HOSTAGE MOVIES and, in particular, HOSTAGE NEGOTIATION MOVIES premiere every year but only some of the many become famous and iconic. I’ve decided to emphasize those sorts of kidnapping movies where terrorism or gaining money is not the main motivation for those, who take hostages within banks or other places. Some self-made criminals want to define justice or clean up own reputation. Some are ready to sacrifice own health, prosperity or even life on behalf of another beloved person. Some have obtained financial prize but figured out another crime of conscience and morality. Every of these four hostage negotiation movies, which I’ve watched for more than 20 times altogether, is analyzed upon four main characteristics.

  1. The image of the protagonist, a hostage-taker: Sonny Wortzik / Danny Roman / John Q / Dalton Russel.
  2. Negotiator opposite the door or telephone line.
  3. The core altruistic motive and goals in the very end
  4. Hostages and their participation in negotiations and situation generally

Hostage negotiation movies best kidnapping movies



One hot summer day three men (one soon leaves) break in the American bank department in Brooklyn with an intention to take money. Planned as a 5-minute job, this bank robbery turns to be a horrific accident with taking abductees and 250 policemen and FBI agents outside the door. Hundreds of people come here from the whole city to watch this a kind of show for Mass Media. Bank robbers and hostage-takers are just a couple of losers, who failed their own simple plan. Negotiation with police is slow in coming, especially with some interior disputes and personal problems of the main participants.

Dog Day Afternoon (1976) hostage movies

The bank robber: Sonny Wortzik (Al Pacino). As a matter of fact, that ‘Dog Day Afternoon’ is the only of four hostage negotiation movies, based on true events, its protagonist is obviously a reflection of a real person – John Wojtowicz. He is about thirty years old and decides to rob a bank in order to gain money for his homosexual husband to perform gender confirmation surgery.  We initially figure out that Sonny did not have a sophisticated plan for this event. This robbery was based on some preliminary inside information, Sonny’s former experience as a clerk and imaginary necessity to gain this sum of money (2500). Sonny also has pure common with classical terrorists and bank robbers. Despite his threats, he can’t harm people in a bank. He turns a be a weak unhappy person with two collapsing families without any moral support of his actions.

Hostage Taker and bank robber: Sonny Wortzik (Al Pacino)

The ultimate goal – surgery for a homosexual husband. In this perspective, the ‘Dog day afternoon’ is a classic example of the movie about hostage negotiations with altruistic motives. Sonny finalizes himself with this desperate action, after finding plenty of accuses why not to earn money in a different way. They find only 1100 dollars within bank storage instead of an expected sum for three robbers. Even on the edge of his own life, Sonny dictates his will giving all poor belongings to his wife and husband whom he loves. Dog day afternoon depicts him as almost ultimate altruist which complains and sorrows only as a matter of frustration.

hostage negotiator movie Dog day afternoon 1976

Police negotiator – Sergeant Eugene Moretti (Charles Durning). This negotiator is, with all respect to the actor, is the most boring of these four hostage negotiation movies and kidnapping films. Sergeant Moretti does his best to maintain some illusive control over the negotiations and overall situation and save the lives of abductees, being actually kidnapped against their will. He was even ready to suffer humiliation from the bank robber in order to hold some balance. Moreover, Moretti does not express some peculiar individuality, not ready for some back plan, he, in fact, expresses indifference to Sonny’s motives, while listening to Leon. Moretti is depicted as a typical representative of the system, which is opposite to Sonny’s belief and white flag, shouting “Attica”.

Sergeant Eugene Moretti (Charles Durning) Dog day afternoon

Hostages. People stacked in Brooklyn bank gradually take a liking to Sonny as a person and as a victim of the situation himself. The same we will next see in “Negotiator” and “John Q”. Eight women and a manager who is in shock of what is happening but in due course, they accept a game plan of negotiations. Sonny even trusts them to do almost what they need and want within the bank premises and abductees do not intend to break out the street. They even support their taker Sonny and a manager even apologizes for some tough behavior.

Negotiation movie list



Lieutenant Danny Roman, Chicago police negotiator (performed by Samuel L. Jackson) is now under investigation on corrupt practice and murder of his police partner. Roman is being humiliated and lost his job – he will probably get in jail and lose his family in fruitless attempts to defend himself being wrongly accused. During some tough dispute in the Internal Affairs Department, Danny takes people to attract attention to his situation and citizens, Mass Media along with police and FBI come here from the very city. Roman struggles for his good name and for justice. He wants to figure out those in the police department, who are so corrupted to steal money, kill colleges and set another man up for own crimes. They will try to kill a former partner who is now a a criminal. As the accidental criminal is a negotiator himself, police negotiation with his turns to be a piece of work.

NEGOTIATOR (1998) best hostage movies

Hostage taker – Danny Roman. “Negotiator” depicts exceptional situation among hostage negotiation movies and kidnapping movies, as we see a police officer as a criminal. Police now deals with a former college, who knows the system inside, is aware of all methods of operations and negotiation techniques. Danny Roman has close relations with people, who now do their best to release abductees and, probably, to eliminate the criminal. He has a 20-year police experience. The protagonist here is a negotiator himself and able to stress other professionals and even makes acts of provocation. Roman is the most unordinary protagonist of these four.

