Top 10 Movie Train Rides To Avoid

All aboard! Err, on the other hand, maybe not. After all, some rail journeys can become quite hairy, as Mark Fraser explains in Top 10 Movie Train Rides to Avoid..!

10. The Hunter (Buzz Kulik, 1980)

train-rides-to-avoid_the-hunter_1980_steve-mcqueen_top10films, Top 10 FilmsA ride through Chicago’s suburbs goes awry when some junkie-looking hyped-up crazy guy hijacks your carriage and takes people hostage at gunpoint as he’s trying to escape a modern day bounty hunter.

9. Unstoppable (Tony Scott, 2010)

train-rides-to-avoid_unstoppable_tony-scott_top10films, Top 10 FilmsThrough the idiotic mistake of a bungling railroad company employee, your freight train sets off without a driver and becomes what they call a coaster. Possible salvation, however, comes in the form of an experienced engineer and his newbie assistant, who pursue the runaway in their locomotive. A truly teeth-gritting experience.

8. Emperor of the North (Robert Aldrich, 1973)

movie-train-rides-to-avoid_emperor-of-the-north_top10films, Top 10 FilmsIf you’re a hobo and considering bumming a free lift on this freight train, then you should really think again given the chief conductor is a brutally sadistic fellow who has no compunction about throwing you off mid journey – sometimes with the persuasive assistance of a sledge hammer or a large bolt tied to a rope.

7. Runaway Train (Andrei Konchalovsky, 1985)

train-rides-to-avoid_runaway-train_top10films, Top 10 FilmsWhile you take a brief nap, two Alaskan prison escapees climb on board the last of the four coupled locomotives you are working on as they flee the law. When the driver in the front engine has a heart attack and pulls the wrong lever before falling out of his cabin, you awake not only to find yourself facing two desperate men and an-out-of control train, but also some insurmountable barriers blocking the driver’s seat. The fact it’s freezing cold doesn’t help.

6. (TIE) Predator II (Steven Hopkins, 1990)

movie-train-rides-to-avoid_predator-2_top10films, Top 10 FilmsA potential gunfight between a group of drug dealers and some armed passengers somewhere under Los Angeles is interrupted by a seemingly indestructible alien, which smashes its way into the carriage before all hell breaks loose. Even the presence of two undercover detectives doesn’t help defuse the situation.

6. (TIE) The Midnight Meat Train (Ryuhei Kitamura, 2008)

train-rides-to-avoid_midnight-meat-train_top10films, Top 10 FilmsThe monster on the LA subway this time comes in the form of a well-dressed butcher who smashes all of the 2.06am passengers in the head with his king sized tenderiser before gutting them like cattle and feeding them to a group of subterranean creatures that dwell in and around a disused station. If you somehow survive all of this, one question will linger in your mind: Who the hell cleans this mess up every night?

5. Europa AKA Zentropa (Lars von Trier, 1991)

train-rides-to-avoid_von-trier-europa-zentropa_top10films, Top 10 FilmsNothing is what it seems when a young, nerdish and naive American passenger train conductor, who started working in Germany just after World War II, goes nuts when some remnant Nazi terrorists (known as Werewolves) mess with his head. The problem is he stops the train on a bridge in the middle of the night just before a hidden bomb goes off, sending carriages into the freezing river below.

4. Horror Express (Eugenio Martin, 1972)

train-rides-to-avoid_horror-express_top10films, Top 10 FilmsA once-in-a-lifetime trip on this famous Trans-Siberia route turns into an utter disaster when a hideous soul-sucking alien creature, which was found in Manchuria and put on the train in Peking, breaks loose and starts causing mayhem. The arrival of an aggressive bald Cossack officer and his men–who are initially under the impression that they are dealing with terrorists–doesn’t help.

3. The French Connection (William Friedkin, 1971)

train-rides-to-avoid_french-connection-subway-chase_top10films, Top 10 FilmsAn armed Frenchman jumps on board your New York train and hijacks it as he attempts to escape from a detective who is chasing him in a car below. Not only does he shoot a policeman and a passenger, but he also gives the poor negro engineer a heart attack. The journey jarringly ends when the out-of-control train is abruptly stopped by a stationary train that is sitting on the track.

2. The Taking of Pelham 123 (Joseph Sargent, 1974)

train-rides-to-avoid_taking-of-pelham-one-two-three_top10films, Top 10 FilmsPaying just 35 cents a ticket for the New York subway is no longer a bargain when four men, all wearing the same clothes and fake glasses, hijack the train and put everyone in the carriage up for a collective $1 million ransom. Aside from waiting at gunpoint for over an hour as the authorities above argue whether they should negotiate with these urban terrorists, the head of the gang puts the now-driverless train into full gear before leaving, hurtling the hapless carriage–and its traumatised passengers–towards the end of the line.

