Cannibals, Wood Chippers and (Un)Funny Games: Top 10 Most Demented Hostage Films

These films take the timeless hostage scenario to a whole new level of twisted—where cannibals play mind games with cops, psychotic killers take the form of fan girls and snipers, bombs are on buses and vampire strippers are a thing. Our list of demented hostage films isn’t for the faint of heart.

1. Funny Games
When two deranged young men take a family hostage in their home, they’re forced to engage in a slew of savage games in order to stay alive. Naomi Watts’ and Michael Pitt’s grueling performances—loving, brave mother and perverse, psycho killer, respectively—and a thrilling, fourth-wall breaking scene make the movie well worth enduring the horrors.

2. Silence of the Lambs
FBI trainee Clarice Starling (Jodi Foster) is drawn into a game of wits with one villain behind bars (the Hannibal Lector), while pursuing another serial killer, “Buffalo Bill,” on the loose. When Bill takes a new victim hostage, Starling’s race against the clock begins. She must get the information she needs from the cryptic psychopath Hannibal (cue the mind games) to apprehend Bill before he murders his prey.

3. Misery
What initially appears to be a rescue is actually a very disturbing hostage situation–crazed and violent fan Annie kidnaps her favorite author after he suffers a car accident near her home. She lets her psychosis run wild (examples: forcing victim to rewrite a novel, breaking victim’s ankles) and her insanity becomes both fascinating and terrifying.

4. From Dusk Till Dawn
This Robert Rodriguez horror flick is chock-full of demented hostage situations, thanks to Quentin Tarrantino’s sadistic character Richie and, of course, that vampire brothel. Tarrantino (who also penned the film) and George Clooney (in a bit of brilliant casting) star as the bank-robbing Gecko brothers, whose “always a criminal, never the hostage” streak breaks once they get drunk at the wrong Mexican strip club. When the bar’s staff is revealed as ruthless bloodsuckers, the brothers must ally with other survivors in order to stay alive.

5. Man on Fire
“Creasy” (Denzel Washington) is a former CIA operative turned body guard who goes on a bloody (and mildly sadistic) killing spree after the child he was protecting is kidnapped. In the tangled web of ransom notes, corrupt cops and bad guys, Creasy outsmarts the lot of them and saves the child, but ultimately meets his own sad fate.

6. Taken
Liam Neeson plays former CIA operative/overprotective father Bryan, who finds himself with a 96-hour window to track down his kidnapped daughter in Europe before she’s sold into sex slavery. Along the way, Bryan finds his daughter’s travel buddy murdered, revives another drug-riddled victim of human trafficking, and takes down bad guy after bad guy. When he swore, “I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you,” he wasn’t kidding.

7. Fargo
When desperate car salesman Jerry (William H. Macy as the worst husband ever) botches a plot to have his wife kidnapped and collect his rich father-in-law’s ransom, backstabbing and murder abounds. But it’s easy to get behind the plucky, whip-smart detective character Marge (Frances McDormand) when she finally tracks down the murderer as he’s feeding bodies into the wood chipper.

8. Phone Booth
Talk about an intense phone call: in this claustrophobia-inducing thriller, Colin Farrell plays the pompous and unfaithful NYC publicist Stu—also known as the guy who’s held hostage in a phone booth by a psychotic sniper. Rather than a hefty ransom fee, this gunman (menacingly voiced by Kiefer Sutherland) wants only Stu to confess his infidelities to both his wife and mistress. This task gets more complicated when the sniper guns down an angry pimp and Stu is mistaken for the shooter. With just one setting and very few characters, the film makes masterful use of its talent and direction, and the result is both stressful and thrilling.

9. Speed
Dennis Hopper plays a murderous bomber who rigs a city bus to explode if the vehicle goes under 50 mph. His ransom-on-wheels ploy leaves the panicked passengers at the mercy of L.A freeways clogged with traffic and blocked by construction. But Officer Jack (Keanu Reeves) and driver Annie (Sandra Bullock) manage to outsmart the bomber and cook up some chemistry–making for a ridiculously entertaining ride.

10. Collateral
Cab driver Max Durocher (Jamie Fox) is another hostage on wheels. When he picks up Vincent (Tom Cruise), he finds himself at the mercy of a hitman hired to kill five people in one day and intimately involved in all the details. Certainly not the ideal passenger.

In the mood for psychological mind trip? Check out the on air schedule for the demented Funny Games, part of Thrillier Fridays on SundanceTV.