Top 10 Cruel Movies Like 'Escape Room'

Updated on August 17, 2019
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Rahul is a movie addict who can never get enough of good films. His all time favorites are Inception, 12 Angry Men, and Scarface.

What Movies Are Like Escape Room?

You don’t need to be claustrophobic to be terrified of being trapped. It’s physical, psychological, and emotional torture. You lose all sense of time, space, and self. Your entire existence crystalizes into one single desire; to get out.

Being trapped is a terrifying thing no one wants, but we humans are very strange beings.

In as much as we would not like to experience something negative, we tend to be curious about what it would feel like, which is why we love movies so much because they give us the chance to experience things from the safety of behind our screens. We’re curious about being trapped, and a movie like Escape Room gives us the chance to experience that. However, this isn’t enough.

Not all enclosed spaces aren’t the same, which is why for this list, we look at 10 terrifying places worse than Escape Room.

Films Similar to Escape Room

  1. Buried (2010)
  2. Dead Calm (1989)
  3. Lifeboat (1944)
  4. Phone Booth (2002)
  5. 127 Hours (2010)
  6. Devil (2010)
  7. Moon (2009)
  8. Frozen (2010)
  9. Cube (1997)
  10. Saw (2004)

1. Buried (2010)

This might probably be the most terrifying place to be trapped in on this list. Confined spaces by themselves cause heart palpitations, but when they go and bury you underneath the earth…well. That’s the premise for the 2010 psychological thriller, Buried.

Ryan Reynolds plays Paul Conroy, an American truck driver based in Iraq who wakes up in the worst possible position to be in - buried alive in a wooden coffin with just a lighter, flashlight and a mobile phone. Hardly materials fit for a rescue, especially six feet underground. Not only must he now piece together what has happened to him and try to initiate a rescue, but he must deal with the inevitable panic that sets in along with the fast decreasing supply of oxygen. His only chance of the outside world finding him is a mobile phone, but it's going to die soon.

In all honesty, this movie is enough to give you claustrophobia and a severe case of anxiety, even as you watch from the safety of behind your screen. Buried was widely praised upon its release and received positive reviews from several critics with Rotten Tomatoes giving the film a score of 86%. For all its panic attack inducing claustrophobia, Buried is a film you should see. Just make sure you don’t forget to breathe.

2. Dead Calm (1989)

For a land known for its sprawling deserts and sparse forests, this Australian entry forsakes its well-known landmass and turns completely to the opposite, water.

Starring Sam Neill, Nicole Kidman, and Billy Zane, Dead Calm tells the story of two parents (John and Rae) struggling to cope with the tragic loss of their son. In a bid to move on, they decide to take a mind-clearing vacation on their yacht and head out to sea. On their leisurely journey across the calm Pacific, they encounter the lone survivor whose story of how he ended up there doesn’t quite seem to add up.

When John tries to investigate the wreckage, he discovers a disturbing truth but before he can return to Rae and their yacht, the strange survivor takes control of their vessel and begins to make his getaway. Trapped in the middle of the Pacific with a now clearly dangerous stranger, Rae must find a way to regain control of their yacht and find John before the wreckage sinks.

In most of the films on this list, time is treated as a passive enemy, slowly waiting for its victims to give in to its infiniteness. In Dead Calm, however, the fight against time is an active one with the clock ticking quickly on the complete submersion of her husband. It’s clear that whether you swim against it or let it engulf you, time is always the biggest adversary in situations of confinement. That and in the case of Dead Calm, some crazy maniac trying to kill you.

Those looking for some thrilling movies like Escape Room will love what Dead Calm brings to the table.

3. Lifeboat (1944)

Another watery prison on this list, Lifeboat is the next entry presented by the godfather of modern cinema, Alfred Hitchcock. Based on a novella by John Steinbeck, Lifeboat tells the story of American and British civilians during World War II who having survived the sinking of their ship by a German submarine struggle to reach land in nothing else but a now crowded lifeboat.

When they come across a German U-boat captain stranded in the water, the humanity of the group allows him to get on board. Stuck in the middle of the ocean with dwindling supplies and a sworn enemy, it’s not long before tensions begin to rise. Soon, factions begin to form and conflict between the survivors begins.

Despite being largely considered controversial for the times due to the consideration shown to the German officer, Lifeboat went on to receive Academy Award nominations for Best Director, Best Original Story and Best Cinematography, and is considered as one of Hitchcock’s most underrated films.

Lifeboat is available for purchase on iTunes and the Google Play store. Those looking for a thriller like Escape Room will love what Lifeboat has to offer.

4. Phone Booth (2002)

This is probably the most interesting place to be confined in on this list. Phone Booth is a story of a cocky PR man named Stu Shepard who answers a seemingly random call in a phone booth, only to find himself on the phone with a killer who not only currently has a sniper rifle trained at him, but demands Stu make amends for wrongs he has committed in his life. Unable to leave or get help from bystanders, Stu must negotiate his way out of the situation or find himself dead.

