There’s a huge difference between a bad film and a good one. Some of them we watch and a year later forget that we even saw it, the result of it leaving nothing of value for us to percolate through our minds. Others we watch and they can leave us wondering why we just sat through mindless violence and drivel for the last two hours of our lives, hours we will never get back. And then, thankfully, there are the movies that burn such a life changing memory in to our mind that we tell everyone about it for years to come.
Oftentimes it is because the lead character is hopelessly flawed and we relate to them so deeply that they help us to understand ourselves on a deeper level. We hope that the kind of stuff that happens to them never happens to us; or we learn from the mistakes they made before we make them ourselves. We pay close attention to who they become as the plot and the character unravel, learning from the experiences and mentors they meet along the way.
As we contemplate the deeper messages of films, we too can become better people. For men who are looking to better themselves, these are 10 of the best movies you can watch.
So the movie may not be great, especially if you are a Tolkien fan, but a hobbit can teach us much about being a better man. Gandalf reminds us of this when he says: “I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay…small acts of kindness and love.”
The dwarves were proven warriors, and Bilbo only loved the comforts of life and never strayed far from home. But he was willing to put himself in dangers way to achieve the mission and as a result changed in many ways. We may not have to save nations, or bring down criminals, but in our everyday lives we can remember Gandalf’s words and think about the little things we do in every moment.
Jack, the lead character in Fight Club is materialistic, has little ambition, and looks outside of himself in order to find happiness. Of course, a movie named Fight Club is hardly likely to inspire a pacifist to be better if they judge it at the surface level. It could sound like this is a movie that endorses violence, but the creators want us to look a little deeper to show how it makes contemporary man better.
At the beginning of the movie, after the traditional warning signs, is one with the following statement. “Every word you read of this useless fine print is another second off your life. Don’t you have other things to do? Is your life so empty that you honestly can’t think of a better way to spend these moments?…Prove you are alive. If you don’t claim your humanity you will become a statistic.” These words alone have been enough to motivate men to start up businesses and do something with their lives.
On the surface it is a funny movie about a cocky weatherman who ends up repeating the same day over and over, with slight differences in each experience. Directed by the late Harold Ramis (of Ghostbusters fame) it is full of messages about time, the meaning of life and the power of love. If it is good enough for the manly Bill Murray, then it is good enough for us.
Upon learning of his new reality, Murray’s character lies, cheats, and steals, but he soon discovers that this is boring. He realizes actions having consequences makes life a little more interesting. It also makes us aware of how often we end up repeating similar patterns in our life due to the habits, good and bad, that we hold on to and refuse to let up.
We can become better people and have a greater experience in life when we are willing to challenge the beliefs and behaviors that keep us trapped in repeating the same mistakes over and over again. Finally, he learns that working through his shit is really the best way to come out at the other end. Avoiding it only leads to him repeating the day again and again.
Mark Whitacre was an executive working for the firm Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) when he became concerned about the price-fixing that was taking place within his company. Played in this movie by Matt Damon, it highlights the courage it took him to approach the FBI and do the right thing in ratting out his bosses.
Too many people see something bad going down at work and will look the other way. Whether it is speaking up against domestic abuse, keeping your boss in check, or reporting criminal activity, there will be times in life when you are asked to do the right thing.
Unfortunately, Whitacre makes the mistake of doing the wrong thing a little later on, and in the end gets himself in trouble with the very people he is helping: the FBI. But if you can be inspired to him up until that point, then he could quite well help you become a better man. It would make all his jail time mean something to him.
When you take someone like Bill Murray and make him a better man by the end of the movie, there must be something for the rest of us. He plays Frank Cross, the modern day version of Ebeneezer Scrooge, a selfish media executive who looks out primarily for number one. Through a series of funny encounters with spirits, he gets to take a look at his past, present and future to make decisions about who he is going to become.
As with the original adaptation, he becomes a changed man by the end of the story, dishing out generosity and love wherever he goes. You may not get visited by spirits anytime soon, but perhaps your life could do with some examination to see how you can become a bigger and better person. It apparently made an impact on Murray, who recently crashed a bachelor party to dispense some wise advice.
The Karate Kid
If you grew up in the 80s then you had fun with the mantra “Wax on, Wax off,” taken from the original Karate Kid movies. With a mentor like Mr. Miyagi, anyone could become a better man, and that is what happens to Daniel when he learns from this martial arts master.
When we are open to listening to the wise ones, we learn things that will help us when we face our greatest moments of adversity. The challenge is that some of those teachings can come through menial experiences and laborious lessons, which was of great frustration to Daniel, who just wanted to go out and take on those who had bullied him. In time he realizes the purpose and goes on to earn respect, kicking Johnny’s (the bully) butt in a local martial arts tournament.
It’s A Wonderful Life
Another Christmas movie classic that can show us how to be a better man, and again it involves paranormal activity and a slightly unstable main character. George Bailey (played by James Stewart) tries everything that he can to be there for his kids, but reaches a point at which suicide seems like the only possible outcome.
Unlike in Scrooged, the angel in this movie encourages George to look back over his life at all the great things that he has done for people, the ways that he has proved his value above and beyond a paycheck. When men realize that they have value beyond the dollars in their bank account, they often become new and better people.
The Bucket List
If you are living your life day to day and nothing seems to be happening, perhaps the Bucket List can inspire you to make a change. Two men, played by Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, are facing imminent death due to terminal illness. They decide, together, that they are going to fulfill all the ambitions on their bucket list, a list of things that they want to do before they die.
Edward (Nicholson) is the tycoon with all the money who discovers Carter’s (Freeman) bucket list and offers to finance the trip. Both characters go through personal revelations that allow them to become better, and at the end of the movie it is Edward who shares how helping someone fulfill his bucket list gave him the best few months of his life. Perhaps helping someone with their bucket list, or fulfilling your own, will help you feel like a better man.
The Life Of Brian
Monty Python’s movies have always bordered on the ridiculous, making us laugh at the most inane gags, causing us to question the sanity of British humor. Amongst the insanity are pearls of wisdom, songs that sit and make us think about life. If you were to choose one that could make you question your attitude towards life’s experiences, it would probably be the Life Of Brian.
Controversial for its depiction of a savior by the name of Brian, it is a film full of plenty of moments of laughter. And then there is the song that has us whistling away in our darkest moments: “Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life”. In the movie, the song is blasted out by a number of men who are hanging up on crosses, the message being that no matter what is happening in our life, we can always find a bright side to it.
Despite his appearance to others, Forrest Gump is a man of extraordinary wisdom. He is a fantastic storyteller, humble, honest, unpretentious, and keeps most viewers glued to the screen as his adventure unfolds. Throughout his story he offers little pearls of wisdom that help each and every one of us as we navigate through life’s murky waters. Here is just a small sampling of his greatest lines.
“Don’t be a feather in the wind. Take ownership of your life.”
“And cause I was a gazilionaire, and I liked doing it so much, I did it for fun!”
“My momma said you always gotta put the past behind you before you move on.”
Watch the film and you will see many more of the gems jumping out at you. You can decide whether they mean something to you and use them, or you can toss them out and listen to your own inner wisdom.