How to Watch 'Snowpiercer,' Plus Other Films and Series About Extreme Quarantines
By Stacy Lambe
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With the outbreak of the novel coronavirus COVID-19, forcing many people in the United States -- and around the world -- to shelter in place, isolate or quarantine, and practice social distancing, there’s no doubt that many have been forced to adapt to unexpected and extreme circumstances of being at home full time. While this situation is unprecedented for most, it’s not an unfamiliar concept that Hollywood has explored time and time again -- with the most recent examples being the feature-length documentary, Spaceship Earth, and the TNT series adaptation of Snowpiercer.
While not every film or series listed here was inspired by an outbreak like the coronavirus, all of them share a similar theme: learning to cope with life under intense circumstances. Here are ET’s top picks for the most compelling stories about isolated life or extreme quarantines that are now streaming on Amazon, Hulu, Netflix and more.
10 Cloverfield Lane
The hit J.J. Abrams film -- a spiritual sequel to Cloverfield -- tells the suspenseful story about a woman (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) who wakes up after a car accident in an underground bunker with two strangers (John Goodman and John Gallagher, Jr.) to learn there’s been a worldwide chemical attack. While life is uninhabitable outside, the situation in the bunker is not entirely what it portends.
After a mysterious virus claiming the lives of all the adults in the town of Pretty Lake, the government imposes a 10-square mile quarantine around the area, leaving pregnant teen Wiley Day (Jennette McCurdy) and the remaining young inhabitants to struggle for survival.
Less about a quarantine and more about extreme isolation, Robert Zemeckis’ hugely popular film tells the story of FedEx executive Chuck Noland (Tom Hanks), who spends years stranded alone on a small deserted island after the plane he’s on crashes over the Pacific Ocean.
Steven Soderbergh’s star-studded film about the global pandemic that follows the spread of a lethal virus has been the go-to film for many coming to terms with the coronavirus outbreak. What makes the film fitting here is what Mitch Emhoff (Matt Damon) has to go through to keep him and his surviving daughter alive -- which means no leaving the house and no contact with anyone.
This British series provides a powerful snapshot -- if not a dramatized version -- of what life is like for people living under the coronavirus lockdown and the various ups and downs they are navigating through. Created and written by Jeff Pope, each 15-minute episode explores how the lives of various characters -- a pregnant woman, a paranoid, self-absorbed hypochondriac and others -- have changed in a thought-provoking and humorous way.
What happens during a three-year solo mission at a lunar mine? This 2009 film starring Sam Rockwell finds out the toll it takes on an astronaut who is simply looking forward to returning home and reuniting with his wife and young daughter.
David Fincher’s 2002 thriller follows a newly divorced woman (Jodie Foster) and her daughter (Kristen Stewart) who take refuge in their brownstone’s panic room during a brutal home invasion. However, it’s soon discovered that their safe place is the very spot the intruders want to get into.
Perhaps the darkest and most emotional story about life in quarantine, the 2015 independent film tells the story of a woman (Brie Larson) and her young son (Jacob Tremblay) held captive for years in an enclosed space before finally escaping and learning to settle into life outside.
Survivors of a man-created Ice Age are forced to live out their days on a massive train that plows through snow and ice, traveling around the globe. The film stars Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton and Octavia Spencer in a fight between the train’s poorest residents and those who live in first class. Bong Joon-ho’s movie has since been adapted into a series starring Daveed Diggs and Jennifer Connelly, exploring the events on the train that took place before the central revolution.
It doesn’t get much stranger than this fascinating new documentary about the unbelievably true story of eight strangers who spent two years quarantined inside a man-built replica of the Earth’s ecosystem called Biosphere 2. The experiment, which started in 1991, became a worldwide phenomenon at the time as fans and the media alike kept daily track of life inside the dome, where these volunteers faced life-threatening problems and criticism from the scientific community.
Based on the bestselling Stephen King novel, the series follows the residents of Chester's Mill, Maine, after they find their town unexpectedly cut off from the rest of the world by a transparent dome. Following the initial shock, people handle their newfound isolation differently with some trying to maintain a semblance of order, while others try to figure out how to escape it.