Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Best Movies Set Aboard Trains

Since their invention, trains have powered the way forward for mankind. Whether you're riding aboard a luxurious passenger train to a faraway land or watching a seemingly endless freight train plod along, they inspire a sense of wonder and romanticism that makes them ripe for storytelling. With that in mind, it should make sense that the select few movies set aboard trains can wind up being some of the most captivating out there.

Below, we'll be rounding up some of the best films to take place aboard trains. And though cinema has more than its fair share of iconic scenes involving our featured mode of transportation, we'll be sticking to entries that at least feature some of their most important moments on the rails. Whether they rely on their unique setting to add a claustrophobic feel or instead serve as a background to let the characters on screen flourish, our picks are some of the best in this unique category.


Released in 2013, "Snowpiercer" quickly became one of the most renowned films by South Korean director Bong Joon-ho, who just a few years later would go on to direct the Academy Award-winning "Parasite." With both films incorporating commentary on real-world issues amidst their unlikely settings, fans of "Parasite" who haven't yet seen this 2013 sci-fi thriller need to put it on the top of their watchlist.

Set in the far-flung future, a failed climate control experiment has transformed the entirety of earth into a barren and ice-filled wasteland, subsequently killing off the majority of all life on the planet. Humanity's sole survivors all reside within the confines of a high-speed train known as the Snowpiercer. Racing around the world on a track spanning the entirety of the planet, the train's impressive route is matched only by its sheer size. And while it sounds like a pretty good last-ditch option for the human race to continue, it proves to be anything but.

Though you might assume all of the strife and inequality died with the majority of human life, the cramped living conditions aboard the Snowpiercer only serve to exacerbate the issues. Following the lives of the people residing in the cars furthest back on the train, their lives of squalor motivate them to attempt a revolt, with their end goal being to reach the engine. The journey they take to the front showcases the true disparity between their lives and that of the train's upper crust as they push forward to topple it all.

Murder on the Orient Express

Based on a 1934 detective novel of the same name, this classic mystery movie has become something of a cultural icon since its release. Named after the rail line stretching between London and Istanbul, the now world-famous Orient Express train serves as the film's setting. As expected, the luxurious ride soon becomes the final resting place of a wealthy American businessman named Samuel Ratchett. A series of clues left behind at the scene of the murder immediately complicate the situation and reveal Ratchett's secretive past. With just about every one of the recently deceased's fellow passengers among the list of possible suspects, it's up to detective Poirot to uncover the truth and solve the grisly murder.

A classic mystery harkening back to bygone days of cinema help to make "Murder on the Orient Express" an enduring favorite. And though it didn't quite appreciate the same critical success as its predecessor, the 2017 adaptation of Agatha Christie's original 1934 novel is still worth checking out for fans wanting more.

Train to Busan

One of the highest grossing domestic films released in South Korea to date, "Train to Busan" also achieved international appeal, introducing many audiences abroad to the wonders of Korean media. Released in 2016, the high adrenaline horror film follows a wealthy businessman and his daughter — among others — and is set almost entirely aboard a bullet train on its way to, you guessed it, Busan. But the seemingly normal commute is interrupted as the passengers gradually realize a zombie outbreak has gripped the nation. It's soon revealed that in the unfolding chaos, one of the infected managed to board the train right before its departure, sealing most of its unwitting passengers to a grisly fate.

To make matters even worse, the undead hordes are a lot less like the lumbering slowpokes we've grown accustomed to on "The Walking Dead" and a lot more like the former track athletes from "28 Days Later." The passengers that manage to survive the first wave of the infection to break out on board are forced to work together to try and get the train to safety, even if they find working together equally as challenging.

Demon Slayer the Movie: Mugen Train

Continuing immediately after where the 1st season left off, Tanjiro and friends embarked on this two-hour epic that managed to claim the title of Japan's biggest box office release that year (via Box Office Mojo). It did pretty well abroad as well, taking second place for most profitable film in the genre for its release in the United States. For good reason, too, as it's more or less a faithful adaptation of the manga it's sourced from and contains some of the most exciting moments we've seen so far from the ongoing animated series.

