Kidnapping Movies – Best 25 films

Kidnapping films are a variation of action cinema. Their main theme is abduction, which can involve a child, another family member or a larger group of people. We present a list of the most exciting films of this genre.

The motif of kidnapping can appear in films belonging to many genres, such as historical, war, crime or biographical cinema. Many pictures of this type also fall within factual films. The story of an abduction may be shown from the point of view of the victim’s next of kin, who must, for example, pay the ransom or find the perpetrators themselves. It also happens that the film focuses on the kidnappers and their actions, starting with the planning of the act of abduction. Sometimes, on the other hand, pictures with this theme confront both perspectives on the events.

Most often these works belong to action cinema. In films about child kidnappings, the main character may be a strong male father, who must save his family and bring justice on his own. Sometimes, however, it is the mother who is the acting character and takes responsibility for the course of events. A separate group are films about the kidnapping of women, usually focusing on the phenomenon of human trafficking and forced prostitution. On the other hand, another variation of the genre are films about airplane or bus hijackings, where the plot is based on the motive of abducting a larger group of people, not only to extort a ransom, but also to achieve political gains.

Films about kidnappings

Kidnapping movies - Taken 2008

1. “Taken”, 2008

Pierre Morel’s film is one of the most popular pictures of the genre. “Taken” is a gripping story of an American teenager who, together with a friend, goes on a dream trip to Paris. On the very first day, however, the girls fall prey to human traffickers. Fortunately, Kim’s father, Bryan Mills, is a former secret service agent and will use all his powers and contacts to find his beloved daughter. The film starred Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace and Famke Janssen. The film lived to see several sequels.

“Taken” for which the script was written by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen, is an old-style action cinema. Instead of special effects, it relies here on an interesting plot, expressive characters with clear motivations and a world picture built on contrast. The role of the main character is to restore the broken order, save the family and punish the guilty. We also have here a clear distribution of values, according to which love and moral qualities mean more than a bank account with a sizable sum of money.

2. “Man on Fire”, 2004

Kidnapping Films Man on Fire 2004

Another on our list of kidnapping films – “Man on Fire” directed by Tony Scott – is a great feature. The picture is set in Mexico. The main character of the film is a former CIA agent who is struggling with traumatic memories. Thanks to an acquaintance, he gets a job as a bodyguard for a several-year-old girl named Pita, the daughter of a wealthy businessman. This is because the parents fear that their child may be a victim of kidnapping, a common method in Mexico of extorting large sums of money from wealthy people. Creasy befriends Pita, but despite his foresight, the girl is soon abducted….

The role of the bodyguard searching for the kidnappers is played by Denzel Washington, while Pita is played by Dakota Fanning. The film is based on the novel by A. J. Quinnell. Here Washington created an extremely evocative creation of a tough man after his transgressions, whose battered heart is opened by a little girl. Innocence and vulnerability of the little heroine, meanwhile, emphasize the brutality of the kidnappers and their dark interests.

3. “Frantic” (1988)

movies about kidnappings - Frantic

Roman Polanski’s popular 1988 film “Frantic” is also a story based on a kidnapping motif. A capable American cardiac surgeon (Harrison Ford) together with his wife arrives in Paris for a scientific symposium. Shortly after settling into the hotel, it turns out that the wife of Dr. Richard Walker (Betty Buckley) is abducted. However, the alarmed police assume that Mrs. Walker has simply decided to leave her husband. Nevertheless, Richard does not give up and tries to find his wife. He soon comes across a young girl named Michele (Emmanuelle Seigner), who becomes his guide to the dark side of Paris.

“Frantic” impresses with its acting (Harrison Ford’s performance in this film is one of the best roles of his career) and the dark atmosphere of “underground Paris”. The hero’s journey, reminiscent of Dante’s journey from the “Divine Comedy” through the successive circles of hell, is accompanied by an unusual musical commentary. The leitmotiv of the soundtrack is namely the magnetizing song “I’ve Seen That Face Before” performed by Grace Jones, a well-known pop culture figure associated with French art bohemia.

4. „The Vanishing”, 1993

Films about kidnappings The Vanishing

This is a classic thriller whose plot centers around a mysterious kidnapping. A couple in love: Jeff (Kiefer Sutherland) and Diane (Sandra Bullock) go on vacation. During a stop at a gas station, the girl gets out of the car to buy a beer. When she doesn’t return for a long time, a concerned Jeff becomes alarmed. He finally reports the matter to the police, but it turns out that Diane has disappeared without a trace. After several years, the protagonist meets a mysterious man (played by Jeff Bridges), who seems to have something to do with the kidnapping case.

