Trains & Railroads In the Movies

1. Feature Films Set On Trains & Around Railroads
2. Memorable Movie Moments (Trains in cameo roles in notable films)
3. Moments Less Memorable (Lesser films containing limited railroad action)
4. Visitor-Nominated Films (Films suggested by readers of this page)

I’ve wanted to compile a list of “train movies” for a long time. I'm a rail fan ... and I love the movies. Put the two together ... heaven.

Brief Encounter posterThis is not intended to be a “complete” list. If I haven’t personally viewed a particular film, it isn’t included ... yet. Readers should still find plenty to occupy their time here, with lots of variety from which to choose. There are comedies and dramas listed, animated as well as live-action movies, even some science fiction and horror (seems even vampires ride on trains!). Subways and street railways are covered, as well as historical treatments, and contemporary intercity passenger and long-haul freight railroads. Regrettably, the technical accuracy of the rail operations portrayed often comes up lacking. Nevertheless, even the purist should find most of these films fun and entertaining.

None of these are “movies about trains.” Instead, they are movies about people (toss in a dog and a mysterious penguin for good measure in The Wrong Trousers), whose lives are affected – in large and small ways – by trains.

Note: Because of their subject matter, some of these films are for mature audiences only. Please check ratings before family viewing.

movie poster unstoppableI’ve divided my list into four groups. The first group contains movies in which the majority of the action takes place on a train or in a railroad environment, or in which a railroad theme dominates. Some of the films in this group (Rock Island Trail, for example) are admittedly not personal favorites. They are here because the sheer volume of film footage containing railroad action demands their inclusion in any listing that claims to be about trains in the movies. Others in this first group, however, (notably The Train, The Grey Fox, The General, and The Lady Vanishes) are among my most favorite movies regardless of genre.

The second group of films in my list are classified as “Memorable Movie Moments.” All of these films include one or more scenes that contain trains or subways. All of these are “good” movies — ones that I have enjoyed and can personally recommend. Most importantly, to be included in this grouping, the railroad action, whether brief or lengthy, must be of consequence to the storyline. These are not merely movies with trains in them; they are movies in which those trains make a valuable contribution, in many cases an indispensable contribution, to good story-telling. Want an example? Look no further than The Sundowners. Although a train appears for only about a minute in this film, it plays a pivotal role in revealing one of the main characters.

movie poster the trainThe third group lists lesser movies, in my estimation, that also contain limited railroad action. I’ve created this list to inform readers as well as to remind myself that I have already taken a look and passed judgment.

Finally, more recently I've added a fourth group, to accommodate all of the suggested movies that visitors to this page have recommended to me. When I've had a chance to view these I will distribute them among the first three lists. And, thank you all for taking the time to share your experiences!

Clicking on any title will take you to the appropriate page on the Internet Movie Database (IMDB.com) website, where you can read more about the production, story, cast and crew, and a lot more. I’ve also added critic Leonard Maltin’s movie ratings (**** is Maltin's “very best” ranking; “BOMB” is worst), where available, to help you decide which titles might be most worthy of your time.

If you’d like to propose a missing title for inclusion here, or just to argue a bit, you are most welcome to send me an e-mail with your comments.

Enjoy!

Gary B. Coombs, Director
South Coast Railroad Museum

Please support the museum with a tax-deductible contribution. The South Coast Railroad Museum is a 501(c)3 charitable non-profit organization. All donations are deductible from state and federal income taxes as permitted by law.

