Life changing movies
February 12, 2008 5:09 PM   Subscribe

What are some movies that have either drastically changed the way you view the world or changed the way you live your life?

I'm not looking for movies that just freaked you out or made you cry, I'm looking for ones that shook your soul. The ones that leave a taste in your mouth that never goes away.
posted by MaryDellamorte to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (150 answers total) 296 users marked this as a favorite
"Jaws" is always in the back of my mind when I go to the beach.
posted by Frank Grimes at 5:12 PM on February 12, 2008 [3 favorites]

Cries and Whispers leaves a taste.
posted by fire&wings at 5:13 PM on February 12, 2008

Into The Wild
posted by mjao at 5:16 PM on February 12, 2008 [4 favorites]

posted by flaneuse at 5:19 PM on February 12, 2008

Harold and Maude.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:20 PM on February 12, 2008 [2 favorites]

Waking Life
posted by mand0 at 5:20 PM on February 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Diving Bell and the Butterfly
posted by delladlux at 5:21 PM on February 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Don't know if you're looking for documentaries, but The Celluloid Closet forever altered my attitude towards not just gay people but all minority groups who have been looked down upon by the majority. I quote it to this day. As a white American, part of that majority, and growing up in a large city where we are all supposed to be accepting of one another, my snobby attitude towards my hurting minority friends was to dismiss their concerns: "we're all equal, so just ignore their taunts." Not until I saw this movie did I understand how such persecution can be real, and how it's in every part of our everyday lives. I finally understand what my gay best friend went through. Can you imagine what it's like being a closeted gay, and growing up watching movies where the only gay characters are at best completely ashamed of themselves, and at worst suicidal or homicidal? Or being African-American and watching movies where the only black characters are butlers or buffoons? I never really understood that until watching this movie. I almost cried during Harvey Fierstein's "universal" speech.
posted by Melismata at 5:22 PM on February 12, 2008 [15 favorites]

Brief Encounter
posted by unSane at 5:23 PM on February 12, 2008

Twenty six years ago, Sophie's Choice shook my soul. I can still feel the tremors.
posted by Neiltupper at 5:23 PM on February 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My Left Foot
Being There

These all triggered a great amount of introspection and have become part of my life: "what would Christy/Chance/Elwood do?"
posted by jpeacock at 5:23 PM on February 12, 2008

Wings of Desire
posted by kuujjuarapik at 5:26 PM on February 12, 2008 [3 favorites]

I think that the movie "Nell" went a long way towards my drive to work with people and anthropology.
posted by TomMelee at 5:27 PM on February 12, 2008

Best answer: I can say, 100% hands down:

Fog of War (2003)

Battle for the Commanding Heights (2002)

I saw both these movies as an undergraduate (not for a class). I had an interest in current events for as long as I can remember, but it was these two documentaries that made me fall in love with the perpetual drama of international relations. I am now an IR Ph.D. student.
posted by chrisalbon at 5:28 PM on February 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

posted by Dizzy at 5:28 PM on February 12, 2008 [5 favorites]

Best answer: There are two films that helped me come to terms with unresolved relationships and finally reflect upon them with a sense of peace: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Lost in Translation
posted by kimdog at 5:28 PM on February 12, 2008 [2 favorites]

One more:

Return to Paradise (1998)

Tagline: Give up three years of their lives or give up the life of their friend. They have eight days to decide.

I don't think anyone can see this movie without seriously asking themselves what they would have done.
posted by chrisalbon at 5:32 PM on February 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Honestly, even considering all of the intentionally deep, philosophical movies I've watched over the years, few movies have made a lasting impact on my psyche as much as the Matrix.
posted by brandnew at 5:34 PM on February 12, 2008

Blue, White and Red. I judge many directors against Kieslowski's efforts in his masterpiece trilogy.
posted by zerobyproxy at 5:34 PM on February 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

posted by languagehat at 5:34 PM on February 12, 2008

Requiem for a Dream leaves a taste
posted by gcat at 5:35 PM on February 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: As a teenager, the Last Temptation of Christ taught me that the story of Jesus can be told in many ways. It gave me permission to challenge and question what I had been taught my whole life. What a great gift to get from a film.

For ever and always, It's A Wonderful Life will make me feel alive like no other movie can. And if you think that's corny I don't give a damn.
posted by quadog at 5:38 PM on February 12, 2008 [2 favorites]

Dead Poet's Society
posted by theiconoclast31 at 5:39 PM on February 12, 2008 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Sorry to answer with a tv show but the last episode of "Six Feet Under" really upset me and still haunts me. It did not make me fear death or lead me to become religious. Instead, it made me finally accept that death is inevitable (yeah, a real epiphany there) and that my life should be more positive and that I should live in a way that my loved ones can later remember as simply good and fun and not full of negativity.

I know that I will not live in some afterlife. When I am dead I will simply cease to exist. My only chance at immortality is to try, every day, to help my loved ones, and people I work with, in big and small ways so that their day is just a tad better than it would have been if I had not been there. I can't save the world or change it. I can only be kinder to those I come in contact with and hope that somehow they pass that kindness on.

The show also prompted me to tell my daughters that we could have the most horrible fight one day, during which they might say horrible, hateful things to me in the heat of the moment, and that I might leave and drop dead. They would know that the last conversation we had was full of venom and spite. And I made clear to them that that conversation would not matter and that I was proud of them and that I was glad to have known them. They should know for a fact that as I died I would only be thinking what great children they were.

Sounds corny and I don't always live up to what I want to do, but the impact of that show and that last episode has not left me since the night it aired.
posted by loosemouth at 5:44 PM on February 12, 2008 [36 favorites]

Lilya 4 Ever
posted by hecho de la basura at 5:45 PM on February 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

A Thousand Clowns.
posted by nasreddin at 5:46 PM on February 12, 2008 [2 favorites]

Dead Man Walking changed my mind about capital punishment.

Saving Private Ryan changed my mind about war.

Ferris Bueller's Day Off changed my mind about many, many little things -- high school, friendship, careers, etc.

How's that for a wide range ... ?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:46 PM on February 12, 2008

Fight Club, mostly the first 45 minute for the satirical comments on identity and happiness via consumption. It also made an impression on numerous friends.
posted by jchgf at 5:46 PM on February 12, 2008

Best answer: John McCain said "Traffic" changed his entire stance on the drug war.
posted by HotPatatta at 5:47 PM on February 12, 2008

Best answer: I have loads of movies I think are great, but only certain ones that have done something for me. I can't say that any of them have been drastic, but here are the ones that are significant for me and that I watch periodically to remind me what they do for me.

Forrest Gump - One of two movies that help me go with the flow of life. When life gets too much, this one is cathartic for me and rebalances me. I can start over fresh and view life in an accepting way, knowing that it will be rocky and chaotic but that that's OK and that beauty can permeate it all along.

L.A. Story - The other movie that helps me go with the flow. This one is comedic. When life gets too much, this one helps me view its absurdities in a lighthearted way, recasting irritants and confusion and ridiculousness as silly fun. It too rebalances me and let's me start off again with a healthy perspective on life.