Hostage taker – Danny Roman. “Negotiator”

The ultimate goal – Justice and good name. As with other similar movies, where the criminal is a kind of altruism, Danny Roman does now want money. He wants to figure out, who has set him up and kill his partner. His additional demand deals with possible death – to have a funeral like an officer. Along with reputation, the protagonist craves to find traitors and thieves among the police officers. People who kill for money and power. So another ultimate goal of this hostage negotiation movie is to clean out the ranks of the Chicago Police Department.

negotiation movies list - Negotiator 1998

Police negotiator – Lieutenant Chris Sabian (Kevin Spacey). “Negotiator” film presents a complex deal. Police negotiator now deals not with some crazy criminal, now with terrorist or a bank robber (Sonny Wortzik / Dalton Russel) or desperate father (John Q). He finds another professional policeman on the other side of the telephone line. It becomes a big deal to negotiate such kind of person and to convince him of any thought. For all that, Chris Sabian does all his best to solve this situation in spite of constant outer obstacles. He makes provocations and even trusts his opponent in the very end to establish justice.

Police negotiator - Lieutenant Chris Sabian (Kevin Spacey). “Negotiator”

Hostages. We have the less amount of people in this case in comparison with other movies we analyze. Chief of Internal Affairs, his secretary, Chief of the police station, former snitch and then another two police officers from SWAT. The protagonist plays his game in order to convince the public and colleges that he is intended to figure the truth whatever it will take. One abductee is being killed by a corrupted policeman, one (Frost) was released. Another start to trust Roman and even help him with computers and documents and concealing the real intentions of the criminal Markus, SWAT officer shakes Roman’s hand to support him.

Negotiator scenes from movies


JOHN Q (2002)

John Quincy Archibald desperately tries to gather money for the surgery of his own son, who needs heart transplantation. They need 75 000 dollars only to put the boy’s name on a list. As an act of despair, John Q takes control over the hospital and takes people along with doctors and nurses, guard and people who were inside. Such kind of event immediately attracts the attention of the publicity, which surrounds the hospital building.

JOHN Q (2002) Best hostage negotiator movies

Hostage taker – John Q. He is a desperate husband and father, who is on the end of own resources to save his son and marriage. His wife shouts at him that he must do something right now. John Q has become a victim of social indifference and injustice after his insurance company made some legal tricks to away from cash payments. Hospital chargers 250 000 dollars to perform a surgery of heart transplantation, after a sophisticated process of putting a child into a list. Medical expenses constantly grow. John Q (Denzel Washington) challenges the system of indifference, who leaves its citizens to die without appropriate assistance. We see one of the most emotional negotiation scenes from movies, when John Q shouts: Sick – Help, Sick – Help.

John Q. Densel Washington

The ultimate goal – the life of a child. John Q does not put money issue as a matter of the situation – he does not demand money – he wants his son’s name to be put in a list. John appeals for justice in order to give a chance to a child. This protagonist is the only of four, who is ready to sacrifice himself to give life to another person. So his ultimate and undisputed goal to save his son.

Ultimate altruistic goal John Q

Police negotiator – Lieutenant Frank Grimes (Robert Duvall). He is an old and experienced police officer who now has to deal with this hostage situation. Initially, he does not scrutinize the matter and the ultimate intentions of a criminal. Eventually, Grimes, as a husband and father himself, shows his respect to John Q. But his own final motivation is to release victims even if it coasts the death of John. Finally, Frank is the one who figures out the forgery and asks John to put on police wristbands and in three months Grimes supports his former negotiation opponent in court.

Police negotiator – Lieutenant Frank Grimes. John Q

Hostages. Just as another two best movies about hostage negotiators (“Dog day afternoon” and “Negotiator”), the “John Q” movie depicts a kind of psychological connection between a criminal and people, being actually imprisoned in the premises of a hospital. People also express indignation on social inequality and injustice, on the corrupted money-based medical system. After all the events they even come to the court to support John Q and to reject charges of the own.

John Q movies about hostage negotiators



A group of armed criminals in masks barge into Trust Manhattan Bank. An ordinary bank robbery transforms into a long-term siege, where police hard to figure out the real motives of those, who control the bank and abductees. They play cat and mouse game with police negotiator until some authoritative power men interfere with the deal.


Hostage taker – Dalton Russel (Clive Owen), as he calls himself within the prologue. Throughout the next two hours, we deal with poor information on this person, profession or interests. Acute mind made this extraordinary robbery almost ideal. He may be a part of the high-educated social domain. Dalton Russel depicted as a highly confident and self-controlled performer with perspective goals, wider than just money or public attention.

Hostage taker - Dalton Russel (Clive Owen) inside man

The ultimate goal – revealing truth. Dalton Russel emphasizes that he has not only obvious financial motives to perform this robbery. He is confident, he can do this. But in fact, his choice of a bank is not random. He steals money from a man who “has sold his soul for thirty talents”, dealing with the Nazis within the Holocaust. Dalton states that it would be inconvenient for him to look into a mirror if he only pursues greedy aims. He gives some clues and evidence to police in order to reveal the old rotten crime of a respectful man.

Ultimate goal – revealing truth

Police Negotiator – Detective Keith Frazier. Denzel Washington performed the role of the protagonis in John Q and here he acts as an NYPD police officer, who negotiates bank robbers. Despite the fact that he has played to someone’s script for a long time, now Frazier broadens the understanding of the situation.  Although police chiefs are aimed to close the investigation after all events, Keith Frazier pursues revealing truth on what has happened in that bank.

Police Negotiator - Detective Keith Frazier. Densel Washington

Hostages. On the one side of a matter, victims are depicted as a faceless group of people. On the other one, “Inside Man” differs from the other hostage negotiation movies in particular, as he shows eyewitness reports aftermath.

Inside man hostages