Watchlist: Try to Escape the Holidays with These 14 Films About Being Trapped

By Stephanie Ornelas 

This time of year can be stressful enough without having to deal with the anxiety we sometimes get from attending holiday gatherings. They can create some unforgettable memories with loved ones, but we’ve all felt the jitters when it comes to preparing for these social get-togethers. Sometimes, they’re avoidable. But other times, you’re simply… stuck. It’s almost as if you’re in a movie — though hopefully not like the ones listed below. 

Whether you’re looking to elevate your family movie nights or you’re reluctantly going home for the holidays, the following curated list of films is sure to transform the confines of home into a thrilling cinematic escape. Each of these Sundance Festival screenings will plunge you into a world of suspense, whether it’s a dark comedy or a realistic horror tale. 

If you’re gearing up for a chaotic holiday weekend, distract yourself for a moment and imagine the tension as the characters below navigate claustrophobic spaces, solve intricate puzzles, and confront their deepest fears. So, fix yourself a holiday plate, and be thankful you’re not in any of the following situations. 

Here are 14 films about being trapped to explore during the long weekend ahead: 

Buried (2010 Sundance Film Festival)

In this gripping thriller by Rodrigo Cortés, Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds), a truck driver in Iraq, wakes up trapped in a coffin with only a lighter and a cell phone. Now, he must race against the clock to piece together the puzzle of his abduction and make contact with anyone who can help before it’s too late. Check here for viewing options. 

Boxing Helena (1993 Sundance Film Festival)

Jennifer Lynch explores the dark and twisted facets of desire in this provocative drama. Dr. Nick Cavanaugh (Julian Sands) is consumed by an unrequited love for his neighbor Helena (Sherilyn Fenn). In a chilling turn of events, he takes drastic steps to make her entirely dependent on him, leading to a psychologically charged tale of captivity and the consequences of an obsessive heart. Check here for viewing options. 

Corporate Animals (2019 Sundance Film Festival)

In Patrick Brice’s dark comedy, a self-absorbed CEO (Demi Moore) takes her staff on a team-building caving expedition. When disaster strikes, leaving them trapped underground, the group (Ed Helms, Jessica Williams, Karan Soni, Dan Bakkedahl, Nasim Pedrad) must confront their own shortcomings and navigate the bizarre dynamics of corporate culture-turned-survival. 

Check here for viewing options. 

Cube (1998 Sundance Film Festival)

Vincenzo Natali’s horror/sci fi thriller follows a group of individuals who find themselves imprisoned in a mysterious and elaborate maze of interconnected rooms. As they struggle to comprehend the deadly traps that await them in each cube, tensions mount, alliances form, and secrets unravel. Check here for viewing options. 

The Descent (2006 Sundance Film Festival)

This gruesome film by Neil Marshall follows a group of adventurers who embark on a caving expedition. As they delve deeper into the unexplored cave system, they become trapped and discover they are not alone. The terrifying journey takes a nightmarish turn when they encounter a race of subterranean creatures, leading to a harrowing fight for survival in the pitch-black depths. Check here for viewing options. 

Funny Games (2008 Sundance Film Festival)

A seemingly idyllic family vacation turns into a nightmare when two young men, who appear polite at first, invade the home of a wealthy family (Tim Roth, Naomi Watts, Devon Gearhart). What begins as a home invasion quickly devolves into a sadistic game, as the invaders subject the family to a series of twisted challenges. Director Michael Haneke blurs the lines between fiction and reality as his film confronts the audience with uncomfortable questions about violence, voyeurism, and the nature of entertainment. Check here for viewing options. 

Frozen (2010 Sundance Film Festival)

When three friends find themselves trapped on a ski lift suspended high above the icy slopes, they must navigate the physical and psychological challenges of their situation with no rescue in sight. As tensions rise and desperation sets in, and temperatures start to plummet, the unforgiving mountain becomes a chilling backdrop for a suspenseful and harrowing tale of survival against the elements. Fun fact: Adam Green’s thriller was filmed In Ogden, Utah — just north of Park City. Check here for viewing options. 

