The phrase 'train scene' doesn't exactly scream "thrill a minute!", does it?
Not so in movie land, where locomotives of various kinds are often the scene of just about the coolest, most action-packed sequences – hell, James Bond is known for his love of a train fight scene, so who are we to disagree?
Here, then, is our celebration of all things train-scendent...
Bond’s no stranger to a rollicking good train sequence, and for his 50th anniversary, director Sam Mendes pulled out all the stops for a rocking railroad scene so brilliant it just about eclipses all the others.
007 (Daniel Craig) is on the trail of bad guy Patrice (Ola Rapace) in Istanbul, with Eve Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) providing back-up.
Except Eve’s attempt to shoot Patrice off the roof of a moving train goes wrong when she strikes Bond instead. Cue a long fall from the sky…
Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade (1989)
Holy flashback, Batman! Indiana Jones’ third big screen outing jumps into the hero’s backstory as we meet him at 13-years-old (played by River Phoenix).
His Utah horseback ride with the Boy Scouts takes a turn for the sinister, though, when he steals a golden cross from some ugly thugs and escapes onto a circus train – where he receives a serious whooping.
This is also the place we discover why Indy hates snakes – and how he acquired that iconic hat.
The Bridge On The River Kwai (1957)
In this classic film’s closing moments (so, yeah, SPOILERS), Lieutenant Joyce (Geoffrey Horne) reveals that he’s been sent to destroy the titular bridge.
Why? He’s part of a commando unit. Or he was, because the Japanese waste no time shooting him dead, leaving it to Colonel Nicholson (Alec Guinness) to complete the task.
Which turns out to be Nicholson’s dying act… Madness indeed.
The Wolverine (2013)
Pursued by Yakuza gangsters, a wounded and strangely vincible Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) attempts to escape on a Tokyo bullet train, but finds himself cornered.
Solution? Hop onto the roof and shake the bad guys loose. Luckily, Wolverine’s got his own grapple hooks (oh alright, claws), which means he can cling on better than the bad guys.
That said, it still makes us wince when an unlucky Yakuza falls victim to a low-hanging bit of framework.
Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid (1969)
The Union Pacific Flyer’s coming to town, and the Hole-In-The-Wall gang are looking at it like it’s the golden goose.
Raiding the train, they pilfer its wares for a second time. Except this time the railroad’s president is prepared with his own gang, leading to a really massive train explosion. Nice.
Strangers On A Train (1951)
Hitchcock’s exceptional thriller sews its suspense seeds early aboard a train, where Guy Haines (Farley Granger) meets Bruno Anthony (Robert Walker) and the two talk about the problems in their lives.
Bruno comes up with a devilish solution – they should each kill the person making the other one’s life a misery. It could be the perfect crime, as they would have no motive and don’t even really know each other.
It’s the talkiest scene on this list by far, but that doesn’t mean it’s the dullest – far from it. The suspense here is in the insidious idea that Bruno proposes, plus the tension of the question: Will they go through with it?
The French Connection (1971)
Though a train’s very much involved in this breathtaking sequence, the action’s really taking place on the roads below it as Popeye Doyle (Gene Hackman) attempts to keep up with the loco.
Naturally, that’s made all the trickier by everybody else on the road, and all those pesky red lights.
Not that Popeye lets any of those things stop him…
Spider-Man 2 (2004)
Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man was ace, but the second was even better, mostly because of this jaw-dropping sequence set on an R train.
Spidey (Tobey Maguire) is going up against Doc Ock (Alfred Molina), whose mechanical tentacles make him a particularly dastardly foe – not least when he destroys the train’s breaks and gets the hell out of dodge.
Which means it’s up to Spidey to save the day. Which he does. But only just, this confrontation pushing him right to the limit…
Sherlock Holmes: Game Of Shadows (2011)
Sherlock (Robert Downey Jr) and Watson (Jude Law) are so inseparable that the latter can’t even go on his honeymoon without the former getting in on the mix.
Watson’s romantic getaway is interrupted first by an attack by Moriarty’s men, and then Sherlock, who’s on board (wearing a dress). “I agree it’s not my best disguise,” Sherlock admits, before tossing Watson’s new bride off the train.
Which is only the beginning of one of the film’s most audacious action sequences. Who knew trains could be this fun?
Harry Potter & The Prisoner Of Azkaban (2004)
Think Harry Potter’s all safe and cosy? Director Alfonso Cuarón knocks that nail on the head early on with a chilling sequence aboard the Hogwarts Express.
As Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and co journey toward Hogwarts, their train’s intercepted by grim reaper-like baddies the Dementors, who suck all the happiness out of the train – and the franchise as a whole.
It’s all darkness from here on in…
The General (1926)
Buster Keaton proves he’s got serious kahunas by doing his own stunts in a film that still stands up today for its heart-in-mouth sequences.
The entire film is essentially one big train stunt as union spies commandeer the titular locomotive, with engineer Johnnie Gray (Keaton) in hot pursuit.
Mission: Impossible (1996)
Before Wolverine and Bond took to train roofs, Tom Cruise showed us how it’s really done in this first impossible mission.
Going after Jon Voight’s scheming turn tail, Ethan (Cruise) ends up on a train in the Channel Tunnel where he uses some explosive chewing gum to take down both Voight AND a helicopter (oh YES).