Feature Films Set On Trains & Around Railroads

TITLE STARS/SYNOPSIS YEAR REVIEW
Avalanche Express Robert Shaw, Lee Marvin, Linda Evans. CIA operatives battle Soviet agents aboard a train across Europe. 1979 “BOMB”
Boxcar Bertha Barbara Hershey, David Carradine. Small-town girl joins a gang of train robbers during the Great Depression. 1972 **½
Breakheart Pass Charles Bronson, Ben Johnson, Richard Crenna, Jill Ireland. Beleaguered train with medical supplies and troops is on its way to plagued Fort Humboldt. 1975 ***
Brief Encounter Celia Johnson, Trevor Howard. Two London commuters, married to others, meet in a railway station and fall in love. Most of the movie is set in the station and in and around trains. 1945 ****
Broadway Limited Victor McLaglen, Marjorie Woodworth, Dennis O'Keefe, Patsy Kelly, Zasu Pitts. A publicity stunt staged on the Broadway Limited train goes awry. 1941 **
Canadian Pacific Randolph Scott, Jane Wyatt. Surveyor helps push the Canadian Pacific Ry. through Rockies, contending with saboteurs, hostile Indians and romance along the way. 1949 **½
Cassandra Crossing, The Sophia Loren, Richard Harris. Train passengers have been exposed to a deadly disease. 1976 ***
Closely Watched Trains ("Ostre sledované vlaky") Vaclav Neckar, Jitka Bendova. A young train dispatcher becomes a lover and a hero in WWII Czechoslovakia. 1966 ***
Danger Lights Louis Wolheim, Robert Armstrong, Jean Arthur. The girlfriend of a tough rail yard boss falls in love with a young hobo turned train engineer. 1930 **
Darjeeling Limited, The Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, Jason Schwartzman. Three estranged American brothers set off on a train trip across India to rediscover the bonds that once bound them together. 2007 **½
Disaster on the Coastliner Lloyd Bridges, Raymond Burr, E.G. Marshall, Yvette Mimieux, William Shatner. A vengeful employee puts two Amtrak trains on a collision course. How can one little movie misrepresent railroad procedures and technology so badly? 1979  
Dumbo Sterling Holloway, Edward Brophy, Verna Felton, Herman Bing, Cliff Edwards. Circus train is important part of this animated Disney classic about a baby elephant who becomes a hero. Includes the memorable train song, “Casey Junior.” 1941 ****
Emperor Of The North (aka “Emperor Of The North Pole”) Lee Marvin, Ernest Bornine, Keith Carradine. Hobos vie for supremacy on the railroad. 1973 ***½
Festival Express Documentary. The Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, The Band, and a host of other musicians embark on a railway tour of Canada during the summer of 1970. 2003  
General, The Buster Keaton, Marion Mack. Silent comedy classic finds engineer (Keaton) chasing Union spies who have stolen his locomotive. Based on the same real Civil War event as The Great Locomotive Chase. 1927 ****
Ghost Train, The Arthur Askey, Richard Murdoch, Kathleen Harrison, Peter Murray-Hill. Stranded passengers wait for a train at an English railway station purported to be haunted. 1941  
Grand Central Murder Van Heflin, Patricia Dane, Cecilia Parker, Virginia Grey. An actress is murdered in a private rail car in New York's Grand Central Terminal, where a convict has just escaped during transport. 1942 **½
Great Locomotive Chase, The Fess Parker, Jeffrey Hunter. Union spies steal a train and try to destroy Confederate bridges and track. Based on the same Civil War event as The General. 1956 ***
Great Train Robbery, The (aka The First Great Train Robbery) Sean Connery, Donald Sutherland, Lesley-Anne Down. In Victorian England, a master criminal makes elaborate plans to steal a shipment of gold from a moving train. 1979 ***
Grey Fox, The Richard Farnsworth, Jackie Burroughs. On his release from prison, an aging stagecoach bandit goes to Canada to rob trains. 1982 ***
Harvey Girls, The Judy Garland, John Hodiak, Ray Bolger, Preston Foster. Women move west to become waitresses at Fred Harvey's rail-station restaurants serving cross-country train passengers. 1946 ***
Indiscretion of an American Wife Jennifer Jones, Montgomery Clift. An American says goodbye to her Italian lover in the train station in Rome. 1953 **½
It Happened To Jane Doris Day, Jack Lemmon, Ernie Kovaks. Maine lobsterwoman sues the railroad over a spoiled shipment of lobsters. 1959 **½
Jesse James Tyrone Power, Henry Fonda, Nancy Kelly, Randolph Scott. Their family wronged by the railroad, brothers Frank and Jesse James turn to train robbing to exact their revenge. 1939 ***
Lady Vanishes, The Margaret Lockwood, Michael Redgrave, Paul Lukas, Dame May Whitty. A woman mysteriously disappears during a trian ride, but only one fellow passenger seems to remember her. 1938 ****
Lady Vanishes, The Elliott Gould, Cybill Shepherd, Angela Lansbury, Herbert Lom. Light-duty remake of Hitchcock classic (see previous listing) has some nice steam-train cinematography; otherwise, stick with the original. 1979
Lone Wolf Takes A Chance, The Warren William, June Storey, Henry Wilcoxon. Gang’s plot to rob an impregnable railway car carrying U.S. currency plates includes kidnapping the car’s inventor while the train is en route to San Francisco. Some interesting railroad footage, especially involving country depots and station yards. 1941 **½
Look Both Ways William McInnes, Justine Clarke . Several Australians face personal crises in the wake of the fatal crash of a commuter train. 2005 ***
Major And The Minor, The Ginger Rogers, Ray Milland, Rita Johnson, Robert Benchley. To save on train fare, a woman disguises herself as a child and is taken under the wing of a fellow passenger, an Army officer en route to a military school. 1942 ***½
Money Train Wesley Snipes, Woody Harrelson, Jennifer Lopez, Robert Blake. Half-brothers John and Charlie fight crime as New York City subway cops, lose their jobs, then set out to rob the transit-system’s revenue train. 1995 **
Mrs. O'Malley And Mr. Malone Marjorie Main, James Whitmore, Ann Dvorak, Phyllis Kirk. A Montana widow and a Chicago lawyer solve a double-murder aboard a train to New York. 1950 **
Murder In The Private Car Charles Ruggles, Una Merkel. Small-time detective tries to protect an heiress aboard her father’s private rail car. 1934  
Murder On The Orient Express Albert Finney, Lauren Bacall, Martin Balsam, Ingrid Bergman. Agatha Christie's master-sleuth Hercule Poirot investigates a murder on a snow-bound luxury train. 1974 ***
Narrow Margin, The Charles McGraw, Marie Windsor. Cop escorts gangster’s widow on a train with hit men aboard. Critic Leonard Maltin calls this “one of the best B(-movies) ever made.” 1952 ***½
Narrow Margin Gene Hackman, Anne Archer, James Sikking, J.T. Walsh. Remake of 1952 thriller (see previous listing). 1990 **½
