10 Gripping Movies About Castaways

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Stories about castaways have fascinated people for centuries. Such tales involve people getting stranded on an island after getting shipwrecked. Other castaway cases involve marooning (people getting left behind as punishment), while others feature individuals who voluntarily wish to stay away from the rest of the world. As expected, life is never easy, and while most of them eventually get help, some tend to suffer until the very end or find peace in their new surroundings.

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Throughout the years, Hollywood and other film industries have used left-at-sea plots to create wonderful motion pictures. Whether it’s real stories about Marguerite de La Rocque and the passengers of the Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie (VOC) or purely fictional misadventures, these movies always trigger much anticipation and curiosity, with audiences constantly wondering which dangers the castaways will face or if they will ever leave the islands.

Here are 10 gripping movies about castaways.

10 Island of the Lost (1967)

In Island of the Lost, Professor Josh MacRae (Richard Greene), an anthropologist, strongly believes there are undiscovered Pacific Ocean islands full of creatures long thought to be extinct. Surprisingly, he decides to take his family with him on the dangerous expedition, and each of them tags along without protest. The inevitable happens: their boat gets destroyed, and they soon find themselves stranded on an island that has all kinds of prehistoric animals.

Why It’s Great

Despite being set in the ‘60s, where there was no CGI to create accurate pictures of prehistoric animals, director John Florea goes to great lengths to ensure there is a variety of creatures. From the Tyrannosaurus rex to the Dilophosaurus, everything audiences could think of pops up at some point, making this one of the most recommendable films about extinct animals.

Still, Island of the Lost is no scary thriller. It’s a jovial family tale, and every threat is neutralized in comical ways. The professor and his children even have time for hula dancing and banter. And audiences are likely to love the ending even more. Rent on Prime Video

9 The Cay (1974)

Based on Theodore Taylor’s 1969 novel of the same name, The Cay follows Philip, a young S.S. Hato crew member, who survives after the ship gets torpedoed by enemy forces during World War II. Philip finds himself on a raft with the elderly Timothy (James Earl Jones) and a cat that belonged to another crew member. Together, they swim to a nearby cay, where they learn to survive as they hope for a rescue.

Why It’s Great

The Cay is the true definition of the phrase, “When it rains, it pours.” Because of the impact of hitting his head, Philip goes blind, so survival becomes even harder. Whenever a dangerous insect approaches him, anyone watching might feel compelled to tell him to watch out, but he has to bear with the bites and the stings.

As if getting shipwrecked isn’t bad enough, a hurricane also hits the island, destroying the few resources that were present and making life even harder. Worse still, Timothy dies from an injury, leaving Philip all by himself. Thankfully, there is a happy ending to erase all the pain. Stream on YouTube

8 Cast Away (2002)

cast away
Cast Away

Release Date
December 22, 2000

Cast
Paul Sanchez , Lari White , Leonid Citer , David Allen Brooks , Jelena Papovic , Valentina Ananyina

Rating
PG-13

Runtime
143

Fans have been treated to many great Tom Hanks transformations over the years, and in Cast Away, his scaly skin and rugged hair are a perfect reflection of how someone would look if they were stranded on an island. The suffering begins when Hanks’ character Chuck Noland, a FedEx systems analyst, boards one of the company’s planes to troubleshoot a problem in Malaysia. It crashes into the Pacific, but Chuck survives, so he escapes using an inflatable raft and finds himself on an island.

Why It’s Great

Cast Away serves as a great reminder of the importance of human connections. Chuck almost goes mad because he has no one to share his thoughts with, so he resorts to talking to a volleyball, which he draws a face on and nicknames Wilson. Watching him have one-sided conversations with Wilson is both sad and heartwarming.

What’s sadder is the struggle Chuck faces whenever he develops a health problem. For example, when he develops a toothache, he plucks out the tooth using an ice skate and a rock. Besides that, the story is also crafted in a manner that prevents audiences from being hopeful. It’s stated that the area is twice the size of Texas, so no one might ever rescue Chuck. Stream it on Paramount+

7 Robinson Crusoe (1997)

Daniel Defoe’s popular 1719 novel, Robinson Crusoe, has been adapted numerous times, but the ‘90s version starring Pierce Brosnan is the most fun. In it, Robinson flees on a merchant marine after murdering his friend over a love triangle. A typhoon soon destroys the ship, and Robinson finds himself as the only survivor on an island far away from civilization.

Why It’s Great

Robinson Crusoe is distinctive. Most castaway movies squarely fall under the vast survival subgenre, but this particular adaptation is a pure action flick. Rather than focusing on the things Robinson does to ensure he stays alive and strong, the film hones in on his preparation for defense as it is constantly hinted that a nearby ruthless tribe is about to come for him.

