Five or six years ago, this list would have been a lot different. I don’t even know if I could have come up with 12 movies for this category at that point. I have not been watching a lot of inspiring new movies. I am sure they still make those (I just saw The Blindside a few days ago and really enjoyed it.) The reality has been that I have been exposed to many old movies through the wonders of the modern library and the joys of the Best Buy shelf.
Several years ago my dear wife and I decided to watch the American Film Institute’s list of top 100 movies. Since then they’ve come out with an updated list and we pick off of that list too. I also decided back then that I wasn’t going to just watch, I was going to engage- pay attention to what was being said. I must admit that that doesn’t always happen, sometimes I just sit and watch. Sometimes I’m waiting to see why this movie could possibly have made the list (see Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf… no wait, don’t see it!). Suffice it to say then, that while I have not seen that many movies in my life, I’ve seen lots of acclaimed ones covering a wide variety of time periods. If you’ve not visited some of these older movies, you’re missing out, if you’re a literature/movie fan.
The Power of One. That seems to be the trend for my movie selections. I don’t know why that seems to be at the top of my list of inspirational things. I thought about adding A Beautiful Mind since it has an inspiring personal story and an even more inspiring love story, but it didn’t quite make it. For some reason, those stories are not quite as powerful to me as these which tend to follow that thought- The Power of One.
The Weakness of the Whole. The opposite of the power of one is also true. We live in a world where as a whole we are sick. We fail, we are weak. We tend toward protection of those like us. We do not hold up those in need. We do kick each other when we fall (see Tiger Woods, Britney Spears, et al.) We hate, we avoid, we ignore, we kill, we rage, we over simplify or over complicate, we compete, we conquer, we divide.
It seems to be the one who has to fix the whole. Jesus is my strongest example of this.
Here they be then, top 12, no particular order.
It’s a Wonderful LifeFor one thing, you get to watch Jimmy Stewart in almost every scene. That’s worth the price of admission. Frank Capra’s movies have been given the knock of being “Capra”-corn. You can see that with this movie. However, that doesn’t mean the idea portrayed- that everyone’s life is important and, potentially, wonderfully important to others- isn’t worth reflecting on.
Mr. Holland’s OpusWhy this obscure one? Well, partly because of when it came out. Right as I was in my last year of teacher training , this Richard Dreyfuss movie came out and made it okay for me to believe that, like George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life, it was possible for me to make a real impact on the life of others. And, it was more than a flash in the pan, it was his whole career. It gave great perspective for a guy just starting out.
Dead Poets SocietyAnother teacher movie. This one helped me to get a glimpse into what it takes to inspire kids to pursue their dreams. Even to dream if they’ve never dreamed before. I think it even helped me to dream dreams I had never dreamed before. A great, sad, wonderful movie.
Schindler’s ListSee, there’s inspirational, compelling you to pulling up your socks. Then there’s inspirational, compelling you to help other people pull up their socks. Then there’s inspirational where you are forced to come to grips with doing something about people actually losing their life. Schindler’s List.
City LightsCharlie Chaplin stars as the little tramp who does his best to do his best, even when he doesn’t know what is right. His redemptive actions toward his love are inspiring in light of his outcast roll in society.
On the Waterfront
Will you do what is right even when it means you’ll lose? When it could cost you your life? When it means the people who are close to you won’t appreciate you? Will I?
Mr. Smith Goes to WashingtonTrying to sneak another Jimmy Stewart movie in here…Small town hero becomes a national hero. The machine of big government can not stand against one man who knows he is right. What difference can one man make? What a difference!
The Fellowship of the Rings
For Sam alone, I love this movie. Loyalty is not a word heard round these parts these days (thanks, Bill Mallonee).
The Shawshank RedemptionHope in the midst of darkness. You can lock up a man’s body, but not his spirit.
Here are two men who I need to learn from.
What wins out, your beliefs or your friends? Are some things I hold to be true not really true? Could it be possible to stand for what is right even when no one else does? No one, only you?
Field of Dreams
I must say that as much as I love this movie, I loved the book even more. Read it, Shoeless Joe, by W.P. Kinsella. The movie reminds us of the power of dreams and the eternal impact we can have on others. This movie portrays it as a love of baseball, we all know there are more things too. But I love baseball and this movie has inspiring and baseball. Plus I went to college just outside of Davenport, Iowa and worked in a classroom with a girl who was Kevin Costner’s “baby”.
Life is Beautiful
I think this movie may be number one. If you haven’t seen this one, you haven’t seen an inspirational movie yet. A man, his son, the darkest hour, the brightest heart. You’ve got to watch this one and weep and laugh and mourn and rejoice. And sigh for our cynical world.
12 Angry Men
What would happen if one man stood up against what everyone else sees as being opposite to him? What if he was right? What would you do? How would you get other people to see things your way?
I put in thirteen, but the last one has 12 in the title, so it fits the rules.