Now Or Never Harold Lloyd, Mildred Davis, Anna Mae Bilson, William Gillespie. A man escorts a child on a train. 36-minute silent film is packed with some of the funniest train footage you’ll ever see. 1921  
Once Upon A Time In The West ("C'era una volta il West") Charles Bronson, Henry Fonda, Claudia Cardinale, Jason Robards. A mysterious stranger joins forces with a desperado to protect a beautiful widow from an assassin working for a railroad magnate. 1968 ***½
Overland Pacific Jock Mahoney, Peggie Castle. Railroad investigator tries to uncover the reasons behind a rash of Comanche Indian attacks along the planned right-of-way. Low-budget western has some track, but no trains. 1954 **
Polar Express, The Tom Hanks. A boy who doesn't believe in Santa Claus boards a magical train to the North Pole. Animated. 2004 **½
Rock Island Trail Forrest Tucker, Adele Mara, Bruce Gray. The president of the Rock Island Trail company tries to expand his railroad into the Midwest. 1950  
Runaway Train Jon Voight, Eric Roberts, Rebecca De Mornay. Two escaped convicts and a female railway worker find themselves trapped on a train without brakes or an engineer. 1985 ***
Santa Fe Randolph Scott, Janis Carter. Following the Civil War, four Southern brothers move West. One helps build the Santa Fe Railroad, the others make trouble. 1951 **
Saratoga Trunk Gary Cooper, Ingrid Bergman. Gold-digger meets a Texas gambler in 1875 New Orleans and follows him to Saratoga, New York, where they become involved in a battle over a valuable railroad trunk line between Albany and Binghamton. 1945
Shadow Of A Doubt Teresa Wright, Joseph Cotten, Macdonald Carey, Henry Travers. In this Alfred Hitchcock thriller, trains play a crucial role, first bringing trouble to the small California city of Santa Rosa, then resolving it in dramatic fashion. 1943 ***½
Shanghai Express Marlene Dietrich, Clive Brook, Anna May Wong, Warner Oland. A notorious woman and the British officer she once loved find themselves together on a Shanghai-bound train threatened by rebel forces. 1932 ***
Silver Streak Gene Wilder, Jill Clayburgh, Richard Pryor. A man finds danger and romance on a long-distance train. 1976 ***
Source Code Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga, Jeffrey Wright. Sci-Fi thriller about a soldier who wakes up in the body of an unknown man to discovers he's on a mission to find a terrorist bomber aboard a Chicago commuter train. 2011  
Spy Train Richard Travis, Catherine Craig, Chick Chandler, Thelma White. Low-budget thriller has Nazi spies planting a time-bomb in railroad-station baggage that mistakenly ends up on a train. Filmed at Los Angeles Union Station and in and around streamliner passenger trains. 1943  
Station Jim George Cole, Charlie Creed-Miles, Laura Fraser. A stowaway pooch becomes a railway station mascot, then a community hero, in 19th century England. 2001  
Taking of Pelham One Two Three, The Walter Matthau, Robert Shaw, Martin Balsam, Hector Elizondo. Armed men hijack a New York subway train and demand ransom for the passengers. 1974 ***½
Terror By Night Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce. Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are retained to protect the Star of Rhodesia diamond while aboard a London-to-Edinburgh express train. 1946 **½
Terror On A Train (aka Time Bomb) Glen Ford, Anne Vernon. An expert must defuse a bomb aboard a British freight train loaded with explosives. 1953 **½
Tickets Carlo Delle Piane, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Silvana De Santis, Filippo Trojano. Three stories about passengers on a train traveling through Italy, involve a biochemist, a general's widow, and rowdy soccer fans. 2005 ***
Toast of New York, The Edward Arnold, Cary Grant, Frances Farmer, Jack Oakie. You'll look in vain for any trains, but any movie about the battle between Cornelius Vanderbilt and Big Jim Fisk over the Erie Railroad deserves to be included here. A fictionalized account. 1937 ***
Train, The Burt Lancaster, Paul Scofield, Jeanne Moreau. During World War II, the French Resistance tries to stop a Berlin-bound train filled with art treasures ... without destroying the cargo. 1964 ****
Transsiberian Woody Harrelson, Emily Mortimer, Ben Kingsley. Husband and wife meet another couple aboard the Trans-Siberian Railway express. Intrigue, deception, torture, and murder ensue. 2008  
Twentieth Century John Barrymore, Carole Lombard. Screwball comedy in which a Broadway producer tries to win back his ex-girlfriend, now a big star, during a long train trip. 1934 ****
Under Siege 2: Dark Territory Steven Seagal, Eric Bogosian, Everett McGill, Katherine Heigl. A mad genius hijacks a Denver-to-Los Angeles passenger train, threatening to use it to fire a space weapon at the U.S. unless his $1 billion ransom demands are met. Fortunately, there’s also a CIA operative aboard. 1995 **
Union Depot Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Joan Blondell, Guy Kibbee, Alan Hale. A busy city train station is the setting for this multi-threaded character-driven story. 1932 ***
Union Pacific Barbara Stanwyck, Joel McCrea, Akim Tamiroff, Robert Preston. The Union Pacific Railroad builds the eastern portion of America's first transcontinental railroad. 1939 ***
Union Station William Holden, Nancy Olson, Barry Fitzgerald. Railway police and city law enforcement join forces when kidnappers choose an urban train station as the ransom drop. Fans of Los Angeles Union Station will appreciate this detailed architectural tour. Southern Pacific steam locomotive #4337, a 4-8-2 Mountain, makes a cameo appearance, along with Pacific Electric cars, and a lot more. 1950 **½
Unstoppable Denzel Washington, Chris Pine. A veteran engineer and a young conductor race to stop a runaway freight train. 2010  
Von Ryan's Express Frank Sinatra, Trevor Howard. British and American prisoners-of-war seize the Nazi train that is transporting them from Italy to Austria and make a run for neutral Switzerland. 1965 ***
Waiting Room, The Anne-Marie Duff, Ralf Little, Rupert Graves, Frank Finlay, Zoe Telford. A chance meeting at a railroad station leads a man and a woman to make difficult changes in their respective lives. 2007  
Whispering Smith Alan Ladd, Robert Preston. Railroad detective must hunt down an old friend who is wrecking trains and rail cargo. 1948 **½
Wild Wild West Will Smith, Kevin Kline, Kenneth Branagh, Salma Hayek. In the Old West, two government agents use a specially-equipped train in their efforts to stop a madman. 1999
Yards, The Mark Wahlberg, Joaquin Phoenix, Charlize Theron, James Caan, Ellen Burstyn, Faye Dunaway. An ex-con is lured into the corrupt world of his uncle’s service-and-supply business for New York City’s subway system. Not much rail action. 2000 **

