SUBWAYStories: Tales from the Underground (TV Movie 1997) - Plot Summary Poster


Showing all 3 items
Jump to:


  • The actual experiences of New York City subway riders are dramatized in a collection of 10 intriguing and very different vignettes. The tales showcase an ensemble of familiar faces, and range from stories of compassion and love to reflections on violence and loss. Among them: a disabled beggar quarrels with a woman and ruins her shoes with his wheelchair, provoking onlookers to wrath and pity; a skittish tourist proves to be her own worst enemy; a newlywed trysts with a mysterious sexpot; a commuter helplessly witnesses a suicide attempt; and, in the most affecting segment, a young woman grieves over her mother's imminent death.

  • 10 short segments losely based on real-life experiences on various New York City underground subways. In "Subway Car from Hell" music player Bill Irwin is late for a gig and tries to find a less crowded subway car to ride in. In "The Red Shoes" a writer and a group of people witness an incident where a snobish wealthy woman assaults an angry and beligerent wheelchair-bound Vietnam veteran for runing over her expensive red shoes showing New York City at it's cynical worst. In "The 5:24" a stockbroker meets an old man every morning on his way to work where the old timer gives him advice on various investment tips. But is the old man an angel sent from heaven or just another con artist? In "Fern's Heart of Darkness" tourist Fern McDermott falls victim to her own carelessness in protecting herself and is trapped in a revolving gate for an entire night. In "The Listeners" a group of people listen, but do not invervene, in an argument between a bickering couple named Belinda and Jake. In "Underground" a middle-aged streetwalker offers sympathy and comfort to a young gang member wanting to go straight. "Honey-Getter" has college coed Humera harassed by a duo of young pranksters which pushes her over the edge. "Sax Cantor Riff" has a group of people singing along to a saxphone player including a woman singing to her terminily ill mother over a nearby payphone. "Love on the A Train" has a happliy married man who begins a flirtation every day with a mysterous young woman that rides on the same train, but with ground rules that no names or history of each other be mentioned. "Manhattan Miracle" has a ordinary businessman helplessly watching a young, pregnant woman on the platform opposite him condemplating suicide.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • Subway Stories is divided according to director into short films, each with their own title, but strung almost seamlessly together and all set on New York City Metro Subway trains and platforms.

    "Subway Car From Hell" Directed by Jonathan Demme, written by Adam Brooks

    A man (Bill Irwin) tries to grab a bite to eat and get on a train during rush hour. He is unable to squeeze into packed cars. Spotting an empty car, he happily jumps in only to find that it's empty because of a brown paper bag left on a seat that is emitting a noxious vapor. He's trapped when the doors close before he can leave....

    "The Red Shoes" Directed by Craig McKay, written by John Guare

    In this darkly comic but misanthropic tale, an angry Vietnam veteran panhandler (Denis Leary) in a wheelchair enrages a dowager woman (Christine Lahti) by accidentally, then intentionally running over her red shoes while apathetic passengers watch. When the wheelchair man tries to provoke a fight, she steals his money and leaves the train. When the passengers feel pity on the hostile man in the wheelchair and offer him their own money, another woman (N'Bushe Wright) turns passengers' opinions against him by claiming the two are working as a team to solicit sympathy and donations for him. After the wheelchair man leaves the train, another bystander (Kevin Corrigan) confronts the second woman, who admits she was lying. When the man asks why she would lie for no reason, the evil and manipulative woman turns opinion against him as well by play-acting as a victim and has the other passengers throw the man off the train.

