Top 10 Films That Have Us Asking, “What’s In The Box?”

Humans are about as obsessed with boxes as cats are.  We have Christmas, Hanukkah, birthdays, and plenty of other occasions for putting things into and taking things out of boxes.  And we love it!  We go absolutely bonkers for it!  I mean, if you want to entertain small children for hours on end – just give them boxes (seriously!).

And since we just passed a few gift-giving holidays, I thought it was appropriate to compile a list of my top 10 films that have us asking, “What’s in the box?”  And it should go without saying that there may be spoilers, so readers beware!


10. SE7EN

A fan poster by Derek Chatwood Source:

Written by Andrew Kevin Walker and directed by David Fincher, this 1995 crime drama/mystery thriller features two homicide detectives as they hunt down a Seven Deadly Sins-themed serial killer.

While the box in question doesn’t actually appear until the very end of the film, its brief amount of screen time had the impact of the dinosaur-ending meteor.  I mean, did the title of this article make you think immediately of some other film?


So what’s in the box?

Homicide Detective David Mills’ (Brad Pitt) pregnant wife’s dismembered head.



Written by Chris Columbus and directed by Joe Dante, this 1984 fantasy horror comedy starts out with a classic noir detective voiceover in China Town with a man looking for a Christmas present for his loin-spawn.  Well, that and trying to hawk his questionable invention to random store owners.  It doesn’t take long (~15 minutes in) to open the treasure chest wrapped as a Christmas present for the big reveal.


So what’s in the box?

Gizmo, a Mogwai (a good-natured creature of fantasy), who likes to sing, which sounds like a nice enough gift until they get wet (which multiplies them) or especially if they’re fed after midnight (which transforms them into mischievous gremlins).



Written and directed by Clive Barker, this 1987 horror thriller makes clear that Lemarchand’s box, more commonly referred to as “the puzzle box” or the “Lament Configuration,” is the focus of the story.  We see the box within the first two minutes as a man acquires it, then sits in darkness, surrounded by candles, as he solves it.


So what’s in the box?

(A portal to/from) Hell, or at least a hell-like dimension.  Some things that we see come out of the puzzle box are some form of visible energy, fish hooks on chains, and (for all intents and purposes) demons.




This 2005 family-friendly fantasy adventure, based on the C.S. Lewis book of the same name, was written by Ann Peacock, Andrew Adamson, Christopher Markus, and Stephen McFeely.  Andrew Adamson also directed the film.

Set in Great Britain during World War II, four siblings flee a shelter after surviving the bombing of London, and take up temporary residence at a family friend’s house in the countryside.  Being that said family friend, a professor, is not accustomed to dealing with children, there are a lot of strict rules.  In an effort to amuse themselves, they play a game of hide-and-seek.  And what better place to hide in than inside of a wardrobe?


So what’s in the box?

An alternate fantasy dimension with magic and talking anthropomorphic creatures, and a whole heap of trouble.




Written by Lawrence Kasdan (with contributions from George Lucas and Philip Kaufman), and directed by Steven Spielberg, this classic action adventure flick is the story of archaeologist treasure hunter Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) on his quest to recover the biblical artifact, the Ark of the Covenant – a gold-covered wooden chest used to transport the original Ten Commandments stone tablets given to Moses (well, the second set of them, I think, since Moses got really mad and busted up the first set).  Of course, Nazis are everywhere, and of course they’re teamed up with Jones’ rival in a race to find steal the biblical artifact first.


So what’s in the box?

Well, upon first opening it, it’s full of sand – presumably the crushed remains of the Ten Commandments tablets.  But then there’s a lot of fog and a bunch of mostly amorphous clouds that float through and around anyone with their eyes open. There’s also a column of fire that explodes out of it, which triggers a really intense chain lightning spell.  If you were lucky enough to be out of the chain lightning cone of death, then either your face melts or your face melts and then your head explodes.




