The 25 Best Movies About Hostages

Cue hostage situation – what comes to mind? Do you think of boring reporting on TV, or does the distribution of roles between hostage and kidnapper have a certain appeal to you? If you’re looking for movies worth watching that deal with the hostage situation, you’ll definitely find what you’re looking for in the following list:

1. “The Silence of the Lambs” (1991)

Almost everyone already knows him, the infamous serial killer “Hannibal Lecter,” also a confessed cannibal. At the beginning of the film, the safe is located in the high-security wing of a prison, but where there is a psychopathic killer, there are still imitators at large.

Young FBI agent Clarice Starling must inevitably deal with the disturbed psyche of Hannibal Lecter in order to find clues to the new culprit. She gets deeper and deeper into Lecter’s perfidious game of manipulation, driven by her own curiosity – is there perhaps more to the former psychiatrist than just madness?

The five Oscars that the film has bagged should really speak for itself. “The Silence of the Lambs” can skillfully blur the classic role assignment: Who is the real hostage when one of two interlocutors is already behind bars?

2. “Die Hard” (1988)

The successful film trilogy (a fourth part added much later) begins with this title, in which Bruce Willis plays the cop John McClane. During a Christmas party at Nakatomi Tower, his wife and her colleagues are taken hostage by terrorists. McClane decides to make a daring rescue maneuver, not so much because of his job but because of his vocation.

Not without reason did the film serve the main protagonist Bruce Willis as a springboard for his career. Here you can expect a hostage situation with fast-paced action because McClane’s motto becomes clear: You don’t negotiate with terrorists.

3. “Panic Room” (2002)

Out of a not really amicable divorce, Meg (Jodie Foster) and her daughter Sarah move into the former apartment of a wealthy businessman, who has developed paranoia due to his wealth and has unceremoniously equipped his bedroom with a panic room. The two think they will use it as a storeroom at best, but shortly afterward, they are proved wrong: three strangers enter the house at night, and Meg and Sarah escape into the panic room just in time.

Then the modified game of hostage-taking begins – with mother and daughter on one side of the high-security door and the hostage-takers on the other, who want to get to the safe, which has unfortunately been built into the panic room.

Jodie Foster and Kristen Stewart (shown here in their younger years before their breakthrough with the “Twilight” vampire movies) both deliver truly brilliant performances in “Panic Room.” The outside threat grows stronger with each passing minute (the patience of the hostage takers less so). The daughter’s acute diabetic attack creates an additional oppressive atmosphere. Claustrophobia and threat constantly remain present.

4. “Hostage” (2005)

Once again, you’ll see Bruce Willis as a cop on the job, facing two hostage situations simultaneously: First, teenage hostage-takers have broken into a house and are threatening the children of an accountant, and second, the cop’s family is kidnapped. So for the full-blooded cop Walter Smith, it is a matter of doing justice to both kidnappings at the same time. In the course of time, it becomes clear that there is much more behind the coincidence than it seems at the beginning.

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If you’re looking for a film in which the theme of hostage-taking predominates, then you’ll get your money’s worth with “Hostage.” The film beckons with an all-time exciting plot line; not only fans of Bruce Willis will be captivated here.

5. “Kidnapping Mr. Heineken ” (2015)

Many have heard of it – it’s about the kidnapping of beer brewer Alfred Heineken. The actual incident forms the basis of this film. However, the initial hostage situation later turns into much more. Heineken seeks revenge and does everything in his power to bring the kidnappers to justice.

That media events from the past can be made into films quite well is shown by this underrated production. The attentive viewer should not miss how Heineken, here embodied by Rutger Hauer, is already secretly plotting his first revenge plans during his captivity.

6. “Catch Hell” (2014)

Career-stricken actor Reagan Pearce (Ryan Phillippe) willingly lets two guys pick him up. Actually, they should bring him to the set of his next movie. A little later, however, he finds himself in a cabin in the swamp, and it soon becomes clear that at least one of his kidnappers has a personal feud going on here, while the other turns out to be much more of a secret admirer.

Anyone interested in the treatment of the universally known “Stockholm Syndrome” will be well advised here: The film packs a punch to the genre. Between hostage and kidnapper, a game between friendship and deliberate manipulation breaks out. Or is it all merely a means to an end?