A.I. - This one reminds me of what it means to be human. It's another kind of reset button, a beautiful one.

Baraka - I don't know what to say about this one. I can't quite put my finger on what it does for me, but it somehow puts me in tune with the world in a way that, once again, sort of balances things, making me feel a part of it all and appreciate it all. The Kecak monkey chant is the coolest but the whole thing just resonates on a deep level.

The one about Jane Elliot - I can't remember which one I saw, but there have been a few documentaries about Jane Elliot's work. She's the teacher who divided her class up into brown eyes and blue eyes and, as an exercise (unbeknownst to the kids) in understanding racism, told them matter of factly that blue eyed people were smarter and better, and she gave the blues more priveleges and dismissed and denied the browns. The kids adopted these group identities and enforced power dynamics among themselves. The poor brown eyes accepted their lot and showed that they believed their inferiority, as did the blues their superiority. The next day the teacher came in and switched it, saying it was the brown eyes that were smater/better. Again the kids unquestioningly enforced the unspoken rules of hierarchy and displayed the emotions that went with superiority and inferiority. That was a real eye opener for me in regard to race and the illusions and power dynamics involved in race relations.
posted by Askr at 5:48 PM on February 12, 2008 [5 favorites]

The Life of David Gale (deals with the death penalty)
posted by HotPatatta at 5:49 PM on February 12, 2008

Shirley Valentine
posted by necessitas at 5:49 PM on February 12, 2008

Best answer: The Royal Tenenbaums. Like all of Wes Anderson's movies, RT deals with characters finding themselves and finding their families. "Family" has always been somewhat a strange concept for me (as for everyone, so don't get out the violins), but I count that film as having been a turning point in my life in terms of wanting a more together family than the one I grew up in (ok, cue the violins now). See also the really sweet Tilsammans by Lukas Moodyson.

But if you're looking for a bad taste, Creepshow. To this day, I am afraid of bugs because of the last story in that film.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 5:49 PM on February 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Mabrosi for it's quiet.

MASH for its attitude.
posted by OmieWise at 5:55 PM on February 12, 2008

Best answer: Bliss (1985 Australia). It clarified and reinforced what I was already thinking about society, life, and death. If someone doesn't understand the movie they won't understand me.
posted by PatoPata at 5:56 PM on February 12, 2008

Naked (Mike Leigh). It clarified and reinforced what I was already thinking about society, life, and death. If someone doesn't understand the movie they won't understand me.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:01 PM on February 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

(also, Baraka)
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:02 PM on February 12, 2008

Believe it or not, Barton Fink.

It was the first movie I saw where I knew that there was something going on beneath the surface, something I was supposed to understand, but I could not grasp it. It also affected me so viscerally I vowed never to see another movie again. That lasted about 3 months. But still...I'm haunted by it. Particularly this scene.
posted by drinkcoffee at 6:13 PM on February 12, 2008 [2 favorites]

A recent example for me would be Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be Blood, which shook me in a way I still don't fully understand (but continue to reflect on occasionally over a month after seeing it)
posted by saraswati at 6:17 PM on February 12, 2008 [2 favorites]

Wes Anderson's movies, negatively. I was in a relationship that ended because she liked that India movie, and I didn't. An awful movie made very, very well.
posted by gjc at 6:17 PM on February 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Wings of Desire.
Shawshank Redeption.
posted by filmgeek at 6:18 PM on February 12, 2008

Titicut Follies in combination with a primer on Foucault, changed my perspective on an assortment of modern practices.

Reassemblage is an amazing avant-garde film that changed the way I absorb information.

Mr. Smith Goes To Washington is also a dear favorite of mine.

Waking Life is the easy-to-find one I'd recommend. I love that movie. Also, A Scanner Darkly. But if you want your mind changed, don't watch Into The Wild, A Scanner Darkly, or any other adaptation. Read the books first, huh?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 6:21 PM on February 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

The Dreamers.

It's required viewing if anyone wants to understand me.
posted by sansgras at 6:27 PM on February 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Persona by Ingmar Bergmann did it for me. It's not your typical movie as Bergmanns usually aren't. It deals with how we're victims of voyeurism by over exposing ourselves and addicted to being exhibitionists. I saw it in my early 20s, and it changed my life.
posted by icollectpurses at 6:34 PM on February 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

American Graffiti - The first movie I remember seeing in a movie theater, and the one that made me love movies.

Field of Dreams - This seems to be a male-driven phenomenom but there's something about it that makes me cry whenever I see it.

Shakespeare in Love - A whole different way of looking at Shakespeare or (insert your favorite artist/writer/painter here)
posted by cjets at 6:36 PM on February 12, 2008

An Inconvenient Truth. Not that I wasn't aware of climate change before seeing it, but my personal impact on the environment has been much more on my mind since then.

Into the Wild.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 6:40 PM on February 12, 2008


Also see Breaking the Waves.
posted by jimmyhutch at 6:42 PM on February 12, 2008

Best answer: Movies have been just one facet of pervasive worldview-changing factors in my life over the last several years. That said, here are some of the ones that have moved me most:

Crash helped me see the pervasiveness of racism in America, and that with regard to the injustices of the world, we each have qualities of both victims and perpetrators, both innocent and guilty.

Donnie Darko has a certain something that helps me both laugh and rage about the absurdities of life. It reminds me that the Unknown is not something to fear but to embrace, and that those who claim to have certainty are either lying or hiding their existential fear.

Rules of Engagement was one of the first films to make me question the morality of demonizing "the other" (in this case, Muslims).

About a Boy moves me for its honest take on the vapidity of a selfish, consumeristic existence.

Phone Booth has one of the most convincing scenes of repentance I've ever seen.

Rashomon (and its sort-of-remake, Hero) show me that "truth" is in the eye of the beholder.

Lady in the Water and The Science of Sleep remind me of the power and the beauty of imagination, creativity, myth-making, world-creation.

Hotel Rwanda makes me hope that one person can make a difference.

Half Nelson helped me understand (a bit better) how challenging change is, and how the machinery of society can keep people entrenched in old/bad habits.

Punch-Drunk Love and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind show me that love needs no reason.

Legends of the Fall, Into the Wild, and A River Runs Through It remind me of my need to experience a full, deep life; of the raw power and spirituality of nature; and of the ultimate emptiness of living for the American Dream.

Munich and American History X taught me that violence is a downward spiral, that hate begets hate.

Ikiru makes me want to live a life that matters, and to care about the legacy of my memory as it affects my loved ones.
posted by puddleglum at 6:46 PM on February 12, 2008 [10 favorites]

the last temptation of christ: i think it's just the most interesting, fearless explorations of the life of jesus that i've ever seen. i was raised jewish deep in fundamentalist baptist country, and i was astonished to see the story of jesus treated in such a, well, jewish way--with questions, challenges, and what-ifs galore. also it was beautifully shot and the soundtrack is amazing.


master and commander
life is beautiful
the new world
romeo + juliet
shakespeare in love
the white countess
welcome to sarajevo

i think that's enough for now.
posted by thinkingwoman at 6:56 PM on February 12, 2008

hm, Eternal Sunshine, yes. The Darjeeling Ltd also had quite an effect on me recently.

