The book proved so popular that the names of the two main protagonists have entered the language. During World War II, people who decided to stay and hide in the ruins of the German-occupied city of Warsaw for a period of three winter months, from October to January 1945, when they were rescued by the Red Army, were later called Robinson Crusoes of Warsaw. Robinson Crusoe usually referred to his servant as "my man Friday", from which the term "Man Friday" (or "Girl Friday") originated.
Robinson Crusoe marked the beginning of realistic fiction as a literary genre. Its success led to many imitators, and castaway novels became quite popular in Europe in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Most of these have fallen into obscurity, but some became established, including The Swiss Family Robinson.
Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels, published seven years after Robinson Crusoe, may be read as a systematic rebuttal of Defoe's optimistic account of human capability. In The Unthinkable Swift: The Spontaneous Philosophy of a Church of England Man, Warren Montag argues that Swift was concerned about refuting the notion that the individual precedes society, as Defoe's novel seems to suggest. In Treasure Island, author Robert Louis Stevenson parodies Crusoe with the character of Ben Gunn, a friendly castaway who was marooned for many years, has a wild appearance, dresses entirely in goat skin and constantly talks about providence.
In Jean-Jacques Rousseau's treatise on education, Emile: Or, On Education, the one book the protagonist is allowed to read before the age of twelve is Robinson Crusoe. Rousseau wants Emile to identify himself as Crusoe so he can rely upon himself for all of his needs. In Rousseau's view, Emile needs to imitate Crusoe's experience, allowing necessity to determine what is to be learned and accomplished. This is one of the main themes of Rousseau's educational model.
In The Tale of Little Pig Robinson, Beatrix Potter directs the reader to Robinson Crusoe for a detailed description of the island (the land of the Bong tree) to which her eponymous hero moves. In Wilkie Collins' most popular novel, The Moonstone, one of the chief characters and narrators, Gabriel Betteredge, has faith in all that Robinson Crusoe says and uses the book for a sort of divination. He considers The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe the finest book ever written, reads it over and over again, and considers a man but poorly read if he had happened not to read the book.
French novelist Michel Tournier published Friday (French Vendredi ou les Limbes du Pacifique) in 1967. His novel explores themes including civilization versus nature, the psychology of solitude, as well as death and sexuality in a retelling of Defoe's Robinson Crusoe story. Tournier's Robinson chooses to remain on the island, rejecting civilization when offered the chance to escape 28 years after being shipwrecked. Likewise, in 1963, J. M. G. Le Clézio, winner of the 2008 Nobel Prize in literature, published the novel Le Proces-Verbal. The book's epigraph is a quote from Robinson Crusoe, and like Crusoe, Adam Pollo suffers long periods of loneliness.
"Crusoe in England", a 183-line poem by Elizabeth Bishop, imagines Crusoe near the end of his life, recalling his time of exile with a mixture of bemusement and regret.
J. M. Coetzee's 1986 novel Foe recounts the tale of Robinson Crusoe from the perspective of Susan Barton, the protagonist of another of DeFoe's novels.
American novelist Thomas Berger created a modern version of the story in his 1994 novel Robert Crews, in which the protagonist is a middle-aged alcoholic who survives a plane crash at a rural lake, and eventually encounters his "Friday," a young woman fleeing an abusive marriage. In the fantasy novel World War Z, author Max Brooks refers to survivalists who remain after the zombie plague in zombie-infested cities as "Robinson Crusoes."
The story was also illustrated and published in comic book form by Classics Illustrated in 1943 and 1957. The much improved 1957 version was inked/penciled by Sam Citron, who is most well known for his contributions to the earlier issues of Superman.
A pantomime version of Robinson Crusoe was staged at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in 1796, with Joseph Grimaldi as Pierrot in the harlequinade. The piece was produced again in 1798, this time starring Grimaldi as Clown. In 1815, Grimaldi played Friday in another version of Robinson Crusoe.
Jacques Offenbach wrote an opéra comique called Robinson Crusoé which was first performed at the Opéra-Comique, in Paris on 23 November 1867. This was based on the British pantomime version rather than the novel itself. The libretto was by Eugène Cormon and Hector-Jonathan Crémieux.
There is a 1927 silent film titled Robinson Crusoe. The Soviet 3D film Robinzon Kruzo was produced in 1946. Luis Buñuel directed Adventures of Robinson Crusoe starring Dan O'Herlihy, released in 1954. Walt Disney later modernized the novel with Lt. Robin Crusoe, U.S.N., featuring Dick Van Dyke. Peter O'Toole and Richard Roundtree co-starred in a 1975 film Man Friday which satirically portrayed Crusoe as incapable of seeing his dark-skinned companion as anything but an inferior creature, while Friday is more enlightened and empathetic. In 1988, Aidan Quinn portrayed Robinson Crusoe in the film Crusoe. A 1997 movie entitled Robinson Crusoe starred Pierce Brosnan and received limited commercial success. Variations on the theme include the 1954 Miss Robin Crusoe, with a female castaway, played by Amanda Blake, and a female Friday, and the 1964 film Robinson Crusoe on Mars, starring Paul Mantee, with an alien Friday portrayed by Victor Lundin. The 2000 film Cast Away, with Tom Hanks as a FedEx employee stranded on an Island for many years, also borrows much from the Robinson Crusoe story.
In 1964 a French film production crew made a 13-part serial of The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe. It starred Robert Hoffman. The black and white series was dubbed into English and German. In the UK, the BBC broadcast it on numerous occasions between 1965 and 1977. In 1981 Czechoslovakian director and animator Stanislav Látal made a version of the story under the name Dobrodružství Robinsona Crusoe, námořníka z Yorku (The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, a sailor from York) combining traditional and stop-motion animation. The movie was coproduced by regional West Germany broadcaster Sudwestfunk Baden-Baden.
In the mid-1990s there was a humorous French cartoon called Robinson Sucroe. In the cartoon, Robinson was a failed journalist for the New York Herald. Seeking a life of adventure, he desired to settle on an island and wished to write his weekly journal. After getting approval from his boss, he sets sail and he is left on an uninhabited island (or so he thought). Robinson discovers that the island is inhabited by French and British pirates as well as the survivor of a shipwreck, who called themselves "Touléjours" (the Everydays). Robinson befriend a fellow named Mercredi (Wednesday). Robinson tries to write a colourful journal but he is incapable of doing so, instead Mercredi writes fictitious stories for him. These stories achieve much success and few suspect their authenticity.
In 2008, a television series titled Crusoe aired for 12 episodes. It was based loosely on the novel and was not renewed for a second season.
The 1960s U.S. sitcom Gilligan's Island includes in its closing theme song the lyrics "Like 'Robinson Crusoe,' it's primitive as can be." It is perhaps the most famous pop-culture reference to the novel.
Robinson Crusoe is referenced in the "Weird Al" Yankovic song "Amish Paradise" which is a parody of the song "Gangsta's Paradise" by Coolio. The lyrics contain the line "like Robinson Crusoe, it's as primitive as can be".