What are some movies with strong messages?
February 25, 2011 11:23 AM   Subscribe

Movies with strong messages?

What are some movies with strong messages? I'm referring to movies that have left such an impression upon you, that they changed, supported or contributed to your attitude about something. Some examples are Requiem for a Dream (don't do drugs) and Grave of the Fireflies (the horrors of war).

Please note that I'm looking for more-or-less generalizable themes. For example, I blame "Breakdown" for my fear of open desolate highways and "Chansons D'Amour" convinced me that musicals can be enjoyable, but these are not what I'm looking for.

Thank you in advance!
posted by prenominal to Media & Arts (52 answers total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Boys Don't Cry
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:24 AM on February 25, 2011 [3 favorites]

american history x
posted by chasles at 11:30 AM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

A History of Violence
A Clockwork Orange
Normal (the one with Tom Wilkinson and Jessica Lange)
posted by DrGail at 11:33 AM on February 25, 2011

Best answer: Dead Man Walking
posted by Sassyfras at 11:34 AM on February 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

Children of Men - Human nature and spirit. When do we lose hope and how do we find it again?

Black Swan (also Aronofsky like Requiem) - Mental illness, obsession, perfection. His other movies also hit on these same topics quite a bit.
posted by utsutsu at 11:34 AM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Over the Edge: Suburbia is not the kid-friendly paradise it's made out to be.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:34 AM on February 25, 2011

My don't do drugs one is Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
posted by ddaavviidd at 11:37 AM on February 25, 2011

Response by poster: I should have also requested a brief description of the theme/message (as in the last several responses) in my original question. Thanks for your responses so far!
posted by prenominal at 11:39 AM on February 25, 2011

(Don't do drugs)
posted by fix at 11:40 AM on February 25, 2011

The Celluloid Closet--profoundly made me realize how painful it could be growing up gay.
posted by Melismata at 11:41 AM on February 25, 2011

Gattaca seems perpetually more relevant in a similar way.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 11:41 AM on February 25, 2011 [4 favorites]

Best answer: tsotsi (violence, transformation, compassion)
seconding boys don't cry (transphobia/homophobia)
philadelphia (hiv/aids crisis/homophobia)
the color purple (domestic violence/incest/feminism)
life is beautiful (the power of love and spirit)
antonia's line (feminism)
ma vie in rose (self expression, transphobia, homophobia)
posted by anya32 at 11:42 AM on February 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

24 Hour Party People - Do Drugs
posted by Ad hominem at 11:43 AM on February 25, 2011 [3 favorites]

Lord of War - gun runners don't run guns, governments do.
posted by episodic at 11:44 AM on February 25, 2011

Great list of "message movies" (along with some scathing snark about the whole concept) in this classic suck.com essay.
posted by deanc at 11:45 AM on February 25, 2011

Sullivan's Travels. (seriously!) It's a strong statement about art.
posted by Ideefixe at 11:50 AM on February 25, 2011

One of my favorite movies is Religulous, which is a very pointed critique of religion (one might call it an atheist movie, but Bill Maher insists that he is an agnostic).
posted by grizzled at 11:50 AM on February 25, 2011

Sort of a counterexample, the Wayans brothers movie Don't Be a Menace to South Central etc etc features a character that pops up and yells "Message!" whenever a particularly inspirational bit of dialogue is spoken.
posted by electroboy at 11:51 AM on February 25, 2011

24 Hour Party People - Do Drugs

...but don't give the Happy Mondays a truckload of cash to smoke crack in the Caribbean.

Another 'drugs are bad' film: Party Monster.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:52 AM on February 25, 2011

Incendies (gonna win an Oscar)
Don't read about it; just see it.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 11:53 AM on February 25, 2011

Dead Man Walking single-handedly changed my mind about capital punishment. It was like, boom, my opinion did a 180.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:53 AM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Shawshank Redemption
posted by shortyJBot at 12:01 PM on February 25, 2011

Kanal (no matter how bad things are, don't use the sewers as an escape route)
Dog Day Afternoon (Don't assume gender when someone talks about their wife)
Fearless (you'll never think about flying the same again, not recommended if you already have a fear of flying)
Winter Light (not all priests believe in god)
posted by perhapses at 12:10 PM on February 25, 2011

From Tv Tropes: Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped
posted by catwash at 12:44 PM on February 25, 2011

In the Bedroom (don't mess around when it comes to domestic violence)
The Incredibles (it's okay to be different and awesome)
Signs (everything happens for a reason)
To Kill a Mockingbird (where to begin? about twenty strong messages there)
Ratatouille (Enjoy your food!)
The Day the Earth Stood Still (the urge to war will eventually be the end of us)
posted by jbickers at 12:45 PM on February 25, 2011

Truly Madly Deeply (the experience of grief)
posted by freshwater at 12:57 PM on February 25, 2011

Best answer: movies that have left such an impression upon you, that they changed, supported or contributed to your attitude about something

I agree with Normal (the HBO movie). It really gave me my first, empathic, first-hand look at the complexity of a transgender experience.

