One of the biggest fears for millions of people is the fear of being alone. Countless individuals will put themselves through unspeakable hell in order to avoid the concept of being by themselves. It’s a safe assumption life is just easier if we have a sidekick to get through the trials and tribulations which assault us on a daily basis.
It’s human nature to seek out companionship in order to avoid solitude. Within our DNA, we strive to maintain relationships with those we love and hold dear. When hard times come calling, we fall back on those that give us the best comfort and advice in difficult situations.
But what about being thrown into situations where there’s no one to rely on except yourself? When there’s no one around, are you strong enough to conquer the biggest, most difficult challenges? Some of Hollywood’s biggest heroes have been born of these tribulations and burnt into our hearts forever because of them. Where others might wilt like a flower in the sun, these characters found a way to persevere and live on. Well, most of the time…
These are 10 character that found themselves in situations where their inner resolve was all they had in order to survive.
In space, no one can hear you scream. The famous tagline from one of the most chilling sci-fi films of all time – Alien. The 1979 film directed by Ridley Scott and starring Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley, took audiences on a space odyssey of fear. The film dabbled with the concept of being stranded aboard a massive space freighter as an alien xenomorph ravaged through the crew.
With nothing but creatively engineered weapons, the crew is forced to crawl and work through their ship to try and eliminate the alien presence. One by one, each crew member is picked off until only Ripley is left. As each attempt to stop the alien is thwarted, the crew eventually decides their only option is to detonate the ship and take refuge in a small lifeboat shuttle crafted for one.
Alien represents the perfect “monster in the house” scenario in which has no where to run and no where to hide. After making it’s first appearance in one of the most memorable dinner scenes in cinema history, it isn’t long before nearly everyone is wiped out. In the end, Ripley finds herself alone and forced to flee the murderous alien creature in a last ditch, potentially suicidal act.
9. Die Hard
Yippee-ki-yay became a household movie phrase after the release of Die Hard in 1988. An action film directed by John McTiernan and starring Bruce Willis as NYPD detective John McClane, Die Hard follows an off duty cop who finds himself taking on a group of terrorists all by himself in a Los Angeles high rise tower.
While it all seems like a normal day on the force for Detective McClane, he has to take on the task barefoot for a majority of the film while protecting the identify of his wife who is one of the hostages under the terrorists control. Throughout the film McClane finds himself dodging close call after close call as he seeks to destabilize the terrorist group at every possible turn.
In the end, it’s revealed that the terrorists are really just high-class bank robbers. Die Hard is an instant classic pitting the good guy vs. the bad guy with the damsel in distress caught in the middle. Without any friends or comrades to help, Bruce Willis plays the lonesome cowboy gunslinger who by happenstance arrives just in time to save the day. Opposite of the hero is Alan Rickman’s villainous Hans Gruber who’s desire it is to rob the bank while leaving a trail of chaos behind.
8. Life Of Pi
One of the more recent films depicting a protagonist desperately alone is the 2012 film Life of Pi. The film is based off the book of the same name by Yann Martel and was directed by Ang Lee starring Suraj Sharma as Piscine “Pi” Molitor. The film is a retelling of Pi’s experiences when he was lost at sea after a shipwreck in the Pacific Ocean.
Although Pi is the only human at sea, he finds himself sharing a limited living space with a large Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. The two are forced to establish a co-existence together in order to survive in the nearly impossible circumstances of being lost at sea for weeks.
The story of Pi and Richard Parker is a perfect telling of two completely different characters that are forced to share a space at odds from their natural habitats. The two are are an unlikely pair that ultimately depend on one another to survive as Pi realizes that his desire to keep the tiger alive is also what fuels his own desire to live.
7. Into The Wild
Going off the grid is something many have contemplated. The idea of being cut off from a previous life and disappearing is a romantic idea to the one making the decision but heartbreaking to those that are left behind. However, to shed the skin of a previous life in order to become born again roughing it on the open road isn’t for everyone.
The 2007 biographical drama Into the Wild follows the journey of a young Christopher McCandless, played by Emile Hirsch, and his journey across North America. McCandless’ journey starts in Atlanta, Georgia shortly after his graduation from Emory University. After receiving extreme pressure from his parents about the kind of life he should live, McCandless destroys all of his identifying documents and heads west on a 2-year adventure towards Alaska.
Although a large majority of the film focuses on McCandless and his interactions with people while on the road, it’s the stories climax that really hits home with the viewer. By films end, McCandless sets up camp in a remote area inside of an abandoned bus where he finds himself breathtakingly alone and starving to death.
6. Cast Away
When Cast Away hit theaters in 2000 it set the bar for adventure drama films in a whole new way. Never before in modern cinema had a film devoted so much time to one character with limited dialogue while still delivering a stylistic story that kept you on the edge of your seat the entire time.
