Kidnappings are used frequently in cinema because they create a unique type of atmosphere. It immediately builds tension and stimulates empathy from the viewers, sometimes before you even know who the characters are. In our selection of the best kidnapping movies on Netflix, you will find a diverse group of films that includes a documentary, sci-fi and very interesting thrillers. In this list, we are also going to take a look at the movies which have a slightly broader spectrum than the mere word – kidnapping.
As far as Netflix is concerned, there aren’t many kidnapping movies that are available as of today, given it is a very scoped subject, yet we were able to sort the best ones out for you to enjoy. Kidnapping movies often contain best of the action, grit and sometimes spellbinding CGI, along with performances that are key to such films. Having that said, here is the list of some really good kidnapping movies on Netflix – movies that will make you witness the nail-biting action and sometimes romance or comedy for a change, and experience thrill in its raw form. You can also find several of these kidnapping movies on Hulu or Amazon Prime Video.
14. Colonia (2015)
Emma Watson and Daniel Bruhl star in this tense historical thriller film as a couple who get entangled in the 1973 military coup in Chile which saw General Augusto Pinochet assuming total control of the country. When Bruh’s character, called Daniel, gets kidnapped by Pinochet’s secret police, the DINA, Lena (Watson) vows to get him back from the grasp of certain death. This is when she joins the Colonia Dignidad after managing to get a hint of where her boyfriend might be. Soon, Lena realizes that the Colonia Dignidad is far from the charitable mission she had presumed it to be. It is actually a murderous cult from which no one has ever escaped.
Lena does discover Daniel at the Dignidad’s area of operations, but considering the fact that this murderous cult is also a front for the DINA, the duo have to figure out how they can escape the area alive. ‘Colonia’ does score highly in terms of production value, but the film fails to offer a complex portrait of the way things were in Chile during the time of the dictatorship. The movie never tries to connect the atrocities the protagonists go through to the political scenario of the time.
13. Madaari (2016)
Irrfan Khan is one of the finest actors we have ever seen in Indian cinema, and whichever character he takes on, Khan manages to elevate the material into something more dynamic and profound. In the 2016 film ‘Madaari’, he plays the role of a man called Nirmal who is devastated by the loss of his son after a bridge fell down and killed him. Angered at the government’s negligence, Nirmal decides to teach the authorities a lesson by kidnapping the son of the central government’s home minister. His act sends shock-waves throughout the country and grabs headlines at the biggest news portals.
Nirmal’s plan is pretty simple – he wants the people whose negligence and complacency resulted in the bridge collapsing to confess on live television about their misdeeds. ‘Madaari’ is an intense thriller that keeps up the pace almost throughout its running time, but by the end, it takes to melodrama in order to evoke a reaction from the audience, which kind of ruins the overall experience.
12. Kidnapping Stella (2019)
‘Kidnapping Stella’, a German thriller by Thomas Sieben, is a remake of the 2009 film, ‘The Disappearance of Alice Creed’. If you want to check out what a minimalistic movie is, you can have a look at ‘Kidnapping Stella’ to get an idea. The film centers around three characters – two criminals called Tom and Vic, and the girl they end up kidnapping, Stella. It depicts how Stella uses her limited strength to free herself while being bound and gagged by her captors. With limited locations and only three actors, Sieben tries to weave a thrilling tale, but the problems arise when he sticks too close to the original source material. The film is one that works on the twists and turns present in the narrative, and so if you cannot come up with anything new while making a remake, then it won’t seem interesting.
11. The Kindergarten Teacher (2018)
One of the best Netflix original films of 2018, ‘The Kindergarten Teacher’ tells the story of Lisa Spinelli, a teacher who gets obsessed with one of her young students after he shows a prodigious talent for writing poetry. Lisa herself is a married woman, but does not share a warm relationship either with her husband or with her children. The only respite from her normal existence is the poetry class that she attends. Though she tries to write something unique, most of her work is labeled as ‘derivative’ by the teacher. This is when Lisa discovers the poetic talent of this little child called Jimmy and even tells his father about his immense potential.
However, Jimmy’s father is not that interested in his son’s poetic talents and does not show any interest to nurture the same. Lisa decides that something should be done and so she ends up kidnapping Jimmy. ‘The Kindergarten Teacher’ is a remake of an Israeli film, and though the director Sara Colangelo does capture the spirit of the original work, the movie still has a distinct tone. Maggie Gyllenhaal‘s stunning performance in the leading character is definitely the highlight of the film.
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10. Apostle (2018)
One of the finest horror films of 2018, ‘Apostle’, set in the early twentieth century, is the story of a man called Thomas Richardson who comes to know that his sister has been kidnapped by a religious cult and is being held on a heavily guarded island. Eager to free his sister from the clutches of this murderous organization, Thomas decides to infiltrate the island pretending to be a member of the cult. Once he reaches the island, Thomas is shocked by the atrocities carried out by the figureheads of the cult and how brutally they treat their prisoners. This island was set up as a safe haven away from the corruption of the mainland, but it turns out to be even more sinister and unforgiving.
The production value of this film is what sets it apart from most other horror films. Writer-director Gareth Evans brilliantly conjures up this sinister piece of land where the cult operates and immerses us into the darkest realms of his imagination. If you are a horror film fan and have not checked out ‘Apostle’ yet, you are doing yourself a great disservice.
9. Forgotten (2017)
One of the most interesting films on this list, ‘Forgotten’ is the story of a young man, Jin-seok, who decides to find out the truth behind the abduction of his brother. Yoo-seok, his brother, was kidnapped for a period of 19 days and then suddenly released. However, the family never comes to know what actually happened to him in those days because Yoo-seok does not remember anything at all. Over a few days, Jin-seok starts having doubts about his brother and family, and it slowly dawns on him that they are not who they are pretending to be. Afraid that his life is in danger, Jin-seok goes to the police to tell them that he was being held captive by some strangers. The film then takes a turn towards something even more sinister and intriguing.
