The Island (1980 film)

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The Island
Theatrical poster
Directed byMichael Ritchie
Produced by
Screenplay byPeter Benchley
Based onThe Island
by Peter Benchley
Music byEnnio Morricone
CinematographyHenri Decaë
Edited byRichard A. Harris
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • June 13, 1980 (1980-06-13)
Running time
114 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$22 million[1]
Box office$15.7 million (US)[1]

The Island is a 1980 American action-adventure horror film, directed by Michael Ritchie and starring Michael Caine and David Warner. The film was based on a novel of the same name by Peter Benchley who also wrote the screenplay. It is about a savage group of pirates, made up of outcasts, thieves, and murderers, who are hidden from the outside world by an uncharted Caribbean island, and who've raided boats to sustain themselves, since the 18th century.


Blair Maynard (Michael Caine) is a British-born American journalist who was once in the Navy and decides to investigate the mystery of why so many boats disappear in the Bermuda Triangle of the Caribbean. He takes his estranged son Justin (Jeffrey Frank) with him to the area on the "vacation" and, while fishing, both are attacked by an unkempt man and forcibly brought to an uncharted island. On the island, Blair discovers the terrible truth: the inhabitants on the island are actually a centuries-old colony of savage French pirates.

The group has been living on the island for centuries, unseen by society, who sustain themselves by raiding pleasure boats. The pirates kill whomever comes to the island, however, Blair and his son are both kept alive due to a false assumption regarding their lineage and a need to offset the negative effects of inbreeding. Blair is used to impregnate a female (Angela Punch McGregor) and act as a scribe for the largely illiterate group, while Justin is brainwashed to become a surrogate heir to Nau, the pirate leader (David Warner). Blair struggles to escape from the island, but all attempts fail.

With Blair having begun his captivity as a very peaceable, civilized, and modern everyman, he is helpless in the absence of law and the presence of almost unlimited violence the pirates commit regularly. Subjecting him to constant fear and abuse, culminating in the pirates brainwashing his son to become the new surrogate heir to the colony, the pirates completely fail to realize how desperate and as a result, dangerous, Blair is becoming as his repeated escape attempts continually fail. He eventually arranges for them to come head to head with a US Coast Guard ship, but through their almost unimaginable savagery, they manage to wipe out the crew and take over the vessel. Blair sneaks aboard and, while most of the pirates are gathered on the aft deck of the ship, examining their loot, he discovers a deck-mounted .50 caliber M2 Machine Gun hidden underneath a tarp. He knows that this is his one chance to save both his and Justin's lives and he does not hesitate to flip off the tarp and open fire on the pirates, killing perhaps forty to fifty men within seconds. He continues to fire even after they are all dead while evincing nothing but savage delight and satisfaction.

He then learns that Nau, by far the most dangerous and intelligent of them, was not on the deck. The two men then stalk each other through various parts of the decimated coast guard vessel. Blair eventually gets the upper hand and kills Nau with a flare gun, again proving how dangerous even the meekest of men can be when pushed too far. Blair and his son, who no longer desires to be a pirate and seems much more respectful of his father, are reunited.



Benchley was paid $1.25 million for film rights to the novel and a first draft screenplay.[2]

The United States Coast Guard cutter Dauntless stands in for the fictitious USCGC New Hope in the movie.

Angela Punch McGregor was cast after Michael Ritchie saw her in Newsfront.[3]

The film was mostly shot on the islands of Antigua and Abacuo.[4]

David Brown said the budget was $12 million plus 25% overhead but other reports put it over $20 million.[4]


Home media[edit]

On July 27, 2011, Universal Studios Home Entertainment released the film on DVD as part of its Universal Vault Series as an Amazon exclusive.[5] On December 11, 2012, Shout! Factory released a retail Blu-ray Disc/DVD combo pack of the film.[6]


On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 40% based on 5 reviews, with a weighted average rating of 4.8/10.[7] Author and film critic Leonard Maltin awarded the film a BOMB, his lowest rating, calling it "[an] Absolutely awful thriller", and criticized Warner's casting as "the most normal guy on the island".[8] Donald Guarisco from Allmovie gave the film a more positive review, calling Benchley's script 'dark and witty, with gruesome violence, black humor'. Guarisco summarized in his review by writing, "The Island is not for everybody but fans of big-budget oddities are likely to be fascinated by the well-funded eccentricity at play here."[9]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Nominated: Worst Actor (Michael Caine)
Nominated: Worst Director (Michael Ritchie)


  1. ^ a b "The Island (1980)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved April 24, 2017.
  2. ^ WESTWARD THEY COME, BIG BUCKS FOR BIG BOOKS Rosenfield, Paul. Los Angeles Times 18 Feb 1979: n1.
  3. ^ Jim Schembri, "Angela Punch McGregor", Cinema Papers, December 1984 p 421
  4. ^ a b OF PIRATES AND PERRIER Rosenfield, Paul. Los Angeles Times 26 Aug 1979: m1.
  5. ^ "The Island (Universal Vault Series)". Retrieved October 19, 2012.
  6. ^ "The Island". Shout!Factory. Retrieved October 19, 2012.
  7. ^ "The Island (1980) - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Flixer. Retrieved 22 May 2018.
  8. ^ Leonard Maltin (3 September 2013). Leonard Maltin's 2014 Movie Guide. Penguin Publishing Group. p. 708. ISBN 978-1-101-60955-2.
  9. ^ Guarisco, Donald. "The Island (1980) - Michael Ritchie". Donald Guarisco. Retrieved 22 May 2018.

External links[edit]