The Best Movies With Only One Actor

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.

  • 1
    352 VOTES
    Cast Away
    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, Nick Searcy, Lari White, Michael Forest
    • Released: 2000
    • Directed by: Robert Zemeckis
  • 2
    321 VOTES
    I Am Legend
    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, Alice Braga, Dash Mihok, Charlie Tahan, Salli Richardson-Whitfield
    • Released: 2007
    • Directed by: Francis Lawrence
  • 3
    229 VOTES
    127 Hours
    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, Amber Tamblyn, Kate Mara, Clémence Poésy, Treat Williams
    • Released: 2010
    • Directed by: Danny Boyle
  • 4
    174 VOTES
    Photo: Lionsgate

    Lone Actor: Ryan Reynolds

    Warning: Buried (2010), a Hitchcockian thriller, is not for the claustrophobic. Paul (Reynolds) is a contract truck driver in Iraq. After an attack, he awakes inside a coffin buried in the sand. He has a cell phone, which he can actually make calls from, and a lighter. But time is ticking and Paul's air is quickly running out. Director Rodrigo Cortes's camera never goes outside of the coffin and positions the spectator directly with Paul for 94 air-starved minutes.
    • Actors: Ryan Reynolds, Robert Paterson, José Luis García-Pérez, Stephen Tobolowsky, Samantha Mathis
    • Released: 2010
    • Directed by: Rodrigo Cortés