Best Movies

The Best Movies with Only One Actor 

Ann Casano
Updated June 14, 2019 1.8k votes 481 voters 22.2k views 14 items

List Rules Vote up the best movies with only one actor.

Full disclosure: most of the films on this list of movies with only one actor actually have other actors in them. However, the bulk of the narrative and the heft of the conflict is placed upon a single protagonist who is all alone. So "films with just one actor" speaks more to the plot than the actual number of actors in the movie. Even films like Cast Away have more than one actor, even though the story is almost solely about Chuck's survival. Make sense?

Survival is a common theme among movies that only have one actor. What lengths will Aron (James Franco) go through to survive being trapped by a boulder deep within a canyon in 127 Hours? What will Dr. Neville (Will Smith) learn from the zombie-like monsters in I Am Legend in order to find a cure and save humanity? Will Robert Redford’s character in All Is Lost manage to survive being lost at sea all alone?

Of course, survival is not the only theme in movies where there's only one actor. There are other plot lines. However, no matter the narrative, one thing is for certain: it takes a skilled actor to solely command an audience’s attention for the entire duration of a movie. 

Make your voice heard. Vote up the best movies with only one actor. 
Cast Away is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Movies with Only One Actor
Photo: 20th Century Fox

Lone Actor: Tom Hanks

Tom Hanks plays FedEx employee Chuck Noland, who gets stranded on a deserted island in Robert Zemeckis's Cast Away (2000). It's obviously a story of survival, a plot point that has been used a thousand times, yet Hanks makes Cast Away a winning drama. His relationship with Wilson, a volleyball, tells us all we need to know about humanity and our need for companionship in order to maintain hope and find a will to live. Hanks was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance.

Actors: Tom Hanks, Helen Hunt, Chris Noth, Frederick W. Smith, Jenifer Lewis, + more

Released: 2000

Directed by: Robert Zemeckis

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I Am Legend is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Movies with Only One Actor
Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures

Lone Actor: Will Smith

After a lethal virus turns everyone into zombie-like monsters, Robert Neville (Will Smith) is on his own in New York City in Francis Lawrence's post-apocalyptic I Am Legend (2007). Smith may share the screen with hoardes of the living dead and his dog, but it's not like those creatures are doing any real acting. Neville is on the hunt to find the antidote for the film's virus, and Smith is certainly a large enough screen presence to carry almost the entire movie on his own.

Actors: Will Smith, Emma Thompson, Salli Richardson, Willow Smith, Alice Braga, + more

Released: 2007

Directed by: Francis Lawrence

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127 Hours is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Movies with Only One Actor
Photo: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Lone Actor: James Franco

Danny Boyle's 127 Hours (2010) is based on the true story of lone hiker Aron Ralston (Franco) who gets trapped in a canyon when a boulder falls on his arm. After five days of finding ways to survive and examining his life (via flashback), he makes the grueling life-saving decision to cut off his arm in order to free himself from the rock. Franco was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor for his outstanding performance.

Actors: James Franco, Kate Mara, Lizzy Caplan, Amber Tamblyn, Clémence Poésy, + more

Released: 2010

Directed by: Danny Boyle

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Life of Pi is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Movies with Only One Actor
Photo: 20th Century Fox

Lone Actor: Suraj Sharma

Teenager Pi Patel (Sharma) is the lone human survivor after a storm sinks a cargo ship carrying his family. Patel must survive on a lifeboat with an orangutan, a hyena, a zebra, and a Bengal tiger. Pi is able to forge a friendship and connection with the fearsome tiger that helps them both to survive. Sharma's excellent performance and Ang Lee's rich visual style turns Life of Pi (2012) from an ordinary survival story into a tale of faith and trust.

Actors: Gérard Depardieu, Irrfan Khan, Tabu, Suraj Sharma, Rafe Spall, + more

Released: 2012

Directed by: Ang Lee

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