Monday, May 4, 2015

Top 10 Great Train Movies

Will you celebrate National Train Day this May?

I probably won't.

But that doesn't mean we can't remember and celebrate the best movies about trains. My son loves playing with trains. He has a huge toy train set that takes up a good portion of his bedroom. From Thomas the Tank Engine sheets, to the amazing TV show "Dinosaur Train," to shouting, "a train, Daddy!" at the sound of a distant horn, he adores trains.

These are ten great movies that prominently feature trains in their setting and story arc. More than just a few brief scenes, trains are significant in each of these films, with much or all of the film set on or around a train. Whether you're a train-lover or not, here's an eclectic look at great films featuring great trains:

10. Source Code (2011, Duncan Jones). In this heady sci-fi thriller set on a commuter train entering Chicago, a soldier wakes up inside the body of someone else and has eight minutes to find a bomb on the train. When the bomb explodes--as it inevitably does--he is sent back over and over again until he can find the terrorist behind the explosion.

9. The Train (1964, John Frankenheimer). Near the end of WWII, a German colonel attempts to steal priceless works of French art and take them back to German. He procures a train and loads it with his cargo, but is unaware the French resistance will try to stop him and the train at any cost.

8. The Darjeeling Limited (2007, Wes Anderson). This quirky Wes Anderson film centers on three brothers traveling on the Darjeeling Limited through India in search of their estranged mother. Hilarity and tragedy ensues.

7. Snowpiercer (2014, Bong Joon Ho). Set in a frozen future where the remnants of humanity live on a constantly moving train, this sci-fi allegory about class systems, wealth distribution, and injustice is an intense action film, and surprisingly funny.

6. Before Sunrise (1995, Richard Linklater). The first encounter between Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) occurs on a train. The two sit and talk, walk and talk, eat and talk, and talk some more, all in the beautiful setting of Vienna.

5. Murder on the Orient Express (1974, Sidney Lumet). Featuring a phenomenal ensemble cast--Sean Connery, Ingrid Bergman, Albert Finney, Lauren Bacall, and Vanessa Redgrave--this British mystery based on an Agatha Christie novel was a box office success and won multiple awards. Also, Ingrid Bergman.

4. The Lady Vanishes (1938, Alfred Hitchcock). One of Hitchcock's earlier masterpieces--I also considered Strangers on a Train for this list--a few passengers on a train are alarmed when a fellow passenger suddenly disappears, but nobody seems to recall her existence. A gripping thriller made all the more claustrophobic and tense due to the train setting.

3. Brief Encounter (1945, David Lean). In a cafe at a train station, a fateful encounter between housewife and a doctor sparks a tragic romance. The desperate affair is set mostly in the train station, signifying the transitory and charged nature of the romantic tension between the two.

2. Arrival of a Train (1896, Lumiere Brothers). One of the very first publicly-shown films, and the center of a filmic legend--the audience members at a screening were alarmed when the oncoming train seemed about to crash right into them. Whether or not this is true, Arrival of a Train--a simple, 50-second silent film--remains a movie classic.

1. The General (1926, Buster Keaton, Clyde Bruckman). The greatest train film is Keaton's comedic action film, featuring Keaton as a bumbling conductor during the Civil War who embarks on an elaborate and hilarious train chase. The final sequence is legendary for featuring a collapsing bridge and an actual train wreck, shot in one impressive take.

What train films did I miss? Share your favorite train-related films in the comments!

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