Also, Withnail & I - beyond the comedy, there's quite a bit of depth to it.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:00 PM on February 12, 2008 [2 favorites]

Akira Kurosawa's Dreams
posted by Dave Faris at 7:01 PM on February 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

I was just compiling a list of my favorite movies. For the record they're:

The Nasty Girl
Once Were Warriors
Lone Star
The Secret of Rone Inish
Pan's Labyrinth
Some Kind of Wonderful
Mysterious Skin
My Beautiful Launderette
Harold and Maude
Heavenly Creatures

(Don't laugh at Some Kind of Wonderful - it's one of those watched it at a pivotal age things)

Seeing them all together I realized the common thread in most of them is that a young person, generally a girl, is coming of age and part of that process is seeing herself as part of a bigger picture. It's not a coincidence that most of these movies are somehow political, but also they're not documentaries. They're stories that show how one person means something.
posted by serazin at 7:10 PM on February 12, 2008

Best answer: If you want a movie that will change the way you think about what movies can be, watch Blade Runner. For a movie that is 26 years old, it still remains remarkably prescient. And, personally, I think the effects are better than any CGI I've ever seen.

Fight Club is definitely another movie that is both subversive and unexpectedly powerful. It tends to resonate more thoroughly for men, because most of the conflicts involve what it means to be a man in our modern American society.

The Fountain is completely underrated, I think. Both visually impressive and emotionally challenging, I think if you're patient with it and watch it more than once, you're rewarded with a very unique film experience.

The Insider still simply crushes me every time I watch it. Powerful, dramatic, and a true story on top of it. Al Pacino can be hit or miss for me, but he solidly nails the role of the CBS producer willing to fight for the story he knows needs to be told (the eponymous insider being a former employee of a tobacco company with knowledge of the way the industry knowingly sells a lethal and addictive product).

Sorry, I know I got a little wordy. But life-changing can mean different things, so I thought it'd help to tell you why these films changed my perspective.
posted by ninjew at 7:15 PM on February 12, 2008

The Music of Chance.
posted by alms at 7:15 PM on February 12, 2008

The Big Lebowski . . . motivated me to quit my job and join the bums, who will ALWAYS LOSE.
posted by Hey, Cupcake! at 7:15 PM on February 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The Last Temptation of Christ affected me very deeply when I saw it in a theater being picketed by religious types, and oddly enough, it affected me precisely because it made me at least get a glimpse of what that whole "faith in a higher power" thing (that those picketers presumably had so strongly) was all about (it didn't make me a believer, I think I'm fundamentally agnostic). I couldn't stop thinking about it, and it made me question if I'd actually been missing something all along (of course, my impressionable age was also a big factor). But when I saw it again more recently, it just seemed overwrought and overblown and too full of DRAMA! and ACTING! and it didn't affect me at all beyond a mild case of the cringes at the scenery-chewing.

Definitely Baraka, the Monkey Chant scene is this incredible example of togetherness and purpose, and the scene with the chicks always makes me cry and feel futile. And Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind also really touches me.

Blade Runner fundamentally altered the way I view all kinds of things, and I know many things I hold to be central to my identity come from the themes in that film. I was happy to have my brain washed by it, and many of what I consider to be the best parts of my character can likely be traced back to the ideas that film made me consider.

Recently, The Fountain had a much deeper effect on me than I was expecting, one of those movies that has crossed my mind more days than not since I saw it, and one of those movies that gets better after you've seen it.
posted by biscotti at 7:24 PM on February 12, 2008 [2 favorites]

Nthing Baraka and Harvey; also, Daughters of the Dust.
posted by metabrilliant at 7:24 PM on February 12, 2008

As mentioned above - Dead Man Walking.
posted by Sassyfras at 7:40 PM on February 12, 2008

I saw Godard's Masculin Feminin when I was a freshman and it totally changed the way I saw film and art.
posted by pasici at 7:43 PM on February 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

The Breakfast Club.
posted by drjimmy11 at 7:44 PM on February 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

It'll be a tough indie film to find, yet when I was younger I remember a particular scene in Four Corners of Nowhere that was pretty well's definitely a movie for the 90's but I remember being quite moved for weeks. (from the scene where Toad is doing improv).

Of course, the first time I saw Shawshank Redemption. No explaination neccessary.

Das Boot was the first film I watched that really gave me a feel for what it was like to be a German Soldier during WWII. (more of the humanity aspect that is missing in most American made WWII films)
Powaqqatsi is a film that has truely stood the test of time, and completely changed the way I view 3rd world well as how much those in the U.S. take for granted. (eg. Koyaanisqatsi)
Braveheart is well...a Mel Gibson film, but probably the best one he's ever done. The story has stuck with me all this time, and has made me really appreaciate freedom.
posted by samsara at 7:53 PM on February 12, 2008

Star Wars.

Wow, can't believe I'm the first to mention it.
posted by tdischino at 7:54 PM on February 12, 2008

Best answer: Fog of War. Listening to such a man talk about the things he talked about in the way he talked about them -- it blew my mind. I haven't looked at war or the people who wage them the same way ever since.

Trembling Before God, for letting me feel what it's like to be raised Orthodox and gay and allowing me to somehow identify with it for having been raised Orthodox and turning into an atheist.

Contact, for giving this atheist a religious feeling. (That SHOOOMP SHOOOMP of the radiowave... shivers, still.)

The Shawshank Redemption, for evoking the feeling that peace is within. Trite as a phrase, but powerful as a feeling.

The Island, for causing me to stop what I'm doing every few months and ask myself, "Are you sure you wouldn't want to just go find an island with a bunch of beautiful people to live on instead?"

The 25th Hour, for making me feel what it might feel like to be going to jail for the rest of your life.

The Squid and the Whale, for curing me of intellectual snobbery.
posted by callmejay at 7:59 PM on February 12, 2008

Best answer: I think different movies present you with a different way to view the world. By this I mean not necessarily to view other viewpoints in a strictly academic manner, not in the way where a supposed "objective" documentary about abortion would allow you to come to terms with both sides of the issues. What I mean is the physical way your mind works when you watch the last 23 minutes of "2001: A Space Odyssey", or the reality defying (defining?) way Bela Tarr's camera moves in "Damnation", or the long stretches of jazzy visuals in Tati's "Playtime". Its these introductions into, essentially, other languages that, in the end, always affects me, forces me to open my mind just a bit more. Its like trying to understand free-form jazz (especially with Tati).

All that said, Cassavetes's A Woman Under the Influence and May's Mikey and Nicky kills me every fucking time.

(Sorry I only provided a link to one. I'm wiped.)
posted by MPnonot3 at 8:05 PM on February 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

On preview, I second the 25th Hour.
posted by MPnonot3 at 8:06 PM on February 12, 2008

Mosquito Coast
Sliding Doors

....what if....
posted by nimsey lou at 8:07 PM on February 12, 2008

One new: Lust, Caution

One old: Andrei Rublev
posted by casaubon at 8:09 PM on February 12, 2008

City of God. I was emotionally stunned for days.
Schindler's List. Natch.
The Matrix. Old school I know, but hey.
Amelie. Reminds us of the power of hope and love.
A Better Tommorow. Campy, lame and totally cheesy yet it was a movie to bond over with good buds.
Seconding Shawshank Redeption. I still cry when I see the end of that movie, no matter how many times I've seen it. And yes, I'm a dude.
posted by damiano99 at 8:18 PM on February 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Joe vs. the Volcano, which I find to be a wonderful movie watched as a movie about archetypes, rather than about a guy.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind made me think carefully about what love is when it is stripped to the core.

