10 Great Movies That Explore Human Alienation

6. The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant (1972)

Die bitteren Tranen der Petra von Kant

This is another film that gives us a look at dysfunctional love. The titular character isolates herself in her home for most of the film, with characters entering and exiting her life throughout. Petra Von Kant is a complex character: on one hand it’s challenging to feel too badly for her.

On the other, she is truly one of the most broken characters in cinema. Fassbinder has created a character that is a bit like a trainwreck; you don’t want to see it, but it’s still compelling.


7. Red Desert (1964)

Red Desert

Antonioni created not only a fascinating protagonist, but also a surprisingly beautifully shot film.

For a movie about isolation, and recovery after a traumatic event, Red Desert happens to be a great film to look at. There are great shots that show us how oppressive the world of Monica Vitti’s character really is, so we end up inadvertently identifying with her worldview.


8. Shame (2011)

This is another film in which the main character tries to lose himself in sex as a way of distracting himself. However, unlike Happiness or The Piano Teacher, Shame is a more haunting portrait of addiction specifically.

Shame gives us a look at what happens when a person takes the wrong approach to curing their alienation. In this case, Brandon (Michael Fassbender) creates additional problems for himself.


9. The Comedy (2012)

The Comedy

The Comedy is a film that was critically panned when it was first released, but I remember watching it and thinking, “Rick Alverson gets it.” I still think it’s an underrated, misunderstood work.

The brilliance of this movie for me is the fact that it’s a very unique type of loneliness: it’s about the loneliness one can feel even while being surrounded by people. The main character struggles to connect with his friends and family.

As a result, the characters joke around almost non-stop as a front. It’s almost as if they are afraid of communicating, so they hide behind an endless stream of jokes. The Comedy is a great film about loneliness for the 21st century.


10. Stray Dogs (2014)

Stray Dogs is a great film about the simple inescapable loneliness of everyday existence as a human being. On paper this sounds like a film that would be difficult to commit to, but Tsai Ming-Liang is astute at capturing life as it is.

There doesn’t seem to be a plot in the sense of how we traditionally think of movies, but somehow in Stray Dogs it really works. The act of focusing on life at its most mundane illuminates the feeling of alienation and the difficulty human beings are faced with everyday.