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Top 10 Movie Loners


"He kept to himself...didn't barely say hello...I KNEW he was'wrong' soon as I saw him buying that carpet cleaner..."


In keeping with the festive season, let's consider the solitary plight of those filmic characters who will have to pull their own crackers at yuletide...
This list is ordered by the characters' proclivity to keep everyone else off their goddamned lawn…

[Spoilers follow]

10: Joe Saunders [Commander Powell]
Dark Star (1974)

Joe Saunders as Commander Powell in 'Dark Star' (1974)

You'd assume there's not much solitary pleasure to be had in the freezer on a five-man spaceship, but Dark Star's original commander seems to be coping with it. Having suffered a 'double-Pike' mishap in an earlier and unseen period of the spaceship's sun-destroying mission, the least animated character in John Carpenter's cinematic debut is a thoughtful if absent-minded soul, pondering phenomenology in an all-enveloping bed of ice.

Likely to spend Christmas:
...wishing he'd shaved that itchy beard off before the accident.

9: Robert Neville
The Last Man On Earth (1964), The Omega Man (1971), I Am Legend (2007)

Will Smith in 'I Am Legend'

Three actors have played the Neville character from Richard Matheson's myth-making novel: Vincent Price in The Last Man On Earth, Charlton Heston in The Omega Man and Will Smith in I Am Legend. In each case our hero finds himself apparently the lone survivor of a terrible man-made virus that has swept across the planet and transformed the human race into monsters. If you had Neville's neighbours (basically zombified vampires), you'd want them off your lawn too. Price gave the fruitiest rendition of the solitary scientist, but Smith upped the ante on Charlton Heston's mannequin-lust in his own 2007 outing.

Likely to spend Christmas:
...getting nowhere with a fibre-glass woman.

8: Gene Hackman [Harry Caul]
The Conversation (1974)

Gene hackman in The Conversation

Hot property Hackman nerded up admirably to play the surveillance king of San Francisco in Francis Ford Coppola's interstitial outing between Godfather flicks. Frequently seen behind smoked plastic in the movie, his very name (a production typo that stuck) suggests self-absorption and isolation. Caul keeps mistress/girlfriend Teri Garr in a basement apartment, but even his rent cheques can't soften her heart, and apprentice John Cazale is also complaining that Caul won't share his trade secrets. Anonymous, invisible and ultimately lost, the entire point of The Conversation is to show the misplaced romanticism of a lonely man who can't connect, and for whom the only friendly voices are those that record cleanly in his mirrored van.

Likely to spend Christmas:
...torturing his toilet (passes the time).

7: Robert De Niro [Travis Bickle]
Taxi Driver (1976)

Robert DE Niro as Travis Bickle in 'taxi Driver' (1976)

Our Bob takes the much-travelled road through a psychotic Christ-complex in Martin Scorsese's most famous work. The funny thing is that Christ had a lot of friends as well as admirers and isn't reported to have gone round shooting people. Still, he didn't share his society's stigmatisation of prostitutes, and neither does Travis; having failed to 'behave normal' in a romantic assignation with Cybil Shepherd (porno movies remaining an ill-advised 'first date'), our anti-hero seeks to rescue streetwise child hooker Jodie Foster from the clutches of bling-laden pimp Harvey Keitel. The final pre-credits 'zing' shot shows us that Travis - who has improbably survived the bloodbath at the end of Taxi Driver to become a local hero - isn't remotely cured.

Likely to spend Christmas:
...shooting his television. Like the rest of us.

6: Bob Mack ['Gluttony' victim]
Se7en (1994)

Bob Mack as 'gluttony' victim in 'Seven' (1994)

Yup, he's definitely dead. The morbidly obese first victim of John Doe is only occasionally a prosthetic dummy, chiefly in the 'autopsy' scene (where Se7en's make-up advisors took pity on the character and 'blessed' him lavishly). Labelled a 'shut in' by Morgan Freeman's character, 'gluttony victim' could scarcely have left his house without major alterations to the structure. But all he wanted before Kevin Spacey spoiled his fun was to sit in his kitchen with 400 tins of spaghetti sauce and contemplate his ever-extending navel. Did he really deserve this? Well, at least he didn't die alone...

Likely to spend Christmas:
...eating a brace of roast turkeys with lashings of spaghetti sauce.

5: Doug Jones [The Silver Surfer]
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007)

Doug Jones as the Silver Surfer in 'Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer' (2007)

Getting off the Silver Surfer's lawn presents a number of problems, as his lawn is technically the known universe. However it's probably worth making a token effort in case you piss him off enough to suggest to his boss (Galactus) that your planet may make a tasty snack. Back when he was the alien astronomer Norrin Radd, Mr.Surfer was still a bit of a solitary fish, but when Galactus gave him the chrome finish and the sleek star-board, he could indulge his anti-social nature billions of miles away from the nearest civilisation, throwing out great philosophical tracts as he dooms civilisations.

Likely to spend Christmas:
...reading the 'anti-genocide' chapter in How To Win Friends And Influence People.

