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10 Best Movies That Take Place in One Day

Updated June 26, 2018
7 min read

The usual practice in movies is to capture a story that could extend days, months, years even, in a span of less than two hours (okay, at the most three hours). But there have been a few films over time that tell a story that takes place in just one day or less. In some cases, the movie feels like shot in real time. It is hard act to pull off; nevertheless, below mentioned movies have successfully been able to do exactly that. Here is the list of top movies that take place in one day. You can stream some of these movies on Netflix or Amazon Prime.

10. American Graffiti (1973)

american-graffiti-1975

The beauty of this film is we knew people like the people in the movie, we were the people in this movie and finding out their fates before the closing credits is bittersweet and brings a genuine sadness to the film, a loss of innocence. Beautifully acted by its young cast, superbly written and directed, and told with truth that was alarming. And that score, the rock and roll of the time, Buddy Holly, Beach Boys…sweeps you back at once to a kinder, gentler world. Anyone who grew up in a small town with a main street would be swept back to a time when the kids cruised with windows down and music blaring, filling the streets with rock and roll.

 

9. Certified Copy (2010)

Certified-Copy

‘Certified Copy’ is easily one of the most original and interesting films I have seen this century. Occuring over the course of just few hours, the idea that it is based upon is endlessly fascinating. In life, we are slaves to our desires and circumstances, in effect, mostly trying to be someone else. We create a perception of reality around us that may or may not exist. But does that mean we cease to be original? Or are we just certified copy of the person we want to be?

 

8. Groundhog Day (1993)

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‘Groundhog Day’ is more of a musing than a film. A fantasy-comedy movie, it revolves around the life of a television weatherman living the same day over and over again during a visit to cover an event at Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. It deals with a number of concepts such as narcissism, priorities, self-centeredness, the purpose of life and love. In its deconstructed form, ‘Groundhog Day’ could be described as a man’s journey from ignorance to enlightenment. The film is still considered to be relevant with the phrase ‘Groundhog Day’ entering the English lexicon to categorize an unpleasant situation that either seems unending or ever-recurring.

 

7. Reservoir Dogs (1992)

Reservoir Dogs

A crime thriller movie in its deconstructed form; ‘Reservoir Dogs’ defines everything that went into the making of Quentin Tarantino as a director. Featuring a plot that has inspired scores of future films, it narrates the aftermath of a heist gone awry. Starring such stalwarts as Harvey Keitel, Michael Madsen and Steve Buscemi; ‘Reservoir Dogs’ is now rated as the finest independent movie ever made. With Tarantino’s signature style of non-linear narration; the film’s ingrained themes include violence, casual crime and pop culture profanities. The movie went on to become a cult classic although it was modestly successful upon its release.

 

6. Dog Day Afternoon (1975)

DogDayAfternoon

Al Pacino is electrifying as Sonny, a married homosexual who decides to rob a bank in order to pay for his lovers sex change operation. This black comedy sees the actor give one of his best performances, but also one of the most moving of his career. Nothing goes right for these two robbers, the other portrayed as a sad sack psychopath by the great John Cazale. The money is gone, and the cops figure things out fast. Sonny realizes Sal is dead serious about killing the hostages, and wants the plane they are getting to go to Wyoming. He knows he is in trouble. Sidney Lumet directed the film with his usual detail and power, realizing he has an actor up to giving a stunning performance, and sits back and allows it.

 

5. Magnolia (1999)

magnolia

Paul Thomas Anderson’s bizarrely original film explores the lives of several Californians trying to live their lives amidst sometimes dark circumstances. Their lives will intertwine throughout the film over the course of one day as they are all connected in one way or another to the dying old man, Earl Patridge (Jason Robards) a TV producer. They might be family members, they might people who work for Partridge within his TV empire, but they are all connected to him. And the frogs? Look closely in the bar, their coming is foretold in a unique manner. It goes where few films have dared to go, into the heart of darkness and back again.

 

4. Before Sunset (2003)

Julie Delpy before sunset

‘Before Sunset’, the way it has been shot, feels to take place in real time as you watch it. It is an emotional, thought-provoking take on love, longing and missed opportunities in life. What makes it so great is that apart from being romantic, funny, enlightening and heart wrenching, are about us and who we are: love seeking and insecure, figuring out all our lives whether what we did, the choices we made, the paths we relinquished, were they right or not. It is such a masterful work that it ultimately, become mirrors, by looking into which, you can judge your own past and present.

 

3. Dr. Strangelove (1964)

The Strangelove

In 1964, the Cold War was one of the most serious subjects of conversation. Kubrick, of course, had to go and make the one of the funniest films of all time on it. ‘Dr. Strangelove’ is a fictional account of the catastrophic events that would follow if a US Air Force General would order a nuclear attack on Soviet Union. The premise may sound ridiculous, but the detailing in the film is so perfect, that one would conclude that such an event could’ve entirely been a reality. ‘Dr. Strangelove’ gave Kubrick the chance to work with Peter Sellers again, and with Sellers playing three different characters, he was able to bring his unique, hilarious, and terrifying vision to immortal life.

 

2. Rashomon (1950)

A cinematic milestone in all its dimensions, Akira Kurosawa’s jidaigeki Japanese classic ‘Rashomon’ is a voyage into the dark corridors of the human mind. It harps on the multiplicity of perspectives and presents multiple and contrasting explanations for the same criminal episode involving the rape of a woman and the murder of her husband. The movie; now deemed to be amongst the best, firmly established Kurosawa on the global circuit. Numerous scholars have labelled the film as an allegorical representation of the subjectivity of truth and the futility of adopting an absolutist view of life.

 

1. 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days (2007)

4 months 3 weeks 2 days

Set in the brutal Ceausescu communist regime of Romania in 1987 (when abortion was a crime), ‘4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days’ is a devastating story of two friends who try to arrange for an abortion. Visceral and uncompromising, the film is as heart-breaking as it is heart-pounding. In my whole movie-viewing experience over years, I have never ever been so gripped by (and concerned about) a character’s fate as I was for Gabita in this film. Have you ever experienced that gut-wrenching feeling when you are nervously and anxiously waiting for one of your loved ones to come out of an operation theater after a surgery ? I felt exactly the same while watching this film. It is as realistic as cinema can get.

Read More: Best Philosophical Movies of All Time

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