First off, let’s answer the obvious question: “What is a Bottle Movie?” A Bottle Movie is a movie that entirely (or mostly) plays out in a single location, usually a small one. A good way to tell if a film is “bottle-like” is if it can be turned into a stage play, because the term Bottle Movie comes from the idea that the whole film could fit into a confined space, like a bottle. In our modern day of grandiose remakes and next-level special effects, we lose what turns a movie from “fun” into “incredible,” and that is captivating dialogue. I personally have an affinity for these movie types because they force directors, writers, and actors to be at their personal best when creating them. No scenic landscape shots or giant explosions to fall back on, just characters, in one location, resolving a conflict.
- Phone Booth
At eleven years old, this was the first Bottle Movie I ever saw. It tells the story of Stuart Shepard, played by Colin Ferrell, who answers a ringing telephone in a New York phone booth, and is confronted by a killer with a sniper riffle watching him on the other end. If Stuart hangs up, he dies. This film was made so perfectly with where technology was at in society, showing the transition period between pay phones and cell phones. It acknowledges that phone booths are a dead technology, but uses it as a means of anonymity for Stuart and a means of public display for the killer.
- Green Room
A band of inspiring punk musicians take a gig in the backwoods of Oregon at a neo-Nazi punk bar, where they accidentally witness the aftermath of a murder. Confined to the green room in the back of the venue, they must find a way out while skinheads wait just on other side of the door. This was one of the most apprehensive and gory movies I’ve seen in a while. No one is safe in this film, which keeps you guessing who might be next. Patrick Stewart also plays the leader of the Nazi gang, which in itself is interesting enough to validate giving it a watch.
- Reservoir Dogs
A group of robbers take refuge in a warehouse after a diamond heist gone bad. Tensions begin to heighten when the men realize one of them is not who they say they are, wondering which one of them tipped the police off to the heist. This was Tarantino’s first big film (even though it only cost 1.2 million), using his signature style of “cramming everyone in a small room and heightening the tension.” Nothing makes for better dialogue than when a group of guys undergo a conversation with pistols fixed onto one another.
- 127 hours
While exploring canyons in Utah, adventurer Aron Ralston ends up between a rock and a hard place, with his arm pinned between. The film shows the next five days Aron spends trapped between the boulder and the canyon wall, with freedom only being an arm away. James Franco does an amazing job showing the emotional progression of a person who has exhausted all of their resources, but will do anything to survive. Even though Franco is alone, we still receive incredible dialogue between him and his video camera as he records his thoughts, progression updates, and final goodbyes.
- Rear Window
One of Alfred Hitchcock’s best, Rear Window tells the story of a newspaper photographer, immobilized from a broken leg, who must recuperate in his apartment while bored out of his mind. When he begins to playfully watch his neighbors from his window, he becomes concerned when he believes to have witnessed a murder. What a better way to pass time than to solve a murder? I watched this film a couple years ago and really enjoyed it because the concept was so visceral. That gut feeling of thinking you witnessed a crime and that morality tug of war on whether you pursue that feeling, even with your reputation at stake.
- Hateful Eight
Since Tarantino is the king of tense dialogue, it would only make sense that he went back to what made his career take off, with another Reservoir Dogs-style Bottle Movie. In Hateful Eight, eight random people must seek refuge in a cabin during a snow storm. Although they believe not to know one another, the more they talk, the more they realize they have more in common than they think. Tarantino delivers with the intriguing characters, witty dialogue, and sudden twists in this western-style mystery/thriller.
When two men wake up in a bathroom, chained to the floor by the ankle, they must solve the riddle of the Jigsaw killer in order to escape with their lives. The movie that created one of the biggest horror franchises in history started off from humble beginnings. Although the Saw sequels have put more emphasis on the next grand death trap reveal, the very first Saw focused more on the puzzle element of the mystery. The first film not only did an amazing job creating an escape-room-type environment in the confined space they had, but also revealed out one of the biggest twists in scary movie history, solidifying its place in the Horror Hall of Fame.
- 10 Cloverfield Lane
A young woman crashes her car on the side of the road, becoming unconscious in the process. When she wakes up chained to the wall in an underground bunker, the questions begin to form once she meets the two men who also inhabit the bunker. It has been said that this film lives in the same universe as the J.J. Abrams 2008 film, Cloverfield. This film uses mystery, suspense, and action to create a well-rounded film that allows the audience to help play detective throughout this close-quarters thriller.
- 12 Angry Men
This 1957 film was one of the first bottle films to become critically acclaimed. 12 Angry Men tells the story of a jury of 12 men deliberating a murder of a father by his son. The entire film takes place in 2 rooms, the jury room and the bathroom, all while capturing the sweaty, tense, and angry atmosphere of each room. 12 Angry Men originally started as an anthology television series, then a stage play, then finally became the film we all know. The different personalities of the characters make for such good deliberation and discord, you never want to look away.
The 2010 film with Ryan Reynolds answers the haunting question, “What would you do if you woke up buried alive?” Buried tells the story of a civilian truck driver in Iraq, Paul Conroy, who wakes up in a buried coffin with nothing more than a pen, lighter, and dying cell phone. The mystery behind why he is there begins to unravel as Paul struggles to maintain what little oxygen and sanity he has left. Reynolds’s performance was so emotional and real, I began to feel like I was buried in there with him. Most Bottle Movies have the majority of the film take place in one location, but with Buried, the entire film takes place in the coffin, the camera never leaves. This film actually left me a little shaken after I watched it, which is why Buried is my number one Bottle Movie of all time.
I would love to know your top Bottle Movies. List your favorites in the comments if you would like to expose not only myself, but others, to more amazing films.