It was my grandfather's island. Looming and bleak, folded in mist, guarded by a million screaming birds, it looked like some ancient fortress constructed by giants. As I gazed up at its sheer cliffs, tops disappearing into a reef of ghostly clouds, the idea that this was a magical place didn't seem so ridiculous.An island Setting where the island in question is crawling with strange and mysterious people, creatures and places, ancient, magical or high-tech. These islands are often very hard to locate (at least more than once), especially if mobile. Usually tropical, they can have a variety of terrain, but generally default to jungle. The island can be big, but not too big. Too big and it's really a small country and doesn't have the same sense of isolation. These islands are often shrouded from regular folk in a number of ways... being uncharted, in the middle of The Bermuda Triangle, having a permanent fog, a magnetic anomaly, space-time vortex, invisibility cloak, force field, magic cloaking spell, SEP field, unpleasant smell. Sometimes they are raised from beneath the ocean. Because of this visitors tend to be accidental by way of shipwreck or crashing airplane. Most stories about one of these start with the protagonist(s) arriving on the island, and ends with them leaving. They are hard to get to. They are even harder to leave. Things to look out for on the Island:
— Jacob Portman, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
- Caves (Check behind the waterfall). Some might lead to a Lost World, ancient ruins or other hidden mysteries.
- Ancient ruins.
- Creatures! Gigantic creatures. Mythical creatures. Hybrid creatures. Thought-extinct creatures.
- Unusual, giant and deadly plant life.
- Atlanteans or other assorted lost civilizations, with attendant Crystal Spires and Togas.
- Secret research stations, often abandoned.
- Supervillain lairs. See the Sub-Trope Island Base.
- Island castaways, including those who don't know the war is over.
- Cannibalistic and human-sacrifice-prone natives.
- A plot-sensitive volcano that may be suggestively shaped or a Doomsday Device. These islands are prone to blowing up and sinking into the ocean.
- Treasure, particularly pirate booty. An island that's hard to get to is perfect for hiding your booty.
- The laws of physics may have locally broken down in various ways.
- Their size can be as large as the plot demands (although never so large as to indicate they can just trek completely away from their troubles).
- Their inaccessibility means the protagonist(s) are on their own, can't call for help and must deal with their situation by themselves.
- They have McGuffins on them. Treasure, lost technology, previous castaways etc.
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Anime & Manga
- The plot of Cage of Eden has a class of Japanese high schoolers back from a trip to Guam when the plane crash-lands on an unknown island filled with extinct prehistoric creatures (but not dinosaurs) and plants where Everything Is Trying to Kill You. Along the way, they will discover the mysteries of the island.
- In Vexille the Mega Corp. Daiwa has turned the the entire nation of Japan into one. The rest of the world has been sealed off with an electronic field, and no one knows just what's going on there, except they keep exporting high-level robotics to the highest bidder. When Vexille manages to land there, she finds the inhabitants of all the islands have been made into test subjects by the Mad Scientist head of Daiwa for his cybernetics research, turning the entire place to a wasteland.
- One Piece, being a manga about seafaring pirates, features several such islands as settings. There is the dinosaur-inhabited Little Garden, the horror-themed Thriller Bark with all its zombies (though it's actually an island-sized ship), the sky island Skypiea which has xenophobic Native American-inspired warriors and corrupt religious zealots, and many other such islands.
- Tintin has seen a few:
- The island of Flight 714 has caves, ancient ruins, ancient ruins in caves, anomalous physical properties and is ultimately a landing site for alien spacecraft.
- The crashed meteor in The Shooting Star becomes a Mysterious Island with giant plants and insects.
- The Black Island contains ruins and a mysterious, dangerous beast which turns out to be a gorilla. In Scotland.
