Container Stars: 14 Movies that Feature Shipping Containers

The humble shipping container is a background object most of the time. Unless we work in a particular industry or ship large items often, we do not think about them. Yet if you look in those backgrounds and sets of films, you will find that the shipping container is used for more than you think. For example, when there is a dock, warehouse, or shipyard in a film, a shipping container is likely to show up, hiding the goods or some of the characters. Movies love to use docks and warehouses, being a tiny part of society away from society where all sorts of activity can happen.

A shipping container may be a plot point and be the target of everyone's desires, or maybe the dock is part of an exciting storyline; after all, it is the gateway to the rest of the world and exotic climes. Of course, it also does not hurt that containers can be cheap to come by.

So, for a fun experiment, we tried to find films that featured shipping containers in a large or small way. After some research, there were far more than we thought. Can you think of any yourself before we start?


14 Great Movies Featuring Shipping Containers


1. Iron Man 3

Iron Man 3 might be the first movie you thought of when you first saw this article, and for a good reason. It is a famous film from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and also the last mainline Iron Man film starring Robert Downey Junior. Any Marvel fan would want to see it. It is a bit more introspective than other movies, but that does not stop it from having tons of action.

While the film features locations worldwide, the main action takes place at a port. At the end of the film (spoiler warning), the main characters duke it out at the Port of Wilmington. As you can expect, there were tons of shipping containers flying around the scene and adding to the chaos, serving as cover, weapons, and more in the melee.

This particular sequence from Iron Man 3 was shot at the Port of Wilmington, a deepwater port in Delaware, and to our knowledge, it is the first film to be shot at the location. Incredibly, film crews had to take care not to disrupt normal operations of the port. A few other scenes are also shot in the general area.

2. Pacific Rim

 Another movie featuring mechanical marvels, though on a much more massive scale, Pacific Rim, is a movie that has giant monsters invading the Earth, with Earth developing giant robots to fight them. It is a simple concept on the surface, but it is an excellent film from Guillermo del Toro.

Yet Pacific Rim is not only a great action movie but a great movie in general, featuring certain artistry that is often ignored in big-budget pictures. Sure, it is all about the spectacle, but spectacle just is not enough when we get several movies a year with more explosions than conversations.

Shipping containers are present through a good portion of the movie, as the monsters come out of the sea near ports and loading docks. With the fighting taking place near shore, shipping containers are used as weapons. If you want to see a shipping container get used as a durable weapon or bludgeoning instrument against a giant monster, then watch Pacific Rim

3. All is Lost

In All is Lost, a 2013 film starring Robert Redford and only Robert Redford as a man lost at sea, not much is said. In fact, there are less than 100 words of English spoken dialogue in the film. Instead, the story is told through images and superb acting about the struggle for survival, first on a ship and then on a raft lost at sea. It feels as though nothing can go right, and the plot puts the man through his paces.

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All Is Lost is one of the best survival dramas of the last decade and will have you on the edge of your seat during the whole viewing. It is not a long film compared to what you might see in theatres today, but the pacing and the tension take you to an entirely different place.

One of the film's opening shots features a shipping container, as the opening act features a container ripping a hole in the hull of his ship. There are also some ships featured in the film. One could say that shipping containers are one of the few signs of civilization and salvation in the world for the survivor. 

4. Captain Phillips

One of the films based loosely on a true story, Captain Phillips, is a 2013 film telling the harrowing story of the real Captain Phillips, who captained the MC Maersk Alabama when Somali pirates hijacked it in 2009. The film shows the standoff between Phillips, his crew, and the pirates, who intend to ransom the crew and ship for millions of dollars. The pirates do not expect that the crew will fight back to protect their lives and the vital supplies aboard.

Just reading the harrowing tale of the real-life story can be thrilling enough. Still, Tom Hanks puts in an excellent performance as Captain Phillips, and director Paul Greengrass makes the right decisions regarding the filming. While the movie was noted to have a few inaccuracies and took a few creative liberties, critics also pointed out that the film stuck to the facts while still telling an excellent story.

Naturally, being a captain of a cargo vessel will attract pirates. Shipping containers and their valuable cargo will be part of this, given that the ship at the center of this movie carries thousands of containers. The film showcases some of the dangers of the shipping industry, the importance of protecting our ships and waters, and why containers have to be secure and durable in the first place.

5. Deadpool

There are plenty of superhero movies on this list, but none so irreverent in tone and content. With Deadpool, anything is possible. Deadpool's first movie explores his origin and bends the rules of logic, taking a sledgehammer to the fourth wall. Deadpool is perfect for a specific subset of superhero fans who do not take the genre too seriously and enjoy plenty of action and comedy.

