When doing a list of “hostage movies” there is a wide variety of films to consider. So for this week’s Phenomenal 5 I decided to exclude movies featuring kidnappings as well as P.O.W. pictures. Both seemed to make the category too broad and both could easily have their own Phenomenal 5 list. But even with those omissions there were plenty of great hostage movies to consider. It was hard to narrow my list down, but these five movies fit perfectly. As always, I wouldn’t call this the definitive list. But there’s no denying that these five hostage films are absolutely phenomenal.
#5 – “AIR FORCE ONE (1997)
This is certainly one of the more unique hostage movies. U.S. President Harrison Ford, his family, and staff are held hostage aboard Air Force One by Russian terrorists led by Gary Oldman. The fact that the movie is confined to an airborne plane adds several interesting dynamics that work really well. Ford is a believable president and Oldman, while a little hammy at times, plays a good baddie. Sure, “Air Force One” requires a certain suspension of disbelief, but it’s still a hostage movie that’s a lot of fun.
#4 – “THE DELTA FORCE” (1986)
Ok, I know “The Delta Force” is sometimes emotionally manipulative and features several preposterous action scenes. But it also nicely melds elements of the 1980’s action pictures with the real-life hijacking of a TWA jet in 1985. While Chuck Norris is as wooden as ever, a nice supporting cast featuring Lee Marvin, Joey Bishop, Shelly Winters, Robert Vaughn, Martin Balsam, and Robert Forster make up for it. The film incorporates several true-to-life incidents surrounding the hijacking which makes the movie feel more grounded even in the midst of motorcycle rocket launchers and Chuck Norris one-liners. Call it a nostalgic pick, but “The Delta Force” is a solid hostage film.
#3 – “KEY LARGO” (1948)
John Huston’s “Key Largo” marked the final time Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall worked together onscreen. But it’s also one of the best hostage movies ever. Bogart visits a Key Largo hotel ran by a deceased army buddy’s father and falls for Bacall while there. But things really amp up when some hotel guests turn out to be gangsters led by Edward G. Robinson. Once their identity is revealed, the gang takes over the hotel. To make things worse a hurricane is approaching which keeps them stuck in the hotel but gives the audience some fantastic and memorable moments. This isn’t just a great hostage movie, it’s a great Bogart flick.
#2 – “DIE HARD” (1988)
1988’s “Die Hard” is the movie that made Bruce Willis a big screen movie star. It could be argued that this is the quintessential hostage movie. Willis’ John McClane attends a Christmas party with his estranged wife at the Nakatomi Plaza skyscraper. A group of terrorists led by Hans Gruber (played wonderfully by Alan Rickman) take over the building and hold the partygoers hostage with the exception of a barefooted McClane. He picks off Gruber’s men from the ground floor to the rooftop and gives us memorable scene after memorable scene. “Die Hard” is a straightforward picture that is the near perfect mix of hard-nosed action, well placed humor, and great side characters. No hostage movie list would be complete without it.
#1 – “THE PETRIFIED FOREST” (1936)
Yep, it’s Humphrey Bogart’s second appearance on the list but it’s certainly well deserved. In “The Petrified Forest” he plays Duke Mantee, a gangster on the run from a huge police manhunt. Duke and his gang end up busting into an Arizona diner and hold everyone there hostage. Some of the film’s best moments involve Bogart sitting in the diner verbally sparring back and forth with the hostages including Leslie Howard and Bette Davis. Edward G. Robinson was the first choice to play Duke but Howard pushed for Bogart who eventually got the part. And thank goodness he did. There are a lot of good hostage films, but for me “The Petrified Forest” is the best of the bunch.
Agree or disagree? Do you have a hostage movie that I should have included? Leave a comment below, share your thoughts, or tell me your favorite hostage movie.