Green Room (2016 Sundance Film Festival)

After punk band The Ain’t Rights witness a murder in the green room at one of their shows, they’re trapped in a secluded venue as they become the target of a group of violent neo-Nazis led by Darcy Banker (Patrick Stewart). Now, the band must use their wits and whatever makeshift weapons they can find to survive the deadly confrontation. Jeremy Saulnier’s intense thriller delivers a relentless and suspenseful experience. Check here for viewing options. 

Hard Candy (2005 Sundance Film Festival)

David Slade’s drama revolves around a seemingly innocent online encounter between teenager Hayley Stark (Elliot Page) and charming photographer, Jeff Kohlver (Patrick Wilson). What starts as a flirtatious meeting takes a dark turn when Hayley turns the tables, revealing a hidden agenda. As the power dynamic shifts, the film becomes a gripping exploration of morality, justice, and the consequences of playing dangerous games. Check here for viewing options. 

The Lodge (2019 Sundance Film Festival)

Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz teamed up to deliver this psychological thriller that centers on a family dealing with the aftermath of a devastating tragedy. Richard (Richard Armitage) takes his children, Aidan and Mia, along with his new girlfriend, Grace (Riley Keough), to a remote winter lodge during the holidays. As tensions rise and secrets unfold, it becomes evident that Grace’s past, which is rooted in a traumatic religious cult experience, constantly haunts her. Isolated by a blizzard, the family becomes trapped in the lodge, leading to a series of unsettling and terrifying events. Check here for viewing options. 

The Nightmare (2015 Sundance Film Festival)

This horror documentary unravels the enigma of sleep paralysis as director Rodney Ascher delves into the unsettling narratives of eight individuals who grapple with night terrors. Through real-life interviews, the film paints a vivid picture of the haunting and surreal experiences that accompany sleep paralysis, leaving audiences questioning the thin veil that separates the waking world from the nightmares within. Check here for viewing options. 

Open Water (2004 Sundance Film Festival)

Director Chris Kentis plunges audiences into the depths of terror with this drama based on a true story. The film follows a couple accidentally left behind during a scuba diving expedition. Adrift in the vast open ocean, the two face not only the physical challenges of survival but also the psychological torment of isolation and the lurking dangers beneath the surface. As tension rises with each passing moment, Open Water explores the primal instincts that emerge when faced with the abyss. Check here for viewing options. 

Palm Springs (2020 Sundance Film Festival)

This romantic comedy with a time-bending twist follows Nyles (Andy Samberg) and Sarah (Cristin Milioti) as they find themselves trapped in a time loop at a Palm Springs wedding. The film unfolds as a hilarious and poignant exploration of love and self-discovery against the backdrop of the eternal recurrence of the same day. As the characters navigate the challenges of living in a temporal anomaly, the film delivers laughs, heartwarming moments, and a fresh perspective on the complexities of relationships. Check here for viewing options. 

SAW 

James Wan introduces audiences to the macabre world of Jigsaw, a diabolical serial killer with a unique modus operandi. Dr. Lawrence Gordon and Adam find themselves trapped in a nightmarish game orchestrated by Jigsaw, forced to confront their darkest secrets. As the twisted plot unfolds, the film becomes a psychological thriller that challenges the characters’ morality and forces them to make life-and-death decisions. With each gruesome puzzle piece, SAW is an unsettling journey into the horror of human desperation. Check here for viewing options.

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Alexis Chikaeze as Kai in 'Miss Juneteenth,' coming to digital platforms June 19

Channing Godfrey Peoples on a Bittersweet ‘Miss Juneteenth’ Release and the Urgency of Portraying Black Humanity on Screen

After premiering at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, Channing Godfrey Peoples’s debut feature is hitting digital platforms this Juneteenth—the day for which the film is named and which is very close to the director’s heart. “I feel like I’ve been living Miss Juneteenth my whole life,” she says.
The June 19 holiday—which commemorates the day slavery was finally abolished in Texas (more than two years after the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation was issued)—is celebrated in her hometown of Fort Worth with a deep sense of reverence and community, with barbecues, a parade, and a scholarship pageant for young Black women.

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