Léon is a movie which made me question the value of a safe but empty life vs. a life that is worth fighting for. This is known in the US as The Professional, but the European version has a lot more character development, but also has a somewhat Lolita-esque vibe.

A Raisin in the Sun made me realize that there are some aspects of others lives that I will never understand. I can try to think of what it feels like, but I will never know what it means to be a black man in America. All I can do is try to be aware of it. I think the Sidney Poitier version and the Danny Glover version are both excellent, but bring different things to the role. Sidney Poitier's feels more like rage at the world while Danny Glover's version feels like a more focused rage at the actions of individuals.

Finally, I will throw in a TV series which really did change my perspective too. Dead Like Me is a series that I loved for both the dark humor and for the essence of the show. It was a show about what is important in life from the point of view of someone that has lost it, while leaving aside the religious elements of the afterlife.
posted by slavlin at 8:30 PM on February 12, 2008

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Winds -- touched me deeper than I can explain
My Neighbor Tortoro -- makes my heart melt every time I watch it.

Seconding Star Wars and Contact

But the one movie that has changed my life forever, completely altered the way I live is Piranha. I can no longer enjoy swimming in natural bodies of water. It seriously affected me to my very core.

Movies mean different things to different people, based on past experiences and different personalities. I'm curious to know why you're interested.
posted by silkygreenbelly at 9:00 PM on February 12, 2008

I'm surprised that I'm the first person to suggest both American Beauty and Magnolia. Both for suggesting to me that you need to go out and live life or it'll pass you by. 25th hour also is high up there, along with American History X, and Fight Club (you'd think I was in the Ed Norton fan club but really...) they too in my mind are about overcoming your inner doubts and living life. Like the Fog of War, Why We Fight was very informative and I highly recommend it too.
posted by pwb503 at 9:21 PM on February 12, 2008

posted by the Real Dan at 9:22 PM on February 12, 2008

David Lynch's THE ELEPHANT MAN had a profound effect on my life: especially my interactions with other people.
posted by cinemafiend at 9:23 PM on February 12, 2008

I saw American Beauty for the first time in the fall of my freshman year of college, and it has been affecting me in different ways ever since. I've identified with and scorned each and every character in that movie at various points in the last 8 years of my life. Those visceral reactions provide an interesting starting point for introspection on my current attitudes towards responsibility, consumerism, beauty, relationships, family, adulthood, and what makes for a capital-G Good life. Garden State has had a similar effect, in that I learn a lot about myself by seeing how my reactions to the film change over time.

Despite a long-standing love of the environment and general leftish sympathies, An Inconvenient Truth was my first experience of being truly afraid of how the future would look if I didn't make serious changes in my life and encourage others to do so as well. It made me look much more seriously at my ecological footprint, but more importantly it gave me the courage to talk to other people about these issues.

Roman Holiday restores my faith in humanity, reignites my sense of wonder, and encourages me to love every bit of my life with greater abandon. I watch it every few months to remind me of the attitude I'm trying to cultivate. Amelie has a similar effect.
posted by vytae at 9:25 PM on February 12, 2008

Little Buddha for its treatment of death and the measured pace of the film.

Michael Palin's various travelogues have had a huge effect on my life. Full Circle, Sahara and Himalaya in particular.
posted by tkolar at 9:45 PM on February 12, 2008

I loved Dead Like Me. I don't believe in an afterlife of any sort, but watching that show makes me feel better about the concept of death... it's dealt with in such a casual way, as just an everyday thing that eventually happens to everyone, and the implication is that one's life matters more than the afterlife. Also it's funny.
posted by you're a kitty! at 9:49 PM on February 12, 2008

Babe, Pig in the City
A Bug's Life
Star Wars
Sophie's Choice
My Dinner with Andre
Le Fabuleux Destin de Amelie Poulain
Babette's Feast
Terms of Endearment

...and a bunch of old Katharine Hepburn, Carey Grant, Bogey, Bacall, etc. movies.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 10:00 PM on February 12, 2008

Ooh, forgot Contact. That's the only thing that has ever made me give faith the benefit of the doubt. And that's really saying something for me. I see no reason for or justification for faith whatsoever, but now I no longer deny the possibility that it is as real and true to its adherents as any experience of mine is to me. It so expertly demonstrated how that could be true, and made me hold less tightly to the certitude of my own experience of reality. If anything it made me more individually agnostic in the sense that all you can know is what you know for yourself, and you really can't speak for what anyone else "knows". I'm sure the book was even better given that it was Sagan, but the movie really did it for me. Yeah, scratch my other answers, this one actually answers the question you asked. While the others are meaningful and useful and important, this one changed me in a significant way. The science vs. faith treatment in that movie is so well done.
posted by Askr at 10:06 PM on February 12, 2008 [2 favorites]

Seconding the Elephant Man.

Life changing books which have been made into movies: Grapes of Wrath, and To Kill A Mockingbird. These two stayed with me for years.

Sad as it may seem (amongst some of my friends, anyway), I seem to reference, re-watch, and think about Cabaret a lot. I think I watched it first when I was a teenager, so the issues of identity really stuck with me. It also changed the way I view musicals. Also, I now channel Liza Minnelli when drunk, YMMV.
posted by indienial at 10:12 PM on February 12, 2008

West Side Story. Never mind all the busting out in song and the choreography and all that for now. Just go and watch the final scene, with Maria's agonizing speech: "How many bullets are left, Chino? Enough for you, and you? All of you..."
Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources. If West Side Story did not grip your soul, these will. The mark they leave is the same.
Now Schindler's List begins to lead us in a better direction.
Joyeux Noël both takes us there and shows what the Powers That Be will do about it. Do not miss the Bishop's speech at the end: "Christ our Lord said, 'Think not that I am come to send peace on earth...'"
Wings of Desire and Faraway, So Close! will cap our excursion, with some genuine redemption at last.
posted by eritain at 10:18 PM on February 12, 2008

I'm sure [Contact] was even better given that it was Sagan, but the movie really did it for me.

I've left out the movie because I read the book first and my life had already changed because of it. The movie is good, but it's missing one of the most important threads from the book: the discovery of a fact that -- if it were discovered in the real world today -- would demonstrate beyond a scientific doubt that the universe was created by an intelligent force.

The idea that there could be objective, incontrovertible proof of a universal creator rather than just muddled arguments of philosophy and faith has definitely changed my outlook on spirituality.
posted by tkolar at 10:26 PM on February 12, 2008

Midnight Cowboy
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 10:28 PM on February 12, 2008

La Jetee - hard to describe why, but this film pointed the way to some of the reasons to why I chose my profession.

