Worst holidays in cinema – ranked!

20. The Inbetweeners 2 (2014)

The sequel to the film of the sitcom, The Inbetweeners 2 bravely wrestles with the question of which is more revolting, a faceful of someone else’s urine or a faceful of someone else’s faeces. Judging by all the vomiting that Will (Simon Bird) does after he receives the latter, the answer is faeces. But that’s not all the Brits abroad have to put up with in Australia. Neil (Blake Harrison) kills a dolphin, Simon (Joe Thomas) gets beaten up, and when their car runs out of fuel in the fiercely hot outback, it looks – for two whole hours – as if they will all die of dehydration.

19. The Navigator (1924)

If you can forgive the less-than-PC depiction of the primitive islanders in the last reel, Buster Keaton’s most commercially successful film is also one of his most delightful. It’s not so much fun for the characters, though. Keaton stars as Rollo Treadway, a top-hatted toff who proposes to his neighbour (Kathryn McGuire). After she turns him down, he decides to go on their honeymoon cruise to Honolulu by himself, but they end up adrift together on a deserted liner. Highlight: Rollo fends off one swordfish by using another swordfish as a weapon.

Rebecca Hall, Patricia Clarkson and Scarlett Johansson in Vicky Cristina Barcelona.

Rebecca Hall, Patricia Clarkson and Scarlett Johansson in Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Photograph: Sportsphoto Ltd/Allstar

18. Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)

In one of Woody Allen’s best 21st-century films, Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) round off their two-month Catalan sojourn by being shot at by the hot-blooded ex-wife (Penélope Cruz) of the artist (Javier Bardem) they have both slept with. Cruz won an Oscar for her bilingual performance, but Hall and Johansson are equally impressive as they trudge side by side through the airport in the closing scene. Vicky is embarking on “the life she had envisaged before the summer in Barcelona”, the narrator says, and Cristina is “certain only of what she [doesn’t] want”. Two people have rarely looked less refreshed or revived by a holiday.

17. Carry on Abroad (1972)

Any cultural study of British attitudes towards Europe should begin with an analysis of Carry on Abroad. This later, lesser entry in the series sends the regulars on a package holiday to the island of Elsbels (get it?) on the Costa Bomm (get it?). The hotel is unfinished and understaffed, the phones don’t work, sand pours from the taps, mosquitoes pour in through the windows and then, finally, the resort is washed away by a flash flood. No wonder the team opted for a British caravanning holiday three films later in Carry on Behind.

By the time the middle-aged, middle-class Anna (Kathryn Worth) joins a group of friends in a rented Tuscan villa, the occupants have already split themselves into the “youngs” and the “olds”. Anna, of course, is relegated to the “olds”, but would much rather hang out with the “youngs”, the teenage Oakley (a pre-Loki Tom Hiddleston) in particular. Her discomfort may be mild compared with the physical pain suffered by some of the other holidaymakers on this list, but Joanna Hogg’s acute debut will be excruciating to anyone who has ever felt uncool and out-of-place.

Arnie in Total Recall.

Arnie in Total Recall. Photograph: Allstar/Tristar

15. Total Recall (1990)

Actual holidays are a risky business, but virtual holidays can be just as hazardous. In Paul Verhoeven’s Total Recall, adapted from a Philip K Dick short story, We Can Remember It for You Wholesale, a construction worker (Arnold Schwarzenegger) pays to have the memories of a trip of a lifetime implanted in his brain. Unfortunately, the process reveals that he is really a secret agent with a history of Martian missions. Or maybe he really is a construction worker, and it’s the Martian missions that are all a fantasy. Either way, he won’t recall it as a relaxing break.

14. Taken (2008)

We all know that Los Angeles is the safest place on Earth, while Paris is the most dangerous, so when 17-year-old Kim (Maggie Grace) tells her dad (Liam Neeson) that she is off to the city of light, the retired CIA agent assumes, quite rightly as it turns out, that she will be abducted by Albanian sex traffickers as soon as she steps out of Charles de Gaulle airport. You would think that poor Kim would stay in LA after that, but she heads to Istanbul in the sequel. Again, Dad’s “particular set of skills” are required.

