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20 Great Films About Loneliness That Are Worth Your Time

07 November 2014 | Features, Film Lists | by Andrew Lowry

best films about loneliness

The following titles are all great films that contain recurring themes of loneliness or isolation. Many films explore these motifs through various means, such as a detachment from society, battling their own psychological demons or quite simply, being stranded in a place far, far away. In several of these films, we will observe how the ‘lonely’ characters will often find themselves thrown together with another, more often than not, of the same perception.

Slow-burning, brooding and emotionally charged, we hope you enjoy our picks on this quite captivating subject. Please note, the following films are listed in chronological order.

 

1. Wild Strawberries (1957)

Wild Strawberries

Written and directed by the wonderful Ingmar Bergman, Wild Strawberries is not a far cry from most of his other work, in that it deals with thought provoking questions and themes of self-discovery. However, in this quite sublime drama, we are treated to a warmer, more optimistic Bergman and with fantastic results.

Victor Sjostrom plays Isak, a widowed 78 year old professor who is due to make the long journey by car, to receive an award for services to his occupational field. Along the excursion he is forced to confront recurring nightmares and visions, of fractured human relationships from his past. These contests are only heightened, when he is challenged by several encounters with people that are directly related with this anguish. The closer he gets to his lifetime achievement, the nearer he comes to the realisation of how things could have been.

Wild Strawberries is a metaphorically moving and exceptionally nostalgic road trip that in true Bergman fashion is jam packed with symbolism. This is a work of art from a genius director who was in the form of his life.

 

2. Red Desert (1964)

Red Desert

In Red Desert, Michelangelo Antonioni’s heart-breaking first colour film, we observe a woman’s sorry struggle with alienation and disorientation. Through brilliant use of colour, Antonioni delivers an emotional and visually stunning setting that channels our protagonist’s psychological anguish.

Monica Vitti plays Giuliana, a young mother whose husband, Ugo, is the manager of a local chemical plant. With an overworked and disengaged husband, Giuliana is starved of the emotional support and attention that she so desperately seeks. With this neglect, Giuliana’s mental state quickly collapses and we witness the crushing despair and depression of our pain-bearer.

A film that will always divide opinion, Red Desert is a slow burning and stylish character-study that one way or another will linger long in the mind.

 

3. Repulsion (1965)

Repulsion-1

Roman Polanski’s first English language film; Repulsion, is a psychological horror made in 1965. Starring Catherine Deneuve, the plot focuses on a young woman’s descent into madness after being left alone in her sister’s apartment. Repulsion is the first instalment in Polanski’s sinister ‘Apartment Trilogy’ and in this viewer’s opinion, the best.

Carole Ledoux (Deneuve) is a manicurist who is currently living with her elder sister in London. Beautiful but socially awkward, Carole would certainly not look out of place on one of Alfred Hitchcock’s feature films. When her sister leaves to go on vacation with her boyfriend, the already distracted Carole begins her downward spiral into insanity, thus exposing the true horror of her demented psyche. Cracks become craters, voices reveal rapists and every sound hides an ill-fated outcome in the delirious mind of this physically and emotionally abandoned young woman.

A claustrophobic and gory tale of sexual repression and isolation, Repulsion is a disturbing and unsettling tour de force that will go down as one of the most influential films of the genre.

 

4. Le Samourai (1967)

Le Samouraï

Jean-Pierre Melville’s effortlessly cool crime-drama, Le Samourai, is an example of minimalist perfection at its very best. With leading man, Alain Delon’s character literally brimming with composure and nonchalance, the result is a fusion of stylistic excellence and arresting suspense that makes Le Samourai a subtle yet breathtakingly absorbing masterpiece.

Jef Costello (Delon) is a hit man living in a barren single-room apartment in Paris that contains very little, barring a small bird kept in a cage. Void of emotion or expression, Costello is the personification of the lone wolf, vocally impassive and highly skilled with a poker-face to startle a statue. When the authorities begin to loom and a sophisticated game of cat and mouse develops, we witness an accumulation of the loneliness creep up in a remarkably fascinating conclusion.

Le Samourai is a simple story with a relatively basic plot that will leave you gripped as events unfold. Akin to our subject, Le Samourai is a low-key yet thoroughly engrossing spectacle that is well worth the high praise that it has gathered.

 

5. Silent Running (1972)

robots-silent-running

In his directorial debut, Douglas Trumbull brought us the wonderfully underrated and fascinating sci-fi drama, Silent Running.

Bruce Dern brilliantly plays Freeman Lowell, the outsider in a crew aboard a space shuttle that have been tasked with rehabilitating plant life that are preserved in domes attached to space freighters. Despite being trusted with such an important and momentous assignment, Lowell is the only crew member that displays any emotion or interest in their occupation of restoring what remains of our planets plants. However, when the team receive an order to destroy the domes and return home, Lowell faces a monumental decision in what he sees as a sacrifice for the greater good.

Despite being over 40 years old, this film has stood the test of time and still comes across as breathtakingly visionary. A poignant and thoughtful film, Silent Running is definitely sci-fi with a difference.

 

6. Solaris (1972)

Solaris

Directed by the great Andrei Tarkovsky, 1972’s Solaris is a Russian sci-fi drama that is recognised as one of the best space films ever made. Another film on this list that contains little action, Solaris excels as a slow-burning psychological drama, with hauntingly stunning visuals, thought provoking scenarios and trademark Tarkovsky long takes.

