The Island (1980 film)

The Island is a 1980 American action adventure-thriller film directed by Michael Ritchie and starring Michael Caine and David Warner. The film was based on a 1979 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 have raided boats to sustain themselves since the 17th century.

The Island
Theatrical poster
Directed byMichael Ritchie
Screenplay byPeter Benchley
Based onThe Island
by Peter Benchley
Produced by
CinematographyHenri Decaë
Edited byRichard A. Harris
Music byEnnio Morricone
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]


Blair Maynard is a British-born American journalist in New York City who was once in the Navy and who decides to investigate the mystery of why so many boats disappear in the Bermuda Triangle of the Caribbean. He takes his estranged son Justin with him to Florida with the promise of a vacation to Disney World and, while fishing, both are attacked by an unkempt man and forcibly brought to an uncharted island. On the island, Blair discovers that the inhabitants are a centuries-old colony of savage French pirates.

The group has been living on the island for centuries, unseen by society (except for an English archeologist obsessively keeping their secret) and sustain themselves by raiding pleasure boats. The pirates kill whoever comes to the island; however, Blair and his son are both kept alive due to a false assumption that they are descended from Robert Maynard and a need to offset the negative effects of inbreeding. Blair is used to impregnate a female and act as a scribe for the largely illiterate group, while Justin is brainwashed to become a surrogate heir to Nau, the pirate leader. Blair struggles to escape from the island, but all attempts fail.

Blair begins his captivity as a very peaceable and civilized everyman, but he is helpless in the absence of law and the presence of the almost unlimited violence the pirates commit. Subjecting him to constant fear and abuse, the pirates fail to realize how desperate Blair is becoming as his repeated escape attempts continually fail. He eventually arranges for the pirates to come head to head with a US Coast Guard cutter, but 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, he discovers a deck-mounted M2 machine gun hidden underneath a tarp. He opens fire on the pirates, and continues to fire even after they are all dead.

He then learns that Nau was not on the deck. The two men then stalk each other through various parts of the decimated vessel. Blair eventually gets the upper hand and kills Nau with a flare gun. Blair and his son, who no longer desires to be a pirate and seems much more respectful of his father, are reunited.



Richard Zanuck and David Brown paid Benchley $2.15 million for film rights to the novel and a first draft screenplay, as well as a guarantee of 10 percent of the gross, five percent of the soundtrack sales, and approval of the crew and locations.[2][3] Benchley later claimed that he could have been able to retire if the film was more successful.[2] Brown said the budget was $12 million plus 25% overhead but other reports put it over $20 million.[4] The film was mostly shot on the islands of Antigua and Abaco,[4] and the United States Coast Guard cutter Dauntless stands in for the fictitious USCGC New Hope in the movie. Some scenes were also shot in the British West Indies and Florida at Miami and Fort Lauderdale.[2]

Australian Angela Punch McGregor was cast after Michael Ritchie saw her in Newsfront.[5]


Home mediaEdit

On July 27, 2011, Universal Studios Home Entertainment released the film on DVD as part of its Universal Vault Series as an Amazon exclusive.[6] On December 11, 2012, Shout! Factory released a retail Blu-ray Disc/DVD combo pack of the film.[7]


Box officeEdit

The film performed poorly at the box office, earning $15 million on the budget of $22 million.

Critical receptionEdit

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 40% based on 5 reviews, with an average rating of 4.8/10.[8] 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".[9] 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."[10]



  1. ^ a b "The Island (1980)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved April 24, 2017.
  2. ^ a b c "The Island". Retrieved 2021-12-05.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  3. ^ Westward They Come, Big Bucks for Big Books. Rosenfield, Paul. Los Angeles Times 18 Feb 1979: n1.
  4. ^ a b Of Pirates and Perrier. Rosenfield, Paul. Los Angeles Times 26 Aug 1979: m1.
  5. ^ Jim Schembri, "Angela Punch McGregor", Cinema Papers, December 1984 p 421
  6. ^ "The Island (Universal Vault Series)". Retrieved October 19, 2012.
  7. ^ "The Island". Shout!Factory. Retrieved October 19, 2012.
  8. ^ "The Island (1980)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 22 May 2018.
  9. ^ Leonard Maltin (3 September 2013). Leonard Maltin's 2014 Movie Guide. Penguin Publishing Group. p. 708. ISBN 978-1-101-60955-2.
  10. ^ Guarisco, Donald. "The Island (1980) - Michael Ritchie". Donald Guarisco. Retrieved 22 May 2018.

External linksEdit