Kidnapping is a scary thought, and whenever they happen, they are always traumatizing at best and tragic and horrific in the worst cases.
There’s just something deeply disturbing about the thought of being taken against our will and having our entire life disrupted with no warning.
This is why kidnappings movies are among the most popular ones because we like to be scared as long as we are in control. And, in the movies, at least, there is usually a happy ending involved.
This gives us hope and helps us sleep at night.
With that said, kidnapping movies have grown to become quite a massive subgenre, and there are plenty of films at your disposal.
After watching many of these films, I came up with the list of 18 best kidnapping movies, some of which may be bordering on hostage movies, and some are even based on a true story. Enjoy!
State of Siege (1972)
Speaking of a movie based on a true story, we have State of Siege. The film was based on an event that took place in 1969 when an American, Daniel A. Mitrione, was kidnapped and killed by Uruguayan guerrillas.
While he was never officially confirmed to be an agent of the US of any kind, the guerrillas took him and held him for ransom for a reason.
State of Siege is a fictional attempt that took this event and tried to come up with its own story to explain why it happened.
The film came out only three years after the event itself, and it is one of the best kidnapping movies on this list, despite (or maybe because) of the fact that it was based on a true story.
The film stars Yves Montand, Jacques Weber, Renato Salvatori, O.E. Hasse, Jean-Luc Bideau, and others.
The Disappearance of Alice Creed (2009)
Next, we have a very unique film called The Disappearance of Alice Creed. This was a film with a fairly tight budget, but it is also one of the most mind-twisting hostage thrillers I have ever seen, and it definitely deserves a place on the list of the best kidnapping movies.
The plot revolves around two former convicts who redesigned an abandoned apartment to become a soundproof torture room.
Then, they kidnapped a young woman (and a rich man’s daughter), Alice Creed, hoping to get her father’s money. After kidnapping the young girl, however, they discover that she is more than willing to fight back, and over the course of the film, we discover a strange truth behind this kidnapping story.
The Guardian also liked the movie, and the actors’ stellar performances, calling it a “professionally honed thriller, melodramatic maybe, but socked over with cracking energy.”
The film stars Gemma Arterton, Eddie Marsan, and Martin Compston.
The Collector (2009)
One of the rather interesting and intense kidnapping films, which even borders with being a psychological horror film, is The Collector.
The story begins with a man who is seeking a way to pay off a debt, and the quickest way to do it is to rob a home of a wealthy family, and steal a valuable gem.
At first, his plan seems to be working fine, until he realizes that someone else is in the mansion.
It turns out that a masked lunatic kidnapped the owners, and is holding them tied up, while the entire mansion is filled with deadly traps that the masked man has set up.
You could also view this as a hostage film, or even as an action-packed thriller, but however you choose to define it, it is definitely tense, exciting, and worth the watch.
The film stars Juan Fernandez de Alarcon, Josh Stewart, Madeline Zima, Daniella Alonso, and others.
The King of Comedy (1983)
Moving on with great kidnapping movies, we have The King of Comedy, a film about a man, Rupert Pupkin, who has a secret obsession with a late-night talk show host, Jerry Langford.
Rupert even manages to save Jerry one night, from a group of fans who were mobbing him. While helping him escape, Rupert slips into Jerry’s limo with him, and introduces himself as a stand-up comedian.
Wanting to be nice to the man who saved him and shares his limo, Jerry tells him to call his office and they will see if they can arrange something. Of course, Jerry is only being nice, and he has no intention of actually having Rupert on the show.
After trying to call and being rejected multiple times, Rupert decides to kidnap Jerry and hold him hostage until he is given his opportunity to perform for the nation.
The film stars Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese, Jerry Lewis, Diahnne Abbott, and others.
Megan is Missing (2011)
The next on our list of abduction movies, we have Megan Is Missing. This is a film about a teenage girl, Megan, who uses the internet to escape from problems at school and from being a victim of sexual abuse, by talking to a 17-year-old student, Josh.
Megan, who is only 14, decides to meet him, and that is when this becomes a kidnapping film.
Meanwhile, Megan’s best friend, Amy, starts searching for answers after Megan did not return from her meeting with “Josh,” and makes plans to meet him, herself.
This is a violent film with a brutal kidnapper, and a horrific crime at the end. It was presented in the form of a found footage psychological horror movie, with heinous crimes, and a tragic ending that involves torturing young girls, and in the end, the killer walks away free.
The film stars Rachel Quinn, Amber Perkins, Dean Waite, Jael Elizabeth Steinmeyer, and others.
The Silence of The Lambs (1991)
Moving on, we have The Silence of The Lambs, a classic featuring everyone’s favorite manipulative cannibal killer, Dr. Hannibal Lecter.
However, in this film, Hannibal is already in prison, caught and locked away for his crimes a long time ago. But, that doesn’t mean that he can’t be of use, which is exactly the idea that the FBI comes to.
