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Stranded! Our Desert-Island Movie Picks

If you could only watch one movie for the rest of your life, what would it be? Our editors answer that question in this round-up of staff movie recommendations.

Cast Away

“Wilson! Wilson!” If I were stuck on a desert island, I can’t think of two better companions than Chuck Noland (Tom Hanks) and his faithful friend, Wilson, the volleyball. There’s plenty of advice I could use about surviving on an uninhabited beach, especially dealing with the mental anguish and loneliness. And I love to sail. So, why not try to build my own seacraft?—Fran Lostys, research manager


Don’t judge. It’s funny and totally addictive. Plus, I’m always looking for a reason to bring “as if” into my vocabulary.—Alison Caporimo, associate editor

The Godfather

Need I say more? Okay, I will. From the opening line, “I believe in America,” to the last dramatic shot of Diane Keaton’s face as the door is being closed between her and Michael, this movie is as brilliant a masterpiece as ever there was one. In fact, I was just thinking about it the other day—the music alone creates so much of the drama and tension.—Dean Abatemarco, art director

The Princess Bride

Ever since I was a kid, my go-to movie to watch while sick in bed or when trying to avoid the winter elements has been The Princess Bride. The movie has a bit of everything—as the grandfather even says, it has “fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles”—and truly gets better with each viewing. You’ll be so touched by the human spirit, you’ll be convinced that somebody, someday, somehow, will appear on the horizon and rescue you from your deserted cliffs of insanity.—Emilie Harjes, photo researcher

The Dark Knight

It’s not necessarily my favorite movie, or even the best Christopher Nolan flick, but between Heath Ledger’s awe-inspiring turn as the Joker, the relentlessly tense plot, fantastic action sequences and beefy runtime, I can hardly think of anything that’s more watchable. I lined up for the midnight opening, saw it at least two more times in theaters, bought the DVD and the Blu-Ray, and, yes, I would watch it again (and again) on coconut-TV.—Damon Beres, assistant editor

Annie Hall

Wait—isn’t everyone going to say Annie Hall? Well, every time I’ve sat down to watch it, I’ve somehow managed to get distracted. To be honest, I think I’ve just placed it on such a high pedestal that every time I find myself with a rainy day, I’m scared to finally pop it in. Because once I watch “the all-time greatest movie ever,” what all-time greatest movie ever is there left to live for?—Perri O. Blumberg, assistant editor

The Brat Pack Collection

These three John Hughes teen comedy classics (The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, and Weird Science) top my guilty pleasure list. I’d totally be content watching them on loop as I waited out my time on a desert island. Set in the 1980s, the characters, the music, the dialog, and the story lines never get old no matter how many times I watch them. I’m sure I’m not the only one who can identify with Molly Ringwald’s characters in any of these films. But above all, these movies are hopeful. I may not be 16 anymore, but I still get goosebumps when the coolest guy in school sweeps Ringwald’s character off her feet.—Lauren Gniazdowski, assistant editor

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

Not only is this movie funny but it shows Marilyn Monroe at her best: doe-eyed and perfectly dumb. I mean that in a good way! The movie is beautifully photographed with unbelievable costumes, and memorable musical numbers like Marilyn’s famous performance of “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend.” It would certainly take my mind off of being stuck on a desert island. Plus, I could sing and dance without worrying anyone would see me.—Adrienne Farr, assistant to the chief content officer/editor-in-chief


It set the standard for the sci-fi horror/thriller. There is only one bloody scene, and it is infamous (the chest busting). The rest of the violence is inferred and hinted at. You see feet being raised from the ground, screams in the distance, the creepy sound of the tracking device, and you see the Alien’s segemented attack jaw! Not to mention that it introduces the FIRST female action hero and she saves the cat too. All of that set in an amazingly raw atmosphere that is supposed to our the future. And the tag line…”In Space No One Can Hear You Scream” is classic.—Jeff Nesmith, digital production director

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

I repeatedly watch Steven Spielberg’s epic adventures, so I knew I wanted to choose one of them, but which one… Jurassic Park? E.T.? Hook? Definitely not Jaws—I’m stranded on a desert island! Suddenly the theme song to Indiana Jones began playing in my head, and my favorite bullwhip-carrying archaeologist easily swung his way to the top of my list.
With the charm of Harrison Ford and Sean Connery, plus the wonkiest obstacle course of all (complete with an invisible bridge), there’s never a dull moment. Even just summarizing the film makes me want to watch it again…—Shirley Li, intern

Mary and Max

There are cliché movie plots—rags to riches, voyage and return, overcoming the monster—and then there’s the storyline of Mary and Max. This quirky claymation film is about two unlikely pen pals who correspond for 20 years: Mary Daisy Dinkle, a homely 8-year-old Australian girl, and Max Jerry Horowitz, a morbidly obese 44-year-old New Yorker (voiced by Phillip Seymour Hoffman) whose only friend is chocolate. As one critic put it, “It’s what Pixar might come up with if their characters found themselves off the rails.” Never before have oddness and friendship been so beautifully celebrated.—Sheri Alzeerah, intern

Under the Tuscan Sun

Stuck on a desert island… No companions, just sand, waves and maybe a tropical storm for excitement—sounds wonderful for about a week or maybe two. Then I would long for companionship, greener scenery, and food that would please the senses. I would yearn to travel through fields of sunflowers to an old village in the hills, enjoy a view of the Amalfi coast or laugh with friends around a table laden with Tuscan foods in a villa surrounded by olive groves. Yes: Under the Tuscan Sun.Ann DiCesare, head librarian

Lost in Translation

What did he say to her at the end? If that’s the thought you have at the end of this beautiful movie about love, you’ve missed the point.—Diane Dragan, executive digital director

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest