Books and Films that Tackle the Theme of Loneliness

Loneliness can be crippling; it is a feeling most people have felt at some point their life. It can creep up on a person and leave you feeling lost, anxious or depressed, seriously harming your mental health.  With the many challenges the world is facing right now, loneliness feels like it’s constantly on our doorsteps. Loneliness is defined by Very Well Mind as “feeling lonely more than once a week. Loneliness causes people to feel empty, alone, and unwanted. People who are lonely often crave human contact, but their state of mind makes it more difficult to form connections with other people”.

The feeling of loneliness is a current battle people are facing; for many it is a battle that may seem endless. Many are unable to visit family and friends right now, and it can be extremely challenging for your overall well being. This article shall delve into both films and books which tackle the theme of loneliness or feature lonely characters. 

The following lists will, hopefully, grant a few lonely souls some solace. Allowing you to enjoy reading and watching these novels and films to show you that,  no matter how lonely you feel, you are not alone in your emotions and feelings. There are people out there who feel the same as you.

If you’re struggling with feelings of loneliness or depression, reach out to a friend or family member, you can also talk to someone when needed here: Text  HELLO at 50808 or you can check out this site,  Need Help Now.  

Check out Babylon’s article on self care here: 11 Life-Changing Tips on How to Effectively Practice Self Care – Babylon 

 5 Books that deal with lonelinessLoneliness books


1. The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone, by Olivia Lange

This 2016 book delves into the author’s own experiences of loneliness, focusing on when she  moved to New York City in her mid-thirties. There she found herself inhabiting loneliness on a daily basis. Increasingly fascinated by this most shameful of experiences, she began to explore the lonely city by way of art.The book begs questions of what it means to be lonely, how we connect with other people and how we live when we do not have an intimate connection. 

You can purchase the book here, Book Depository

2. The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger

This classic novel by J.D Salinger portrays loneliness through its protagonist and narrator Holden Caulfield; the plot is primarily about Holden following what he thinks and does throughout his days. The character of Holden is one who is alienated from society, he has no peers or friendships. Holden is constantly trying to impress and gain acceptance from others including the reader. However, Holden’s distaste for others is apparent in his classing of everyone as a “phony” or “corny”; this attitude only serves to alienate him further. Holden’s loneliness is apparent in the fact that he is completely alone throughout the book, making his attitude towards people critical which pushes him further to the outskirts of society. 

You can find this classic here, Easons.

3. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky

This novel is both a book and film, originally published in 1999, the film was made in 2012. The loneliness portrayed in this novel is one of feeling lonely even when surrounded by people. The novel focuses on a group of teenagers, primarily a teen named Charlie who struggles with his mental health and fitting in. Charlie feels like an outsider in his family and social life until he meets a group of misfits, who accept him for who he is. Chbosky shows through his character Charlie the negative effects loneliness and isolation can have on a young person. 

You can find the book here, Easons.

4. The Great Gatsby, by F.Scott Fitzgerald 

Another literary classic, in which loneliness is portrayed through the title character of Gatsby. This famous character is constantly surrounded by thousands of people at his lavish parties yet is constantly both lonely and longing for something else. The novel is set in the roaring 20’s and is narrated by Nick Carraway. Loneliness is portrayed through Gatsby’s living in an illusion, and this illusion hinders him from breaking away from the loneliness he is crippled by. The novel shows how isolation and disillusion can hold a person back from being happy. 

You can purchase the novel here, Easons

5. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, by Gail Honeyman

This is a 2017 novel that follows a 29-year-old Eleanor Oliphant, a social misfit with a traumatic past who becomes enamoured with a singer, whom she believes she is destined to be with. The story follows a charming yet lonely young woman trying to navigate her way through life. The novel tackles extreme loneliness and how it can affect a person as well as childhood trauma.  You can purchase the book here, at Easons. This novel is a great modern depiction of loneliness in a modern world. 

I hope the aforementioned books can offer a lonely soul some comfort. Now let’s delve into films. 

5 Films that tackle the theme of lonelinessLoneliness films


1. Into The Wild, directed by Sean Penn

This film is based on the 1996 novel of the same name by Jon Krakauer, which told the true story of Christopher McCandless, a recent college graduate who hitchhiked deep into the Alaskan wilderness. The film has a focus on isolation. The character of Christopher abandons his whole material life to venture into the wild leaving behind everything and everyone. Initially he embraces loneliness as something that is wanted and needed, however a quote from both the film and novel has long resonated with me that speaks volumes about the theme of loneliness present in the film and novel. “Happiness only real when shared”.

Into The Wild is available to buy or rent here, YouTube Into the Wild

2. Lost in Translation, directed by Sofia Coppola 

This 2003 film follows two lonely strangers who cross paths in the foreign land of Tokyo, Japan . The film tackles the importance of human connection and the longing people have for such a connection wherever they can find it. The two leads find comfort, meaning and escape in one another. The film explores themes of friendship, loneliness, connection and love. 

Lost in Translation is available to watch on Netflix. 

3. Her, directed by Spike Jonze

This 2013 film addresses the longing for romantic love. It is set in a modern tech-driven society and focuses on the struggle to find connection in such a world. The loneliness tackled in this film is a loneliness we all share in a modern world. The film focuses on protagonist Theodore who, albeit a little awkward, is a caring and loveable guy to his friends and coworkers. He is going through a divorce and decides to buy a new operating system named Samantha who he quickly forms a bond with. Her does not show some anti-social creep as their main character, instead it is a very honest, and relatable lonely character. One who is going through a difficult time and searching for meaning and romantic connection, arguably much like everyone on this planet.

This is available to buy or rent on Amazon. 

4. Amelie, directed by Jean-Pierre Jeanet 

This 2001 film follows Amelie, a young, lonely waitress who decides to break free of her isolation from others in the form of helping people to find happiness. In doing so she cultivates her own little universe. Her quest to spread joy leads her on a journey where she finds true love. Amelie is a warmer look at loneliness and shows how a person can take that feeling and turn it into something beautiful and helpful to the world around them.

It is available to watch here  Amelie YouTube.  

5. WALL.E, Disney Pixar

This Disney animated film, is one which I personally feel portrays loneliness in a beautiful and understanding way, that both children and adults can relate to.  It focuses on a lonely robot responsible for cleaning a waste-covered Earth that has been abandoned by all humans. He roams the earth alone, looking for small every day delights to keep his spirits up, his only friend being a cockroach. That is until he meets another robot and falls in love with her. A lot of the film focuses on the title character WALL.E who does not speak. The whole first half and in my opinion better half of the film follows WALL.E’s day to day life, how he works and how he keeps himself entertained. The silence of this half of the movie is a way of showing just how alone he is. The boredom, longing and isolation WALL.E feels is both relatable and endearing. WALL.E does a great job at showing the feeling of loneliness to both adults and children without having to say too much. All together it is a heartwarming piece about how love can help even the loneliest souls.

This is available to watch on Disney+. 


Overall, I find the recurring message in the mentioned films and books is the importance of connecting with others. This is especially important now in times where lockdowns are constantly looming. It is necessary to realise how important human connection really is for our survival and livelihood.

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Cliona Perrick
Cliona Perrick

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