Best films featuring subways, metros and underground railways
Featuring Skyfall, The French Connection and The Taking of Pelham 123
A mystery screening at this year’s Glasgow Film Festival takes you beneath the city’s streets for a film event in the subway. Cinema has long had affection for the warren-like tunnels and passageways of the underground – here are five of our favourite metro films
Secret Subway, Sun 17 Feb, see www.glasgowfilm.org/festival for meeting point.
The Taking of Pelham 123
(Joseph Sargent, 1974)
New York City is the place to start with films set on the subway. This heist movie, starring Walter Matthau as a Metropolitan Transit Authority worker who’s forced to negotiate with Robert Shaw’s pre-Reservoir Dogs colour-coded gang of train hijackers, really gets into the operational detail of NYC’s subway system.
The French Connection
(William Friedkin, 1971)
Much of New York’s subway is, in fact, elevated above the streets. Friedkin’s gritty thriller makes fine use of that geographical feature by having Gene Hackman’s cop give chase to a criminal who’s boarded an El train by driving a car really, really fast along the street directly beneath. It’s one of the finest car chase sequences of all time, filmed for real without city permits!
Zazie dans le Metro
(Louis Malle, 1960)
The Paris Metro, arguably the second best-known subway system in the world, is put to great use in Louis Malle’s zippy social satire. Offloaded onto her uncle by her mother, who wants to spend some time with her lover, the irrepressible and uncontrollable titular 12-year-old girl decides to ditch her childminder and explore the city via public transport.
(Sam Mendes, 2012)
The London Underground, the world’s oldest, was given its most spectacular cinematic treatment to date in the latest James Bond adventure, the first to use the UK capital as its prime location. In a homoerotic scene that would have had Alfred Hitchcock laughing in his grave, Javier Bardem’s gay villain throws (or thrusts) an entire (and entirely phallic) tube train at Daniel Craig.
(Nimród Antal, 2003)
Older than the NYC Subway and the Paris Metro, Budapest’s Metro system received a rare cinematic outing in Nimród Antal’s black comedy. The film’s title refers to the ticket inspectors who ensure passengers pay their fares, who work in teams engaged in close rivalry and who challenge each other to ‘run the rails’, a dangerous occupation akin to Pamplona’s Running of the Bulls.