The trio of Demon Slayers is joined by the Flame Hashira Rengoku for a special mission aboard the Mugen Train, which has reportedly been the site of numerous recent disappearances. And while they board the train expecting a fight, the true nature of their enemy defies belief and puts each one of their fighting skills to the ultimate test. Although we'd recommend watching Season 1 of "Demon Slayer" before picking this one up, there's still enough here for fans who aren't familiar with the series to enjoy.


You might assume that a film solely centered around a runaway freight train would get boring after a while, but "Unstoppable" manages to keep the tension going all the way till the end. After the cab of a lengthy freight train is abandoned by its engineer, it begins accelerating with no one at the controls. When railroad employees attempt to stop the rapidly advancing locomotive and fail each time, they're forced to call upon the help of law enforcement and their higher-ups. And to make a bad situation worse, it's revealed that the runaway train's cargo consists of highly destructive chemicals that are guaranteed to cause widespread destruction if the train derails.

Denzel Washington stars in one of his biggest films to date alongside Chris Pine in this one as the duo does everything in their power to bring the train to a halt. The gripping premise paired with some great visuals both work to turn the otherwise straightforward plot into a thoroughly enjoyable film that's sure to leave you on the edge of your seat.

The Darjeeling Limited

Style over substance would be an apt way to describe the filmography of Wes Anderson. That is, of course, if his films didn't also contain some of the best that storytelling has to offer. Though the events of this one are admittedly more character-driven than some of Anderson's other films, thanks to its cramped setting, it still manages to thrive by taking a deep dive into the hearts and souls of its protagonists. And while it's a long way from the top when compared to his other titles, this 2007 drama is still well worth checking out for both devoted fans of the directors' work and those simply looking for a compelling drama that isn't light on its artistry.

The events of the film are centered around three brothers embarking on the titular Darjeeling Limited, a luxurious passenger train running through the heart of India. The trio is united by their common goal of reuniting with their estranged mother, as well as the shared grieving over the passing of their father. And despite the film's scant 91-minute runtime, the journey of self-discovery that the men embark on definitely takes its time, making it a perfect match for its wanderlust setting.

The Polar Express

Once you look past the now less than stellar effects, "The Polar Express" can best be described as a modern fairy tale, and one that has solidified itself as a holiday classic in the years since its release. Taking place on Christmas Eve, a mystical steam engine arrives outside a young boy's home in the dead of night. Headed for the North Pole, he's accompanied on the magical train ride by a wide cast of characters ranging from fellow children to a ghostly hobo riding on the Polar Express's roof. Along the way, the children discover more about themselves, as well as the admittedly cliched true meaning of Christmas.

Though it got mixed reviews from critics and audiences alike thanks to its pretty predictable plot, "The Polar Express" is still a thoroughly fun film to put on during the Christmas season. And amidst a lineup of gritty action films and thrillers, this is easily the most family-friendly pick on our list.


One of the more suspenseful picks on our list, "Transsiberian" perfectly balances its claustrophobic setting with the concept of being in an unfamiliar place to leave audiences feeling uneasy throughout its nearly two-hour runtime. On their way home from a religious excursion, Emily Mortimer's character of Jessie is joined by Woody Harrelson in one of his best films so far as the couple rides the Trans-Siberian railroad from Beijing westward to Moscow. Along the journey, they're accompanied by other passengers, whose true intentions may not be as innocent as they seem.

We won't delve too much further into the plot for this one, as the many twists and turns in "Transsiberian" should be enjoyed with as few spoilers as possible. And if you aren't sold yet, film critic Roger Ebert stated in his near-perfect review.: "It's not often that I feel true suspense and dread building within me, but they were building during long stretches of this expertly constructed film." And though a few of the more intense scenes take place outside of the train, there are still plenty of scenes on board to round out "Transsiberian" as one of the most claustrophobic picks on our list.

