Most of us are currently huddled away in our homes doing our part to help fight the coronavirus by social distancing and isolating ourselves. Doing so has brought up the issues of isolation, which can be a challenge for some of us. Since we have time, check out these genre films which dealt with the main character being alone in their situation, whether it was due to the collapse of civilization or related to space travel. Taking a look will remind us that our situation is not as bad as the ones faced by the main characters in the films. Also note that although in these films, the solo character at some point interacted with other people for a significant portion of the film he or she was alone.
10. Passengers (2016):
A hibernating passenger (Chris Pratt) onboard a colony spaceship is awoken prematurely and finds himself all alone in the mammoth ship. Unable to reprogram his sleeping pod and fated to live out the rest of his days alone, he unethically awakens another passenger (Jennifer Lawrence) and the two start a romance. Meanwhile, the glitch that caused him to awaken points to major problems with the ship itself. Solid acting and special effects enhanced Passengers, which rightly looked at the ramifications of his actions.
9. The Omega Man (1971):
The second adaptation of Richard Matheson’s novel I Am Legend took major liberties with the source material, but the isolation film is an enjoyable romp. After a war between Russia and China leads to a virus that kills most of humanity except for army doctor Robert Neville (Charlton Heston). He spends his days roaming the empty streets of Los Angeles, warring with mutated albino humans and perfecting a cure. Chock of full corny ’70s dialogue and action, The Omega Man still stood out for its introspective scenes of Neville as he dealt with loneliness.
8. The Martian (2015):
A major duststorm on Mars forces an expedition to abandon the red planet. However, one astronaut, Mark Watney (Matt Damon), believed to be dead, was left stranded. Using his ingenuity and pluck, Watney uses all of his skills and science know-how to survive on Mars and eventually make contact with Earth. From there, it is a riveting race against time and dwindling resources for Watney to stay alive until a rescue mission can retrieve him in this thrilling isolation film.
7. The World, the Flesh, and the Devil (1959):
Harry Belafonte (yes, that Harry Belafonte) portrays a mine inspector who survives World War III after being trapped in a mine. After escaping from the mine, he makes his way to New York City and discovers he is completely alone. Grappling with his predicament and loneliness, he eventually he encounters a woman (Inger Stevens) and the two start a friendship. Although she is interested in a romantic relationship with him, his inhibitions about their race keep him from accepting her. Complicating matters is that they find another survivor which leads to tensions between the three of them. While it is melodramatic and heavy handed, the film still has relevant messages about letting go of the past and is a fascinating look at survival and loneliness.
6. Silent Running (1972):
In the future, the remaining natural habitats are placed in greenhouse domes onboard spaceships near Saturn. Freeman Lowell I(Bruce Dern) is one of the botanists tending the biomes and rebels against orders to destroy the domes and return to Earth. After killing his crewmates, Lowell commandeers one of the ships and heads to deeper space; his only companions are a trio of non-speaking robots who help him tend the domes’ gardens. Silent Running obviously has a very strong environmental message yet it is very moving and also has an unflinching look at Lowell, who allowed his extreme protective views to push himself too far.
5. Love (2011):
In the near future, an astronaut (Gunner Wright) is sent to the abandoned International Space Station to restore it but becomes stranded there after a sudden war wipes out humanity on Earth. Now completely alone, the astronaut begins to lose his sanity and will to live until an event occurs that will lead to debates. Love stands out from many sci-fi films in its exploration of what it is to be human and connected to others through our emotions and memories. Also impressive is that the film while low budget was elevated by ingenious production design and direction. The final moments of Love in many ways rivals though-provoking finales such as 2001: A Space Odyssey and Solaris in that it brings up many questions about its conclusion.
4. I Am Legend (2007):
The third and most recent adaptation of Richard Matheson’s book stars Will Smith as Dr. Robert Neville. After a viral cure for cancer mutates into a virus that kills most of humanity, Neville lives alone in New York City; his only companion being his pet dog Sam. In between roaming the iconic New York streets, finding a cure and hunkering down in his fortified apartment at night, Neville wars with savage mutated humans who are light sensitive. This version of I Am Legend has some exceptional production which present a disquieting look at an abandoned New York that is being reclaimed by nature. Will Smith turns in a riveting and sympathetic performance as the haunted Neville and carries the film. If possible watch the film with its alternate, more ambiguous ending, which is more faithful to Matheson’s story and elevates this film.
3. Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1965):
This futuristic retelling of Daniel Defoe’s classic yarn, Robinson Crusoe on Mars is a true underrated gem. Astronaut Christopher Draper (Paul Mantee) crash lands on the red planet and struggles to survive. Air, water, food and shelter are his main objectives. Once he solves those issues, thanks to luck and strong survival skills, Draper endures being alone (except for his pet monkey, Mona) without any hope of getting home. However, incidents arise which sets Draper off on a grand adventure that makes the most of its budget and follows many aspects of the Defoe book. and makes it more than a survival film. Despite its low budget and B-movie trappings Robinson Crusoe on Mars is very imaginative and a cut above the cheesy sci-fi offerings from that time, although its scientific inaccuracies (breathable air on Mars!) should be forgiven.
2. The Quiet Earth (1985):
Zac Hobson (Bruno Lawrence) is a scientist in New Zealand who finds himself alone on Earth after his energy experiment causes humanity to disappear. Similar to The World, the Flesh, and the Devil, Hobson struggles with loneliness and his sanity until meeting Joanne (Alison Routledge). From there, they start a romance which is hampered by the arrival of another man (Pete Smith). But before a love triangle takes up all the energy in the film, Hobson learns that the experiment may be causing further damage to reality and has to find a way to stop it and possibly reverse its effects. Evocative thanks to its exploration of isolation and what it is like to be the last person alive, The Quiet Earth is further enhanced with its deliberately ambiguous ending. Its final images are truly jaw dropping and provides much to ponder.
1. Gravity (2013):
Sandra Bullock gives a powerful performance as Dr. Ryan Stone, an astronaut forced to survive on her own after a disaster destroys her space shuttle and kills her astronaut companions. Without help and on her own, Stone has to rely on her own will to live and smarts as one calamity after another threaten her. Gravity is one of those non-stop thrill rides that perfectly showcase the horror of being in space and why it is so inhospitable. At the same time, the film is a tour de force for Bullock whose character is put through an emotional wringer as she uses all of her will to fight past her fears and traumatic past to fuel her drive to find safe passage back to Earth. Unlike other films on this list, Dr. Stone has to grapple with immediate life-or-death situations and doesn’t have the luxury of dealing with boredom or loneliness. As with the other films here, Gravity showcases the power of the human spirit to endure and thrive in any environment even if one is isolated.