Every spring, the Academy Awards and the Golden Globes present the previous year’s best films—the performances, direction, screenplays and more that deliver that just bit of something special to movie-loving audiences. In honor of our love for all things hotel-related, we’d like to present our own list of the eight best hotel-related movies of all time.
It turns out hotels are fertile territory for storytelling, so we’ve added a few parameters to help narrow the field. First, it has to be a hotel … no pensiones, hostels, B&Bs or motels (sorry, Psycho). And, second, naturally it has to be great.
The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
When The Grand Budapest Hotel won the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, our hearts couldn’t help but be with Wes Anderson’s quirky ode to friendship, love and impeccable service. We salute the movie’s style and heart as legendary concierge Monsieur Gustave H and lobby boy Zero form a unique friendship that anchors the story. At times profoundly funny and always exquisitely shot, this hotel film will forever have a firm spot on our list of the best hotel movies of all time.
Mystery Train (1989)
Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales was a touchstone for indie-film god Jim Jarmusch’s humorous and moody Mystery Train. Set in a fleabag hotel in Memphis, TN, a trio of separate stories unfolds over a single night, with the ghost of Elvis very much in the mix. Jarmusch was a winner at the Cannes Film Festival for his movie, and his amazing cast includes rock’s original wild man Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Clash frontman Joe Strummer, ever-lovable (even when his character isn’t) Steve Buscemi, soul legend Rufus Thomas, and the voice of Tom Waits. Naturally there’s a killer soundtrack, too.
Grand Hotel (1932)
“People come, people go. Nothing ever happens.” Well, that observation made by one of the film’s characters—who’s too drunk to notice otherwise—is only half right. Plenty goes on in this Best Picture winner, set in Berlin’s most luxurious hotel. Grand Hotel set the template for the Hollywood A-list extravaganza, with a starry lineup that includes Greta Garbo, John and Lionel Barrymore, Joan Crawford and Wallace Beery. And of course the film also features Garbo’s immortal, melancholy entreaty: “I vant to be alone.” A grand slice of Hollywood’s Golden Age.
Lost in Translation (2003)
Not just a great hotel movie, but a great travel movie, vividly depositing viewers right smack into the chaotic surrealism of Tokyo. It’s funny, it’s sad, and Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson are perfect as, respectively, an aging movie-star-turned-whisky-pitchman and the neglected wife of a celebrity photographer. A Best Picture nominee, the film’s director, Sofia Coppola, won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. Murray’s karaoke performance of (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding is priceless.
The Night of the Iguana (1964)
This film adaptation of the Tennessee Williams’ play is set in a ramshackle hotel on the Mexican coast. It features Richard Burton’s fevered performance of a defrocked minister—turned tour guide—wrestling his demons and a handful of intriguing women, including Ava Gardner, Deborah Kerr and one of screendom’s all-time nubile temptresses, Sue Lyon. The on-location presence of Burton and his paramour Elizabeth Taylor literally turned the remote fishing village of Puerto Vallarta into an international travel destination.
Key Largo (1948)
Bogie and Bacall are trapped in an isolated Florida hotel with a gang of mobsters (led by the one-and-only Edward G. Robinson), as a hurricane rages outside. Claire Trevor won an Oscar for her portrayal of Robinson’s moll, a washed-up nightclub singer whose heartbreakingly off-key delivery of a song provides one of the film’s most poignant moments. It’s said the actress assumed the song would be dubbed later, but director John Huston had her perform, unrehearsed, in front of the cast and crew, and that was the take used in the film.
Hotel Rwanda (2004)
Don Cheadle is thoroughly compelling in his Academy Award-nominated role as a hotel manager struggling to save the lives of refugees during the Rwandan civil war of the 1990s. Based on a true story, it powerfully depicts a small-but-hopeful triumph of humanity over evil during a conflict that took nearly 1 million lives.
The Shining (1980)
You knew it had to be number one. Stanley Kubrick, Stephen King, Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall and one seriously creepy hotel combine for the greatest hotel-themed movie of all time. Basically, this is the only film on the list in which the hotel plays the leading role. But please don’t think this film bears any resemblance to reality … our hotels are not haunted. OK, maybe one of them is.
OK, film buffs…what’d we miss?
This post was originally published on February 21, 2015 and has been updated.