- The Marvel Universe has
- The DC Universe has:
- Themyscira, or Paradise Island. Hidden from mortal eyes by magic, on it reside the Amazons of legend, complete with classical Greek architecture. Blessed by the Olympian Gods, no man is allowed to physically set foot on it. The Olympian Gods stop by there from time to time. Themyscira is presently located in the Bermuda Triangle, but possesses the magical ability to teleport to any location or time period its inhabitants desire. Doom's Doorway to the underworld is there, guarded by the Amazons. Mythical, magical and outsized creatures live there, and in the waters surrounding.
- Dinosaur Island. Because dinosaurs live there. Also believed to hold the mystical Swords of Fan. Theorized in-universe that island exists in a state of temporal flux, as expeditions there find not only dinosaurs but World War II Japanese soldiers. Used as a proving ground for United States robotic weapons.
- Largo Winch has Sarjevan(e), a lovely Baltic island in the Adriatic Sea originally colonized by a small community of 15th Century Orthodox monks who hid on the island - for over 400 years! - to escape Turkish persecution. Isolated by sheer cliffs with a freshwater lake at its heart(supplied by a spring) his adoptive father Nerio purchased the island as his own James Bond hideaway; installing electricity but no telephone, television or even a radio - and hid the only entrance behind a remote-controlled secret passage.
- The island that granted the heroes in Jupiters Legacy. It has a cloaking field, calls to one of the heroes in dreams to come visit, is made of alien metal, has a room inside that's larger than the island and has extra-dimensional aliens on it who grant superpowers.
Films — Live-Action
- Invoked in universe in the first Scooby-Doo movie: our separated gang are invited to the Spooky Island, a resort with a ghostly and mystical theme, by the owner Mondavarious.
- The island at the end of Deep Rising. Apart from the giant creature that attacked the ocean liner, the island itself apparently is home to at least one creature large enough to make trees move, as well as having a volcano on it.
- Skull Island in King Kong (1933). Dinosaurs, giant insects, natives who perform Human Sacrifices, and the giant ape himself.
- The Island Base of Dr. Totenkopf at the end of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. More dinosaurs, plus dangerous robots and a spaceship!
- The Isle of Bronze in the 1963 movie Jason and the Argonauts has ancient Greek architecture full of treasure and a giant bronze statue that comes to life.
- The island(s) full of dinosaurs of Jurassic Park and sequels. Now including abandoned research stations!
- The Godzilla film series has Monster Island, home to many Kaiju, a research base and a force field containment system.
- The Isle de Muerta in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, where the cursed Aztec gold was hidden, a place shrouded in fog that could only be found by those who already knew where it was. Following the events of the film, it was reclaimed by the sea.
- The Isle of Naboombu from the movie Bedknobs and Broomsticks is accessible by magic and populated by anthropomorphic animals.
- Attack of the Crab Monsters is set on a remote irradiated Pacific island with a research team on it, now populated with enormous once-human land crabs.
- The Killer Shrews is set on an isolated island with a research station now being terrorised by mutant shrews.
- Isla del Muerta from the movie version of House of the Dead has zombies, evil experiments gone wild and a villain from the days of Spanish sailing.
- Island of Terror has a silicon monsters who eat bones on a remote and isolated island, created through genetic engineering by a Mad Scientist.
- Horrors of Spider Island has an island with uranium desposits with giant spiders which turn people into more giant spiders.
- The TV film Danger Island.
- The Island of Doctor Moreau by H. G. Wells. A mad doctor turns animals into animal/human hybrids through vivisection.
- The Mysterious Island by Jules Verne. A group of balloon-wreck survivors on an island are threatened by pirates and helped by a mysterious benefactor. He turns out to be Captain Nemo, who survived the maelstrom at the end of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
- R'lyeh, the island of Call of Cthulhu has ancient ruins and the Big Guy himself.
- Dinotopia. Surrounded by a storm system and dangerous reefs that prevent safe travel to or from the island, it is inhabited by shipwrecked humans and sentient dinosaurs who have learned to coexist peacefully as a single symbiotic society.
- The island of Leshp from the Terry Pratchett novel Jingo. It tends to raise itself from under the sea on a regular basis and is covered with Chthonic architecture. An homage to R'lyeh, home of Great Cthulhu.
