Films with very small casts?
July 23, 2007 3:57 PM   Subscribe

Engaging, quality films with very small casts. Recommendations?

I've realised that I really like films with small casts. Moreso if they don't take part in confined stage sets (like Tape.) For instance Closer, and to a lesser extent Keane, have miniscule casts yet they never feel like theatrical plays forced onto the big screen. They are shot in various locations, indoors and out, and you don't fully realise there are only a handful of main characters until the credits roll. Looking for more of the same.
posted by fire&wings to Media & Arts (61 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Whisky, about a Uruguayan sock manufacturer and his very happy, estranged brother. A cast of probably seven.
posted by parmanparman at 4:02 PM on July 23, 2007

The Squid and the Whale.
posted by logic vs love at 4:05 PM on July 23, 2007

What Happened Was... is quite good, poignant for dating losers like myself, and has a cast of two.
posted by porn in the woods at 4:06 PM on July 23, 2007

ooh. I came to recommend Squid and the Whale. I enthusiastically second.
posted by sweetkid at 4:07 PM on July 23, 2007

Before Sunrise
Before Sunset
posted by quentiniii at 4:09 PM on July 23, 2007

Sleuth is an outstanding thriller with a core cast of just two: Sir Michael Caine, and Sir Laurence Olivier.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 4:15 PM on July 23, 2007

My Dinner with Andre
posted by kirkaracha at 4:17 PM on July 23, 2007

posted by ORthey at 4:19 PM on July 23, 2007

Jim Jarmusch, Down by Law
Jim Jarmusch, Stranger Than Paradise
posted by jayder at 4:20 PM on July 23, 2007


Withnail & I

I also agree with The Squid and the Whale.
posted by atomly at 4:21 PM on July 23, 2007

Glengarry, Glen Ross.

Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Alec Baldwin (for seven electrifying minutes, if I can Gene Shalit for a moment) Alan Arkin, Ed Harris, Kevin Spacey, and Jonathan Pryce. David Mamet screenplay based on his play. Tight as all get out and despite the fact it's a favorite among salesman, it's more to do about human nature and desperation than anything else. Lemmon is just amazing.
posted by beaucoupkevin at 4:22 PM on July 23, 2007

You Can Count on Me, by playwright kenneth lonergan, is excellent and has a pretty small cast.

California Split has a relatively small cast, especially for a Robert Altman film. It's also one of his best.

My Dinner With Andre, mentioned above, does not fit your "various locations" requirement at all (with the exception of a few exterior shots at the beginning and end, it's set entirely at a dinner table), but it's one of my favorite movies. Well worth seeing if you haven't.

Coffee and Cigarettes has a very large cast, but no more than three people in a scene together at once. Seconding Down By Law.
posted by scarylarry at 4:24 PM on July 23, 2007

2nding Glengarry, Glen Ross and My Dinner with Andre. Also, Death of a Salesman, A Streetcar named Desire.
posted by wafaa at 4:30 PM on July 23, 2007

Oh, I can't believe I didn't think of this, but a whole lot of Bergman films fit the bill. Persona, Autumn Sonata, Shame, Cries and Whispers, Through a Glass Darkly. Most of them, really, use a very small cast of Bergman regulars. Scenes from a Marriage (the mini-series version) might be my top choice for your interests.

Also, Blow-Up (Antonioni) really only has two main characters, plus a small handful of bit parts.

Does 2001 fit the bill?

Oh, also The Straight Story, a very un-Lynchian Lynch film.
posted by scarylarry at 4:31 PM on July 23, 2007

Blind Beast. Three characters: the mother, the sculptor son, and the model. But the film really focuses on the sculptor and model.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:35 PM on July 23, 2007

Response by poster: scarylarry - weird, but Bergman is probably my favourite director. I didn't immediately think of him when asking this question, which is interesting.
posted by fire&wings at 4:38 PM on July 23, 2007

Six Degrees of Separation
posted by B-squared at 4:45 PM on July 23, 2007

The Breakfast Club!
posted by drjimmy11 at 4:46 PM on July 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

posted by nitsuj at 4:46 PM on July 23, 2007

Oh yeah..........! Rope. Thanks The World Famous. Great Hitchcock.
posted by wafaa at 4:50 PM on July 23, 2007

posted by nilihm at 4:59 PM on July 23, 2007

Old Joy.
posted by cushie at 5:04 PM on July 23, 2007

Closet Land, but it does feel a bit like a play.
posted by BrotherCaine at 5:07 PM on July 23, 2007

Almost anything by Mamet.
posted by BrotherCaine at 5:08 PM on July 23, 2007

last days
posted by Salvatorparadise at 5:11 PM on July 23, 2007

The Cuckoo (Kukushka)
posted by matildaben at 5:22 PM on July 23, 2007

Sunshine, which just came out in North America, is terrific, IMO. It takes place on a small ship heading for the sun, but it isn't really a sci-fi movie. It has a psycho killer in it, but it isn't really a horror movie.

