15 Best Movies that Take Place Within 24 Hours
As times change, so do people. Their tastes, personalities, attention spans; everything evolves. When one looks at people from my generation, they don’t quite do so well in terms of the latter. This lack of patience and the ability to absorb quality cinema poses a unique challenge for filmmakers. The demand of the times is making content compelling enough to keep audiences engaged. Although this definitely isn’t the hard and fast rule and exceptions like yours truly do exist, the general sentiment of movie watching has certainly changed. Having said that, the artistic quality of content and the nature of its dissemination can be presented in various combinations. In the following list, we bring you some of the best movies that take place in a day, ie, within 24 hours.
Each of the entries has a distinct style and temperament, something we sincerely hope you could appreciate and relish. We have obviously missed out on some gems so don’t forget to drop them in the comments (respectfully, please)! Happy reading!
15. The Breakfast Club (1985)
Five high school students spend detention on a Saturday together. Each carries a preconceived notion about the other and their lifestyles. Sharing common angst against the teacher and passion for whataboutery and teen shenanigans, the group gets high and runs the school ragged, only to find themselves indulged in a heartfelt conversation about themselves and each other.
The adolescent urge to be understood and accepted is the underlying theme of the film. It also deals with issues such as drug abuse and overachieving ambitions of parents for their students. Despite not being truly refined and not made up of ground-breaking revelations about existence, ‘The Breakfast Club’ is a conversational piece about identity issues and the struggle of a highly valuable and confusing phase of life.
14. Groundhog Day (1993)
So technically, ‘Groundhog Day’ qualifies for the list because the film is actually set over 24 hours. The events of the day are repeated a number of times. Similar films such as ‘Happy Death Day’ and ‘Triangle’ have come out recently that are also quite good. But Groundhog Day’s charm remains intact and maintains its status as an indelible classic.
Weatherman Phil Connors’ life turns upside down after he learns of being stuck in a time loop on Groundhog Day. Filled with a mix of frustration and opportunities, we see him try something different each time and spend his day in a different way. The redemption, however, comes to him, not in the form of finding a way out but finding the perfect partner Phil has ever longed for. And once that happens, things take care of themselves.
13. Die Hard
If you’ve watched B99, you’d know all about Die Hard. Not that it needs references like those, but still. Peralta has made sure every detail of the sets, the script, and the adrenaline of being a police officer remains fresh and intact. Set on the day of Christmas and amidst personal turmoil in the life of one John McClane, Die Hard touches on almost all action genre tropes and yet never feels like an imitation.
McClane, off duty and on his way to repair his broken relationship with his estranged wife, finds himself in the thick of a hostage situation in Nakatomi Plaza. His wife is entrapped along with other guests by Hans Gruber, who plans to use the act of terrorism as a garb to steal money. McClane, though, goes unnoticed and takes it upon himself to sort the situation out.
The screen presence of industry stalwarts like Bruce Willis and Alan Rickman is a big boost to the overall appeal of the film. Their credible turns as the classic protagonist-antagonist pair make for an enticing showdown. Although the film derives its compelling nature from the events that unfurl and not the 24-hour set-up of the plot, the timeline is not completely insignificant. Action aficionados swear by Die Hard even today and for good reason indeed!
12. Victoria (2015)
The German thriller film is one of the select few to have been shot in a single continuous take. Directed by Sebastian Schipper, ‘Victoria’ takes place over the course of a tumultuous night for young Victoria, a Spanish national living in Berlin. She encounters a group of four young natives and the five together stroll around.
Although the night starts innocently with the group engaging in fun activities, it gradually turns into something sinister that involves a robbery and murder. As far as movies that take place within 24 hours, Victoria’s phases all happen in real-time and lend each of them an interesting flavor. The well-rehearsed cast is a worthy companion for the viewer on the exhilarating journey.
11. Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
“Attica! Attica!” is probably what best distinguishes this film in people’s memory. Starring Al Pacino and another missed Academy Award, ‘Dog Day Afternoon’ is Sidney Lumet’s retelling of a real-life hold-up of a bank in Brooklyn. The film is entirely set inside the bank and is narrated from the perspective of the robbers, unlike, say, ‘Inside Man’, which is told predominantly from the viewpoint of the negotiators.
