There is a recurring genre in cinema that seems to lack an official title. A bunch of strangers being put in one place – usually with a horror or whodunnit? context – is a theme many films use. A common factor between these movies is a one-location setting, rarely moving out of a room or building. The story template allows for some interesting plot twists, as you can never be sure who these strangers really are. The isolated settings also create a sense of entrapment, forcing the characters to unveil the truth. A perfect way to shock and entertain audiences.
As an underappreciated genre, here’s our list of the top strangers-in-a-room movies:
The Hateful Eight (2015)
As Quentin Tarantino’s eighth movie, The Hateful Eight is a guaranteed bloodbath under the watch of this legendary director. Set in post-civil war Wyoming, two bounty hunters are trapped together during a blizzard. A fugitive, a sheriff, a cowboy, an ex-Confederate and the shop owner of their shelter also lodge there, waiting the storm out.
Of course, it’s not exactly a peaceful wait – this is Quentin Tarantino we’re talking about. Arguments, grisly stories and shoot-outs soon break out; the bounty hunter’s control loosening from their grip. This exuberant thriller received an Academy Award and BAFTA for its music score. Though a success among many critics, The Hateful Eight did have some controversial issues over race, sex and graphic scenes.
Bad Times at the El Royale (2018)
Hotels are the perfect setting for these types of movies. Any walk of life could come to stay there, meaning any kind of chaos could ensue. Basically, a filmmaker’s dream. At the El Royale, it’s a priest, a singer, a salesman and a hippy that are unexpectedly brought together. Managing the rundown hotel is a ball-of-nerves boy, high on heroin. But of course, none of these people are who they seem (and nor is the hotel…)
A character driven thriller with tons of beautiful stagecraft, Bad Times at the El Royale is touching, funny and intriguing. Director Drew Goddard proves both ambitious and clever in his polished tale of revenge.
The Breakfast Club (1985)
Perhaps the only film on this list to not fall into the crime or horror category, The Breakfast Club is a quintessential classic of the 80’s. Directed by John Hughes, The Breakfast Club is set in one room over one day. Five high school kids – each from very different levels of the hierarchy – are forced to spend their Saturday in detention. “A brain, a beauty, a jock, a rebel and a recluse” begin the film completely at odds with each other. But after some arguments, dance-offs, break-outs and pot, the knots begin to loosen.
Heartfelt scenes and deep conversations take insight into the turbulent world of adolescents, where parents and peer pressure seem to dominate. A legendary comedy-drama that’s only improved with age, The Breakfast Club is a true landmark of cinema.
You can undoubtedly guess the premise for this one. Who did it, in what room and with what weapon – Mrs. Peakcok, Miss Scarlet, Mr. Green, Professor Plum, Mrs. White or Col. Mustard? The blackmailed dinner guests must hunt down the killer, hiding under a fake alias.
Based on the popular board game, Clue is a witty film adaptation bursting with comedy. Jonathan Lynn directed this classic during the eighties, offering three alternative endings for the viewers. Despite an initial fail at the box office, Clue has gone on to gather a huge cult following. Word of a new Clue remake starring Ryan Reynolds circulated in 2018. But nothing will be able to match the remarkably offbeat original.
The Haunting (1964/1999)
The Haunting is a two-in-one recommendation. There is the original film directed by Robert Wise in the 60’s, and or the remake directed by Jan de Bont. It depends if you’re one for an old-school classics or high-tech remakes starring famous faces. Both films follow the concept of a professor conducting a psychological study into insomnia. A group of sleepy volunteers arrive at an isolated mansion, only to become caught up in a very haunting experience.
Both films are fairly muted for a horror. There are even a few laughs dotted here and there. The remake has more publicity, serving as a good bit of entertainment for a movie-night in. The original relies more on suspense that special effects, allowing for a slightly more memorable experience. However, younger generations may find it a little boring as a film from a less graphic era.
Another hotel harbours the strangers of this movie, victim to a vicious storm in the Nevada desert. Ten guests are at the mercy of a disguised serial killer, all while trapped in the lonely hotel. James Mangold’s slasher movie is psychologically complex yet still entertaining. Reverse chronology is used to heightened the mystery of Agatha Christies 1939 novel And Then There Were None, on which Identity is loosely based.
An ex-cop, an actress, two newlyweds, a convict and a nine-year-old-boy are just some of the characters embroiled in the killing spree. Thrills and twists litter the film, adding an original twist to Christies story (rather than just being a blatant homage).
Murder on the Orient Express (2017)
Based on Agatha Christie’s 1934 book, Murder on the Orient Express is – you guessed it – a murder mystery. Directed and starring Kenneth Branagh, a deluxe journey across Europe quickly turns upside down. The train setting (which is also stuck in an avalanche) means there’s no escape for the killer, who could be any one of the passengers. It’s up to the world’s greatest detective to suss it out.
As the story was written during a more genteel time, the film isn’t as heavy as some other thrillers. That doesn’t mean there aren’t some good plot twists though- and the enjoyable modern adaptation gets imaginative with the stylistic cinematography. An engaging piece of cinema all round, featuring breathtaking panoramic views.
12 Angry Men (1957)
12 Angry Men is the oldest film on our list, and definitely the most beloved by critics. The black-and-white crime drama was directed by Sidney Lumet, taking place entirely in a courtroom. Twelve (white – and angry) men on the jury must decide the fate of a young boy from the slums. Long tracking shots and intense dialogue are the hallmarks of great cinema, which 12 Angry Men certainly practices.
12 Angry Men shed light on the American Justice System during a time of extreme prejudice (released the same year segregation became “unconstitutional”). However, over fifty years later the film still remains bitterly relevant. Lumet dealt with the story’s controversial themes with a firm hand, without lacking in grace or sensitivity. The artform is used to make both an inspiring political statement and a beautifully crafted film.