When a boy named Thomas wakes up in a rusty elevator with no memory of his identity, he is delivered to the middle of a maze, along with a small population of other boys, who have been trying to find their way out of the ever-changing labyrinth – all while creating a functioning society in what they call the Glade. His curiosity leads to multiple discoveries, with the most significant being the prospect of an escape route. However, tensions in the community, exacerbated by the arrival of a girl in the Glade, threaten this new hope. Will they escape? Or will the horrors of this maze finally get to them?
This film is the directorial debut of Wes Ball. The cast includes Dylan O'Brien as Thomas, Kaya Scodelario as the only female in the Glade, Teresa, Aml Ameen as Alby, Thomas Brodie-Sangster as Newt, Ki Hong Lee as Minho, Will Poulter as Gally, Patricia Clarkson as the Big Bad, Ava Paige, and Blake Cooper as Chuck.
This film is followed by Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials.
The Maze Runner contains examples of:
- Action Girl: Teresa makes an improvised molotov cocktail and throws it at a Griever, as well as fighting just as much as the other boys.
- Adaptational Heroism: While still antagonistic towards Thomas, Gally is significantly less psychotic than his book counterpart. He brings up logical and reasonable accusations towards Thomas and is much more sympathetic. Until the whole "let's leave Thomas and Teresa to die in a failing attempt to save ourselves" thing.
- Aloof Dark-Haired Girl: Teresa when she wakes up. She isolates herself at the top of a lookout tower, throwing things at the boys to keep them away.
- The Big Guy: Minho fills this role as the strongest and most action-heavy of the boys. Fittingly he's a runner. He also delivers the killing blow against Gally.
- Bittersweet Ending: Thomas's group end up finally escaping the Maze on a helicopter, with help from unnamed people who ensure their safety, as they get their first look at the outside world. The downside, however, is that Chuck ends up dying in Thomas's arms by Gally to save him, something which hits Thomas the hardest.
- Blond, Brunette, Redhead: Male examples. Gally (blond), Thomas (brunet), and Newt (redhead). There's also Ben (blond), Minho (brunet), and Chuck (redhead).
- Blue Is Heroic: Thomas and Teresa – the two characters who were sent to get everyone out of the maze – are color-coded with blue. The serum that cures Griever venom is also blue.
- The Cameo: Not in person, but Wes Ball's name can be seen as one of the names inscribed on one of the Maze's walls.
- Chained to a Rock: After the Griever invasion, Gally plans to tie Thomas and Teresa to posts in front of the opening to the maze and leave them as an offering for the Grievers, in the hopes that the Glade will return to normal.
- Chekhov's Gun: The two syringes filled with blue liquid that was with Teresa when she was taken to the Glade. First, one is used to save Alby after he is stung in the Maze by a Griever, then the second is used when Thomas stabs himself with a Griever stinger, in the hopes that he will remember what happened before the Maze.
- A Day In The Lime Light: The DVD comes with a 24 page comic told from Minho's perspective set before Thomas is sent to the maze.
- Despair Event Horizon: Implied to have occurred to Gally, as he is stung by a Griever and manages to makes it to WCKD's derelict centre where Thomas's group are, trying to shoot Thomas with a pistol as revenge for Thomas's presence destroying the community that he tried to sustain. Luckily, a spear-wielding Minho has other ideas. Though...
- Died in Your Arms Tonight: Chuck dies in Thomas's arms after he takes the bullet, with the latter screaming Please Wake Up.
- *Drool* Hello: On his first outing in the Maze, Thomas is stalked by a Griever climbing above between two walls. He's warned of its presence by some slime dripping on his shoulder, a mere second before it attacks.
- Faking the Dead: Ava Paige fakes her death in the Apocalyptic Log and in the final scene is shown wiping blood off her face – implying that was her own body Thomas found in the lab.
- The Foreign Subtitle: The Latin American Spanish title for the film is Maze Runner: Correr o morir (Run or Die), which is equivalent to Maze Runner: Correr ou Morrer in Portuguese.
- Foreshadowing: Despite being impaled by Minho's spear, Gally still takes a small breath after two minutes. This alludes to his future survival in the third movie.
- Groin Attack: Teresa frees herself from being tied to the stake by kicking the boy in front of her in the balls.
- Here We Go Again!: The survivors being flown towards a ravaged city at the mention of Phase Two evokes this.
- Heroic Sacrifice: During the Griever invasion, one Griever ends up grabbing Chuck. As the others try to pull him back, Alby ends up attacking the Griever's tail, saving Chuck, but not himself.
- Honorary True Companion: Winston, Zart, and Jeff. They aren’t in the same circle as Thomas, Newt, Minho, Chuck, Teresa and arguably Frypan but have some decent lesser interactions with them throughout the story. Zart and Winston are both taken to retrieve the leg from the dead grieved and Winston and Jeff challenge Gallys decision to exile/sacrifice Thomas and Teresa and are among the first to join the group when they urge people to leave and get fight scenes inside the maze.
- Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Gally is impaled in the chest with a spear by Minho after he shoots Chuck in the chest, trying to kill Thomas.
- Morality Pet: Chuck as the youngest boy is treated most tenderly by the boys. Thomas bonds with him the most and is the most distressed by his death at the hands of Gally, who was stung.
- No Man Left Behind: Minho is trapped in the maze while trying to drag Ally to safety as it closed, with Thomas going to help them.
- Not Quite Saved Enough: Alby is kept away from the grievers for a night in the maze and then cured from a sting but then is taken by a griever after saving Chuck. Chuck himself gets shot by Gally later.
- The Reveal: The significance of Thomas's dreams are revealed: the entire Maze was an experiment, and Thomas and Teresa were two of those who tested the people that were sent up to the Maze.
- Rousing Speech: Newt gives one to Thomas after the Griever invasion, Gally's reclaiming of leadership, and the discovery of the meaning of Thomas's dreams send Thomas to his lowest point.Thomas: It doesn't matter.
Newt: He's right. It doesn't matter... any of it... because the people we were before the maze - they don't even exist anymore. These Creators took care of that. But what does matter is who we are now, and what we do, right now. You went into the maze and you found a way out.
Thomas: Yeah, but if I hadn't, Alby would still be alive.
Newt: Maybe. But I know that if he were here, he would be telling you the exact same thing: Pick your ass up and finish what you've started. Because if we do nothing, then that means Alby died for nothing, and I can't have that.
- Secret-Keeper: Minho helps Alby hide from the others how the whole maze has been mapped with no exit being found, so as to keep everyone's spirits up.
- Sequel Hook: Ava Paige's last lines.Ava Paige: So let's move forward. It's time now to begin Phase Two.
- Taking the Bullet: Chuck dies taking a bullet meant for Thomas that a stung Gally fired.
- Unexplained Accent: Newt is the only boy who has an English accent, even when other English actors such as Will Poulter and Kaya Scodelario put on American accents for their characters.
- Unishment: When Gally demands Thomas be punished for doing duties served for the runners, Newt first sentenced him to one night in the pit then promotes him to runner to make it official.