10 Cloverfield Lane & 9 Other Movies That Instill Claustrophobia

During a time when “quarantine” has become a household term, claustrophobia-inducing films like 10 Cloverfield Lane are more relevant and relatable than ever. This explains why many viewers are now flocking to streaming platforms to find new queasy-uneasy flicks set in tight, limited spaces and confined households.

In cinema, claustrophobia is well-worn territory, and filmmakers often use creative set designs and camera angles to instill it. However, as Newsweek mentions, some filmmakers, like Alfred Hitchcock, go well beyond the norm to ensure that viewers feel no less anxious than their movie characters. Running in a similar vein, these films perfectly balance tension and conflict to excite and exhaust viewers, both at the same time.

10 10 Cloverfield Lane

What makes 10 Cloverfield Lane such an effective sci-fi thriller is that it’s not only a satisfying spiritual sequel to the found-footage classic, Cloverfield but it also works very well as a standalone film. For viewers well-versed with the prequel, the film’s confined post-apocalyptic bunker setup instills chills and thrills by establishing that even though the outside world is invaded by monstrous creatures, the dark side of humanity is no less of a threat.

On the other hand, viewers unversed with its prequel may find it all the more terrifying, as they’ll be torn between rooting for or despising its ambiguous characters. Almost nothing in 10 Cloverfield Lane is as it seems.

9 127 Hours

One of Danny Boyle’s best movies, the survival flick 127 Hours unfolds under the scorching sun and harrowing canyons of Utah. At its fore is rock climber Aron Ralston’s (James Franco) who traps his arm under a boulder inside a canyon. Drifting back and forth between the climber’s flashbacks and present desperation to survive, the film brews a scintillating drama that keeps viewers white-knuckled.

While the movie’s pinched canyon setup and creative camerawork are sufficiently chilling and entertaining, it’s James Franco’s commendable performance that adds more heft to its brilliant take on Ralston’s true story.


8 1408

Perhaps one of the most underrated Stephen King adaptations, 1408 stars John Cusack as a paranormal writer who debunks legends and fads surrounding renowned ghostly locations. But all it takes is one visit to the infamous room number 1408 of the Dolphin Hotel to make him reconsider his beliefs — or lack thereof — surrounding the paranormal.

On the surface, there’s nothing more to the movie’s premise than the protagonist’s quest to survive and escape the titular room. But using creative storytelling, the film raises the stakes with each arc by finding new ways to imprison its main character and making philosophical explorations of his underlying grief.

7 The Endless

The Endless proves that all it takes is an intriguing premise, a decent cast, and directorial skills to create a  memorable cosmic horror flick. For the most part, the film unravels in the confinements of a UFO death cult — disguised as a recreational camp — where brothers Justin and Aaron return after narrowly escaping a decade earlier.

The longer they stick around, the more they learn of an omnipresent deity that traps the cult members in claustrophobic, loopy time domes. Seemingly inspired by the works of H.P Lovecraft, The Endless brings new life to meta-horror by portraying “the fear of the unknown” like no other.

6 Buried

Set in real-time, Buried takes viewers six feet underground where truck driver Paul is buried with only a lighter and cellphone. Despite being restricted to the volume of a coffin, director Rodrigo Cortes and writer Chris Sparling ingeniously craft the film in such a way that it’s replete with new odds that the hero has to overcome.

Even after conforming to the movie’s constricted setup, Ryan Reynolds puts out a believable performance that enhances the urgency of his character’s situation. Not to mention, since the movie entirely unfolds from his POV and never shows anything above the ground he’s buried under, its claustrophobic “appeal” is highly unsettling.

5 Green Room

According to People.com, Patrick Stewart, who plays a leading role in Green Room, was so unsettled by the movie’s script that he went around his home making sure that all his windows and doors were locked. A similar feeling of unsafety was felt by many viewers, too, who lauded the movie’s fairly simple but exceptionally executed premise.

The film’s taut drama focuses on a vicious game of cat-and-mouse that ensues between a punk rock band and a gang of neo-Nazi skinheads who are determined to eradicate them. With each passing minute, the film further amps up the intensity of its drama by the virtue of its unflinching violence and consequential plotlines. Additionally, its punk rock motifs serve as icing on the cake, coming in tandem with its gory drama.

4 Das Boot

Kudos to Wolfgang Petersen’s masterful filmmaking, Das Boot proves to be profound in every sense, and instead of presenting a critical didactic take on war-centric themes, it simply focuses on its human element.

While claustrophobia may not be central to the World War II drama of Das Boot, it sure is prevalent in its imagery that highlights the life of a German U-boat crew. It’s this imagery that creates a highly immersive atmosphere for viewers where they find themselves packed in with the crew of the submarine, experiencing their ever-growing desperation, boredom, and hunger.

3 Lifeboat

Although relatively lesser-known compared to other Hitchcock films, this shipwreck survival thriller puts the auteur’s technical and artistic fortè on full display. The film takes place in a crowded lifeboat that accommodates the crew of a torpedoed ship. As it progresses, tensions grow between the eight crew members, while the population on the boat inversely decreases.

But no matter how the dynamic or population of the crew changes, there’s always an overbearing sense of claustrophobia that’s onboard. It, in itself, becomes one of the many narrative devices Hitchcock uses to study the social divides of his characters.

2 The Thing

The feeling of claustrophobia that comes with John Carpenter’s The Thing is both psychological and physical — the former more than the latter. While the bleak, snowclad Antatartic setting, in itself, is enough to trouble many viewers, its plot delves into the psychic terrain of horror and makes viewers doubt their own perception.

As a result, almost no one gets through the movie without feeling as baffled as its characters. There’s a jarring Lovecraftian overtone — akin to At the Mountains of Madness — in almost everything that goes on in The Thing, which establishes that even without its remote setting, its characters would be no less trapped than they are.

1 The Lighthouse

All the strange images and moments in The Lighthouse, especially in its second half, are better experienced than explained on paper. Its plot is almost purposefully vague as its prime focus rests on playing with a viewer’s perception and leaving the rest to one’s imagination.

From its grey 4:3 ratio to its endless blasts of foghorns, the film reeks of claustrophobia. Whether it’s merely an experimental endeavor or a visceral picture of intangible fears is for the viewer to decide. What does become evident, though, is that just like Robert Eggers’ The Witch, this movie, too, teleports viewers into its gloomy isolated setting and makes them feel the desperation and helplessness of its characters.

NextHarry Potter: 10 Movie Quotes That Make Every Fan Cringe, According To Reddit

About The Author

Dhruv Sharma (97 Articles Published)

Before Screen Rant, Dhruv wrote over 2K articles for The Cinemaholic, covering anime, television, and movies. Some of his articles on philosophy, self-help, and writing have also been featured in popular Medium publications, such as Mind Cafe, Publishous, and The Writing Cooperative. Using Screen Rant as a platform, he’s now on a mission to learn, grow, and bloom through all things cinema.

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