For the ambitious music industry intern Aaron Green (Jonah Hill) in Get Him to the Greek, the task was supposedly easy: Escort a musician from London to a concert date in LA. What Aaron didn't count on was that his traveling companion, notorious rock god Aldous Snow (Russell Brand), would be following one of the prime rules of movie storytelling: If you plan to go from point A to point B, rest assured that, in actuality, you'll be visiting point U, point M, point X, and (if this is an indie film) point 5b, before finally winding up at your destination. Hooking up with a hard-partying artist for a trip containing all the booze, drugs, and willing bed partners a transatlantic and cross-country jog can provide is just asking for trouble.
Doesn't matter what form of conveyance is involved, if a character in a movie is going mobile, chances are good that there will be someone or something tagging along to make the experience a little more ... interesting, let's say. FedEx may think they have all the contingencies covered, but it turns out that ingenious filmmakers have found myriad ways to stock trains, planes, and automobiles with increasingly vexing traveling companions. We've managed to dig up 10 especially daunting cargos — human and otherwise — that have made getting there twice the fun ... for the audience, at least.
10. The Wages of Fear
Please, no smoking. Or making loud noises. Or breathing, fer chrissake.
Context is everything. About mid-point through Wages
, a character — having tasked the protagonists, including Yves Montand
, with the challenge of transporting a shipment of nitroglycerin over rough terrain to a raging oil well fire — demonstrates the destructive power of the explosive with but a single, highly volatile drop. That lesson lodges easily in a viewer's memory and imparts a certain, sweaty-knuckled urgency to the rest of the movie, right down to mundane shots of vehicles crawling across open roads. When it comes to the truly hazardous stuff — like watching the drivers negotiate a tricky turn using a rickety platform — it's helpful to remember that, if your overtaxed heart needs it, nitro also comes in convenient pill form.
Not even Justin Bieber can calm her rages.
While we're talking about volatile substances, let's meet River Tam (Summer Glau
), perpetual passenger of the not-so-good spaceship Serenity
. Rescued by her brother, Simon (Sean Maher
), from a government project that increased her psychic abilities and turned her into a formidable fighting machine, the teenager exhibits some disturbingly broad mood swings, from near comatose passivity to sudden, lethal violence. The girl is frankly more than Captain Mal Reynolds (Nathan Fillion
) and his band of ex-Browncoats/sometimes-outlaws can handle. In a crew accustomed to dealing with such threats as flesh-eating Reavers, that's saying something.
8. Murder on the Orient Express
The victim had it coming to him, in more ways than one.
Rail travel can be an enriching experience. And in the genteel world of Agatha Christie, the fact that one of your fellow passengers might be a murderer is, at worst, an annoying inconvenience and, at best, something to talk about at your next dinner party. Still, not knowing who the criminal is can put a crimp in your travel plans, so it's good that Hercule Poirot (Albert Finney
) is around to weed out the miscreant. He's got the deductive powers to solve the crime, and enough self-confidence not to be intimidated by a star-studded cast.
7. Midnight Run
The term, "burr under the blanket," went out with the Pony Express. But in your case, we'll make an exception.
Destructive power is not always commensurate with violent eruptions. In the right hands — say, those of fugitive mob accountant and expert passive-aggressive Jonathan Mardukas (Charles Grodin
) — slow abrasion can do as much, if not more, damage. Unfortunately for short-fused bounty hunter Jack Walsh (Robert De Niro
), that knowledge comes only after he's gotten his captive number-cruncher en route from New York to LA. A claustrophobic tantrum here, some intrusive, personal needling there, and Jack discovers that while the meek may not necessarily inherit the earth, they can at least undermine the mental stability of the toughest of tough guys.
6. The Lady Vanishes
We're looking for a concession stand that doesn't charge $8.50 for a box of Junior Mints. No luck there, either.
What a lovely traveling companion Miss Froy (Dame May Whitty
) is! Sweet, kind, and just a little eccentric in that very British way. Who wouldn't love such a charming, old woman? Well, people who know the secrets she's carrying out of central Europe; people who have made plans to assure that, once she's on-board the train that would carry her home, she never steps off. That's a problem for the young woman (Margaret Lockwood
) who finds herself caught up in the plot and is trying, for her own sanity, to solve the mystery of the passenger who wasn't there. Considering this trip is being conducted by Alfred Hitchcock
, that challenge is not going to be an easy one.
5. Castle in the Sky
Willy Wonka's Golden Ticket wasn't as hotly pursued.
Quite by accident, young miner Pazu finds himself tasked with returning the magic child Sheeta to the mythical, floating city of Laputa. Means of transport: airships, cargo trains, and, uh, fly-cycles(?). Standing in the way: Government agents and avaricious pirates, all intent on snagging hold of the girl and gaining access to her formidable powers. Fortunately, the good guys have some powerful weapons on their side, including a glowing, enchanted stone, an awareness that sky-pirates are suckers for good cooking, and the fact the Sheeta is one of those intrepid young heroines who regularly spring from master animator Hayao Miyazaki
's imagination. In short: Delivery assured (or your next magical girl is free).
4. Bringing Up Baby
Their GPS kept pointing them towards the Bronx Zoo.
It's all well-and-good doing a favor for a person you've just met. Holding someone's place in line? Sure, why not? Giving lost tourists directions to the world's biggest ball of twine? Couldn't hurt. Transporting a leopard up to Connecticut in a station wagon? Yeahhhhh, not so much. At the very least, it's going to be murder on the upholstery; at worst you're going to find out that cats don't know it's standard practice to wait for a roadside Popeye's before satisfying a hankering for poultry.
This has totally put us off our Denny's Grand Slam.
A moment of silence, now, for the crew of the derelict spaceship on the nameless planet that the mining freighter Nostromo
stumbles upon on its way back to Earth. We don't know their species; we don't know what their particular mission was. All we know is that, somehow, the belly of their craft got filled with the eggs of a particularly malicious life form, and now the Nostromo
gang have got one of the beasts on board and are fighting for their lives. So let's pay our respects to the fallen, and then curse those sonsabitches to hell for unleashing this monster upon us.
2. Batman Begins
Maybe he had a bad experience at a World's Fair?
How exactly did the monorail become the double-edged sword of mass transit — first holding out the promise of a bright, pristine future, eventually decaying into a rusty, creaking symbol for all dreams deferred? The people of Springfield have already learned this lesson (ask Homer Simpson), but the citizenry of Gotham City are about to find out for themselves, not only contending with the systemic failure of millionaire Thomas Wayne's (Linus Roache
) hopeful gift to the city, but also seeing it used by the megalomaniacal Ra's al Ghul (Liam Neeson
) to ferry a device that will trigger a population-wide panic. Fortunately, there's a certain Dark Knight (Christian Bale
) ready to come to the people's rescue. He'll make sure the villain doesn't get away with his plans. There is, after all, only so much a $1.25 fare will buy you.
1. Snakes on a Plane
Their plan B was hoping that the honey-roasted nuts would trigger a peanut allergy.
Well, how could a movie with that
title not wind up at the top of this list? Linchpin of what has to stand as the world's most idiotic assassination attempt — even the characters in the movie think it's ludicrous — hundreds of highly venomous serpents are hyped up on pheromones and set loose on a passenger jet. They may not hit the right target, but they do provide the audience with copious opportunities to see people running around with snakes attached to appendages that, for decency's sake, we shall not specify. (Hint: The restrooms are a prime point of entry for the vipers). Don't expect FBI agent Samuel L. Jackson
to be one of the panicked, though — guy would stay badass even if his tongue were on fire.