Clear and Present Danger (not everything the US government does in other countries is honorable, legal or productive)

JFK (history didn't always necessarily go down in the shiny pat way they told you as a kid)
posted by pineapple at 1:07 PM on February 25, 2011

True Stories - Ordinary people and objects are extraordinary and beautiful.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 1:09 PM on February 25, 2011

Threads ("nuclear war" is not just an abstract concept, it has horrific consequences and we must do everything we can to prevent it)

and yes, that's eponysterical to you history buffs
posted by castlebravo at 1:12 PM on February 25, 2011

Not a lot o' love for Westerns, the original "message movie" genre, so far, but here goes:

Shane (heroes can be human, too)
The Shootist (heroes get old, and want to go out like they lived)
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (earthly wealth is not all gold)
Unforgiven (do unto others as ye would have them do unto you)
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (Tom Doniphon: "Out here a man settles his own problems.")
posted by paulsc at 1:24 PM on February 25, 2011

Best answer: Blood Diamond has a pretty strong message about not buying conflict diamonds.

The Last King of Scotland definitely made me think a lot about the dangers of getting involved with something that you don't understand.
posted by cider at 1:37 PM on February 25, 2011 [3 favorites]

Inside Job. If this doesn't make steam come out of your ears, you have no steam.
posted by spasm at 1:40 PM on February 25, 2011

Boys in the Hood - Fatherhood, black-on-black violence.
12 Angry Men - Value of jury duty. Anti-racism. Open minds.
Dr Stangelove - Millitarism, nuclear war.
The Edukators - Anti-capitalism, betrayl of revolutionary spirit.
Heat - Let go of revenge, not love.
Layer Cake - The core of crime is violence. You aren't as clever as you think you are.
The Seven Samurai - The life of the warrior is a dead-end.
posted by rodgerd at 1:49 PM on February 25, 2011

Thank You For Smoking - Big Tobacco are evil, and if you're smoking at this point because you think it's cool or counter-cultural, you've been player.
posted by rodgerd at 1:52 PM on February 25, 2011

Do The Right Thing (there's nothing black and white about race relations in America)
posted by drlith at 2:26 PM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

On the western theme, I really enjoyed The Big Country - principle wins over socially expedience.
posted by straw at 2:56 PM on February 25, 2011

I came in to say Blood Diamond too. Made me want to return my engagement ring and get cubic zirconia.
posted by shopefowler at 4:42 PM on February 25, 2011

Grand Illusion ... class, race, war, it has it all.

-life is brief - so live it in a way that is meaningful to you.
posted by gudrun at 5:02 PM on February 25, 2011

Dancer in the Dark - life is not fair
posted by DarkForest at 5:20 PM on February 25, 2011

Mononoke Hime /Princess Mononoke -- take care of the environment.
posted by Margalo Epps at 5:28 PM on February 25, 2011

Best answer: Hmm. I thought Dancer in the Dark was about selflessness! Don't miss this one!

I loved Aronofsky's first film Pi. LOVED IT. It's about the search for the key to understanding God. sorta

My fav war movie, believe it or not, is Hitchcock's LifeBoat (1944.)

To semi-quote wikipedia, it's about race, religion, sex, class, nationality, and most importantly, the human condition. All the action takes place on the LifeBoat, so the whole film was shot on a single set. Awesome cast. Numerous Academy Award nominations. It's a great psychological thriller.
posted by jbenben at 5:55 PM on February 25, 2011

Pay It Forward (we stand on the shoulders of others, we should help others stand on ours)

Idiocracy (our social structures are dumbing down, year by year...too true to be funny)

Groundhog Day (what really is the meaning of life on a day to day basis?)

Vision Quest (the power of having a vision for your life...also contains one of my favorite quotes: "can a billion people be wrong?"..."frequently")

Equilibrium or City of Ember both speak to the nature of evil in controlled societies

Temple Grandin (everyone has a gift to give the world)
posted by forthright at 7:40 PM on February 25, 2011

1. Judgment At Nuremberg (the extent and the limits of personal responsibility in the face of devastating evil -- can be applied to earlier and later historical evils, such as slavery, holocaust, any case of a society ignoring inexcusable actions as well.)
2. 12 Angry Men (Do we have the right to judge one man's innocence, and, therefore, their entire future? How can we justly determine guilt? How much does personal bias contribute to how we judge our common man?)
3. One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest (What is normal and who is (in)sane? Who has the right to judge sanity and how far should their rights extend? .. As well as the beauty and importance of compassion and camaraderie)
4. I would agree with A Clockwork Orange (Does free will exist and do we truly possess it?), though I found the book to be more revelatory, personally.
5. Often the movies that move me and/or upset me the most are about people, whether they be society as a whole; governmental bodies (or enacted laws); authority figures; or even parents (in the case of Splendor In The Grass and Dead Poets Society) imposing their beliefs; authority; mores; or personal expectations on a character or a group of characters with catastrophic consequences.. Squelching the freedom to live one's own life innocently for no justifiable reason.

