Following an argument with her fiancé, Michelle abruptly leaves New Orleans, driving through rural Louisiana. The radio tells of blackouts in major cities. Suddenly, her car is struck by something and rolls off the road. She awakes in a concrete room chained to a wall. A man named Howard unlocks the door and tells a terrified Michelle, "I'm going to keep you alive."
After she unsuccessfully ambushes him, he explains that he saved her life by finding her wreck and bringing her here. There has been a massive attack - possibly by Russians or Martians - and everyone else is dead. He tells a doubting Michelle that she cannot leave his underground bunker because the nuclear or chemical fallout will poison the air for possibly one or two years.
Michelle meets Emmett, who helped Howard build his doomsday bunker. Emmett saw an apocalyptic red flash and talked his way into the bunker. Through a window in the outer door, Howard shows Michelle two dead pigs outside that have sores on their bodies, apparently from a chemical weapon. Michelle also sees Howard's truck, and the memory of it forcing her off the road resurfaces.
During the trio’s first dinner together, Michelle steals Howard's keys and is about to unlock the final door, when a woman suffering from severe skin lesions, begs to be let in. When she violently tries to break in, Michelle realizes Howard was right, and does not open the door. Howard confesses to her that in his panic-stricken drive to his bunker after the attack, he accidentally hit her car. As time passes, the trio begins getting along and adapting to life underground. However, Howard has little tolerance for Emmett, and only perceives Michelle as a little girl.
When the ventilator fails, Michelle is the only one small enough to crawl through the air duct to the ventilation room, where she finds a padlocked hatch to the outside, with the word "HELP" scratched on the inside of the window. Howard tells Michelle about his daughter, who is "not with us anymore". Michelle and Emmett eventually detect inconsistencies in his story, including the picture of his daughter Howard showed Michelle being actually, according to Emmett, another girl who went missing two years before. They suspect Howard abducted and murdered her, and secretly begin fashioning a makeshift biohazard suit, planning to tie Howard up and go outside.
Discovering they used his tools, Howard threatens to kill them both unless they tell him why. Emmett tells Howard that he was trying to make a weapon to help him get Howard's gun, and that Michelle knew nothing about it. Howard shoots him in the head, but continues to be protective of Michelle.
When he later finds the biohazard suit, Michelle flees, coming across Emmett's body dissolving in perchloric acid. She kicks the acid toward Howard and he falls into the puddle, which burns him and starts an electrical fire. Michelle dons the suit and escapes out the ventilation shaft.
Outside, she see birds flying and removes her biomask. However, she also spots a tentacled biomechanical craft floating in the distance. The bunker explodes from the fire, attracting its attention. Michelle is hunted by an alien creature. The craft releases a green gas, forcing her to put the biomask back on. She takes shelter in Howard's truck, but the craft's tentacles pick it up and raise it towards a mouth. Hastily making a Molotov cocktail, she throws it into the maw, causing the craft to explode.
Michelle drives off, hearing on the radio about successful human resistance efforts. Survivors are directed to evacuate to the north, while those with military or medical experience are asked to help survivors in Houston. At a crossroads, Michelle heads for Houston, where lights are moving above the city, and larger craft loom nearby.Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Michelle
John Goodman as Howard Stambler
John Gallagher, Jr. as Emmett DeWitt
Bradley Cooper as Ben (voice)
Suzanne Cryer as Woman
10 Cloverfield Lane originated from an "ultra low budget" spec script penned by Josh Campbell and Matt Stuecken, titled The Cellar. The Tracking Board included the script in "The Hit List" of 2012 – an annually published list of spec scripts written within the year that have impressed its voting members. In 2012, Paramount Pictures bought the script and commenced further development under Bad Robot Productions for Insurge Pictures, Paramount's specialty label for films with a micro-budget. When Bad Robot became involved, the film was assigned the codename Valencia to keep exact details of the production a secret.
Damien Chazelle was brought in to rewrite Campbell and Stuecken's draft and direct the film. Chazelle dropped out from directing when his Whiplash project received funding. On April 3, 2014, it was reported production for Valencia was greenlit to begin in the fall of 2014, under the direction of Dan Trachtenberg with the latest draft being written by Dan Casey. A budget of about $5 million was reported to be expected, in keeping with the mandate of Paramount's Insurge division of producing micro-budgeted films.
On July 8, 2014, Variety reported John Goodman was in negotiations to star in the film. On August 25, 2014, they reported Mary Elizabeth Winstead had entered negotiations, and on September 22, 2014, John Gallagher, Jr. reportedly joined the cast.