The film was directed by French director George Sluizer, who also wrote the earlier 1988 European version. Thanks to a brilliantly constructed intrigue and quality acting, “The Vanishing” is very well watched, although many viewers prefer the original to the Hollywood adaptation. The picture is based on the novel “The Golden Egg” by Tim Krabbe.

5. „Prisoners”, 2013

Film about kidnapping - Prisoners

“Prisoners”, directed by Denis Villeneuve, is an interesting story about the kidnapping of two several-year-old girls. The main character of the film is the father of one of them, Keller Dover (played by Hugh Jackman), who, due to the sluggishness of the police, decides to take matters into his own hands. Desperate, the man goes to very radical measures: he kidnaps and tortures the man suspected of committing the kidnapping.

“Prisoners” is not only a crime film, but also an interesting study of the psyche of a man who is put in an extreme situation. It turns out that it becomes both a traumatic burden and a moral test for the protagonist. The movie asks questions about whether personal beliefs, especially religious faith, have any influence on human behavior in the face of trial.

6. „Don’t Say a Word”, 2001

Movie about kidnapping Don't say a word

Among films about kidnappings it is worth seeing ” Don’t Say a Word “, directed by Gary Fleder. The main character of the picture is a taken New York psychiatrist, who one day learns that his daughter has been abducted. The man receives an ultimatum from the kidnappers: the girl will return home if he gets one of his patients to reveal to him a code that allows him to get a lot of money. Elizabeth, however, is in a state of deep catatonia. So begins a game of nerves, with the life of an innocent child at stake.

The film features an array of famous actors: Michael Douglas, Sean Bean and Brittany Murphy. Among other things, thanks to great creations, the picture is impressive and affects the emotions of the viewer. Here we have a classic situation of trial faced by an ordinary person. How far will he be able to go to save his beloved daughter?

7. „Trapped”, 2002

Best kidnapping films - Trapped

Another film about child kidnapping – the victim of the procedure becomes a little girl, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Jennings. This time, however, it is the mother who is the person fighting to recover the little heroine and bring justice. Karen is the wife of a prominent anesthesiologist, and during his prolonged absence due to a business trip, she has to face a terrible situation herself. Meanwhile, the kidnapper (played by Kevin Bacon) and his aides have a well-thought-out plan of action to extract a ransom from the wealthy family within 24 hours.

The role of the kidnapped Abby in “Trapped” is played by Dakota Fanning, while her parents are played by Charlize Theron and Stuart Townsend. Luis Mandoki’s film is a picture whose strongest point is the acting. The performance of both Theron and Kevin Bacon playing the role of a ruthless character with psychopathic traits is excellent.

8. „The Deep End of the Ocean”, 1999

Best kidnapping movies - The Deep of the Ocean

The main character of “The Deep End of the Ocean” is Beth, a mother of three children, who one day goes with her kids to a reunion of graduates of a former class. While staying at the hotel, one of the woman’s sons disappears without a trace. They immediately set off to search for him, but to no avail. The family nevertheless does not give up hope of finding Ben. After twelve years, the protagonist meets a boy on the street who looks confusingly like her son. It turns out that he lives with his adoptive parents, but does not remember his biological family. Beth, convinced that she has found her son, does not give up. Michelle Pfeiffer plays the lead role, while Whoopi Goldberg plays the detective in charge of the kidnapping case. Hive Grosbard’s film is a puzzling and moving story in which the power of maternal love comes to the fore.

9. „Ransom”, 1996

Movies about kidnapping a child - Ransom

“Ransom” is a classic among kidnapping films. Here we have the story of a wealthy airline owner whose son is abducted, and the kidnappers give him 48 hours to pay $2 million in exchange for his recovery. Tom Mullen, despite the dramatic situation and his wife’s insistence that he pay the criminals, decides to take a completely different and unexpected step. During a TV appearance, he sets a huge reward for capturing the kidnappers. The film stars Mel Gibson and Rene Russo in lead roles.

Ron Howard’s film is very well made cinema with an engaging plot. The strengths of “Ransom” are also the brilliantly constructed psychological portraits of the father and the kidnapper, as well as the peculiar game the antagonists play with each other. Here we find a gripping story, believable characters and surprising twists.

