Top 10 films that will make you reconsider vacations

We all like a relaxing holiday from the stresses of everyday life. But what happens when you experience the holiday from hell? These films will make you reconsider ever packing that suitcase…

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There is nothing quite like unwinding on a nice, relaxing vacation. Maybe you’re taking the family, maybe just with friends – whatever the case, sometimes you just have to get away from it all. Yet if I have learned anything from years of watching movies, it’s that nowhere is safe… and that you should never, ever take that shortcut or trust attractive strangers.

Each one of these movies will make you reconsider taking a trip, well, pretty much anywhere. While many of these are apt to show up on your top horror movie list, some take a more dramatic approach.

10. Airport (Seaton, 1970)

There’s nothing like making the mundane into something terrifying. Airport started a whole series of films that made people think twice about taking that next flight. While Airport was just as much about the day-to-day operation of a major airport hub as it was trouble in the air – but some nutcase with a bomb never calms the nerves before taking a cross-country trip.

The fact is, Hollywood isn’t shy about turning any vehicle into a horror movie. In Duel it was rouge semi driver, in Speed it was a bus and in Unstoppable a runaway train. I don’t think Hollywood will be satisfied until every mode of transportation is turned into something to be feared.

9. Turistas (Stockwell, 2006)

This is your beautiful tropical paradise turned into a your worst nightmare. There seems to be some kind of ratio to the more exotic the location, the more terrible things you can expect to happen to you. Although Turistas is not exactly a shining jewel in the horror genre, it does highlight the fact that even the most beautiful locations in the world most likely hold a dark secret that will end with your death. I’m sure Brazilians were thrilled with the depiction.

Other films that take a similar stance include And Soon the Darkness and The Perfect Getaway – where your fellow travelers, and not the locals, are the people you can’t trust.

8. The Ruins (Smith, 2008)

Similar to the above, but with one big difference. In The Ruins it’s not some random group of people looking to take you out, but an ancient evil. Now you can’t just be wary of the locals, but their entire culture. Egypt has their mummies and, apparently, Mayans have flesh-eating, monstrous plants. Is just goes to show that not even taking in a history lesson is safe.

7. The Hills Have Eyes (Craven, 1977)

The road trip with the family – nothing like spending hours and hours on the road with the people you spend most of your days with: sing-a-longs, I-Spy and probably lots of hand-held video gaming (at least today). Of course taking a side-trip off the beaten path is a given, but might I advise not to do it through nuclear testing sites. Otherwise you’ll most likely end up at the mercy of horrible, merciless mutants. And nothing ruins a family vacation like mutants.

Road trips don’t just have to be about families – other movies that deal with death on the road include Jeepers Creepers, The Hitcher and the classic Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

6. Wolf Creek (Mclean, 2005)

Proving that you can have a really bad vacation anywhere, Australia gives us Wolf Creek. Loosely based on actual events (unsurprisingly quite a few people go missing in the Outback each year – luckily most are found), Wolf Creek has a group of people being stalked and hunted by a madman. This is opposite of the exotic, tropical setting – this is all about being utterly alone with nowhere to turn to for help. Isolated, with nothing but your wits and guts to get you through.

Sell also the harrowing true story presented in 127 Hours, the cold, cold isolation in Frozen and dealing with the world’s worst kids in Ils (Them).

5. The Descent (Marshall, 2005)

Sometimes a standard vacation isn’t enough. You have to push yourself to whatever limit you see fit. For our intrepid group of women in The Descent, it’s cave diving (or spelunking for you intellectual types). Exploring caves can be a lot fun – provided people know where you are and how to contact you. Unfortunately, when you go off the beaten path, and don’t bother to tell anyone, you run the risk of getting lost, getting trapped and, in this case, being found by a group of hungry subterranean bat-people creatures. Moral of the story: you can go off the beaten path, but not too far off.

4. Psycho (Hitchcock, 1960)

Who needs all those boring, chain motels? Motel 6, Howard Johnson and Quality Inn – nah, you’re going to be a rebel and pick some random roadside place like, say, The Bates Motel – that sounds good. Unless you happens to be a single female, then it turns out it will be your final stay anywhere. If movies have taught me anything, it’s that you just can’t trust non-branded overnight stays. And there is a formula here as well – the further away from a major metropolitan city you are, the more likely the chance is you will end up disemboweled or killed by a lonely guy with serious issues about his mother.

Other films that will make you swear off random motels include Vacancy, the aptly-named Motel Hell and even the grandest of the grand: the Overlook Hotel in The Shining.

3. The Poseidon Adventure (Neame, 1972)

So road trips and flying are out, how about a nice, relaxing cruise? Not so fast – rogue waves have a bad habit of simply ruining an otherwise pleasant voyage. While it is a bit campy, The Poseidon Adventure gives us the worst-case scenario for anyone planning a cruise: getting turned completely upside down and then having to navigate to the top (actually bottom) of the ship in order to find rescue. I’ve already ruled out the air and the road – and now the water. Makes you just want to curl up and never leave your house again.

Other pleasure cruises gone bad include Ghost Ship and, of course, the epic Titanic.