Matthias Schoenaerts and Tilda Swinton in A Bigger Splash.

Matthias Schoenaerts and Tilda Swinton in A Bigger Splash. Photograph: Allstar/Frenesy

Recuperating from a throat operation, a rock star (Tilda Swinton) is napping on the beach in Pantelleria when the sun is blotted out by an aeroplane. Yes, trouble is flying her way, specifically, a hedonistic ex (Ralph Fiennes) who is hoping to seduce her, along with the ex’s daughter (Dakota Johnson), who is hoping to seduce her boyfriend (Matthias Schoenaerts). Luca Guadagnino’s sensual drama becomes a thriller when one character is drowned in a swimming pool, but before that it captures the blood-boiling annoyance of having uninvited guests butt in on your holiday.

12. Open Water (2003)

Open Water is a low-budget thriller with a chilling high concept: a scuba-diving husband and wife bob to the ocean’s surface, only to find that their shuttle boat has left them stranded, miles from the Australian coast, surrounded by sharks and jellyfish. What’s even more disturbing is that it is based on a true story, unlike the two otherwise superior films that followed in its wake: in Adrift (2006), six swimmers can’t reach the deck of a luxury yacht, and in Frozen (2010) – no relation to the cartoon – three skiers are trapped in a chair lift.

11. The Poseidon Adventure (1972)

A New Year’s Eve party is in full swing aboard the SS Poseidon when the ageing ship is capsized by a tsunami and the passengers experience what the pithy poster called: “Hell, upside down”. Still, what can you expect when Leslie “Naked Gun” Nielsen is your captain? All-star disaster movies may not win much critical respect, but between the lethal-looking practical effects, and the full-throated yelling by Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine et al, The Poseidon Adventure still holds water, especially compared with the CGI-heavy 2006 remake.

Cary Grant in Charade.

Cary Grant in Charade. Photograph: Universal/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

10. Charade (1963)

Sometimes it’s not the holiday that’s the problem, it’s what’s going on while you’re away. In Stanley Donen’s Hitchcock-ish romp, Reggie (Audrey Hepburn) is happy enough to be on a skiing trip, flirting with the handsome Peter (Cary Grant) and planning a divorce. But when she gets back to her Paris apartment, she discovers that her husband has sold all of their possessions, run off with the money, got himself murdered, and set up Reggie as the target of three killers. And you thought it was grim to come home to a houseful of dead pot plants.

Filmed in one breathtaking unbroken shot, an avalanche roars towards an Alpine ski resort’s restaurant terrace, where a picture-perfect family is having lunch. The husband (Johannes Kuhnke) sprints away, taking his phone and his gloves, but leaving behind his wife (Lisa Loven Kongsli) and their two children. No harm comes to anyone in Ruben Östlund’s superb Swedish comedy drama, but in that split-second of panic, the holiday is destroyed – and so is a family’s complacent image of itself. An American remake starring Will Ferrell and Julia Louis-Dreyfus is in the works.

8. National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)

The series we might now subtitle “the crimes of Griswold” got started with this chaotic road movie, directed by Harold Ramis, written by John Hughes and starring Chevy Chase as Clark Griswold, a man who dreams of introducing his wife and children to the Walley World theme park. For a hit Hollywood comedy, National Lampoon’s Vacation is surprisingly subversive in its demolition of the archetypal all-American family holiday. And, as in so many of the films on this list, a pet dog doesn’t survive the journey.

7. The Heartbreak Kid (1972)

Maybe it’s not such a terrible holiday for Lenny (Charles Grodin). After all, it is while he is lounging in Miami Beach that he meets Kelly (Cybill Shepherd), a blonde goddess he imagines to be his soulmate. The only snag is that he happens to be on his honeymoon. As well as sensing that he and Kelly are not destined to live happily ever after, the viewer can’t help but feel sorry for Lenny’s bride, Lila (Jeannie Berlin). Played by the daughter of the film’s director, Elaine May, she isn’t just betrayed, she is sunburnt to a crisp and confined to her hotel room.

