Top 10 Architecture Thrillers Not To Be Missed

From Silent Movies to Science Fiction Classics

There's nothing like the big screen to capture big buildings. Here are our favorite flicks that take place in or around skyscrapers and famous buildings. Some of these movies are cinematic masterpieces and others are just for fun, but they all combine architecture with edge-of-your-seat adventure.

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Movie poster by Boris Konstantinovich Bilinsky of
Movie poster by Boris Konstantinovich Bilinsky of "Metropolis" Directed by Fritz Lang, 1926. Photo by Fine Art Images Heritage Images / Hulton Archive / Getty Images (cropped)

Directed by Fritz Lang, this silent film classic interprets Le Corbusier's plans for the future, imagining a mile-high city built by slaves. For this DVD version, producer Giorgio Moroder cranked up the pacing, restored the tints, and added a rock and disco soundtrack. 1926 Buy from Amazon »

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Blade Runner

Future City in
Future City in "Blade Runner" directed by Ridley Scott. Photo by Sunset Boulevard / Corbis Historical / Getty Images (cropped)

The 1992 Director's Cut edition of Blade Runner enhanced the 1982 original, but the 2007 Final Cut is said to be director Ridley Scott's last take—until the next one. In a futuristic Los Angeles, a retired cop (Harrison Ford) pursues a murderous android. Some scenes were filmed inside the Ennis-Brown house by Frank Lloyd Wright. Buy from Amazon »

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The Fountainhead

Black and white still of Gary Cooper In
Gary Cooper In "The Fountainhead". Photo by Warner Brothers Archive Photos / Moviepix / Getty Images (cropped)

Adapted from Ayn Rand's bestselling potboiler, The Fountainhead combines architecture with drama, romance, and sex. Gary Cooper plays the now iconic character of Howard Roark, an idealistic architect who refuses to create buildings that violate his aesthetic values. Patricia Neal is his passionate lover, Dominique. The Roark persona is often said to be modeled after the real-life lover-architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Buy from Amazon »

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he Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Cesar Pelli, Architect.
he Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Cesar Pelli, Architect. Photo by Sungjin Kim / Moment / Getty Images

An aging thief (Sean Connery) becomes enmeshed with a beautiful insurance agent (Catherine Zeta-Jones). The real stars of this film are the Petronas Twin Towers (1999) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  Buy from Amazon »

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The Towering Inferno

Movie art for the film
Movie art for the film "The Towering Inferno". Photo by Warner Brothers-20th Century-Fox Archive Photos /Moviepix / Getty Images (cropped)

An architect (Paul Newman) and a fire chief ( Steve McQueen) race to rescue the occupants of a burning San Francisco skyscraper, which is touted as the "world's tallest building."  Buy from Amazon »

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King Kong

Detail from
Detail from "King Kong" Movie Poster. Photo by Movie Poster Image Art / Moviepix / Getty Images (cropped)

Who could forget the sight of the giant gorilla clinging to the top of the Empire State Building, his furry hand grasping the terrified Fay Wray? America's favorite skyscraper heightens the drama and brings a sense of scale to the monster movie classic. Forget the remakes; get the original, made in 1933. Buy from Amazon »

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Die Hard

Bonnie Bedelia And Bruce Willis In
Bonnie Bedelia And Bruce Willis In "Die Hard". Photo by 20th Century-Fox Archive Photos / Moviepix / Getty Images

When a dozen international terrorists take over a Los Angeles high-rise, a tough New York cop (Bruce Willis) saves the day. The Fox Plaza in Los Angeles plays the part of the doomed Nakatomi Building, overrun with terrorists. Just remember—knowing the ins and outs of a high-rise office building proves valuable when fighting terrorism. Buy from Amazon »

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Jungle Fever (1991)

Annabella Sciorra And Wesley Snipes In
Annabella Sciorra And Wesley Snipes In "Jungle Fever". Photo by Universal Pictures / Moviepix / Getty Images (cropped)

A rising black architect (Wesley Snipes) has an adulterous affair with a working class Italian-American (Annabella Sciorra) in present-day New York—which just goes to show that architecture isn't all science and math. Directed by Spike Lee.  Buy from Amazon »

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The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919)

Scene from the 1920 German Expressionist Silent Film
Scene from the 1920 German Expressionist Silent Film "The Cabinet of Dr Caligari". Photo by Ann Ronan Pictures Print Collector / Hulton Archive / Getty Images (cropped)

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (silent, with music track) is a must-have for anyone who is serious about studying the relationship between film and architecture. In this German Expressionist masterpiece, the evil Dr. Caligari (Werner Krauss) hypnotizes an innocent villager to commit murder. Director Robert Wiene set the eerie tale in a surreal world of twisted angles and contorted buildings.  Buy from Amazon »

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Safety Last! (1923)

American Actor Harold Lloyd Hangs from a Building's Clock in the 1923 film
American Actor Harold Lloyd Hangs from a Building's Clock in the 1923 film "Safety Last". Photo by American Stock Archive / Moviepix / Getty Images (cropped)

Before there were safety codes on movie sets, before there were pyrotechnic specialists to control explosions, and before computers digitalized catastrophes and Armageddon there was Harold Lloyd. Arguably as brilliant as Charlie Chaplin and as funny as Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd was the third leg of the silent comedic film stool.

Often called the "King of Daredevil Comedy," Lloyd was known to transverse the iron beams of a high-rise building, always doing his own stunts. Architecture became a tool for his adventures. He would fall from structures only to bounce on awnings or hang onto the hands of a clock. His film "Safety Last!" is a classic, which laid the foundation for all action adventure movies that followed.  Buy from Amazon »

But Wait, There's More!

Want more? For serious viewing, see our roundup of award-winning documentary movies about architecture and movies about architects.