Hotels are strange places. Like airports, they have a transient unrest about them. All those thousands of people sleeping in the same bed, showering in the same bathroom. Connected yet divided. Even the artwork in hotels is fundamentally pleasant and forgettable. Some of the most audacious filmmakers in history have taken on these domiciles of the road-weary, these mysterious meeting places where dirty deeds and magnificent connections sometimes transpire. Here are the ten best hotel films to have graced the silver screen.
This is Stephen King’s first entry in this rundown, but rest assured, it won’t be his last. Starring John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson, this story follows a horror writer cum ghost hunter who has decided to stay in an infamous hotel room in New York. Why is it infamous? Let’s just say his checkout time couldn’t come soon enough.
Four Rooms (1995)
From the very best of both Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s careers comes this four-part comedic farce, all centered around a hotel and a bellhop on his very first night and the colorful guests he encounters. Boasting an impressive cast, and an over-the-top brand of storytelling, this A Band Apart production is as ambitious as it is messy.
Grand Hotel (1932)
This classic film showcases a wide variety of the happenings in a luxurious Berlin hotel. Not only is this tale filled with famous faces from Tinseltown’s golden era (Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, John Barrymore), the story features vivid portraits of intersecting lives, a mode of storytelling that has been adopted countless times.
Granted, this twisted story doesn’t take place at a hotel, but c’mon, the Bates Motel is a living, breathing player in this masterful drama. The classic film tells of a woman on the run, finding herself at a nearly-deserted motel ran by a strange man named Norman Bates… and his mother. Hitchcock’s film is the godfather of all slasher films, and caused generations to peer fearfully beyond their shower curtain while scrubbing.
One of the most underrated films of the year, this sprawling story depicts the hours leading up to the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy at The Ambassador Hotel in LA in 1968. Featuring a jaw-dropping cast and a script that dazzles, this is Emilio Estevez at his writing and directing best. Perhaps disjointed and overstuffed, this immense undertaking merits a viewing for its ambition alone.
Perhaps the hotel featured in this film is not as obvious as in Psycho, but its significance and intelligence of design is unmistakable. This visual feast tells of a police detective who is asked to tail a client’s wife, drawing him into an insidious plot. The hotel featured in the film is a San Francisco landmark now named The Hotel Vertigo.
Lost in Translation (2003)
Featuring Bill Murray and Sofia Coppola at their absolute best, this strange and wonderful tale of two Americans meeting at a Japanese hotel is as poignant as it is confident. Here, the hotel is the foreign sensation, the pervading sense of discomfort and alienation. In this film, we were also first introduced to the stunning Scarlett Johansson, which is reason alone to watch it.
Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
Wes Anderson’s world is populated with bright colors, daring heroic figures and dry, razor-sharp humor. Such is the case with this gorgeous imagining of a massive hotel nestled in the mountains of an Eastern European country. With an obsessive attention to detail and a charming sense of whimsy, it’s difficult not to love Anderson’s bright and welcoming creation.
Barton Fink (1991)
In this brilliant Coen Brothers film, the story of a New York playwright attempting to make it in Hollywood is imbued with discomfort and unease. The titular character’s residence while in Los Angeles is the Hotel Earle, a uniquely-imagined structure that seems to echo the protagonist’s frame of mind and the woes of the world beyond. It is here that Fink meets his mysterious neighbor, portrayed by John Goodman.
The Shining (1980)
Stanley Kubrick’s epic horror story is the perfect counterpart to Stephen King’s novel. Both tell the same basic story and astound within their medium. The Overlook Hotel is all but abandoned save for the groundskeeper and his family during the winter. But the hotel has an agenda all its own. Kubrick’s definitive imagery, ominous score, and cinematic innovations set the tone for decades to come.