 

Memorable Movie Moments

TITLE STARS/SYNOPSIS YEAR REVIEW
3:10 To Yuma
Glenn Ford, Van Heflin. Deputized rancher must evade the bad guys and get his prisoner to the rail station in time to meet the 3:10 train.
1957 ***½
42nd Street Warner Baxter, Ruby Keeler. The musical number, "Shuffle Off To Buffalo" (briefly featuring Ginger Rogers) is worth a look. 1933 ****
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney, Jr. The unhuman remains of Dracula and Frankenstein's monster arrive by train, where the crates are mishandled by station baggagemen Chick (Abbott) and Wilbur (Costello). Filmed entirely on sound stages; no trains. 1948 ***½
Around The World In 80 Days David Niven, Cantinflas, Shirley MacLaine, Robert Newton. During their race around the world, adventurer Phileas Fogg and his entourage make use of several railroads. Crossing the United States by rail, they encounter a collapsing bridge, an Indian attack, and other mishaps. They end up riding a wind-driven railcar with a makeshift sail. 1956 ***
Back To The Future, Part III Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Mary Steenburgen, Lea Thompson. In this final installment of the Back To The Future series, Marty McFly travels back to the Wild West circa 1885. Is he trapped there? Or, can a steam locomotive be converted into a time-travel vehicle to return him to the present? 1990 ***½
Bad Day At Black Rock Spencer Tracy, Robert Ryan. S.P. Daylight train brings Tracy character to desert town of Black Rock, to investigate the death of his wartime buddy. 1955 ***½
Before Sunrise Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy. In the leisurely opening sequence, the young lovers meet aboard a train. 1995 **½
Berlin Express Merle Oberon, Robert Ryan, Charles Korvin, Paul Lukas. In post-WWII Germany, Nazi underground members attempt a political assassination aboard a train. 1948 ***
Biloxi Blues Matthew Broderick, Christopher Walken, Penelope Ann Miller. In the opening scene, WWII Army recruits ride a troop train to Biloxi, Miss. for basic training. 1988 ***
Blazing Saddles Cleavon Little, Gene Wilder. Director Mel Brooks’ hilarious Western spoof in which a black track worker is appointed sheriff of a small town in the way of the railroad construction. Features funny opening scenes at the railroad camp and involving a handcar. 1974 ***½
Bound For Glory David Carradine, Ronny Cox, Melinda Dillon, Gail Strickland. During the Great Depression, sign-painter and future folk-music legend Woody Guthrie finds hopping freight trains to be a thrifty but highly dangerous mode of travel. 1976 ***½
Bridge At Remagen, The George Segal, Robert Vaughn, Ben Gazzara, Bradford Dillman. With the Allies advancing, the Nazis attempt to destroy the last bridge across the Rhine River. 1969 **½
Bridge On The River Kwai William Holden, Jack Hawkins, Alec Guinness, Sessue Hayakawa. Allied prisoners-of-war help the Japanese build a railway bridge in Burma, unaware that the Allies are planning its destruction. 1957 ****
Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Katharine Ross. Two bank bandits try their hand at robbing trains. 1969 ****
Carlito's Way Al Pacino, Sean Penn, Penelope Ann Miller. Thrilling final chase scene begins aboard a NYC subway train, then through Grand Central Terminal to an awaiting Amtrak Silver Star. 1993 ***
Chronicles of Narnia, The: Prince Caspian Ben Barnes, Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, William Moseley, Anna Popplewell. From London’s Strand tube station, the passing of a mysterious subway train causes four children to be returned to the magical land of Narnia. Sequel to “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” (2005). 2008  
Dark City Rufus Sewell, William Hurt, Kiefer Sutherland, Jennifer Connelly. The only train that goes all the way to Shell Beach is the Express, but it doesn't seem to stop at any of the stations in this mysterious city. 1998 ***
Derailed Jennifer Aniston, Clive Owen, Vincent Cassel, Melissa George. A chance encounter on a commuter train leads to adultery, blackmail and worse. 2005 **
Dogma Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Linda Fiorentino. Two fallen angels, the 13th apostle ("Rufus"), a pair of unlikely prophets, and a female descendant of Jesus all meet on a train to New Jersey. 1999 **½
Duel In The Sun Jennifer Jones, Joseph Cotten, Gregory Peck, Lionel Barrymore, Lillian Gish. Arrival of the railroad adds to the problems of a Texas rancher, whose sons are already fighting over beautiful Pearl Chavez. Big showdown between ranchers and railroad construction crews ends when U.S. Cavalry arrives to defend the builders. 1946 ***
Doctor Zhivago Omar Sharif, Julie Christie. Pasha's (Tom Courtenay) political transformation is symbolized in the power of Strelnikov's train. 1965 ***½
Double Indemnity Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward G. Robinson. Woman seduces insurance man into an insurance-fraud scheme involving murder and a moving train. 1944 ****
