Best One-Man Films of All Time

What makes a good film? Is it a grand production? A big budget? An ensemble cast of high-powered movie stars? Any film critic worth his mettle will tell you that none of those things matter because, ultimately, what it comes down to is a good script, a solid performance, and tight directing. Sometimes, even with just one actor in front of the screen, you can already create a cinematic masterpiece. We’ve compiled a list of the best one-man films of all time for your reference.

One-Man Films That Are Worth Your Time

1. Castaway (2000) – Tom Hanks

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In this American survival drama movie, Tom Hanks plays the role of a FedEx employee who gets involved in a plane crash and who ends up stranded on an island for several years. With only a volleyball that he has smeared with blood and named Wilson for company, his character is forced to learn to survive on his own and use all his wits to acquire food and resources. For most of the movie, his character carries the narrative all on his own.

2. Moon (2009) – Sam Rockwell

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This science fiction film by director Duncan Jones follows the story of a man named Sam Bell who undergoes a personal crisis just as he reaches the end of his solitary three-year stint mining for helium-3 on the moon. Sam Rockwell plays the lonely and embattled astronaut who has been hired to mine the moon for fuel, as the Earth has been completely depleted of its oil supplies in the movie’s setting. 

3. 127 Hours (2007) – James Franco

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This biographical survival drama was based on the memoir of Aron Ralston, the mountaineer who was trapped for days in the canyons of Utah’s Canyonlands National Park. On his own and not having informed anyone of his whereabouts, Ralston explores the canyons when, while climbing, he slips and falls and ends up getting trapped between a boulder and a rock face. Unable to escape and with no means to signal for rescue, Ralston is forced to go to extreme measures to free himself from his predicament, all while seeing all sorts of hallucinations. It was the role of a lifetime, and it won for James Franco his first Best Actor nomination at the Oscars. 

4. All Is Lost (2013) – Robert Redford

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This film was screened at the Cannes Film Festival in the “out of competition” category, and it features Robert Redford in the role of a seafaring man who found himself lost at sea when the boat he was sailing collided with an adrift shipping container, ripping a huge hole in the hull. Redford’s character spends most of the movie alone, while he comes to grips with his own mortality. The film is memorable for having little to no dialogue at all, thus making the narrative tension all the more dramatic and intense.

5. Buried (2013) – Ryan Reynolds

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This independent thriller’s premise works on one of our most common fears: that of being buried alive. Ryan Reynolds plays an American truck driver based in Iraq who gets abducted and wakes up to find himself buried alive in a wooden coffin with only a phone, knife, lighter, pen, and flask with him. He has been kidnapped by terrorists who have placed a ransom on his life, and as negotiations between the US government and his captors begin to fall apart, his situation becomes more and more desperate. 

Best One-Man Films of All Time by
Updated: November 20, 2019 — 8:46 am

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