One of a few 70s sci-fi movies that changed the genre forever, Ridley Scott’s Alien follows a crew of astronauts who attempt to survive a murderous creature on the loose aboard their ship. It’s as tense as can be, amplified only by the fact that it’s taking place over the course of a single 24-hour period.
Richard Linklater is one of the best American filmmakers currently working today. His perfect Before trilogy is the perfect example of this, with the first installment Before Sunrise remaining the strongest entry of them all. Young Jesse and Céline wander around Vienna as they get to know each other over the course of the day and into the night.
Another of Linklater’s greatest hits, Dazed and Confused combines the best things about a Linklater screenplay with the camaraderie of an 80s John Hughes film. Serving as a love letter to the Midwest and the 70s, Dazed and Confused provides a look at the last day of school for a group of Texas high schoolers.
One of the closest instances of a movie playing out in real-time, Die Hard stars Bruce Willis as the infamous John McCane, a New York City cop visiting his wife’s office Christmas party. When the celebration is hijacked by a group of terrorists, McClane takes it upon himself to climb up the high-rise, floor by floor, in an attempt to put a stop to things.
Spike Lee has proven himself time and time again to be one of the most interesting filmmakers around. One of his earliest entries, Do the Right Thing, follows the rising racial tension in a Brooklyn neighborhood on the hottest day of the summer.
Al Pacino and John Cazale star in Sidney Lumet’s memorable bank robbery drama. As the afternoon drags on, their attempted heist grows more and more out of hand.
John Hughes’s seminal high school hangout film delivers exactly what the title promises: a trio of high schoolers on their day off. The three skip school, “borrow” an expensive sports car, and make their way through Chicago on a much-needed break—they just have to make sure they make it back before their parents get home from work.
Bill Murray’s greatest dramatic comedy, Groundhog Day presents a very serious conundrum: What would you do if, every morning, you found yourself waking up to the same day, day after day? It’s a maddening experience for the film’s lead, forced to go through the same motions without any clear way to stop the time loop.
Paul Thomas Anderson’s movies are unmissable—this was apparent even with his second feature, Magnolia, back in the late 90s. Following a whole slew of lonely Californians over one single day, Anderson brings forth some truly incredible performances from a cast full of A-listers like Tom Cruise, Julianne Moore, and Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Saturday detention is one of the worst punishments imaginable for the average high schooler. That’s why this mid-80s classic resonates with so many: it features a lovable group of misfits, slowly finding more and more in common with one another as their Saturday sentence drags on.