The really small cast works really well in what I would describe as a "psychological adventure" movie. Cillian Murphy and Chris Evans impressed me, in particular.

It's a Danny Boyle movie, which means a great deal to some people. =)
posted by chudmonkey at 5:48 PM on July 23, 2007

posted by rob511 at 6:16 PM on July 23, 2007

The Wizard of Oz and the Terror of Tiny Town.

Oh. "Small casts." I get it.

I was wondering why people were posting movies that didn't have midgets in them.

So. Never mind.
posted by tkchrist at 6:23 PM on July 23, 2007

Seconding You Can Count On me
posted by katie at 6:24 PM on July 23, 2007

Great post. I like a lot of films with small casts too. Some favourites: Bad Boy Bubby, Death and the Maiden, The Interview, Red Rock West and Roger Dodger. I agree that Primer is excellent.
posted by ads at 6:34 PM on July 23, 2007

On second thoughts, those last two don't qualify as “minuscule” casts although they have a similar stripped-down quality. You might also like Rosetta.
posted by ads at 6:41 PM on July 23, 2007

The Quarrel
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 6:42 PM on July 23, 2007

Seconding "Withnail and I"

I also recommend "Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner" - it's mindblowing. I believe it satisfies your criteria, if my memory serves me correctly. The cast list on IMDB is pretty big, but there's hardly anyone around at any given time and most of those cast members are from flashbacks and so on.

Sexy Beast might also do it, but it mostly takes place at a house in Spain. Worth it just to see Ben Kingsley as the scariest guy ever ever ever.
posted by redteam at 6:49 PM on July 23, 2007

The Woodsman has a cast of about 8 and one of Kevin Bacon's finest performances. Not for the family, though.
posted by softlord at 6:51 PM on July 23, 2007

Secret Honor. (And now that I see it's available on DVD, excuse me while I go order it.)
posted by Zonker at 7:02 PM on July 23, 2007

The Station agent. ( has a midget too, for double entendre on small cast )
posted by BrotherCaine at 7:05 PM on July 23, 2007

Kind Hearts and Coronets has as its core Dennis Price in the lead, Valerie Hobson and Joan Greenwood as the ladies, and Sir Alec Guinness playing 12 roles. The rest of the cast is ancillary, either in a scene or two or as extras. It is a delightful comedy.
posted by carsonb at 7:07 PM on July 23, 2007

The Thing (John Carpenter version)
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:08 PM on July 23, 2007

ONIBABA may be one of the great works of Japanese cinema. If you love Bergman, then I believe that you will definitely enjoy this film.
posted by cinemafiend at 7:50 PM on July 23, 2007

The Trouble With Harry

Shallow Grave

What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?

I Bury The Living*

*Ok, it's far from great but it was on TV last weekend, so it sprang to mind, and it's really better than it has any right to be.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 7:57 PM on July 23, 2007

First off, of course there's 12 Angry Men.
Gattaca has a very intimate feel, though a few scenes have several extras
The Shining
maybe Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
maybe The Sixth Sense, though many people are tired of it by now
The Crying Game (seems appropriate to place it with Sixth Sense)
The African Queen

and ROU stole Alien
posted by NortonDC at 7:59 PM on July 23, 2007

Nick Gomez' "Laws Of Gravity"
Lots of Henry Jaglom's are small.
Dawn of the Dead
Assault on Precinct 13/Rio Bravo
posted by rhizome at 8:00 PM on July 23, 2007

WALKABOUT is another great film that has a very limited cast (three characters lost in the Outback). Beautiful cinematography, intriguing film-making techniques, and great locations in the outback of Australia. Its also suitable for children (well, children ten years of age or older)
posted by cinemafiend at 8:31 PM on July 23, 2007

It's not quite as small a cast as some of the films mentioned, but I think Dr. Strangelove is worth mentioning anyway.
posted by atbash at 8:36 PM on July 23, 2007