8. The Captive (2014)
A 9-year-old Cassandra has been kidnapped from Matthew’s pick up truck. Matthew, Cassandra’s father, is out to pick up a pie for her when the former is nabbed by a child pornographer, Mika. Eight years later, Cass is still missing and Matthew has separated from his wife and Cass’ mother Tina. Nicole and Jeffrey, two detectives who were on the case eight years ago, have stopped looking for Cass and Matthew has taken it upon himself to look for her. As it turns out, Cassandra, now a teenager, is still held captive by Mika who is no longer sexually interested in her. Things go awry when images of Cassandra appear online and Matthew and Cassandra finally get to meet; but all is not the same as it was eight years ago. ‘The Captive’ is essentially an edge of the seat thriller which offers powerful performances by Ryan Reynolds and Rosario Dawson.
7. Hush (2016)
An invasion thriller at the outset, Maddie is deaf and mute and a stay-at-home writer who lives in a secluded place. As she has been deaf and mute for about half of her life now, she’s used to it. Her house is frequented by her friend Sarah, who occasionally comes to have a check on her. Sarah, as soon as she exits, on one fine day, comes back running at her door and even starts pounding on the door, but we see a nonchalant Maddie cook her food and do her chores, while Sarah gets slaughtered. When the killer knocks the door and Maddie doesn’t respond, he becomes fascinated with her and steals her cellphone, takes pictures of her and sends her back. In a strange turn of events, as was expected, she overpowers him and kills the killer in the end. ‘Hush’ has the gentle scares which otherwise would look normal in any other movie but gets your heart-pounding, given the film’s excellent sound design.
6. Ugly (2014)
Shalini is the wife of a police officer Shoumik Bose, who happens to be her second husband. Her first husband, Rahul, is a struggling actor who is trying to make his way into the cinematic world. On a usual work assignment, Rahul takes Kali, his biological daughter along with him. While he’s upstairs to fetch the script from one of his friends, Kali gets kidnapped by one of the roadside vendors. As Rahul and Chaitanya come looking for Kali and she’s nowhere to be found, they pursue the mask seller who seems to be the culprit. The mask seller gets run over by a vehicle and they lose an important lead.
Fledgling characters, evil intentions and failing relationships form the crux of the movie and while getting Kali back is the primary motive of Rahul, for everyone else, it is business as usual. Spoiler alert – Kali is later found dead by the police and was originally kidnapped by the now-deceased mask seller. One of Anurag Kashyap’s lesser films, ‘Ugly’ still packs a solid punch.
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5. Tallulah (2016)
Ellen Page appears in a leading role in this movie, which circles around Tallulah, a young homeless girl who lives with her boyfriend Nico, practically on the road. Notwithstanding each other’s ways, they both separate and Lu (Tallulah) heads to NYC to look for food and shelter. She’d often steal the leftovers outside hotel rooms to survive. During one of her such stealing acts, she’s encountered by a woman named Carolyn, who asks Lu to watch over her baby. As police surround the hotel premise and Carolyn is nowhere to be seen, Lu takes the baby to Margo, Nico’s mother and proclaims that the baby is theirs. Margo then reluctantly accepts both of them into her house. Although technically a kidnapping movie, the lighter subject, and the dark humor make it up for a delightful watch.
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4. Kidnapping Mr Heineken (2015)
Based on a true story, this action drama follows the planning, execution, aftermath, and ultimate downfall of the kidnappers of beer tycoon Alfred “Freddy” Heineken, which resulted in the largest ransom ever paid for an individual. The film is well made, well photographed and well scored with an excellent musical selection. The cast is also really good, especially Jim Sturgess, Sam Worthington and Anthony Hopkins. If you are looking for a fast-paced credible film, this is it.
3. Secuestro (2016) [Also released as ‘Boy Missing’]
“Secuestro” (or “Boy Missing”) is a Spanish thriller that follows a mother trying to save her kidnapped son. The story is not innovative at all but the execution is what separates this Spanish film from the rest in this genre. Oriol Paulo managed to create a very atmospheric film with some curious twists that will keep you interested. It is an absorbing, twisty and intricate action thriller with good acting and interesting directing choices. Don’t be scared by the subtitles and give it a try.
2. Lucid Dream (2017)
Dae-ho, a journalist, seeks to track down the whereabouts of his son who was kidnapped three years ago. The investigation has gone cold, but an experimental technique allows Dae-ho to relive the day his son was taken through lucid dreaming. “Lucid Dream” will keep you at the edge of your seat from the beginning till the end. The investigations taking place in the dreams and the real world intersect in interesting ways and the story has a lot of twists. It is a smart South Korean take on “Inception”.
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1. Room (2015)
And now to perhaps one of the best kidnapping movies on Netflix, ‘Room’ went on to be nominated for four Academy Award nominations and one win – for Best Actress. The movie begins with a girl named Joy and her 5-year-old son Jack who lives in a makeshift shed. It is soon revealed that Jack was born within the room and has never stepped outside, thus leading to the conclusion that both are being held captives. Old Nick, the kidnapper had abducted Joy seven years ago and used to rape her frequently, as a result of which Jack was born. With a small kitchen, a bathtub, a tv, a bed, and a toilet, the only outside world Jack has ever seen is the skylight. As Joy’s patience runs thin with each passing day, she preps Jack to play along and run away while she distracts Old Nick. The outside world is even scarier for Jack as he has not witnessed any, thus leading him to start taking the baby steps yet again. Compelling storytelling along with powerful performances make ‘Room’ one of the best on this list and certainly one of the best kidnapping movies till date.
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