Movies: Choose Self-Discovery, Inspirational, Romantic, or Children's (Family)
Movies to Watch:
The movies listed below are in the following categories:
- Self-Discovery (i.e. Discovering Your Destiny)
- Inspirational (i.e. Overcoming Great Challenges)
- Romantic (Finding Your Soul Mate)
- Children’s (For Young Children and Teenagers – Family Viewing)
Section 1: Self-Discovery Movies
The Sound of Music (1965, Musical)
A film starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer. Based on a true story. An Austrian nun, Maria, falls in love with an upper class widower, Captain von Trapp, with seven children. The photography is stunning, especially the scenes of the Austrian Alps. Filmed on location in Salzburg, Austria. The setting is Austria in the late 1930’s just as the German Nazis are taking over Austria. When her life becomes too complicated, Maria tries to hide from her destiny by wanting to take her vows and remain within the convent; however, God, as the Mother Superior explains, has other plans for her. An excellent film that will appeal very much to women. If you disregard the glossy Hollywood-type finish that is given to this film and realize that it is based on a true story, you will realize that this nun’s incredible bravery (as well as the nuns within the convent) helped saved all of the lives of the von Trapp family. (The Nazis had planned to remove Captain von Trapp from his family and force him to join the navy of the Third Reich.)
White Squall (1996)
A film starring Jeff Bridges and Scott Wolf. Based on a true story. Shot on location in St. Vincent and the Grenadines as well as other exotic locations throughout the Caribbean. Amazing scenery with excellent acting. The time period of the film is the 1960’s. A group of young American men have signed up to attend school for one year aboard an old wooden ship (a ship that has masts and cloth sails and looks like it has sailed the seas for hundreds of years). In addition to their regular class work, they must work together to learn how to sail as their lives depend upon it. Together they help each other discover life and what destinies lie before them. An extremely powerful film that will appeal very much to men (young and old).
American Beauty (1999)
A film starring Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening. The time period is the late 1990’s in a typical American suburb. An aging middle-class man comes to the realization that his entire life is in a “rut”. He is merely existing, rather than living. He hates his job, his marriage has fallen apart, and his daughter hates him. Whatever dreams or aspirations he had, have passed him by. One day he simply decides that he is taking control over his life, regardless of what others think of him. He decides to opt out of the typical middle-class lifestyle and live his life however he sees fit. Some scenes are very funny, especially the interaction with his employer who hates his new rebellious attitude and his wife who despises him for his free thinking manner. He vividly shows that it’s never too late to take control over your destiny; and being “real” to yourself is all that matters in the end. An excellent film that will appeal very much to men, especially those who are self-examining their lives.
Shadows in the Sun (2005)
Filmed on location in Tuscany, Italy, this film stars Harvey Keitel, Joshua Jackson, and Giancarlo Giannini. The time period is 2005 in a modern setting. Jeremy Taylor (Joshua Jackson) is a young successful editor for a large publishing company in London, England. Jeremy’s boss decides to send him to Italy to find the reclusive author Weldon Parish (Harvey Keitel) and persuade Weldon to sign a book deal. Jeremy’s life is turned upside down upon his arrival in Weldon’s small, but picturesque village in Tuscany. Very quickly Jeremy is forced to examine his own life and face the fact that he is merely existing in London: his seemingly perfect life is far from perfect, as he is an extremely uptight young man, very much alone and unhappy. Eventually Jeremy realizes that his real passion in life is to become a writer, which means making some very difficult decisions. Jeremy decides to give up his “safe” life in London, and stay in Tuscany with Weldon and his new friends for as long as it takes to put his life in order. This film would appeal in particular to men, but would also be of interest to women.
Section 2: Inspirational Movies
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
A film starring James Stewart, Donna Reed, and Lionel Barrymore. The setting is a small town in New York state in the 1930’s. It’s a story about George Bailey’s attempt to use his Savings and Loan business to improve the lives of everyone in the community, rather than exploit everyone, like the owner of the local bank. An excellent film whose message never grows old. At one point George Bailey is shown what his town would have become if he had not been born. It’s a positive message to each of us, for no matter what our station in life, we all count. The central theme of this movie is that one man (or woman) can make a difference in the world. It’s an uplifting film with many positive messages. The love that George Bailey and his wife have for their family and community makes them role models for every man and woman to aspire to follow; and their town is the type of community that most of us should live in, but few ever come close to living in. It is a film that will appeal to both men and women (and even children).
Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
A film starring Edmund Gwenn, John Payne, and Natalie Wood. The setting is New York City during the 1940’s. The story is about a department store Santa Claus who is arrested for believing that he is the one and only Santa Claus. He has to prove his mental sanity or face a life behind bars in a mental institution. It is a powerful film with excellent acting. It deals with individual rights and freedoms and how society treats those who do not want to conform to its standards. The court room drama where Santa Claus is put on trial makes a total mockery of the so-called justice system which could even allow such a trial to take place. This film will appeal to men, women, and children.
A film starring Charlton Heston and Stephen Boyd. The setting is the Holy Land during the days of the Roman empire. The story is about a young man who is wrongly accused of killing a Roman official. He and his family are arrested. Their possessions are confiscated and he is sold into slavery. It is about one man’s incredible struggle to regain his freedom. Some of the action scenes like the chariot race at the coliseum in Rome and the sea battle are spectacular. It is an amazing film that will appeal very much to men.
Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
A film starring Peter O’Toole and Alec Guiness. Based on a true story. The setting is the Middle East during the early part of the 1900’s. It is a grand film with desert scenes that are visually stunning. It is about a famous Englishman (played by Peter O’Toole) who united several Arab nations to free themselves from Turkish rule. It is a film that will appeal very much to men.
A film starring Mel Gibson as the Scotsman, William Wallace. The setting is Scotland in the late 14th Century. It is a tale about the Scottish peoples fight for freedom from oppressive British rule. William Wallace unwittingly joins the fight to free Scotland from the English when his new wife is brutally murdered by an English nobleman. An action-packed film that will appeal very much to men.
A film starring Joaquin Phoenix and Russell Crowe (who plays the Roman General, Maximus). The setting is Europe during the reign of the Roman Empire. Maximus is betrayed, his family executed, and he is sold into slavery. It’s a story about one man’s tremendous determination to put his life together, avenge the murder of his family, and put an end to the Roman emperor’s cruel and brutal treatment of others. The Romans were famous for their love of spectacular, violent games, the most famous of which involved the gladiators who fought each other to the death before thousands of spectators. Maximus rises through the ranks to become Rome’s number one gladiator, earning the admiration of the Roman people, but earning the wrath and hatred of its mad emperor. An action-packed film that will appeal very much to men.
Under the Tuscan Sun (2003)
This movie is based on the book (memoir) “Under the Tuscan Sun”, by Frances Mayes. It stars Diane Lane and Sandra Oh, and is filmed primarily on location in Tuscany, Italy. Other locations include Florence, Rome, and Positano. The scenery in this movie is spectacular and so is the central theme of the movie: you can change your life and your destiny for the better! Frances Mayes (Diane Lane) is a very successful, happily married writer living in San Francisco. Then without any warning, her entire life is turned upside down, as her husband divorces her, leaving her for another woman. Forced to sell her home as part of the divorce settlement, she relocates to a shabby, run-down rental apartment building. Systematically she falls into a deep depression with no way out.
Fearing for her friend’s sanity and wellbeing, Patti (Sandra Oh) convinces Frances to take a vacation to Tuscany, Italy. While in Tuscany Frances comes across a run-down villa for sale. Throwing “caution to the wind”, she buys the villa and decides to set up a new life for herself in Italy. After much hard work and effort, Frances’ life transforms itself into the very life she had wished for. The theme of this movie is very powerful and extremely positive. It serves as an inspiration to anyone who has to “restart” his or her life. Instead of wallowing in depression and self-pity in San Francisco, Frances decided to follow her heart and try to put her life back on track even if it meant going thousands of miles to a strange country. In her new home in Tuscany she was able to create a far more suitable and happier life than she had ever known. This movie will appeal in particular to women, yet the theme is applicable for men as well.
Section 3: Finding Your Soul Mate (Romantic films)
Gone With the Wind (1939)
A film starring Clark Gable (who plays Rhett Butler) and Vivien Leigh (who plays Scarlett O’Hara). The setting is the American South during the American Civil War (the 1860’s). It is about a woman (Scarlett O’Hara) who loses everything during the Civil War and through sheer determination regains all of her previous wealth and social standing, if not more. This drama has excellent acting and lavish sets. It is an amazing film that will remain a classic for many years to come. Few women on screen, if any, have come close to matching the strength and determination of Scarlett O’Hara. She would never be described as a member of the weaker sex! Rhett Butler is the man who falls in love with her and will do anything to have her in his life. It is a film that will appeal very much to women.
