UrbEx on Film

More than simply locations, urban exploration is almost a subplot of films.  I mean, there are so many occasions in which characters have to break into a bank, escape from the cops, or chase after monsters where these great subterranean locales are called for.  Drains and tunnels are very cinematic, of course.  Here are some films that prominently feature some of these sites.


AVPR: Aliens vs Predator - Requiem (2007) - Members of the two species end up on Earth and, inevitably, in the sewers/drainage tunnels beneath a town too small to require tunnels of that size, but they look like fun regardless, more than watching this movie was anyway.

Batman (1989) - He lives in a cave, travels through drainage systems, and, er, lives with a teenage boy.  What more could you ask for?  Honestly, the comics have a lot more drain action, but see the sequel.

Batman Returns (1992) - This one probably devotes the most screen time to tunnels if that's all you're looking for.  Personally, I enjoyed Catwoman. 

Beauty and the Beast (tv show; 1987-1990) - Misfits and run-aways live in a massive system of tunnels and caves beneath the city with Ron Perlman (Hellboy!) as a lion-man. 

Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970) - Despite the promising title, only a few scenes of interest are shown: an abandoned subway station and several tunnels of questionable purpose.

Blade Runner (1982) - Decker chases replicants among abandoned buildings and rooftops across the city.  Sometimes I wish everyone would just go live off-world. (sigh) 

C.H.U.D. (1984) - Cannibalistic humanoid underground dwellers roam abandoned subway stations and eat homeless vagrants. 

C.H.U.D. II (1989) - I still haven't seen this, but I would guess it's more of the same B-movie fun.

Dark Days (2000) - This is the real thing!  Documentary filmmakers go beneath New York City to examine the lives of the vast numbers of homeless who live in the subway systems and other tunnels.

Dawn of the Dead (2004) - A quick jaunt through the utility tunnels beneath streets filled with the undead.  Nothing too remarkable, but it's a fun movie nonetheless.

Deja Vu (2007) - A lot of post-Katrina footage of the 9th Ward.  Unfortunately, it's squeezed into just a couple minutes (if that) screentime, but due to rapid-fire, trademarked Tony Scott editing, there are many cuts to enjoy if you have a quick finger over the Pause button. 

Delicatessen (1991) - In post-apocalyptic France, wetsuit-clad freaks emerge from the sewers to save an ex-monkey-trainer from being cannibalized by his evil landlord.* 

Die Hard (1988) - Bruce Willis goes everywhere you aren't supposed to in a highrise: utility passages, elevator shafts, rooftops, etc.  But it's okay, he's a cop.

Die Hard 2: Die Harder (1990) - Same as list time, only this time Bruce infiltrates airports.

Die Hard: With A Vengeance (1995) - Old John McClane (Bruce Willis) is in trouble again, this time in a variety of naughty locations including the subway and an under-construction storm drain.* 

Empire Strikes Back, The (1980) - Okay, not draining per se, but I think I was profoundly imprinted by the scenes of Luke venturing into the "off-limits" areas beneath Cloud City in search of Darth Vader.  I think we're all looking for him to some extent. 

Enemy of the State (1998) - Will Smith hops into some very large storm drains in order to hide from the NSA; unfortunately, their cars arrive behind him in the drain moments later (they took the vehicular entrance, you see).* 

First Power, The (1990) - Russell Logan (Lou Diamond Phillips) traces Satan's favourite minion into his home in (where else?) the storm drains; during one chase scene, the drains flood.* 

Forbidden Planet (1956) - Space travelers explore the underground remains of an ancient alien civilization while the audience enjoys Anne Francis in a mini skirt. 

Fugitive, The (1996) - Fugitive Dr. Richard Kimble (Harrison Ford) first escapes police by running through drains and jumping off a dam, then later makes himself fake ID so he can infiltrate a hospital and hack its computers, and then later infiltrates a hotel's employee-only areas to catch the bad guy.* 

Goonies (1985) - Goofy-looking kids search for treasure through naturally formed drainage systems (i.e., caves).  It's a bit silly, but I think this is the ultimate urbex story in that we're all kids full of childlike wonder in search of adventure and burried treasure. 

Hellboy (2004) - Supernatural superheroes spend a lot of time chasing demons and Nazi/Russian wizards through the subway, in the sewers, etc.  A fun flick besides. 

Indiana Jones trilogy (1981, 1984, and 1989) - As if I need to summarize! 

Stephen King's "It" (1990) - I barely remember this one, but my friends keep reminding me that the story features tunnels at some point. 

The Italian Job (1969) - Thieves drive Mini-Coopers through drainage tunnels. 

The Italian Job (2003) - Almost exactly like the original.