6. Withnail and I (1987)

“We’ve gone on holiday by mistake!” With that one glorious line, written by Bruce Robinson and snapped by a rain-sodden Richard E Grant, Withnail and I speaks for everyone who has ever been stuck in a dreary cottage in the middle of nowhere with no heating, no food and, at that stage, no access to the finest wines available to humanity. To their credit, Withnail (Grant) and his flatmate (Paul McGann) are resourceful enough to strangle, half-pluck and cook a chicken. But then Withnail’s Uncle Monty (Richard Griffiths) turns up, and things go from bad to worse.

David Naughton in An American Werewolf in London.

David Naughton in An American Werewolf in London. Photograph: Allstar/Cinetext/Polygram

5. An American Werewolf in London (1981)

You have to hand it to David (David Naughton) and Jack (Griffin Dunne). In John Landis’s wonderful horror comedy, these two Americans eschew the tourist trail in favour of a hike on the Yorkshire moors and a pint in the Slaughtered Lamb (Brian Glover and Rik Mayall play two of the patrons). It’s just a shame that a hungry lycanthrope puts a crimp in their travel plans. Jack winds up as a decomposing ghost, and David – with a little help from Rick Baker’s game-changing prosthetic makeup – undergoes cinema’s most agonising man-to-beast transformation.

4. Funny Games (1997)

Jordan Peele’s Us gave the “holiday-home invasion” subgenre a mind-boggling twist, but if any film is going to prompt you to install a security system in your lakeside getaway, it’s Michael Haneke’s Funny Games. From the moment two polite young psychopaths, Peter (Frank Giering) and Paul (Arno Frisch), knock on a family’s door and ask for eggs, the tension never slackens. Yes, Haneke’s nightmarish masterpiece is a postmodern comment of the viewer’s complicity in Hollywood screen violence. But, more importantly, it’s terrifying.

3. Hostel (2005)

Two American backpackers (Jay Hernandez and Derek Richardson) are lured to Slovakia by the prospect of no-strings sex with the eager locals, and when they are maimed with power drills, chainsaws and blow torches instead, it’s hard to be all that upset. Critics were divided on whether Eli Roth’s Hostel was crass torture porn or a satirical caricature of American ignorance, but its gruesome vision of an exotic, treacherous Europe isn’t so different from what you can see at a cinema near you now in Midsommar or, for that matter, Spider-Man: Far From Home.

Ronny Cox, Ned Beatty, Burt Reynolds and Jon Voight in Deliverance.

Ronny Cox, Ned Beatty, Burt Reynolds and Jon Voight in Deliverance. Photograph: Warner/Sportsphoto Ltd/Allstar

2. Deliverance (1972)

Deliverance is a part of the language. Even if you haven’t seen John Boorman’s Oscar-nominated wilderness thriller, its title alone is enough to conjure up thoughts of savage mountain men, broken bones, twanging banjos and everything you else you might dread when you set off on a canoeing holiday, up to and including the phrase: “Squeal like a pig!” Ironically, despite all the unpleasantness endured by the film’s four Atlanta city-slickers (Burt Reynolds, Jon Voight, Ned Beatty and Ronny Cox), Deliverance is so scenic that it turned its location, Rabun County in Georgia, into a tourism hotspot.

The Hills Have Eyes.

The Hills Have Eyes. Photograph: Allstar Picture Library/Alamy Stock Photo

1. The Hills Have Eyes (1977)

When a petrol station attendant urges you to stay on the main road, be sure to listen. That’s the lesson we have been taught by countless backwoods-horror yarns. But Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes was made long before the so-called “gas station of doom” became a much-loved and parodied trope, so we can’t blame the Carter family for ignoring the warnings and detouring into the desert. Cave-dwelling cannibals attack, the Carters fight back, and, as the trailer’s peerless tag line puts it: “The lucky ones died first.”


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