I'm sure I'll think of other movies later and I'll be kicking myself for not remembering them right now!
posted by Mael Oui at 8:45 PM on February 25, 2011

Response by poster: Wow, so many great suggestions, so difficult to pick favorites... I now have a nice (long) list for my post-defense movie marathon. Thank you all! (Please keep the suggestions coming.)
posted by prenominal at 8:54 PM on February 25, 2011

Man on Wire: if you're passionate about something, pursue it; it's most likely worth the risk.
posted by cp311 at 12:24 AM on February 26, 2011

1. Brokeback Mountain- SERIOUSLY! Do not let what you are "supposed to do" absolutely destroy your life even if doing what you are really, really supposed to do, might just...destroy your life. Because it might not. It might just be amazing. And the "simply staying alive" part ain't enough, nor guaranteed. (Oh, it's about being gay)

2. Tampopo- No matter what your station, education, passion...life will be more fulfilling if you give your chosen path focus, attention, humor and grace. Best, funniest, most brilliant and underrated B movie of all time, my synopsis is terrible, the movie will change your life. (oh, it's about noodles)

3. It's A Wonderful Life- It sometimes seems impossibly painful to go through life doing the right thing and constantly helping those in need, especially when no one seems to be helping you out, or paying it forward. The good that you do in the world is very hard to see, and sometimes, zuzu's flowers help a lot. (oh, it's about christmas)

4. Do The Right Thing- Race, gender and class are all deeply difficult issues, nuanced, complex. Even in a Brooklyn pizza shop. Trying to make a living, stay alive and navigate the tensions of what it means to be an American while also trying to have personal relationships can really make you question your values. (oh, it's about a heatwave)

5. Boys Don't Cry. I promise you will not enjoy this movie. I promise you will be more grateful for having watched it than almost anything you will ever see. Actually, don't watch it. Just, don't ever, ever, ever judge or make fun of or be repulsed by or think that people not like you want to harm you, or have you or take from you...and for god's sake don't ever be misunderstood, abandoned, or in the wrong place at the wrong time. (oh, it's about hell)

And on preview, Man on Wire is fully endorsed. (oh, it's about a man on a wire)
posted by metasav at 1:26 AM on February 26, 2011

When The Wind Blows - an animated movie about an elderly British couple trying to survive the aftermath of a nuclear war. Message: Nuclear war is bad, and this is how it would effect regular folks.

If I could somehow require presidents and leaders worldwide to watch two movies about the consequences of war, they'd be "Grave of the Fireflies" and this one.
posted by anthy at 4:04 AM on February 26, 2011

Ordet - faith
The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant - unhealthy love obsession connected to self-loathing
Chloe in the Afternoon/Love in the Afternoon (the Rohmer one) - marriage, fidelity, the choice to live life together
Network - corporatism, greed/money, entertaining ourselves to death etc.
The Parallax View - shadowy powers that be, psychology of the disenfranchised and abused masses used as pawns, the invisibility/thin veneer of it all
posted by ifjuly at 10:08 AM on February 26, 2011

Pi, Brazil
posted by ifjuly at 10:14 AM on February 26, 2011

Lilya 4-Ever stuck with me for months (the absolute fucking horror of human trafficking)

I also second Tsotsi, a beautiful movie about the how goodness can be found in anyone

Finally - Crash (the one with Matt Dillon) - no one is what they seem to be on the surface, so be kind to everyone
posted by triggerfinger at 10:16 AM on February 26, 2011

Kids really freaked me out about how much more high school sucks nowadays.

Xiu Xiu : the Sent Down Girl broke my heart in so many ways. I can't really articulate the message I got from it, other than do everything you can to not be powerless.

Desperately Seeking Susan was a revelation for me when I saw it. Clothes are just clothes. They don't define you. You can dress however you want and be whoever you want, and when you're done, just change.
posted by Mchelly at 5:18 PM on February 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Thelma & Louise: "...like a fish needs a bicycle."

Kids really freaked me out about how much more high school sucks nowadays.

Erm, 'nowadays'? Many current high school students--probably about half of them--hadn't even been born when Kids came out. (I know, right? I feel old too.)
posted by Sys Rq at 6:25 PM on February 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

« Older My glass is weeping?   |   Finding a job civic Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.