- In The Dresden Files Demonreach is an uncharted island hidden in Lake Michigan with a Genius Loci spirit that Harry Dresden beats into submission and makes into his ally, giving it that name in the process. It later turns out to be a prison for Eldritch Abominations that was built by the original Merlin himself, and Harry's the Warden.
- Peter Pan: Neverland, home of the title character and the Lost Boys. Uncharted and accessible only through magic, children never grow old and die there and can fly with a little help. The geography of Neverland is shaped by the minds of the children residing there.
- Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Island of Ogygia, Calypso's home/prison, which cannot be reached by any normal means. The fates only allow heroes that Calypso can't help but fall in love with to wash up there, but eventually they all go, leaving her alone once again. The Heroes of Olympus indicates that Odysseus seemed to be working on a way to find it again, and now Leo might have the means to finish it. In any case, he's sworn on the River Styx to return there. He manages it by getting himself killed in the climax of The Blood of Olympus and reviving himself with the Physician's Cure. Since he's technically on his second life, he is allowed back to Ogygia, and since he has Festus, his mechanical dragon, this time he has the means to take Calypso with him when he leaves.
- The uncharted island of Caprona, from the 1924 novel The Land That Time Forgot by Edgar Rice Burroughs, had a dicey volcano, dinosaurs, hostile sub-human tribes, and a mysterious evolutionary cycle.
- The islands encountered by the eponymous ship in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. One of them has invisible inhabitants and a sorcerer, one has a dragon's lair, another has water that turns anything that falls in to gold, and the last has three old men in an eternal sleep and is inhabited by a star.
- Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children: Cairnholm—it's got quasi-time travel, it's got an Extranormal Institute... as well as much less glamorous trappings of a remote Welsh island.
- Gilligan's Island had a plot-sensitive volcano, cannibals from neighboring islands, giant spiders, mysterious caves, and seemed to be a magnet for eccentric-characters-of-the-week.
- The island of Lost. Caves, ancient ruins, castaways, physical anomalies, weird creatures, angry natives, secret research stations, doomsday devices. It's got the lot.
- Fantasy Island. Each week people go to what they think will be a nice vacation but which turns out to be a Secret Test designed to teach them a lesson. Their fantasies are fulfilled magically; guests travel in time, change sex, and other impossible things. Mr. Rourke is intimated to be several centuries old and possibly God.
- Danger Island from the The Banana Splits show. Possibly home to the lost city of Tobanya. Contains castaways and comes with three tribes of cannibalistic native.
- Living Island, home to H.R. Pufnstuf. Jimmy is shipwrecked and lives with the denizens there. Everything on the island is alive and sentient... houses, castles, boats, clocks, candles, books, trees, mushrooms, etc.
- The CW's live-action adaptation of DC comics' Green Arrow, Arrow. Oliver Queen finds himself stranded on a seemingly deserted island in the South China Sea. Soon he runs into a mysterious Chinese man, a mysterious military organization, and more.
- The Marivellas in Tales of the Gold Monkey are a whole chain of Islands of Mystery, with such inhabitants as two sets of killer monkeys, samurai, lost tribes of Africa and ancient Egypt, tentacled swamp monsters and....the Amish.
Myths & Religion
- The legend of King Arthur has Avalon. as described in a narrative of the life of Merlin by the medieval historian Geoffrey of Monmouth:
The island of apples which men call "The Fortunate Isle" gets its name from the fact that it produces all things of itself; the fields there have no need of the ploughs of the farmers and all cultivation is lacking except what nature provides. Of its own accord it produces grain and grapes, and apple trees grow in its woods from the close-clipped grass. The ground of its own accord produces everything instead of merely grass, and people live there a hundred years or more. There nine sisters rule by a pleasing set of laws those who come to them from our country.
- Irish myth has Brasil or Hy-Brasil. Said to be cloaked in mist, except for one day every seven years, when it became visible but still could not be reached.
