The 10 Best Movies Set On A Train, According To Rotten Tomatoes

Despite early mixed reviews from critics, Brad Pitt’s Bullet Train still promises a mixture of well-choreographed martial arts sequences, fun cameos, and hilarious dynamics that most moviegoers will enjoy in theaters. The major appeal of this film is that the bustles take place on a train and a single night, as several assassins coincidentally meet up with common grounds. 

While Bullet Train’s high-speed chase filled with great action has captivated audiences, it is not the only movie to conceptualize the train setting. From classics like The Great Train Robbery to modern masterpieces like Snowpiercer, there is no shortage of well-executed train movies, managing to elevate the atmosphere with different tones or varying premises. Via Rotten Tomatoes, these features contain a mix of genres relating to action, thriller, mystery, and more, so it’s worth checking them out after Bullet Train.



10 Source Code (2011) – 92%

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Jake Gyllenhaal in Source Code

Considered one of the best movies featuring Jake Gyllenhaal, Source Code is a sci-fi thriller with an interesting time-loop premise. Captain Colter Stevens is placed in a simulation of a train that was destroyed in a bomb attack in the real world and has to repeatedly go through it to find out who was responsible.

Source Code blends genres to present a thought-provoking film, as Colter has to figure out a way to save everyone on the train even if the one he’s on technically doesn’t exist. Source Code was lauded for its creative turn, and the way the technological aspect of things served as a commentary on the ethics of using deceased people to solve crimes.

9 Snowpiercer (2013) – 94%

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Chris Evans with a large group of supporters behind him in Snowpiercer

There are plenty of interesting characters to follow in Snowpiercer, which is about a perpetually-moving train in a post-apocalyptic future. The train has developed a class system where those living in poverty decide to revolt and make their way to the front, learning about the reality of their situation.

Snowpiercer carries a lot of action, but praise was mainly directed at the themes involved, such as inequality, threats to the ecosystem, and intrinsically evil authority figures. The premise of a train serving as the world for people in the future never stops being intriguing for what turns out to be a thrilling viewing experience, thanks to Bong Joon-ho’s impeccable direction. 

8 Train To Busan (2016) – 94%

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Human survivors making their way cautiously through a train in Train to Busan

One of the best action horror movies in recent times, Train to Busan is set on a bullet train from Seoul to Busan, during which a zombie apocalypse breaks out. The movie carries a fast-paced atmosphere from start to finish, as the protagonists look for a way to survive.

Train to Busan was praised for featuring likable leads while also staying true to the “anyone can die” aspect of things. It doubles as a tragic story since the majority of the characters’ demises carry emotional punches, and the setting of a train as the backdrop of a zombie story was also noted to be a unique approach.

7 The Lady Vanishes (1938) – 98%

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People in train compartment in The Lady Vanishes

Among Alfred Hitchcock’s renowned films, The Lady Vanishes is about the protagonist Iris, who must find her elderly companion on a train. The catch comes from the fact that none of the people on the train seem to have any recollection of the disappeared person’s existence. 

The Lady Vanishes doubles as a mystery and a thriller bolstered by the compact framing device of the moving train. It’s still considered a masterclass in confounding audiences, as the film only reveals the true mystery by the end. The Lady Vanishes also encouraged other movies in presenting viewers with a tightly-written script to follow.

6 Strangers On A Train (1951) – 98%

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Two men talking on a train in Strangers On A Train

Another one of Alfred Hitchcock’s efforts, Strangers on a Train is a psychological thriller about the protagonist getting caught up in a murderer’s twisted game. The main character, Guy, is approached by a psychopathic killer to trader murders so that neither will be caught, kickstarting a cat-and-mouse plot.

Strangers on a Train benefitted from its backdrop much like The Lady Vanishes did, although it takes this aspect to the next level. The cinematography, set design, and lighting all give off the sense that the protagonist is trapped on the train with no way out and with a killer on the loose.

5 The Train (1965) – 100%

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A man with a gun next to a destroyed train in The Train

The Train is an action war film about a French Resistance member who stops a German Colonel from transporting stolen art across the country. The Train might seem fairly straightforward to today’s audiences, but it was a groundbreaking effort at the time for packing in so many thrills.

The Train sees the protagonist move across the titular locomotive chasing after the villain, going up against the latter’s mooks and traps. It’s a fascinating film for the way The Train keeps the action at its peak while getting viewers to firmly side with the hero on his chase against the baddie.

4 The Taking Of Pelham One Two Three (1974) – 100%

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Modern audiences might know of The Taking of Pelham One Two Three due to John Travolta’s villainous turn in the remake. But the original is the film credited for being an inventive turn on the crime drama genre that still remains evergreen in nature.

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three is about criminals holding train passengers for ransom, prompting Lieutenant Zack Garber to somehow find a way to save everyone while holding off the villains’ plot. It was praised for its heart-thumping atmosphere and breezy nature, as the film keeps ticking without any ounce of boredom seeping through.

3 The Narrow Margin (1952) – 100%

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A woman looks sideways at a man in The Narrow Margin

Noir films generally take place in seedy underbellies or shadowy locales, but The Narrow Margin eschewed those tropes to take place on a train. The story is about a police detective who has to protect a gangster’s widow from the mob trying to stop her from testifying against them.

Since the action takes place on a train, The Narrow Margin frequently finds new ways to keep the plot moving as the protagonists come up with plans to deceive their pursuers. The Narrow Margin’s critical acclaim for the way the noir elements blended perfectly with the thrilling atmosphere of the story remains well-received to this day.

2 Shanghai Express (1932) – 100%

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Two women in a train compartment in Shanghai Express

Marlene Dietrich was an A-list star at the time of Shanghai Express’ release, and she was seen as the most powerful factor in its success. The story is set on a train traveling to Shanghai where the main character Shanghai Lily has to figure out a way to save the train passengers held hostage by a rebel army leader.

Shanghai Express garnered praise for its slick one-liners, stylish presentation, and Dietrich’s commanding performance. The protagonist’s clever nature makes full use of the train she’s on, with Shanghai Express keeping viewers guessing over how the hero will manage to get everyone off the locomotive alive.

1 The Great Train Robbery (1903) – 100%

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Even more than a century since its release, The Great Train Robbery is considered to be the most magnificent effort to be set on a train. It’s about a gang of outlaws who devise a plan to rob a speeding train, following which they are confronted by the locals for a brutal showdown.

Despite the limitations of a silent film, The Great Train Robbery easily captures viewers’ interest. It combines elements of the Western genre as part of the characters’ style and attitude, with the train serving as the platform for all the action to take place. The Great Train Robbery has an enduring legacy, due in part to the iconic image of Justus D. Barnes firing at the camera.

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