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Elevators in Film: Elevator Horror Movie, Comedy, and Romance Appearances, From The Shining to Elevator Girl and Beyond

The Elevator’s Rise in Film

From playful elevator Zoom background shenanigans to ab-focused elevator exercise, the cultural impact of elevators can be found in far more than just your nearest office building. One domain in particular where elevators are often on full display is the world of cinema.

Despite what many may initially assume, the elevator actually boasts quite a sizable and impressive résumé in film. Its confined nature perfectly lends itself to creating tense or awkward interactions in film, either to great comedic or horrific effect.

In fact, one of the most discussed and impressive shots in all of film history is the bloody elevator horror movie scene in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. Suffice it to say that this gory scene will go down in cinematic history, and it’s in very large part due to the elevator.

This is far from the only elevator occurrence in movies, however. Movies such as North by Northwest, Drive, Captain America and the Winter Soldier, Speed, and The Departed all have incredible elevator scenes that are both captivating and integral to the plot. There are even several movies in which the plot entirely revolves around elevators, including Devil and Elevator Girl, both released in 2010.

Another standout for elevators in film is 2007’s 1408, starring John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson. In this film, Cusack’s character is investigating a hotel room on the 13th floor that’s experienced its fair share of inexplicable events. In its setup, the film highlights an elevator without a 13th floor button because due to superstition, the hotel doesn’t acknowledge that there even is a 13th floor. This actually stems from real-world paranoia; finding an elevator without a 13th floor isn’t all that uncommon. Still, the missing elevator numbers do wonders in the context of the film to up the creep factor.

And of course, let’s not forget the classic Elf scene in which Will Ferrell’s character Buddy presses every one of the elevator numbers before turning to a bemused bystander and uttering one of the funniest elevator quotes and elevator jokes of all time: “It looks like a Christmas tree!”

So next time you’re watching a film and an elevator scene takes place, ask yourself this: How would this scene be different if not set in an elevator? You’ll quickly realize that many times, those scenes just wouldn’t work, showing just how large of a contribution elevators have made to film.