BBC - Mark Kermode's film blog

« Previous | Main | Next »

How many actors does it take to make a great movie?

Post categories:

Mark Kermode | 11:33 UK time, Friday, 7 May 2010

Is it true that all you need for cinematic success is a big two-hander (insert your own "Kermode mitts" gag here), or even a three-hander, or does that only work if you have the likes of Gemma Arterton and the wonderful Eddie Marsan, as in The Disappearance of Alice Creed?

In order to see this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash installed. Visit BBC Webwise for full instructions. If you're reading via RSS, you'll need to visit the blog to access this content.


  • Comment number 1.

    Haven't caught the Disappearance of Alice Creed yet but,

    I would like to add Hard Candy. Aside from 2 or 3 very small parts the entire film is excellently carried by Patrick Wilson and Ellen Page. Not only that, but they spend almost the entirety of the film in facial close ups. An accomplishment to say the least.

  • Comment number 2.

    The Australian film The Interview (1998) is a wonderful two or three-hander with Hugo Weaving and Tony Martin. A Kafkaesque psychological drama set almost entirely in a police interrogation room, it manages to weave tension all the way through to the end.

  • Comment number 3.

    I would argue that Rear Window (the Hitchcock version) is basically a two and a couple of bits hander.

    Failing that, the original Planet of the Apes after the first firteen minutes has only got one human speaking part, the rest are monkeys!!

  • Comment number 4.

    A brilliant recent example is Antichrist - which focuses on Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg for the entire movie, there's barely a frame without one of them in it and their performances are amazing.
    One of my favorite examples is Sleuth, the original 1972 thriller with Michael Caine and Laurence Olivier. It was just over two hours of them talking, with no other characters. I was completely gripped for that whole time. A sublime piece of work.
    When Harry Met Sally does have two strong supporting actors but I think we can all agree that the success of that movie lies in the chemistry between Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal, who totally carry the movie.
    Bruce Campbell provides a one man show for pretty much the entire running time of Evil Dead II and that's an absolutely magnificent film.
    Could we also make a case for Mike Leigh's Naked? Again, there are some strong supporting characters but that film completely RELIES on David Thewlis rampaging through pages of dialogue at the expense of our senses. It's a magnificent performance, without him its power would be lost.

  • Comment number 5.

    God! And how could I forget two of my all time favorite movies - Richard Linklater's Before Sunrise and Before Sunset. Two funny, intelligent, deeply moving films with pitch-perfect performances.
    Nope. The size of a cast doesn't matter. Two people can make a movie.

  • Comment number 6.

    In The Company Of Men - another brilliant three hander. Deliciously dark comedy, perfectly played.

  • Comment number 7.

    From what I can remember for the most part, aside from a couple of scenes, the film 'Primer' only has three actors performing its fiendishly complex physics based plot.

  • Comment number 8.

    i agree with #4s contribution of antichrist. another one that possibly doesn't count is I Am legend (or is that the omega man?)

  • Comment number 9.

    *Spanking the Chiba

    One more Linklater film - 'Tape'.


    Before Sunset is one of my favourite films of all time, one of the most perfect love stories to be captured on film. It's two person cast is never acknowledged due to the strength of the film.

    Films which have 'literal' 2/3 handed casts include 'In The Mood For Love', with possibly the world's finest actor Tony Leung and also 'Whatever Happened to Baby Jane', one of the most disturbing films put to screen. Sunset Boulevard for it's best duration is a 3 hander, and if there's one guy who knew what he was doing behind the camera it was Billy Wilder.

    The number of actors in front of the camera will never be as important as the screenplay and the director, as they are the most important factors in determining the quality of the film.

  • Comment number 10.

    RE Primer

    What a great and confusing film? I'm probably not alone in thinking it's one of the finest science fiction films ever made. I really wish it came with a guide to work out what the hell is going on though!

  • Comment number 11.

    Before sunrise
    Before sunset
    American buffalo
    and most of all: Glengarry Glen Ross!

  • Comment number 12.

