Movies to Avoid if You’re Claustrophobic

Descent600Claustrophobia is not something to be taken lightly, well, unless you don’t have it of course. Whether you define yourself as claustrophobic or not, a good movie with some clever cinematography can induce the feeling of being trapped. Below, in no real specific order, are twenty films that a claustrophobic person should steer clear of at all costs.

1

Alien (1979)
Ridley Scott

Alien might not be the first film to use outer space as an element of terror, but it might be the best one. When Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, and the rest of the crew aboard the Nostromo attempt to respond to an other worldly SOS they end up being stalked and eventually slaughtered by the gruesome Alien. There’s nowhere to run or hide on a spaceship, and remember; “In space, no one can hear you scream”.

2

Repulsion (1965)
Roman Polanski

Before he was synonymous with child molestation, Roman Polanski was the grand master of claustrophobic films. His “Apartment Trilogy” began with this twisted black and white tale of a woman repulsed by men. Afraid to leave her home, the lines of what’s real and what happens in Carol’s head become blurred. Her gruesome thoughts and man-murdering ways were some of the most challenging on-screen moments of their time. Followed by Rosemary’s Baby, and The Tenant.

3

Cube (1997)
Vincenzo Natali

A Canadian film that managed to achieve cult status, Cube finds several strangers trapped in a life sized box with no explanation as to why they’re there or what it is. Talk about a claustrophobic nightmare; trying to find a way out of something that doesn’t appear to have one using some complicated math equations ought to induce schizophrenia. Cube is a complex film, one that could leave you trapped inside your own head trying to figure it out. Not for those with a fear of enclosure.

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4

Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004)
Quentin Tarantino

One scene, the one where The Bride is left to find her way out of coffin underneath six feet of dirt, stands as one of the most intense moments on film. Ever. You feel Uma Thurman’s panic, and you watch her accept her fate, and then reverse it.

5

Rear Window (1954)
Alfred Hitchcock

Many people may be familiar with the story of Rear Window from its depiction in The Simpsons, and that’s quite alright. When a photographer is bound to a wheelchair while nursing a broken leg, his obsession of spying on his neighbors leads him to believe that they’ve been involved in a murder. It’s voyeuristic, terrifying, and bone chillingly quiet at times, and still holds up as Hitchcock’s best.

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6

Being John Malkovich (1999)
Spike Jonze

Not exactly frightening per say, but Being John Malkovich featured the smallest office space ever seen. If that’s not bad enough for the standard claustrophobic, try being locked inside the bald bean of Mr. John Malkovich. Who knows what goes on inside there?

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7

Event Horizon (1997)
Paul W.S. Anderson

This is why I’ll never go to space, I could have been astronaut, seriously. Life goals and aspirations changed shortly after the first time I viewed Event Horizon. Take everything bad that’s ever happened in Sci-Fi Horror films and multiply it by infinite, that’s what you get from Event Horizon. Suicide, cannibalism, rape, murder, it doesn’t matter; what happens on the spaceship Event Horizon stays on Event Horizon.

8

Das Boot (1981)
Wolfgang Petersen

Here’s an idea, take 42 wet-behind-the-ears German army recruits with questions about the war they’re being asked to fight and send them off to man a U-Boat during WWII. The result is terrifyingly claustrophobic, pitting the isolated crew with no escape up against the destructive forces of nature, the Royal Navy, unrelenting Nazi orders, and themselves. It’s fantastic, easily the best “submarine” movie ever made.

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9

Panic Room (2002)
David Fincher

Jodie Foster plays a mother holed up inside a secret “panic room” with her diabetic daughter, hiding from a few baddies looking to rob them and probably much worse. You’d think that the “panic room” would be the best place to hide and let some dudes make off with your goodies, guess again. There’s $3 million in bearer bonds inside a safe hidden within the locked down cell. No one can get in, no one can get out, and mommy needs to get some insulin. Avoid if you experience heart palpitations or nervous anxiety.

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10

The Vanishing (1988)
George Sluizer

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Not the disappointing 1993 film of the same name from director George Sluizer starring Jeff Bridges and Kiefer Sutherland, but the original Dutch version from 1988. The Vanishing aka Spoorloos tells the story of a man searching for his lover over a three-year period after she disappears from a rest stop. Frightening flashbacks lead Rex on the path to redemption, but not even he is prepared for the outcome.

