Stranded character movies is one of my favorite sub-genres. They are unique film experiences that require a lot of moving pieces, all of which have to be perfect for the movie to function. You need a great script, one that is compelling enough for the audience to stay with one character for most of the film. You need a great director to bring the tension, emotion, and action and flesh out our main character. And, most important, you need a performance from an actor that can literally carry a movie on their shoulders. This isn’t an easy movie to pull off, but when it’s done right, it’s cinema at it’s finest. This Friday, we have another stranded character film in Adrift, starring Shailene Woodley and Sam Claflin. So in honor of that, here are my picks for the best stranded character films.
5 – I AM LEGEND (Francis Lawrence, 2007)
I Am Legend offers up the best performance of Will Smith’s career. He plays Robert Neville, the only surviving man in New York after a plague has wiped out almost all of humanity. Neville searches up and down the city for a cure for the plague, while also trying to survive the zombie-like creature that infect the city at night. Will Smith has always had infinite charisma, so him owning the screen is nothing new. But it is his scenes of emotion that really resonate here, especially when it comes to Neville’s only friend, his dog Sam. I Am Legend is an emotional roller coaster that will have your heart racing, jaw on the floor, and pull at your heart strings.
4 – ALL IS LOST (JC Chandor, 2013)
JC Chandor’s sophomore effort is a wildly impressive feat. All is Lost is an ambitious film that would have failed in the wrong director’s hands. The movie follows a man (Robert Redford) trying to survive in the ocean by himself after his boat is wrecked (a lot like Adrift). Chandor shows the confidence of a seasoned pro in this one, putting us right on the boat with our stranded man and letting us feel everything he does. It also helps that we get a masterful performance from Robert Redford as our doomed man. Redford’s performance is a calculated one. Every move he makes is precise because he knows the ship could sink at any second. This movie ushered in a new cinematic voice while also reviving a Hollywood icon. All is Lost is one of the most underrated movies of the decade.
3 – CAST AWAY (Robert Zemeckis, 2000)
Cast Away is probably the famous stranded character movie on this list, if not ever. Director Robert Zemeckis planted Tom Hanks on an island with a volleyball and made it one of the most emotional film-going experiences I have ever had. Tom Hanks is a legendary actor with dozens of great performances and his performance in this film is his career best. Hanks fluctuated his weight for the role, but also showed us a character who goes from a man with no hope and ready to kill himself to a man who will do anything to keep his sanity and survive. This is Hanks’s movie and he gives a masterclass in acting.
2 – GRAVITY (Alfonso Cuaron, 2013)
Gravity is my worst nightmare. The idea that space is never ending freaks me out every time I think about it. Watching Sandra Bullock float helplessly through space while she attempts to contact anyone out there is one of the scariest things I have ever seen. Alfonso Cuaron directed the hell out of this movie. Using brilliant technology and stellar cinematography from the great Emmanuel Lubezki, nobody has shown the depths of space this vivid and this vast since Kubrick did in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Bullock gives an Oscar-worthy performance here, showing determination and grit as a woman who must find the will to live in an impossible circumstance. Gravity is a mind-blowing cinematic experience and one of the best movies of the decade.
1 – DIE HARD (John McTiernan, 1988)
Die Hard isn’t the first movie you’d think of when you think about abandoned character movies, but it is and it’s the best. Detective John McClane (Bruce Willis, in a career-defining role) is left in Nakatomi Plaza to fend off Hans Gruber (a legendary Alan Rickman) and his henchmen. Along with Gruber and his men, McClane also has to deal with an idiotic L.A.P.D. detective and an insane F.B.I. duo, all while trying to survive the night and save the hostages. Director John McTiernan blends a perfect amount of action, drama, and humor to portray this daring mission. The best part of Die Hard is it’s screenplay, as it is a gold standard in screenwriting. Every scene is used to move the story forward or develop the characters further. No scene is wasted. Die Hard is the greatest action movie ever made and a perfect movie, which is why it is the best stranded character movie.
What are your favorite stranded character movies? Comment below or hit me up on Twitter and Instagram, @kevflix, or on Facebook by searching Kevflix.