The 15 Best Movies Featuring an Island Setting

8. Shutter Island

Shutter Island

Martin Scorsese tries his hand at suspense which he had only done a few times before with his thriller “Shutter Island”. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as a 1950s U.S. Marshal who is in charge of an investigation involving the disappearance from a mental hospital. He is met with opposition from the hospital staff and believes everyone is not being honest with him.

The novel in which the story is based is by Dennis Lehane who has had much recent success off his other novels including “Mystic River” and “Gone Baby Gone” being turned into major Hollywood feature films. He even has another production, “Live By Night”, currently being filmed starring, written and directed by Ben Affleck which will be coming in 2017. “Shutter Island” may confuse some people with its many plot twists and turns, but overall, it is an interesting thriller which you cannot figure out ahead of time.


9. Lord of the Flies

Lord of the Flies

Both the 1963 and 1990 retelling of the very famous William Golding novel tell the same story of a group of boys stranded on a deserted island after a plane crash and the brutality that develops when these children are left to fend for themselves after no help arrives to save them. Different groups eventually develop, pursuing different goals. There is inevitable conflict which becomes increasingly savage, even more so considering the ages of the perpetrators.

In the 1963 version, director Peter Brook mostly discarded the script encouraging improvisation from his young actors. There is actually no screenplay credit for this film as a result. The film was shot during the infamous “Bay of Pigs” which actually made filmmakers alter their filming schedule. Both versions of the film are disturbing showing the brutality of children.


10. The Guns of Navarone

The Guns Of Navarone

A fantastic action film from 1961 shows a team of British forces sent to destroy German artillery batteries on the fictional Navarone Island which occupy pivotal coordinates overlooking an important sea. The cast including Gregory Peck, David Niven and Richard Harris are excellent and propel this interesting story forward through the use of concise and informative dialogue.

David Niven felt he was too old for his role, but afterwards, embraced the film as one of his favorite performances. A second film, “Force 10 From Navarone” was released 17 years later in 1978 and starred Robert Shaw and Harrison Ford playing the same characters in the previous film.


11. Moonrise Kingdom


It’s hard to say a Wes Anderson film is “off-beat” since all his films are that way; however, this one has a different tone than some of his others focusing on his young cast but also having interruptions by some of his regulars including Bill Murray, Jason Schwarzman and Tilda Swinton.

As usual with an “Anderson” cast, the performances are all divine enhancing his Academy Award-nominated screenplay to the hilt. There is an innocence with this film which seems more genuine than in some of his other films, but still funny and poignant as the rest.


12. The Man with the Golden Gun

The Man with the Golden Gun

Frequent “Bond” director Guy Hamilton showcases the great and late Christopher Lee as the villainous “Scaramanga” in the ninth “James Bond” film and second for Roger Moore. It seems Lee was born to play antagonists in film with his menacing features and commanding voice.

Moviegoers were not impressed; however, making this film one of the lowest grossing in the series and almost derailed the franchise completely. Hard to believe now since the film holds up well over time and the tone and action in the film are lots of fun and entertaining including Scaramangas island lair and final duel with 007. My favorite Bond film of all time.


13. Treasure Island

Treasure Island

One of the original island adventures, the 1950 Disney version brings together tragic Disney child actor Bobby Driscoll as Jim Hawkins and Robert newton as Long John Silver in this classic tale of pirates and treasure across the high seas based on the classic book of the same name by Robert Louis Stevenson.

The 1950 version of Treasure Island was the first live action Disney film and the first version in color. A lot of legendary prate traits are sourced through this book including “X” marks the spot and one-legged pirates with parrots on their shoulders.

There were many theatrical versions of this story made going back to 1918 and continuing through the years including versions from 1934 starring Jackie Cooper, 1972 version with Orson Welles, 1990 version starring Charleton Heston, Christian Bale and Christopher Lee, Muppet Treasure Island and even Treasure Planet from 2002. Just goes to show great stories are timeless.


14. The Most Dangerous Game

The Most Dangerous Game (1932)

The 1932 film “The Most Dangerous Game” has a familiar plot, the hunter becomes the hunted. In it, the lone yacht shipwreck survivor, who happens to be a big game hunter, finds himself on an island where he meets Count Zaroff who takes him in and comforts him after his ordeal.

He also meets several other shipwreck survivors from other vessels. He eventually discovers Zaroff is not what he seems and wants to set the former hunter out on the island as his prey. Two actors from this film (Fay Wray and Robert Armstrong) as well as the directors were the same as the original “King Kong” film which was released in 1933.

Some of the same sets were used and film during the night hours after “Kong” had wrapped for the day. This included the main gate which was also used in “Gone With the Wind”. The plotline of the source material for this film has been used several times over the years including in the films “Surviving the Game” and even “Predator”.


15. The Island of Dr. Moreau (1977 version)

The Island of Dr. Moreau (1977)

Let me preface this one by saying the 1996 Marlon Brando version of the H.G Wells novel is so bad, it makes this version look like “Citizen Kane” by comparison. The 1977 version of this film stars Burt Lancaster as Dr. Moreau and Michael York as the shipwreck survivor who comes upon this island and all its delights.

Far from perfect but still entertaining, it reminded me of a poor man’s “Planet of the Apes” with some of the makeup effects and locales. You have to view it based on what it is and not expect Shakespeare, in that context it works. It is surprising no one has made another attempt on this one.

Honorable Mentions:

The Rock
The Pirates of the Caribbean films
The Blue Lagoon
Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Peter Pan and Hook
Swiss Family Robinson
The Impossible
The Wicker Man
The Expendables
Joe vs. the Volcano

Author Bio: Andy Kubica is a life-long cinephile. Having spend time as a video store manager, movie theater manager and the first DVD buyer for a former rental chain he now spends every waking moment reducing his film “bucket list”.