10. “Flightplan”, 2005

Child kidnapping movies - Flightplan

Robert Schwentke’s film is another interesting story about child abduction. The main character of the story is Kyle Prat, a woman mourning the death of her husband. Together with her daughter Julia, who is several years old, she flies by plane from Berlin to New York. During the trip, however, the girl disappears under unexplained circumstances. Convinced that Julia has been kidnapped, Kyle begins to scour the plane on her own in search of her daughter. Kyle is familiar with the workings of aircraft machinery, as she is an aircraft designer. However, the case is complicated by the fact that the crew and other passengers claim that the girl was never on board….

The role of the desperate mother in the film “Flightplan” was played by Judy Foster. Julia was played by Marlene Lawston, while the role of the plane’s captain was played by Sean Bean. The film refers to Alfred Hitchcock’s well-known work, titled “The Lady Vanishes” and the filmmakers openly called their picture a tribute to the master of suspense.

11. “The City of Lost Children” („La Cite des enfants perdus”), 1995

Kidnapping movies list - The City of lost children

A film of the fantasy genre, the main theme of which is kidnapping. A certain scientist living on a platform in the middle of the sea has quite a problem. He never dreams about anything, which causes him to age very quickly. So he decides to kidnap several children from a nearby town and steal their dreams. A strongman named One and a little girl set out to find the abducted kids.

The film “The City of Lost Children,” directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro, starred Ron Perlman, Daniel Emilfork, Judith Vittet and Dominique Pinon, among others. The picture was nominated for the Palme d’Or at Cannes, and was also awarded the César for best production design.

12. „An American Crime”, 2007

Recent kidnapping movies - An american crime

This kidnapping movie was based on fact. The story told in “An American Crime” happened in 1965 in the American state of Indiana. Sylvia Jannie Linekens are the daughters of a married couple making a living by selling cotton candy at local parties. The parents, with a view to creating stability for the girls, decide to leave them in the care of a widow, Gertrude Baniszewski, for the duration of their travels. The woman is raising her own children alone, but agrees to take care of the girls for a fee. However, when Sylvia and Jannie’s parents leave, the children begin to experience a nightmare at the woman’s home. Eventually, one of the girls becomes trapped in the basement….

The role of the sadistic stalker was played by Catherine Keener, while Sylvia was played by Elliot Page. The film is a multifaceted analysis of the behavior of psychopathic tendencies hidden under the appearance of ordinariness. At the same time, however, it shows that although the guilt here is indisputable, other people were also implicated in the criminal situation, and their indifference and often cruelty make us ask the question about the universal nature of human evil.

13. „The Call”, 2013

Movies about kidnapping a girl - The Call

“The Call” by Brad Anderson is a storyline that is sure to appeal to all fans of kidnap movies. Jordan Turner (played by Halle Berry) operates a telephone emergency line. One day he gets a dramatic call from a girl who claims that someone has broken into her house. However, when Turner tries to make contact again, the criminal, guided by the sound of the phone, finds the helpless girl. Some time later, the operator gets a similar call. This time the young girl claims to be in the trunk of the kidnapper’s car. Jordan decides to do everything to help the abductee. The tension of the film rises almost from the first scenes and remains at a high level until the end of “The Call”. Here we have both a detective mystery, as well as fast-paced action and interesting characters.

14. „Oldboy” (2003)

Abduction movies - Oldboy

“Oldboy” by Park Chan-wook is a film belonging to a Korean series about revenge. The picture tells the story of a man who is kidnapped by unknown perpetrators and held captive by them for fifteen years. In the abductee’s room there is a TV set, from which he learns that his wife was murdered and he was found guilty of the murder. When Dae-su is released, the protagonist’s only motivation for action becomes the thought of taking revenge on his tormentors. Nevertheless, the man has no idea that his behavior is also part of the kidnappers’ elaborate plan. The lead role was played by Min-sik Choi.

“Oldboy” is an extremely violent Asian cinema based on the theme of guilt and punishment. The film was nominated for the Palme d’Or and also won the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes. Here we have a puzzling plot, a dark atmosphere, expressive characters and an ebullition of violence for the viewer. This is certainly an offer for viewers with strong nerves.

15. „Along Came a Spider”, 2001

Movies about kidnapped girl - Along Came a Spider
„Along Came a Spider” is a sequel to the popular 1997 film “Kiss the Girls”. The main character of the picture is Dr. Alex Cross – a detective and also a psychologist, who is trying to solve the case of the abduction of the daughter of a wealthy congressman. The girl is kidnapped from a private school. The detective is assisted in the investigation by Secret Service agent Jazzie Flannigan (Monica Potter). The criminal mystery in the film takes the form of a psychological showdown between Cross and the kidnapper, whose dream is to recreate the scenario of the famous kidnapping of a child of a politician, carried out in the 1920s. The lead role was played by Morgan Freeman, who, as usual, rose to the challenge, creating an intriguing character of the tracker of dark instincts.

