Duel (1971): The one-man show thrives in theater, but filmmakers are uneasy about stranding audiences with a lone master thespian. When it happens, it’s generally more about a gimmick than an actor’s chops. For instance, not many would flock to a movie starring only Dennis Weaver. But pit him against a belligerent truck, whose driver we never clearly see, and you have both a crackerjack thriller and an unnerving portrayal of the helplessness that accompanies isolation.
The Man Who Sleeps (1974): In author Georges Perec’s adaptation of his 1967 novel, a young man (Jacques Spiesser) decides to withdraw from society, and spends the entire film wandering the lonely streets of Paris. His only companion is a narrator who speaks to him in the second person, which seems to exacerbate his willful alienation.
The Noah (1975): Imagine The Twilight Zone’s beloved “Time Enough at Last” stretched out to two hours. With a hero who thinks he’s Noah. Who hears the voices of Sally Kirkland and Geoffrey Holder. Stalag 17 ’s Robert Strauss plays the last man on earth in a postapocalyptic dirge (in)famous for being tough to finish.
Secret Honor (1984): Long before he was Lt. Bookman on Seinfeld, Philip Baker Hall was known as the only sentient being in Robert Altman’s claustrophobic Richard Nixon freakout. Cursing and ranting, Hall’s Tricky Dick stalks about the small, crimson office that is his well-earned tomb.
Moon (2009): An entire movie mostly populated by not only one but two Sam Rockwells? There’s not much else to recommend about Duncan Jones’ homage to Silent Running—the ’70s eco-space saga with Bruce Dern and three robots (albeit none voiced by Kevin Spacey). But that’s fine.
127 Hours (2010): Not since Cast Away has a major film rested so much on a solitary actor. And it’s James Franco? The spotty one-time Daniel Desario brings his A-game as an outdoorsman reduced to self-amputation. If only his five-day ordeal wasn’t filmed like a Gatorade commercial—it’s X-treme Isolation.
Six Long-Running Film Franchises