Gleaners and I - Agnes Varda's film about people who glean off of the land - a kind of "imagine another world and oh, there it is right there in front of you" type film.

The Apartment gives me hope that even us goofballs can find love. Have to watch this one every coupla months.

Playtime, and all of Jacques Tati's films, his totally unique sense of humor, something that I look for in people/art/movies now.

great question.
posted by ethel at 10:42 PM on February 12, 2008

You know, when Garden State came out a few years ago there was all that hype about how it was supposed to be the movie that defined my generation (I'm 20), that it was so amazing, etc etc. I can't say that I neccessarily got that when I saw it.

The movie that I felt that was more true of was The Last Kiss (2006). I'm not sure I've seen another movie before or since that evoked such a "this is the reality of your generation; this is what your life is" feeling.

(And it was pretty depressing.)
posted by Quidam at 11:13 PM on February 12, 2008

Also, at risk of looking like a total dork, I'll toss out Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and Persuasion (in all 3, the 1995 versions).

Because I literally want to be, in turns and at various points, Elizabeth Bennet, Elinor Dashwood, or Anne Elliot. Or at least aspects of those 3 characters. Enough so that I'd say it influences my life.

And, in fairness, you could say that if anything's life changing it's really the books since that's the source material, but, when I've got 2 hours to kill on a weeknight, I don't reach for the book - I reach for the movies, you know?

I admire the various Austen protagonists enough that I ascribe to be more like them. And since it's the movie adaptations that I'm in contact with more often than the novels, I think it's fair to say it's the movies that fall under the category of this question.
posted by Quidam at 11:22 PM on February 12, 2008

Tarkovsky's Solaris for how it frames relationships, memory, and personal identity. It's made me very aware of how I perceive people I'm intimately involved with, and how they perceive me. Eternal Sunshine has similar themes, but it's not quite the same.

I was pretty blown away by Inherit the Wind recently, as well.
posted by lunalaguna at 12:05 AM on February 13, 2008

My Life as a Dog (because it always helps to compare things).
Welcome to the Dollhouse (because being a teenager was bad in various ways that folks tend to gloss over when they become adults).
Network (because folks are mad as hell for things beyond their reasonable control).
Cosmos (because smart folks always have and will continue to be fighting the good fight against know-nothingness).
posted by macrowave at 12:18 AM on February 13, 2008

The Japanese movie After Life. The premise is that after you die, you spend a week with counselors who help you choose the one memory from your life that you will relive throughout eternity. After you've chosen your memory, the counselors help you film it and screen it, and then you move on to the afterlife. It's a very quiet, meditative film and it made me reflect on what it means to live a meaningful life.

I remember discussing it quite a bit with a friend of mine after it first came out. This friend died unexpectedly, far too young, a couple of years ago. The movie makes me think of him; he was definitely someone who led a meaningful life and packed a lot of experiences into only 32 years. He would have had many good memories to choose from.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:49 AM on February 13, 2008 [3 favorites]

Back to the Future was the first movie I ever saw in an actual movie theater. It was also my first sci-fi film, and to a five-year-old like I was at the time, it was huge. I credit it with turning me towards sci-fi stuff at a young age.

Ghostbusters (seen at age seven) turned me towards sarcastic cynical comedy stylings. It was the biggest franchise of my childhood what with the toys and magazine and cartoon and stuff.

Planes, Trains, & Automobiles brought my father and I closer together.

Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie cemented the idea that something doesn't have to be mainstream to be worthwhile.

That's probably the top four. Now, ask me about life-changing video games sometime...
posted by Servo5678 at 1:08 AM on February 13, 2008

In the Heat of the Night. Poitier's performance impresses you first and then the complexity of Steiger's starts to show. A riveting movie about race/America/being human (and on a 'meta' level, art's political responsibilities).

Seconding "The Gleaner's and I" - for the same reasons ethel mentions.

I would also add Contempt by J-L Godard, "Blue Velvet" by D.Lynch, Bringing up Baby by Howard Hawkes.
(I could add about a dozen more: "Army of Shadows" "Wages of Fear" "400 Blows" "Seven Samurai" "Wild Strawberries" "Klute" "The Conversation" "Raging Bull" "Blade Runner""Betty Blue" "Sabotage"/"the 39 Steps"(pre-war Hitchcock) "Punch Drunk Love" "Breaking the Waves" "Crimes and Misdemeanors"...)
posted by From Bklyn at 1:48 AM on February 13, 2008

Café Lumière completely recontextualized several years of a friendship for me.

Some of the ache is still there, but the last scene of the movie remains an utterly mundane salve for what's left. Just thinking about it makes me want to go rent it again.
posted by hototogisu at 2:12 AM on February 13, 2008

Once revolutionized the way I define love. I wish I could explain it more to you, but I'd have to give away a lot of spoilers, and I'd hate to do that to one of my favorite movies.

Also, I just saw The Orphanage, which redefined the word "Horror".
posted by chara at 3:01 AM on February 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Some have already been said, but are worth saying again:

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?: A desire so powerful it's made real, and how thoroughly two people can destroy one another by loving one another. What happens after people give up on themselves and each other.
Fight Club: The bullshit aspects of the world we live in, and how to drop out of that life without becoming a drug addict/homeless person/militia-type.
Rashomon: How to see four (or seven, or twelve) different sides to everything, and how they can all be right with the right perspective.
Gallipoli: How easily even something as Big and Important as war can be horribly bungled, and the soul-crushing moments when everything relies, literally, on how fast you can run. I spent days afterward thinking about what happened to Frank after that whistle blew.
25th Hour: The deep conflicts inherent in every interpersonal relationship. The scene where Frank beats up Monty before he leaves for prison, and his reaction to it, was beautiful and terrible and perfectly executed.
In the Name of the Father: The horrors of monumental injustice and abuse of power. The first film I saw that literally left me feeling sick, miserable, shaking with rage.
Madadayo: How a life can be simple, and beautiful, and remarkable, by being, on the surface, ordinary and utterly unremarkable.
posted by the luke parker fiasco at 4:35 AM on February 13, 2008 [2 favorites]

After my husband saw Super Size Me, he never stepped foot in McDonald's again, and started eating organic food almost exclusively.
posted by Lucinda at 4:45 AM on February 13, 2008

I hate to say it, but an Adam Sandler film got me thinking about how I approach relationships, what I'm really in them for, and what I'd be willing to do for someone I loved. I've found it cogent to ask: "What would I need to put on that tape?"
posted by andythebean at 4:53 AM on February 13, 2008

PeeWee's Big Adventure influenced my sense of style, design, and humour in ways that I'm still discovering.

And The Big Lebowski always reminds me that, no matter what happens, The Dude Abides. And I kinda take comfort in that.
posted by Katemonkey at 5:01 AM on February 13, 2008

Not to sound totally nerdy, but Albert Brook's "Defending Your Life" totally changed my world view. Just one of those movies that, philosophically, felt absolutely right. Just felt it in my bones.

Oh, and although it was made into a movie it was the original book that did it to me. "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy." Fundamentally philosophical and resonated well with me.
posted by tundro at 6:18 AM on February 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

The Times of Harvey Milk lead me to activism for gay rights. The images of the candlelight vigil held after his death still haunt me. (I went looking for some but couldn't find any readily available, though I did find this, which I now covet fiercely.)

