Action at top speed: films set in planes, trains and automobiles

By Stephen Aspeling16 March 2023

Action at top speed: films set in planes, trains and automobiles

Mankind has been obsessed with going faster, higher and further. Whether it’s got something to do with the Olympics or the demands of the eternal rat race, there have always been people making it their business to get other people to places quicker. Elon Musk wants to effectively create a human lottery ball transport system with his hyperloop. Whether that sounds fun or terrifying, it’s a good time to take our foot off the gas and reflect on how far we’ve come.

We’ve built 180-ton metal beasts that can fly, snaking metal carriages that travel over 300 kph and even luxury personal transporters with engines that transform liquid into enough get-go for autobahns. These wonderful contraptions serve us on a daily basis but also provide excellent momentum for movies to compel characters and story lines.


Top Gun: Maverick

Top Gun Maverick is on Showmax

Top Gun: Maverick is the long-awaited sequel to Top Gun (also on Showmax), an 80s movie about wearing aviator sunglasses, flying jets and creating air punch moments. The Kenny Loggins theme may have been modernised but not much else has, reviving the Tom Cruise-led franchise as if they phoned in a favour from Marty McFly. Thankfully, there aren’t any flying DeLoreans… just a whole lot of Super Hornets that take to the air with a new squad of elite fighter pilots. This well-balanced Oscar-winning all-rounder is the new standard for blockbusters and features exhilarating action sequences, emotional reunions and a stellar cast including Jennifer Connelly, Miles Teller and the original Maverick, who continues to prove he’s still got it!


Non-Stop is on Showmax

Air travel can be stressful at the best of times, especially when someone randomly texts you to say they’re going to kill someone on your transatlantic flight every 20 minutes if their demands aren’t met. For seasoned air marshall Bill Marks, keeping the peace and eradicating threats is all part of the job in Non-Stop. Liam Neeson leads this intense action mystery thriller with a little help from Julianne Moore, Michelle Dockery, Scoot McNairy, Lupita Nyong’o and Corey Stoll. Seesawing suspense and many sinister twists drive this nail-biting thriller as an officer must track down a hijacker and simultaneously prove his innocence.

Shadow in the Cloud

Shadow in the Cloud is on Showmax

If you’ve seen The Twilight Zone, you’ll know stuff can get a bit weird when you’re hurtling through the night sky at 900 km/h. For a WWII pilot transporting top secret documents, suspicions arise when she talks her way aboard The Fool’s Errand, a B-17 Flying Fortress in Shadow in the Cloud. This pulpy war action horror film stars Chloë Grace Moretz as the plucky Maude Garrett, who will stop at nothing to protect her precious cargo. Aiming for b-movie schlock, it starts off serious and escalates into an over-the-top popcorn creature feature with a political commentary. Moretz delivers a fine performance through all the entertaining madness with some epic dog fight action sequences to boot!


Bullet Train

Brad Pitt leads the action and mayhem of Bullet Train, based on the bestselling Japanese novel about five hitmen who discover their missions are linked while traveling on the world’s fastest train. Starring as an unlucky assassin with the codename Ladybug, Pitt’s charms and street smarts help the would-be pacifist navigate a treacherous assignment. A dark action comedy, this wacky and entertaining movie comes from David Leitch, the director behind Deadpool 2 and Atomic Blonde. Inspired by the likes of Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill: Vol. 1, Asian pop culture, Thomas the Tank Engine references and oddball characters aren’t in short supply as things go from cray to cray-cray.

Off the Rails

Off the Rails is on Showmax

Taking a break from the action theme for a moment: the clickety-clack nostalgia of train journeys is strong with Off the Rails, a comedy drama adventure about three 50-something women who reunite at an old friend’s funeral. Having shared an amazing Eurotrip in their youth, the trio embark on another expedition to honour their late friend’s last wishes. Joining them is her 18-year-old daughter, as the group try to recapture the spirit of the first train trip to the tune of Blondie. Starring Kelly Preston, Jenny Seagrove, Sally Phillips and Elizabeth Dormer-Phillips, this breezy Mamma Mia style holiday movie features the sights and sounds of Europe as the gang create a whole new set of memories from whirlwind romance to run-ins with the law.

The Commuter

Liam Neeson plays a cop turned life insurance salesman who finds himself embroiled in a dark mystery when he’s forced to find a commuter or risk dire consequences. An unofficial train companion to airline thriller Non-Stop, The Commuter is an enjoyable, well-paced and thoughtful crime mystery thriller that blends The Fugitive with Murder on the Orient Express. This potboiler revels in its suspicious characters, stellar cast, moral dilemmas and dexterous visuals. Holding great intensity, matching the film’s steady build and free to use his own accent, Neeson is supported by Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Jonathan Banks and Elizabeth McGovern of Downton Abbey fame.


Fast & Furious 9: The Fast Saga

Fast and Furious 9 The Fast Saga

Vin Diesel was born to race cars. As Dom Toretto, he’s a brute force and family man, there to look after his crew and take a bullet – if absolutely necessary. Nine movies in and The Fast Saga is still firing on all cylinders with Fast and Furious 9 as Charlize Theron reprises her role as the scheming Cipher and John Cena kicks it into overdrive as Jakob. This star-studded high octane actioner delivers what the fans want: fast cars, outlandish action set pieces and stars – big ones. The stunts may have been designed using actual Hot Wheels toys, but the Fast and Furious series knows it has licence to play. That’s just what it does, dodging landmines in the jungle or evading bad guys… in space.

Need for Speed


An adaptation of a popular video game series, Need for Speed is about the world of racing… oh, and not dying. Driving speedy cars, winning races, outrunning the police and upgrading your fleet was the focus of the NFS video game, but the movie adds texture through its characters with a story to bring it all to life. Need for Speed follows Tobey Marshall, a custom auto mechanic and street racer who exits a two-year stint in prison with revenge on his mind and a bounty on his head. Aaron Paul is in good company with Dominic Cooper, Imogen Poots, Rami Malek and Michael Keaton in the wings. Hot pursuit, intense action, epic visual effects: it has it all.


Faster with Dwayne Johnson is on Showmax

Charm, brawn and control: Dwayne Johnson has all the makings of the perfect action star. Faster finds him playing an ex-con who begins a cross-country rampage as he seeks revenge, taking out a string of people he believes betrayed him. Revving a vintage Chevelle, the lone ranger simply known as Driver blazes a trail of destruction, pursued by a seasoned investigator with two weeks until retirement, and his junior. The Rock raises the bar with one of his more serious performances opposite a few recognisable faces in Billy Bob Thornton and Tom Berenger. An old-school action thriller, this piston-pumping, violent takedown is a straight-shooter with enough action and gasoline-soaked fury to enjoy.