The Best Race Against The Clock Movies The Best Race Against The Clock Movies
Words: Karen Hamada The best thrillers are often the ones that make you instinctively hold your breath until the film ends. Nothing beats the... The Best Race Against The Clock Movies

Words: Karen Hamada

The best thrillers are often the ones that make you instinctively hold your breath until the film ends. Nothing beats the excitement of a film that keeps you on the edge of your seat. One of the best kinds of thrillers is those involving a race against a clock. Whether that be chasing down an abductor or being trapped in a coffin, the suspense is heightened with a foreboding, impending deadline.

Patriots Day is out in cinemas on 23rd February and covers the events of the Boston Marathon bombing and the intense manhunt that followed. We wanted to take a look at some of the best thrillers with a crucial time limit that make for the best nail-biting film viewing experience.

Man On Fire

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It’s hard to think of a more nail-biting story than a kidnap rescue mission. Man on Fire is just one film to reinforce this point. Denzel Washington plays the ex-CIA officer, John Creasy, in the novel turned film. Troubled with his own past experiences and dealing with alcoholism, Creasy reluctantly took a job in Mexico City to guard and protect Pita (Dakota Fanning), the nine-year-old daughter of a wealthy man, in a time of high kidnapping risk. What he didn’t realize was how important Pita would become to him and the detrimental chaos that would ensue. The film takes us on an emotional ride as Creasy does everything in his power and beyond to save Pita. With shocking twists and thrilling action scenes, we don’t blame you if you’ve forgotten what a normal breathing pattern is by the end of this film.


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“I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want,” but if Taken is not one of the first titles to come up when discussing thrillers, something is not right. Taken is a legend in race against the clock thriller circles. Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) is an ex-CIA officer whose daughter, Kate (Maggie Grace), takes a trip with her best friend to Paris. The girls just arrive to Europe when Kate witnesses her best friend get abducted just before she is taken herself – while on the phone with her father.  In one of the most famous lines of recent film history, Mills threatens the kidnapper that “he will find him, and he will kill him.” Using his “very particular skills” from the CIA, Mills travels to Europe to track down the abductor within 96 hours – the time at which the abductor’s victims usually disappear for good. The suspense is almost unbearably good as the situation unravels and truths come out with each suspect Mills finds on his search for what was Taken from him.


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Buried takes millions of people’s worst fear and creates a thriller film out of it. Ryan Reynolds is in the film as Paul Conroy, an American truck driver in Iraq. He wakes up to find that he is tied up in a coffin with just a lighter and cell phone. Piecing together the events, Conroy realizes that terrorists had attacked him and his colleagues, leaving him trapped in a coffin and the others dead. The kidnappers demand $5 million by that night or Conroy will be left to die. Nearby explosions cause damages to the coffin and it begins to fill with sand – a true race against the clock. Conroy is in contact with the State Department who are searching for his location to rescue him before he suffocates. The film is consistently unpredictable with unending anxiety, confusion, and tension. What more can you ask for in a thriller.

127 Hours

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Based on a true story, 127 Hours is the tale of an outdoorsman, Aron Ralston (James Franco), whose right arm got trapped under a boulder when he attempted to climb a narrow canyon in Blue John Canyon in Utah. Less of a fear-driven suspense than the other films mentioned, 127 Hours shows the events that led Ralston to become trapped and how he spent the days alone rationing his resources, attempting an amputation, and dealing with hallucinations. The real life Aron Ralston has confirmed the accuracy of the film, supporting that the real-life events were as suspenseful and dramatic as they appear. An amplified race against the clock thriller with an air of genuine authenticity.

Run Lola Run

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Imagine seeing the last intense moments of a thriller and seeing it end in three different ways. Run Lola Run does just that. In this German film, Franka Potente plays Lola who is on a mission to help her criminal boyfriend, Manni, who has just lost a large sum of money on his way to give it to his boss. A task which if left uncompleted will lead to his death. In three different “runs,” the film shows as Lola attempts to get the money for Manni before he meets with his boss. The catch? They only have 20 minutes. Audiences watch this race three different times, each with different interactions and outcomes. A unique creation of a thriller, Run Lola Run attracted both German and non-German speaking fans with its constant excitement and suspense. It is especially a great watch for all those who hate being left wondering “what if?”

13 Hours

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Another thriller based on a true story, 13 Hours covers the events of a terrorist attack at an American compound in Benghazi, Libya, which occurred on the first anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. During the time, Benghazi was regarded as one of the most dangerous places in the world and many international embassies were not present due to the high risk. The United States, however, remained. John Krasinski plays Jack Silva, a member of the Global Response Staff (GRS). The U.S. Ambassador, along with limited security, were at a compound a mile off from the CIA outpost where the GRS were stationed. When militants attacked, the GRS stepped up to get everyone to safety from the outbreak of chaos. A film depicting a story so heroic and thrilling, it leaves us in amazement knowing it is a biographical film.

Patriots Day is in UK Cinemas on 23rd February.   

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Jon Dingle Editor

A film journalist, writer and a filmmaker in business for over 20 years. I am passionate about movies, television series, music and online games.