7. Misery (1990)

Best-selling author Paul Sheldon (James Caan) is seriously injured in a car accident. By a happy coincidence, nurse Annie (Kathy Bates) picks him up and takes him to her house to give him medical care. Serendipity soon turns to tragedy, touching caring to obsession – Annie won’t let Paul go until he changes his last book to suit her.

Author Stephen King provided the novel template for this masterpiece, which has rightly made a name for itself as a classic. You don’t have to know the author to be sure: You can expect a successful genre mixture of horror and psychological thriller, which will not let you go so quickly.

8. “Ransom” (1996)

Actor Mel Gibson plays wealthy businessman Tom Mullen, whose son, a gang of criminals, kidnaps Sean. Although everyone involved, including his wife, strongly advises against it, Tom not only refuses to pay the extorted ransom but also turns the tables completely: he puts the bounty on the kidnappers in the public media.

It can all be simple and predictable – until you meet this genre representative. There is far more at stake here than the “the hunter becomes the hunted” theory. Suspense, twists and turns, emotional depth, and plenty of action on top deliver “Bounty” to you.

9. “P2” (2007)

The end of work drags on, in the evening, you are invited to the Christmas party at the family, and the car does not start. Fortunately, there is a helpful security guard in every parking garage. Thomas (Wes Bentley) is very obliging but at his wit’s end when it comes to car mechanics. Before Angela (Rachel Nichols) knows it, she is drugged with chloroform and taken to the guardhouse. Wants Thomas to clarify more than just his earlier advances? Is it done for Angela to escape the immediate confrontation? A wild cat-and-mouse game takes its start.

Isn’t such a parking garage after hours the best location for a gloomy and oppressive atmosphere? After watching “P2,” you might walk a notch faster to your car next time. Or, better still: not even put it down in closed premises.

10. “3096 Days” (2013)

The true kidnapping case of Natascha Kampusch is not only roughly touched upon here but catapults the viewer right into the middle of the action. Natasha (Antonia Campbell-Hughes) is just 10 years old when she is kidnapped by a strange man and taken to his house. She has been held there for over 8 years and has to endure countless forms of psychological and physical violence.

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“3096 Days,” to maintain authenticity, may not promise much at the outset but ultimately delivers far more. With a mixture of distance and forced closeness, crushing loneliness, and cruel confrontation, the film will give you the feeling of being “in the middle of it instead of just being there.”

11. “Room” (2015)

Right from the beginning of the film, we find ourselves in the middle of the action: Mother Joy and son Jack live in a cramped room with sparse furnishings, which they call only the “room.” In order to protect her son from the deterioration of his mental state and rape at the hands of his kidnapper, from which she herself suffers, Joy keeps up the facade for Jack that her situation is completely normal. There is no other world than this; the bad man is watching over them, and there is no reason to be afraid.

Lead actress Brie Larson has rightly received an Oscar for this role. Comprehensibly, she embodies a mother who puts her psyche on the line to maintain a semblance of an ideal world for her beloved son.

12. “Prisoners” (2013)

Just a cordial get-together on the occasion of Thanksgiving, the daughter’s Anna and Joy are suddenly no longer to be found. The two fathers, Keller and Franklin, take up the search, each in his own way. While Franklin trusts the police, Keller does not want to rely on the authorities.

Indeed, he already suspects who is responsible for the abduction of the girls: the mentally retarded Alex, who, however, insists on his innocence. Keller is not content with police interrogation, which yields nothing more than incomprehensible circumstantial evidence – he becomes a judge and enforcer in one, using means on the edge of morality and legality to do so.

Until the end, you will not know if “Prisoners” is all about pure kidnapping or if there is a higher (and much darker) goal behind all the machinations. The plot line remains so deftly woven at all times that suspense is paramount. Though actually relegated to a supporting role, the detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) makes a striking impact in the film.

13. “Phone Booth” (2002)

Stuart (Colin Farrell) is obviously just in the wrong place at the wrong time. He wants to make a call in a public phone booth, but it rings beforehand, and unsuspectingly he picks it up. No, the caller didn’t dial the wrong number, and he’s not kidding around: he threatens to kill Stuart if he ends the phone conversation. The situation comes to a head when passers-by notice the conspicuous behavior, and the police intervene.

