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Trains have been a part of pop culture since its invention, especially film. Here at FreightWaves, some of our favorite films are about rail or take place on trains. This is a list of our favorite train movies, in no particular order.
“Murder on the Orient Express”
If the cast of 1974’s “Murder on the Orient Express” — including names such as Connery, Redgrave, Bacall, Gielgud, Bergman and Widmark, among others — doesn’t excite you, by all means skip this Agatha Christie classic. For the remaining 99.99999% of humanity, get whole rooms full of popcorn ready as you join Hercule Poirot (Albert Finney) on a quest to unmask a killer on board a snowbound train. Judi Dench and Kenneth Branagh spare no effort to make the 2017 remake palatable. But the one-man wrecking crew that is Johnny Depp foils them. — Steve Barrett
“Strangers on a Train”
This 1951 thriller, based on the novel of the same name, is one of my favorite Alfred Hitchcock movies. It centers around, you guessed it, strangers on a train — one a tennis star jilted by his cheating wife, the other a wealthy man who is angry with his father. While on the train, the two hatch a plan to trade murders so neither could be caught. “Your wife, my father. Crisscross?.” Keep your eyes peeled during this film — like many of his other projects, Hitchcock makes a brief cameo. Can you spot him? — Meg Scarbrough
“Throw Mama From the Train”
Did you know this 1987 dark comedy is a remake of sorts? Indeed it is. In fact, it is a reimagining of the classic we just talked about above. The film, directed by and starring Danny DeVito with costar Billy Crystal, centers around Larry (Crystal), a struggling novelist who has become consumed by anger toward his ex-wife after she steals one of his manuscripts and subsequently becomes famous — and wealthy. Larry tries to make ends meet by teaching a writing class at a local college. That’s where he meets student Owen (DeVito). Like Larry, Owen is dominated by a large force in his life: Mama, a demanding and mean old woman. Before too long, the men conspire to kill for each other. Buckle up for this hilarious ride. — Meg Scarbrough
“The Cassandra Crossing”
A train carrying a deadly plague and a surly terrorist makes its merry way toward a European gorge crossing that gives new meaning to the term “metal fatigue.” Even Martin Sheen can’t drag down this spunky 1976 Sophia Loren/Burt Lancaster vehicle. — Steve Barrett
“Planes, Trains and Automobiles”
No explanation needed for this hilarious 1987 Thanksgiving comedy starring Steve Martin and the late John Candy. Instead, here are some of the best quotes:
Police officer: “Do you have any idea how fast you were going?”
Del: “Funny enough, I was just talking to my friend about that. Our speedometer is melted, and as a result, it’s very hard to say with any degree of accuracy exactly how … uh … fast we were going.”
Owen: “Get your lazy behind out here and put that in back.”
Neil: “Oh, no, no. We’ve got it.”
Del: “It’s very heavy.”
Owen: “She don’t mind. She’s short and skinny, but she’s strong. Her first baby come out sideways. She didn’t scream or nothin’.”
Del: “Isn’t that something? You’re a real trouper.”
Neil: “Why did you kiss my ear?”
Del: “Why are you holding my hand?”
Neil: “Where’s your other hand?”
Del: “Between two pillows.”
Neil: “Those aren’t pillows!”
— Meg Scarbrough
Get past the silly premise — an icy, post-apocalyptic world whose lone survivors are the alternately oppressed and privileged denizens of a ridiculously long train that keeps making a loop on an equally ridiculously long track around the world — and you can squeeze some enjoyment out of this 2013 film. Tilda Swinton, she of former White Witch fame in “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’s” frozen Narnia-scape, fits right into this icebox of a movie, and her character hasn’t much changed. The corresponding TV series that started in 2020 doesn’t maintain the intensity of the film, mainly because it’s a TV series. Then again, it does have Jennifer Connelly, so it can’t be all bad. — Steve Barrett.
Do you have a favorite train movie? Tell us in the comments below.
FreightWaves Classics articles look at various aspects of the transportation industry’s history. Click here to subscribe to our newsletter!
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