A film starring Humphrey Bogart (who plays Rick) and Ingrid Bergman (who plays Ilse). The setting is Casablanca (Northern Africa) during the Second World War (the 1940’s). Rick is the disillusioned owner of a local bar. He spends his life drowning out the memories of Ilse, his former lover. The last time he saw her was in Paris before the war broke out. They had planned on spend their lives together, but she unexpectedly left him with no explanation. Then one evening who walks into his bar but Ilse. They fall in love again, but she is married to the freedom fighter, Victor Lazlo, who is wanted by the Nazis. Both Ilse and her husband must escape from the Nazis otherwise they will face death. Only Rick can help them. The acting is excellent. This is a true classic that will never get old. It is shot in black and white film which helps give it a distinct edge. It is a film that will appeal to both women and men.
Dr. Zhivago (1965)
A film starring Omar Sharif, Julie Christie, and Alec Guiness. The setting is Russia before and during the Russian Revolution (1917). The story is about a man and woman who fall in love just as their country is undergoing civil war. Their lives are thrown in complete disarray and they must fight for survival each step of the way. Their courage and resolve are incredible. Some of the scenes such as Moscow in the winter are truly stunning. The acting is excellent. It is a film that will appeal very much to women.
Romeo and Juliet (1968)
A film starring Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting. The setting is an Italian city (Verona) in the 1590’s. Two wealthy powerful families, the Montagues and the Capulets, are locked in a constant fight against each other. Amongst so much hatred a young man and woman meet and fall in love. It is love at first sight and the passion that they feel for each other is something few couples could even come close to experiencing! This couple sets the standard for all relationships! When it was first released it caused a scandal because up until then all plays dealing with Romeo and Juliet had been played by older actors and actresses. This film, however, decided to stick to the actual story which gave it an incredible impact. It is a film that will appeal very much to women (and to men who are romantic at heart).
Somewhere in Time (1980)
A film starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour. The setting takes places at a beautiful American lakeside resort, the Grand Hotel in Michigan, in the years 1980 and 1912. The story is about a man who falls in love with a woman whom he sees in an old, antique photograph on display at the Grand Hotel. He is immediately drawn to her and senses that he knew her at some point in time. He begins to do research on her and discovers that she was a famous actress who stayed at that same hotel in 1912. The more he finds out about her and the hotel, the more he comes to realize that he knew her in a past lifetime. He undergoes self-hypnosis to take himself back to 1912 to uncover the past and to find her. However, the world that he uncovers is so captivating that he does not want to return to 1980. This is a love story that shows what true love is all about, and the happiness that you can have being with your soul mate. It is a film that will appeal very much to women (and to men who are romantic at heart).
A film starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Rutger Hauer. The setting is Europe in the Medieval Ages. It is a love story about a young man and woman who have been cursed by an evil bishop. When the woman had refused the advances made to her by this evil bishop, the bishop places a curse on both of them: She is a hawk by day and a woman only at night; whereas, he is man in the day, and a wolf at night. The bishop’s curse ensures that they can never be together. The film is beautifully photographed with an amazing depiction of life in the Medieval Ages. It is a film that will appeal very much to both women and men.
Letters to Juliet (2010)
This is a film starring Amanda Seyfried (Sophie), Christopher Egan (Charlie), Gael Garcia Bernal (Victor), Vanessa Redgrave (Claire), and Franco Nero (Lorenzo). It was filmed on location in New York City and the Tuscany region of Italy, primarily in nearby Verona and Siena. The premise of this movie is about finding true love: Claire was a young 15 year-old English girl who left a letter 50 years ago at the House of Juliet in Verona asking for help in finding her true love, Lorenzo. Such a place does actually exist – the Casa di Giulietta is the legendary famous residence of Juliet (the true love of Romeo from Shakespeare’s writings). Sophie accidentally finds Claire’s letter and writes to her, encouraging her to not give up on her quest to be with Lorenzo. Even though 50 years has passed, Claire embarks on a remarkable journey to Verona to find Lorenzo. It is an amazing story of courage, determination, and passion. Even at the young age of 15, Claire knew that Lorenzo (a boy of 17 years) was her soul mate and partner for life. The basic premise of this movie is: don’t settle for “second best” in anything you do or want, especially when it comes to romantic relationships. Against a stunning backdrop of Tuscan scenery, this movie is well filmed and has an extremely positive theme. Such a movie would definitely appeal to women, but also to men with a romantic side. The loyalty and undying passion that Claire felt towards Lorenzo (and vice versa) would make anyone envious of such a relationship.