    @ S Ford

    If you go on Primer's forum on the imdb site someone has done an explanation of it all - trouble is the explanation is just as mind bending as the film!

  • Comment number 13.

    Some good shout outs for Primer and Hard Candy.

    Ummm I think mine would be Following which was Chris Nolan's first film and maybe Pi by Darren Aronofsky.
    Also Steven Spielberg's Duel comes into my head.

  • Comment number 14.

    @ S Ford

    Thanks for the 'Tape' addition!
    I agree on Before Sunset as well, perfect sequel with a perfect ending. The performances in those films are so underrated.

    Great shout for 'In The Mood For Love' too, that's a great film!
    Also, two more contributions from me:

    Chris Nolan's debut feature Following is primarily a two-hander if I remember rightly.
    Also, F.W. Murnau's Der letzte Mann has just one character played superbly by Emil Jannings - there are plenty of people that float around him, but none are actual characters with stories and arcs. It's all about him.

  • Comment number 15.

    The triumvirate of Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis and John Getz in Cronenberg's remake of The Fly impressed.

  • Comment number 16.

    Samuel L. Jackson in Star Wars Episode 2: Attack of the Clones - every other character was either a puppet or a digital animation right?

  • Comment number 17.

    Seriously though Keane with Damian Lewis was a brilliant single hander

  • Comment number 18.

    One film that comes to mind with only a few key actors is the 2003 thriller "Open Water". A large majority of the film plays out between a couple who are left stranded in the middle of the ocean. Although the film is quite poorly directed and the camerawork is mediocre at best, the interaction between the two lead actors was very believable and kept me on the edge of my seat until the very end.

  • Comment number 19.

    The first thing that came into my mind when watching this video was the little seen and critically dismissed Interview, directed and starring Steve Buscemi along side Sienna Miller. Not only does the film only have just the two principle actors but it is also almost entirely set in one location (with the exception of the restaurant scene at the beginning).

    Why most critics panned the film I really don't know. I thought it was a great little drama with interesting and fully fleshed characters playing a enticing game of cat and mouse with each others careers, personalities and egos. It also ends with a great twist.

    Anyone else seen it?

  • Comment number 20.

    Sleuth. Olivier and Caine. Marvellous.

  • Comment number 21.

    #16 - Wrong. You forgot Ian McDiarmid.

  • Comment number 22.

    This depends on if you mean it literally. There aren't many movies out there that literally only have 2-3 actors...most have been mentioned.

    If you count 2-3 big stars then you could include Doubt and the Odd Couple which were both stage plays.
    Nicolas Roeg's Walkabout is a very good example, most of the movie is just Jenny Agutter her brother and a young aborigine boy. Fantastic!

  • Comment number 23.

    John Boorman's largely forgotten gem Hell in the Pacific with Lee Marvin and Toshirô Mifune is worth a mention.

  • Comment number 24.

    Three films immediately spring to mind: Richard Linklater's 'Tape' and Ingmar Bergman's 'Through A Glass Darkly' and 'Persona' (with a breathtaking performance from Liv Ullman).

    I really enjoyed 'Exam' from last year too. I also have to agree with 'defeis' who suggested 'Glengarry Glen Ross', which I had the pleasure of seeing for the first time a few weeks ago.

  • Comment number 25.

    Tarkovksy's Stalker is a perfect example.

  • Comment number 26.

    Some of these might be pushing it but here goes...

    Blair Witch
    Before Sunset
    In the Realm of the Senses
    Open Water
    Persona (and a lot of other Bergman films)
    Der Totmacher
    Happy Together
    Old Joy
    A Streetcar Named Desire
    Cast Away
    Knife in the Water
    Hell in the Pacific
    The Innocents
    12:08 East of Bucharest
    Blind Beast
    Hard Candy
    Closet Land
    American Buffalo
    My Dinner With Andre
    What Happened Was...
    Never Cry Wolf

  • Comment number 27.

    The original Sleuth with Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine immediately springs to mind, two stunning performances in one of the most intense battle of wit's ever played out.

  • Comment number 28.