I first saw Ruby in Paradise after returning to college from a break to earn enough money to keep going and working a series of exhausting and shitty jobs. Feeling broke and alien, not quite knowing what to do with myself, and scared as hell that I wasn't going to manage, that movie gave me the courage to keep on. It was also the first movie I'd ever seen that told a story I thought that was anything like mine.

In college, I became a vegetarian. If you asked me why then, I would have said a lot of persuasive things about ethics, environment, and health, but if I were being honest? It was Babe.
posted by melissa may at 6:40 AM on February 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Probably too late to be noticed, but Life is Beautiful is my favorite movie. It shows hope and the strength of the human spirit in the most dire of situations. Fantastic.
posted by Grither at 6:48 AM on February 13, 2008

After my husband saw Super Size Me, he never stepped foot in McDonald's again, and started eating organic food almost exclusively.
posted by Lucinda

Hahaha it had the opposite effect on me, at least immediately after the film. I think I went straight to a McDonald's for dinner. Mmmmm quarter pounder with cheese!

I guess it just goes to show you how different movies can affect different people differently.

Different no longer sounds like a real word to me after that sentence, sorry folks.
posted by Grither at 6:51 AM on February 13, 2008

Supersize me

Who killed the electric car

Walmart: The high cost of low prices

Most valuably: Just about anything from Ironweed Films.
posted by idzyn at 7:00 AM on February 13, 2008

You know what I'm kind of surprised has gone unmentioned? The Graduate..
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 7:02 AM on February 13, 2008

As the stepfather of two boys, and having come from an intact family myself, seeing The Squid and the Whale was an incredibly revealing experience for me. Sure, I had some generic idea in my head beforehand that being a child of divorce probably wasn't easy, but I honestly felt after watching the film that I understood my stepsons better. It was one of those rare experiences where I felt someone had made a film solely for my benefit.
posted by The Gooch at 7:32 AM on February 13, 2008

Hahaha it had the opposite effect on me, at least immediately after the film. I think I went straight to a McDonald's for dinner. Mmmmm quarter pounder with cheese!

posted by Grither at 6:51 AM on February 13

Yeah. Notice how I didn't say *I* never stepped foot in a McDonalds again.
posted by Lucinda at 7:41 AM on February 13, 2008

There are some that continue to inspire me as to what is possible in being inspirational. 'Fellowship of the Ring' created an idyllic world in the Shire, and the artistry brought to it was incredible. Not just one masterpiece, but several: Howard Shores' score, the architecture of the different locales, the texture of the cloth... 'Bugs Life' is also great; inspirational story line, great artistry, clever dialogue; Pixar's early work was groundbreaking. Kurosawa was perhaps the master - the saturation of color in 'Ran' springs forth unbidden.
posted by dragonsi55 at 9:16 AM on February 13, 2008

It's been mentioned a few times but Baraka is without doubt the most profound film I have ever watched, most people who have watched it have said the same.

What the Bleep had an motivational effect on me, though somewhat blurred due to the fact it contains a fair amount of junk science and mumbo-jumbo as well. But just watching people talking so passionately about a subject is inspirational, and I find with such subjects watching things I disagree with can be as though provoking as stuff I do agree with. So worth watching with equal amounts of an open mind and pinch of salt.

The Fountain blew me away and prompts a lot of thinking.

Both Empire Records and Garden State made me sit back and look at my life, helped by their amazing sound tracks.

Other films that come to mind: The Science of Sleep, Human Traffic, I Huckabees, Chasing Amy.
posted by paulfreeman at 9:35 AM on February 13, 2008

I'm pretty sure I moved halfway across the country because of Kicking and Screaming. Lines from it still bubble up into my consciousness daily.
posted by fidelity at 9:51 AM on February 13, 2008 [2 favorites]

Thirding Fight Club, not just for the "the first 45 minute for the satirical comments on identity and happiness via consumption" (well put!), but for the philosophy of: If there's something you want to do or be in life, do it. DO IT. Stop making excuses. Stop letting life get in the way. FUCKING DO IT. (Similar to Dead Poet's Society in that respect -- carpe diem, bitches.)

A Simple Plan, for its narrative of how good, honest people can turn into, essentially, pure evil... one small step, one little mistake at a time.

Fires up utorrent, points RSS reader at this thread...
posted by LordSludge at 10:22 AM on February 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Microcosmos opened my eyes to amazing nature documentary.
Cinema Paradiso reinforced the magic of cinema, and its power, for me.
City of Lost Children introduced me to a whole new style, and changed how I view movies.
Another vote for Celluloid Closet - on so many levels.
Also Fog of War.
Tetsuo the Iron Man pushed boundaries for me, much like Eraserhead - I subjected countless dates to it as a sort of test.

Chasing Amy left an awful, awful feel in my mouth. I didn't like Kevin Smith to begin with, and the Amy character seemed just so male-constructed to me that I wrote him off entirely.
posted by sadiehawkinstein at 1:18 PM on February 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Seconding Six Feet Under. This series made me far more comfortable with the idea of death. Previously I had been utterly phobic and in denial, after the series I began to think about my own death. Still can't bear the idea of the death of loved ones, but thinking about my funeral and making provisions for when I am not around is a start.

Touching the Void didn't so much change my life as give me much needed perspective. After seeing that I resolved to give up less easily, I would generally pike out on things if I was feeling too headachey or tired or "not in the mood"but since this movie I have forced myself to put on a happy face and go ahead with things I don't always want to do but have to. That's peanuts compared to dragging oneself down a mountain with a broken leg.

Children of Men really hammered home (more so than An Inconvenient Truth which was no news to me) the possibility of a very bleak future and that by comparison there is more hope today to make a difference and that I must act now.
posted by BAKERSFIELD! at 1:20 PM on February 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

I saw Hal Hartley's Trust after I turned 20. My dad died, I felt aimless, and I moved in with my then-boyfriend who gave me a cinema studies education. Watching that film was like hearing someone say something to me in a language I didn't speak. I knew what they were saying by their gestures, the tone of their voice, their body language, and the way they looked at me, but I had no words to respond to them. And I wanted to speak with them. The story -- hoydenish, pregnant teen bonds with saturnine electronics geniuis -- came close to my own circumstances and how I felt at the time. After seeing so many films that I couldn't fathom making, this looked like something I could make with my resources and skills, and there was so much power in those words and those images. Watching it put me on the path to making movies. And here I am today.
posted by pxe2000 at 1:52 PM on February 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

The first one that I think of is La Vita è bella (aka Life Is Beautiful). The reason is that it demonstrates how purposeful joy can be maintained, no matter what hideousness and terror comes to you.