Cast Away stars Tom Hanks as Chuck Noland, a FedEx employee who finds himself stranded on a deserted island somewhere in the Pacific Ocean after his plane crashes. Much of the story revolves around Noland simply trying to survive and then later centers around his ambitious goal to escape. Along the way audiences are introduced to one of the most memorable supporting casting roles with Wilson – A blood stained volleyball that quickly becomes Noland’s salvation for sanity.
Cast Away is the epitome of what it means to be alone on the planet. With no where to go and no one to call, Noland is a normal human being with limited survival knowledge in a place never intended for humans to live. Throughout the span of the film, Noland battles the stresses of being alone and the desire to survive and carry on.
Take the idea of Cast Away and throw the main character into outer space where the most basic necessity of life – air – isn’t even available. Not only is the main character devoid of the freedom to breathe, they’re truly stranded in a place where human contact is all but impossible.
Gravity is a 2013 sci-fi thriller directed by Alfonso Cuarón and stars Sandra Bullock as astronaut Dr. Ryan Stone. The story takes all of the basic concepts of a ship wreck story and puts the cast into a mid-orbit outer space setting. Composed in real time, the story follows Dr. Stone as she navigates from space craft to space craft in the hopes of finding safety as a catastrophic debris cloud wrecks havoc on any attempts at safety.
The action never stops with Gravity as Dr. Stone finds her situation continuously decaying from the get go. Even when she’s united with Lieutenant Matt Kowalski, played by George Clooney, for brief periods, the two are still separated by the unforgiving vacuum of space. Each time Dr. Stone finds refuge in one scene, it quickly falls apart into chaos and she’s forced to find another solution in order to survive.
4. 127 Hours
If there’s ever a film that reminds the audience it’s important to always tell someone where you’re going, it’s 127 Hours starring James Franco as Aron Ralston. Ralston finds himself in an inescapable situation, literally putting him between a rock in a hard place.
127 Hours is a biographical survival drama based on real events in which Ralston found himself isolated in a canyon located in Utah. While climbing through a canyon, Ralston’s right arm was pinned between a canyon wall and a boulder where he was left trapped for over 5-days. Prior to his adventure, Ralston hadn’t told anyone where he was planning to go.
Easily one of the harshest movies to watch, 127 Hours hits home with multiple themes ranging from life reflections to the the will to survive. Franco does a great job carrying the movie and keeps the viewer engaged the whole time as he occupies a majority of the screen time all by himself.
3. The Book Of Eli
Although the Book of Eli isn’t a stereotypical lonesome protagonist film, when the audience is first introduced to Eli, played by Denzel Washington, he’s a man traveling to the west coast all alone. His purpose is a mystery and his mission isn’t comprehensible.
The Book of Eli is a post-apocalyptic story about a man named Eli and his quest to deliver a secret book to the western coast of the former United States. The real integrating part about his journey is that this mission was given to him by a voice he heard. Although the explanation for what happened to the world is never fully given, some tidbits are revealed throughout the course of Eli’s journey.
Even though a majority of the film does have Eli interacting with other characters, it’s really at films end you realize how alone Eli really is. The story eventually evolves into a spiritual tale rather than a linear story about a man on a mission with little hope of survival or success. In the end, the question has to be raised as to whether Eli was really ever alone at all.
2. The Aviator
Not a traditional addition to a list like this but the Aviator represents a whole new level of loneliness – Isolation through mental illness. The film tells the story of business tycoon Howard Hughes, played brilliantly by Leonardo DiCaprio, as his place on top of the world slowly decays from consuming paranoia.
The film, which was directed by Martin Scorsese, is a biographical drama following a young Howard Hughes and his rise to becoming the worlds wealthiest man and the king of the aviation industry. Hughes would eventually become a massively successful film producer as his obsessive compulsive disorder would slowly destroy the mighty man.
Hughes was a man of extraordinary wealth before eventually locking himself away from the world for months at a time. Although he would try many times to recover, he was never successful in relinquishing his inner demons and fears. It would be a battle he would fight for his entire life. Although not a primary focus for much of the film, the story does a great job at showing the struggles of Hughes without tarnishing his legacy.
1. The Road
If there ever was a movie that took the audience on a ride through emotional hell, look no further than the Road. Although the main character Man, played by Viggo Mortensen, is never alone, he is forced to protect the life of his son in a world that’s been destroyed. Bandits are everywhere and will stop at nothing to kill in order to survive – The film is a harrowing tale about what life would be like if society collapsed.
Based on the Cormac McCarthy book of the same name, the Road is another post-apocalyptic drama where father and son are forced to survive in a world gone wrong. The film has a few flashbacks that vaguely show the world prior to the events of the film. The flashbacks show the dire situation Man is in with his wife, Woman, shortly after the start of the apocalyptic events.
The Road is a riveting story with no feel good moments or hope for the future as Man does everything in his power to protect his son. It’s impossible to watch the film and not get a sense of hopelessness that the films characters are also feeling. There appears to be no hope for salvation throughout the span of the entire story. Although paired with his son for the entire film, Man is alone with his sole responsibility to keep his son alive with no one else around to help.