series about lockdown

Locked Up (aka Vis a Vis)

The top 5 lockdown movies (and 1 series) about being stuck inside

Fun, twisted and reflective viewing for riding out the pandemic lockdown.

Fun, twisted and reflective movies and series about lockdown, including Beetlejuice, The Others, The Exterminating Angel, Rear Window, Locked Up (Vis a vis) and Tangled.

Whatever you may feel or plan to do about Quebec’s impending reopening, what’s clear is that we still have to endure at least two more weeks of being stuck inside. Streaming TV and movies has helped us through lockdown, but now we’ve all binged Tiger King and Money Heist, Better Call Saul and Westworld are done, maybe some more fun, twisted and reflective viewing about being shut in is what we need. Here are five movies and one series about lockdown, for lockdown:

Beetlejuice (1988)

Beetlejuice lockdown movies and TV series for quarantine viewing
Beetlejuice (The top 5 lockdown movies, and 1 series, about being stuck inside)

The Tim Burton classic Beetlejuice stars Michael Keaton as the titular “malicious spirit” enlisted by a recently deceased couple (a young Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin) to scare off a family that has moved into their house. Staying home to stay safe is a running theme from the start as the couple, Adam and Barbara, begin their “staycation” by making the bad decision to run errands in town — on the way home they swerve to avoid hitting a dog and their car ends up careening off a bridge. They return home to find out they didn’t survive the crash and can’t leave their house for 125 years — venturing out the front door lands them in a desert wasteland populated by giant sand worms. Shut-in motifs aside, the movie is a fine bit of escapism, with Catherine O’Hara as a pretentious yuppie artiste, Winona Ryder as her super-goth daughter and a career-high hilarious performance by Keaton. His trashy demeanour and flamboyant aesthetic makes him a little like an undead Joe Exotic.

Beetlejuice can be streamed on Crave.

The Others (2001)

The Others lockdown movies and TV series for quarantine viewing
The Others (The top 5 lockdown movies, and 1 series, about being stuck inside)

The Others, a horror film by Chilean/Spanish director Alejandro Amenábar, (best known for Open Your Eyes and its Hollywood remake Vanilla Sky) takes claustrophobic anxiety to new heights. Though the films eventually ventures into familiar haunted-house territory, the macabre lockdown mood is set right from the start. After waking with a bloodcurdling scream, Grace, the mistress of an old British mansion circa 1945, introduces new servants to the run of things: every door must be locked, curtains must be drawn at all times and only candles can be used as a light source because her children are “photosensitive,” ie. severely allergic to light. “It’s rather difficult to say the least… one might almost say unbearable,” she warns the new nanny Mrs. Mills. “The only way of enduring it is by keeping a cool head.”

The Others can be streamed on Prime Video.

The Exterminating Angel (1962)

The Exterminating Angel lockdown TV series for quarantine viewing
The Exterminating Angel (The top 5 lockdown movies, and 1 series, about being stuck inside)

This staple of surrealist cinema, written and directed by Luis Buñuel, lets us imagine what life would be like if quarantine was put in place in the middle of a house party. As per Roger Ebert, the film, in which party guests are unable to leave the house and go to some pretty dark places (including death by natural and unnatural causes), “The dinner guests represent the ruling class in Franco’s Spain. Having set a banquet table for themselves by defeating the workers in the Spanish Civil War, they sit down for a feast, only to find it never ends. They’re trapped in their own bourgeois cul-de-sac. Increasingly resentful at being shut off from the world outside, they grow mean and restless; their worst tendencies are revealed.”

The Exterminating Angel can be streamed on the Criterion Channel.

Rear Window (1954)

Rear Window (The top 5 lockdown movies, and 1 series, about being stuck inside)

Hitchcock classic Rear Window is the ultimate movie about the kind of trouble you can get into when you’re housebound and bored. Jeff (Jimmy Stuart) becomes a voyeur and amateur sleuth when a broken leg grounds him in his New York apartment. He spies on his neighbours — most of whom don’t seem to use curtains or blinds, most of the time — including an abusive husband whose conjugal violence may or may not have turned deadly. With the help, encouragement and discouragement of his cop friend Doyle, sassy nurse Stella and glamorous girlfriend Lisa (Grace Kelly), he investigates the potential murder from the discomfort of a wheelchair. Bonus COVID points for the scene where Lisa brings in fancy takeout from the 21 Club, a ritzy Manhattan restaurant that actually still exists (but is, of course, temporarily closed right now).

Rear Window can be streamed on Amazon Prime Video, and here on Mubi.

Locked Up, aka Vis a Vis (2015-2019)

Locked Up Vis a vis lockdown movies and TV series for quarantine viewing
Locked Up (Vis a vis) (The top 5 lockdown movies, and 1 series, about being stuck inside)

Before Money Heist, Álex Pina and Esther Lobato Martínez co-created Locked Up (aka Vis a vis), Spain’s answer to Orange Is the New Black. Though there are strong echoes of its American counterpart, the strength of the ensemble cast, the strangeness and ruthlessness of the villains (especially chief nemesis Zulema) and the Breaking Bad antics of Macarena’s family make this show more compelling (and frankly less annoying). Like Money Heist (and the entire “caged heat” canon), there’s enough gratuitous nudity and sexuality to keep audiences titillated, and more than enough outlandish scenarios and shocking twists to keep you binging, at least through the show’s first two seasons (we can’t vouch for the rest). But where Locked Up really rises above other prison series and movies about lockdown is in its reflections on incarceration by the prisoners, presented in recurring documentary-style interview montages. These asides are especially prescient right now — and spending a lot of mental time in the Cruz del Sur prison makes COVID lockdown seem pretty minor.

Locked Up (Vis a vis) can be streamed on Netflix.

Tangled (2010)

Tangled (The top 5 lockdown movies, and 1 series, about being stuck inside)

Yes, there are even lockdown movies for kids. (Beetlejuice is almost family-friendly but this is a straight-up Disney princess movie that won’t scare toddlers.) Tangled, the adaptation of the Grimms fairy tale Rapunzel, kicks off as the teenager with the long hair, on the eve of her 18th birthday, has built a world for herself in her tower — the presentation of her daily routine and longing for the outside world is instantly relatable. Unbeknownst to Rapunzel, she’s the daughter of a royal family who was kidnapped as a baby so that her captor, Mother Gothel, can use her magical hair as a youth elixir. Gothel (a witch who looks like Cher) has told her that the outside world is too dangerous to venture into, and that other people pose a threat to Rapunzel due to her magical properties. So Gothel has to go out regularly to to get supplies and gifts for her quarantined “daughter.” On one such occasion, a man shows up, triggering events that will give Rapunzel her first taste of the outside world. The mix of glee and guilt she experiences when she leaves her tower is a familiar feeling — it’s how many of us will feel the first time we walk into a store, go see friends or take kids to school in May.

Tangled can be streamed on Disney Plus.

For more coverage of films and TV, including more movies to watch in lockdown, please visit our film section.