A Brief Reflection on Escape Room Movies

Over the last few years, quite a few film studios have attempted to capture the magic of solving an escape room on the silver screen. With the lockdowns, I had a chance to revisit some of these films and rank my recommendations for escape room enthusiasts.

#4: Escape room movies (Escape Room [2017], Escape Room [2017], Escape Room [2019])

Maybe not too surprisingly if you’ve seen them… Movies explicitly about escape rooms rank at the bottom of my list. The 2019 film “Escape Room” apparently did well enough to warrant producing a sequel (earned $156 million on a $9 million budget), but in general these films slap weak puzzles on a generic suspense plot and don’t scratch any kind of puzzling itch. You might get a little enjoyment out of the “who will survive?” element, but even for that, you can find other films that do it better.

#3: Murderous Mastermind Thriller (Saw, Saw 2, Saw 3…)

The first Saw film blew a lot of minds with its twists, turns, and sadistic puzzles. Future saw films eventually expanded the size of the casts and upped the scale of the traps, but none of the sequels matched the original in allowing viewers to slowly piece together the game.

As the series continued, the on-screen activities moved closer and closer to what we see in escape rooms, while the audience got less and less to think about.

#2: Trapped in a Labyrinth (Cube, Hypercube, Fermat’s Room, Exam)

Now we’re getting pretty high up into my guilty pleasures. A group of strangers is thrust into an unexplained and potentially deadly situation. As they slowly realize what they have in common, they race the clock to find a way out.

The description above can somewhat describe at least some “escape room” and some “Saw” movies, but I tend to consider this group to be a little broader, and usually with a little lower budget but a little more tact in the script. It could be enjoyable to watch films in this category with a group and pause periodically to speculate on what’s going to happen and why.

#1: Whodunnits (Clue, Knives Out, Murder on the Orient Express)

Our top recommendation for lovers of escape rooms has nothing to do with escape rooms at all. A good whodunnit gives viewers the chance to pause and think, and that speculation is the closest we’ve found to having an escape room experience on the screen.

Christina and I have been poring through any and all whodunnits we can find. Knives Out was delightful, and we enjoyed the other recent film murder mystery- Murder on the Orient Express. We dug up a few older films (Death on the Nile, Evil Under the Sun, The Mirror Crack’d) and thoroughly enjoyed those, too. With our frequent pausing to deliberate, we spend about an hour extra on each film, and we’ve gone through dozens of incorrect theories before landing on the right one. When we get to the end of the film and find out we were right, it’s very satisfying!

So that’s our take on films for those who love escape rooms. Let us know if you have any other recommendations!

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