Masterminds (1997) - Hacker and troublemaker Ozzie (Vincent Kartheiser) infiltrates his school's ducts and mechanical rooms to harass terrorist Rafe Bentley (Patrick Stewart). Ozzie and friends later chase Rafe through the huge storm drains under the city in dune buggies.* 

The Matix saga (R.I.P. 1999-2003) - There's a huge box set out with all the movies and extras.  I haven't checked it for anything to do with urb-exing, but who wouldn't want to see this?

Matrix, The (1999) - In the walls, abandoned subway stations, and into the real world in which everyone lives in tunnels.  How cool is that?!

Matrix Reloaded (2003) - More of the same with a bigger budget.

Matrix Revolutions (2003) - A third helping from the Wachowski Bros.

Phantom of the Opera (several adaptations) - Welcome to the Paris sewer system.  Naturally, representations of the catacombs are better in some versions than in others.  Stay tuned for the screen version of Andrew Lloyd Weber's musical.

Princess and the Warrior, The (aka Der Krieger und die Kaiserin, 2000) - Some brief but interesting shots of drainage tunnels beneath the city.  They make this look so easy.

Reign of Fire (2002) - To sneak into the city and slay dragons, our heroes travel through a few tunnels.  Also, early in the film are some scenes of subterranean construction work.

Return of the Jedi (1983) - Infiltration on a massive scale!  Rebel fighters (including the Millenium Falcon) wind their way through the infrastructure to the core of the second Death Star.

Saint, The (1997) - Simon Templar (Val Kilmer) and Dr. Emma Russell (Elizabeth Shue) do lots of sneaking about and go draining under Moscow.*

Score, The (2001) - An otherwise fairly empty film about professional thieves has Robert DeNiro trapsing through some very impressive drainage systems to steal some loot.

Sin City (2005) - A chase leads to some action in the drains.  Also, there's an unrelated scene in which a character swims upstream from the river into the city via some tunnels.

Species (1995) - Toward the end of the movie scientists go hunting the sexy alien before she breeds beneath the city streets.

Star Wars: A New Hope (1977) - Our heroes blast open a grating and sneak down a shaft to the trash compactor.  Also, old Obi-wan sneaks around where he shouldn't and fiddles with some utilities.

Subway (1985) - Christophe Lambert (aka Christopher Lambert, the original Highlander) lives --where else-- in the subway in this Luc Besson film.  Some utility passages beneatrh Paris are shown in what is probably supposed to be an updated version of Phantom of the Opera.

S.W.A.T. (2003) - Colin Farrell and company pursue bad guys in, first, subway tunnels, then the drainage tunnels beneath LA.  Eh...

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987) - Admittedly, I've never seen these, but I used to read the original comic book series and saw the cartoon (also 1987) a few times.  I'm going out on a limb here, but I'm pretty damned sure there must be drainage systems somewhere in the movies.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Secret of the Ooze (1991) - This is the one with Vanilla Ice, isn't it?  Speaking of going down drains...

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III (1993) - Haven't seen this one either, but I hear it's second only to Citizen Cane.

Them! (1954) - Similar to Species, only hunting for giant mutant ants before they breed.  A very modern feel for a movie from this period.

Third Man, The (1949) - The evil Harry Lime (Orson Welles) hides out in, and is later pursued through, the Viennese sewer system.*

Time Machine, The (1960) - Our hero chases after the Morlocks into underground tunnels.  In addition to the remake highlighted below, there are other, less well-known adaptations out there in which the Morlocks' lairs are (variously depicted as natural caves, abandoned drainage or utility tunnels, etc.). 

Time Machine, The (2002) - That "Guy" from Memento stars in this mediocre remake.  The effects are pretty good in spots, and they actually threw some money at building decent sets this time around.

Trou, Le (1960) - French film featuring an excellent prison escape via the Paris sewers.*

Underworld (2003) - Vampires and werewolves do battle in subway tunnels, among other places.

We Built This City: London (2003) - Discovery Channel documentary of the history of the cty.  Parts of it cover the building of the subway and sewer systems.  Worth seeing regardless as it's a really good show.

We Built This City: Paris (2003) - Another Discovery Channel documentary that looks below Paris, though this one inexplicably makes no mention of the famous Paris sewer system.  Much else interesting, thankfully.

Wrongfully Accused (1998) - This parody of the Fugitive features a very silly parody of the drain scene in the original.*

X-Files (tv: 1993 - 2002, movie: 1998) - Admittedly, I didn't really watch the show very often, but I recall several episodes featuring forays through underground systems.  Maybe some uber fan out there can elaborate on this.

*Denoted movie summaries were lifted from Infiltration.org's excellent Draining FAQ .

Copyright 2004-2005 Alexplorer.
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