15 Eye-Opening Movies About Loneliness That Blew Us Away

Summary

  • Movies about loneliness offer a powerful reflection on human nature, exploring themes of connection, alienation, and self-realization.
  • Characters in these films often navigate urban loneliness, seek friendship, or grapple with isolation due to tragedy.
  • Through poignant narratives, these movies shed light on the enduring struggle for meaningful connections in a disconnected world.

Movies about loneliness have the power to resonate with audiences in a way few other concepts can. They address the most natural impulses of human nature, such as the desire to connect and feel socially accepted. Films that explore loneliness often encapsulate themes of alienation, depression, disconnection, and social exclusion. The protagonists of these movies are usually deeply troubled individuals on journeys of self-actualization and realization. Their experiences mimic the difficulties that many people face in the real world, and through their narrative, viewers can find meaning in their own lives.

Some movies about loneliness explore individual characters in search of friendship and meaningful relationships. Others address the loneliness felt in urban living and how, even though a city may be vast and populated, without proper social connections, it can feel small and empty. There are even some films where a sad character’s death leads to the protagonist being lonely. All of these movies address the theme of loneliness and have something eye-opening and insightful to say about the nature of isolation.

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Screen Rant breaks down the best movies of all time, from old classics to modern masterpieces across multiple genres of cinema.

15 Harold And Maude (1971)

A Lonely Eccentric Young Man Finds Connection With An Older Woman

Ruth Gordon look and Bud Cort looking longingly as Harold and Maude in Harold and Maude

The dark comedy Harold and Maude tells the story of a lonely young man obsessed with death, who befriends and later has a romance with an eccentric 79-year-old woman. A strange and oddly heartfelt tale, its message of living life to the fullest and ignoring societal expectations cemented this movie as a cult favorite that has been voted as one of the greatest rom-coms of all time. With a beautiful, catchy soundtrack by Cat Stevens, this slightly creepy film is a love letter to every lonely outcast who has found an unlikely friendship in the strangest of places.

Despite the extreme eccentricities of the characters, the movie can strike a chord with anyone who has felt the loneliness of being an outsider or being perceived as “different.” However, the film also beautifully captures the feeling of completion when someone who has never quite fit in finds a perfect counterpart in the world and discovers acceptance for the first time.

14 Taxi Driver (1976)

A Lonely New York Taxi Driver Fails To Connect With The World Around Him

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The late-night taxicab monologues of Travis Bickle in Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driverpresent some of the most effective ponderings on loneliness and isolation ever committed to film. Written by Paul Schrader, Taxi Driver features an incredible performance by Robert De Niro as a disillusioned and lonely New York taxi driver, Bickle is a veteran with deteriorating mental health who is disgusted by the crime and filth he witnesses every night while working the late shift in his cab.

Everything about this movie evokes a sense of loneliness from the script to the soundtrack and delivers the best character study in Scorsese’s varied filmography. The way loneliness is explored in the movie is as layered as its protagonist.

There are so many memorable Taxi Driver quotes about Travis’ ruminations on the disconnected nature of the world. It comments on the struggles of war veterans adjusting to normal life as well as the cynical world of the time when anger and distrust were a default. However, Travis’ rageful insistence that he deserves love and respect is terrifying.

13 Wings Of Desire (1987)

A Lonely Angel Obsessed With Humans Wishes To Become Mortal

Bruno Ganz as the angel Damiel with wings in Wings of Desire

A romantic fantasy film by Wim Wenders, Wings of Desire is about a lonely angel observing the lives of humans in Berlin. Desperate to experience the joys of human existence, the angel, named Damiel, chooses to become mortal and discover all life has to offer.

Wings of Desireshowcases the deeply alienating nature of city living, the universal desire for connection, and the loneliness that comes from extended solitude. The film, which was released just a few years before the fall of the Berlin fall, acts as a call for human connection and highlights the enduring power of love.

It is a movie that shows both the heartbreaking feeling of being alone as well as the beauty in searching for those relationships in life. The fantasy elements do nothing to take away from the very human story of the longing to be seen.

