Thursday, 21 June 2012

5 Inspirational Movies + Their Life Lessons

Image thanks to cari ann

This is a guest post by Melissa Wellham, a freelance writer (of scathing film reviews, mostly), blogger at Melicious, and prolific tweeter (@melissawellham). She is currently studying journalism, working in an independent bookstore, and has two pet mice called Nymphadora and Tonks.

Despite your best intentions at the beginning of every New Year to work harder, commit to your dreams, or take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way – it can be hard to remain motivated day after day after day.

This partly explains the popularity of tools such as inspiration boards (and Charade’s own Words to Live By feature) as they are reminders to keep working towards what you want to achieve. Because really, many of us (okay, I’m talking about myself here) have trouble concentrating on a goal unless the fruit of our labour is immediately in front of us. It’s much easier to become distracted by a million and one other things (the internet. Texting that cute boy. Watching all of The Vampire Diaries in one sitting) – which are really the “candy” to a potential “fruit of labour.” Fun and delicious, to be sure, but ultimately not as good for you.

However, there’s another incredibly powerful motivational tool: storytelling. Seeing what other people have accomplished, can help you realise what you can accomplish also. And the silver screen is one of the most powerful storytelling tools there is.

So, in the interest of inspiring you to work towards whatever your dream may be – becoming an actress! Learning a new language! Opening a chocolate factory, and wearing a purple top hat! – here are a few inspiring films, with some important life lessons.

1. Dead Poet’s Society (1989)

When I watched this in an English class when I was 16, I cried. Directed by Peter Weir, the film follows an English teacher, Mr. Keating (Robin Williams), teaching at a conservative, upper class, all-boys elite prep school in 1959. His teaching methods are incredibly unorthodox for the day, and include instructing his students to stand on their desks to gain “a new perspective,” and encouraging them to “seize the day” – essentially, trying to inspire his young students. Unfortunately, his methods are unpopular with the rest of the school’s faculty, and when one of his students commits suicide, he becomes a scapegoat. Mr. Keating is asked to leave the school, but when he does, his students stand on their desks to bid him farewell – acknowledging how much he inspired them – and how much he taught them about the importance of being true to themselves.

The Quote:
John Keating: No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.

The Life Lesson: Stand up for who you really are. Seize the day.

2. Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

Based on the children’s novel by Roald Dahl, and directed by the always-fabulous Wes Anderson, Fantastic Mr. Fox is a gorgeous stop-motion animated feature, that follows the somewhat-of-a-scoundrel Mr. Fox (George Clooney) as he attempts to pull off one last big, crafty heist – taking on the wealthy and cruel farmers Boggis, Bunce and Bean – despite being a family man, married to Mrs. Fox (Meryl Streep), with a son Ash (Jason Schwartzman). At the same time, teenager Ash becomes jealous of his cousin Kristofferson (Eric Chase Anderson), who is staying with the family. Although ostensibly a film about a fox trying to steal apple cider and chickens – this is more a film about the importance of family, and being okay with being different.

The Quote:
Mrs. Fox: [to Ash, when he is upset about being “different”] We're all different. [indicates Mr. Fox]
Mrs. Fox: Especially him. But there's something kind of fantastic about that, isn’t there?

The Life Lesson: Sometimes it’s just in your (wild) nature to be a little kooky, weird, or larger-than-life. But that’s better than fine – it’s exceptional.

3. Thelma & Louise (1991)

Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon are the title characters in Thelma & Louise, two working class gals who decide to go on a weekend road trip to get away from it all. And by ‘it,’ I mean, to get away from the men in their lives – Thelma’s controlling husband, and Louise’s perfectly-acceptable but commitment-phobic boyfriend. But when Thelma and Louise run into trouble and end up killing a would-be rapist, the pair have to hit the road in their '66 Thunderbird and go on the run from the law. Oh, yeah, and this is the film that features a young Brad Pitt in tight, faded blue jeans. Director Ridley Scott has created a feminist film that is action-packed, laugh-out-loud, and also completely and utterly heartbreaking.

The Quote:
Thelma: “I've had it up to my ass with sedate.”

The Life Lesson: Be free.

4. Bill Cunningham New York (2010)

Bill Cunningham New York is a heartfelt documentary about the title character, the 80+ iconic street fashion photographer. Bill is considered to be an integral part of the New York scene, and as the terrifying Vogue editor Anna Wintour says, “We all get dressed for Bill.” The film paints a portrait of a man who is compulsively shy, obsessively interested in fashion photography, and so genuinely kind and sincere that one finds it difficult to believe he has made it in the cutthroat world of fashion. Where the fashion industry has a reputation for being shallow, vain and artificial, Bill is quietly thoughtful, modest and truly appreciates fashion as an art form.

The Quote(s):

Bill: “It’s as true today as it ever was. He who seeks beauty will find it.”

Bill: “"If you don't take money, they can't tell you what to do. That's the key to the whole thing."

Bill: "Fashion is the armor to survive everyday life."

The Life Lesson: Discover what brings you joy in life. And then do that for a job.

5. The Film: Rocky (1976)

The entirety of the Rocky franchise, starring Sylvester Stallone, is known for its story of guy from the wrong aide of the tracks makin’ good – as well as its extreme, pump-it-to-the-max motivational message. But I think the classic Survivor’s song Eye Of The Tiger (the theme song for the third Rocky film) illustrates this better than I ever could.

Need I say more? No, I didn’t think so.

The Quote:
Rocky: “'Cause I was thinkin', it really don't matter if I lose this fight. It really don't matter if this guy opens my head, either. 'Cause all I wanna do is go the distance. Nobody's ever gone the distance with Creed, and if I can go that distance, you see, and that bell rings and I'm still standin', I'm gonna know for the first time in my life, see, that I weren't just another bum from the neighborhood.”

The Life Lesson: Keep on fighting, even when the odds are against you. 

What would your top 5 most inspirational films be?


Julia D. said...

I'm a huge fan of documentaries and I often find those to be extremely inspirational and perspective-altering, but I don't if I could choose five favourites. I really like motivational movies and the quotes from all of these make them seem like just that. Really looking forward to checking them out, especially "Dead Poets Society" and "Bill Cunningham New York." Thanks for the suggestions, Melissa!

Amber-Rose Thomas said...

I thought this was such a brilliant post!
My most inspirational film has to be The Bucket List though. Can't beat a bit of Morgan Freeman.

Amber xx

Christina Marie said...

I can't believe I've never seen any of these! Definitely going to check them out. Especially the Bill Cunningham. I've never heard of it, but it sounds great.

Thanks for sharing!!


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