10 Best Hostage Movies

To come up with a list of the 10 best hostage movies, we examined a few criteria. Though taking captives is a common theme in action movies, some do it a lot better than others. So we looked beyond the prisoner plot line to the quality of the acting, the uniqueness of the hostage situation, and the shear suspense of the film itself.

  1. "Dog Day Afternoon." This Sidney Lumet film starring Al Pacino ranks at the top of the best hostage movies of all time. When Sonny robbed a bank to pay for his boyfriend's sex change operation, things went horribly wrong and the first-time robber ended up with a bank full of hostages.
  2. "Die Hard." The first "Die Hard" film could not be left off the list of best hostage movies ever since it is often cited as one of the best action flicks of all time. Moviegoers first met Detective John McLane as he single-handedly saved a building full of captives at his wife's Christmas party from thirteen thieves trying to steel $640 million in bearer bonds. "Yippee kai yay."
  3. "Misery." A diversion from the typical action films you might expect to find on a list of best hostage movies, "Misery" is one of the most eerie portrayals of forced captivity in a psychological thriller. When author Paul Sheldon's car drove off the road, the sweet nurse Annie Wilkes ("his number one fan") took him in. Over time audiences learned that no one knew where Paul was and that sweet Annie broke his ankles and tried to kill him because she didn't like his latest novel.
  4. "Speed." We dare anyone to say they weren't on the edge of their seat watching "Speed." Sure the sequel was bad, but the first time that bus went hurdling through Los Angeles unable to go below 55 mph, with a cargo full of hostages aboard, hearts were racing faster than the public transit vehicle.
  5. "Air Force One." Bad guys should know they're in trouble when their target is played by Harrison Ford and thier hostages are his wife and kids. In "Air Force One" President James Marshall (Ford) defeated the Russian Terrorists mid-air, disarmed a bomb, and exclaimed, "Give me back my plane."
  6. “The Taking of Pelham 123.” Don’t let the ridiculously bad 2009 Denzel Washington/John Travolta version turn you off from the original. Even though the 1974 flick starred some heavyweight comedy talent like Walter Matthau, Jerry Stiller, and Doris Roberts, it was the real deal. Imagine Matthau going head-to-head with Robert Shaw as the ringleader of a color-coded group of hijackers, so that’s where Tarantino got it.
  7. “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” If Dr. Rene Belloq hadn’t taken his archenemy Indiana Jones’ girlfriend hostage, “Raiders of the Lost Ark” might have been just another action movie. But Indy’s mission to save Maid Marion Ravenwood turned it into one of the best high-octane love stories of the ‘80s.
  8. “Nine to Five.” Part office satire, part women’s lib propaganda, part every disgruntled worker’s get-even fantasy, this is one of the best hostage movies ever. The film was made all the funnier by the unlikely trio of Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin, and Jane Fonda as the fed-up employees who strung sinister boss Dabney Coleman up with a garage door opener.
  9. “The Ref.” If you’re not into cheery Christmas flicks like “Miracle on 34th Street,” than this edgy movie is probably more your speed. Denis Leary starred, in one of his first big acting gigs, as a burglar who got more than he bargained for when he holds a house full of bickering relatives hostage over the holidays.
  10. “Dead Calm.” Who cares about the plot, it’s something about a dude holding a hot young woman hostage on a boat, it's still one of the best hostage movies ever. "Dead Calm" will go down in history as the film that introduced men around the world to an ultra-sexy young Ausie named Nicole Kidman.
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