February 9, 2006 3:22 PM   Subscribe

I am looking for movies with only a few main characters and little to no secondary characters. The main characters talk alot about philosophy, or politics or love or something, anything interesting really. (more inside). This type of movie often takes place in a deserted locale for much of the film... a few people get lost on a camping trip, or stranded on an island, or they share a jail cell together..

The type of movie I'm looking for here is likely to be independent films, partially because hollywood movies tend towards lots of action, and partially because a movie with only 2 or 3 actors that takes place in a secluded place is cheap to make. One example that sort of fits the description would be "Clerks" (the movie that guest stars Jay and Silent Bob).

Another film that fits the general idea is "Waking Life", which is about a teenager who is in a dream, who keeps talking to people in his dream. They talk about anything from politics to religion, about love, and science..

I cant remember the name of it, but there was a movie that took place after a nuclear war, and the only characters were several scientists sitting in a cave waiting to die, discussing .. everything.
posted by JokingClown to Society & Culture (80 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Primer & The Quiet Earth are both pretty good.
posted by riffola at 3:24 PM on February 9, 2006

Mindwalk is a good candidate, but it's VHS only, and hard to find. Politics, poetry, and quantum physics, in a long discussion between three characters.
posted by frykitty at 3:25 PM on February 9, 2006

It's not a movie, but the play Someone To Watch Over Me is exactly about this. 3 people (American, British, Irish) are captured and stuck in a cell for several years. It's very interesting, funny, heartbreaking, etc. Of course, that all depends on how good the cast is when you see it.
posted by rossination at 3:27 PM on February 9, 2006

The Addiction was such a movie, where there was a LOT of philosophical dialogue in the film. It has a few "big names" such as Christopher Walken and Annabella Sciorra, but it was very dialogue-heavy and interesting. (And weird, of course, given the subject matter.)
posted by Gator at 3:28 PM on February 9, 2006

Tape, directed by Richard Linklater (also of Waking Life), the cast of which contains only Ethan Hawke, Robert Sean Leonard, and Uma Thurman. The set is a cruddy motel room.

Also Twelve Angry Men starring Henry Fonda. A few more characters (16, according to IMDB, but 12 main ones -- tada!), and most of the movie takes place in a deliberation room of a courthouse.
posted by penchant at 3:28 PM on February 9, 2006

Not what you're looking for, really, but the post-nuclear war thing reminds me of the movie On The Beach.
posted by TunnelArmr at 3:29 PM on February 9, 2006

My Dinner with Andre
posted by timeistight at 3:30 PM on February 9, 2006

My Dinner with Andre.
posted by ericb at 3:30 PM on February 9, 2006

Jinx -- timeistight, you owe me a Coke!
posted by ericb at 3:31 PM on February 9, 2006

Hold on; do you mean that you're looking for that one specific post-apacalytic movie, or are you looking for general suggestions?

If you're interested in general suggestions, how about My Dinner with Andre, which is sort of the prototype for this kind of movie?
posted by mr_roboto at 3:31 PM on February 9, 2006

If you don't mind a wicked turn of events, Deathtrap ignore most of those credits; they're a lot of characters on and off-screen in a flash) and Sleuth could be your cup of tea. Though most of the talking there is rather pointed, and not especially philosophical.

... Funny, I was thinking of posting an AskMe very similar to this one, but asking for films like this that are thrillers or mysteries.
posted by Tuwa at 3:36 PM on February 9, 2006

Kiss of the Spider Woman.
posted by fixedgear at 3:37 PM on February 9, 2006

Your criteria are a perfect description of Ingmar Bergman's "chamber trilogy" (Through a Glass Darkly, Winter Light, and The Silence), which are available as a boxed set from Criterion. You might also enjoy some of Jim Jarmusch's films -- particularly Down By Law (though Jarmusch tends to be a bit lighter on the philosophical conversation).
posted by Acetylene at 3:43 PM on February 9, 2006

