14. Cast Away (2000)
Starring the ever reliable Tom Hanks, Cast Away is one of the best and most significant isolation films in recent times. In this classic man vs nature movie, Hanks excels in this role as a modern day Robinson Crusoe, surviving in a life of complete separation from all mankind.
Chuck Noland (Hanks) is a meticulous FedEx analyst, who travels frequently to work depots all across the world. With such a time-consuming and socially intrusive job, this causes a strain on Chuck’s personal life, in proving to be too much of an obstacle when discussing marriage with his partner, Kelly. Whilst on a Christmas-time journey to Asia, the plane he is on crashes in the water and Chuck finds himself washed ashore, on a deserted island.
As we watch Chuck’s heart-breaking struggle against not only the elements but his own sanity, it’s difficult not to feel a sense of comfort and gratitude in the quotidian exercises that we take for granted. With his new best friend, Wilson, a volleyball, Chuck is the reminder that life is to be enjoyed while it lasts.
An endearing and touching story, Cast Away is an entertaining and powerful portrait of a man’s fight for survival.
15. Lost in Translation (2003)
In only her second feature film, director Sofia Coppola achieved critical and commercial success, with the melancholic and bittersweet, Lost in Translation. Starring Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson, this dreamy comedy-drama, is littered with eccentricity without becoming patronising or pretentious.
Bob (Murray) and Charlotte (Johansson) find themselves separately alone under vastly different circumstances, in a hotel in Tokyo. Through this unwanted similarity, the two strangers gradually begin to form an unusual yet secure bond that sees them connect brilliantly on an emotional level. As uncertainty and frustration in their lives bring the two together, it’s only a matter of time before these lost souls must separate from this alien culture and reunite with their real world.
A gentle clash of comedy and sincerity makes Lost in Translation an easy-to-watch, subtle delight that only improves over several viewing.
16. Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter…and Spring (2003)
Kim Ki-Duk’s spellbinding 2003 drama Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter…and Spring, is as patient as they come. With little dialogue and a simple story, this placid and contemplative masterpiece fits perfect into the mantra of when less is more.
Set on a tranquil location of a floating Buddhist monastery, the film follows the lives of a child monk and his master. Through the Buddhist teachings and life on the temple, the child grows into a teenager and continues to live in serenity and peacefulness. That is until a young women enters his life and his discipline is broken, causing a kaleidoscope of situations and emotions that catch him off guard.
A film full of symbolism, Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter…and Spring shows the cycle of life through the seasons of the year. A delightfully unique and spiritual feast for the eyes, this gem of Korean cinema offers guaranteed escapism, no matter what the weather.
17. The Machinist (2004)
Directed by Brad Anderson and starring a shockingly thin Christian Bale, The Machinist tells the story of a sleep-deprived industrial worker who begins to question his own sanity.
Trevor Reznik (Bale) is a machinist who hasn’t slept in a year and is clearly battling anorexia. With his haunted appearance and erratic behaviour, our protagonist often finds himself alone and the situation deteriorates even further when he is involved in a bloody accident in the workplace. As Reznik struggles with his paranoia and illusions flood his already consumed mind, he has to rely solely on post-it notes stuck to his fridge, in order to hold his life together and solve the apparent conspiracy plaguing him.
The Machinist is a bleak and disturbing experience expertly executed with dark, piercing camera shots and of course a well-documented and incredible performance from Christian Bale.
18. Into The Wild (2007)
Sean Penn’s moving and inspirational adventure drama stars Emile Hirsch as a college graduate turned wanderer, who embarks on a scenic and philosophical trek around North America. Leaving all signs of his conventional life behind him, including his friends and family, we watch Chris (Hirsch) in his pursuit for freedom and happiness as he decides to go it alone.
A captivating and beautifully shot ‘trip’ movie, Into The Wild is a breath-taking adaptation of Jon Krakauer’s hugely successful non-fiction book of the same name.
19. Mary and Max (2009)
Written and directed by Adam Elliot, Mary and Max is a clay-animated dark comedy, based on an unlikely friendship between pen pals Mary, an 8 year old girl in Australia and Max, an ageing 44 year old Jewish man living in New York. Made almost entirely in different tones of brown and grey, this melancholic tale is a heart-breaking yet touching feature film, fully equipped with excellent narration from Barry Humphries and a wonderfully ambitious soundtrack.
Set in the 70’s, we see Mary Dinkle, a lonely and depressed 8 year old girl who is neglected by her parents Noel, her taxidermist father and Vera, her chain smoking alcoholic mother. After randomly selecting a name in the Manhattan phone book, she decides to send the man, named Max Horowitz, a letter. Rather surprisingly but to her delight, she receives one back, thus beginning the start of a new and improbable friendship that is not without its complications. Issues such as disability, mental illness, suicide, obesity and sex all play their part in this bittersweet and ominous emotional rollercoaster.
Sickeningly comical and adorably downcast, Mary and Max is a heartfelt and compassionate animation that explores several topical issues in fantastic fashion. With elements that are based on a true story this is an intelligent film that is an absolute joy to watch.
20. Her (2013)
Her is a sci-fi comedy drama that was directed by Spike Jonze and stars Joaquin Phoenix as a lonely man, who begins a relationship with a computer based Operating System, named Samantha. Visually stunning and accompanied with a superb score, the film proved a hit at the Oscars, with one win and four further nominations.
Set in the year 2025, Theodore (Phoenix) is a sensitive and passionate man who is currently in the middle of a divorce. Due to the nature of the divorce and an unwillingness to commit to further relations, this leaves Theodore feeling estranged and he becomes slightly reclusive from society. That is until he is introduced to a talking Operating System that is not only super-intelligent but has the capacity to evolve.
Named Samantha (Scarlett Johansson), the O.S immediately shows affection for Theodore and they strike up an instantaneous and unexpected relationship. However, like most normal relationships, the highs come with the lows and Theodore is faced with the hard truth that although his feelings are real, his relationship may not be so.
An unconventional yet charming and sentimental love story, Her is a clever twist on relationships both now and in the future. An extremely impressive performance from Joaquin Phoenix makes this emotional tale an absolute must-see.
Author Bio: Andrew Lowry lives in Bangor, Northern Ireland. He is a government worker by day, and cinephile by night.