16. „Trade”, 2007

Movies about abduction - Trade 2007

“Trade” by Marco Kreuzpaintner is a good position falling within the circle of films about kidnapping. Made without Hollywood panache, the film convinces with the importance of the issues raised and a good performance by Alicja Bachleda-Curus. The actress played here Veronika, a girl from Poland who, lured by the promise of a decent salary, decides to go to work in Mexico. The heroine is a single mother and hopes to improve the lot of her son, whom she leaves in her mother’s care. Unfortunately, it turns out that the supposed job is only a lure, and the girl falls victim to the human trafficking mafia. Veronica becomes a sex slave, which together with a thirteen-year-old Mexican girl, Adriana, the gangsters want to smuggle to the United States.

The film “Trade” is worth seeing, because it quite realistically captures the drama of people (especially women and children) who are victims of a terrible practice. Particularly outstanding here is the character of Alicja Bachleda-Curus, played really evocatively and poignantly. Also to her belongs an impressive and unforgettable finale of the whole story with clear features of tragedy.

17. „Changeling” 2008

25 best kidnapping movies - changeling

„Changeling” is a classic item on the list of films about kidnappings based on facts. The picture is set in the 1920s. The main role is played by Angelina Jolie, who played a single mother working as a telephone operator. One day the woman after returning from work does not find her son at home. She immediately reports the matter to the police. After a long search, the boy is found, but the woman, who takes him under her roof in shock, realizes that he is not her son….

„Changeling” is an interesting, puzzling and engaging story, but above all an acting display by Angelina Jolie. The actress created a very believable performance of a desperate, but also determined mother who does not hesitate to fight against all the most powerful institutions to get back her beloved child.

18. „The Disappearance of Alice Creed”, 2009

25 best kidnapping films - The disappearance of Alice Creed

Another picture from the circle of films about kidnapping of women. This is the story of the daughter of a wealthy British businessman, who becomes the target of two criminals. The men intend to abduct the woman and thus extort a huge ransom. Danny and Vic prepare an elaborate plan and execute it with the precision of a Swiss watch. However, they don’t expect that Alice is very clever and will try to free herself. They also don’t know that the one thing they didn’t anticipate is their own emotions, which will become a real trap for them. J Blakeson’s film stars Gemma Arterton, Martin Compston and Eddie Marsan. „The Disappearance of Alice Creed” largely breaks the typical patterns of kidnapping cinema. It abounds in numerous twists and turns, and unexpected solutions are also provided by the characters themselves and their reactions to the course of events.

19. “Ordinary People” („Pamilya Ordinaryo”), 2016

Top kidnapping movies - Ordinary People

This Filipino drama is part of the circle of films about child abductions. The main characters are young people: Aries and Jane, who face serious problems. After all, they do not have a home of their own, and in addition they become parents. Despite everything, they try to cope and take care of the baby. However, one day they are deceived by a man who abducts their child. The film “Ordinary People” was directed by Eduardo W. Roy Jr. based on his own script, and starred Ronwaldo Martin, Hasmine Kilip and Maria Isabel Lopez.

20. „Tallulah” (2016)

Top kidnapping films - Tallulah

“Tallulah” is a kidnapping movie produced by Netflix. A young girl (Elliot Page) with an idealistic approach to life with her boyfriend lives in a van. After some time the man gets bored with the nomadic lifestyle and leaves Tallulah. One day the girl witnesses the irresponsible behavior of a wealthy mother (Tammy Blanchard). The woman leaves her daughter in her care, and when she returns completely drunk, she does not have the strength to take care of the little one. Convinced of the harm happening to Lu’s child, she decides to kidnap her. Since she has no idea what to do with him, she goes with the girl to her would-be mother-in-law named Margo (Allison Janney), whom she convinces that it is her granddaughter. The film was directed by Sian Heder. Noteworthy are the acting performances presented in the film. These are female roles that show a variety of female social and family functions: mothers, wives, mothers-in-law, women who are independent and looking for a way of life.