Linklater's Before Sunset / Before Sunrise (Ethan Hawke + Julie Delpy)

Perhaps Stillman's Metropolitan?
posted by shoepal at 3:44 PM on February 9, 2006

I can't tell if you are looking for a particular movie here, or just generally asking for this type of movie. If it's the later, then I suggest the two Richard Linklater movies Before Sunrise , and Before Sunset.
posted by Packy_1962 at 3:48 PM on February 9, 2006

The greatest movie ever:

The Lion In Winter

Katherine Hepburn. Peter O'Toole. Anthony Hopkins. Timothy Dalton.
posted by Justinian at 3:51 PM on February 9, 2006

The Grand Illusion could work for you, if you're not averse to 1937 French films.
posted by generichuman at 3:51 PM on February 9, 2006

Ah, how could I forget this one? ... Since you said "anything interesting, really," I'll go for another with some very pointed (but fascinating, IMO) talk: Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
posted by Tuwa at 3:52 PM on February 9, 2006

Another one that fits the bill (but isn't your post apocalyptic film) is Closet Land. A dark little flick where Alan Rickman spends most of the movie interrogating Madeleine Stowe. i haven't seen it in years, but i remember it to be pretty good.
posted by quin at 3:54 PM on February 9, 2006

You MUST see "Gerry" by Gus Van Sant. It stars matt damon and casey affleck as a couple of guys who get lost in the desert. Very simple, beautiful, sad.
posted by ORthey at 3:58 PM on February 9, 2006

Taste of Cherry?
posted by nathancaswell at 4:04 PM on February 9, 2006

Taste of a Working Link
posted by nathancaswell at 4:04 PM on February 9, 2006

Another vote for Mindwalk. has it in stock, although only in VHS.
posted by tkolar at 4:07 PM on February 9, 2006

Two Girls and a Guy, which stars two girls (Heather Graham and Natasha Gregson Wagner) and a guy (Robert Downey, Jr.). There are a few folks who pop in at the beginning, but 95% of the movie is the three of them in an apartment.
posted by robhuddles at 4:08 PM on February 9, 2006

posted by sfenders at 4:14 PM on February 9, 2006

Jarmusch's Down by Law fits this bill pretty well. There's a bit of set-up time (first 15 min), but after that its pretty much all Benigni, Waits, and Lurie.

Another classic with an extremely limited cast is Tarkovsky's Stalker. If you want philosophical agonizing and talk, talk, talk-- this one's for you...
posted by Chrischris at 4:16 PM on February 9, 2006

your post-apocalyptic scientists sounds a bit like the Designated Mourner which is post-intellectual-pogrom intellectuals sitting in a stagey black box room talking.
posted by xueexueg at 4:16 PM on February 9, 2006

I think Death and the Maiden and Oleanna kind of fit your bill. I just can't remember how much discussing of stuff takes place in these movies.

I could be wrong, but most of the movies named above will be based on plays - for obvious reasons.
posted by meech at 4:19 PM on February 9, 2006

And it all comes back to Wallace Shawn!
posted by mr_roboto at 4:20 PM on February 9, 2006

Glenngary Glenn Ross, starring Al Pacino, Kevin Spacey, Jack Lemmon, Ed Harris, Alan Arkin, Alec Baldwin, Jonathan Price... All takes place in an office and a diner across the street. It's great. One of my all time faves.

Like many in a category like this, it's adapted from a play (many plays have a short character list and few locations)
posted by RustyBrooks at 4:24 PM on February 9, 2006

Lakeboat or Oleanna, both by Mamet. Also The Big Kahuna.
posted by cribcage at 4:33 PM on February 9, 2006

posted by purephase at 4:35 PM on February 9, 2006


Almost any movie adapted from a play would probably suit your needs.
posted by luneray at 4:50 PM on February 9, 2006

Sex, Lies and Videotape

Tiny main cast, 4 characters, barely anyone else even appears on the screen.

