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20 Great Films About Loneliness That Are Worth Your Time

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

14. Cast Away (2000)

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)

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)

Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring

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)

the-machinist-2004-1

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)

into the wild

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)

Mary-and-Max

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 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.

 

 

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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.

    • Rorshach Sridhar

      One Hour Photo demonized lonely people.

  • 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.

    • Rorshach Sridhar

      That was about relationships, not loneliness. Truman Show was the better pick.

  • 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…

    • Susie Caroline

      Loooooooooooove that movie.

  • 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.

    • Susie Caroline

      Ohhh!!! Loved that movie!

  • 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) 🙂

    • Vendetta

      Synecdoche is an untreated masterpiece, it’s true.

    • Lidianne Batystta

      YEEES

  • 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.

    • Susie Caroline

      Good call!

  • 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

    • Doby Gillis

      Shameless self promotion. At Least have the balls to say that.

  • 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 ▼

        🙁

    • Carl Edgar Consiglio

      Thats no criticism if you don’t tell us why you think so

  • 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.

      • Susie Caroline

        I hope you get to see it; it’s an excellent “angry young man” movie from the UK.

      • Vendetta

        you’ll be a bit disappointed Chris, the title is much better than the movie, IMHO.

    • Susie Caroline

      Oh, damn! I love TLOTLDR!

  • 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.

  • Carlos Felipe Soto Cortés

    No “Umberto D”!!!!… what are you thinking mate!!

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  • ttt

    Swiss Army Man is pretty brilliant movie dressed in surreal comedy

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  • Yvonne Ritson

    Magnolia should definitely be on here (with the infamous “one is the lonliest number”….)- and also 21 grams- annnndddd Leon. Possibly fight club, and Good Will Hunting.

  • Carl Edgar Consiglio

    The Shallows 🙂

    • Louiselle Pace Gouder

      an unstable person and abusive sex addict.

  • Anonymous

    The Perks of Being a Wallflower?

  • R.L. Smith

    Great list. I think Two Lane Blacktop (1971) and Only Lovers Left Alive (2013) would have also been worthy of consideration.

  • Castaway reminded me of:
    All Is Lost

  • Agitator

    I see many people adding movies that are really not about loneliness. Far too many movies have a protagonist that is lonely in one way or another. Such as Marty, or Punch Drunk Love. I think this is a good list.

    • Susie Caroline

      Yes!

  • It seems to be amazing.. I was googling for movie suggestions and found this.. I think now my weekend will be great..

  • the tedious rote of Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles

  • Bianca Elena

    I think we can mention in this list Shame, Das Leben der Anderen, Winter Light.

  • Susie Caroline

    I would also add ‘An Angel At My Table’. Extemely well done New Zealand film!

  • Hudson Wu

    Has anyone ever seen Buffalo 66? Vincent Gallo plays a deeply troubled man with a scarred childhood who is released from prison and then kidnaps a young girl (played by a young Christina Ricci). His performance is mesmerizing and you can really feel his pain and loneliness.

  • MnkyLv

    Diary of a Country Priest

  • Adrian
  • Matthew Miller

    Umberto D,

  • Ozz Wald

    I would add
    The Bothersome Man (2006)

  • Gravitynaut

    Synecdoche New York, It’s Such a Beautiful Day come to mind.

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  • Adithian Karuvannur

    Come on.. where’s ‘Requiem for a dream’?? This list is a crime! At least ‘Magnolia’??

  • Adithian Karuvannur

    I just despise that movie, Lost in translation. Bourgeois elitist crap.. *my opinion

  • Dmitry Knipper

    A good, thoughtful list. The subject also brings to my mind some of the Coen brothers’ lonely protagonists in Miller’s Crossing, Barton Fink, The Man Who Wasn’t There and Inside Llewyn Davis.

  • Vendetta

    Castaway? Castaway?? Are you fucking kidding me? You must be a Millennial reviewer lol… the list was very good up to that point! And “Lost in Translation” is an embarrassment of a film. Try watching Nicholas Roeg’s “Castaway” then come back and rewrite your list!