12 Cast Away (2000)

A Lonely Man Is Stranded Alone On An Island

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Cast Away

Release Date December 22, 2000 Director Robert Zemeckis Cast Paul Sanchez , Lari White , Leonid Citer , David Allen Brooks , Jelena Papovic , Valentina Ananyina Runtime 143 minutes

The Robert Zemeckis film Cast Away, starring Tom Hanks, is a testament to humans’ enduring potential for resilience. Telling the story of Chuck Noland, a FedEx systems analyst, who desperately attempts to survive being stranded on an uninhabited island, the main challenge he must overcome is that of loneliness.

In his search for friendship, Chuck names a volleyball Wilson and, over four years, the two develop an imagined heartfelt friendship. The emotional climax of Cast Away comes when Wilson floats away after falling off the raft Chuck had built to escape the island.

Chuck’s distress at this moment highlights just how important Wilson was in circumventing his loneliness. It is an extreme example of isolation and loneliness being thrust upon someone but Cast Away‘s grounds its story is something very human and relatable. Tom Hanks’ incredible performance adds to the wonderful achievement of making the idea of a volleyball floating away something heartbreaking.

11 One Hour Photo (2002)

A Lonely Photo Technician Becomes Obsessed With A Family

Robin Williams as Seymour "Sy" Parrish taking a photo with Connie Nielsen as Nina Yorkin in One Hour Photo

One Hour Photostarring Robin Williams is an examination of the darker side of loneliness. It features a photo technician at a one-hour lab, Sy Parrish, who develops an unhealthy obsession with a family who uses his services. As Sy becomes deeply invested in the family’s lives, he discovers the husband is having an affair, and his idealized fantasy about the family is broken.

Sy was using the family to fill an emotional void in his soul and, through his compulsive obsession with them, One Hour Photo explores themes of isolation, desperation, and alienation in a deeply uncomfortable and tense psychological thriller.

Williams’ performance is one of the best of his career and is seen as his best villainous creation. However, Sy works because Williams doesn’t make him a cartoonish villain. The audience is able to feel sad for this man who desperately craves a connection but that desperation drives him too far.

10 Lost In Translation (2003)

A Lonely Film Star Seeks Connection In Japan

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Lost in Translation

Release Date October 3, 2003 Director Sofia Coppola Cast Fumihiro Hayashi , Bill Murray , Anna Faris , Giovanni Ribisi , Scarlett Johansson , Catherine Lambert Runtime 102 minutes

Lost in Translation writer and director Sofia Coppola described the film as a story of “being disconnected and looking for moments of connection” (via Filmmaker) which is exemplified by Bill Murray’s character of Bob Harris.

Lost in Translation is set against a backdrop of alienation and disconnection in Japan, Bob is a lonely, faded movie star who finds a connection with an American called Charlotte, played by Scarlett Johansson. The way Lost in Translation layers themes of cultural displacement, shared isolation, and the disappointment of unfulfilled relationships builds a film that is both melancholy and poignant.

It is about the transient nature of relationships and how meaning can be found in the briefest moments. Coppola’s direction brilliantly captures a sense of isolation within the busy and vibrant city of Tokyo. There are times in which it feels like Bob and Scarlett are the only two people left in the world and have managed to find each other.

9 Synecdoche, New York (2008)

A Lonely Playwright Attempts To Stage The Story Of His Life

An image of Philip Seymour Hoffman as Charlie looking at something off-screen in Synecdoche, New York

Synecdoche, New York is a grand psychological drama written and directed by Charlie Kaufman that explores the loneliness of theater director Caden Cotard, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Despite experiencing disconnection from practically everybody in his life, Caden further alienates himself with the production of an elaborate stage play that blends the boundaries between fact and fiction. As the years continue to pass, his existential loneliness only perpetuates further, his life passing him by as he fails to find meaning through his creative endeavor.

Despite the confusing ending of Synecdoche, New York, the film is a complex portrait of loneliness and the way art can both relieve and intensify its effects. As much as the project at the center of the story grows into a massive and unwieldy undertaking, the movie is always grounded in those very relatable and human feelings of not knowing how to address the feeling of emptiness.

8 Detachment (2011)

A Lonely Teacher Finds Connection With Others

Adrien Brody as Henry Barthes and Sami Gayle as Erica leaning on a fence in Detachment.

Telling the story of a teacher played by Adrian Brody, Detachment is a heartfelt portrait of a lonely and stoic man. In the film, Henry Barthes is on a one-month substitute assignment teaching English. Normally, in Henry’s job, he moves from school to school never forming any lasting connections or meaningful relationships.