11

Session 9 (2001)
Brad Anderson

Session 9 is scary on so many levels that it’s almost unbearable. It succeeds a truly terrifying psychological horror film, but its clever shots and eerie story will keep you on edge until the closing moments. A group of asbestos removal technicians begin to unravel emotionally and psychologically when they all start to uncover the evil secrets locked within this abandoned hospital. Not a moment goes by where the viewer can let down their guard, with some sequences that are almost unbearable.

12

Sunshine (2007)
Danny Boyle

Not all that dissimilar from Event Horizon, or Alien for that matter, Sunshine still manages to carve out its own piece of the Sci-Fi Horror genre. A small crew of space cadets travel towards the sun in hopes to reignite its once powerful fire, but their mission becomes jeopardized when they respond to a distress signal. Sunshine proves once again that you should not go to space because bad shit always happens, always.

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13

Red Eye (2005)
Wes Craven

What do you get when you let the master of horror Wes Craven put a terrorist (Cillian Murphy) aboard a red eye flight to Miami? You get one hell of a thriller. If you’ve ever needed a reason not to fly the friendly skies, this might be it. Not even the beautiful Rachel McAdams can save you from an area this enclosed.

14

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974)
Joseph Sargent

The only thing more terrifyingly claustrophobic than being robbed by armed gunmen on the New York City subway would be being forced to watch the 2009 remake of this film with its star John Travolta in the back of a Volkswagen. See the original, skip the lousy remake.

15

Night Of The Living Dead (1968)
George A. Romero

Zombies everywhere! Where do you hide? In an old farmhouse. Jesus, I’d rather take my chances and try to outrun the bastards. Anywhere but an old dilapidated farmhouse.

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16

The Shining (1980)
Stanley Kubrick

Director Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation of Stephen King’s novel sees maniacal writer (Jack Nicholson), his wife (Shelley Duvall), and their bat-shit crazy kid Danny as the winter caretakers of an isolated hotel in the middle of nowhere. All hell breaks loose when Nicholson looses his mind and his telepathic son starts experiencing premonitions of the snowed-in hotel’s past. Blood runs the hallways, ghosts seek redemption, Nicholson is at his best, and Shelley Duvall is frightening on a good day.
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17

The Thing (1982)
John Carpenter

Quite possibly John Carpenter’s best work, and still one of the scariest films ever made. Kurt Russell leads a small crew of men against a parasitic alien life form at an Antarctic research base. Tensions rise in the frigid cold as trust deteriorates at a rapid pace once the antagonist begins to assimilate the bodies of the crew members.

18

Misery (1990)
Rob Reiner

Another helping of Stephen King, this time featuring a busted up James Caan recovering with the aid of friendly stranger Kathy Bates. Being babysat by Kathy Bates would be enough to put an end to any man, throw in some unlawful confinement and some gory abuse and most might try and end it themselves. Except for the opening sequence and a few exterior shots, most of this film takes place inside Bates’ tiny mountain home. Yikes indeed.

19

[REC] (2007)
Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza

This exercise in truly terrifying “shaky camerawork” was remade stateside just a year after its release as they almost equally frightening Quarantine. It’s too bad, the original Spanish film is far superior, the American version capitalized on horror fans everywhere before most had a chance to see [REC]. Several firefighters and a small television camera crew are locked inside an apartment complex along with a demonic being, the more the characters find out about their situation (very little), the more exhaustively scary it becomes. The documentary style look of the film only enhances its inherent creepiness.
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20

The Descent (2005)
Neil Marshall

Six feisty girl friends heading out to the Appalachian mountains for a caving expedition sounds kinda sexy, right? Good God no, The Descent just might be the most terrifying film ever made. The claustrophobic nature of the caves is one thing, some of the shots through these tight spaces make you feel like you’re trapped under heavy rock along with these girls. This adventure turns sour after a cave collapses and they realize there might not be a way out. Did I mention that they’re being stalked by cannibalistic humanoids? Not only should you avoid this picture if you’re claustrophobic, you might want to skip it if you would like to sleep again.
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