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By our count, thrillers work best when they lock into a deeply held primal fear, like that of the unknown or of society thrown into chaos. The new Liam Neeson vehicle Non-Stop taps into both of these terrors while targeting one more: fear of flying.
I've written before about how horror movies have shaped my real-life fears. But for the release of Non-Stop, a mystery thriller set sky high on an international flight hijacked by an unknown terrorist, the Cinema Blend staff conferred on which plane-set movies have elevated our fear of flying. From tales of passengers gone wild to harrowing survival stories and paranoia-fueled plot twists, we break down the movies that messed with our heads and have us feeling less safe on flights than ever before.
Non-StopIt's not just the inspiration for our list; this in-flight thriller has definitely earned a spot on it. Liam Neeson stars as an Air Marshal who has grown weary of his job, but must muster fresh courage when a mysterious text message announces a terrorist plot demanding a fat ransom in exchange for the safety of all passengers on board. With a ticking clock counting down to the first threat of murder, this Air Marshal must make split-second decisions on who to trust and who to fear.
How It Traumatized Us: The threat of terrorism is still a horrifying thought when boarding a plane. With all the increased safety measures put in place nowadays, it's one that is impossible to forget. But Non-Stop pumps our pulse even harder by presenting an alcoholic Air Marshal who might not be up to the job of saving the day.
Red EyeRed-eye flights are a particular brand of travel nightmare that can try the patience of even the most storied jetsetter. But this 2005 thriller by Wes Craven turned our blood cold by having sweet Rachel McAdams terrorized by Cillian Murphy's seat mate from hell. A long flight next to a stranger is a total crapshoot. Maybe they'll be a relentless Chatty Cathy. Maybe they'll smell unbearable. Or you know, maybe they'll be a complete maniac focused on destroying you and your loved ones.
How It Traumatized Us: Wasn't it enough to worry that the person next to you would be taking up more than their fair share of leg room or that they'd blast their music to an irksome level? Apparently not. Thanks, Craven.
Snakes On a PlaneJust when you thought you knew everything that could go wrong on a flight, this action comedy presents a scenario that the in-flight safety speech can't possibly prepare us for. Samuel L. Jackson fronts this flipped out feature as an FBI agent charged with getting a special witness to a crucial trial for a deadly crime lord. That is, IF he can survive a plot to kill the witness via spectacular air disaster. Not a man for subtlety, this merciless mobster unleashes hoards of deadly snakes to take down this flight. The witness is the target. Everyone else would be collateral damage.
How It Traumatized Us: We know it's totally preposterous. But fear is far from rational. So yeah, maybe we hear the hiss of the plane's air conditioning and have that fleeting concern "Holy shit, there's motherfucking snakes on this motherfucking plane!" Don't pretend it hasn't happened to you.
Harold And Kumar Escape From Guantanamo BayHarold And Kumar Go To White Castle had the titular two-some tearing it up in New Jersey. But in the sequel to that stoner comedy, these oft-high besties stumble into some serious post-9/11 paranoia while flying to Amsterdam. Racism makes them instantly suspicious to one easily affrighted white lady, but its Kumar's idiotic plan to smoke up on the flight that gets them both in hot water.
How It Traumatized Us: You know those friends who are a blast to hang out with but draw more trouble than shit draws flies? Yeah, we have 'em too. And this movie sent us on a spiral of imagined scenarios where their dopey shenanigans could get us tangled up in terrorism charges. Post-9/11 paranoia for all!
Almost FamousThere were loads of enviable experiences in Cameron Crowe's 2000 drama Almost Famous, a thinly veiled autobiography of his own teenhood as a flustered reporter for Rolling Stone. We wish we could frolic with Band-Aids and revel with rock stars whose music inspires us even as it pushes them to egomania. But there's one part of Stillwater's rock 'n' roll journey we'd gladly skip: their brush with death on a shaky flight.
How It Traumatized Us: Turbulence is unpleasant. The thought of an emergency landing is enough to make our palms sweat. But facing death and fearfully spewing out your most shameful secrets to your friends (or frenemies)? That's by far this scene's most terrifying element.
The GreyAccept it: Liam Neeson just wants you to never feel safe on a plane. Before he was tripping us up on the terrors of what could go wrong on a flight with Non-Stop, he was scaring us witless with Joe Carnahan's grim survival story. Here Neeson stars as one of six oil workers thrust into a treacherous scenario of crashing deep in Alaska, where wild animals far outnumber people.
How It Traumatized Us: We didn't need help being afraid of plane crashes. They're terrifying on their own. But it turns out a plane crash isn't the worst scenario for a flight because your plane could plummet into a desolate terrain overrun by man-eating wolves. And all you'll have to defend yourself is broken mini-bottles of vodka.
AlivePerhaps the most obvious selection on this list, this drama not only delivered a horrifying plane crash sequence, but also painstakingly detailed its survivors' struggle to live through its aftermath. When a Uruguayan rugby team crash-landed in the midst of the Andes Mountains, this was just the beginning of their troubles. Aside from fighting off hypothermia from the freezing temperatures, they also had to fend off hunger. Necessity forced them to cannibalize their dead companions. And if that's not harrowing enough, this terrifying drama was based on a true story.
How It Traumatized Us: Oh, just on every level possible. Plane crash? Check. Being stranded in a dangerous terrain? Check. Being forced to eat your family and friends to survive? Check. There's no part of this experience we want, not even the rugby playing.
What movie amped up your fear of flying? Tell us in comments.
Non-Stop opens everywhere February 28th.