The Bureau’s head of the Behavioral Science Unit pulls Clarice Starling from her FBI training and sends her to interview Lecter for his insight into a kidnapping case.
Starling comes to the notorious serial killer with a request for his help in tracking down another serial killer who kidnaps young women and removes their skin from their bodies.
As a trained psychiatrist and a highly-intelligent serial killer himself, Lecter proves invaluable to the case, and soon enough, the young woman sees a breakthrough.
The film stars Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Ted Levine, Brooke Smith, and others.
Cargo 200 (2007)
One of the best kidnapping movies that made the list is called Cargo 200, and it is a film featuring a mysterious man who abducts the daughter of the secretary of the district committee for the Communist Party.
There are no witnesses, no suspects, and no clues, only the fact that the kidnapped girl is missing.
That same night, a brutal murder ends up being committed in a house at the edge of town.
The plot takes place in 1984, as the Soviet era was approaching its downfall, which is also when a police officer goes mad and starts terrorizing the town. It is a gripping story, with some excellent acting skills, and a definitive place on the list of the best kidnapping movies.
The film stars Aleksey Poluyan, Agniya Kuznetsova, Aleksey Serbryakov, Leonid Gromov, and others.
A famous novelist Paul Sheldon ends up in a car accident, only to be saved by a former nurse, Annie Wilkes, one of his biggest fans. Annie, who lives in the middle of nowhere, decides to keep Paul at her house until he recovers from the car crash.
Her plans change when she finds his new, yet unpublished book, and doesn’t like the direction in which the story is going, thus revealing her hidden obsession with the series and Paul himself.
So, Annie decides to keep Paul under “forced house arrest,” essentially turning her patient into her kidnapping victim.
The film can be seen as a horror, especially since it is one of the kidnapping movies based on a novel by Stephen King. However, it can also be seen as a crime drama. As always, the captured person attempts to escape, and things do not go well.
It is also worth noting that Kathy Bates won the Best Actress Oscar at the 63rd Academy Award, and she completely deserves it.
The film stars Kathy Bates and James Caan.
All The Money in the World (2017)
Another kidnapping film that you should definitely watch is All The Money In The World. It is a film whose plot takes place in 1973, when kidnappers abduct a young boy, demanding that his billionaire grandfather pays $17 million in exchange for his life.
However, the old billionaire decides that he will not pay, not even to save his own family, despite pleas from his adviser and ex-daughter-in-law.
The two, Fletcher and Gail decide that the only other option is to try to save the teenage boy on their own. However, they have to be fast if they wish to recover the missing child alive.
Even though Christopher Plummer, who plays the billionaire, wasn’t the first choice for the part, The Guardian said that “He relishes and luxuriates in the role. It fits him perfectly. Getty is exactly right for Plummer’s talent for subversive glittery-eyed grandfatherly mischief, cut with a dash of misanthropic malice.”
The film stars Christopher Plummer, Kevin Spacey, Mark Wahlberg, Michelle Williams, and others.
An American Crime (2007)
Next, we have a crime drama based on one of the worst true stories from Indiana, called An American Crime. The film tells the story about a divorced woman, Gertrude, who is also a single mother of several children.
She agrees to take in two girls while their parents go on a trip with a carnival.
However, Gertrude is a deeply troubled woman who quickly starts engaging in child abuse, locking one of the two girls in the basement, where she tortured her, committing the most heinous crimes.
Not only that, but she also encourages her children to do it, as well.
The film was based on transcripts from the court case, and prosecutors from Indiana still describe it as the worst crime that ever happened in the state.
The film stars Catherine Keener, Elliot Page, James Franco, Bradley Whitford, Hayley McFarland, and others.
Panic Room (2002)
Next up, we have Panic Room, a film featuring a single mother who lives with her diabetic daughter. The two are forced to hide into their house’s panic room after three home invaders enter the house.
While inside, they are completely cut off from the outside world. The men believe that the house contains a hidden fortune, and they are determined not to leave until they find it.
However, while the mother and daughter are safe in the panic room, the trouble starts when the daughter starts having an attack, due to her condition.
The film has an exciting storyline, and while it is hard from being a heartfelt tale, it still has a happy ending.
The film stars Jodie Foster, Kristen Stewart, Forest Whitaker, Jared Leto, Dwight Yoakim, and others.
Trade is a film that follows several characters, a Texas police detective who fears that his daughter was kidnapped to be a sex slave; a young man in search of his sister, and a Ukrainian woman who came to find a better life in America, only to become a victim.
Yet another crime drama on the list, the film features some female nudity, human trafficking, and severe violence.
While definitely not a film for the family movie night, it does deserve its place on this list, as kidnapping is still the main theme, alongside other crimes, such as sexual slavery and human trafficking in Mexico City.
The film stars Kevin Kline, Cesar Ramos, Alicja Bachleda-Curus, Kate del Castillo, Paulina Gaitan, and others.