Pacino, along with John Cazale, takes the mantle of navigating the time during the robbery, which is not really a robbery and more of a botch-up. ‘Dog Day Afternoon’ really is an ancient Greek tragicomedy, where whatever that can go wrong does. Both the actors handle this part so well that it really seems they’re in the moment and experiencing the robbery themselves. It is almost like it happens in real-time.
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Lumet remains true to the account and hardly deviates from the subject-matter but craftily represents the city, the incidents, and the thrill of them in a highly tragical and comical manner. Through cinematic innovation, Lumet and cinematographer Victor Kemper lend a naturalistic feel to the film.’Dog Day Afternoon’ packs a powerful punch with top-notch performances, stellar direction, and a darkly entertaining and endearing feeling that is hard to let go of.
10. Tape (2001)
Boyhood.. oh, wait. No. Tape. Yes. Boyhood won’t qualify for the list (duh). The events in ‘Tape’ transpire in a motel room somewhere in Michigan. It is taped like a camcorder recording, directed by Richard Linklater. His regular Ethan Hawke stars alongside Umar Thurman and Robert Leonard of House fame.
The three play interconnected characters, who are friends at the surface, but harbour deep-seated indignations against each other. The psychological foreplay between the characters brings out the best in their performances. The twist ending doesn’t seem as kinetic as it should due to the consistency in the film preceding it.
9. Coherence (2013)
‘Coherence’ (2013) belongs to the generation of independent, small-scale sci-fi films that have started to gain tremendous viewership and challenge the big boys for their money. Featuring an unknown cast, the film is a complex puzzle to solve as a geographical phenomenon, a comet passing, changes the timeline of the night, and results in a strange loop.
The premise of the film is eight friends coming together for a dinner night when the comet results in a power outage. Just one house up the street still has a light, leading them to believe that the outage is temporary. When they return, they discover a broken window and two of the eight go to investigate. When they return, they’re not the same. No, like, literally, not the same.
For those who haven’t yet seen this film, clear your weekend and get on it already!
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8. My Dinner With Andre (1981)
Simple living is a highly underrated and unwanted concept of life. Many underestimate the value of being at peace with yourself and not taking life too personally. Accepting and carrying on with this idea is in itself the biggest hurdle that someone on this path has to cross. Wally makes a case for the latter and the author agrees with him. Andre and Wally, two friends meet for a dinner and discuss their life adventures and their past history.
The range of topics is so wide that they end up talking about literally everything and nothing. The two prominent worldviews articulated during the conversation are what differentiate the people of the world into two groups. The structure of the film is built-in with the conversation, which will get testing if you’re looking for something easily digestible. Viewer discretion is therefore advised.
7. La Haine (1995)
Filmed in striking black and white and featuring three energetic performances, ‘La Haine’ is an enthralling experience. Set in the diverse social fabric of post-1990s Paris, the film peers into the minds of three men, each belonging to different ethnicities and their perspectives about policing and moral value in society.
Vinz is the hot-headed Jew who wishes to exact revenge on the police by taking a life in response to violence on minorities; Hubert has a similar temperament, although his stance is milder on the issue; and Said, the most peaceful of the three, who avoids conflicts. In many ways, the chaotic backdrop and the three men resemble ‘Kai Po Che’ but ‘La Haine’ is diametrically different in every other aspect. The film indicts pointless violence and the growing distrust of the public in the system and the authorities.
Stream La Haine on MUBI
6. Rope (1948)
One of the very first proponents of the “limited-time” settings, Hitchcock’s Rope showed the path to films like the ones on the list. STarring regular James Stewart, Jon Dall, and Joan Chandler, the film is set in the house of Brandon and Phillip, who host a dinner party after having murdered a former peer, David Kentley.
As the evening goes on, suspicions are turned towards the two, who challenge each other’s superiority through the act. The avant-garde editing makes the film look like a one-shot effort. Stilting revelations and a very organic pathway to the climax holds ‘Rope’ in high stead, making it a thoroughly enjoyable film.
5. 12 Angry Men (1957)
Twelve men, distinct in background, temperament, and their perception in life, assemble in the back room of a court to decide the fate of a minor.
Although the decision looks like a foregone conclusion, there’s one ‘aye’ that remains a no. And so begins the exercise to understand reasonable doubt, probably the most elusive and complex topic not only in law but in life. Sidney Lumet adapted the film from Reginald Rose’s teleplay of the same name that aired in 1954. As much as ’12 Angry Men’ is captivating as a legal drama with unexpected twists, it is also an indictment of personal prejudices and how law can never be objective.