1. The Cassandra Crossing (George Pan Cosmatos, 1976)

train-rides-to-avoid_cassandra-crossing-cosmatos_top10films, Top 10 FilmsNormally this trip between Geneva and Stockholm would be a joy to behold given it passes through some of the most picturesque landscapes Western Europe has to offer. Unfortunately a fatally wounded terrorist – who has just tried to blow up the International Health Organisation and become infected with some kind of US military-created bubonic plague in the process – climbs on board and spreads the illness amongst the passengers. When the armed, white-suited quarantine squad arrive things don’t get any better, particularly when you find out that they plan to send you to an old Nazi prison camp in Poland via an ultra-condemned bridge for treatment. While the ensuring passenger revolt is quite hair-raising, the journey actually ends up being well worth the effort when you run into undercover cop OJ Simpson disguised as a priest.

Written and compiled by Mark Fraser

Over to you: Top 10 Films asks what are your favourite movie train rides to avoid?

Discover More: Top 10 Movie Bus Rides to Avoid

If you enjoyed Top 10 Movie Trains Rides to Avoid check out Mark Fraser’s other articles on Top 10 Films including the Best of Nicolas Cage and Films where Submarines take Centre Stage, as well as the Top 10 Films that share an Apocalyptic View of New York City & the Top 10 Movie Bus Rides to Avoid

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About the Author
Mark is a film journalist, screenwriter and former production assistant from Western Australia.

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  1. Avatar
    Dave Martins Reply

    …actually quite enjoyed the remake of Taking Pelham 123 but you’re quite right to include Sargent’s original here – a taught thriller that works terrifically well.

    As a big fan of The French Connection it is encouraging to see its “train ride” get the recognition instead of the famed car chase. Both are expertly choreographed by an on-form Friedkin.

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    Rory Fish Reply

    A typically enjoyable read, Mark. If there’s a list The Cassandra Crossing could top this is probably the only one. An ill-fated passion project perhaps failed to wow audiences and critics thanks to its arrival in the twilight days of the original disaster movie craze. And that cast…it should have been an audience puller but seemed oddly out of sync. That said – it’s one of my faves!!! Give me this over Runaway Train everyday of the week.

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    ruth Reply

    I’ve only seen French Connection and Unstoppable but agree they should be on this list. Never even heard of The Midnight Meat Train, is that Bradley Cooper?

    Nice list Mark!

    • Avatar
      Dan Reply

      …it certainly is, Ruth. He stars in the film alongside Leslie Bibb, Ted Raimi and…wait for it…Vinnie Jones!

  4. Avatar
    Rodney Reply

    Ha ha, nice to see Runaway Train on this list – a personal childhood fave. Pelham making it to #2 is interesting (I’d have had Unstoppable and Predator II up above it, but a worthy list nonetheless! Great stuff!!

    • Avatar
      Dan Reply

      Predator II, not only for that terrific sequence, but also as a film, would be higher on my own list too. I think it’s an underrated sequel. That said, the real highlight of the film is that subway sequence – brilliant action-horror cinema.

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    AdamL Reply

    Nice to see Horror Express and Emperor of the North make the list. Big fan of The Taking of Pelham 123 – would probably have that at number one.

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    Jaina Reply

    Just had to say “HA!” at your inclusion of Midnight Meat Train – what a god awful movie! It’s a good thing Bradley Cooper could move on past that…

    The train scene in Predator 2 is one of the few things I remember about the film. 😀

  7. Avatar
    Dan Reply

    That Predator II sequence on the subway is one of my favourite pieces of action-horror cinema. It is brilliantly orchestrated, both in its choreography and especially its lighting, and its satire. The culmination of the attack is yet another fateful demise for a well-meaning Bill Paxton character…if only he’d learn to run away from alien creatures with a taste for gun-wielding humans.

    How about Narrow Margin (protector Gene Hackman trying to save the girl from mobsters) or that film about the cook who is actually a highly trained ex-Navy Seal killing machine with a penchant for greased, slicked-back hair…think it’s called Under Siege 2!

    Another train I’d prefer to avoid is the one they use in Walter Hill’s The Warriors, while the haunted train from Ghost is one worth missing if you have plans to relax reading the newspaper. It might also be worth missing the final boarding call for the Orient Express if Hercule Poirot is on the passenger list – your chances of turning up dead are almost certainly increased.

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    JB Reply

    Great top 10! Enjoyed Unstoppable, Runaway Train, Predator 2, Pelham, French Connection and The Hunter. Haven’t seen von Trier’s film or Cassandra Crossing.

  9. Avatar
    Mark Reply

    @all – thank you for taking the time and commenting on this.

    For all those who haven’t seen Europa/Zenropa (or whatever the hell it is called), go home and watch it.

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