Eagle Has Landed, The Michael Caine, Donald Sutherland, Robert Duvall. In a rail-yard scene from this WWII thriller, a German colonel and combat hero risks himself and his men to try and save a Jewish girl from transport to a death camp. 1976 ***
From Whom The Bell Tolls Gary Cooper, Ingrid Bergman, Akim Tamiroff. Freedom fighters sabotage a moving train in the opening minutes of this drama set during the Spanish Civil War. 1943 ***½
Fried Green Tomatoes Kathy Bates, Mary Stuart Masterson, Mary-Louise Parker, Jessica Tandy. The railroad is an important part of the backdrop for the 1920s rural Alabama town of Whistlestop where this film is set. Young Idgie Threadgoode is devastated when her teenage brother is killed by a train while they are playing around the tracks. Later, Idgie and a friend feed the occupants of a hobo camp by throwing stolen canned goods from a moving train. As the movie opens, a phantom train passes through the town, symbolizing the passage of time and the changes that Whistlestop and its people have undergone. Lots of steam-train action in this one! 1991 ***
From Russia With Love Sean Connery, Daniela Bianchi. British secret agent 007 and Tatiana Romanova make love and encounter S.P.E.C.T.R.E. assassin Donovan 'Red' Grant aboard a train. 1963 ***½
Gandhi Ben Kingsley, Candice Bergen, Edward Fox, John Gielgud, Trevor Howard, John Mills, Martin Sheen. As a young attorney traveling to his first case in South Africa, Mohandas Gandhi is thrown off the train when he refuses to relinquish his seat in the whites-only first-class car. Film’s striking cinematography also shows off India’s steam trains. 1982 ***½
George Washington Candace Evanofski, Donald Holden, Damian Jewan Lee, Curtis Cotton III. How preteens in a small North Carolina town react, individually and collectively, to a tragic accident. Much of the story unfolds in a railroad yard. 2000 ***
Go West Groucho Marx, Chico Marx, Harpo Marx. Trains and railroads are a recurring theme in this Old West spoof. 1940 **
Greatest Show On Earth, The Betty Hutton, Cornel Wilde, Charlton Heston, Dorothy Lamour, Gloria Grahame, James Stewart. Lots of Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey circus-train footage here, some presented in documentary style. Train-crash sequence alone is worth the price of admission. 1952 ***½
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone Richard Harris, Maggie Smith, Robbie Coltrane, Daniel Radcliffe, Fiona Shaw. In this inaugural entry in the Harry Potter film series, the students are transported aboard the magical Hogwarts Express train to the Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. 2001 **½
Hart's War Bruce Willis, Colin Farrell, Terrence Howard, Cole Hauser. In the opening-credits sequence, Lt. Thomas Hart and his fellow WWII prisoners are transported by train to a German POW camp. 2002 ***
Heaven's Gate Kris Kristofferson, Christopher Walken, John Hurt, Sam Waterston. Wyoming settlers arrive from the East by rail. 1980 **
Hellboy Ron Perlman, John Hurt, Selma Blair. Action sequence includes a subway battle between protagonist Hellboy and one of his many unearthly adversaries. 2004 ***
High Noon Gary Cooper, Grace Kelly, Katy Jurado, Lloyd Bridges.Noon train brings bad man Frank Miller for the big showdown with Marshal Will Kane. We watch clocks all around town count down the final hours and minutes, but it's the steam-train whistle that finally announces the arrival of the midday hour. 1952 ****
How The West Was Won Carroll Baker, Lee J. Cobb, Henry Fonda, Carolyn Jones, Karl Malden, Gregory Peck, George Peppard, Robert Preston, Debbie Reynolds, James Stewart, Eli Wallach, John Wayne. The coming of the railroads played a key role in the taming of the American West. Buffalo stampede is a noteworthy sequence. 1962 ***½
Incredibles, The Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Samuel L. Jackson, Jason Lee. Superhero Mr. Incredible saves an elevated train and its passengers after a bomb destroys part of the track. He also uses locomotives and cars in the rail yard as his strength-building equipment. 2004 ***
Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade Harrison Ford, Sean Connery, Denholm Elliott, Alison Doody, John Rhys-Davies. In the opening sequence, a young Indiana Jones (River Phoenix) steals aboard a moving circus train in an attempt to evade his pursuers. 1989 **½
In The Heat Of The Night Sidney Poitier, Rod Steiger. On his way home, Philadelphia police detective Virgil Tibbs is arrested on suspicion of murder at the small-town Sparta, Miss. train station. At the end of the movie, only after helping the town police chief solve the crime, Tibbs resumes his journey home - aboard a GM&O train. 1967 ****
Jerk, The Steve Martin, Bernadette Peters. During his stint as a carnival worker, central-character Navin Johnson spends some of his time as "Engineer Fred," operating the miniature-train ride. While he isn't looking, a little boy hops in the cab of the empty train, causing a runaway that Navin/Fred must stop. 1979