Source Code

To call "Source Code" of the best films in Jake Gyllenhall's ongoing filmography is certainly saying something considering some of the truly great titles he's been a part of, but we stand by it. The only pick on our list to incorporate some sci-fi themes, the 2011 thriller went all the way by immediately forcing audiences to ask what exactly on screen is and isn't real.

In the middle of a successful career abroad in the U.S. Army, Captain Stevens' life takes an abrupt shift when he wakes up aboard a Chicago-bound train moments before disaster. Stranger still, he quickly realizes he's no longer in his own body and is now a school teacher named Sean Fentress. It's only after the aforementioned disaster takes place that the truth of his situation fully comes to light. After realizing that he is both in a simulation and that the train was the site of a deadly bombing, Stevens must revisit the doomed commuter train as many times as it takes to uncover the culprit. Full of twists and turns, "Source Code" will leave you guessing all the way until the end, when the pieces finally come into place for a wholly satisfying conclusion.

Strangers on a Train

Directed by one of the greatest filmmakers in history, Alfred Hitchock's 1951 noir thriller "Strangers on a Train" is one of his most noteworthy and easily among some of his best work. The suspenseful entry follows two strangers, Guy Haines and Bruno Antony, who are equally unhappy with their lives but have completely different ideas of how to go about changing them. After their introduction, Bruno makes the absurd suggestion that the two men each eliminate the object of the other's unhappiness. For Guy, that's his unfaithful wife, and for Bruno, it's his detestable father. The latter's insistence that it's the perfect crime leaves Guy unsettled, and he quickly finds out that his fellow passenger was all too serious about his suggestion.

The innocent commute soon results in Guy becoming trapped in a web of lies after he's implicated in a crime he didn't commit. With Bruno becoming increasingly threatening and the police already suspicious of him, it seems that the only way out for Guy might be to fulfill his end of a deal he never agreed to. And though it's the oldest pick on our list by a mile, "Strangers on a Train" can still hold its own against any of the more contemporary entries.

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three

Not to be confused with the less than favorable 2009 remake, the original 1974 version of "The Taking of Pelham One Two Three" is another novel adaptation that has cemented itself as a must-watch over the years. Set during some of the grittiest days of New York City history, tragedy strikes a subway train headed downtown as criminals board and seize the first car, taking its occupants hostage with them. Armed and dangerous, the four men demand a ransom of a million dollars within an hour, pledging to swiftly execute the hostages if the city doesn't pay up.

Coming from all walks of life, the identities of the crooks are eventually revealed, as are the desperate circumstances that led them to attempt the high-stakes attack. Their violent ploy to get rich quick puts both their cohesion and the law enforcement combating them to the test, with 18 innocent lives held in the balance. Tense and atmospheric, "The Taking of Pelham One Two Three" has everything you could want from a classic heist movie and will leave you anxious all the way up to the final shots of the film.

Runaway Train

Coming in last but certainly not least, the 1985 action thriller "Runaway Train" is part "Prison Break," part "Unstoppable," and entirely fun to watch. The R-rated flick follows a duo of convicts whose criminal exploits have left them sentenced to a remote high-security prison in Alaska, where they plot their eventual escape. When the day finally comes, the hardened Manny is forced to rely on the inexperienced Buck to help him get out as the pair make a break for it in the middle of the harsh Alaskan winter. The last step of their escape plan relies on commandeering a small train and riding it to freedom, which proves to be easier said than done.

Things get off to a bad start after a sloppy hijacking of the locomotives ends up with their cover being blown and the law hot on their heels. To make matters worse, the lead engine lost control of its brakes while the pair got onboard and is now barreling forward with no way for the two to get off. Now in a desperate situation, they can only hope to try and stop the out-of-control train before it derails, all while trying to evade the pursuing police.