Ryan Reynolds brings the film together as the titular Deadpool, and he seems to be having the time of his life playing the character. While the film breaks most superhero norms (Deadpool is more of an antihero anyway), it still has all the action and antics that can come from the genre.

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While the movie goes all over the place in terms of, well, everything, the climactic final battle (though it has the Deadpool twist to it, of course) features shipping containers in a scrapyard. In addition to all sorts of junk strewn about the battlefield, shipping containers play their part as well, showcasing their size and durability. Let us say that Deadpool shows how large of a problem a moving shipping container can be.

6. Batman Begins

While many people might be better acquainted with The Dark Knight or have seen it a few more times, we cannot deny the existence or quality of Batman Begins, the first movie in the trilogy directed by Christopher Nolan. It showcases many of the same talents while introducing a darker Batman for a new generation.

There is plenty of action and groundwork in the movie, all while providing a solid experience. The film contains an emotional weight not present in other Batman or even many other superhero films (at least at the time). Furthermore, critics praised Christian Bale's performance as Batman and the presentation of the film's themes. It uses elements of noir and more modern action films to great effect.

 Batman Begins shows us a shipping container can be an ideal space for an introduction, as the very first scene in which we see Batman takes place in and around a shipping container. Without spoiling much, it is a scene that shows how frightening and effective Batman can be, as well as some of the problems plaguing the city he protects. It also showcases the size of shipping containers and how they can shape the environment of a shipyard, defining it for the people working there.

7. Contraband

Contraband is an action-thriller starring Mark Wahlberg, Kate Beckinsale, and a series of other amazing actors. In it, an ex-smuggler has to get back into the trade to save his family from the retributions of a mob boss.

It is a thriller to the core, and many viewers will be on the edge of their seats wondering what twist will happen next or whether our heroes will get through unscathed. While some critics said it was a bit convoluted, they also said it was entertaining. Contraband can be a perfect choice for a simple movie night with loved ones when you need to turn your brain down a little.

And of course, a movie called Contraband may involve moving goods or objects of some sort, and what better to move such things than a shipping container? In the film, a shipping container is chosen to move a giant stack of money, which will pay off a debt and free our protagonist from a bad situation. The container is the safest measure they can think of, and they would be right to think that.

8. I, Robot

While diverting quite a bit from the source material by Isaac Asimov (it is a loose adaptation at best), I, Robot, still developed somewhat of a cult following with its compelling visuals and performance by Will Smith in the leading role as Detective Del Spooner. The premise is that robots generally serve humanity in the relatively near future, and those robots follow the Three Laws of Robotics. However, not everything is at it seems, and Detective Del Spooner investigates a series of odd incidents, which leads to an escalation involving the robots.

Like most good sci-fi, I, Robot makes us think about our relationship with the technology around us and question what aspects of our modern world are good for us. On top of that, the movie is an excellent thriller and perfect for a movie night at home. However, it is not a braindead film, and you might want to start reading a bit more after watching it if only to get away from your computer.

I, Robot is another film that brings in the shipping containers for its climax, and there are a ton of them. One of the final sequences takes place in an area with hundreds of containers. One could argue they might not count as most if not all of them are CG containers, but that has not stopped movies from being excellent before. The containers are still used even in a world as futuristic as this one. They are still there alongside robots and both inspiring and frightening technologies. 

9. Fantastic Four (2015)

There have been several Fantastic Four films over the years, but in this case, we are talking about the 2015 version starring Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan, Miles Teller, and Jamie Bell. As you can expect, it tells the story of the Fantastic Four, their formation, and their conflict with their greatest foe in Victor Von Doom. Featuring teleporters, green lava, and more, this 2015 film was also the last produced by 20th Century Fox, which will be important to those keeping track of the franchise.

Many viewers did not like the film all that much for its tone or plot choice. Nonetheless, it can remain an interesting watch for the action, some of the more eye-popping scenes, and the movie's somewhat different style. While it is not perfect, there are plenty of ways for people to get something from the film, and it is something different to try out.

As for the shipping containers, they find a clear use. Shipping containers are supposed to be durable and often can take a beating. That is what the film's writers and other creatives were thinking when they had several containers be superhero power training dummies. Being large and imposing themselves, it is all the more impressive when they can be thrown around and destroyed as target practice. Superheroes need to test their limits somehow, after all.

10. The A-Team

A well-known name to people who grew up and watched TV during a particular time, The A-Team is a mainstay of action TV from the 1980s about the former members of a special forces unit that were tried for crimes they did not commit. Working as soldiers of fortune and looking to clear their name after escaping, the show was a hit that went on for five seasons, and the 2010 movie looked to bring back the thrills and sense of fun from the original show.

