There’s nothing like a good train movie to give you chills, wanderlust or laughter. From Murder on the Orient Express to The Darjeeling Limited, Before Sunrise, Mission: Impossible or Lion, we’ve listed our 10 cult favourite films whose action/key scenes are set on the rails  (and their IMDb scores, in case you wouldn’t watch anything below 7…) They include romantic, funny or less fortunate encounters and dramatic or acrobatic events, to watch at home or while you travel!

Romance

Before Sunrise (1995) IMDb 8.1

A pretty French blonde (Julie Delpy) meets a tall, dark and handsome American (Ethan Hawke) on the train and decides to delay her return to Paris and spend the day together in Vienna. This story could have made for a corny movie but it’s not, thanks to Richard Linklater’s witty dialogues and his subtle direction of two good actors. The result is a charming interlude which will make you want to jump on a train to beautiful Vienna. The 1st chapter of a trilogy released over 20 years, Before Sunrise captures the spirit of the 90’s while being relevant today. White tee-shirts over black slip dresses and European train travel are all the rage!

Russian Dolls (2005) IMDb 7

Russian dolls is #2 of a Franglais trilogy about the international peregrinations of Generation X. It follows two 30-something friends – Parisian Xavier (Romain Duris) and Londoner Wendy (Kelly Reilly) – who met in Erasmus in Barcelona (in L’Auberge Espagnole). They find themselves drawn to each other while working on the bilingual script of a ridiculous romantic TV melodrama. This results in numerous Eurostar trips between London and Paris during which Xavier, lost but determined to be a writer, feels inspired to type is feelings and the base of a book. Cédric Klapisch directs a funny feel-good movie, about cross-border love and friendships.

Comedy

Some Like It Hot (1959) IMDb 8.3

This famous movie, set in the Roaring Twenties, features a great train sequence. Two musicians (Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon) – on the run after witnessing Chicago’s St. Valentine’s Day Massacre – board a train to Miami, disguised as women. They join an all-girl band lead by Marilyn Monroe. And, when their berth gets invaded with tipsy lasses in nighties, you understand that the two disguised men will struggle to stay in character. The rest is a succession of incongruous situations as Curtis becomes smitten with Monroe and Lemmon has the same effect on a rich older suitor… Nominated for six Oscars, including Best Director and Screenplay for Billy Wilder, Some Like It Hot is one of America’s best comedies.

The Dinner Game (1998) IMDb 7.7

The Dinner Game by Francis Veber will make you think twice when a French person invites you for supper. In this film, Parisians friends throw dinners of fools where each guest brings an idiot! That’s how good-willed Francois Pignon – portrayed by Jacques Villeret – gets asked to dinner by pretentious publisher Pierre Brochant (Thierry Lhermitte). The target is first spotted in a Paris to Biarritz train by Brochant’s friend. He finds Pignon’s hobby – building monuments’ models with matchsticks – promising… Villeret won a Best Actor César for a serie of well-acted gaffes, demonstrating that Brochant is a fool in his own ways and won’t have the last laugh. We do!

The Darjeeling Limited (2007)  IMDb 7.2

If you’d like to know what it’s like to travel by train through Darjeeling, don’t watch Wes Anderson’s Darjeeling Limited, which was shot in Rajasthan aboard a purposely built kitsch retro train. But, if you fancy seeing Adrien Brody, Owen Wilson and Jason Schwartzman in a sweet and stylish tale of nutty brothers, reconnecting over a scenic and spiritual journey, you’ll enjoy it. Should you want to go on a similar adventure, try the Palace on Wheels.

Thriller

The Train (1964) IMDb 7.9

This war classic by American director John Frankenheimer is inspired by the true story of a Nazi train, loaded with “degenerate art” by the likes of Picasso and Cézanne. It was looted from French museums and collectors like exiled Paul Rosenberg. In August 1944, the shipment left Paris for Nikolsburg close to Brno in the Czech Republic. It was intercepted near the capital by a Lieutenant of Free French forces who happened to be Rosenberg’s son! Loosely adapted, The Train stars Burt Lancaster as a French rail inspector. He forms a plan to block the carriages, helped by Resistance teammates and a hotel owner played by Jeanne Moreau. A gripping masterpiece.

Murder on the Orient Express (1974) IMDb 7.3

Lauren Bacall, Jacqueline Bisset, Sean Connery, Anthony Perkins, Vanessa Redgrave, Ingrid Bergman, Richard Widmark and Jean-Pierre Cassel: a formidable cast of suspects for Albert Finney, alias detective Hercule Poirot. Directed by Sidney Lumet, this adaptation of Agatha Christie’s novel is set in 1935, in the luxurious Orient Express train. Holidaying, Poirot boards in Istanbul to get back to work in London via Calais. Duty comes to him sooner than expected when a businessman is found dead in his compartment. 50 years after its release, this whodunnit and the Orient Express still fascinate. Another star-studded adaptation is in the pipeline and you can travel on the historical route from Istanbul to Calais/Paris (via Milan, Venice, Trieste, Munich, Zagreb, Belgrade and Sofia), or on an alternative one aboard the iconic train.

Action

Mission: Impossible (1996) IMDb 7.1

In this Brian de Palma blockbuster based on the eponymous tv series, Tom Cruise, alias agent Ethan Hunt of Impossible Mission Forces, often takes the train to meet Max. This arms dealer helps Hunt uncover the mole that killed his team and framed him. The scene everyone remember, is the spectacular final on top of a TGV: Cruise pursues Jon Voight and forces an helicopter piloted by Jean Reno into the Channel tunnel! A powerful sequence shot with a blue screen and a wind machine. If you’d rather not have your hair and face messed-up, travel “inside” the Eurostar.

Fantasy

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001) IMDb 7.5

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s stone, directed by Chris Columbus, is the first of the big-screen adaptations based on J.K. Rowling’s novels. It stars Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter, Emma Watson as Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley as Rupert Grint: three kids who get acquainted with their magical powers at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. They meet on the Hogwarts Express, the existing Jacobite steam train, running across the Scottish Highlands, on the splendid Fort William to Mallaig route. You can also plunge into the wonderfully intriguing universe of the series at Warner Bros. Studio Tour, 20 minutes by train from London Euston.

Drama

Lion (2016) IMDb 8.1

Lion is the heartfelt directing debut of Garth Davis, based on the true story of two journeys. The first one happens in 1986 to five-year-old Saroo – portrayed by Sunny Pawar, the cutest little actor we’ve ever seen – who accidentally falls asleep in a train across India and wakes up in Calcutta, miles away from his family. The second journey is the one he takes as a 25-year-old (dazzling Dev Patel), back to his roots, after he couldn’t remember the name of his village and got adopted by an Australian couple. One of the most interesting things is how the adult uses Google Maps, and ironically trains (calculations based on speed), to pinpoint his hometown.


One thought on “10 awesome train films you need to see – bring on the classics!

  1. All footage for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, other than the segments filmed at King’s Cross, were actually at the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. It wasn’t until the later films that they used the West Highland Line and notably, Glenfinnan Viaduct.

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