However, despite his efforts to distance himself from others, he connects with a troubled teenager named Erica. As he attempts to help Erica make a better life for herself, he in turn is forced to confront the emptiness in his own life and the true depths of his loneliness.

The heartbreaking journey of Henry in the movie is that he cares about his job and his students, wanting to help steer them away from a life that he has failed to avoid himself. It is one of the best films to explore the empathy loneliness can inspire in people who have been through the same thing.

7 The Perks Of Being A Wallflower (2012)

A Lonely Teenager Discovers Meaning Through Friendship

Logan Lerman as Charlie Kelmeckis crying in The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Perks of Being a Wallflower PG-13

Release Date September 20, 2012 Director Stephen Chbosky Cast Emma Watson , logan lerman , Ezra Miller , Paul Rudd , Nina Dobrev

A coming-of-age drama by Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Beings a Wildflower is based on the director’s novel of the same name. Depicting a lonely teenager named Charlie, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, and the friendships he forms in high school, this film showcases how someone who considers themselves an outsider can find meaning and connection through other people.

Charlie forms genuine bonds with his new friends as the film explores themes of mental health, trauma, the trials of being a teenager, and loneliness faced by many young people. The movie can be uplifting at times but is also heartbreaking in how much loneliness can stay with a person.

Charlie finds happiness with his new group of friends, but he is also terrified by the idea of losing them. It explores how past trauma can feed into those feelings of loneliness, making a person feel as though they are not worthy of the kind of connections that other people enjoy.

6 Her (2013)

A Lonely Man Seeks Love With An Artificial Companion

Joaquin Phoenix as Theodore Twombly talking to Samantha in Her

An exploration of loneliness in the modern age, Her follows the story of Theodore Twombly and his relationship with the artificial AI virtual assistant Samantha. Emotionally isolated and due to his impending divorce, Theodore struggles to form meaningful connections with those around him.

When Theodore discovers companionship and what feels like love in his connection with Samantha, the film brings up questions about the viability of love in the age of AI, and how humans will address their need for intimacy in an increasingly isolating world.

The movie pulls off an interesting juxtaposition between the fact that Theodore is pushing himself further away from human connection through his relationship with Samantha while also depicting that relationship as being legitimately fulfilling. With each passing year and the increasing rise in AI in modern life, Her becomes more impactful and insightful.

5 The Lobster (2015)

A Lonely Bachelor Must Find A Partner Or Face Becoming An Animal

Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz running through high grass in The Lobster

This black comedy is set in a hotel where all single people are obliged to find a partner, or they will be transformed into animals. The Lobster, directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, is a deeply strange and satirical film that addresses loneliness, the societal pressure to be in a relationship, and the alienation that comes from trying and failing to connect with others. The Lobster is a deeply clevercommentary on the absurdity and desperation of modern relationships, that accurately highlights the sad, surreal, and at times funny nature of contemporary courtship.

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One of the most interesting aspects of the movie is what people are willing to give up in order to not be lonely which is highlighted by the darkly hilarious ending of The Lobster. Characters lie about themselves and contort their true selves into the type of person who fits with who their partner is. It examines the pressures of those who think relationships are a necessity of life while also showing the hypocrisy in the people who claim people can be happy without a partner.

4 Manchester By The Sea (2016)

A Lonely Grief-stricken Man Deals With Unspeakable Tragedy

Casey Affleck as Lee Chandler looking distressed in Manchester By the Sea

Manchester By the Sea

Release Date November 18, 2016 Director Kenneth Lonergan Cast Casey Affleck , Kyle Chandler , Lucas Hedges , Michelle Williams Runtime 137 Minutes

A film that explores themes of depression, guilt, and loneliness, Manchester by the Sea is the tale of a grief-stricken man who has become guardian to his teenage nephew following his brother’s death. The film received massive critical acclaim and Casey Affleck received the Academy Award for his portrayal of the loner Lee Chandler.

By focusing on the profound complexities of grief and difficulties in overcoming unspeakable tragedy, Manchester by the Sea is a carefully constructed and at times difficult film that impressively encapsulates the suffering felt by struggling characters. In this case, Lee is a man whose loneliness and isolation are self-imposed.

