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Everything I Ever Needed to Know, I Learned From the Movies

Well, I picked up a few bits from family and school, but the movies definitely filled in all the points that they missed. Movies can uplift, entertain, and above all, inspire. Here is a list of the movies that made me think (about things other than, “why did I pay $10.00 to watch this movie?”)

10. The Adventures of Baron Munchausen

This is, in my opinion, the finest of Terry Gilliam’s many fine films. Gilliam’s adaptation of the fantastic tall tales of a bigger-than-life folk hero is a brightly-colored and movies fast-paced fantasy with little patience for realism. Baron Munchausen was a real, historical person, though the history probably had fewer violations of physics. This movie teaches us that while science can describe the world, only our imagination can give it purpose. That, and Uma Thurman makes a fantastic Venus, goddess of love.

9. Blade Runner

Think you’re too grown up for science-fiction action movies? Try this dark movie that gave modern cyberpunk fiction its distinctive color palette. Blade Runner is the highly thematic film adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s sci-fi psychological thriller “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep.” A big-screen budget, along with such huge names as Harrison Ford and Rutger Hauer, makes this movie popular, while the deeply probing questions it raises about identity and humanity make it a movie that changes the viewer forever.

8. Star Wars

Okay, so this movie franchise has been mortally over-hyped to the point that it’s easy to trivialize it. And maybe the most recent three movies didn’t live up to the expectations of the fans. But this space fantasy epic about a war against an evil empire in a far-away galaxy is really a window into the mind of George Lucas, and there’s a lot to see there. The underlying philosophy is a blend of the Eastern and Western religion and mythologies, with a healthy dose of Carl Jung for good measure.

7. Alien

Not all inspiration is bright and fluffy. Some movies can be deep looks into bad places. The classic sci-fi horror movie Alien did more than just show us that H.R. Giger’s monster designs can’t come from a sane mind. They also made us think about what scares us. Alien is a study in some of the most primal fears of mankind: isolation, darkness, spiders, and distrust. Few horror movies have even had the kind of concentrated focus that this one did.

6. Schindler’s List

This controversial movie about the work that German industrialist did in Nazi Germany to save the lives of concentration camp prisoners showed us that Steven Spielberg can do more than science fiction. It’s been criticized as overly sentimental, but whatever it does, it shows the viewer that no matter the social climate, some people will always fight to protect the weak.

5. Forest Gump

Tom Hanks performance as the quintessential wandering fool in Forest Gump is a humorous, yet biting commentary on the entire second half of the twentieth century. Forest’s unwitting involvement in the events that shaped recent history are inspiring in many ways, but the most important is that, while governments and celebrities come and go, people are what is important.

4. Unbreakable

Saying too much about this movie would be an injustice to those readers who haven’t watched it yet. That’s a common theme in all movies made by M. Night Shyamalan. Suffice it to say that this dark exploration of heroism and villainy, good and evil strikes a chord in everyone who ever wanted to be able to be the one person who could make a difference, while simultaneously showing us that we are that person.

3. The Matrix

This is another franchise that has gotten over-blown in the hype department. However, the first movie was one of the most incredible twists in the history of movies, made even more incredible in that the twist is not at the end of the movie, but near the beginning. The reality-warping nature of this movie teaches us two things. First, question everything. Second, under certain circumstances, in controlled conditions, Keanu Reeves can actually act.

2. Saving Private Ryan

This movie is one of the best examples of the current movement in war movies, a move directly away from the romanticized glory-of-battle films of previous eras. This grim, bloody story of a mission to bring a specific soldier home from the battlefields of WWII Europe succeeds in teaching a difficult lesson: that war, as necessary as it may sometimes be, is always bad.

1. Apollo 13

How many Tom Hanks/Steven Spielberg movies can I include in a single list? Apparently one more. This historical movie about the failed and nearly disastrous Apollo 13 moon-shot includes incredible moments in human courage and resourcefulness, made even more impressive in that they actually happened. What we can learn from this film is that no matter how bad the situation, you can pull through as long as you don’t give up.

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