2. Hostel (Roth, 2006)

There are plenty of films on this list that make certain areas of the world look bad: from Mexico to Australia, but I don’t think any movie does a better job of pigeonholing an entire area of the world than Hostel. I don’t know a lot about Eastern Europe or the Slavic nations therein, but after watching Hostel all I could think about was that if I ever visited, I’d most likely end up in a dank room facing the most horrendous torture I could imagine. Bravo, Mr. Roth, you’ve succeeded in turning me off from an entire portion of the Earth and also to question any attractive female stranger who takes a remote interest in me from this point forward.

1. Jaws (Spielberg, 1975)

Was there ever any doubt? Has there been a film that has had a bigger impact on turning something fun (going to the beach) into something to fear?

Coast to coast, beaches could actually chart a noticeable decline in attendance after Jaws premiered. What’s more, any shark attack following the film immediately recalls this film – it even has a name: the “Jaws Effect”. I have a feeling that even today almost no one can go to a beach without having a small bit of Jaws niggling in the back of their mind.

Jaws also spawned a host of imitators: Lake Placid, Anaconda and Piranha are just a few of the films that can thank Jaws for introducing the monster in the water for them to imitate.

See Also: 10 reasons Jaws is the best film ever made | “Jaws – The Unseen Monster” | Top 10 Steven Spielberg Films | Steven Spielberg Week

Written and compiled by Chris Kavan. – Chris Kavan is the Community Manager of and he does still go on vacation despite the risks all around him.

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About the Author
Editor of Top 10 Films, Dan Stephens is usually found pondering his next list. An unhealthy love of 1980s Hollywood sees most of his top 10s involving a time-travelling DeLorean and an adventurous archaeologist going by the name Indiana.

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    Raghav Modi Reply

    Great list and I was happy to see The Descent in it. I have contemplated watching Touristas a few times but the reviews as a film are pretty bad for it, so always skip it.

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    Squasher88 Reply

    Good list. Turistas scarred me for life. If I ever go to Brazil I will be super cautious!

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    Mette Reply

    I’ve only seen Psycho of these, but I still want to go to one of those motels one day. They are in so many horror films, I just have to see whether something happens!
    Another good movie for this list is Eden Lake (2008).

  4. Avatar
    Rodney Reply

    What, no Vertical Limit? No Chris O’Donnell scaling the heights of the Earth to bring his sister back alive?

    Okay then, I’ll go with this list. 😉

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    Evan Crean Reply

    I’m ashamed to say I haven’t seen several of the films on this list. However I have watched Wolf Creek, The Poseiden Adventure, Hostel, and of course Jaws. Poseiden Adventure will carry a special place in my heart for its campyness, although I didn’t really care for Wolf Creek or Hostel. The stupidity of Wolf Creek’s characters annoyed me to the point where I was actually rooting for the bad guy to kill them off. And I guess Hostel just disappointed me because it didn’t fully live up to its brutal disgusting hype. There’s no doubt in my mind that Jaws belongs at number one on this list. Such a great flick.

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    mark Reply

    Don’t wanna quibble, but the Airport image is from Airport ’75, not the original …. anyway, the one that put me off flying in the franchise was Airport 80 – The Concord, especially when the plane flew upside down. Absolutely terrifying.

    I thought Jaws was bit of a stretch … I mean when the sequel came out, the catchline wasn’t “Just when you thought it was safe to go back on holiday….”

    When Time Ran Out (Paul Newman, James Franciscus and a few assorted outcasts from other Irwin Allen movies) put me off going to tropical island resorts, just as Earthquake has put me off having a holiday in LA.

    Blame it on Rio was also pretty off putting if there is a possibility of running across randy old men with cockney accents acting stupid over teenage girls.

    However, The River Wild was pretty interesting – disintegrating family go on a boat trip, only to be held hostage by a bunch of thugs led by Kevin Bacon. In this vein, there is the ultimate “never go there” river film Deliverance.

    Of course, weekend jaunts may not technically count as vacations, but given Psycho is on the list (the Bates Motel wasn’t exactly in a thriving holiday spot and the victim was just passing thru while on the run), I thought it was worth a try …..

    I agree with Mr Crean’s above comment about the stupidity of the characters in Wolf Creek. They had the guy down in the shed; they knew he was a monster – why didn’t they at least try to incapacitate him when they had the chance? It was like when Leatherface kills the guy in the wheelchair in the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre – thank God he shut the whinging prick up.

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    Dan Reply

    @Mark: You’re right about that Airport image. It was one I already had on file from a previous piece about the Airport films in general so used it instead of sourcing a new one. I suppose the pic’s “heart” is in the right place though! 🙂

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    Andrew Reply

    Don’t forget about Home Alone!

    In seriousness, every movie I would have chosen is already on this list. Nicely done Dan.

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    sati Reply

    Great list! The Descent is so scary! I’d also add Eden Lake and The Beach.

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    DEZMOND Reply

    this is why it’s better having a vacation in your own backyard LOL Off course, unless you live in the Elm’s street…

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