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The projections of one’s beliefs and preferences inevitably seep through into what’s supposed to be an unmaligned inquiry into facts and bare provisions of statutes. It is also about compassion and the need for society to understand each other to resolve their differences. ’12 Angry Men’ is a cathartic, and arguably a life-changing experience, both as a cinematic achievement and as hardened social commentary about the value of justice.
4. 25th Hour (2002)
Before the debacle of Game of Thrones Season 8 seventeen years later, David Benioff wrote one of the most original and deeply meditative screenplays about a drug dealer set for arrest, navigating his last 24 hours in the backdrop of a great human tragedy. Edward Norton stars as the lead, Montgomery Brogan, whose calmness with the impending events is tested and broken as the day progresses. 25th Hour features some brilliant set-pieces; the parade of stereotypes and Monty’s realization of his mistake; Jacob and Mary’s brief romantic entanglement in the washroom; the final vision of the future on the bridge that leads to the West.
Read the entire series of Spike Lee Joint
Spike Lee said in an interview that he got the idea to integrate the events of 9/11 with the film as they transpired during the planning of the project. The incident is referenced quite a few times, most prominently in Frank’s apartment, but also through the story-arc and the dismantling of the day’s events. In his classic lyrical style, Spike Lee delivers one of the most profound stories of the 21st century about lost opportunities in life and regret, greatly benefiting from Norton’s impeccable protagonist act.
3. Magnolia (1999)
Paul Thomas Anderson‘s Magnolia’ is a motley of various people miserable and broken on the inside interconnected by everyday life. It is like a cosmopolitan mishap that happens to everyone, all the time without them ever knowing. Each character in ‘Magnolia’ has something deep inside their hearts that jumps at them in the moments they’re with themselves; something that’s buried inside and eventually claws its way out.
The film certainly has a Coen-vibe to it. Forces greater than what the human mind can comprehend are at play and decide what happens, maybe for no reason at all. The starring cast includes Tom Cruise, Julianne Moore, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and Phillip Baker Hall among others. At almost three hours long, ‘Magnolia’ might seem a bit drawn out but is pure cinematic joy, offering worthy avenues for diverse audiences.
Stream Magnolia on Netflix
2. La Notte (1961)
Depressed, aimless, ghosting is how one would best describe Antonioni’s protagonists. ‘La Notte’ explores themes of independence and abandonment, faith and loyalty in its maze-like structure following a day in the lives of an unresponsive couple. Unresponsive to each other and everything around them. The friction is consuming and takes complete control of their lives. Such is Antonioni’s detached style that there’s hardly any warmth in the film.
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The psychological torment and emptiness they feel are beautifully brought out by the filmmaker using his neorealistic shooting techniques. While ‘La Notte’ is certainly not the escapist entertainment that many people seek, it’ll prove to be a rewarding watch, one that teaches effectively lessons in human emotion and bonding. “It’s your best work ever, if the morphine hasn’t warped my judgment” is what I’d say to Michelangelo Antonioni if I were to ever meet him!
1. Rashomon (1950)
The value of truth and the essentials of the system of justice are challenged, probed, and explored through various perspectives in Akira Kurosawa’s experimental art film. Devoid of the grandeur of his films such as ‘Throne of Blood‘ and the fashion of ‘Seven Samurai’, ‘Rashomon’ is fueled by an intriguing psychoanalysis exercise, one that involves the viewer listening to different narratives of an event involving the same constants.
The explanations vary on the basis of personal prejudice and character that makes for a brilliant exposition of their nature. A dead body, a lady’s hat, a split rope, and deception make for the integral components of the stories narrated by a woodcutter, a lady, a notorious outlaw, and the dead man himself through a medium.
‘Rashomon’ features one of the most scintillating ensemble performances. Because of the varying accounts, the same characters are subjected to multifarious emotions and motivations. Machiko Kyo steals the show as the Samurai’s wife, craftily navigating through the simulation of the events, marking an unprecedented performance that’s not likely to be repeated. Toshiro Mifune is the other standout as Tajomaru. ‘Rashomon’s inconclusiveness is an allegorical representation of what happens around us in everyday life. I view it as the backbone of the current justice system that works on the idea of preferential truth rather than absolute truth.