He cannot forgive himself for a tragedy in his past and the loss of his brother forces him to reengage with life for the sake of his nephew. The loneliness in pain is exhibited in moments of social awkwardness, sudden rage, and self-destructive behavior. Heartbreaking yet honest, the movie touches on the fact that, in real life, such feelings of despair cannot always be overcome.

3 Eighth Grade (2018)

A Lonely Teenage Girl Seeks Connection And Social Acceptance

Elsie Fisher as Kayla Day on her laptop in Eighth Grade

Eighth Grade

Release Date July 13, 2018 Director Bo Burnham Cast Emily Robinson , Nora Mullins , Fred Hechinger , Greg Crowe , Josh Hamilton , Catherine Oliviere , Daniel Zolghadri , Shacha Temirov , Elsie Fisher , Luke Prael , Jake Ryan , Missy Yager , Imani Lewis , Thomas J O’Reilly Runtime 93 Minutes Expand

The Bo Burnham-directed film Eighth Grade expertly addresses the anxiety, loneliness, and struggle for social acceptance that is the modern teenage experience. Telling the story of Kayla Day, an eighth grader, who posts motivational vlogs about self-image that nobody watches, Eighth Grade highlights how, although the world is more connected than ever before, there has never been a more lonely or alienating time to be a young person.

Eighth Grade brings up themes of consent, sexual assault, social media, and the human desire for connection. This movie is so clever in how it speaks to a specific generation of young people who are dealing with being raised in a very different world. However, the moments of socially awkward interactions and attempts to fit in at this age will painfully resonate with many viewers, no matter how old they are.

2 Drive My Car (2021)

A Lonely Playwright Discovers A Connection With His Driver

 Hidetoshi Nishijima as Yūsuke Kafuku standing by the car with Tōko Miura as Misaki Watariin Drive My Car

Drive My Car

Release Date November 24, 2021 Director Ryusuke Hamaguchi Cast Toko Miura , Park Yurim , Hidetoshi Nishijima , Reika Kirishima , Masaki Okada , Jin Daeyeon Runtime 179 minutes

A Japanese drama based on a short story by Haruki Murakami, Drive My Care follows the lonely theatre director Yūsuke Kafuku. While trying to cope with both the death of his wife and the knowledge that she was having an affair, Yūsuke bonds with his driver Misaki Watari over their shared emotional wounds.

A slow, sentimental, and moving film, Drive My Car is a complex narrative of buried emotion, the profound consequences of loss, the need for forgiveness, and the all-encapsulating power of art. The movie explores relationships in such a unique, unexpected, and powerful way.

In a typical film, Yūsuke and Misaki would have formed a romantic relationship. However, Drive My Car beautifully explores the idea of the comfort of finding someone else who is consumed by loneliness and going through the same things as them. While they cannot be that person for each other, they help remind each other they are not truly alone.

1 The Banshees Of Inisherin (2022)

A Lonely Man Is Forced To Confront The End Of His Most Important Friendship

Collage of Brendan Gleeson as Colm Doherty and Colin Farrell as Pádraic Súilleabháin in The Banshees of Inisherin

The Banshees of Inisherin

Release Date October 21, 2022 Director Martin McDonagh Cast Colin Farrell , Brendan Gleeson , Kerry Condon , Barry Keoghan Runtime 109 minutes

The tragicomedy The Banshees of Inisherin demonstrates the lonely consequences of an abruptly ended friendship. The Banshees of Inisherin is set on a fictional island off the coast of Ireland in the 1920s and the film stars Colin Farrell as Pádraic Súilleabháin, a man whose world is torn apart when his best friend Colm Doherty, played by Brendan Gleeson, decides he no longer wishes to be his friend.

What follows is a deeply troubling examination of the nature of friendship and how its absence can devastate, destroy, and dismantle a simple island village. With incredible performances from its two lead actors, The Banshees of Inisherin stands as one of the best films of the 2020s. The central fractured friendship explores the loneliness of the two men.

Colm is consumed by sadness and desperately hopes the severing of this friendship will appease those feelings. Meanwhile, Pádraic’s happiness is drained from the loss of his best friend. Loneliness is further explored with the supporting characters of the movie, as Siobhán (Kerry Condon) wants to escape the isolated life on the island and Dominic (Barry Keoghan) wants love in a world that doesn’t accept him.

Sources: Filmmaker

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