Section 4: Children’s (Family) Movies
The Wizard of Oz (1939)
A film starring Judy Garland (who plays Dorothy). The setting is a magical country in a faraway mythical place. One day Dorothy is caught in a tornado in Kansas which transports her to a magical destination. She has to overcome tremendous obstacles to find her way to the Emerald City (via the yellow brick road) in order to petition the Wizard to allow her to go back home to Kansas. Along the way she is joined by the Lion, the Tin Man, and the Scarecrow who also want the Wizard to solve their problems. This is a classic film, meant to entertain children, but it contains enough sophisticated themes that even adults can enjoy it (for example, the theme that each of us should be self-reliant and not depend upon others to do what we can do ourselves). It is a film that will appeal very much to children.
Mary Poppins (1964)
A film starring Julie Andrews (who plays Mary Poppins) and Dick Van Dyke. The setting is London, England during the turn of the previous century (the early 1900’s). This is a Walt Disney classic that will never grow old. It dwells on several themes, one of which is to not allow money to consume you to the point where nothing else matters. The parents of the children in the story are so self-absorbed in their own lives that they have completely neglected their children. The parents hire a nanny, Mary Poppins, to look after their children. Instead of just keeping the children out of the parents sight (a common practice that has been very prevalent in many families), the nanny is able to restore the family to what it should be: Two parents that take an active interest in each other and their children’s lives. It is a film that will appeal very much to children.
The Moon Spinners (1964)
A film starring Hayley Mills and Peter McEnery. The setting is the isle of Crete in the Mediterranean in the early 1960’s. A young English woman is staying with her aunt at the Moon Spinner Inn where they befriend a young Englishman. They soon discover that this man is on a mission to clear his name, as he claims that he was wrongly convicted of being a jewel thief. He is on the island to find the real jewel thief. The young woman has to choose between following her “gut” feeling towards him or listening to the warnings from the adults around her. Very quickly, she finds that when she follows her “gut” feeling and decides to help him find the real criminals, her previously quiet life is plunged into intrigue and adventure. The encounter with this man has changed her life dramatically. She has to find the strength within herself to find the truth and to do the right thing. It is an amazing movie that combines adventure, suspense, romance, incredible scenery, and a Hitchcock-like plot. This movie will appeal very much to teenagers (both male and female) as well as adults.
City of Ember (2008)
This science-fiction movie stars Bill Murray (as Mayor Cole), Saoirse Ronan (Lina Mayfleet), Harry Treadaway (Doon Harrow), Tim Robbins (Loris Harrow), and Martin Landau (Sul). The two main characters are Lina Mayfleet and Doon Harrow, a teenage girl and boy who live in the city of Ember: an underground complex built deep into the earth’s core, a city so huge that it contains highrises. Floodlights provide an ongoing source of light and everything is powered by a massive generator. Ember was built many years ago in the midst of a nuclear war, and was designed to last exactly 200 years at which point the earth’s radiation levels should have diminished enough to permit people to leave their underground complex and return to the surface. Unfortunately, over the passage of time this fact is not passed on to the city’s inhabitants.
After 247 years of being in operation, the city is experiencing ongoing black-outs and the food supply is running out. The potential for disaster is evident, but only Lina and Doon seem to want to find a solution to fix the problem. They soon discover that their supposed “perfect” society is being manipulated by the corrupt mayor and police force both of whom demand blind obedience to authority (i.e. them). Neither the mayor nor the police are capable of taking the necessary action to save their city from pending disaster. Very quickly both Lina and Doon discover as well what happens to those who question the status quo: both the mayor and the police want the two teenagers silenced at whatever cost even though both are trying to save their city from imminent danger. Instead of being hailed as heroes, both teenagers are labelled as traitors, and hunted by the police. This movie has a lot of adventure and suspense which would be of interest to children (boys and girls), as well as teenagers and even adults.
The Harry Potter Film Series (2001 – 2011)
This remarkable film series consists of eight different films, all based on the seven Harry Potter novels by J.K. Rowling, each chronicling one year in Harry’s life. These eight fantasy-adventure films are as follows:
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (released in 2001)
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 (2010)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 (2011)
All of these films star Daniel Radcliffe (as Harry Potter), Rupert Grint (as Ron Weasley), and Emma Watson (as Hermione Granger). Harry and his two friends are all students at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in England. They are young wizards learning how to survive in a world of wizards (who have magical powers) and muggles (humans with no magical powers). The main plot of this series of films centers around Harry Potter’s ongoing quest to thwart and eventually destroy the evil wizard, known as Lord Voldemort.
Basically, it is a battle between the forces of good and evil with good eventually winning. The imagery within this series of films is astounding: you feel like you have been magically transported into another world full of mystical creatures and wizards. Overall the central message of this series is positive. It would appeal very much to children (both boys and girls), but also to teenagers and adults. Its mass appeal to such a vast audience is truly remarkable and makes this series unique.