rochette's French graphic novel "Le Transperceneige". The movie, starring Chris Evans ("Captain America"), Song Kang-ho ("The Host"), Tilda Swinton ("Doctor Strange"), Octavia Spencer ("The Divergent Series: Allegiant") and more, is set on a globe-spanning train with its own ecosystem (see photo above), in a future where a failed climate-change experiment has brought about another Ice Age. Only the lucky few on the train survived, but the unfair class system soon leads to passengers in the last car rising in a revolt against the elite front passengers. Made on a budget of USD40 million, and earning USD86.8 million worldwide, it is the most expensive Korean movie ever made. Filming for the movie took place at Barrandov Studios in Prague, where train car sets are mounted on gimbals to simulate the train motion.

"Unstoppable" (2010)

Starring Denzel Washington ("The Magnificent Seven") and Chris Pine ("Star Trek Beyond"), the action thriller directed by the late Tony Scott (21 June 1944 – 19 August 2012) follows a train engineer and a conductor, who, after accidentally letting loose an unmanned train carrying a cargo of toxic chemicals, have to chase the runaway freight train in a separate locomotive and stop it before it derails and causes a toxic spill that will be hazardous to the town it is barreling towards. The movie received positive reviews and garnered a nomination in the 83rd Academy Award's Best Sound Editing category, though lost the accolade to "Inception". With a budget of up to USD95 million, the movie managed to make USD167.8 million at the box office.

"Densha Otoko" (2005)

Part of the "Densha Otoko" (that translates to Train Man) franchise which consists of a novel, manga, this movie, theatrical play and TV series, are all based on the supposedly true story of a man who stopped a drunk from harassing several women on the train. Directed by Shosuke Murakami, the Japanese movie stars Takayuki Yamada ("Bakuman") as the otaku hero and Miki Nakatani ("Ring") as a woman nicknamed Hermès, whom he saved and later thanked him with a set of Hermès tea cups, leading to them eventually dating one another. The movie made over USD35 million after its release in Japan and several North American territories.

"The Polar Express" (2004)

All aboard the Polar Express! Follow the magical adventure of a young boy aboard the train one Christmas Eve as he goes on a journey to the North Pole, meeting new friends along the way and learning about the true spirit of Christmas. Robert Zemeckis ("Allied") wrote, produced and directed the Tom Hanks-starring 3D animated musical fantasy movie, which is based on Chris Van Allsburg's 1985 children's book of the same name. What's most interesting about the movie is live action performance capture technique was used to animate the human characters, earning it a spot in the Guinness World Book of Records in 2006 for being the first all-digital capture movie. The movie made USD307 million worldwide against its USD165 million budget. Due to its success, it has become a staple Christmas movie and fans who are interested in experiencing the journey themselves, in a way, can climb aboard the many Polar Express attractions in places such as the Mount Hood Railroad in Hood River, Oregon, the Weardale Railway in Stanhope, Durham and Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Northeast Ohio.

"Runaway Train" (1985)

Not to be confused with Soul Asylum's 1992 Grammy Award-winning "Runaway Train", this Andrei Konchalovsky-directed movie tells of two escaped convicts and a female railway worker who are stuck on a runaway train. Without brakes and anyone driving, the trio will have to figure out a way to stop the train barreling through snowy Alaska. Starring Jon Voight (("Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them"), Eric Roberts ("The Expendables") and Rebecca De Mornay ("I Am Wrath"), the story was written by Akira Kurosawa, with his frequent collaborators Hideo Oguni and Ryuzo Kikushima also contributing, though uncredited. The movie was supposed to have been Kurosawa's project, which he wrote based on a real incident that happened in the Northeast, but due to creative and scheduling reasons, it remained shelved for 15 years before it was finally filmed by Konchalovsky.

"Murder on the Orient Express" (1974)

Hailed as one of the most successful movie adaptations of an Agatha Christie novel, the British mystery movie stars Albert Finney ("Skyfall") as Belgian detective Hercule Poirot. Following the story in the 1943 novel of the same title, Poirot is aboard a train when it is stopped by heavy snow. He then starts investigating the death of an American business tycoon, Mr. Samuel Ratchett, upon the request of his friend, train company director Bianchi. The 13 suspects involved in the murder are portrayed by an all-star cast that includes Sean Connery ("The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen"), Vanessa Redgrave ("The Butler") and more. A remake from 20th Century Fox, with Kenneth Branagh directing, is planned for release in 2017.

"The Train" (1964)

This is a war action thriller starring Burt Lancaster ("Field of Dreams"), Paul Scofield ("Anna Karenina") and Jeanne Moreau ("Face"). John Frankenheimer directs the black-and-white movie set in 1944, about the Resistance trying to stop a train loaded with stolen French art treasures from being transported to Germany. The train interception scenes are inspired by the true events of train No. 40,044 being seized and examined by the Free French forces outside Paris. Apart from "Densha Otoko", this is the only other movie on this list with a 100% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes (though it does have four more reviews than the former's six), followed closely behind by "Strangers on a Train" with 98%.

"Strangers on A Train" (1951)

Speaking of "Strangers on a Train", this Alfred Hitchcock silver screen adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's thriller novel featured Farley Granger ("The Next Big Thing") as Guy Haines, Ruth Roman ("Love Has Many Faces") as Anne Morton and Robert Walker ("My Son John") as Bruno Anthony. Guy is a young tennis player who wants to marry the senator's daughter, Anne. On the train, he meets Bruno, who he didn't know is a psychopath. After the two talk about "swapping murders", with Guy thinking it was not a serious agreement, Bruno commits the first murder and Guy finds himself being forced to hold up his end of the deal and murder someone for Bruno. The movie, which Hitchcock altered slightly for his adaptation, is one of his most famous, despite first receiving mixed reviews. It gradually started becoming more prominent over the years as movie fans and critics alike took more notice of the way Hitchcock had molded the movie; its structure, technical designs, political subtext were all studied more closely, making this one of the must-watch movies on trains.

Cinema Online, 20 August 2016

Related Movies:
Train To Busan (Khmer) (07 Aug 2020)
Snowpiercer (18 Feb 2014)

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