8. Silver Streak
“Love Story” helmer Arthur Hiller directs comedy legendary duo Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor in this 1976 tale where someone is mistakenly accused of a crime he didn’t commit on a train and the lengths he goes to investigate the true events. This movie marked the first pairing of Wilder and Pryor, who would go on to star together in the classic “Stir Crazy” as well as “Another You” and “See No Evil, Hear No Evil” also directed by Hiller.
The acting combination between Wilder and Pryor is what works the best here. They play off each other very well and you enjoy every moment they share together. You have to look past a few far-fetched elements of the script and just focus on the acting. The film is actually more action and suspense than it is a comedy. It is still an entertaining train adventure.
9. Strangers on a Train
It’s the classic Hitchcock tale of two people meeting aboard a train and agree to kill someone for one another. Long time soap opera and Hitchcock “Rope” alum Farley Grainger stars alongside Robert Walker in this tale of deception and murder. Unfortunately, Walker died eight months after filming was completed on the film. Hitchcock’s daughter, Patricia, also had a fairly decent role in the film.
This film also marked the screen debut of Marion Lorne, who is known to TV audiences as “Aunt Clara” on “Bewitched”. As with all Hitchcock murder plots, everything does not go as planned and the characters have to deal with the unforeseen circumstances that develop along the way. As with all Hitchcock films, the photography was fantastic.
Cinematographer Robert Burks was nominated for an Academy Award for his work on the film. Hitchcock was delighted when this film was a box office hit since he had been running off a string of disappointing box office earnings including those of “Rope” which had been released three years earlier. Though maybe not mentioned in the same breath as other Hitchcock classics, this film is deserving of a watch and will entertain nonetheless.
10. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
There are few onscreen duos who have left such a mark on film even though only appearing in two films together as Robert Redford and Paul Newman. Director George Roy Hill also directed their 2nd pairing, The Sting, which won Best Picture in 1973.
Although trains are not the central focus of the film, the “Hole-in-the-Wall Gang” make several robberies of the same train at several parts in the film, attempting to get money from inside. The pair eventually go to Bolivia to continue their bank robbery streak and become infamous and wanted throughout the country. The Wild bunch was the more common name of the “Butch and Sundance” gang; however, this was changed as to not be confused by the film of that name.
Steve McQueen had agreed to star as the Sundance Kid, but cancelled so Redford came in as his replacement. The original Burt Bacharach song, “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” won the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1968. This film is currently listed as the American Film Institute #73 Greatest Movie of all Time.
11. The Great Train Robbery
There was a 10-minute 1903 film called “The Great Train Robbery” which is considered a groundbreaking film for its time with its use of editing and camera movement. This review is of the 1979 version directed by “Jurassic Park” author Michael Crichton starring Sean Connery, Donald Sutherland and Lesley-Anne Down based on Crichton’s own book and screenplay.
The film is loosely based on events from 1855 where a band of criminals who conceive an elaborate scheme to steal a gold shipment off a moving train. The film was released in England under the name “The First Great Train Robbery”, but changed for its U.S. release.
During filming, director Crichton’s hair actually caught fire when he was standing next to some burning embers. Connery does a great job with his character and the film really captures the look and feel of the Victorian period in which the events took place.
12. Once Upon A Time in the West
Sergio Leone’s epic western tale of revenge starring Charles Bronson as “Harmonica”, also starring Jason Robards and Henry Fonda in a rare villainous role currently ranks #28 with an 8.6 out of 10 rating on the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) of highest rated films of all time tied with “Leon: The Professional”.
This movie has one of the longest opening credit sequences in movie history running over 10 minutes long. One of the signs of a great director is using your style with your material and melding them together. In this case, it was done to perfection. Even explaining to someone the plot of the film is difficult, since it is so loose and it is difficult to express how the long shots and takes work so beautifully even if there is not much exposition happening at the moment.
Even character’s motives for their actions are not very well explained, but you don’t care because the film is put together so well and the photography so mesmerizing. The train station sequence at the beginning of the film is a great example of this. This could have gone on 20 minutes longer and we would have loved every minute. In retrospect, it’s too bad Leone did not make more films for us to enjoy; however, the ones he left us with will be revered forever.
13. Darjeeling Limited
A “road” movie of sorts from wonderfully quirky director and writer Wes Anderson, this film tells us about Jack, Peter and Francis (Jason Schwartzman, Adrien Brody and Owen Wilson), three brothers who meet up and travel across India by train after their father’s death. Anderson frequent alum Bill Murray also has a hilarious cameo as a businessman. The brothers argue and try to find some common ground with each other and try to come to terms with their father’s death amidst their individual issues and depression.
The train sequences were actually filmed on a moving train travelling through India. Filmmakers received permission to redecorate 10 cars and the locomotive for use in the film. As with every Anderson film, the magic is in the screenplay and the way the actors interact with each other and say their lines. You are never laughing on the floor; however, smiling and enjoying witty banter is just as fun. The Indian landscapes are breathtaking and this “dramedy” is a true standout.
14. Europa (entitled Zentropa for its U.S. release)
An early black & white/color film from infamous, unconventional, controversial (too many adjectives to list) director Lars von Trier, this film won the Jury Prize at the 1991 Cannes Film Festival tied with the French film “Hors la vie”.
The story unfolds as an American has taken a job with the railroad after World War II as a conductor. The people he meets try to influence him and turn him toward their beliefs. He discovers it is difficult to remain on the sidelines, especially where his new love is concerned, and has to make some difficult choices.
Von Trier seems to be the kind of director you either love or hate. His films never pull any punches and he seems to exist in a deep, dark place where raw emotion and visual shockery are commonplace. This film is no exception. The story itself is not complex, yet like a shocking video where you know something bad is about to happen and you keep watching anyways, Europa keeps you engulfed in the journey of the film’s story and amazing visuals.
Late “Top Gun” director Tony Scott final film reteams with star Denzel Washington after they had already made “Crimson Tide”, “Man on Fire” and the remake of “The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3” together and this time adds new Captain Kirk Chris Pine for this urban adventure based on a true train disaster which happened in Ohio in 2001. A runaway train barrels out of control and a veteran conductor (Washington) and his rookie cohort (Pine) are all that stands between stopping the train and disaster.
The real-life hero who stopped the train, Jess Knowlton, was on the set during filming and served as a technical advisor on the film. Both Pine and Washington did most of their own stunts in the film including jumping from car to car at one point. The film works on a adventure, thriller level. The dialogue is cheesy at times and some of the interactions, forced. It does have some dynamic, intense train sequences including a near collision which make the film enjoyable and an easy watch.
Honorable Mentions: Mission: Impossible, Throw Momma from the Train, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Speed (subway), The Harry Potter franchise, Some Like it Hot, Schindler’s List, From Russia With Love, The Lady Vanishes.
Author Bio: Andy Kubica is a life-long cinephile. Having spend time as a video store manager, movie theater manager and the first DVD buyer for a former rental chain he now spends every waking moment reducing his film “bucket list”.