After a full month of poetry, it’s about time for another list. Doors are among the simplest components of a building or room, but they offer many different functions: an entrance, an exit, an obstacle, a trap, a measure to keep something in or out. Naturally, movies have incorporated doors and all their uses and created some memorable door scenes over the years. Of course, almost every film has some kind of door, whether it be big, small, round, square, wood, or metal, but these are my favorite from film, not to forget great TV doors like the Get Smart intro or various doors in Star Trek (like the Guardian of Forever or that revolving door spinning on its own). Without further ado, here are my top 12 door scenes in movies.
- The Abyss (1989)
Ships and submarines often have doors that close in the event of a flood. While Titanic had some close-call scenes with such doors, The Abyss outdid them years before. After angrily throwing his wedding ring in the toilet and grudgingly retrieving it, Ed Harris’s Bud is very glad he reclaimed it. He almost gets trapped behind an automatic flood door, and only his wedding ring jams it long enough to save his life.
- Ghost (1990)
What does the inside of a door look like? Well, newly deceased Sam (Patrick Swayze) finds out when his first experiment with intangibility involves slowly phasing through a door. Plus, there’s the famous penny scene, where he convinces Molly by dragging a coin up the same door.
These two films don’t have much in common, but both feature a visually significant door to a new world, one at the beginning and one at the end. Dorothy’s transition from black-and-white Kansas to the Technicolor Oz will always be one of the most magical moments in cinema, while Truman’s farewell to his life as a reality show ends The Truman Show with a perfect wink.
- Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)
A magical castle would understandably possess a magical door, and while Howl’s moving castle stays safely in the mountains, its front door can lead to any of four locations depending on a knob and a color wheel. I’d love a door like that!
- The Matrix Reloaded (2003)
The Matrix sequels were definitely flawed, but they still incorporated cool concepts. The second movie added a lot of lore to its digital world, including hidden corridors lined with doors and the character of the Keymaker, whose keys can make a door lead anywhere. Warning for some language and violence in this video:
- The Brain That Wouldn’t Die (1962)
Originally titled The Black Door, The Brain That Wouldn’t Die is the kind of laughably cheesy disembodied-head B-movie that Mystery Science Theater 3000 thrived on. It’s mainly known to me as the film that traumatized my mom, who at a young age saw the scene where someone’s arm is torn off by a mad scientist’s monster hidden behind a locked door. That same door is ripped off its hinges when the creature finally attacks the mad scientist.
Both of these atmospheric horrors are filled with doors: closing doors, opening doors, doors that play with knocks. In The Others, Nicole Kidman’s protective mother insists on keeping curtains and doors closed to protect her photosensitive children, while The Conjuring’s restless spirits have a field day with their haunted house’s doors. Both films also have a drawn-out scene involving a door slamming shut unexpectedly.
- TIE: King Kong (1933) / Jurassic Park (1993)
This placement mainly goes to Jurassic Park, in which too-intelligent raptors learn how to open doors. There’s also the giant main gate (echoed in Jurassic World too) that leads into the park, which is very similar to the gate in the original King Kong (I thought I’d heard they were the same), and of course Ian Malcolm had to make a reference.
- The Adjustment Bureau (2011)
It seems like the most intriguing doors are those that open to someplace unexpected. When Matt Damon’s romance with Emily Blunt is not approved by the fate-enforcing Adjustment Bureau, he uses their supernatural hats to teleport through doors and escape.
- The Incredibles (2004)
Don’t you hate it when you close a door on yourself? That might happen more often if you could stretch across a room like Elastigirl, like in this awesome scene from everyone’s favorite animated superhero movie.
- The Shining (1980)
One of the most classic horror scenes is Jack Nicholson’s taking an ax to the bathroom door, where Shelley Duvall cringes in terror. Heeere’s Johnny!
- Monsters, Inc. (2001)
Pixar claims the top spot with a film chock full of doors! The only safe way for monsters to enter the human world and reap the fuel of screams is to sneak through children’s closet doors and scare them. Those doors are all kept in an industrial-size vault, the setting for one of Pixar’s most imaginative action sequences. No movie has as many doors as Monsters, Inc.
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) – “Open the pod bay doors, HAL.”
A Christmas Carol – Scrooge’s first hint of ghosts afoot is when Marley appears as his door knocker.
Alice in Wonderland (1951) – Alice drinks the shrinking potion to get through that little talking door.
Beetlejuice (1988) – How to reach the afterlife waiting room: draw a door in chalk and don’t forget the doorknob.
The Breakfast Club (1985) – The vice principal just couldn’t keep that door open, not with a screw missing.
Coraline (2009) – Don’t crawl through every spooky little door you find in your house.
Elizabethtown (2005) – Drew’s boss is obsessed with the number two, so of course he had to have two Tunisian doors imported for $762,000…each.
Fantastic Four (2005) – Mr. Fantastic’s first test of his powers involves stretching underneath a door.
Forbidden Planet (1956) – No door can stop a “monster from the id.”
Funny Farm (1988) – Those country doors that split in the middle are slapstick gold.
Get Smart (2008) – The original series’ famous opening showed Maxwell Smart walking through a series of perfectly timed doors, which the movie had to use for homage and parody (see below).
The Godfather (1972) – The final scene illustrates that a door has closed on Michael Corleone’s old life.
Godzilla (2014) – Early on, Bryan Cranston makes a hard decision with a radiation door.
The Lord of the Rings (2001-3) – From the round doors of Hobbiton to the besieged gates of Minas Tirith, Middle Earth loves its doors (see above).
The Maze Runner (2014) – Doors are often ripe for squeezing through at the last second.
Monster House (2006) – I never thought of a door as a house’s mouth until this movie.
Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) – A door drawn in chalk; where have I seen that before?
Prince Caspian (2008) – I liked how the exit from Narnia was changed from a simple door frame in the book to a door within a tree in the film.
The Prince of Egypt (1998) – Any account of the Exodus includes the Biblical blood on the doorposts during the first Passover.
Room (2015) – “It can’t really be Room if Door’s open.”
Signs (2002) – Don’t get too close to a door when an alien’s trapped on the other side.
The Sixth Sense (1999) – The big red church doors and the red handle of the cellar door served as early clues to the supernatural.
Stuart Little (1999) – For some reason, I’ve always remembered the doors in the Little household because they’re strangely covered in wallpaper and blend into the wall when closed.
Twister (1996) – That first scene proves that holding the cellar door in a tornado doesn’t do much good.
What’s Up, Doc? (1972) – All the people going back and forth between a hotel hall’s doors is just one of the great elements of this screwball comedy, perhaps reminiscent of the door hopping during those Scooby Doo cartoon chases.