One-man movies tend to fall into two buckets: either they're utter genius in concept and execution, or the dullest experience in cinema.
Ever since the very first movie was made, filmmakers have been trying to find innovative ways to make great movies on tight budgets, which often means skimping on high-profile actors. In some cases, it's taken even further—by only featuring a single actor for the whole film.
Whether for budget reasons or creative reasons, these films—when done well—have resulted in some uniquely great experiences. Here are our picks for the best one-man movies!
10. The Shallows (2016)
Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, this one-woman horror film stars Blake Lively as a surfer caught out in open waters. The tense survival flick follows Nancy Adams, who's stranded 180 meters from land and encircled by a Great White Shark. Not ideal!
Set on the beaches of Mexico, The Shallows is an immersive B-movie that hooks and reels us in without barely leaving the shoreline.
The Shallows also manages to dodge the usual shark-attack tropes found in the likes of, say, the Sharknado film series. Instead, Blake Lively grips us with her strong, hyper-focused performance.
9. Buried (2010)
Blake Lively's husband and fellow Hollywood star Ryan Reynolds also has his own survival movie where he's the main (and only) attraction. Buried was enjoyed by critics and viewers alike for its bittersweet taste, filled with suspense and brilliant acting.
Rodrigo Cortés' English-language Spanish thriller buries us six feet underground when a US truck driver wakes up and finds himself trapped in a wooden box deep in the sands of a desert.
Ryan Reynolds' Paul Conroy has nothing but the contents of his pockets to get himself out: a dying phone, a lighter, and a glow stick. This claustrophobic psychological drama will have you on your toes.
8. All Is Lost (2013)
All Is Lost stars Robert Redford as—well, we don't actually know the protagonist's name. Which makes sense, given that there aren't any other characters around to speak it! Suffice it to say, our man is lost at sea and caught in all kinds of dramatic shenanigans.
Directed by J. C. Chandor, All Is Lost has a total of just 51 spoken words—and most of that is right at the beginning. It's a unique film in that it has almost no dialogue, but don't let that put you off!
The film's magic is its ability to hook and engage you with only what's happening on screen despite no talking. The title refers to E. W. Hornung's observation that "when courage is lost, all is lost."
7. Life of Pi (2012)
Based on Yann Martel's 2001 novel, Life of Pi takes place out at sea. A stunning achievement in cinematography, Ang Lee's adventure drama is sweeping with colorful views and impressive special effects.
Join 16-year-old Pi Patel (played by Suraj Sharma) on his journey across the Pacific Ocean, with no one but a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker for company on his small boat.
When an ocean liner capsizes, Pi is left without a family and must navigate his way back to safety. Winner of four Oscars (and nominated for eleven), Life of Pi is grand in every sense of the word.
6. Moon (2009)
Sam (played by Sam Rockwell) is alone in space, circling the moon to mine Helium-3 fuel, and has no one to talk to except his computer named GERTY. Luckily, GERTY is nothing like the infamously evil artificial intelligence HAL from Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey.
In Moon, Sam is nearing the end of his three-year mission when an unconscious doppelgänger shows up and puts a spanner in the works.
Duncan Jones' debut is both funny and tragic at once, investigating the effects that extreme isolation can have on someone. Voiced by Kevin Spacey, you'll quickly forget that GERTY is a machine at all—and you'll find yourself sympathizing with both him and Sam.
5. Gravity (2013)
If this list of one-man movies has taught us anything, it's that sea and space are the two most lonely places to be.
Alfonso Cuarón's sweeping space opera Gravity might boast George Clooney on its cast list, but he doesn't exactly last very long. It's primarily Sandra Bullock who holds us glued to the screen as she hurtles through space with no connection to Earth.
Lonely and hopeless, Dr. Ryan Stone can see only one way out—and we just pray she doesn't take it. The sheer scope and velocity of Gravity is enough to make you speechless, and will blow you away with a central performance as astounding as its special effects.
4. Bronson (2008)
Despite a handful of supporting characters, Bronson mainly stars Tom Hardy and Tom Hardy alone. In fact, it even plays out like a one-man show, with vaudeville-style interludes cut between scenes, in which Hardy is alone on stage and speaking directly to us.
Nicolas Winding Refn's crime biopic uses elements of the surreal to bring the infamous bare-knuckle boxer to life. Known as Britain's "most violent prisoner," Charles Bronson took multiple people hostage while incarcerated.
Bronson takes a theatrical look into the famous inmate's life—one that even Charles himself enjoyed watching!
3. Cast Away (2000)
One of Tom Hanks' most defining roles—and there are plenty to choose from—involved him as a FedEx executive stranded on a desert island. Chuck Noland is on his way to Malaysia for business when his plane crashes and he wakes up surrounded by the Pacific Ocean.
What seem to be the biggest obstacles at first—food, shelter, survival—are nothing compared to the hardships of isolation. Growing mad with loneliness, Chuck draws a face out of blood on a volleyball that becomes his sole companion.
2. Locke (2013)
It seems Tom Hardy has a knack for holding our attention even when there's no one else around. Taking place entirely in one car on a single journey from Birmingham to London, Locke derives all its dialogue from a series of 36 phone calls during that ride.
Tom Hardy is the man behind the wheel, juggling the demands of his wife against nagging calls from his boss and a one-night stand who's going into labor.
Although we do hear the familiar voices of Olivia Colman, Ruth Wilson, Andrew Scott, and Tom Holland, director Steven Knight keeps the camera strictly locked to Ivan Locke's point-of-view.
1. 127 Hours (2010)
You'd be hard-pressed to believe this as a true story if it weren't for the pictures at the end. 127 Hours is the one-man survival story to rule them all, starring James Franco as the unfortunate canyoner Aron Ralston.
While hiking through Utah's Canyonlands National Park on a whim, Aron gets his arm trapped by a boulder. With no one else around and only a few supplies on him, Aron has one chance to get out alive: by sawing off his own arm with nothing more than a dull multi-tool knife.
Danny Boyle's gritty and hallucinogenic adaptation of Ralston's memoirs is tense, to say the least! If you don't like blood, maybe sit this one out.