Best train scenes in movies

Throughout the history of film, there have been thousands of great train scenes in movies.  This started with the very earliest silent movies when cameras sat still on the ground and simply panned back and forth.  The silent film has been called “the Citizen Kane of train films.”  For those who don’t know the film Citizen Kane, it’s a black and white film by Orson Welles considered by many to be the greatest film ever made.  It was certainly so advanced that watching it even today, the style of filmmaking doesn’t seem old or stale.  Other great film scenes have been seen in such films as Twentieth Century, Strangers on a Train, North by Northwest, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and many, many others.

Trying to cover even the best train scenes in movies would encompass dozens of films, so because there are so many, let’s just focus on some modern films.

Throw Momma from the Train - This classic comedy from 1987 starred Billy Crystal and Danny DeVito who, respectively, wanted to find ways to kill their ex-wife and mother while on a long train trip.  Jam-packed with great moments, it’s the entire film, rather than any single scene, that stands out as a great train moment.

The Polar Express - This modern animation, starring Tom Hanks in many different roles including the train conductor and Santa Claus among others, was an instant classic the moment it appeared.  Destined to be viewed by families year after year when the Christmas season came around, this charming film enjoyed all of the trappings of train films without being trapped by them, such as the ubiquitous dangerous walk on the roof of the train, going across dangerous bridges, the rear cars becoming separated from the train, and even a wild ride on ice when the train lost its way and left the tracks.

The film leaves you wondering if the lead character, a young boy approaching puberty and therefore losing the magic of Christmas, actually dreamed it all or not.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - The Hogwart’s Express is featured in several of the Harry potter movies and all but one of the books, but in no other is it more exciting than in the second film, not because of what happens on the train, but because of the flying car chasing it.  While the scene actually revolves around the car, excitement is high while Harry and Ron fly the car in a loop around the train as it’s passing a bridge, accidentally roll the car upside down, and Harry even falls out of the car when the door flies open, leaving him dangling dangerously underneath the car, only keeping from plummeting onto the roof of the train by holding onto a door handle.

The hogwarts express very quickly became one of the most recognizeable trains in film, leaving from the muggle-hidden platform nine and three quarters and heading off to the greatest wizarding school in the world at the beginning of each school year.

Mission Impossible - This 1996 film starring Tom Cruise features what has to be the most action packed, intense train scene ever shot on film.  In this scene, Tom Cruise has found himself on the outside of a bullet train in the Chunnel, the Channel Tunnel that leads across the English Channel from England to France.

He is pursuing a bad guy, who is attempting to leave the train via a helicopter.  The chopper gets dragged into the tunnel right behind the train after being tethered to the train by Cruise’s character, Ethan Hunt.  Once freed, the helicopter’s pilot attempts to kill Hunt with the chopper’s blades.  Hunt jumps onto the chopper and uses every super-spy’s favorite tool, exploding chewing gum which explodes, destroying the chopper and launching Hunt violently back onto the rear of the train.  He hangs on a lives to chew gum another day.

There are so many films with great train scenes that one article trying to cover the best train scenes in movies could scarecly do the train justice, but these are a few examples of modern greats in filmic train scenes.

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