I'm too lazy to read the suggestions so some of these might be seconds:

Five Easy Pieces
In the Mood for Love
Happy Together
Carnal Knowledge (Closer is the poor man's CK)
le Jetee
Clean Shaven (same director as Keane)
Claire Dolan ("")
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf
The Graduate
Straw Dogs
Laws of Gravity
Spanking the Monkey
Cold Comfort
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Funny Games
Benny's Video
Streetcar Named Desire (Brando version)
I You He She
Stranger Than Paradise
Down By Law
Ghost World
Petrified Forest
The Fountain
Requeim for a Dream
Punch Drunk Love
Hard Eight
Closet Land
L'Avventura (for the most part)
Knife in the Water
The Passenger
Fallen Idol
All the Real Girls
Last of the Red Hot Lovers
Ali: Fear Eats the Soul
Diabolique (original)
Eyes Without a Face
The Man Who Wasn't There
Buffalo '66
3 Women
Woman in the Dunes
Hiroshima, mon Amour
The Vanishing (original)
Treasure of the Sierra Madre
Talk Radio
Brief Encounter
The Sea Inside
Wild Strawberries
posted by dobbs at 8:42 PM on July 23, 2007 [2 favorites]

Deathtrap staring (mostly just) Michael Caine & Chris Reeve (Superman - man oh man do I have a platonic man-crush on Chris Reeve and Clive Owen).
posted by porpoise at 8:47 PM on July 23, 2007

Dead Calm
posted by biscotti at 9:10 PM on July 23, 2007

The Upside of Anger has a cast of 10, of whom 6 characters are 90% of the movie. In a similar way, The Bridge of San Luis Rey feels like a much smaller cast than the movie actually has, because of the intense plot focus on only a handful of characters. Babette's Feast. The Edge. Garden State. The Professional. Play Misty For Me. Cast Away.
posted by paulsc at 9:58 PM on July 23, 2007

Treed Murray
posted by arcticwoman at 10:09 PM on July 23, 2007

Conversations with Other Women, for one.

Most of Michel Haneke's movies have relatively small casts: Cache, Time of the Wolf, and Funny Games (which I haven't seen, but is supposed to be extremely disturbing). I also haven't seen The Piano Teacher, so I can't speak to that.
posted by bijou at 10:29 PM on July 23, 2007

Oh, and The Descent, if horror movies with small casts fit the bill.
posted by bijou at 10:30 PM on July 23, 2007

The House of Yes. Parker Posey plays a skewed woman obsessed with Jackie O and her twin brother, hilarity ensues. It's adapted from a play and it is all shot in several rooms in a single house, but I remember being astounded that there were only 5 characters.
posted by tatiana wishbone at 10:56 PM on July 23, 2007

Most of Mike Leigh's movies fit the bill - high quality, small cast, wonderful acting, marvelous realistic stories. Secrets and Lies is nearly perfect.
Seconding Aronofsky's sci-fi love story The Fountain - small cast and odd structure, a bit challenging but ultimately satisfying, with very unusual visuals.

I'd also suggest Wit with Emma Thompson, from a Pulitzer-winning play about a sharp literature professor dying of cancer, if you can get over the fact that it mostly takes place in a hospital room. Thompson's performance is amazing and the film focuses intently on her and a very small supporting cast.
posted by mediareport at 10:59 PM on July 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

Never Cry Wolf
IMDB lists a cast of 8, but mostly it's just Charles Martin Smith and some beautiful wolves, with excellent occasional support from Brian Dennehy and Zachary Ittimangnaq.
posted by spasm at 11:22 PM on July 23, 2007

y tu mama tambien
posted by bluefly at 5:43 AM on July 24, 2007

Smoking/No Smoking

A strange film in two parts with lots of characters but only two actors. The two parts follow the same storyline until one character decides whether or not to smoke a cigarette.
In the first part she does, in the second she doesn't and the story changes entirely.
posted by SageLeVoid at 9:43 AM on July 24, 2007

Seconding "Once", especially if you're into music and non-mainstream story arcs.
posted by shannonm at 4:31 PM on July 24, 2007

Melvin Goes to Dinner

Walking and Talking

House of Sand

And nthing You Can Count on Me.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:28 PM on July 24, 2007

posted by underwater at 9:02 AM on August 22, 2007

« Older Help me prepare to prepare my web project.   |   Wie, bitte? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.