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The Best (Or Worst!) Movies To Watch While You’re Going Stir-Crazy

March 30, 2020 2.3k votes 334 voters 10.7k views18 items

List RulesVote up the films that make you feel seriously uneasy about being stuck inside.

Cabin fever isn't a fun feeling, and the best movies to watch when stuck inside reflect that. Over the decades, there have been quite a few good films dealing with the skin-crawling sensation of being stuck indoors or in confined quarters. So many factors figure into that predicament, including loneliness, boredom, anxiety, and sometimes even claustrophobia. Well-made isolation movies capture what it's like to go through those circumstances.

If you're going stir-crazy, there are movies that might help you cope. Seeing something you can relate to, or knowing that someone else (even a fictional character) has felt the exact same way, could provide a much-needed dose of uplift. Then again, seclusion films could also bring you down even more. Several are absolutely worst-case scenario tales, in which the characters being stuck inside leads to seriously unpleasant consequences. 

Only you know for sure what you can take. Just remember that the next time you have a case of cabin fever, these movies might make you feel better. Or exponentially worse.

  • Frustrated writer Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) accepts a job taking care of a remote hotel during the winter months, thinking the change of scenery will jump-start his creative process. Instead, he's slowly driven mad by loneliness and seclusion, to the point where all he can write is "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" over and over on thousands of sheets of paper. That's Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, based on the novel by Stephen King.

    While Jack is the central figure, the story is told equally from the viewpoints of his wife, Wendy (Shelley Duvall), and young son, Danny (Danny Lloyd), both of whom have to worry for their safety as they watch Jack's sanity disappear. By the time Jack starts chasing them with an ax, it's clear he's reached the point of no return. The movie's climax takes place inside a snow-covered labyrinth - a perfect metaphor for the disorienting, no-way-out feeling Wendy and Danny face as they're stuck with this madman.

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    • John Carpenter's The Thing may technically be a remake of 1951's The Thing from Another World, but it delivers a type of horror radically more intense than its predecessor. Kurt Russell stars in this version, which follows a group of researchers at a scientific base in Antarctica. A shape-shifting alien life-form has escaped from the ice in which it was frozen and now runs amok. Finding the creature isn't easy, as it can transform itself to look like any human it comes in contact with. Consequently, neither Russell's character nor his colleagues know who's real or who might be the "thing" in disguise. Until it strikes, that is.

      The Thing skillfully conveys the remoteness of the Antarctic. There's nowhere to run for help at the end of the world. The actors do a fine job conveying the suspicion that grows among the researchers as they try to figure out whom the creature might be impersonating. People who used to be trusted colleagues suddenly view each other as enemies. Gruesome human destruction created by the alien makes the stakes of the situation feel very real.

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      • 10 Cloverfield Lane stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Michelle, a woman who gets into a traffic collision and wakes up inside an underground bunker belonging to Howard (John Goodman). Howard claims some sort of chemical strike has taken place on the surface and that he rescued her. At first, that seems somewhat plausible, given that he doesn't try to harm her or anything. But he's got a weird set of rules, as well as a general sense of intensity that makes her gradually doubt his story.

        Like Michelle, we're unsure for a long time whether Howard is a good Samaritan or a guy with deeply sinister ulterior motives. The longer Michelle is trapped, the more she wants out, regardless of what's happening above. And the more she wants out, the more determined Howard is to keep her in. The movie makes us feel not only Michelle's claustrophobia, but her increasing need to get concrete answers about the situation.

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        • Moon is one of the best movies ever made about the torment of isolation. Sam Rockwell plays Sam Bell, an astronaut who specializes in mining. He's been on the moon alone for three years, extracting a particular kind of gas that could help solve Earth's energy crisis. Just as Sam is about to return home, though, he discovers a doppelgänger near a rover on the lunar surface. 

          From there, Moon goes to some wild places. Sam learns that he and the doppelgänger are both clones of the original Sam Bell, which means something shady is being orchestrated by Lunar Industries, the company funding the entire mission. The twists and turns are fun, but much of the film's pleasure is derived from the manner in which it creates a nervous energy. Sam has to figure out what Lunar Industries is up to, with no one to help him except, well, himself.

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