If the synopsis doesn’t seem like a hostage situation at first glance, Stuart clearly falls into the role of a hostage – he is neither allowed to hang up nor leave the phone booth. In the process, he is threatened and pressured by the unknown caller – who, although not a kidnapper in the conventional sense, has various demands and intends to enforce them by force if necessary. So the typical genre is different: don’t miss this film.

14. “The Call” (2013)

And directly again, the idea of the phone call is taken up cinematically. Jordan (Halle Berry) is a 911 operator who receives a disturbing call from a girl who, at that very moment, is the victim of an abduction. By telephone, Jordan accompanies the hostage through the nerve-wracking process of burglary, capture, and rescue – if it succeeds.

In terms of film criticism, “The Call” divides opinions. But if you expect a mixture of action, suspense, emotional emergency, and the main character’s backstory, you are at the right place with this movie.

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15. “Saw” (2004)

The film series, which now consists of eight parts, has been so successful that the next film is already in the making—originated as a genre trendsetter in the horror and splatter category with “Saw.” The kidnapper chooses new hostages at random and makes them fight their way back to freedom through sadistic torture methods.

Friends of clearly placed gore and splatter effects will really enjoy “Saw.” However, film content is not neglected either. Does the notorious hostage taker “Jigsaw” (in German both jigsaw and puzzle game) in truth want much more than “play a game”?

16. “From Dusk Till Dawn” (1996)

The brothers Richard and Seth are on the run from the law. Pursued by all kinds of authorities, they take a whole family – a father with daughter and son – hostage and let them take them across the border in an RV. The meeting place agreed upon with other criminals, a questionable brothel, ultimately turns out to be a transshipment point populated by vampires.

Here you’ll find a clever mix of vampire-theme and gangster action and a dash of black humor. George Clooney and director Quentin Tarantino perform brilliantly in portraying the criminal brothers.

17. “Unsane” (2018)

Unknowingly, Sawyer (Claire Foy) signs the contract with a psychiatric hospital, which turns out to be a forced hospitalization. She only wanted to come to terms with the paranoia she had been suffering from since she became the victim of a stalker. Not only due to the psychotic drugs, she also gets into a whirlpool in which she can no longer distinguish reality from imagination.

The psychiatric hospital effectively takes the role of hostage-taker here – Sawyer was unaware of the extent of her contract signing, and suddenly there’s no way out – except for the cure. Passively, the film also criticizes the health care system, which sometimes makes involuntary victims out of patients.

18. “TAU” (2018)

The kidnapper, Alex (Ed Skrein), is assisted in his hostage-taking by the artificial intelligence called TAU. The computer developed by Alex takes over the care of the kidnapped Julia, who is faced with the challenge of whether and how to outsmart an AI.

If you read the plot, it doesn’t necessarily sound like a full-length program at first. Don’t worry: Even films with few actors provide the necessary suspense as soon as you put yourself in their place. Where are the limits of scientific logic, and which way of thinking is human? Or maybe there is not too much difference?

19. “Kidnapping Stella” (2019)

Vic and Tom capturing Stella and chaining her to the bed in their safe house first suggest the conventional approach to kidnapping. The ransom is to be extorted from Stella’s father, but he seems unconvinced. Perhaps because Stella secretly has her plans and is more than a mere victim?

The cast does everything right in “Kidnapping Stella. The film contains aspects of everything the viewer’s heart desires: a load of mystery, unexpected twists and turns, and last but not least, the delicate power structure between friendship, love, and betrayal.

20. “Gone Baby Gone” (2007)

It is not the parents but the aunt of the kidnapped Amanda who puts private detectives on the case. That sounds a bit suspicious, and even during their investigation, Patrick (Casey Affleck) and Angela (Michelle Monaghan) come across various ominous facts. The mother is involved in drug deals, contacts turn out to be old acquaintances, and other family ties are deliberately concealed.

You’ll have to pay a little closer attention here: The plot is tricky and uses clever red herrings to lead you down the same wrong tracks as the investigators. If you enjoy dynamic thrillers, “Gone Baby Gone” is worthwhile for you.

21. “Taken” (2008)

22. “Man on Fire” (2004)

23. “Speed” (1994)

24. “Captain Phillips” (2013)

25. “Inside Man” (2006)

As you can see, a wide selection of hostage movies is waiting for you. No matter if you are interested in the pure thrill or if you are more interested in the abysses of the human psyche, you will surely be surprised by one or the other of our films.

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