Played by Colin Farrell in one of his most iconic performances yet, Phone Booth is an interesting take on the concept of being trapped, not only physically, but with the blackmail demands of his would-be killer looming over his head. The film is made even more fascinating by the fact that unlike most on this list, our protagonist is not isolated in some far-off place, but is practically surrounded by hundreds of people and yet is unable to escape. The tension is palpable and for a movie largely revolving around a phone booth, you will find it hard to look away.

Phone Booth is available for purchase on iTunes and the Google Play store.

5. 127 Hours (2010)

One of the most poignant roles James Franco played happens to be one of the most painful ones to watch. Based on the real-life story of Aron Ralston and his memoir Between a Rock and a Hard Place, 127 Hours tells the story of Aron Ralston who while exploring a remote canyon, gets trapped by a boulder that falls on his arm and renders him immovable.

What ensues is a difficult watch of a man’s will to survive over five agonizing five days and the eventual choice he realizes he has to make as he runs out of options; starve/dehydrate to death or amputate his arm.

127 Hours is a deeply disturbing film (made even more so by the fact that it is a real-life story) that will make you re-evaluate the things you consider important in the event you were ever confronted with a situation like that. James Franco’s performance in the film too is stellar, bringing the intense psychological and physical pain Aron Ralston must have felt to the screen, earning him a Golden Globe, Oscar and British Academy Film nomination for Best Actor amongst others.

127 Hours is a portrayal of the triumph of the human spirit and will leave you with food for thought long after the credits roll.

6. Devil (2010)

Devil reminds us that there are other things to be scared of than just the physical when we deal with enclosed spaces. As if being stuck on an elevator with five people was not bad enough, imagine finding out that one of them is the devil. This supernatural horror film directed by John Erick Dowdle bases its plot on the premise that the Devil sometimes appears on Earth to test and torment sinners and evildoers and is based on a story written by the iconic M. Night Shyamalan.

In true M. Night fashion, the story turns out to be as bizarre as it is electrifying as audiences along with the trapped individuals begin to play a deadly game. The film received mixed reviews as does most of M. Night’s work, but undeniably passes the litmus test for what constitutes a good movie for the genre. If you’re looking for a little more fear to go with your claustrophobia, Devil should provide the adrenaline rush you need.

7. Moon (2009)

Floating around in space sounds like a very cool idea until you realize you can’t come back down to Earth when you want to. That is the scenario we are presented in Moon where we follow Sam Bell (played by Sam Rockwell), an astronaut who is stuck alone in space on a mission that has lasted three years.

We catch his journey at the end of his three-year stint where he is about to be relieved by a new team but suffers an accident before that. Suddenly, things start to take a strange turn when he begins to suffer from hallucinations caused by injuries from his accident, leading him to question his sanity.

Unlike most movies you will find on this list, Sam’s confinement may not have been involuntary, but the effect of his isolation is no less great than the other entrants. Stuck in a place with no other way to leave but to wait for a relief team, Moon paints a vivid picture of how easily the human mind can break when faced with isolation for long periods of time.

A telling reminder that the truly frightening part of being trapped is not about the physical confinement, but the mental one. Moon is available for streaming on Netflix. If you're looking for a film like Escape Room, Moon will not disappoint you.

8. Frozen (2010)

A plan to bribe a ski lift attendant to get ski lift tickets goes horribly wrong for three friends as they end up being stuck on a lift with a resort that is now closed for the week due to an incoming storm. Depending on how you look at this, the argument could be made that this is the most painful kind of confinement; to literally see the ground – the source of your salvation, but have no way to reach it. So close, yet so far.

Things get even worse for them as hypothermia begins to set in and a pack of wolves circles beneath them. Talk about being stuck between a rock and a hard place. Frozen is available for purchase on iTunes and the Google Play store.

9. Cube (1997)

Probably the closest film like Escape Room on this list, Cube tells the story of seven strangers who each wake up in a prison shaped like a cube with no idea how they got there. The strangers are as diverse in their skillsets and abilities as their prisons are with some of these cube-shaped rooms rigged with traps to kill them.

Not exactly a pleasant awakening on the back of regaining consciousness in confinement surrounded by strangers. Together, they must find a way to navigate the maze and come out alive.

This Canadian horror sci-fi film was received with very strong and very polarizing reviews leading to its cult status amongst the genre’s enthusiasts. Two sequels were then created and with talks of a remake in the works, it is clear fans can’t get enough of this claustrophobic classic.

Cube is available for purchase on Amazon Prime and the Google Play store.

10. Saw (2004)

Out of all the films on this list, Saw may be the most recognizable on this list due to the success of the franchise. Each Saw offering holds the same premise. People wake up to find themselves in a strange place, trapped by a sadistic serial killer called Jigsaw who believes his victims, being evildoers must be punished.

In order to carry out this punishment, Jigsaw concocts a series of puzzles ranging from the physical to the psychological that they must complete if they are to live. Failure to complete a puzzle guarantees a horrible end. It is easy to see the similarities between the premise of Saw and Escape Room, with the former most likely inspiring the latter due to its wide-reaching positive reception. The franchise has grossed over one billion dollars worldwide and is regarded as one of the highest grossing franchises of all time in the horror genre.

Saw is available for purchase on Amazon Prime and the Google Play store.

Are you looking for movies like Escape Room? You've come to the right place.

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