This 2012 horror thriller was written by Juliet Snowden and Stiles White, and directed by Ole Bornedal. We get our first glimpse at the simplistic Jewish wooden wine box pretty immediately after the opening credits, and we see that staring at it in terror is fine, but threatening it with a hammer does not…end…well.  After the honorary red shirt is made an example of, Clyde (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), freshly separated from his wife, takes his kids to a yard sale one weekend.  One of his daughters, Em (Natasha Calis), is interested the evil box, so Clyde buys it for his daughter.  Of course, the box is the cause for all sorts of ever escalating supernatural mischief and mayhem for the entire family for the following 29 days.


So what’s in the box?

A really pissed off spirit called a dybbuk.




This 1984 action adventure fantasy comedy was written by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis, and directed by Ivan Reitman, wherein a trio of mad scientists figure out that they can detect, capture, and imprison otherworldly entities.  And then make it their day job to do so.

Dr. Peter Venkman (Bill Murray) takes on a seemingly innocuous poltergeist case for Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver), though he’s clearly much more interested in hitting on Dana than on figuring out why there’s a woman inside her refrigerator.


So what’s in the box?

An alternate dimension.  Oh yeah, and also Zuul and Gozer the Gozerian, a demigod and a Sumerian god, respectively.




This 1994 crime drama was written (with contributions from Roger Avary) and directed by Quentin Tarantino, and features (among other colorful characters with expertly interwoven plots) hitmen Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson) and Vincent Vega (John Travolta), on a mission to retrieve their employer’s stolen suitcase, which doesn’t make its first appearance until about 18 minutes in.  While we never see what’s in the briefcase, but Vincent does pop it open, with a not ominous at all code of 666 to its lock, to reveal an incandescent glow.


So what’s in the box?

Although it’s not overtly stated, the briefcase contains Marsellus Wallace’s (Ving Rhames) soul, which Jules sarcastically describes at one point as his “boss’ dirty laundry.”




A 1997 science fiction mystery thriller written by Andre Bijelic, Vincenzo Natali, and Graeme Manson, and directed by Vincenzo Natali.  Six strangers having no recollection of how they arrived there, but certainly wanting out and doing their best to make it happen, wake up in a kafka-esque maze full of deadly puzzle-traps.  Although we never actually see its exterior, each room the characters go into is cube-shaped, though presumably the entire structure is one enormous, elaborately constructed cube.  Either way, a cube is a box, whether you’re talking about the individual rooms or the overall structure.


So what’s in the box?

Mostly strangers and lethal puzzle-traps.




Written by William Broyles, Jr. and directed by Robert Zemeckis, this Y2K adventure drama romance has Chuck Noland (Tom Hanks), a dedicated FedEx employee, marooned on an island.  Throughout the film, Noland survives, in part, by salvaging recovered FedEx boxes from when his plane crashed into the ocean.  As well as, y’know, screaming out his imaginary friend’s/volleyball’s name a lot.  Anyway, there’s one box that he never opens in the four years he spent alone on that island – a medium-sized FedEx box with a pair of golden angel wings drawn on it.  By the end of the film, Noland, rescued, personally returns the unopened package to its sender in Texas since it was undeliverable.


So what’s in the box?

While the mystery is never revealed in the film, director Robert Zemeckis has joked that it was a waterproof satellite phone.  However, the third draft of the film, which had Noland opening up the package on the island, describes the contents as two bottles of salsa verde accompanied by a note from a woman trying to reconcile with her estranged husband.



  • Tron and Tron: Legacy featured a computer that houses an alternate dimension or maybe a pocket universe
  • Deal Or No Deal features briefcases full of swag
  • Firefly features a Cryogenic Crate housing a naked and confused River Tam (Summer Glau)
  • Rick and Morty features various boxes, which contain Meseeks, pocket universes, mini universes, and tiny universes
  • Dune has the Gom Jabbar, which is a box that’s full of very intense simulated pain
  • Nosferatu (and pretty much every vampire film or show ever) has a coffin with a vampire in it
  • Batman has a jack-in-the-box present from the Joker (Jack Nicholson) with dead flowers in a mannequin hand
  • The Lonely Island’s Dick In A Box, featuring Justin Timberlake and Andy Samberg, has dicks inside of boxes


I think the lesson to be learned here is to not be in any rush to open up strange boxes.  Especially in the ‘80s.

So anyway, that’s my list!  Did I miss anything?


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