The idea of making just one actor or actress the lynchpin of a feature-length movie is enough to turn most filmmakers pants-on-head levels of crazy. It's one thing to make a successful film with an entire ensemble at your fingertips, but it's quite another to create something magnificent - or even watchable - with one lone performer.
These "one-man shows" are a painful viewing experience when they don't work out, especially once the initial gimmickry falls away to reveal an underwhelming story or a mediocre performance.
Because these types of movies succeed or fail based entirely on those two things: Story and performance. It's crucial that both of those elements knock it out of the park, because there are no other distractions for the audience to get swept away by. And once the viewers are lost, there's really nothing left to reel them back in.
On the other hand, when it works, this strange sub-genre of dramatic film can be a truly, uniquely satisfying experience. Sometimes it's even enough to redefine an actor's career.
Now in the interest of transparency, some of the films on this list do technically have more than one actor on the roster - occasional cameos or supporting voice actors, that sort of thing - but for the most part, it's all on the shoulders of just one man or woman.
If the words "Ryan Reynolds trapped inside a wooden box for 90 minutes" don't do anything for you, don't worry, that's a justifiable response, especially since he's not playing Deadpool in the aforementioned scenario.
Buried is not the ideal movie for claustrophobics. It's not a great date movie for anyone with severe taphophobia. It is, however, a surprisingly tense thrill ride considering the entire thing takes place within a human-sized box.
In the opening seconds of the film, you're immediately placed into Reynolds' headspace. Which is basically "Oh f**k, why is it so dark and difficult to breathe?" followed by "Oh thank goodness I found a light so I can see exactly how f**ked I am inside this tiny, wooden casket."
Reynolds plays Paul Conroy, an American civilian contractor is buried alive in Iraq after his convoy is attacked by Iraqi insurgents. That means Buried has to find a way to ratchet up the tension without ever changing the physical environment, relying solely on Reynolds' facial expressions and brief interactions with the outside world via cell phone.
Unlike other protagonists in these types of movies, Reynolds' portrayal feels more approachable because he doesn't have a super secret weapon to use from his backstory. He's not a specialist in getting out of these situations and reacts pretty much how any normal person would when tasked with being buried alive. Which makes it all the more terrifying to sit through.