21. „Room”, 2015

Top movies about kidnapping - Room

“Room” by Lenny Abrahamson is also a film about kidnapping, although we do not realize it at the beginning of the screening. And this is due to the adoption of a specific perspective of viewing events. It’s the point of view of a several-year-old boy who lives with his mother in a locked room and has never seen another world. It turns out that both of them are held captive by a kidnapper, and the child was born in captivity and can’t imagine any other life. Starring Jacob Tremblay as Jack and Brie Larson, who won an Oscar, a Golden Globe and a BAFTA statuette for her performance.

“Room” is not an action film or a thriller, the main emphasis here was placed on building a picture of the relationship between mother and child, but also a deep reflection on the human ability to adapt to a variety of even the most extreme conditions and the motivation to survive oppression.

22. „The Kindergarten Teacher”, 2018

Movies about kidnappers - The Kindergarten Teacher

“The Kindergarten Teacher” is a very interesting film directed by Sara Colangelo, which is a remake of the 2014 Israeli picture of the same title. The original is the work of Navad Lapid. The main character of the work is a kindergarten teacher who accidentally discovers a poetic talent in one of her charges. Five-year-old Jimmy Roy (Parker Sevak) henceforth becomes the object of her special interest. Lisa decides to take special care of the little artist, not noticing that her concern begins to turn into an unhealthy obsession. Convinced of the poor conditions for the development of talent in which the boy is growing up, she goes to the most drastic methods of action….

The lead role was played by Maggie Gyllenhaal. The actress created an evocative creation of an unfulfilled artist overwhelmed by the daily routine. The woman sees in the young child a chance to realize her own desires, and identification with the boy in whom she sees herself from years ago leads her to the brink of insanity.

23. „Split” (2016)

Gripping Kindapping movies - Split

Among kidnapping films, “Split” is an original item with ingenious plot solutions. It is a psychological thriller, the main character of which is a man suffering from multiple personality disintegration. One day Kevin (James McAvoy) abducts three teenage girls and locks them in the basement. The girls realize that in order to free themselves, they must make contact with the one self of his that is most sympathetic to them. The mentally disturbed man is played by James McAvoy, while the psychiatrist helping him, Dr. Fletecher, is played by Betty Buckley.

The film was directed by M. Night Shyamalan, whose credits include “The Sixth Sense,” “Signs” and “The Village.” The dark atmosphere of his films harmonizes with frequent plot twists and surprise effect. In the film “Split”, the main burden of intrigue falls on James McAvoy, who had to embody dozens of different personalities and credibly show this on the screen. Interestingly, the “inhabiting” characters run the different genre conventions of cinema: from horror to drama to comedy.

24. „Doctor Sleep”, 2019

Kidnapping horror movies - Doctor Sleep

“Doctor Sleep” is another entry in our ranking of kidnapping movies. The sequel to the famous “The Shining“, directed by Stanley Kubrick, also based on the novel by Stephen King released in 2013, is a very well-made film about the fate of now-adult Dan Torrence. The boy, after leaving the terrible hotel where his father went mad and wanted to commit a terrible crime, grows up raised only by his mother. After her death, he goes through a difficult period, but eventually finds a peaceful place: he is employed in a hospital, where he accompanies the dying at the hour of death. Because of this, he earns the nickname “Doctor Sleep.” Dan has had the supernatural gift of “shining” since childhood, thanks to which he comes into contact with a girl named Abra (Kyliegh Curran), gifted with similar abilities. The two will have to deal with the criminal True Knot sect, which kidnaps “shining” children and feeds on their energy. At the head of the group of kidnappers is the demonic Rose Hat.

“Doctor Sleep” captivates with a mysterious atmosphere oscillating between the conventions of thriller and horror. The role of the adult Dan is played by Ewan McGregor, who performs very well, but the whole show is stolen by Rebecca Ferguson as the remorseless, yet fascinating and dark Rose. And the film is worth seeing if only for this acting display.

25. „Extraction”, 2020

New kidnapping films Extraction

“Extraction” is a story about a mercenary who makes his living by carrying out the most dangerous orders. One day a man gets an assignment to free the son of a drug mafia boss from the hands of dangerous kidnappers. The hero, who in the past was a member of the Australian special forces SAS, goes to Bangladesh, where the hostage – Ovi (Rudraksh Jaiswal) – is being held. However, he doesn’t realize that recapturing the boy and then returning with him to India will be incredibly difficult and dangerous. The film stars Chris Hemsworth in the lead role. Sam Hargrave’s film is first and foremost a good action movie, teeming with the means characteristic of the genre: chases, brawls and shootouts. And everything takes place in an urban setting that grows into an autonomous character in the film.

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