**½

Julia Jane Fonda, Vanessa Redgrave, Jason Robards, Maximilian Schell. Playwright Lillian Hellman travels luxury class by train from Paris to Berlin to Warsaw, to see her childhood friend and smuggle money to save Jews and dissidents in Nazi Germany. 1977 ****
Kings Row Ann Sheridan, Robert Cummings, Ronald Reagan. The railroad plays a recurring, if minor, role in this story of scandal in a small town circa 1900. 1942 ***1/2
Lady Eve, The Barbara Stanwyck, Henry Fonda, Charles Coburn. In a short but hilarious segment, woman “confesses” to new hubby about long list of fabricated premarital intimacies during wedding night train ride. 1941 ***½
Lawrence Of Arabia Peter O'Toole, Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn, Jack Hawkins. Popular action sequence involves a dramatic train wreck caused by sabotage by British officer T.E. Lawrence and his followers. 1962 ****

Light in the Piazza

Olivia de Havilland, Rossano Brazzi, Yvette Mimieux, George Hamilton. Young lovers must part at the Florence, Italy railway station, as the girl departs with her mother for Rome. Boy runs after train. Girl pulls emergency brake. On the platform, the two enjoy a last embrace.

1962 ***½
Meet Me In St. Louis Judy Garland, Margaret O'Brien, Mary Astor, Leon Ames. Musical number The Trolley Song ("Clang, clang, clang went the trolley") features a St. Louis streetcar ride, circa 1903. 1944 ****
Midnight Run Robert De Niro, Charles Grodin, Yaphet Kotto. A bounty hunter must use various means to transport his bail-jumping charge from New York to Los Angeles, first traveling via Amtrak, then later hopping a freight train. 1988 ***½
Mystery Train Masatoshi Nagase, Youki Kudoh, Screamin' Jay Hawkins, Cinqué Lee. Japanese tourists on a musical pilgrimage travel to Memphis, Tenn. by train. The movie’s title comes from the Elvis Presley hit by the same name. 1989 ***
Night Of The Hunter, The Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters, Lillian Gish, James Gleason. Recurring scenes of a steam train at night symbolize the approach of evil, in the form of the malevolent Harry "Preacher" Powell. 1955 ***½
North By Northwest Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, James Mason. Both spies and the law are chasing innocent Roger Thornhill (Grant), who meets and romances Eve Kendall (Saint) aboard the 20th Century Limited. 1959 ****
O Brother, Where Art Thou? George Clooney, John Turturro, Tim Blake Nelson. Escaping convicts try to hop a moving freight train, but they are chained together, creating a funny scene. Next, the trio encounter the Blind Seer, who gives them a ride on a handcar and foretells some of their coming adventures. 2000 ***½
October Sky Jake Gyllenhaal, Chris Cooper, Laura Dern. To pay for their rocketry experiments, four high school friends salvage rail from an abandoned branch line ... or is it abandoned? 1999 ***½
Our Hospitality Buster Keaton, Natalie Talmadge. Young man and women fall in love during a unique, hilarious train ride. 1923 ****
Out Of Africa Meryl Streep, Robert Redford, Klaus Maria Brandauer. Steam train carrying Danish emigrant Karen Blixen across East African landscapes to her new home in Kenya serves as a stunning visual backdrop for opening film credits. 1985 ***½
Palm Beach Story, The Claudette Colbert, Joel McCrea, Mary Astor, Rudy Vallee. Take a wacky ride aboard a Florida-bound train, where you'll meet the unforgettable Ale and Quail Club. And you thought skeet shooting was impossible inside a closed passenger car! 1942 ***½
Parallax View, The Warren Beatty, Paula Prentiss, William Daniels. A reporter starts learning about a vast political conspiracy from an interview conducted on a park miniature-train ride. 1974 ***½
Picnic William Holden, Kim Novak. In opening scene, drifter Hal Carter arrives in Kansas town stowed aboard a freight train. A steamy love scene takes place near the tracks. 1955 ***½
Planes, Trains & Automobiles Steve Martin, John Candy. A train is just one mode of travel used by a man battling to get home for Thanksgiving. 1987 **½
Racing With The Moon Sean Penn, Elizabeth McGovern, Nicolas Cage. In 1942, two buddies like to hop trains while waiting to join the war. 1984 ***
Railway Children, The Jack Blumenau, Clare Thomas, Jemima Rooper, Jenny Agutter. Children and their mother move to the English countryside after their father is unjustly imprisoned. They have a series of adventures, many related to their regular visits to the tracks to wave at passing trains. 2000  
River Runs Through It, A Craig Sheffer, Brad Pitt, Tom Skerritt, Brenda Blethyn, Emily Lloyd. With the road blocked, young Jessie Burns drives the car, with Norman Maclean as her helpless passenger, on a heart-pounding detour through a railroad tunnel and across a high bridge. 1992 **½
Road To Bali Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Dorothy Lamour. Low on funds, two stage performers on the run come up with a new way to save on train travel: ticketholder George rides inside with the other passengers, passing surplus diner food to Harold, a stowaway on a makeshift “sub-lower” berth outside, beside one of the trucks. 1952 ***
Shadow Of A Doubt Teresa Wright, Joseph Cotten, Macdonald Carey, Henry Travers. In this Alfred Hitchcock thriller, trains play a crucial role, first bringing trouble to the small California city of Santa Rosa, then resolving it in dramatic fashion. 1943 ***½
Some Like It Hot Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, Marilyn Monroe, George Raft. Two musicians disguise themselves as women to evade mobsters and find employment in an all-female band. Their encounter with Monroe character aboard a Florida-bound train is especially memorable. 1959 ****
Sophie's Choice

Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Peter MacNicol. In the film’s defining scene, set in a WWII railroad yard, the central character must choose which of her children will be put on a train and transported to a concentration camp.

1982 **½
Speed Keanu Reeves, Dennis Hopper, Sandra Bullock, Joe Morton, Jeff Daniels. Most of the action takes place on a bomb-laden bus that will explode if its speed drops below 50 mph, but the bad guy gets what’s coming to him later, on the roof of a runaway L.A. Metro Red Line train. 1994 ***½
Spellbound Ingrid Bergman, Gregory Peck, Leo G. Carroll. During a train trip, parallel tracks and the tines of a fork combine to trigger the recall of World War II memories by an amnesiac patient. 1945 ***½
Spider-Man 2 Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Alfred Molina. Spider-Man's true identity is revealed to the passengers he rescues aboard an out-of-control urban elevated train. 2004 ***½
Stand By Me Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, Jerry O'Connell. Four young friends follow the railroad tracks in search of a dead body, rumored to be that of a local teenager. 1986 ***
Sting, The Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Robert Shaw. "Big Con" of gangster Doyle Lonnegan begins at a poker game aboard the 20th Century Limited. 1973 ***½
Strangers On A Train Farley Granger, Ruth Roman, Robert Walker, Leo G. Carroll. Two men meet on a train, where their idle discussion eventually turns to talk of swapping murders. 1951 ****
Sullivan's Travels Joel McCrea, Veronica Lake. Hollywood director wants to make a movie about real people and human suffering, so he sets out on an odyssey as a hobo. His adventures include hopping a freight out of Los Angeles. Lots of railroad action. 1941 ****
Sundowners, The Deborah Kerr, Robert Mitchum, Peter Ustinov. As the drover's wife watches a train leave town, she spots a passenger who embodies the life she cannot have. Adjusting her makeup, the passenger is refined, well-dressed ... a lady. 1960 ****
Super 8 Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning, Kyle Chandler. First there's a devastating train wreck, then things really go bad. 2011  
Superman Returns Brandon Routh, Kate Bosworth, Kevin Spacey.Large-scale model trains animate Lex Luthor’s miniature world. Spectacular train crashes highlight the destruction of that world by a tiny chip from one of Superman’s crystals. 2006 ***
Support Your Local Gunfighter James Garner, Suzanne Pleshette, Jack Elam, Harry Morgan, Joan Blondell. Trains of the Denver & Rio Grande Western narrow-gauge railway play a colorful supporting role in this comedy sequel to “Support Your Local Sheriff,” shuttling central characters to and from the Western town of Purgatory. 1971 ***
Thin Man, The William Powell, Myrna Loy. With their first murder-mystery together solved, sleuth Nick and Nora Charles return home to California by rail. The first of five sequels, After the Thin Man (1936, ***1/2), continues the storyline, opening with Nick and Nora arriving home in San Francisco aboard Southern Pacific's Sunset Limited. 1934 ****
Thin Man Goes Home, The William Powell, Myrna Loy. You've never seen a crowded train unless you've watched this 5th installment in The Thin Man series. The fun begins when the Charles take a train to Nick's hometown for a birthday vacation with his family. 1944 ***
Throw Momma From The Train Danny DeVito, Billy Crystal. Comedic remake of Strangers On A Train. 1987 **½
Toy Story 3 Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack. Funny opening scene features a train robbery, complete with locomotive and cars plummeting off dynamited bridge into canyon with “the orphans” aboard! Animated. 2010  
Underworld Kate Beckinsale, Scott Speedman. An interesting use of rail, featuring both a subway and steam train. Violent. 2003 **
Wallace & Gromit in The Wrong Trousers Not-to-be-missed chase scene in which pursuer Gromit rides a speeding train, laying track as he goes. Animated. 1993  
While The City Sleeps Dana Andrews, Ida Lupino, Rhonda Fleming, George Sanders, Howard Duff, Thomas Mitchell, Vincent Price. Pursued by police and the news media, the "Lipstick Killer" narrowly misses boarding a departing subway train, then tries to escape in the tunnels. 1956 ***
White Christmas

Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, Vera-Ellen. Relationships grow during a train trip to Vermont when entertainers Bob Wallace and Phil  Davis give up their sleeper to Betty and Judy, the Haynes sisters.