    "Tarkovksy's Stalker is a perfect example."

    It is indeed.

  • Comment number 29.

    I saw The Disappearance of Alice Creed last Sunday and was gripped from start to finish, as a result the fact that there were only three actors in it didn't cross my mind at all. A good story is a good story. I agree with the nods for the original Sleuth, top film with two actors at the top of their game and Hard Candy.

    I'm looking forward to the Ryan Reynolds thriller Buried which is due in cinemas this year. Whilst there is a large cast list on the imdb it's just him in a box.

  • Comment number 30.

    Silent Running with Bruce Dern plus some bots.

    With quite small casts:

    Withnail & I
    Who's afraid of Virginia Woolf?
    Glengarry, Glen Ross
    African Queen
    Sexy Beast
    Shallow Grave
    Dead Calm
    Fail Safe
    In the Realm of the Senses
    The Hitcher
    La Grande Bouffe
    Many of Bergman's films have only a handful of characters.

    On the theatre link, I've long thought that Reservoir Dogs would work as a stage play; it has only a small cast and the action mainly occurs on one set. (The robbery would have to be described rather than shown.)

  • Comment number 31.

    House of the Devil, Loved the sparse low key approach to horror this film took. Some very simple but effective performances in it.


    Murder Party, which is almost like a comedy/horror version of The Breakfast Club

    and urm, the Breakfast Club

    I love films with smaller cast, not sure why, maybe it's their intimate nature. Good call on Rear Window, great film, I remember David Lynch saying he liked it a lot because of the cosy feeling it gave him.

  • Comment number 32.

    How about Walkabout a film that also has periods of limited dialogue and allows the environment to do the talking, no bad thing on times. One of my all time classic favourites The Treasure of the Sierra Madre with the emphasis on just three individuals again with the elements playing their part. Also Whatever Happened to Baby Jane,two hollywood heavyweights slugging it out to the bitter end, or the African Queen ( does the boat count as a third cast member?) And what I thought was a very good turn by Mr Redford as Jeremiah Johnson in Sydney Pollock's mountain man movie.

  • Comment number 33.

    Death and the Maiden (1994)

  • Comment number 34.

    7, 12 and 14: Finally, other people who loved this film too! I would second that commment about it being one of, if not the best SF film ever. I tried to get folk from the office to watch it but mainly hit blank faces - the one person who did watch it basically complained about minor technical details which are budget-limitation related (i.e. the sound) which aren't relevant to the true quality of the film.

    p.s. the big diagram featured on imdb explaining the plot is helpful but not necessary to simply enjoy the film.

  • Comment number 35.

    Oh also, don't you think Primer could maybe be loosely adapted for theatre? I think it could definitely work (although the 'doubles' would be a challenge). I get first dibs on the idea! :-)

  • Comment number 36.

    26. Closetland - of all the films on your list, this is probably closest in spirit to the question posed by Mark K. A two-hander, definitely very theatrical in execution but really quite wonderful; the kind of film that usually gets shown on terrestrial TV at 2 in the morning on a tuesday.

  • Comment number 37.

    So many fantastic films to consider. Moon of course was a complete triumph and easily the best science fiction film of the last 5 years (at least). A true testament to the importance of well rounded characters and a strong plot over flashy light shows and spectacle (Avatar I'm looking in your direction). Another that seems to have gone unmentioned so far is Phonebooth. An entire film set within the tiny confines of a... well you know. The sinister voice of Keifer Sutherland traps Colin Farrel and eventually brings him kicking and screaming to a Scroogesque life revelation. The majority of the film is a man in a box talking to a disembodied voice.

    Special mention has to go to the fantastic controversy storm Hard Candy. A cast of two (not including a cameo from Sandra Oh) this is truely a film that lives and dies on the central performances by Patrick Wilson and Ellen Page (Especially Ellen Page). Ultimately it could have been a gimmicky, exploitative, c-level thriller had the central roles been given to anyone else. However Patrick Wilson and Ellen Page do such a good job of crafting interesting, well rounded characters that the audience is constantly forced to reassess their ideas of predator and prey, exploiter and exploited, Psycho and... well slightly different kind of psycho, meaning the film only improves with further viewings. Not to mention the fantastic close camera work that presents a feeling of perverse intimacy at the start that quickly becomes desperate and claustrophobic. A truly sensational film in every sense of the word.

