The term "bottle movie" is borrowed from the "ship in a bottle" metaphor. Much like a ship caught in a bottle, the characters in these films are seemingly locked in one place. And it's no secret that many of these films are based upon hit stage plays where changing settings even once is a difficult task to achieve.
Because they vary drastically by genre, at first glance, many "bottle movies" do not seem like they could be related in any way, shape, or form. The only commonality they share is a near claustrophobic experience for their characters and their audience. For this reason, they tend to sway heavily toward thriller/mystery/horror themes. Clever dialogue between these pent up characters is a must for a bottle movie to stay afloat and make it onto my "best" list.
Some of my favorite bottle movies include:
Rear Window (1954) in which Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly investigate a murder from the discomfort of his apartment. It's one of Alfred Hitchcock's best thrillers and Kelly's costumes are to die for!
Breakfast Club (1985) Perhaps teen movie-making legend John Hughes' best film. A stellar cast of characters (including Molly Ringwald and Emilio Estevez) spend a Saturday growing together through shared entertaining hijinks while stuck in their school library for detention.
Groundhog Day (1993) Not a traditional "bottle movie" perse. Bill Murray's character is stuck on the same day, in a small town that makes it feel very claustrophobic so I leave it here for your consideration. It's also hilarious, fun, and quirky and one of my favorite movies in any genre.
Check out this list for some more recommended bottle movies.