1954 **
Who Framed Roger Rabbit Bob Hoskins, Christopher Lloyd. Takeover of the venerable Pacific Electric Railway by the sinister Clover Leaf Industries is a main plot ingredient in this groundbreaking film that combines live and animated scenes and characters. Fun to see to the L.A. Red Cars rolling again (sort of). 1988 ***½
Witness Harrison Ford, Kelly McGillis, Josef Sommer, Lukas Haas. Enroute by rail to Baltimore with his mother, a Amish boy witnesses a murder in the Philadelphia train station. 1985 ***
Young Frankenstein Gene Wilder, Peter Boyle, Marty Feldman, Madeline Kahn, Cloris Leachman. Dr. Frederick Frankenstein travels by train to Transylvania to claim his birthright. His rail trip includes several funny scenes. 1974 ***½

Moments Less Memorable

3:10 To Yuma Russell Crowe, Christian Bale. A good remake of the 1957 classic, perhaps, but the railroad scenes are not very good. The construction-gang scene doesn’t look authentic and the continual hiding of the drivers on the main locomotive suggests that it, too, isn’t the real thing. 2007 ***
Gentle Annie James Craig, Donna Reed, Marjorie Main, Harry Morgan. A train robbery brings a U.S. Marshall to hunt for the culprits. 1944 **
GoldenEye Pierce Brosnan, Sean Bean. James Bond, Agent 007, uses a tank to stop a special Russian train formerly used as a Soviet mobile ICBM launch vehicle. A good movie, but the train scene is not memorable. 1995 ***
Jewel Of The Nile, The Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner, Danny DeVito. Sequel to Romancing the Stone. 1985 **
Last Train From Bombay Jon Hall, Christine Larsen. An American diplomat risks his life to save an Indian prince from an assassination plot designed to ignite a war. Low budget all the way. Isn't that Southern Pacific equipment in the Chatsworth, Calif. hills trying to look like the “Gandahar Express”? 1952  
Matrix Revolutions, The Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Laurence Fishburne. At the start of this second sequel to The Matrix, series hero Neo is trapped between the real world and the machine world, in a place that resembles a subway station. The traffic there is controlled by an anthropomorphic program called “The Trainman.” 2003
Night Train To Kathmandu, The Pernell Roberts, Eddie Castrodad, Milla Jovovich. The lead characters of this story meet on an overnight train bound for the capital of Nepal. 1988  
Shanghai Noon Jackie Chan, Owen Wilson, Lucy Liu. In the Old West, robbers intercept a train carrying Chinese Imperial guards in search of a princess, who is on her way to imprisonment at a railroad construction camp. 2000 **½
Unbreakable Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Robin Wright Penn. The sole survivor of a catastrophic passenger train accident learns that he has a special ability. 2000 **

 

Visitor-Nominated Films

Thank you to all of the movie-page visitors who have recommended these and other films for inclusion in the above lists. Many of your suggested titles have now been “promoted” to those earlier lists. The following remain, until I have another chance (in some cases, a first chance) to view them.

Appaloosa (2008), Atomic Train (1999), At The Circus (1939; aka “The Marx Brothers At The Circus”), Bhowani Junction (1956), Bright Victory (1951), Broken Arrow (1996), Burning Train, The (1980), Cry, the Beloved Country (1995), Day of The Roses, The (1998), Denver & Rio Grande (1952), Everyone's Hero (2006), Falling In Love (1984), Final Run (1999), Fistful of Dynamite (1971; aka Duck, You Sucker), French Connection, The (1971), Funny Face (1957), Gallipoli (1981), Ghost And The Darkness, The (1996), Good, the Bad and the Ugly, The (1966) Great St. Trinian's Train Robbery, The (1966), Hachiko: A Dog's Story (2009), Hour of the Gun (1967), Human Desire (1954), It Happened One Night (1934), Journey of Natty Gann, The (1985), Last Train from Gun Hill (1959), Le Train (1973, aka “The Last Train”), Living It Up (1954), Long Riders, The (1980) , Love In The Afternoon (1957), Manchurian Candidate, The (1962), Mouvements du désir (1994), Mummy Returns, The (2001), Natural, The (1984) , North West Frontier (1959, aka “Flame Over India”), Octopussy (1983), Oh, Mr. Porter! (1937), Public Enemies (2009), Red Shoes, The (1948), Reds (1981), Risky Business (1983), Runaway! (1973), Sabotage (1936), Schindler's List (1993), Silver Streak, The (1934), Since You Went Away (1944), Station Agent, The (2003), Summertime (1955), Terror Train (1980), There Will be Blood (2007), Three Caballeros, The (1944),Three for Bedroom C (1952), Titfield Thunderbolt, The (1953), Tombstone (1993), Tough Guys (1986), Train Robbers, The (1973), Truman (1995), Tuskegee Airmen, The (1995), Ultimo Tren, El (2002), Wild Boys of the Road (1933).

Filmography links and data courtesy of The Internet Movie Database.

Please support the museum with a tax-deductible contribution. The South Coast Railroad Museum is a 501(c)3 charitable non-profit organization. All donations are deductible from state and federal income taxes as permitted by law.
   
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