  • Comment number 38.

    25: Another great, although there are a additional minor roles (the wife and daughter for example) which might take away from the purity of the concept. Such a haunting, beautiful film; all the more mournful for the ultimate fate of the crew making the film and Tarkovsky himself.

    I wonder if people are perhaps put off by the misleading title (it has nothing to do with the modern useage of the word ala "Celebrity Stalker").

  • Comment number 39.

    Echoing BillPaxtonsSecondBiggestFan, Interview springs immediately to mind here. While I don't quite share the aforementioned's enthusiasm for the film, it does function very well as an intimate one-on-one drama. Certainly an interesting approach from Buscemi, albeit a very flawed execution thereof. That said, everything that's good about the film is down to the bare nature of having only two people on screen: as though the entire world beyond is completely immaterial. It's deeply compelling.

    Another one (though strictly not a performance) is Wall-E, or at least the first act of the film with the eponymous character alone. Really gripping, and it's all down to the solitary nature of the camera's focus.

    Last, but by no means least, Helen. This one is a must-mention. There's not much that can be said: if you've seen it, you'll understand. Moving and breathtaking, and fuelled just beautifully by the central performance alone.

  • Comment number 40.

    Ooh, and how could I have forgotten the Uruguayan genius of Whisky? A real treat of a film. Built entirely around the three performances at its heart, it's a perfect example of this theatre type effect.

    Final thought: Lost in Translation. Need I say more?

  • Comment number 41.

    Dr. Strangelove is really a series of one-handers and some single two-handers where only one side of a telephone conversations are heard:


    Now then Dimitri. You know how we've always talked about the possibility of something going wrong with the bomb. The bomb, Dimitri. The hydrogen bomb. Well now what happened is, one of our base commanders, he had a sort of, well he went a little funny in the head. You know. Just a little... funny. And uh, he went and did a silly thing.
    Well, I'll tell you what he did, he ordered his planes... to attack your country.
    Well let me finish, Dimitri. Let me finish, Dimitri.

    Also Slim Pickens (whose character was supposed to be played by Sellers who didn't want to do it) does not have any real dialogue except to relay instructions to his crew

    There are rarely more than two characters interacting. Probably the only time there are three characters is when George C. Scott is struggling to take a camera from the Russian Ambassador and Sellers has the famous line, "Gentlemen, you can't fight in here, this is the War Room!"

    There is also an exchange between General Turgidson (Scott), President Muffley (Sellers) and Dr. Strangelove (Sellers).

  • Comment number 42.

    Doh! I meant it's a series of two-handers and one-handers

  • Comment number 43.

    Joel_C_ooney, yes there are those other minor roles, but I thought it was worth mentioning seeing as most of the film is just 3 people.

  • Comment number 44.

    Second the contributions of Closetland, Persona, Hard Candy and Stalker which are all perfect examples.

    I would like to add Blind Beast, the 1969 Yasuzo Masumura film about a blind sculptor who kidnaps and holds a young woman prisoner to use as a body model. Outside of the first few minutes, the film takes place in a single location, a claustrophobic warehouse filled with surrealistic sculptures of various body parts, and contains a cast of exactly three characters: the girl, the sculptor and his mother.

  • Comment number 45.

    talking of moon, that film left me feeling a bit dissatisfied. this twist was too realistic for its high concept. I was expecting something more surreal. Having said that this is the film it should have been.

    Part 1:
    Part 2:

    It may be a commercial but its still great fun and a great one (and a half) actor performance.

  • Comment number 46.

    Definitely My Dinner With Andre is one of the great two-handers (thanks #26 @bobboxx for reminding us about it). I think it was written directly for the screen by the two actors themselves (by the way, this dialectal difference between 'themself' and 'themselves' is of great interest to me and is something to be taken up in greater detail somewhere, sometime) but it can just as easily be staged as a play.

  • Comment number 47.

    oka, two short films but i think they're worth a mention.. The Signalman.. an adaptation of the short ghost story by Charles Dickson, featuring two amazing central performances by Denholm Elliot and Bernard Lloyd. not only a genuinely creepy film but one that hinges on the unlikely friendship struck up between the two characters.

    also, Whistle And I'll Come To You which is essentially a two hander if you don't count the ghostly bed sheet. very little dialogue and unsettling in a way that current horror movies (i'm looking at you Nightmare On Elm Street) could learn a lot from.

    The Shining is worth a mention.. for the most part a three hander. oh and also When The Wind Blows.. an animated two hander

    tough one this week!

  • Comment number 48.

    oops, i meant Charles Dickens obviously!

  • Comment number 49.

    Ah, the paranormal.

    That reminds me, "Parnormal Activity" is pretty much a two-hander, all set in one house with just two more very minor characters who are in only a couple of scenes and, of course, the non-speaking paranormal part.

  • Comment number 50.

    Two thirds of 2001: A Space Odyssey

  • Comment number 51.

    I'll go for "Robinson Crusoe on Mars".

    Holy space monkey, Batman!

  • Comment number 52.

    Moon - how much smaller can a cast get?

  • Comment number 53.

    Off the top of my head:

    Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
    The Shining (at a push)
    The Man Who Would Be King
    The Sting

    Could you argue that the Bourne films are one- or two-handers, since the authorities chasing him are so disparate that there's never one clear antagonist?

    Glengary Glen Ross is boring and overated.

  • Comment number 54.

    The first film that came to my mind was the brilliant "Primer". But strictly speaking it's not a two or three hander, and that's not counting the many clones.

    "Sleuth" wins, (two) hands down. Besides "Give 'em Hell, Harry!" (one hander featuring James Whitmore as Harry Truman) and "Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf" (four hander), "Sleuth" is the only film in which the entire on-screen billed cast received acting Oscar nominations.

    And some other honourable mentions:

    Robert Altman's "Secret Honor" (one hander feat. Philip Baker Hall as Nixon)
    Nick Broomfield's "Monster in a Box" (one hander feat. Spalding Gray)
    Ted Kotcheff's "The Human Voice" (one hander feat. Ingrid Bergman)
    John Boorman's "Hell in the Pacific" (two hander feat. Toshiro Mifune and Lee Marvin)

    two/three-and-a-negligible-bit handers:
    Ingmar Bergman's "Persona"
    Louis Malle's "Black Moon"
    Sulev Keedus' "Somnambuul"
    Douglas Trumbull's "Silent Running"

  • Comment number 55.

    Possibly 'The Shining' its centered around two characters with very little inclusion of other actors

  • Comment number 56.

    I recently watched A Serious Man, and I'd say, apart from the scenes at the bar and school there is only two characters on screen, and sometimes just the one.

    Also Touching The Void, I don't know whether you'd include it as a proper film or a docudrama, but even the interviews are done individually and straight to camera.

  • Comment number 57.

    Im surprised that no one has mentioned The Big Kahuna the John Swanbeck film based on the play Hospitality Suite, with Kevin Spacey (who also produces), Danny Devito and Peter Facinelli its pretty much a three hander until a party scene at the end.

  • Comment number 58.

    I second whoever said BEFORE SUNRISE/SUNSET. Two absolutely sublime movies based purely on two people with amazing chemistry saying interesting things.

  • Comment number 59.

    Not a film I liked at all, but has a mildly interesting history: BOY MEETS GIRL, directed by Ray Brady. The BBFC took exception to it (this was in the James Ferman years, when they were taking exception to so many things that their exceptions became the rule) and refused it a video certificate, which killed its financial chances. It's mainly a two hander in which a woman drugs and abducts a lecherous leery bloke and tortures him in her basement for general gender-oriented sins.

    There's a vampire movie called TO SLEEP WITH A VAMPIRE which, from what I recall, has two main characters and maybe a few bits and extras. Unfortunately it is fairly dull.