Solyaris is an ocean-like planet that for years has been orbited by a Russian space station attempting to study this phenomenon. Due to a lack of progress and reports of strange activity, psychologist Kris Kelvin is handed the responsibility of investigating the peculiar goings on aboard the station. As Kris arrives to hostility, he sets off to enquire about these events, only to find himself confronted with these similar situations himself. When confronted by a chilling episode from his past, Kris gets trapped in his own feelings of emotional isolation and loneliness. The question is, are they real?

A complex and philosophically frightening study in confinement and alienation, Solaris is an epic vision by a supremely talented and grandiose director. Whilst probably not his best work, Solaris is still a beautifully insightful and captivating movie that makes a great companion for Kubrick’s own tour de force, ‘2001’.

 

 

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  • James Davis
  • Tommy Surya Pradana

    Dude…what about One Hour Photo…?

    • Andrew lowry

      Good pick, however personally, i would not rate it higher than the films included.

  • Pawel Kuropatwa

    What time is it there? by Tsai Ming-Liang. Lonliest characters ever, each one feels alienated and lost in their own way.

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  • Santiago

    Hey you missed a very important movie: Seul contre tous by Gaspar Noé

  • Tom Harding

    I think eternal sunshine could be considered a film about loneliness. After all, the majority of scenes are actually in Joel Parrish’s head.

  • Onanije Kitodržić

    What about The Conversation by Coppola? The main theme still haunts me from time to time…

    • Declan Harte

      You beat me to that very suggestion. Brilliant evocation of the lonely fastidiously studying details of other lives because, or perhaps consequentially of it, they have no recognizable life of their own…

  • Patrick Druhan

    Ordinary People, Crouching Tiger, Shane, Carnal Knowledge

  • David Morgan-Brown

    no I Stand Alone?! first time I’ve been disappointed by this site

  • Samuel Butler

    Earthling with William Holden.

  • Herbert

    For me, the epitome of loneliness is Laitakaupungin valot from Kaurusmaki. Check it out.

    • lando

      +1

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  • Cassandra Atticum

    I would have added Moon, absolutely brilliant performance by Sam Rockwell. Essentially a one man play.

  • disqus_kOiQcyN7dK

    Three Colors: Red too…

  • disqus_kOiQcyN7dK

    Krótki Film o Milosci, one more from Kieslowski

  • Filipe Correia

    In my opinion there’s some films missing. One of them, and one of my favorite ever, Synecdoche, New York (2008).
    If the point is movies that shows how a human being can be lonely, even when surrended by other people, this movie it’s perfect in that aspect (and many others) 🙂

  • lando

    what about taiwan cinema? ming lianf or hsiao hsien.

  • Rahul Rathod

    you should have mentioned “Charulata” by Satyajeet Ray 🙁

  • Shruti

    I am surprised you missed out on Requiem for a Dream!

  • Zheng J

    The editor’s selection is a little too inclusive. Asian directors get a better touch about loneliness I think, Wong Kar Wai and Kim Ki-Duk are the masters of loneliness and melancholy.

  • Klaus Dannick

    Great to see Mike Leigh’s “Naked” on this list, but where’s “Citizen Kane”?

  • Rajarshi Banduri

    this list should have blow up 1966

  • I’d have added the German film, The Lives of Others.

  • Ron Geatz

    The other Bergman film I would add is his less-known “A Passion” (incorrectly titled “The Passion of Anna” in the U.S.) in which 4 people living on an island try desperately to break free of their loneliness.

  • A compilation of 101 films dealing with the themes of solitude, loneliness, and isolation

    http://www.apotpourriofvestiges.com/2015/04/101-films-dealing-with-themes-of.html

  • Cinema Phenomenology

    Additional suggestions – The Exorcist (1973), Up (2009), Drive (2011)

  • vir

    Buffalo 66!

  • Mondo

    The Green Ray

  • Arnaldo Fernandez

    Shame.

  • Piotr Grabowski

    How about ‘Fisher King” ?

  • Johann S.

    I think a lot of Yasujiro Ozu’s movies deal with loneliness. At least the fear of loneliness.

  • ladyofargonne

    A lot of these would be appropriate for a list of movies depressed people shouldn’t watch. In that light, Pink Floyd’s The Wall came to mind.

  • Purple ▼

    Lost in Translation is a real waste of time

    • Alex Nasaudean

      Your mental life is a desert…

      • Purple ▼

        🙁

  • Diego Alejandro Gutierrez Murc

    where is Billy Wilder`s the apartament ?

  • Patrick Hill

    I’ve seen but one on that list, and most will stay at 1 viewing, I doubt I could take the drain again. Visceral film making at its best.

  • warrenzoell

    How could you make a list like this and forget “The Pawnbroker” or
    “The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner”?
    That’s like forgetting 2001 a space odyssey (another lonely film by the way) for best Sci Fi movies of all time.

    • Chris JJJ

      The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner. I had never heard of that film until a few weeks ago, That title alone is enough to make me want to watch it.

  • Gary Clure

    “The Fire Within” (1963) and “The Swimmer” (1968).

  • deadmoustache

    Nice list, but it would be nice to acknowledge that Solaris is a movie based on a book by the same title, written by Stanisław Lem, who wrote a great deal of (amazing) sci-fi books.

  • Diana Brown

    No Girl, Interrupted?

  • chris

    Jesus can film hipsters ever make a list that i dont know feature movies after segregation or something like fuck i dont wanna watch a movie from 1962 when the 2000s have great films

  • Frank N. Blunt

    Among some of my favorite films. Although some of these should consider the distinctions between loneliness, isolation, exclusions, remoteness, & solitude along with other conditions.