The A-Team proves that you can use an old property to tell a story in a new way. Overall, it is just an action film with plenty of plot points existing to create more reasons for explosions to fill the screen. This might be just what you want, and you can get it right here. The film is a bit shallow but definitely a lot of fun.

In the film, a major confrontation occurs in a shipyard, and there are plenty of other scenes in or around shipping containers. Characters will confront each other around them, hide using shipping containers, or use them as part of a plan. Shipping containers provide a significant portion of the backdrop for the film's end, which was filmed on the Los Angeles docks.

11. Lethal Weapon 2

Sometimes classic action is the perfect movie to watch for an evening, and Lethal Weapon 2 is 100% classic action. Sure, you could watch Lethal Weapon first, but there is a reason this film has a reputation. Besides, action films do not usually need a lot of background knowledge. It is a buddy cop film with a lot of humor, tons of action, and overall fun for anyone in the right mood. You may want to watch it with friends or just on a slow night to make the evening much more enjoyable.

For a basic premise, LAPD sergeants Martin Riggs and Roger Murtaugh are still at it after two years. At the start of the film, they are after suspects transporting illegal goods. While ordered off the case, something is fishy, and further investigation is required. Anything more might spoil a bit of the fun of the movie.

In the film, shipping containers are used as the backdrop to some amazing action scenes, as they often are. However, without spoiling too much, shipping containers are used in an important way that showcases how heavy they can be. It's one of many creative scenes in the film and is worth watching.

12. War of the Worlds (2005)

War of the Worlds is a story that has been told many times over various mediums, but one of the more recent versions is also one of the best. In 2005, Stephen Spielberg tried his directorial hand at the story and how people might react to it, and there is no doubt it inspired and terrified new viewers, just like the story has done for previous generations.

This version of War of the Worlds has a few detractors, but it also has some of the best special effects, including aliens and an invasion that looks frightening compared to some of the aliens found in cheaper movies. Tom Cruise does a great job in the leading role, and who could ever question the direction of Stephen Spielberg in a film like this. Despite being about the invasion of the planet, the movie focuses on an individual, giving it a personal touch and someone to care about.

The main character works at a shipyard. Shipping containers are part of the movie's opening as part of a regular job and a regular workday (before the chaos unleashes on the planet). While shipping containers do not get top billing through most of the movie, it shows the shipping container as part of the regular world that we all want to keep and return to.

13. Avatar

Avatar was billed as a sci-fi epic to bring new heights to the sci-fi epic and was one of the most expensive and highest-grossing movies ever made. While it was visually stunning and notable for a short period, few people talk about it these days. Yet the story about colonization and the exploitation of natural resources is a relevant one to many people and most times.

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While people might not talk about Avatar much these days (for such a significant film of its time, it feels forgotten), we cannot neglect its influence on the film industry and technology in general. Making a film so striking required the use of many breakthrough technologies in CGI and effects, some of which are mainstream today. For those advancements alone, Avatar was an achievement and an exciting experiment.

So, in a movie like this, where does a shipping container come in? Wouldn't people have come up with a better way to transport goods than a simple shipping container in a spacefaring future? The answer is no, and Avatar has organizations using shipping containers to transport hybrid bodies, perhaps as a testimony to their usefulness and durability. Whatever needs shipping, containers will be best for a long time to come.

14. Heat (1995)

There are a fair number of films called Heat, but in this case, we are talking about the 1995 film starring Al Pacino and Robert De Niro, with other amazing actors taking supporting roles as well. In this crime drama, De Niro plays Neil McCauley, a professional thief. When a heist goes awry, and people get killed, Lieutenant Vincent Hanna (Al Pacino) investigates, leading to an interesting back and forth between the two and their respective aides.

Heat is based on facts and real people, including a real Neil McCauley, who performed heists similar to those seen in the films. There was also a detective Chuck Adamson, who kept tabs and even met up with Neil McCauley on several occasions. It adds a layer of interest and realism to the film and its subject matter.

At one point, two of the main characters face off in a shipyard, with container cranes taking a large part in the scene. Combined with this are plenty of shipping containers in the area, and the resulting scenes are stark, tense, and satisfying. Movies cannot get enough of using shipyards, especially for scenes with plenty of action or tension.

Shipping Containers as Sets

While it is hard for us to confirm anything here, we are confident that plenty of films have used shipping containers on set. They're perfect for use as rooms or trailers due to their size, ability to be moved, and versatility. They are usually available, come at an affordable price for studios and producers on a budget, and are sturdy enough to be used for plenty of uses.


This might seem like a bit of a silly subject, but the things we see in film and our daily lives often have influence and function related to our lives. Shipping containers have so many functions and are used for so much. We hope you learned just a little bit about both films and shipping containers here. We similarly hope there is a movie listed here you might want to rent or stream soon. It is a great way to expand your horizons and maybe get into a new genre!