I was going to write an article about the new Thor and Captain America but… there’s been a lot going on this week (both personally and with the world at large) that I feel it is important to write an uplifting post, and not just more sarcasm about how Marvel will use a woman and a black man to sell comic books. Life throws us moments of doubt and despair, where peace dissolves and innocent people get hurt. Sometimes, when we’re looking at everything going on out there… it’s easy to get depressed. Someone once told me: “life sucks and then you die.” Below are five examples of films dedicated to showing that, yeah while life can truly suck sometimes – there’s a lot more than misery to get out of it.
I feel like I have to include this one since I’m from the Boston area. This is an inspirational movie for two types of people: 1) for the person who feels trapped by where they were born – who doesn’t know any other type of life than the harshness of growing up – and 2)for anyone who has ever known someone like that. Matt Damon plays Will Hunting, a genius with issues (to put it mildly). Throughout the movie, the audience watches as he drives away anyone and everyone who tries to care about him. His girlfriend, his friends, even his psychiatrist (played by Robin Williams) have to overcome the barriers that Will throws up. The story highlights that good people can come from nothing, and great people can escape it. This scene here, the famous “it’s not your fault” scene, is one of the best acted sequences I’ve ever watched. It is one line over and over again, and what makes it work is the level of the performances. Who hasn’t wanted to hear these words right after something terrible has happened?
Not the best movie ever made, but one of the most poignant when it comes to believing in human nature. Haley Joel Osment (“I see dead people”) is a kid with a crappy mom. She drags him around everwhere – not for his benefit but solely for her own. It is one of the more subtle forms of abuse out there. Anyway, she leaves him with his two great uncles (played by Michael Caine and Robert Duvall) and, well, it turns out that they’re just fantastic. Both men are proof that strength of character can win out over life’s misfortunes. There is a speech that I have included below that may be one of the best things I have ever heard. Whether it’s true or not is irrelevant, this is something that it feels good to believe in:
3. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Hands down the best thing that Jim Carrey has ever done (outside Dumb and Dumber) and one of the perfect movies for anyone suffering from heartbreak. This may be THE film for the complex nature of relationships. It showcases the duality of emotions (loving someone vs missing someone) associated with attraction and all the joys and sorrows therein. We all have someone we’d like to forget – but it helps to remember why we’re trying so hard.
2. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
Wait – what? Yes, I understand this must come as an odd pick but I will defend it. The movie features two main characters: Nemo (James Mason) and Ned Land (Kirk Douglas). I find that these two characters perfectly represent the strengths and weaknesses of humanity. Nemo is brilliant and careful but also distant and cruel. Ned is thoughtless and brash while being loyal and brave. The whole film represents a struggle between the various aspects of human nature, and personally, I feel it ends on a very uplifting message. Sadly, I cannot really find a youtube clip to prove my point so…. here’s “whale of a tale!”
Now here’s the one you’ve never heard of. Watch it – that’s all I can say. There are few films that left the impact that this one did. Ikiru is Japanese – roughly translated “to live,” and the movie is about just that. The main character is a middle-aged bureaucrat who learns of his imminent death and seeks to find meaning in his final months. Akira Kurosawa was one of the most visionary minds the world has ever seen. There really are no words, it is a film that must be seen to be understood.
So there you have them. Five slices of inspiration. I know, I know. There were plenty of other movies I could have included. To be clear – I do not necessarily feel that these are the five best. These were simply the first five films that popped into my head.