- The Isle of Demons. It was believed that the island was populated by demons and wild beasts. The demons and wild beasts would torment and attack any ships that passed or anyone that was foolish enough to wander onto the island.
- The Voyage of St. Brendan describes St. Brendan's sailing trip to the "Land of Promise", a paradisal island in the Atlantic Ocean which is permanently surrounded by dense fog and can only be found by saintly persons who enjoy the grace of God. This island was widely considered a "lost" but real island and appears, as "St. Brendan's Isle" and in various locations, on many maps from the 13th to the 18th century. The island holds a special place in the folklore of the Canary Islands, where la isla de San Borondón (or Samborombón) is considered the westernmost island of the same archipelago, and there are many reports about sightings and even people setting foot on the island. Nevertheless, the island was erased from the maps in the 18th century for being mythical.
- Forbidden Island is set on an island filled with ancient ruins that hold various treasures that a team of adventures must recover before leaving the island. The island is slowly sinking and the players must race to complete the mission before they all drown.
- The island where the magician Prospero lives in The Tempest, from which he conjures a magical storm to strand his brother's ship on its shores.
- Shounen Kininden Tsumuji has an island called Kagami island which holds an important artifact that allows anyone to enter the Demon Castle in the sky.
- Tomb Raider (2013) is set on Yamatai, an island kept remote by fearsome storms that shipwreck Lara. She finds a previous cast-away, a nazi research station, angry native cultists with an eye to perform a sacrifice and (naturally) caves with ancient tombs. Ticking quite a few boxes.
- Peter Jackson's King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie, is set on the mysterious Skull Island.
- The island of Myst, which is full of strange devices which are portals to other realms, Atrus' empty laboratories and, other than the player, has no one on it. As the name suggests, it's a mystery to solve.
- Crash Bandicoot is set on a series of Islands, all lorded over by Doctor Neo Cortex, a Mad Scientist and his hybrid creature creations.
- The Secret of Monkey Island: The eponymous Monkey Island is a uncharted tropical island of which nobody knows exactly where it is, and which can only be reached by performing a voodoo spell. Besides the more usual features of unknown tropical islands, such as cannibals, a castaway, and a volcano, Monkey Island also hosts ancient ruins, a giant monkey head statue, and at least one three-headed monkey. Beneath the island is a labyrinth of hellish caverns, with a ghost pirate ship anchored on a stream of lava.
- The archipelago of Far Cry contains not-so-abandoned genetic research facilities and genetically altered mutants.
- Far Cry 3 is set on the tropical Rook Islands, which are implied to be somewhere near Thailand. The islands are home to hostile wildlife, murderous pirates, drug mercenaries and ancient ruins, and it's implied that there is something about the Hungry Jungle that will drive newcomers on the island to insanity.
- The Donkey Kong Island of Donkey Kong Country has mysterious caves and ancient ruins.
- Koholint Island in The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening breathes this trope: Link reaches it entirely by accident, it's full of weird things, bizarre people and creatures, there are ancient ruins, its geography is surprisingly varied for such a small place, and it's generally shrouded in mystery. That is, until it's revealed it's actually just a dream.
- The islands of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker are full of mystery. Caves, ancient architecture, weird creatures both big and small, IslandBases...
- World of Warcraft. The Timeless Isle in Mists of Pandaria, a place where time stands still and where the ancient emperor of Pandaria tests the mettle of heroes against the August Celestials.
- In Spellcasting 101 the protagonist has to move from island to island, each of which has its own peculiarities.
- Versteckte Insel in Uncharted: Drake's Fortune is a former Spanish colony, and the game's primary setting. Home to the El Dorado statue, and all of the dark secrets that come with it, every expedition there throughout history ends in failure, up until the statue sinks into the pacific ocean at the end of the game.
- Fire Emblem Elibe: The Dread Isle, where Nergal makes his base of operations and where the ancient Dragongate is located.
- Let's Go Jungle!: Scientists rejuvenate a tropical island with a super growth serum which works all too well, leaving The Island Of Spice overrun with giant mutant animals and plants.