Brilliant dialogue: could've been filmed in a garage and the dialogue would hold up on it's own.
posted by selton at 4:51 PM on February 9, 2006

I suggest Mike Leigh's Naked starring David Thewliss

The main character Johnny drifts into London on the lam and proceeds to meet different people one after another. Most of the scenes are him and one or two characters.
And if it's talk about philosophy, politics or love you got all that one. It is one the most overlooked and underrated films of the 90's. It is unflinching and raw though at times, so viewer beware if you are expecting a Disneyfied treatise on the things.

I can go on and on but won't , you all have fingers and clickers look into more reviews and rent it. It is worth it. What stinks is I have never run into anyone who has seen it. And to top it off my date fell asleep halfway through it when we caught it on the big screen in 93.

i also second Kiss Of The Spider Woman... Raul Julia is sorely missed.
posted by stavx at 5:03 PM on February 9, 2006

Ingmar Bergman's Persona only really has two characters. And one of them doesn't even talk!
posted by vacapinta at 5:05 PM on February 9, 2006

Alfred Hitchcock's "Rope"

Takes place entirely within 3 rooms of an apartment in Manhattan. 3 main characters and only 6 supporting characters.

"Rear Window," too. Only 2 main characters in that one.
posted by JekPorkins at 5:07 PM on February 9, 2006

Melvin Goes to Dinner
posted by camcgee at 5:08 PM on February 9, 2006

From another direction entirely: Enemy Mine.
posted by joeclark at 5:12 PM on February 9, 2006

"The Five Obstructions", by Lars Von Trier.

"Death and the Maiden", by Polanski (already mentioned above)

Also, I think "Closer" fits this category, as every word of dialogue is takes place between two out of the only four characters at any given time.

For older movies, I would check out "The Night of the Iguana" and "Suddenly Last Summer", both Tennessee Williams adaptations, both heavy on loooong dialogues and monologues, but searingly written and performed.
posted by hermitosis at 5:20 PM on February 9, 2006

Metropolitan & Barcelona, both by Whit Stillman come to mind.
posted by herrdoktor at 5:32 PM on February 9, 2006

just as aside Hermitosis, any luck on contacting that family of a deceased man that was in a thread you posted a few weeks ago?....please delete if I am out of line here .please
posted by stavx at 5:34 PM on February 9, 2006

A favorite of mine, with few characters, is Wim Wenders' Kings of the Road (Im Lauf Der Zeit). There's not much talking, and in fact there are long stretches of silence, but the settings are remote and the movie looks like it was incredibly cheap to make.
posted by jayder at 5:39 PM on February 9, 2006

Bitter Moon, anything by Hal Hartley, most notably Surviving Desire and the beautiful No Such Thing.

But get brave and venture into fascinating seldom-explored territory with films like Denise Calls Up and The Sticky Fingers of Time.
posted by bingo at 5:46 PM on February 9, 2006

My favorite movie is Rashomon.
Three strangers take shelter from the rain in an abandoned building. Their meeting frames a story about three people: a rich couple, and a bandit who attacks them. The characters do have a purpose; puzzling out what happened to the couple and the bandit. Since it's so hard to puzzle out, it becomes a philosophical reflection on topics like "why people lie" and "can we ever know the truth."
posted by CrunchyFrog at 6:02 PM on February 9, 2006

The Decline of the American Empire and it's sequel the Barbarian Invasion fit your criteria.
posted by Staggering Jack at 6:24 PM on February 9, 2006

Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead. (Well they are)!
posted by Clay201 at 6:35 PM on February 9, 2006

Babette's Feast probably fits the spirit of what you're looking for, JokingClown, although the cast is a little larger than what you've specified, and it does cut away to several locations to set up the story, early on. Still, half of the movie is one dinner party, where the previous threads of the story are all tied up, and there is one heck of a good reveal.
posted by paulsc at 6:51 PM on February 9, 2006

L'Hypothèse du tableau volé
posted by juv3nal at 7:27 PM on February 9, 2006

Stand By Me kind of fits that description I think.

