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Top 10 Claustrophobic Movies You Won’t Want To Watch During Lockdown

by Ian Robertson
fact checked by Jamie Frater

The quarantine currently in force across much of the world is something we have not experienced before and watching a LOT of television and movies is the way many of us are coping with it.

There are some movies that are better picks than others when you are trapped in your house though and this list is made up of ones you should not be looking up on Netflix until the virus and quarantine are in the past.

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10 12 Angry Men

12 Angry Men (1957) Trailer #1 | Movieclips Classic Trailers

Watching a bunch of people scream at each other about social issues while stuck in a room will feel a bit too much like lockdown with the family for many of us. 12 Angry Men is set in the jury room after a criminal trial and stars Henry Fonda as Juror No. 8. He is the only member of the jury who is not totally sure of the guilt of the man on trial and during the course of the movie he gradually tries to get the others to see the holes in the prosecution case.

It is actually a brilliant movie, with direction from Sidney Lumet that really ramps up the feeling of claustrophobic frustration, even though he had never directed a feature film before. Despite that though, the endless scenes of men sweating in a stuffy room while having one argument after another about society and justice means it will not be the best choice when you are in lockdown with other people and you are all starting to drive each other crazy. Maybe you see yourself as Henry Fonda, showing everyone else how you are right about everything, but your remake might end with them killing you and burying you under the floorboards.[1]

9 Cube

Cube – Trailer

A sci-fi movie might seem like the ideal way to escape from the boring reality of the lockdown, but Cube is definitely not the sci-fi film you want for that. This 1997 Canadian movie is about a group of people who find themselves trapped inside a giant cube made up of different rooms, some of which have lethal traps in them. It was directed by Vincenzo Natali and in the years since it was originally released it has become a cult favorite thanks to its surreal storyline and the feeling of extreme confinement that it manages to capture.

While that would normally make it a pretty decent movie to watch, it is exactly the thing that means most of us will not fancy the thought of it when the only journeys we are able to make are between the different rooms in our homes. Of course, watching it might make us feel grateful that we can go to the bathroom without worrying that it might have some kind of trap in there that can kill us. Then again, that might actually liven up the lockdown at this point.[2]

8 Phone Booth

Phone Booth – Trailer

Phone Booth is surely the least exciting movie title ever and spawned the less successful sequels Traffic Cone and Mailbox. However, despite sounding about as fun as filling out an IRS return, this 2002 movie is actually a thriller that will have you discovering butt muscles you never knew you had as you try to stay on the edge of your seat.

It stars Colin Farrell as obnoxious publicist Stuart Sheppard who answers a ringing public phone on a New York street one day, only for the voice on the other end of the line to tell him that he will be executed by a sniper if he hangs up. If you sat through Alexander that might sound like a fitting punishment for Farrell, and his character in the movie is one that most of us will enjoy seeing suffer too – at least to begin with. He has been cheating on his wife with another woman and the mystery man on the phone tells him he will be shot unless he confesses to both women. Directed by Joel Schumacher, Phone Booth is a nail-biting effort that stays focused almost entirely on Farrell trapped in that tiny booth negotiating for his life. It is not something you want to watch with your partner during lockdown though – especially if you are keeping a guilty secret from them.[3]

7 127 Hours

127 HOURS – Full Length Official Trailer HD

This 2010 film tells the true story of Aron Ralston, who got trapped while climbing a canyon in Utah. Played in the movie by James Franco, he ends up caught in the narrow space between two canyon walls after a boulder falls on his arm. The title of the movie is the amount of time that Ralston was stuck in this hellish situation with no hope of rescue and the movie really makes you go through that trauma with him, although it is actually a tribute to the human capacity for survival against the odds. The way it shows endurance in the face of a seemingly lost cause is the reason why the film was such a hit at the time and why the performance by Franco earned so much praise from film critics and audiences. It still makes for a tough watch when you are stuck at home with no idea when that will end though.

The space that Ralston is confined within is so narrow that this movie would give you claustrophobia at any time, but in the current situation it could lead to nightmares. On the other hand, it shows Ralston cutting off parts of his own body and drinking his own urine to survive until he is rescued, which means we can use it as a guide for how to make it through the upcoming Great Depression 2 when we cannot afford to buy food or drink.[4]

6 Morning Departure

Morning Departure Trailer

The 1950 UK submarine movie Morning Departure is well worth checking out – at any time other than now. An unusual thing about it is that it is not a Second World War film, but is instead set after the war. It tells the story of an everyday submarine exercise that goes horribly wrong when the sub hits a magnetic mine that causes it to sink.

The majority of the movie shows the survivors coming to terms with the fact that they might run out of oxygen before being rescued. Things take a turn for the better when the rescue crew are able to start getting the men out, but eventually it becomes clear that not all of them will be saved. The director Roy Ward Baker wrings the tension and drama out of this, but that plus the downbeat ending makes it one of the worst films you could pick to watch in the current crisis. You will be made to feel totally inferior by the manly stoicism that most of the crew react to the situation with, while the meltdown that Richard Attenborough’s character goes through will remind you of every annoying celebrity posting videos of their breakdowns on Instagram.[5]

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5 The Descent

The Descent (2005) Official Trailer #1 – Horror Movie HD

Imagine being trapped in a confined space that is also filled with weird creatures that want to violently kill you. Okay, that may just sound like lockdown with your family again, but actually it is the plot of the 2005 horror film The Descent. This film focuses on six women who find themselves stuck inside a cave that is home to strange and predatory creatures after a hiking trip goes wrong.

