While combing to find kidnapping movies on Netflix, three things become clear. First, there are a ton of movies. It never dawned on me just how common a plot device kidnapping is. Second, most of the best or most prominent videos about or featuring kidnapping are not available to stream on Netflix. Lastly, differentiating between abduction and hostage-taking often comes down to semantics.
The idea of being taken or held against your will is about as sturdy and straightforward a dramatic conceit as you can find. It builds immediate tension and elicits sympathy from audiences, sometimes before you even know who the characters are. Lock your doors, make sure you have a weapon nearby, and settle in for these tales of the taken.
The Best Kidnapping Movies On Netflix
1) Big Trouble In Little China
This is one of the few classic movies with a prominent kidnapping available on Netflix. But scarcity isn’t the only reason to make Big Trouble in Little China your first choice. John Carpenter and Kurt Russell are synonymous with the 1980s, and their collaborations are timeless. The film follows Jack (Russell), who travels below Chinatown, to do battle with a sorcerer to save his friends fiance. That is the plot in its most reduced form, but trust that the movie is significantly more impressive than that.
2) Boy Missing (Secuestro)
This Spanish thriller is about a mother doing whatever she can to save her kidnapped son. Pretty standard setup, but the execution is what separates Boy Missing. People usually throw around formulaic as a pejorative, but in this case, its meant as a positive or at least a comforting descriptor. Boy Missing follows the blueprint for this kind of movie closely but mixes in twists to take advantage of the viewer’s knowledge. The acting and directing are strong enough to elevate the material and make Boy Missing worth your time. Most people have seen enough American versions of this story, but seeing a foreign perspective is enough to make it fresh.
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3) Who Took Johnny
Documentaries don’t get much more devastating than this. It tells the story of Johnny Gosch, an Iowa paperboy, who disappeared on his route one day over 30 years ago. Even if you don’t know the name, you’re subliminally aware of it. Johnny was the first missing child to be put on a milk carton. The case remains cold, but the documentary goes over all of the investigation’s odds and ends. It also focuses on Johnny’s mom, Noreen, and the effect her loss had on her life and her determination to find out what happened to her son. Obviously, it’s not an easy watch, but it is entirely compelling.
4) Black Snake Moan
Samuel L. Jackson kidnaps Christina Ricci in the follow-up film from Craig Brewer, the writer-director behind Hustle & Flow. Jackson plays Lazarus Redd, a religious farmer, and Ricci plays Rae, a young woman addicted to sex. Lazarus believes he can cure Rae of her addiction, a plan that was only ever going to go sideways for all involved. The performances help sell the bleak tone of the story, but the real highlight of the film is its aesthetic. Similar to Do the Right Thing, Brewer shoots the movie in a way that makes its Southern heat palpable and oppressive. It has a pressure-cooker effect on the characters and audience. Black Snake Moan was divisive upon release and skipped over by most viewers. It has a distinct vision and is worth reckoning with.
This 2010 Spanish thriller is… something. I saw it on the festival circuit and had a love-hate reaction. The story is simple: A group of three burglars break into a home and take the family hostage. The father is forced to leave home to empty his bank account while two robbers stay at home with the mother and teenage daughter. The hate part of my reaction comes from the plot machinations being predictable and rote. The love part comes from the film’s technical prowess. It’s comprised of 12 long takes, so most of the films ingenuity comes from its staging and camera work. In the seven years since I watched this my memory of the things I didn’t like has faded, but my appreciation for the craft has grown. Call this one a recommendation with reservations.
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