Alfred Hitchcock's Rope is also notable because it was done with I think 2-3 shots fo the whole movie. Editor didn't have to do a whole lot of work on that one.
posted by visual mechanic at 7:28 PM on February 9, 2006

I'm not certain that all of these are exactly what you're looking for: Insignificance, The Breakfast Club, Dark Star, Silent Running, 2001, Easy Rider.
posted by Leon at 7:40 PM on February 9, 2006

Withnail & I
posted by dinah at 8:01 PM on February 9, 2006

A Pure Formality has Depardieu and Polanski and essentially noone else. Brilliant film.
posted by Aknaton at 8:03 PM on February 9, 2006

Also, American Buffalo. Like The Big Kahuna, it consists of three actors. (Oleanna is only two, professor and student. Mamet is partial to small casts, partly because these films begin as plays and he's sensitive to the economics of theater.)

But The Big Kahuna is really along the lines of what you're looking for, both in terms of small cast and in "What does it all mean?" themes.
posted by cribcage at 8:47 PM on February 9, 2006

Hitchcock's 1944 Lifeboat has a cast of 6 men and 3 women. No big stars (Tallulah Bankhead and William Bendix got Oscar nominations) but lots of talk and drama.
posted by bmckenzie at 8:58 PM on February 9, 2006

The Breakfast Club. Seriously.
posted by softlord at 9:08 PM on February 9, 2006

Possibly not exactly what you're looking for, but I think Cube qualifies under this description.
posted by Caviar at 9:09 PM on February 9, 2006

I'll second Closer.

Also, The Caretaker, the filmed version of the Pinter play, though it can be rather absurdist.
posted by kyleg at 9:13 PM on February 9, 2006

2001: A Space Odyssey? The Shining? Misery? The Beguiled?
posted by dhartung at 9:25 PM on February 9, 2006

I'll third Death and the Maiden, from a play by Ariel Dorfman; it's a tight, gripping 3-person story about very big things like justice, truth, love, torture and revenge. The characters are stranded together via a car crash and electrical outage in a remote location in a South American country, with Sigourney Weaver trying to convince her Justice Minister husband that guest Ben Kingsley is in fact the man who tortured and raped her during her political imprisonment. It's not perfect, but it's a good, sharp film that fits your requirements well.
posted by mediareport at 9:55 PM on February 9, 2006

Rubin and Ed
posted by yodelingisfun at 10:28 PM on February 9, 2006

The Photographer....Lost in Translation....Harold and Maude....

Those are just off the top of my head.
posted by Windigo at 10:44 PM on February 9, 2006

Waiting for Godot, there have been a few versions on film. I've liked all of them. For that matter most of the bits included in Beckett On Film fit most of your criteria. Depressing as hell, but very good.
posted by edgeways at 10:44 PM on February 9, 2006

Response by poster: Holy crap, 65 replies, thats awesome. Ill be adding alot of these to my netflix account, thank you all very much. And to clarify, I wasnt looking for any specific film, just any that fit the description. This is why I love Metafilter.
posted by JokingClown at 12:12 AM on February 10, 2006

Last Tango in Paris

(If it's philosophical talk you like, it's near the end. Just fast foward through all the boring parts beforehand.)
posted by mono blanco at 12:36 AM on February 10, 2006

Interesting tidbit about hitchcocks rope...

It appears as one single take. There are ZERO jump cuts. There's only one spot in the middle of the film where there *could* have been a cut, and there probably was due to the length (back then) of film canisters.

Brilliant movie.
posted by jaded at 5:54 AM on February 10, 2006

Actually, each film reel in Rope is only about 10 minutes max; Hitchcock just hid most of the cuts so they appear seamless. You know, like panning behind an actor's back so it blocks the screen, and starting the next reel from there. I think there are something like ten "shots" in the film.
posted by transient at 7:46 AM on February 10, 2006

I haven't seen it in a while, but maybe Limbo, by John Sayles.
posted by nathancaswell at 8:03 AM on February 10, 2006

I second The Big Kahuna. I absolutely hated it, but it perfectly fits what you're looking for. If I recall correctly, it was based on a play, which seems likely, and you'll probably find a lot of films based on plays will similarly have a limited cast and action that plays out in a singular location.

