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5 Great Movies with High Stakes

Why are we so drawn to movies with high stakes? These films keep our eyes glued to the screen as we wait to find out their characters’ fates, and there’s something incredibly rewarding that comes with that experience. When done well, these movies are unpredictable, exciting, and filled with tension, and the more we like the characters, the more satisfying their ending will be when they make it out alive.

We are used to seeing the word high stakes used when describing action films, and the genre definitely has some incredibly gripping scenes: suffice it to think of the Bourne, John Wick, and Matrix franchises, or classics like Speed and Top Gun. But there are other genres that manage to give us films that are just as anxiety-inducing and ultimately rewarding. If you’re a fan of heist films, or a player of nolimit city slots, the heist genre has plenty of gems, from Heat (1995) to Snatch (2000) and the recently released Baby Driver. Gorehounds know how anxious it can be to watch a well-crafted horror film, as the stakes are even higher, and movies like Battle Royale (2000) and Saw (2004) prove it.

There are plenty of movies with high stakes out there, and we’ve collected 5 in this article. Check out the list below, in alphabetic order, and happy watching!

1. Die Hard (1988)

John McTiernan

5 Great Movies with High Stakes – Die Hard (20th Century)

Bruce Willis plays NYPD officer John McClane in John McTiernan’s Die Hard, set on Christmas Eve. John is attending a party with his estranged wife, whom he is visiting, at her Japanese company’s headquarters. But the celebrations are soon interrupted when a group of terrorists break in and take them all hostage. It’s up to McClane to save everyone, but our hero soon realizes that it won’t be so easy.

If you’ve never seen Die Hard, you’re in for a treat. The anxiety-inducing plot, the fantastic performances – not just from Bruce Willis, but also from his co-stars, including Alan Rickman and Bonnie Bedelia, the unpredictable screenplay make this alltime classic not just filled with high stakes, but also surprisingly enjoyable, to the point that some even see it as a Christmas movie. And we can’t blame them: this is really as good as it gets for action fans.

2. Inception (2010)

Christopher Nolan

5 Great Movies with High Stakes – Inception (Warner Bros. Pictures)

If you’re looking for something brainy but still action-filled, we recommend Inception. The film that put director Christopher Nolan on the map is huge in scale and mind-bending in its execution, even more so considering that part of it takes place in people’s dreams. Leonardo DiCaprio plays Dom Cobb, a thief who deals not in objects, but in secrets. Where did he get them? From people’s dreams, as he has the ability to enter their subconscious – a tool that has become essential in espionage, but that’s not so easy to explain to your family.

There are several conflicts in the film that generate tension and keep us hooked. One of them is Don’s attempt to pull off an even more complex task: instead of stealing someone’s memory, planting an idea into their mind. The other comes from the film’s antagonist, and the third has to do with love, but it’s best to not say anything more and let you discover it on your own. The film features an all-star cast of frequent Nolan collaborators (Tom Hardy , Cillian Murphy, Michael Caine) and more familiar faces (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Elliot Page, Marion Cotillard) and has one of the most mind-altering endings in the history of thrillers. It was incredibly successful at the box office, as reported by MovieWeb, and for good reason: it’s one of the best sci-fi movies of all time.

3. Ocean’s Eleven (2001)

Steven Soderbergh

5 Great Movies with High Stakes – Ocean’s Eleven (Warner Bros. Pictures)

What is it about the heist genre that makes us love these movies so much? With Ocean’s Eleven, it’s the fact that we genuinely care about its characters, combined with the satisfaction that comes from watching them pull of the biggest heist of all time.

At the center of it all is thief Danny Ocean (George Clooney), who has just come out of prison but is already planning his next heist. And this time, it’s personal. His target? Casino owner/former nemesis Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia), who just-so-happens to be about to hold an event which will bring $160 million to one of his establishment. The team? The titular Ocean’s eleven: Rusty (Brad Pitt), Basher (Don Cheadle), Reuben (Elliott Gould), Turk (Scott Caan), Virgil (Casey Affleck), Frank (Bernie Mac), Yen (Shaobo Qin), Livingston (Eddie Jemison), Linus (Matt Damon), and Saul (Carl Reiner).

If you’re into heist films, Ocean’s Eleven simply has it all: a charismatic cast in splendid form, a gripping plot, plenty of hilarious lines, and a fantastic final sequence. Not to be missed!

4. Saw (2004)

James Wan

5 Great Movies with High Stakes – Saw (Lionsgate)

What’s more terrifying than waking up in an unfamiliar place with no recollection of the night before? Waking up chained to a pipe, in a dirty bathroom where a sadistic psychopath placed you, and your only chance of survival is completing a puzzle that involves committing a series of horrible things to yourself and the other victims.

The latest entries in the Saw franchise haven’t been very successful, mainly due to their being a little exploitative in the torture they inflict upon their protagonists. But the first film in the franchise was a completely different beast, much smaller in scope and special effects and much more interested in the psychology of the serial killer and the survival of his hostages. It also featured many unexpected twists – including the twist of all twists! – and plenty of edge-of-your-seat scenes with the highest of stakes.

5. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Jonathan Demme

5 Great Movies with High Stakes – The Silence of the Lambs (Rotten Tomatoes Classics)

Jonathan Demme’s masterpiece starts from a simple premise: the FBI has an unresolved, ongoing case, and they believe an inmate might help them find the serial killer behind it. But not only is said inmate – Dr Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) a cannibalistic murderer himself, but he seems to have decided that he will only talk to a young FBI trainee named Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster).

But the film is all but simple, as the central relationship between two people who couldn’t be more different – played to perfection by Foster and Hopkins – is what makes the stakes so high, as loyalties shift all around them and knowledge is passed around in the exact right moments. It’s best not to say anything else to avoid spoilers, but if you haven’t seen The Silence of the Lambs yet, prepare to have your mind blown.

The 5 films listed above are only a few examples of great movies with high stakes that you’ll like, depending on what genre you feel like watching. Some are intellectual, others are terrifying, and others will have you thinking about them for days, but all of them will make for extremely gripping watching experiences. Enjoy!

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