4: Clint Eastwood [        ]
The 'Fistful' trilogy + possibly Pale Rider and High Plains Drifter (kind of)...

Clint Eastwood as 'The Man With No Name'

Clint Eastwood deserves a top 10 to himself for the numerous misanthropes and loners that have characterised his acting career, right up to and including Gran Torino. But only in Sergio Leone's spaghetti trilogy does Eastwood play a character so anti-socialised as to not even need a name. Is TMWNN taciturn or does he occasionally forget how to talk? NoName really does want the world off his lawn, and he has a damn sight more luck in that regard than Josey Wales, who picks up stragglers and passengers quicker than he can outrun them.

Likely to spend Christmas:
...growling/shooting at anyone who strays into his post-code.

3: Edward Fox [The 'Jackal']
Day Of The Jackal (1973)

Edward Fox in 'The Day Of The Jackal' (1973)

The villain in Frederick Forsyth's hit novel, and the subsequent adaptations in 1971 and 1997, is an icy customer indeed. Not beyond the carnal pleasures, the hired assassin of Fred Zinnemann's 1973 thriller is nonetheless remote and prone to kill or cut loose anything that might hold him back - or even slow him up (despatching love-interest Delphine Seyrig without compunction). Since 1970s thrillers were occasionally prone to slender characterisation, Bruce Willis came up with a rather more psychotic Jackal for his late-90s outing.

Likely to spend Christmas:
...shooting turkeys with gas-filled bullets.

2: Ted Levine [Jame 'Buffalo Bill' Gumb]
Silence Of The Lambs (1991)

It rubs the lotion on its back or it gets the hose again. One can't help but feel that the true meaning of Christmas has escaped Buffalo Bill. Yet any man with a hobby surely has something to share with the world...? Trouble is that may involve a stroll down the catwalk with a coat made out of women.

Likely to spend Christmas:
...sewing. Sewing. Sewing.

1: Billy Bob Thornton [Ed Crane]
The Man Who Wasn't There (2001)

Billy Bob Thornton as Ed Crane in the Coen Brothers' 'The Man Who Wasn't There' (2001)

Has any character in the history of movies shown such indifference to the casual pleasures of human society as the misanthropic barber of the Coen Brothers' under-rated outing? This man doesn't move enough to wind his watch, and even the distant spiritual redemption Mr. Thornton (half)experiences in Bad Santa (2003) is beyond Ed Crane. Even Crane's impulses towards social and financial betterment stem from his deep wish to escape any communion with the human race. He dreams instead of flying saucers that may take him away from any human contact at all...

Likely to spend Christmas:
...standing very still.

Honourable mentions:
Ebenezer Scrooge
The Knight in Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade
Bruno Lawrence (The Quiet Earth)
The Phantom Of The Opera
Edward Scissorhands
William Baldwin - Sliver
Frankenstein's Monster
Sam Rockwell (Moon)

The Wizard Of Oz
David Bowie (The Man Who Fell To Earth)
Kane (Citizen Kane)
Captain Nemo
Drax (Moonraker)
'K' (The Trial)
Stephen Lack (Scanners)
Rick Deckard (Blade Runner)
The Gimp (Pulp Fiction)
Jack Nance (Eraserhead)
Miss Havisham (Great Expectations, 1947/98)
Norman Bates (Psycho)
Baby Jane
Edward Norton (Fight Club)
Catherine Deneuve (Repulsion)

See also:

Top 10 coolest gangs in film

The 10 best-to-worst movie vigilante teams

Top 10 coolest professions (according to film and TV)

Lists at Shadowlocked


If you're interested in writing for Shadowlocked (disc and screening reviews, etc, or just getting some extra coverage for your extraordinary writing talent, get in touch with us.



#1 Guest 2010-01-07 13:16
Thanx for mentioning,

and Edward Norton in - Fight Club (Greatest movie EVER!!)
#2 RE: Top 10 Movie Loners robthom 2011-01-23 09:04
I'm blowing you a kiss for commander Powell.

While cursing you under my breath for not only NOT including Max, but also for Max not being number 1!

BTW: Although Edward Fox can be pretty good, like his small but snazzy role in Duallists, Micheal Cain would have pushed that already fine but relatively obscure movie into legendary territory.

(Oh, all the things that coulda and shoulda.)
#3 mr jimbo taylor 2011-04-28 14:07
very much appreciate the inclusion of the jackal. great character, from a great novel and a great film. although dunno about you, didn't you almost want him to succeed in his mission?
#4 Don't forget... strokedoc 2012-03-18 02:49
Zac Hobson, the ultimate loner, in The Quiet Earth. He gets as alone as a loner can get.
#5 Really? WTF 2013-08-21 11:39
No Mad Max, no Rick Blaine from CASABLANCA, but you put a prosthetic dummy at number six? Sorry, this list sucks.
#6 RE: Top 10 Movie Loners Niella 2013-10-09 22:10
Trevor Reznik in The Machinist.

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