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Keep Out, Jerks!: The Ten Best Siege Movies

Helm's Deep

Today sees the release of the new horror film The Purge, in which once a year, for eight hours, all crime is legal. Those who can afford it, like Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey, and their family, hole up in their highly-secure home, generally safe from all the mayhem outside. However, letting in a stranger leads to their house being the target of some folks bent on marauding. This concept got us thinking about our favorite base-under-siege movies and we’re sharing ten of them with you right now, in no particular order

Assault on Precinct 13

A gang of murderous thugs targets an isolated police precinct scheduled for closure in this 1976 John Carpenter classic. After taking in the survivor of a brutal attack (involving a little girl and an ice cream cone…*shudder*), the skeleton crew and noble but deadly death row prisoner must defend the station and their new guest. The 2005 remake starring the aforementioned Mr. Hawke was a much more densely-plotted conspiracy film, but the brutal nature of the assault in the original puts it ahead.

Serenity

The final act of the Joss Whedon-directed follow-up to Firefly featured the greatest million-against-a-few gun battle that turns into a million-on-one hand-to-hand fight in any sci-fi movie ever. River Tam (Summer Glau) slices and dices the invading Reavers by the cart-load as they attempt to infiltrate our heroes’ position. They just killed Wash, don’t forget, so letting them in would be a bad idea. Remember how we never saw Reavers in the show? It’s because they’re all right here!

The Mist

A grocery store isn’t the most tactically-sound place to defend against an onslaught of giant creatures, but one must make do with what’s available. Frank Darabont’s haunting adaptation of the Stephen King novella has a group of townsfolk (including Thomas Jane and Laurie Holden) attempting to not get eaten by transdimensional insects. Luckily, they’re near a whole bunch of Raid. Of course, the close quarters don’t really help when you have insane zealots in your misty-midst.

From Dusk Til Dawn

This movie, written by co-star Quentin Tarantino and directed by Robert Rodriguez, seemed like your usual crime movie, complete with QT’s signature brand of humor and violence, but as soon as the Gecko Brothers and their hostages get to the truck stop known as The Titty Twister, it becomes a bloodbath. Literally. Vampires will ruin any party, and soon it’s a few survivors fending off a barrage of the fanged and ugly.

Tremors

Not all siegers try to use the door. This sci-fi/horror/comedy classic from 1990 has Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward attempting to save their small desert town from giant, carnivorous, subterranean worms who hunt via sonar and footsteps. The people in town, of course, just call them “Graboids.” One thing that really helps them in their task is a whole arsenal of firearms and munitions supplied by local gun-nuts Michael Gross and Reba McIntyre. Ah, perfection.

Zulu

Sometimes all you have for cover is a pile of sandbags and some dirt. This is what happened to 150 British soldiers, many sick or dying, who had to defend themselves against 4000 Zulu warriors in this 1964 film. To say that their odds are pretty small is to say that Jupiter is “pretty big.” Still, Stanley Baker and Michael Caine are good leaders, so it makes things a little easier. Just a little. That’s still horrifyingly bad odds.

Cujo

Generally, if you’re under siege by a dog, even a really big one, you’re pretty much all right. You can call the authorities, maybe have a glass of iced tea, and wait for everything to blow over. But if you and your small son are trapped in a very small automobile that won’t work in the middle of nowhere on an intensely hot day, and the dog in question is a relentless and rabid St. Bernard, you’re hosed.

Seven Samurai

In one of Japanese cinema’s greatest and most beloved films, Akira Kurosawa gives us seven shamed, masterless, and untested samurai who are hired by a poor village to defend them against an evil band of criminals who yearly steal crops and food and just basically make a mess of things. What makes the final siege scene so fantastic is its rain-soaked black-and-white cinematography and believable performances from its heroes, including Toshiro Mifune and Takashi Shimura. The film is a bit over 4 hours long, but it is incredible and worth the effort.

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

Two words for you: Helm’s. Emeffin. Deep. In a trilogy filled with truly epic battles, The Lord of the Rings‘ second chapter features our favorite, in which the people of Rohan, very few of them capable, and a helping force of elves must defend their stronghold against an army of 10,000 Uruk-hai. Sure, they have Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli helping them, but it doesn’t go too well until they look to the east at first light on the fifth day. Gandalf, is what we’re saying.

Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, and Day of the Dead

All three of George Romero’s classic and influential original zombie films involve the undead biters trying to get at a small group of people in increasingly secure locations. The first sees bickering people fortifying a small farmhouse; the second has a smaller group defending a shopping mall against zombies and a biker gang; the third has a whole underground base that becomes a flesh-eating playground. It’s from these movies that we learned that contentment is just as important to post-Z-Day survival as safe walls.

Doing this list got us thinking about a whole ton of other movies or segments of movies that contain great siege sequences, so here are some honorable mentions: Rio Bravo, Jurassic Park, Shaun of the Dead, The Magnificent Seven, Dog Soldiers, Aliens, and 13 Assassins.

Did we skip your favorite? Do you hate some of our choices? Let us know in the comments below.

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