  • Comment number 60.

    Pulp Fiction is a series of scenes with mostly only two actors speaking
    e.g. Travolta & Jackson, Travolta and Thurman, Willis and Rhames, Roth and Plummer etc. Perhaps the largest ensemble is with Keitel, Tarantino, Travolta & Jackson in the Mr. Wolf sequence. There's also a bit where Roth & Plummer interact with Jackson & Travolta. There's the watch monologue from Walken and the one sided interrogation of "Brett" and "Marvin" by Jackson.

    In Jaws when they are one the boat, it's a 3-hander + rubber shark

    The first act of the Producers is just Mostel and Wilder

    In Brief Encounter you only remember Celia & Trevor

    Who Framed Roger Rabbit? is a one-hander by Bob Hoskins

    Laurel and Hardy made many shorts with just themselves and no other actors

    Adrien Body gives mostly a solo performance in The Pianist

    Jimmy Stewart flies single-handedly across the atlantic for most of Spirit of St. Louis

    The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is mostly a three hander ("We don't need no stinkin' extras")

    There are vanishingly small numbers of films with just 1,2 or 3 actors visible because you have to create a closed situation to isolate the characters like a siege, hostage, or heist or other claustrophobic situation.

    Other films have extras or other characters but are dominated by the interaction of one, two or three performers

    The Goodbye Girl
    Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern are Dead
    Bedazzled (the Pete and Dud version)
    Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
    In Bruges
    The Servant
    Love Story
    Two Mules for Sister Sara
    Educating Rita
    Ice Cold in Alex
    The Miracle Worker (Anne Bancroft as Helen Keller's teacher)
    84 Charing Cross Road, two one-handers from two characters that never meet
    Peter Finch's monologues in Network
    and um, Most Columbo episodes

  • Comment number 61.

    Yep - The Shining is a great example of what you can do with a small cast and huge gaping spaces!

  • Comment number 62.

    As Good As It Gets is a great 3 hander with good ol' Greg stealing the show from the other two that won Oscars!

  • Comment number 63.

    The one that sticks in my mind the most is definitely MISERY.

  • Comment number 64.

    A personal favorite of mine: "Death and the Maiden" with Sigourney Weaver, Ben Kingsley and Stuart Wilson.

  • Comment number 65.

    There Will Be Blood could be described as a great 2 hander with DD Lewis and Paul Dano.

  • Comment number 66.

    I think Nine Songs is the only one which (possibly?) hasn't been mentioned. If you don't count the bands that is.

  • Comment number 67.

    I'd like to suggest "When The Wind Blows". It may be animated, but it's clearly a pure two-hander throughout, anchored by two great voice performances. What's more, I think the brilliance of this moving and powerful little tale comes from that very fact. It is taking an unimaginably huge and terrible disaster, worldwide nuclear Armageddon, and focusing on one elderly couple completely to the exclusion of the outside world. It makes it all the more real, and I think, all the more tragic, as we the viewer are held tightly in their world, while we can of course be aware (in a way they clearly are not) that the horror we are seeing is just one of a billion horrors all playing out simultaneously.

  • Comment number 68.

    Surprised nobody has mentioned Phone Booth, which is essentially a one-and-a-half-hander depending on how you count Sutherland's vocal presence.

  • Comment number 69.

    Does Evil Dead 2 count? Most of the time its just Bruce Campbell fighting the undead and great it is too.

    Eraserhead springs to mind as well, probably because it's so upsetting I nearly had to switch it off.

  • Comment number 70.

    Cast Away with Tom Hanks is for the most part a one hander, unless you count Wilson.

  • Comment number 71.