Longtime Companion affects me in a similar yet more contemporary way, partly in the struggle through a lack of knowledge, desperate fear, and pain, and more especially in the final scene where all those who were loved and lost to AIDS and those who survived were together again, dancing on the pier. I'm not religious, I don't know what I am, but I believe we'll be together again. Before this movie, I wanted to believe it -- after it, after all those I had lost, and those I had yet to lose, not just to HIV/AIDS -- I did.
posted by Robert Angelo at 2:43 PM on February 13, 2008

The scene in City of God where a little boy gets shot in the foot made me decide that it was my duty to be as kind as I could be to my rambunctious nephews, even though they had a tendency to do things like pour bottles of expensive lavender oil down the sink to see what would happen (what happened was that Tia Sara Anne became very, very angry). Since that decision, I really have felt like my relationship with my nephews has become much more special. They trust me and tell me their little secrets and give me overpowering bear hugs and tell me little jokes. I feel like if I hadn't made the decision to be kind as possible to them, they'd probably see me as just another authority figure.
posted by Sara Anne at 3:47 PM on February 13, 2008

Mike Leigh's Naked
Groundhog Day
Defending your Life
posted by stavx at 5:49 PM on February 13, 2008

City of God
Throne of Blood
Blind Shaft
Tokyo Godfathers
posted by Camel of Space at 7:37 PM on February 13, 2008

The Lost Weekend
Casablanca and Sabrina
Repo Man and Cool Hand Luke
Blue Velvet
American Beauty and Ikiru
The 400 Blows and Fahrenheit 451
The Devils
A Clockwork Orange
Silent Running
posted by Rash at 7:40 PM on February 13, 2008

First one that came to mind is Salvador, from 1986, which I saw when I was 21, when it came out. Helped in some ways to galvanize the emergence of my political convictions.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:59 AM on February 14, 2008

I saw A Time To Kill when I was 16 and it opened my eyes to racism. I grew up in upstate NY where overt racism is hard to find and I was mainly ignorant until seeing that movie that in some parts of the country racism was so open and vicious. That moment at the end when Brigance tells the jury, "Now imagine she's white", made me lose my breath it was so shocking. I guess I was just sheltered.

Recently a slew of documentaries have changed my outlook radically. I used to believe that I was extremely lucky to have been born in America, that it truly was "the greatest country on earth". And while I'm still glad I wasn't born in say, Afghanistan, docs like Loose Change, Fahrenheit 911 and Sicko have forced me to the realization that I now wish I'd been born in almost any other westernized country (England, France, Sweden, take your pick). In other words, I no longer feel blessed to be an American, I feel cursed.
posted by katyggls at 3:27 AM on February 14, 2008

Power of One
posted by vagabond at 6:44 AM on February 14, 2008

Happiness of the Katakuris oddly enough was somewhat of a system shock not unlike the tail end of a hallucinogenic experience, where little makes sense but one realizes that acceptance of this is the only option.
posted by waraw at 7:21 AM on February 14, 2008

The Shining. Just seeing the theatrical trailer when I was 9 years old freaked me out so much that I wouldn't see it or any other horror movie until I was an adult.
posted by not_on_display at 10:18 AM on February 14, 2008

The Sacrifice for principles
Dumb and Dumber for people skills
The Celebration for family skills
Good Will Hunting for confidence
Tetsuo The Iron Man for aesthetics
posted by rhizome at 11:02 AM on February 14, 2008

The Good Woman of Bangkok came up in another thread for me just now, and it is a shocking film that completely pulled the rug out from under my feet with regard to colonialism, voyeurism, feminism, all the big isms.

Sunrise will make anyone a lover of silent cinema, I think.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:34 AM on February 14, 2008

I was extremely moved by Dogville. I was simultaneously shocked of how cruel can people unknowingly be, and amazed by the human's capability to patiently live under injustice.

Also, it frightened me how I found the devilishly violent ending completely satisfying. So is it that easy for violence to be justified?
posted by howiamdifferent at 11:52 AM on February 14, 2008

In all honesty, The Godfather.

The first time I ever saw this movie was roughly 9 years ago when I was 20. All my life my Uncle John had always said "The Godfather... the greatest movie ever" He would never quote it or anything, I just always remember him saying it.

I finally got to watch some of it, in his presence no less. It was on AMC so it was edited somewhat, and had commercial breaks. I was at my Grandma's house in Flint. Its crazy how vividly I remember this.

Anyway, I saw from about 5 minutes in (the wedding reception) and got to watch for probably another hour and a half or so. I was sucked into the movie. The storyline. The music. The acting. It was amazing.

The scene where Michael kills The Turk and McCluskey... When he goes into the bathroom to get the gun, and you start to hear the train in the background, I noticed I started feeling incredibly anxious and nervous.

You know that feeling you get when you do something wrong, or are about to do something wrong? Your whole body just kind of starts shaking. You feel like you know you are going to get caught. There is just this surge of endorphins or something pulsing through you. Its both an incredible and awful feeling. This is how I started feeling watching the scene play out.

He steps outside of the bathroom, the two gentlemen look up and he pulls out the gun. BAM! BAM! BAM! The train screeches. I felt scared and relieved as soon as it was over, he drops the gun and walks out of the restaurant. The music (horns specifically) comes in loudly.

Since I didn't catch all of the movie, I immediately went back home and bought it on VHS at Best Buy (didn't have a DVD player then). I watched the whole thing with my (now) wife. I felt the same exact way during that scene with her. I even paused the movie to tell her about it.

It was not too long after that that I realized the power of cinema. The power to get so emotionally sucked into a story that you actually feel like you are in the story!

It has changed my life's dream from wanting to work in computers (which I presently still do), to being a filmmaker. I wish I could say that it changed my life and I am NOW a filmmaker. But alas I am not. Nine years later and its still a dream. It was an incredible moment and realization though.

And that is how The Godfather changed my life.
posted by mrzer0 at 11:57 AM on February 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

Wild at Heart, by David Lynch
The Cook, the Thief, his Wife and her Lover, by Peter Greenway

These two made me fall in love with movies.
posted by guictx at 12:36 PM on February 14, 2008

I know it's not a movie, but I'll third "Six Feet Under". This series came around at the perfect time during my adolescence, and helped me appreciate the people around me.

Unlike the other responses, I found something very different in this series. I was fascinated by David, who comes to terms with his homosexuality in front of the camera. This was the first show I ever saw that depicted gay men as human beings, rather than caricatures or goofy sidekicks.

"Six Feet Under" played a huge role in my personal coming out process, and continues to resonate in my life today.
posted by Rowgun at 2:26 PM on February 14, 2008 [2 favorites]

I forgot In the Mood for Love, although the sequel, 2046, is almost as good.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:30 PM on February 14, 2008

Network. It still blows my mind every time I watch it.

Not just because I work in popular media, although that does give it a bit of extra resonance... as if it needed any. That the "mad as hell" line has been reduced to a pop-culture sound bite is the culminating irony of the wisest, most incisive satire I have ever seen. It's relentlessly funny, and surprisingly tragic.

Released in 1976, it's only become more and more relevant since then (how many movies can you say that about?). While "mad as hell" is only tip of the iceberg, today we have ever more reasons that we should be mad as hell at our TV's.

It's sad indeed that writer Paddy Chayefsky and actor Peter Finch died so quickly after the release of this movie... but my God, what a way to go. It is my deepest professional hope that I one day have a hand in making something as profoundly good as Network.
posted by JustDerek at 3:25 PM on February 14, 2008 [3 favorites]

The Insider convinced me to never, ever give cigarette companies another dime.