    "The 5:24" Directed by Bob Balaban, written by Lynn Grossman

    This short is narrated by a man known only as Tucker (Steve Zahn) which follows the conversations between a wary young financial Wall Street analyst and a seemingly brilliant, wise, older, and allegedly retired analyst (Jerry Stiller) on the 5:24 AM train that Tucker rides to work every day. The old man claims that working in an office, though lucrative, would take the fun out his predictive abilities. When the older man proposes an investment that appears too good to be true, Tucker has to decide whether to set aside his fears and gamble his savings on the older man's lucrative proposal, or walk away. Tucker chooses the latter option and never sees the old man again. But the final scene, as Tucker is taking the train to work, he sees the old man talking to another well-dressed man about investment opportunities. This confirms Tucker's suspicions that the old man is a con artist, but he decides not to say anything to the old man's latest victim.

    "Fern's Heart of Darkness" Directed by Patricia Benoit, written by Angela Todd, and based on a story by Kathryn Drury

    Fern (Bonnie Hunt) takes the subway to a friend's home on her first trip to New York City, but her overconfidence, unfamiliarity with the system and fears and stereotypes about big city people leads her to become stuck in a locked turnstile in a station that's closed for the weekend.

    "The Listeners" Directed by Seth Rosenfeld, written by Ken Kelsch

    This short examines the age-old problem of communication in relationships when Belinda (Lili Taylor) accuses her boyfriend Jake (Michael Rapaport) of not listening to her. Her angry shift of location to another car, and brief conversation about politics with a suited older man, who seems at first to just be friendly, reveals that in the city, listening, hearing, and understanding are far more complicated, communal activities than one might have thought.

    "Underground" Directed by Lucas Platt, written by Albert Innaurato

    Layla (Mercedes Ruehl) is a middle-aged woman with unusual appetites who asks and answers the question: what does a young man named Wayne (Zachary Taylor) who was just dumped by his girlfriend and beat up by her ex-boyfriend (Peter Sarsgaard) and his gang need to soothe his bruised face and ego?

    "Honey-Getter" Directed by Alison Maclean, written by Danny Hoch Nicole

    Sharon (Ari Parker) and Humera (Sarita Choudhury) are two attractive college law students heading home on the subway after a late night out. Tired and boarding the train alone, although it is far from empty, Humera is groped by an offensive young man (Ajay Naidu). His friend (Danny Hoch) chastises him after they run away but when she spots the pair on the platform, she exacts violent revenge on both, resulting in all three of them being arrested.

    "Sax Cantor Riff" Written and directed by Julie Dash

    This short celebrates the unexpected musical gifts which the subway can give. In overlapping duets between a saxophone player (Kenny Garrett), accompanying first a gospel singer (Taral Hicks) who sings to her terminally sick mother in a hospital over a payphone, and then a Jewish singer, one finds the subway to be an underground Carnegie Hall - whether the music is born of the grief wrought by experiencing the death of a parent in public, or produced by the heart-rending lament of a Hasidic man's (Dan Rous) unexpected emotional outpouring.

    "Love on the A Train" Directed by Abel Ferrara, written by Marla Hanson

    This humorous short follows a newly married man (Michael McGlone) who develops an utterly silent, distracting, sensual relationship with an attractive woman (Rosie Perez) on the subway. Although they never speak, they spend their morning commute lightly rubbing against each other, while appearing to only lean against a pole. He breaks his silence one day and she walks away in disgust. The man goes home to his wife (Gretchen Mol). But the man and the nameless woman eventually resume their wordless relationship.

    "Manhattan Miracle" Directed by Ted Demme, written by Joe Viola

    Jack (Gregory Hines) is a middle-aged man waiting for a train when he is disgusted as he sees people doing offensive things around him, (a man picking his nose, a woman pulling up her sagging stockings, etc.) but he watches with growing concern and fear as a distressed pregnant woman (Anne Heche) across the tracks from him seems to consider jumping onto the tracks. The soundtrack of Vivaldi's Concerto for Cello in D Minor provides a tense atmosphere.


    The man from the first segment arrives at his destination, adjacent to the 42nd Street Shuttle. He removes a didgeridoo from a case and begins performing with his fellow buskers.

See also

Taglines | Synopsis | Plot Keywords | Parents Guide

Contribute to This Page

Recently Viewed