The 25 Best Movies That Take Place in One Day

Over 2.6K Ranker voters have come together to rank this list of The 25 Best Movies That Take Place in One Day
Voting Rules
Vote up the one-day movies that make the best use of their 24 (or less) hours.

Some cinematic narratives develop over the course of years, decades, maybe even centuries. And then there are the movies in which the entire story takes place in 24 hours or less. Here are the best one day movies.

A lot of films that take place over one day are obvious selections. High Noon practically develops in real time. You probably also recall The Breakfast Club, which takes place from 7:00 am to 4:00 pm on a Saturday.

However, some of the movies on this list are not so obvious. Did you realize that Paul Thomas Anderson’s epic (in running time, at least) Magnolia takes place over one single day? Do you remember that all the events in Alien unfold in less than 24 hours?

Check out those films about a single day and more in the list below. Then, be sure to make your voice heard and vote up for all the best movies that take place over 24 hours.  

Most divisive: Run Lola Run

  • 1
    1,155 VOTES

    John Hughes's seminal 1985 coming-of-age comedy The Breakfast Club tells the tale of five totally disparate high school students from different cliques who spend a Saturday in detention together. It takes the characters a while to warm up to each other, but once they push aside their differences, they wind up sharing their most intimate and painful secrets. The physically confined space of the movie, and its restrictive time frame, gives the feeling of watching live theater. 

    The letter submitted by the group at the end of the day perfectly wraps up the themes of the movie:

    Dear Mr. Vernon:

    We accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong, but we think you're crazy to make us write an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us... In the simplest terms and the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain and an athlete and a basket case, a princess, and a criminal.

    Does that answer your question? Sincerely yours, the Breakfast Club.

    1,155 votes

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  • 2
    867 VOTES
    Die Hard
    Photo: 20th Century Fox

    It's Christmas time in Los Angeles in the 1988 action drama Die Hard. Off duty New York City cop John McClane (Bruce Willis) gets a note from his estranged wife Holly (Bonnie Bedelia): "Come out to the coast, we'll get together, have a few laughs..." However, the office party they attend gets busted up by a group of German terrorists led by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman.)

    McClane must outsmart the highly trained terrorists in order to save lives at the Nakatomi Plaza. Die Hard is everything a great action movie should be: smart, funny, well-acted, and an awful lot of fun to watch.

    867 votes

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  • 3
    890 VOTES
    The Goonies
    Photo: Warner Bros.

    The Goonies (1985) is a coming-of-age story that manages to hit all the right comedic, dramatic, and 80s nostalgia notes. Mikey Walsh (Sean Astin), his brother Brandon Walsh (Josh Brolin), and their oddball friends must find a way to raise enough money to save the Walsh house from foreclosure.

    All their problems could be solved after Mikey finds One-Eyed Willie's treasure map. The Goonies is that perfect adventure comedy that will make both kids and adults happy. 

    890 votes

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  • Ferris Bueller's Day Off
    Photo: Paramount Pictures

    Clever, lovable Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) made skipping school look like the most fun ever. Ferris, his girlfriend (Mia Sara), and his best buddy (Alan Ruck) have an overwhelming amount of fun in a single day. They pull off an elaborate ruse in order to trick their high school principal (Jeffrey Jones), drive around Chicago in a rare Ferrari (actually a Ferrari replica, the Modena Spyder, which apparently far exceeds the Ferrari in quality), and even participate in a parade.

    Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986) was just one of John Hughes's classic 1980s movies, and perhaps his most fun.

    987 votes

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  • 5
    570 VOTES
    12 Angry Men
    Photo: United Artists

    Sidmey Lumet's 1957 directorial debut, 12 Angry Men, tells the story of 12 jurors who must decide the guilt or innocence of a man on trail for his life. At first, it seems like a slam dunk case; the guy certainly appears guilty. In fact, during the first vote, every juror votes guilty, except for Juror 8 (Henry Fonda), who needs much more information.

    Over the course of the next several hours, personalities clash as the debate heats up. Juror 8 insists the group go over every single detail, and make sure, unequivocally, that the man is guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt in order to achieve an unanimous verdict. In the end, the audience never finds out if the man is guilty or innocent. That wasn't the point of the story.

    570 votes

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  • 6
    594 VOTES
    Reservoir Dogs
    Video: YouTube

    Quentin Tarantino's 1992 directorial debut, Reservoir Dogs, follows a group of career criminals, and one undercover cop, in the aftermath of a jewel heist gone terribly wrong. All the men are given pseudonyms (Mr. White, Mr. Pink, etc.) to protect their identity, as the structure of the story unfolds in a non-linear fashion, which gives the structure its inherent genius - the present tense action of the movie unfolds over the course of a few hours, but through flashback, the audience sees months in the lives of the characters. 

    Tarantino immediately established what would become his trademark style, characters having long, seemingly meaningless discussions, during the first scene of the movie. What does Madonna's "Like a Virgin" really mean? Not many rookie filmmakers would be brazen enough to spend precious first-act minutes on a conversation that has absolutely nothing to do with the narrative of the movie.

    594 votes

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