    I recently went to see Disappearance of Alice Creed and I really enjoyed it. I didn't really think about how many people were in the cast as I'm very much desensitized small casts after watching and studying plays like "Waiting For Godot" and "The Dumbwaiter" which I believe this film owes debt to as far as generating tension and the lack of trust between each character.
    Recently I think The Road is a great two hander but I think one film that isn't necessarily a 1 hander or 2 hander but in it's tone and the way it's presented is a 1 hander is Movern Callar. The performance of Samantha Morton and the direction of Lynne Ramsey shows us that Movern Callar is very much alone in an empty world, despite the fact their are other characters on screen, I get the feeling when I watch that film all I see is Movern and no one else, it's probably one of the rarest experiences i've ever been through, where you are so fixated on one character you completely bypass the rest of the cast and that is why I believe Morvern Callar is a true 1 hander.

  • Comment number 72.

    What about Rear Window? It's mainly just James And Grace Kelly watching other people. I think that's pritty two-handed to me.

  • Comment number 73.

    "(insert your own "Kermode mitts" gag here)"

    You have to admit, they do look like two meaty windmills.

  • Comment number 74.

    Hi Dr K

    Haven't seen Alice Creed yet.

    Films that spring to mind:
    Hell in the Pacific
    Silent Running (not including the robots)
    Sleuth (with Larry and Michael)

  • Comment number 75.

    Cast Away or Phone Booth. Both are really good movies by themselves. One is great drama and the other one, one of the best thrillers, I've ever seen.

  • Comment number 76.

    Y Tu Mama Tambien is quite a wonderful triple hander between Gael Garcia Bernal, Diego Luna and Maribel Verdu. The film itself is a great take on the coming of age story superbly directed by Cuaron and beautifully photographed.

  • Comment number 77.

    one of my favourite films of recent years was the spanish sci-fi/horror 'timecrimes', technically it's a 3 hander (3 and half if you include hector's wife), although those of you who have seen it could argue that it's actually a 5/5 and a half hander.confused? those of you who have'nt should watch it immediately! if you enjoyed 'primer' then you're sure to like 'timecrimes'.
    incidentally, i was recommending primer to a friend recently and they asked me to describe it, after much ponderation the best i could come up with was 'back to the future part 2 with a stephen hawking script polish'

  • Comment number 78.

    like antimode says, paranormal activity is basically a two hander with a few minor bit roles

  • Comment number 79.

    the 2010 film Cash (Ca$h) starring sean bean was a three hander and possibly the Michael Caine film Harry Brown as well

  • Comment number 80.

    the soloist with Robert Downey Jr and Jamie Foxx is mostly a two hander

  • Comment number 81.

    Ahh I very much want to see The Disappearance on Alice Creed. Especially that it's just their performances alone in it, has increased my interest.

    I can't think of that much that are handled by a small amount of actors, surprisingly as I love those types of films. I'd say My Dinner With Andre is definatly one though. A film that is basically two friends just having a conversation over a restaurant table, yet it's still compelling.

    Sleuth is definatly another, the original AND the remake which I thought was brilliant even though critics said otherwise. I'm very tempted to say 44 Inch Chest. I know that has more than 3 actors in it (they are all fantastic) but some scenes that are just amazing would be between two characters, such as Loverboy and Winstone's Colin Diamond. Phone Booth is one that I see has been mentioned before, and that's such an entertaining film. Though Colin Farrell done some superb acting. And finally, in response to Dave B, I'd agree with you. Infact, I would say that I would quite happily sit through a feature-length film just with Bruce Campbell in it :)

    Anywho, there's probably many more I'll think of in a minute but I shall leave you with these, Dr Kermode ...

  • Comment number 82.

    Have to agree with most of the Bruce Campbell-related comments. He's the shit. Especially in ED2.

  • Comment number 83.

    For me a fantastic short horror film that focuses on one individual character is Steve Ayson's The French Doors. A simple concept executed very well to deliver a chilling 13 minutes.

  • Comment number 84.

    A couple of people have already mentioned two of my favourite "two-hander" films, Sleuth the original AND remake as well as Closet Land. Also ROman Polanski's The Tenant is mainly a one-hander with the director as star, although there are some peripheral characters in some scenes.

  • Comment number 85.

    "Down by Law" by Jim Jarmusch essentially has only three characters in it for most of its duration... Do you like Walt Whitman?


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.