Search for more Everyday Power
I love movies. Always have. One of my fondest memories is of rainy Saturday afternoons curling up on the couch next to my Dad as we watched pirate movies from the 1930s. Another is of going to drive-ins with my two sisters in the back of our station wagon with both parents in the front.
Top 10 Inspirational Movies from a true movie lover
My father always made up a bed of old army blankets and pillows so we could fall asleep during the second feature. I loved the feeling of us all being together. And what did we watch? Haley Mills in The Parent Trap, Moonraker, That Darn Cat, The Shaggy Dog, and The Absent Minded Professor. But, I was most fond of Haley Mills—she was “plucky,” always going after what she wanted. She was curious and brave.
Some movies with car chases and good and bad guys and romance are fun, but they don’t all stay with you. Those that do are the ones where the characters become better, bigger. They put their own lives and comfort on the line for the sake of the greater good.
Born into Brothels (2004, Directed by ZanaBriski and Ross Kauffman) is an independent documentary about how one person can make a huge difference in the lives of children through art and through caring. Even though I was the Co-Executive Producer, I remain inspired by the courage and tenacity of ZanaBriski and Ross Kaufmann in telling this story—which took seven years—and of the enormous difference they made in the lives of these children.
Schindler’s List (1993, Directed by Steven Spielberg) tells the story of another such hero. Oskar Schindler is a German businessman and member of the Nazi party who quietly saved thousands of Jews during WWII. He acted at risk to himself and his livelihood, and he made a difference.
In a Dream(2009, Directed by Jeremiah Zagar).I Executive Produced this documentary because the filmmakers were very young and yet, they had told a powerful story of how art and family ram up against one another; about genius and how it can sometimes destroy what we love.
Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980, Directed by Michael Apted) is the biography of Loretta Lynn, a legendary country singer who rose to fame from poverty, and is one of my go-to films. It is about doing one’s best, using one’s god given talents even if you think you aren’t good enough. It’s also about a truly good man who not only supports his woman but also thrusts her—against her will—onto the stage because he LOVES her singing. Her songs. He loves HER. How does it get any better than that?
This film was in the back of my mind when I made Who Does She Think She Is?(2008, Directed by Pamela Tanner Boll). This is a documentary about five women artistsfrom around the country who are also mothers. It asks how do you do the work you are called to do and still take care of those you love.
Norma Rae(1979, Directed by Martin Ritt) stars Sally Field as a worker in a textile mill in the Carolinas like generations before her. She has a couple of kids that were “out of wedlock” so she has a reputation. She’s married now and working; but things change when she hears a speech from a Union organizer from up north. Norma gets her courage on and does she rock it!
Speaking of strong women making the world better, I also Executive Produced She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry (2014, Directed by Mary Dore), a feature documentary about the ordinary women who launched an extraordinary movement—for women’s rights in the 1970s. We all need to see this film—to remember that there were Want Ads for Men and Women; that women could not easily get birth control; and no way were wages equal.
Rising From Ashes (2012, Directed by T.C. Johnstone) is a feature length documentary that tells a story of redemption, hope, and second chances. It is set in Rwanda, about twenty years after a horrific genocide. The film is about the rebirth of the Rwandan Cycling Team, which is comprised of people from both sides of that earlier conflict.
I watched To Kill A Mockingbird (1962, Directed by Robert Mulligan) when I was a child. It was scary. There was a very strange man hidden away in a house. But, oh I loved Scout. She was so brave. She brought Boo out into the world.And her father? He was wise. Compassionate. He was brave,too, and fought for a man nobody in their community supported. True heroes all around.
Good Will Hunting (1997, Directed by Gus Van Sant) remains one of my favorites. Local boy– with no family lives inSouthie—a close-knit working class neighborhood in Boston—this boy has a gift for mathematics. But, he runs from his gifts, wants to remain a janitor, wants to stay with his friends. With the help of a genius therapist, his fear of losing love and friendship slowly loosens. So, for me—always afraid of being alone and on my own because of following my calling—this was an important movie. But, Boston is also where we raised our sons. Love movies that draw deeply on place.
Close to The Fire (2015, Directed by Lindsay Richardson) is a film about three indigenous communities in Bangladesh, South Africa, and in Northern California, dealing with the degradation of their lands because of climate change. This is yet another film where ordinary folks band together to make their communities better—despite the odds.
On Saturdays when I was a child, I also watched Tarzan moviesfrom the 1930s and 40s starring Johnny Weissmuller. Weissmuller was gorgeous and had been a champion swimmer. I loved watching him swing through the jungle—so strong and swift. He not only spoke easily with all the animals but he protected them. And they protected him. This was the beginning of two things—my long love of swimming and my sense that we MUST get over ourselves. We must act as though all creatures matter on this planet.
A Small Good Thing (2015, Directed by Pamela Tanner Boll) asks how can we live in a better way on this planet. It is set in western Massachusetts and follows five stories of folks who have changed their lives just enough so that they are happier. You won’t be surprised to learn from A Small Good Thing that I think animals matter. Trees matter. Jungles matter. Love matters.
In thinking about this topic, I scrolled through the many lists of top 100 movies. There are few films that feature strong women. Hmmm…
Inspiring moviesmake us laugh, cry and get braver. They call on us to live in a better way. To put our differences aside.To reach out to others.
Go to see these movies—they are extraordinarily good things!