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The 10 Best Movies About Characters Stuck Inside

Through clever editing, writing, and direction, these single-location-oriented films walk the line between brilliance and madness.

In these strange times, it’s time to finally catch up on all those movies you never got around to seeing. Some are better choices right now, like this list of happy-go-lucky films that all have a positive storyline. Others you might want to stay away from, like Contagion and 28 Days Later. Then, there’s this list residing somewhere in the middle.

“Single location” movies are some of my favorite. They force the director, actor, writer, and DP to step up their game, as you’ve got limited space and scenery. There have been some downright incredible films made with this premise, and today we’re going to talk about some of them.


1. Moon

Perhaps Director Duncan Jones‘s greatest work yet, Moon has entranced viewers since its release. The effects are both minimal and impressively innovative, as is the script penned by Nathan Parker. It’s a masterclass in performance, blocking, and editing, as the pace never really lets up. It seems inevitable that a movie featuring a single actor would struggle to keep viewers’ attention. But, Moon takes its premise and knocks it out of the park.

Pairs well with The Martian and All is Lost.


2. Green Room

Perhaps one of the most intense, single-location-oriented films ever made. The premise? Simple. A punk rock band is stuck inside a music venue/bar due to an unfortunate incident involving the venue’s staff and attendees. Jeremy Saulnier, who made the stellar Blue Ruin, directs the living hell out of this movie.

Like Moon, Green Room is a perfect example of how good editing can take your movie from an eight to an eleven. Is this movie underrated? I feel like I don’t hear about it enough and I’d like to.

Pairs well with Mother! and Saw.


3. The Shining

Here’s something. Everybody knows Stephen King didn’t like the film adaptation, but did you know the movie was nominated for two Razzie Awards? Worst Actress and Worst Director. Yes, The Shining was nominated for Worst Director. But hey, whatever.

Anyways, the best thing about this movie is that you can re-watch it over and over again and find new things and interpret it in new ways. What else are you going to do right now? Got somewhere to be?

Pairs well with Being John Malkovich and Upgrade.


4. Cast Away

Given the recent news about Tom Hanks, I feel it’s necessary to include Cast Away on the list. No, he’s technically not stuck inside, but he is stuck. Directed by Robert Zemeckis, the film was an instant hit. With characters as iconic as Wilson, moments as memorable as “I have made fire,” and the insane transformation of Tom Hanks towards the end of the movie, how could it not be? What more can I say. It’s a classic and always worth a watch.

Pairs well with The Terminal.


5. The Mist

This is another Stephen King adaptation, and I’m starting to see a trend here. This pseudo monster/psych horror classic, The Mist finds a bunch of strangers in a town quarantined inside a supermarket while a mysterious mist ravages the town outside. It’s claustrophobic, tragic, and very well written. The ending is as bleak as a film can be, but the buildup is one of the more entertaining horror adaptations to really work, aside from Andy Muschietti‘s IT.

Pairs well with Quarantined and 12 Monkeys.


6. A Little Princess

Arguably Alfonso Cuarón‘s most under-appreciated film. A Little Princess is about a girl essentially stuck at a boarding school in New York during World War I. It’s a wonderful little film and a good example of how Cuarón has truly come a long way in his craft, while staying consistent in his ability to tell a story involving truly endearing characters. Give it a watch!

Pairs well with Roma (not at all similar, I just want everybody to watch Roma.) Oh, wait … Gravity! That’s similar.


7. The Lighthouse

I’m willing to bet you’ve seen The Lighthouse by now. It’s one of the most popular movies of 2019, featuring some of the most insane performances in recent memory. Willem Dafoe absolutely loses it and goes full madman. The film takes place in a lighthouse off the coast of New England in the 1890s. The two leads are stuck on an island due to inclement weather, and let’s just say they don’t handle the isolation well. The film was nominated for Best Cinematography at the 2020 Oscars. If you’re interested in learning how to light small spaces, this film is a good subject to study.

Pairs well with Devil and The Blair Witch Project.


8. Joan Cusack from Shameless

The 10 Best Movies About Characters Stuck Inside — William H. Macy and Joan Cusack in "Shameless"

This nerve-racking series deals with a woman’s struggles with agoraphobia. Image via Showtime.

Okay, it’s not a movie, but remember this insanity? Now, I was pretty late to Shameless and, admittedly, was in shock for the majority of the first season. But, Joan Cusack‘s character Sheila Jackson simply can’t leave her house. She’s scared of stepping outside and it takes a good season and a half to slowly overcome this fear. Honestly, it was just such an insane character and performance, I couldn’t not include it on the list. Joan Cusack for President!

Pairs well with Nick Swardson in The Benchwarmers with the fear of going outside being a major theme.


9. Tusk

I’m sorry to have even mentioned this movie. If you haven’t seen it, just keep living your life, scroll on, watch A Little Princess, do anything other than watch this film. But, if you have seen it, you know. Personally, I like the movie. Kevin Smith created a monster, literally. I think it’s fun, well-shot, and truly insane.

Shoutout to James Laxton for shooting this beast before he broke big with Moonlight. I like movies that make me wonder how the hell something could get financed. But yeah, main character is stuck inside a house and unable to leave. That’s all I’ll say for now.

Pairs well with a shot of whiskey and a prayer.


10. The Truman Show

Now, I know he’s not “technically” stuck inside, but also “technically” he is. He’s trapped and the movie slowly unwinds, giving way to one of Jim Carrey‘s best — if not the best — performance of his career. The Truman Show is like no other movie and it’ll always be a source of comfort for me. I remember watching this in middle school, marveling at how a movie can make you feel.

Pairs well with nothing. Watch this movie and think about what it means to be alive.


Cover image via A24.

Want more ideas on what to watch? Learn about film history and get some ideas here:

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