- Legend of Grimrock II is set entirely on such an island, complete with a full set of ancient ruins (including a pyramid), talking statues, extremely dangerous wildlife, a vicious band of Ratmen pirates (pi-rats?) and the mysterious Island Master who likes to leave taunting messages to anybody unfortunate enough to wash up on its shores.
- The main setting of Ark Survival Evolved. First of all, it's inhabited by various prehistoric animals that significantly differ from their fossil counterparts (all Hand Waved as descendants of the originals). Then, the island itself has several biomes that connect seamlessly with each other like a frigid arctic region right next to a tropical oasis. Not to mention, there's enormous floating obelisks and "specimen implants" embedded in the players' hands. There's also boss monsters of creatures that never appeared in real life like dragons with notes on them written in an incomprehensible language as well as further notes on the island from previous human inhabitants which suggest, not only are they from different places, but different time periods too!
- Oxenfree: Teenagers visit an abandoned island an accidentally open a rift to Somewhere Else.
- The first half of Uncharted 4: A Thief's End is spent searching for the legendary pirate colony of Libertalia, which is eventually revealed to be on a tropical island off the coast of Madagascar. Creepy sickle-shaped mountain and pirate skeletons in gibbets aside, the most surprising revelation about the fate of Libertalia is that it has nothing to do with the supernatural; rather, mundane human greed and paranoia was what eventually caused the fall of Libertalia.
- The Witness takes place in an island with both ancient ruins and abandoned technology, which features strange phenomena, such as the obelisks that are activated by drawing specific shapes around the island, as well as a high-tech complex inside the mountain.
- The Pacific Island Homestuck was an uninhabited island at the chronological beginning of the plot, and is an isolated tropical island with a prominent volcano and mysterious ruins full of strange technology. After its discovery becomes the secret base of an eccentric millionaire. After the scratch it's full of strange monsters as well.
- The island of Sindbad in Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor. It's on the back of a whale (according to Sindbad's Villain Song), and is the home of many beasts Sindbad captured, including a two-headed giant and a gigantic eagle.
- Wakfu: The world of Wakfu is full of mysterious islands after suffering from a great flood, caused by a giant Ogre flooding their world with his tears. The flooding got so bad that it's to the point that even the main nations could technically be considered island nations. But more specifically:
- A couple of islands the main characters visit with Eliatrope ruins are partially cloaked to be invisible to sailors.
- Moon island. An island of ritualistic natives that worship a monkey named Moon.
- Wabbit Island. An island of rabbit people with a famous dungeon for adventurers to challenge.
- At one point the main characters visit a deserted tropical island populated with giant dinosaur-like creatures. While trying to find a safe place from the monsters, the boys fall victim to some Enthralling Sirens.
- Lampshaded in The Simpsons' version of The Odyssey: "Who decided to give every weirdo an island?"
- DuckTales: When Scrooge goes to find the lost play of William Drakespeare, he finds a strange island that seems to be inhabited by characters from Drakespeare's plays, and who all seemed determined to throw them off the island. They eventually find the play, and find out that these are actually actors, descendants of Drakespeare's original theatre company.
- Australia seemed like this when first discovered by Europeans, due to all the bizarre wildlife.
- Cracked has an article dedicated to talking about real life islands like these that exist today, or at least exaggerating wildly about them for dramatic effect. Including:
- Ilha de Queimada Grande, home to Bothrops insularis (golden lancehead pit viper), which have a venom that "causes your flesh to rot off your bones"
- The Izu Islands, with enough volcanic activity that inhabitants are required to carry gas masks, and there are long term respiratory effects from ambient sulphur dioxide. One is "kind of shaped like an old woman's head."
- An island of cannibals. (Fiji in 1839.)
- The giant floating island of plastic in the middle of the Pacific. Looks vaguely solid, but you'd fall right through it if you landed on it. Then you'd get eaten by sharks. (Or so the article reports. In reality, it isn't even particularly visible even when one's right on top of it; see Wikipedia: Great Pacific Garbage Patch.)