Inspiration or entertainment? Both please.
June 23, 2008 11:31 AM   Subscribe

Movie recommendations in which the main character gives up his/her own success or place in society to pursue an unpopular social cause or to help unpopular person or people. Bonus points for movies based on actual events.

I watched Glory recently but thought it was poorly done. Looking for something to redeem the genre and to inspire me.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink to Media & Arts (36 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: A Civil Action is one of those movies, and it's based (quite closely) on a true story. It's more depressing than inspiring, though.
posted by moxiedoll at 11:36 AM on June 23, 2008

Does To Kill a Mockingbird count? It's not clear whether situations in which the main character *risks* his or her place count.

You might also want to clarify early in this thread whether you really want only the *main* character, or one of the lead characters.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 11:40 AM on June 23, 2008

Gandhi might count.
posted by sweetkid at 11:41 AM on June 23, 2008

Best answer: Ooh! How about Brubaker?
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 11:42 AM on June 23, 2008

Response by poster: Preferably the main character.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 11:43 AM on June 23, 2008

Best answer: Local Hero.
posted by beaucoupkevin at 11:51 AM on June 23, 2008

Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (the Frank Capra original from '36, not so much the Adam Sandler remake) sounds like it fits the bill, although it's pure fantasy.
posted by General Malaise at 12:01 PM on June 23, 2008

The Constant Gardener?

The book was OK, I found the movie unwatchable due to the horrific "shaky-cam," but it's almost exactly what you're asking for.
posted by drjimmy11 at 12:02 PM on June 23, 2008

Best answer: What about Schindler's List?
posted by a3matrix at 12:05 PM on June 23, 2008

off the top of my head:

...and justice for all

The life of Thomas Paine truly fits your description. His belief that all men need not be ruled did not stop at the monarchy. If it did I guarantee you there would be no shortage of movies and coins emblazoned with his image. He risked it all to take on the real ruler of men - the church - and died friendless and penniless in the process.
posted by any major dude at 12:15 PM on June 23, 2008

Best answer: You watched the wrong "Glory" movie.
posted by rhizome at 12:16 PM on June 23, 2008

Another movie with Liam Neeson that may qualify is "Michael Collins."
posted by a3matrix at 12:22 PM on June 23, 2008

The Painted Veil, sorta-kinda?
posted by katillathehun at 12:27 PM on June 23, 2008

Maybe The Mission fits the bill here. Even if it doesn't, it is a great film.
posted by a3matrix at 12:32 PM on June 23, 2008

It's a Wonderful Life.
posted by Gungho at 12:35 PM on June 23, 2008

oops I think I read the question wrong- Define "supporting an unpopular social cause"... Unpopular because people don't like it, or because they don't know they shouldn't like it and our hero has to show them the way?
posted by Gungho at 12:37 PM on June 23, 2008

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

(not based on actual events)
posted by Jacqueline at 12:40 PM on June 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

posted by Leon at 1:14 PM on June 23, 2008

Tsotsi might qualify.

Maybe City of God?

Dead Man Walking

Hotel Rwanda
posted by triggerfinger at 1:15 PM on June 23, 2008

posted by grumblebee at 1:22 PM on June 23, 2008

City of Joy is a good movie, although not a great one.
posted by Johnny Assay at 1:23 PM on June 23, 2008

Hell, what of Godspell?

That came out wrong, but you get the idea.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 1:55 PM on June 23, 2008

Stand and Deliver.

Seconding Serpico.
posted by Mapes at 2:01 PM on June 23, 2008

A Few Good Men, maybe? It is loosely based on a true-ish story, I think. I feel like there are lots of courtroom-type dramas that qualify.

Also, while we're on Frank Capra, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington is probably a good one to consider.

Gentleman's Agreement, where Gregory Peck pretends to be Jewish to learn about anti-Semitism. He literally gives up his social status there.

I also think The Magnificent Seven might count? But I don't know that they risk their social status so much as their actual lives.
posted by SoftRain at 2:22 PM on June 23, 2008

Saving Grace. Not the British one about a pot-growing widow, but the 1985 release, in which Tom Conti plays the pope. He questions the relevancy of the Catholic power structure and goes on the lam as an anonymous good-deed doing homeless wanderer. Unfortunately it looks as if it hasn't ever been released on DVD, which is a pity. I remember it as a pleasant little sleeper, but on searching I see that the New York Times found it to be sappy, so what do I know?
posted by mumkin at 2:43 PM on June 23, 2008

Another vote for Serpico!
posted by Gerard Sorme at 2:51 PM on June 23, 2008

(ugh) Jerry McGuire.
posted by Shepherd at 2:54 PM on June 23, 2008

No mention of Into the Wild yet? One of the better movies to come out recently imo.
posted by public at 3:19 PM on June 23, 2008

Just saw "Talk of the Town" last night, and it has a theme like that. Good movie.
posted by gjc at 4:32 PM on June 23, 2008

Twelve Angry Men (either version)
posted by Coaticass at 5:40 PM on June 23, 2008

The Girl in the Cafe
posted by cnc at 6:07 PM on June 23, 2008

Does The Insider count? I'm not sure if you can call fighting tobacco execs "unpopular," but the other features qualify: giving up success, and based on actual events.
posted by dubitable at 7:00 PM on June 23, 2008

"The Sound of Music" would seem to fit. The Third Reich did, after all, have a certain support in Austria. And it's based (loosely) on actual events.
posted by bryon at 7:56 PM on June 23, 2008

Europa '51 fits your description perfectly (except for the based on true events part), and happens to be one of the best movies of all time. It might be hard to find a copy, though.
posted by Awkward Philip at 8:21 PM on June 23, 2008

Also Jack Lemmon's character in The China Syndrome might fit, I guess. Or the title character in Silkwood (based on real events- to what extent I'm not sure.)
posted by Coaticass at 2:36 AM on June 24, 2008

- Norma Rae [Norma sacrifices for greater good]
- Sullivan's Travels [Hollywood director becomes homeless in order to make a truthful social justice movie]
- Nazarin [if you want a slightly sarcastic Bunuelian view of this kind of thing]
posted by Rashomon at 12:39 PM on June 24, 2008

« Older New phone/carrier recs.   |   Why do traffic lights have a blink cycle? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.