During production, the filmmakers noticed core similarities to Cloverfield, and decided to make the picture what Abrams calls "a blood relative" or "spiritual successor" of that film. "The spirit of it, the genre of it, the heart of it, the fear factor, the comedy factor, the weirdness factor, there were so many elements that felt like the DNA of this story were of the same place that Cloverfield was born out of," said Abrams. In other interviews he explained: "Those characters and that monster [from Cloverfield] are not in this movie, but there are other characters and other monsters," and "This movie is very purposefully not called Cloverfield 2, because it's not Cloverfield 2, [...] So if you're approaching it as a literal sequel, you'll be surprised to see what this movie is. But while it's not what you might expect from a movie that has the name Cloverfield in it, I think you'll find that you'll understand the connection when you see the whole thing." Winstead and Gallagher mentioned that during production they were aware that the film had thematic similarities to Cloverfield, but did not learn that there would be an official connection until they were informed of the chosen title, only a few days before the release of the trailer. Abrams came up with the title after finishing Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
In a March 2015 interview, a few months after production wrapped, Winstead was asked about her experience during Valencia and described it as a "really contained film", reiterating the premise of The Cellar about a woman being trapped with her mysterious savior in a supposed post-nuclear fallout world. Later in the month, Insurge Pictures was reported to have been dismantled and its staff absorbed by its parent company. Insurge's only film that had yet to be released was reported to be Valencia. Speaking of rewrites that took place during production, Winstead called them "nothing that was major".
During an interview with Abrams to promote 10 Cloverfield Lane, he said the creative team behind the original had some ideas on developing Cloverfield 2, but the release of films such as Godzilla and Pacific Rim led them to abandon them as they found the concept of kaiju films played out.
Principal photography on the film began on October 20, 2014 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Filming took place in chronological order on only one set. Scenes involving explosions, fire, and smoke were shot in early December 2014 in Hahnville, Louisiana. Filming ended on December 15, 2014.
Bear McCreary composed the music for the film. The soundtrack was digitally released on March 11, 2016.
The film's title was revealed on January 15, 2016 in a trailer attached to 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi. As with Cloverfield, a viral marketing campaign was used that included elements of an alternate reality game. Bad Robot kick-started the campaign in early February 2016 by updating the Tagruato.jp website used in the original. The campaign revealed backstory information about the character Howard Stambler and his daughter.
The film was released in select countries on March 10, 2016, in regular and IMAX theaters, before its official release in North America on March 11, also in conventional and IMAX theaters. Those who attended screenings of the film at AMC IMAX theaters were eligible to receive collectible movie posters, which illustrated the three main characters separately. The film was rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for "thematic material including frightening sequences of threat with some violence, and brief language".
10 Cloverfield Lane grossed $72 million in the United States and $36.2 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $108.3 million.
In the United States and Canada, the film made $1.8 million from its Thursday night previews at 2,500 theaters, and $8 million on its first day (including Thursday previews). In its opening weekend, it earned $24.7 million, finishing in second place at the box office behind Zootopia ($51.3 million), which was in its second weekend.
Outside North America, 10 Cloverfield Lane received a staggered release, across 54 countries. It earned $1.5 million in its opening weekend from six international markets with a bulk of it coming from Australia ($1 million). Overall, the top openings were in the United Kingdom and Ireland ($2.2 million), South Korea ($1.7 million), and France ($1.4 million).
10 Cloverfield Lane received positive reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a rating of 90%, based on 257 reviews, with a weighted average score of 7.5/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Smart, solidly crafted, and palpably tense, 10 Cloverfield Lane makes the most of its confined setting and outstanding cast—and suggests a new frontier for franchise filmmaking." Metacritic gives the film a normalized score of 76 out of 100, based on 43 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B–" on an A+ to F scale.
Bill Zwecker of the Chicago Sun-Times gave 10 Cloverfield Lane four stars out of four, commending the film as "continually gripping and extremely engrossing ... [Dan Trachtenberg] helmed this film with artistry, imagination and skillful precision." Jeannette Catsoulis of the New York Times praised the cast's performance and Jeff Cutter's cinematography, while writing: "Sneakily tweaking our fears of terrorism, '10 Cloverfield Lane,' though no more than a kissing cousin to its namesake, is smartly chilling and finally spectacular. A sequel is virtually a given." Alan Scherstuhl of Village Voice also praised the acting and technical aspects, but wrote that the film "is less compelling in terms of character and meaning."
In a mixed review for Slant, Chuck Bowen found a lack of character development between the three leads, and labeled the film's ending as anticlimactic. Bowen also writes: "The film hits its expositional narrative marks and nothing else ... 10 Cloverfield Lane will almost immediately evaporate from the mind, before J.J. Abrams commences in selling you the same thing all over again." Soren Andersen of the Seattle Times, who gave 10 Cloverfield Lane one and half stars out of four, similarly criticized the film's ending, labeling it as "full-bore" and "Too little. Too late." James Verniere of the Boston Herald disapproved of the characters and pacing, and he ultimately described the film as "a crummy, low-rent, intellectually bereft thriller."
Having originally planned the film as a direct sequel to Cloverfield, Abrams suggested that he has thought of something that if they are lucky enough to get it made "could be really cool that [it] connects some stories" in a third film, even teasing a larger Cloverfield universe. Interviews with Trachtenberg and Winstead confirm that the movie is, and always was intended to be, an expansion of the first film, with Trachtenberg calling it the "Cloververse". Winstead has voiced her interest in returning for another installment.
In October 2016, it was revealed that the Abrams-produced God Particle will be the third installment in the Cloverfield franchise.