At first the movie concentrates on the arguments between the women about who is to blame for the situation and what they are going to do when they run out of supplies of food and water, before gradually revealing the full horror of their situation. This is made even more dramatic by the fact that much of the action takes place in almost total darkness – making it all the more shocking when the creatures suddenly and randomly lunge out of the black to attack their victims. The Descent was written and directed by Neil Marshall and is a really good horror movie to watch in normal circumstances, but in the current quarantine it will have you running out into the streets to take your chances with Covid-19.[6]

4 Dog Day Afternoon

Dog Day Afternoon (1975) Official Trailer – Al Pacino Movie

Dog Day Afternoon is one of the classics of 1970s Hollywood that showcases Al Pacino at his best – but wait until the lockdown is over to watch it for the first time. The plot of this 1975 film has nothing to with pooches, but the odd title comes from the phrase “dog days of summer” meaning ones that are so hot that they make you want to sleep like a dog. The movie is actually based on a true story and focuses on two hopeless bank robbers from Brooklyn called Sonny and Sal who end up locked inside the building with the bank staff as hostages after the robbery goes badly wrong. Most of the film is about the stand-off between them and the cops outside the building as nerves and temperatures get ever more frazzled in the summer heat.

The film is more than just a standard hostage movie though, as the reason Sonny wants the money is so that he can pay for his transgender partner to have a sex change operation. This and the bonds that develop between the robbers and their hostages make it a human interest drama as well as a thriller, but watching desperate people trapped together in a confined space in the middle of a boiling hot day makes for pretty uneasy viewing in the current situation.[7]

3 Buried

Buried Official Trailer (2010) – Ryan Reynolds Movie HD

What could be better to watch when we do not know if we will ever see the sunlight again than a movie about someone being buried alive? That is pretty much the entire plot of this 2010 movie that stars Ryan Reynolds in his pre-Deadpool days. Reynolds plays Paul Conroy, a civilian in Iraq, who wakes up at the start of the movie to find that he has been kidnapped and buried underground in a coffin. All he has been left are his mobile phone and lighter and the movie follows his frantic attempts to contact US authorities so that they can try to find him before he runs out of air.

Again, a lot of the action happens in near darkness as the flame from his lighter is the only escape that Conroy has from this, and director Rodrigo Cortes manages to make us viewers share his terror and panic. Some critics argue that Buried is meant to be a comment on the US and UK-led invasion of Iraq, but most people watching it are likely to see it as a gripping and painful psychological thriller. It might be the best performance that Reynolds has ever given, as he veers from frustration with the authorities to pleading with his tormentors and – finally – an emotionally devastating call to his family.[8]

2 10 Cloverfield Lane

10 Cloverfield Lane Official Trailer #1 (2016) – Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Goodman Movie HD

This 2016 movie about three people hiding together in an underground bunker is another film that might feel just a bit too close to the bone while we are all cowering in our homes for fear of the virus. Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays Michelle, who crashes her car and wakes up to find that she has been taken to a bunker by a man called Howard, played by John Goodman. He tells her that she cannot leave because there has been an alien chemical attack that has left the air outside the bunker contaminated.

From this point on, the movie takes place almost totally within that underground space as she encounters other people living in the bunker and gradually comes to suspect that Howard is not everything he appears to be. The movie was praised on its release for focusing on character and story rather than effects and it is a smart piece of horror, but unless you are lucky enough to be quarantined with Mary Elizabeth Winstead, watching it will not make you feel better at the moment.[9]

1 Rear Window

Rear Window Official Trailer #1 – James Stewart, Grace Kelly Movie (1954) HD

Perhaps the ultimate in claustrophobic thrills, this Hitchcock masterpiece from 1954 stars James Stewart as LB Jefferies, a photographer confined to a wheelchair in his small flat thanks to a broken leg. His boredom leads him to start spying on the lives of his neighbors with a telescope and that is one good reason not to watch it right now, as it might give you ideas that end with you being arrested as a peeping tom. Jefferies becomes convinced that the salesman Lars Thorwald who lives in a flat across the yard from his has murdered his wife and he gets his fashion model girlfriend Lisa Fremont – played by Grace Kelly – to help him investigate.

One of the most famous scenes in the movie sees Lisa go to the murderer’s flat to look for evidence while Jefferies watches, only for him to spot Thorwald returning. He is unable to do anything to help Lisa escape and the movie makes us feel that total helplessness thanks to great direction and acting from Hitchcock and Stewart. Rear Window is a movie every film fan should see at least once, but the best time to do so is when you can get up and go out afterwards.[10]

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About The Author: I am a freelance writer from Dundee who also makes short films under the name Wardlaw Films.

fact checked by Jamie Frater