Cinema Paradiso is an amazing story of unconditional love. I bawl like a baby every time I see the montage at the end.

Finally, Peggy Sue got Married captivates me. The whole concept of going back to one's high school self and seeing all of the details of your young life through older just gives me chills. The scene where she chokes up talking to her grandmother tears me up.
posted by freisss at 5:34 PM on February 14, 2008

No particular order
A Man for All Seasons - integrity
The Treasure of Sierra Madre & The Maltese Falcon - greed
Remains of the Day - lost love
The Truman Show - fighting God
Harvey - Keeping things in perspective
The Searchers & Taxi Driver - Determination
Being There - Serendipity & Destiny
Days of Wine & Roses - The love & respect for oneself over another
Avalon - Family
posted by hldnat#1 at 8:16 PM on February 14, 2008

Risky Business
Van Wilder

What this country needs is more such subtly brilliant movies with boobies.
posted by phrits at 8:36 PM on February 14, 2008

Seconding A Clockwork Orange. Saw it when I was in Jr. High and couldn't stop thinking about it for months. Still think about it.

Schindler's List

Saving Private Ryan

Full Metal Jacket
posted by illflux at 9:22 PM on February 14, 2008

Definitely Into The Wild. Completely changed how I look at success, possessions, money, and what I want out of life.
posted by jeff_w_welch at 8:40 AM on February 15, 2008

Seconding Kicking and Screaming. (Not the Will Ferrell movie, gah!) During a college break, I once picked that movie out for a movie night with hyper-ambitious high school friends and they just did not get it. Not at all. Not an ounce.

What the Bleep Do We Know helped me realize the power of thought, even if it did have a lot of culty bunk. It was also an unforgettable mindtrip to watch that movie at the Bagdad Theater, where several scenes were also filmed.

The Color of Fear gave me a language and a perspective for race that really cemented the harms of color blind racism in my mind. It also made me think for the first time about how I've been harmed by the erasure of my own heritage through my ancestors' assimilation into a single "white" culture. To be sure, this movie was watched in a well facilitated learning group, but I think there are a lot of epiphanies there regardless.
posted by Skwirl at 11:12 AM on February 15, 2008

Larry Clark's KIDS.
posted by JPowers at 6:34 PM on February 17, 2008

The Constant Gardner and The Passion of Joan of Arc reminded me why I want to be a director someday

The Iron Giant and Ratatouille reminded me why I want be an animator someday

Ordinary People and My Father My Lord reminded me why I want to be a screenwriter someday
posted by prophetsearcher at 10:30 AM on February 18, 2008

Also Harold and Maude for me, as well as My Life As A Dog, The Pillow Book, V For Vendetta, Gattaca, Blade Runner, Repo Man anything by Miyazaki (but in Japanese, the English dubs take all magic away).
posted by nikksioux at 8:04 PM on March 10, 2008

My Life as a Dog--no matter how bad things get for you, there is always someone else who is facing greater problems.
posted by pushing paper and bottoming chairs at 3:24 PM on April 5, 2008

The Milagro Beanfield War
Blade Runner
Annie Hall
Aguirre, the Wrath of God
The Twilight Samurai
posted by pushing paper and bottoming chairs at 3:39 PM on April 5, 2008

Into The Wild.
posted by clueless22 at 1:42 PM on May 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

I watched Late Spring late one night after I'd graduated from college and was preparing to cross the country to leave my hometown for good, and I cried at the end of it. It reminded me to be thankful for the sacrifices my parents have made for me, including the nearly invisible one of letting go from my father. It's my favorite movie besides Safe. I've seen it again since and it still has that profound, very silent and gentle but deep impact on me. I've never seen a movie more perfectly encapsulate the love between an individual and their parent.
posted by ifjuly at 2:03 PM on July 6, 2008

Let me second Brazil, as it defined what I enjoy about movies. Fast Food Nation really was life changing for me, because after watching it my wife resolved that we would only cook vegetarian from then on.
posted by bugloaf at 9:55 AM on July 9, 2008

Mine have all been said already but I'll add them anyway - Lilya 4-Ever, City of God and LA Story.

I'll also add The Deer Hunter, which when I first saw it took my breath away, it was so devastating.
posted by triggerfinger at 4:06 PM on July 11, 2008

Hey ya'll, just checked and The Celluloid Closet is available to be streamed on your puter from NetFlix as a freebie if you're a member; haven't watched yet but I sure intend to.

Great thread.
posted by dancestoblue at 4:00 PM on September 21, 2008

I remember stepping out into the street after watching Scrooged 20 years ago with friends. Bill Murray had just said "We act a little nicer, we smile a little easier, we cheer a little more. For a couple of hours out of the whole year we are the people we always hoped we would be." Annie Lennox and Al Green had just sung "Put a Little Love in Your Heart". We came out of the theater singing to ourselves and feeling the full Dickens effect compounded with good music and good company. If the Salvation Army had posted collectors at theater doors, I know some people would have emptied their pockets and joined up.

But I was back to being average-hearted the next day, neither the Scrooge before nor the Scrooge after. And though Murray sounded quite sincere on film, did it change him? Only he could really say.

The original story and its various adaptations have been boosting the number and size of charity donations since Christmas 1843. But does it permanently change people? Change me for more than a couple of hours out of the whole year? Not that I can tell. Yet I apply the tale liberally in one form or another each year and feel something at the time.
posted by pracowity at 5:38 AM on September 22, 2008

posted by lalochezia at 8:50 AM on September 22, 2008

late to the party two cents:

nthing Brazil. Terry Gilliam in general has a way of making films that are like a private, intimate conversation between he and the viewer. You always get the feeling that this auteur is someone who hasn't quite got things figured out, and is using the medium as a dialogue to do just that. the essence of art and film.

the Red Violin (le Violon Rouge) - just a beautifully told story, illustrating how powerful an object can be, and how profoundly we can build our identities, desires and memories around it. Also a complex and desperate love story (excellent performances, directing, pacing, storytelling abound!) Bonus points for guiding me towards my current career path...

Jesus de Montreal - This is the ONLY film about Christianity that has had any relevance to me. Ever.

the Joy Luck Club - while the book is excellent as well, this movie really made me think about my relationship with my parents, and made me appreciate more fully that they were/are individuals with needs, desires, talents, tragedies, pain and stories farrrrr outside my own experience of them

Paths of Glory - I grew up watching many war movies with my father...and even at the tender age of 12, this one affected me profoundly. Not only about the futility and destruction of war, but also about the need for good, competent leadership, compassion and respect for everyone. My description does not do it justice, but this is a must-see

and the most recently affecting movie:

Happy-Go-Lucky - I expected a quirky, lighthearted film...and instead I got a quirky, excruciatingly RAW, lovely, moving, tragic, beautiful, terrifying, uplifting story. Complex and above all...honest.
posted by miss_scarlett at 12:25 PM on January 9, 2009

Pump Up the Volume. Most people see it as a throwaway teen movie, but it really spoke to me and it still does.
posted by medea42 at 12:50 AM on February 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

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