5 Phenomenal Hostage Movies

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When considering “hostage movies” there is a such wide variety of films to consider. I found myself filling up a page with movies worth considering. I started narrowing the list down by choosing to omit any military or P.O.W. scenario. I also took out any individual kidnapping. Still the list was large, but there is only room for five. So as always, I wouldn’t call this the definitive list. But there’s no denying that these 5 hostage films are absolutely phenomenal.

#5 – “AIR FORCE ONE (1997)

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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. Ford is a believable president and Oldman, while a little hammy at times, once again plays a deviously fun baddie. Sure, “Air Force One” requires a certain suspension of disbelief, but it’s still a hostage movie that is a hoot to watch.

#4 – “THE DELTA FORCE” (1986)

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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. Chuck Norris is as wooden as ever, but 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)

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John Huston’s “Key Largo” marked the final time Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall worked together onscreen.  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. 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 hits which keeps them stuck there while giving the audience some fantastic and memorable moments. This isn’t just a great hostage movie, it is one of Bogart’s best.

#2 – “DIE HARD” (1988)

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1988’s “Die Hard” is the movie that made Bruce Willis a true 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 the late 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)

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Yep, it’s Humphrey Bogart’s second appearance on the list but it is certainly well deserved. In “The Petrified Forest” he plays Duke Mantee, a gangster on the run from a massive police manhunt. Duke and his gang end up busting into an Arizona diner and hold everyone 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 and share your thoughts or tell me your favorite hostage movie.

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47 thoughts on “5 Phenomenal Hostage Movies

  1. Fine list, but I’d have to swap out ‘Delta Force’ for the other Bruce Willis vehicle that’s really underrated, HOSTAGE (2005). Adapted from the Robert Crais novel, who happens to be one of fave authors.

    • I liked Hostage and I would agree, it is underrated. For me Delta Force is a bit of a nostalgia pick. I do think it is easily dismissed and ultimately forgotten by many. I gotta say though, I still have a ton of fun with it.

  2. Nice list Keith. I’m a big fan of Key Largo and Air Force One is a lot of fun. My favorite would be Dog Day Afternoon, but I also love Green Room as well.

    • Thanks man. Dog Day is a good pick. Just barely missed my list. Green Room has me sooo intrigued. Hope to finally see it by the end of the week. Lots of people have had good things to say about it.

    • Neither of the Bogie films? Trust me, both are definitely worth seeking out. One is early Bogie in a movie that gave his career a big boost. The other is movie star Bogie perfectly in his element.

  3. Cool! I’ve actually only seen Air Force One and Die Hard out of that list, but I’m intrigued by the Bogart ones, particularly Key Largo. Although if The Petrified Forest is your number one that’s a pretty strong recommendation, I assume! I’m like Charles – Dog Day Afternoon would probably be my number one pick…it was the first I thought of. I also really liked Haneke’s Funny Games (both versions) and Paul Greengrass’s Captain Phillips (though haven’t seen A Hijacking, the orginial film).

    • I have to admit I thought of Funny Games but right after I posted this. Otherwise the original would have 100% been on here. Can’t believe I didn’t think about it earlier. Maybe because it is such a daringly different type of film it didn’t register as a hostage movie. I don’t know. Really glad you mentioned it.

  4. Great list. When I think about hostage movies, somehow always not so good Con Air with Nicolas Cage comes to mind lol. I would have added Captain Phillips to this list.

  5. The only ones I’ve seen are Air Force One and Die Hard. I think more horror movies came to mind when I saw your title. lol

    • I kinda love it. No telling how many times I’ve watched that thing. Give those Bogart films a whirl. I can’t say enough good things about them.

  6. Die Hard, of course! Really glad to see Key Largo get a spot on the list. When I started reading this post I had forgotten that it was a hostage movie. Air Force One is a riot with one of the most iconic lines, ever – “Get off my plane!” I’ve never seen Delta Force and I’m not terribly fond of The Petrified Forest. Some others I love…

    The Silence of the Lambs
    Dog Day Afternoon
    Captain Phillips
    Prisoners
    Inside Man
    The Negotiator
    Argo
    John Q.
    The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (Original)
    Passenger 57

    • Hey Wendell! Thanks for throwing out some really good suggestions. Not a fan of Petrified Forest? I gotta admit I love it. Delta Force is a 80s movie through and through but the true-life story it is based on gives it more weight than expected.

  7. Wonderful top 5. A nice selection of quite different hostage movies. I think my top 5 would be quite different but I can’t argue about the qualities of the ones you’ve chosen. I think Dog Day Afternoon would have to be very high on my list. I think Ruthless People might creep into my top 5 too.

    • Dog Day is such a good pick. It fits and it is hard to argue against it. And I’m not sure if I have ever seen Ruthless People. I need to fix that.

      • Ruthless People is one of my comedy faves from the 1980s. Delightful performances from an ensemble cast that includes Bette Midler, Danny DeVito, Judge Reinhold and Bill Pullman. Few “hostage” films are this much fun – Midler plays the hostage from hell!

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  10. This made me think about a movie I saw when I was younger about people being held hostage on a bus that would blow up if the bus stopped driving. Sadly can’t remember the name

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