There's also a great Canadian film called Nothing (by the writer and director of the already-mentioned Cube, and starring the actor who played the autistic man) in which two characters, in an effort to rid themselves of their problems, begin to magically will the entire world away bit by bit by just wishing, until all that's left is their house, floating in a vast white void (think scenes from within The Matrix). It's full of lots of humourous "what does it all mean" dialogue and exits within the most confined, deserted locale imaginable -- an empty void of nothingness.
posted by Robot Johnny at 8:20 AM on February 10, 2006

(er... exists, not exits)
posted by Robot Johnny at 8:20 AM on February 10, 2006

The Music of Chance. This is a great movie. I saw it about ten years ago, and I still think about it quite often. The movie doesn't so much feature discussions of philosophy, rather it enacts philosophical questions about the meaning of life and existence in (what I found to be) a very powerful way.
posted by alms at 8:35 AM on February 10, 2006

Stranger than Paradise - definitely
posted by soplerfo at 8:50 AM on February 10, 2006

The Quarrel. Since I'm lazy, I'll just quote the IMDB plot summary:
Montreal 1948. On Rosh Hashanah, Chaim (a Yiddish writer) is forced to think of his religion when he's asked to be the tenth in a minyan. As he sits in the park, he suddenly sees an old friend whom he hasn't seen since they quarrelled when they were yeshiva students together. Hersh, a rabbi, survived Auschwitz and his faith was strengthened by his ordeal, while Chaim escaped the Nazis, but had lost his faith long before. The two walk together, reminisce, and argue passionately about themselves, their actions, their lives, their religion, their old quarrel, and their friendship.
And seconds for Rope, Stand by Me, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, and The Breakfast Club.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:16 AM on February 10, 2006

Seconding Rashomon.
posted by ludwig_van at 9:57 AM on February 10, 2006

Donnie Darko has only a few main characters (arguably only one (or two), depending on your interpretation of it), the whole movie is about...something philosophical (alternate/parallel universes, the nature of reality, fate, choices, divine intervention, sanity, comic book superheroes, teenage angst, insert deep topic here), and it's a truly unusual and thought-provoking movie that's better and different every time you see it (if you like it, some people hate it). It's more visually/conceptually driven, but it has some great dialogue, and there aren't many films which are so honestly (as opposed to dishonestly) open to interpretation.

Cure and Memento might also fit the bill.

Definitely Closer.
posted by biscotti at 10:24 AM on February 10, 2006

Coffee and Cigarettes may fit the bill as well.. It kinda has more then a few main characters, but its also lots of little viginnettes.
Quite a good movie IMHO
posted by JonnyRotten at 12:48 PM on February 10, 2006

Oh, the movie Wit fits perfectly, too, with Emma Thompson as a terminally ill poetry scholar who slowly confronts her life and impending death from terminal cancer. Very small cast, based on a Pulitzer-winning play, lots of heart-wrenching emotion and intelligent discussion of love, childhood, loneliness, intellect vs. spirit and other deep issues. Another keeper in this genre.
posted by mediareport at 5:45 PM on February 10, 2006

Seconding Naked.

(There, now you *have* run into someone who's seen it.)
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 6:58 AM on February 11, 2006

Seconding Naked.

(There, now you *have* run into someone who's seen it.)

"What was her name again?"

It's a great movie. I wouldn't have originally thought of it as fitting the ideas of this post, but now that I think about it, it does. So thirded.
posted by biscotti at 7:53 AM on February 11, 2006

It was a long time ago, but I too have seen Naked. I remember little about it except that I did like the dialogue. Time to put that one back on the rental list.
posted by Caviar at 9:35 PM on February 13, 2006

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