Top 10 Hijack Movies
“Get off my plane!”
– President James Marshall, “Air Force One” (1997)
While John Travolta hijacks a New York subway train in Tony Scott’s latest action thriller, “The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3” (2009), film critic Joel Massie investigates the ten greatest movies that deal with the detestable (though definitely entertaining) crime of forcibly seizing or taking command of a civilian or military transport.
10. Air Force One (1997)
In highly unrealistic fashion, the President of the United States (Harrison Ford) is actually a badass and must retake the titular aircraft from a band of ultra-radical Soviet neo-nationalists, led by the ultra-cool Gary Oldman. The action (and the disbelief) keeps amplifying every few minutes, and though the film hasn’t aged too well, it’s still a decent way to down a bucket of popcorn.
9. Die Hard 2 (1990)
In the first follow-up to the John McClane legacy, an airport’s traffic control tower is seized by the ruthless Colonel Stuart – and all incoming planes are basically “hijacked” when communications are cut off and they’re forced to continue circling until the terrorist’s demands are met. Too bad for them, McClane never gives up – and his famous catch phrase hasn’t been neutered yet.
8. Ffolkes (North Sea Hijack) (1979)
Trying to escape being typecast, Roger Moore portrayed the bearded, cat-loving eccentric who must thwart the ransom plans of psycho (pun intended) Anthony Perkins after he hijacks a supply ship and threatens to destroy an oil production platform and its drilling rig. Ffolkes. Rufus Excalibur Ffolkes. Doesn’t quite have the same ring as James Bond, but this forgotten little thriller is worth a look.
7. Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)
Though historically inaccurate, “Mutiny on the Bounty” remains a highly engaging look at the overthrow of a tyrannical ship captain. Re-envisioned four times, this one stands out (winning best picture of 1935, as well as securing a whopping three Best Actor nominations), with Charles Laughton as the infamous Bligh and Clark Gable as the leader of the mutineers. Both the 1962 version with Marlon Brando and the 1984 remake with Hopkins and Gibson were notable efforts.
6. Face/Off (1997)
Complete with inexplicably goofy title, John Woo’s thriller heaps on the ridiculous action as terrorist Castor Troy (Nicolas Cage) basically “hijacks” FBI Agent Sean Archer’s (John Travolta) face – and subsequently his complete identity and life. Some might scoff at the film as a whole, but you have to give credit to whoever dreamt up such an utterly preposterous premise and then got two big-name actors involved. Bravo.
5. Executive Decision (1996)
In this underappreciated ’90s actioner, Kurt Russell plays a defense scientist who must board a hijacked airliner in an attempt to disarm a bomb and stop a terrorist’s devious plan. Steven “I like to be in hijack movies” Seagal has a bravado role and Halle Berry gets to be the female protagonist a time long ago … before weepy Oscar speeches, white-haired superheroes, and friggin’ Catwoman.
4. The Hunt for Red October (1990)
In a different take on hijacking, Sean Connery’s Marko Ramius commandeers the nuclear sub Red October with the intention of defecting to the U.S. Even with relatively little action, McTiernan’s solid direction and the always entertaining Connery keep the suspense high, while making a Baldwin playing Jack Ryan a little more forgivable.
3. The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974)
Even with the star power of Denzel Washington and John Travolta, Tony Scott has his work cut out for him in trying to best the innovative original film. Walter Matthau faces off against Robert Shaw in a tense game of cat-and-mouse when a group of mercenaries hijack a Manhattan-bound train. Clever twists and brilliant performances keep this one a masterpiece of public transportation terror.
2. Under Siege (1992)
Way back when Steven Seagal was cool (I know, I can barely remember it either), he single-handedly outwitted and overtook a group of ex-CIA maniacs who hijacked an American battleship. Tommy Lee Jones and Gary Busey were at their crazy-villain best, and a very memorable adult birthday cake makes this a contemporary classic of its genre. Everyone’s favorite counter-terrorism-trained Navy SEAL cook returned three years later in an inferior – though still highly entertaining – sequel about a hijacked train. This guy just can’t catch a break.
1. Speed (1994)
When it comes to hijacked bus movies, there’s really no question who’s king. Actually, this might be the only one with that exact premise, but it still has an amazing amount of action and an interesting twist to the terrorism, since Dennis Hopper’s devilishly entertaining villain never actually gets on the vehicle he’s threatening. And this was before Sandra Bullock started choosing scripts while blindfolded. Three years later, a cruise liner gets hijacked and Bullock is there once again. This girl just can’t catch a break.
“United 93,” “The Hitcher,” “You Only Live Twice,” “The Great Train Robbery,” “Passenger 57,” “Black Dog,” and “Spacejacked.”