His worst nightmare comes to pass, naturally, and the attack results in arguably one of the best action sequences of the ‘90s. As the mayhem unfolds, the themes of racism and slavery are covered. Robinson befriends a native, but the two have a hard time trusting each other because of the injustices that the protagonist’s race has subjected the native’s race to in the past. Rent on AppleTV

6 Swept Away (2002)

In 2002, Guy Ritchie cast his then-lover Madonna in a remake of Lina Wertmüller’s 1974 movie, Swept Away. In it, wealthy socialite Amber Leighton (Madonna) goes on a private cruise with her friends, throughout which she constantly berates the deckhand, Giuseppe. One evening, she insists he take her out on a trip to the sea on a dingy boat, and while in it, a storm comes and washes them ashore on an uninhabited island. There, the two end up falling in love.

Why It’s Great

Swept Away is widely considered to be Guy Ritchie’s biggest movie misfire, but when it’s purely judged by how well it adheres to the basics of castaway stories, it stands tall. First, there is a proper setup for the eventual calamity: it’s only because of Amber’s condescending nature that they find themselves in the situation. After all, he warns her not to go out to sea, but she overrules his advice anyway. Second, the state of the survivors grows from one of fear to contentment; Amber becomes so happy with Giuseppe that when an opportunity to be rescued pops up, she even tries to sabotage it. Stream on Tubi

5 The Blue Lagoon (1980)

Based on Henry De Vere Stacpoole’s similarly titled novel, The Blue Lagoon is a Victorian-Era coming-of-age tale revolving around the cousins Richard and Emmeline Lestrange. The two get shipwrecked as kids while on a trip with a galley cook, and after the adult man dies, they learn to depend on themselves. They grow into teenagers and find themselves falling for each other.

Why It’s Great

Rather than just show suffering and despair, The Blue Lagon dedicates its time to exploring sexual discovery. Emmeline screams in horror when she gets her first menstrual period, unaware of what it is, and Richard is equally shocked by what comes out when he masturbates for the first time. And when a bulge forms on Emmeline’s abdomen because of her pregnancy, it wows them even more. Besides that, the film has stunning views in general. It’s not a surprise that it was nominated for Best Cinematography at the Oscars. Stream on Max

4 Swiss Family Robinson (1960)

At the height of the Napoleonic Wars, a family from Bern, Switzerland, decides to relocate to New Guinea to start a new peaceful life. Sadly, their ship gets destroyed by pirates, causing it to ground on the rocks of a deserted island. When the pirates come close, the father scares them away, lying that they have bubonic plague. They are thus left on an island where they build a tree house and learn to live happily.

Why It’s Great

Swiss Family Robinson is a neat and satisfactory exploration of family dynamics. The members worry not about violence or rescue, but about issues that every average family undergoes. For example, the mother’s biggest headache is that her sons might not get married because there are no girls around. The father, on the other hand, is happy that the island has enough food and resources to enable him to provide for his wife and kids. Stream on Disney+

3 Cabeza de Vaca (1991)

In 1527, the Narváez expedition was set up by the Spanish government to explore Florida and establish new colonial settlements there. Initially consisting of 600 men, only four ended up surviving the horrors of the sea. One of them was the explorer Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, and his story is told in detail in Cabeza de Vaca.

Why It’s Great

Cabeza de Vaca’s creativity throughout the film is fun to watch. He encounters many challenges after surviving, but he comes up with genius ways to stay alive. For example, when he is captured by local tribes, he pretends to be a shaman with supernatural powers. He claims thunderstorms and winds as his own doing, so the people end up worshipping instead of punishing him. There are numerous captivating action sequences too, leaving audiences thoroughly entertained. Not Currently Available to Stream or Purchase

2 Survival Island (2005)

Survival Island sounds like the name of a reality show, but it’s a great castaway film. In it, a yacht gets destroyed when crew member Manuel (Juan Pablo Di Pace) accidentally starts a fire. He and a couple emerge as the only survivors, and while they are figuring out what to do while stranded on an island, a love triangle develops between them, resulting in a tragic outcome.

Why It’s Great

The underrated Universal Pictures production relies on twists and intimacy to fuel the narrative, making it the perfect guilty pleasure flick. Almost every single decision the characters make is an unconventional one, hence the story stays intriguing. And despite the hatred and the hidden dangers, the film retains a paradise feel to it. The characters look good, and the landscapes and vegetation are all captured with meticulous perfection. Buy on Prime Video

RELATED: 10 Tense Thrillers With Satisfying Endings

1 Trouble in Paradise (1989)

Trouble in Paradise begins with Rachel Baxley (Raquel Welch) making plans to return home from Hong Kong after her husband, a diplomat, dies. Together, with the coffin, she boards a freighter where she meets and falls for a handsome crew member named Jake. When a typhoon strikes, Rachel finds herself stranded on an island with none other than Jake.

Why It’s Great

The bubbling romance is the movie’s strongest pillar, but it isn’t the only interesting arc. Halfway in, a major twist pops up, and it is disclosed that Rachel’s husband isn’t dead; the man in the coffin was never him. The new lovebirds thus wear investigative caps as they try to figure out exactly what went wrong. As they do this, they deliver rich dialogue packed with philosophical musings and clever pop culture references. Stream on YouTube

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