A Perfect World (1993)
A Perfect World is another film that involves kidnapping, but also has a much warmer story. It is a film about an escaped convict, Butch, who was wrongfully imprisoned.
Upon his escape, he kidnaps a young boy called Philip, and together, they embark on a trip which will result in a surprising and unexpected bond between the two.
Meanwhile, an honorable Texas Ranger, Red Garnett, is hot on their trail. While he knows that Butch is a good man, and likely innocent, he is still obligated by his job to hunt him down, and protect the child.
However, that doesn’t mean that he isn’t in a moral dilemma, as the situation he finds himself in is anything but simple.
The film stars Kevin Costner, Clint Eastwood, T.J. Lowther, Laura Dern, Bradley Whitford, and others.
The Frozen Ground (2013)
Next, we have The Frozen Ground, which brings us back to the kidnappings that usually end up being rather horrific experiences.
The film follows a young girl who managed to escape Alaska’s most notorious serial killer who has been preying on women for 13 years.
After escaping, she even manages to reach the police station, and the detective who has been hunting the killer for years. Now, he finally gets a witness, and he and the girl find themselves on the killer’s trail.
However, the police are in a hurry, as the killer likely knows that he is compromised, and will likely decide to cut his losses and kill the other victims before help can arrive.
Based on a true story, this is a very intense film that will keep you at the edge of your seat for its entire duration.
The film stars Nicolas Cage, John Cusack, Vanessa Hudgens, 50 Cent, Olga Valentina, and others.
Kiss the Girls (1997)
Moving on, we have a film called Kiss The Girls, which was entirely fictional, but it was still temporarily banned in Virginia because it mirrored a local unsolved murder of three girls.
The story revolves around a serial kidnapper called Casanova. Casanova is not a killer, instead, he simply enjoys kidnapping people and holding them against their will.
However, one of his victims manages to escape and aid the police in their manhunt.
At the same time, a forensic psychologist also gets involved in the investigation after his niece gets captured by the kidnapper.
The film stars Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd, Tony Goldwyn, Cary Elwes, and others.
The Kindergarten Teacher (2018)
If you are a fan of psychological thrillers, then you should definitely watch The Kindergarten Teacher. As the name suggests, it is about a kindergarten teacher who develops an obsession with one of the students.
Convinced that he is a genius, and that she is the only one who sees it, the teacher decides that she must nurture his talent.
However, it doesn’t take long for her to start crossing the line between what is appropriate and what is not. She gets astounded by this realization herself, but that changes nothing, as she is convinced that this 5-year-old is a poetry prodigy that only she can protect.
The film stars Maggie Gyllenhaal, Parker Sevak, Gael Garcia Bernal, Michael Chernus, Rosa Salazar, Ana Baryshnikov, and others.
The Most Hated Woman in America (2017)
Nearing the end of the list, we have The Most Hated Woman in America. The film revolves around Madalyn Murray O’Hair, and it is based on a true story. O’Hair was a controversial figure due to the fact that she founded the American Atheists. She also fought for the separation of church and state.
Already infamous because of her (lack of) beliefs, she became even more known to the public after she and her son get kidnapped.
The film follows both, her rise and untimely demise, and it is a must-watch for fans of American history, and the separation of church and state.
The film stars Melissa Leo, Juno Temple, Josh Lucas, Adam Scott, Sally Kirkland, Peter Fonda, and others.
Olympus Has Fallen (2013)
The last on the list is Olympus Has Fallen, a film that follows a Secret Service agent, Mike Banning. Banning ends up in the White House, stuck in negotiations with North Korean terrorists who managed to kidnap the US president in plain sight.
However, while negotiating the president’s release, he realizes that the president’s son has not yet been captured.
A kidnapped son of the US president would definitely make the situation go from bad to worse, and Banning has only one option remaining, to find him first, and keep him safe with his own hands, before the terrorists do.
The film stars Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd, Angela Bassett, and others.
How to watch these movies
Most of these movies are available across streaming platforms like Netflix, Disney+, Hulu and others.
What you may not know is services like Netflix have different catalogs of films and shows depending on what country you’re in.
Check out our guide on how to unlock Netflix allowing you to watch movies from across the world with your regular account. We’ve also got guides to do the same for Disney Plus, Hulu and more so have a browse around our site.
With that, I conclude this list. Note that kidnapping is a very popular topic in films, and it mixes in a lot of different themes and situations.
From unique takes on the idea of an estranged father, to a mother-son relationship, a husband-wife relationship, and more, all of which was re-examined countless times, with countless different results.
There are many more great movies from this sub-genre, such as Dog Day Afternoon which involves a bank robbery, or Savages, which involves a kidnapping by a Mexican drug cartel. Some of these films even include Sci-Fi elements, and a few even have a surprise ending.
What they all have in common, however, is that they are filled with tension, excitement, and more, and will definitely keep you at the edge of your seat.
What do you like about these types of movies and which is your favorite from the list? I would love to know so drop me a comment below.