From Russia With Love (1963)
Bond (Sean Connery) finds himself trapped in a train carriage with SPECTRE agent Grant (Robert Shaw), who’s got a great bloody pistol pointed right at him.
Then Grant makes his first mistake – opening Bond’s smoke-bombed briefcase, leading to a moody-looking fist-fight that hasn’t aged a day.
Music-less, soundtracked only by the clatter of the train on the track, this is really, really brutal.
Back To The Future Part III (1990)
Marty (Michael J. Fox) is stuck in the past with a time-machine DeLorean that – thanks to a lack of fuel – is unable to get up to the necessary 88mph to hop forward to1985.
Doc’s (Christopher Lloyd) brilliant idea? Shove it on the front of a racing steam train until it’s going fast enough to time jump.
Also? It’s on a track that isn’t finished yet, meaning if the plan doesn’t work, it’s a long way down…
Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987)
Neal Page (Steve Martin) finally shakes free Del Griffith (John Candy), whom he’s been begrudgingly travelling with for all of seven increasingly-testing days.
Sitting on the train, though, Neal begins to realise that Del may have been keeping something important from him, prompting Neal to seek him out at the train station, where Del make a heartbreaking confession.
This is one train scene that’ll have you sobbing into your hankies unabashedly.
James McAvoy’s assassin learns how to curve bullets as Wesley, then finds himself stuck on a train with rad bad guy Cross (Thomas Kretschmann) with nowhere to hide.
Includes the frankly brilliant sights of Angelina Jolie’s Fox (oo-er) driving a car into a moving train and McAvoy firing bullets that SMASH INTO OTHER BULLETS.
You can’t make this stuff up. (Unless your name’s Mark Millar or Timur Bekmambetov).
Stand By Me (1986)
Nothing says ‘terrifying’ like kids getting caught on the tracks while a train races toward them with no sign of slowing down.
That’s the deal here as Gordie (Wil Wheaton), Chris (River Phoenix), Teddy (Corey Feldman) and Vern (Jerry O’Connell) decide to risk it and cross a ravine using a train track – only to almost get smooshed by an oncoming train.
Yeah, they put the ‘loco’ in locomotive.
Final Destination (2000)
Death gets everywhere – even on trains, in this still-nerve-shredding teen horror flick in which a group of youngsters discover they can’t outrun the grim reaper.
Finding it all just a bit too much, Carter (Kerr Smith) decides to commit suicide by driving his car onto a railroad crossing and killing the engine. As the train approaches, though, he changes his mind – except now he’s stuck with an uncooperative seatbelt.
Luckily Alex (Devon Sawa) is on hand to help. He can’t help Billy (Seann William Scott), though, who’s beheaded by shrapnel from the train ramming the car…
The Sting (1973)
Director George Roy Hill cranks out the tension in a card game as Gondorff (Paul Newman) goes up against the renowned Lonnegan (Robert Shaw).
Playing a game of Jacks, they keep their Poker faces as Poker-y as possible while Gondorff continually goads Lonnegan – before out-cheating him to the tune of $15,000.
Lonnegan’s boiling rage is terrifying to behold.
North By Northwest (1959)
Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant) is on the run after being mistaken as some chap called George Kaplan.
Stowing away on express passenger train the 20th Century Limited, he attempts to evade the police – and discovers a surprising ally in Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint), who hides Thornhill in her carriage.
Nobody escapes the Thornhill charm.
Risky Business (1983)
Randy high schooler Joel (Tom Cruise) meets lovely prostitute Lana (Rebecca De Mornay) and wastes no time getting to know her intimately.
The pair then decide to spice up their lives with a little locomotive lovin’ (the film’s soundtrack includes track ‘Love On A Real Train’) that’s as saucy as it is, er, public.
Christian Grey ain’t got nothing on this guy.
Our titular hero (Asa Butterfield) dreams, noticing a key on the track at the Gare Montparnasse station. Creeping down, he picks up the key, realising too late that a train’s on the way.
As the tracks vibrate forebodingly, the train roars into the station and the driver attempts to avoid crushing the kid. Which results in the train coming off the rails, smashing through the station and bursting out into the street.
Yep, this is Martin Scorsese recreating the infamous incident of 1895 – and doing it brilliantly.
A film so cool it features not one but two trains scenes. The first sees a teenage Clark Kent testing out his powers by racing against a train.
Sure, it’s aged and sure, the movie magic isn’t quite as impressive as it was back in the seventies, but there’s an innocent charm to this sequence that means it’s still lodged in our memories.
And then of course, there’s the bit where Superman (Christopher Reeve) saves a train from certain destruction by using his super-bod to fill the gap in a track. Now THAT’S a hero.
Super 8 (2011)
Movie-loving seventies teenager Joe (Joel Courtney) gets a taste of blockbuster-scale danger when, while filming a train for his monster movie, he ends up filming a TRAIN CRASH that almost kills him and his friends.
They see their bio teacher Dr Woodward (Glynn Turman) swerve his truck onto the track, derailing the oncoming train and turning the train depot into a war zone of explosions and flying metal.
It’s a miracle any of them come out of it alive – let alone the alien onboard the train…
M Night Shyamalan does show us the train crash that opens his superior superhero flick, but just the sound of it is enough to chill the bone.
That it starts so innocuously is another masterstroke, with David Dunn (Bruce Willis) flirting with the lady sitting next to him (having slipped off his wedding ring) while a child peeks through the seats.
Mundanity followed by mayhem. Brilliant.
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