One of the best elements when it comes to cinema is how one movie can change the way you think, not just overall but also in small ways. It does not always have to be a dramatic piece. Mindless action movies can do the same. A great movie to a person, no matter the genre, can re-direct a person’s thinking during a week as well as have a life-long impact. These are my Top 10 Mind Changing Movies of all time. Once again not a Top 10 Best Movies overall. I have excluded documentaries here in favor of fictional films.
10. “Drive” (2011):
I have never cared about cars. As long as it gets me to where I need to go then whatever. No disrespect to those that do, but the desire to be behind the wheel never hit a nerve for me. Ryan Gosling as a badass in a scorpion labeled jacket made me understand. There have been countless movies centered around cars and amazing car chase sequences (“The French Connection” anyone?). What separates Nicolas Winding Refn’s Cannes Film Festival winner “Drive” is the fact that the slick car does not matter. Yes a Ferrari is sexy, but it is still just a car. While not mind changing for me personally, “Drive” did provide clarity to the reason why some love going fast. As an advocate for automated cars, I understand why people want to get going on the road.
9. “Fantasia” (1940):
Disney got weird real quick when they went with their old school Operatic musical “Fantasia”. Perhaps the oddest film in the animated cannon, Walt Disney took a risk on a concept based on a series of musical numbers that range from the silly to the macabre. Mickey Mouse releasing an army of brooms is the pinnacle of this episodic classic. A ballet of dancing hippo’s mixed with a demonic creature raising out of the shadow world of a mountain are simply a few of the moments that make “Fantasia” must see children’s viewing. The mindless children films Disney, as well as other companies, put out every year are fine. They’re kids. “Fantasia” was the first one to actually make them think no matter the age.
8. “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” (2004):
Love is the most important emotion in my personal opinion. Losing love is the worst thing possible. For years I wanted to forget a great love, no matter the length. What “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”teaches you is that there should be no regrets. Mistakes as well as growth must take place in life. Romances that fail can be awful as well as positive in different ways. This unique sci-fi drama involves a breakup between stars Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet. A technology firm has invented the ability to erase certain memories. Carrey finds out that his ex-love has done just that and erased him from her life. In anger, Carrey decides to do the exact same thing. The rest of the movie takes place mostly in the man’s own mind during a night long erasing process as we see a relationship blossom then fail. Once he realizes what is happening and tries to hold onto her image, the man’s mind is changed both figuratively as well as literally.
7. “Tokyo Story” (1953):
The late Yasujiro Ozu is considered by many as the finest Japanese filmmaker of all time. At the top of the pyramid is his 1953 masterpiece“Tokyo Story”. Ozu was known for being a very meditative storyteller, shooting most scenes with the camera at the height of a person sitting on a Japanese Tatami mat. What makes “Tokyo Story” his most mind changing film is how the two main characters come to the realization that they no longer have a purpose. An old couple living in the country side travel to visit their children and grandchildren in the city. Unfortunately the children they spent years raising are too busy to accommodate mom and pop. A couple centered around family no longer knows the world they have been accustomed to.
6. “Synecdoche, New York” (2008):
Having already established himself as a batshit crazy writer of off the wall classics like “Being John Malkovich” and “Adaptation”, Charlie Kaufman got into the directors chair with “Synecdoche, New York”. The ensemble piece starring the late Philip Seymour Hoffman was named by Roger Ebert as the best film of the 21st century. “Synecdoche” is a tough piece to explain. The basic concept is a struggling theater director recreates a life sized replica of New York inside a warehouse for his opus play. If that concept isn’t crazy enough, wait until he meets himself. The biggest aspect of “Synecdoche” is in its overall theme looking at how we as humans compartmentalize things. People, places, and experiences all have their unique spot in the file cabinet of the mind.
5. “Princess Mononoke” (1997):
I cannot speak for the culture in which the genre is from, but Japanese Anime is widely considered a geek culture staple in America. Most are all about quick cuts and nonsensical editing. Then there is Hiyao Miyazaki, the all-time master of animation. His 1997 masterpiece “Princess Mononoke” was the first time I saw an anime movie to actually take as seriously as adult cinema. On the journey to find a cure for a curse, Ashitaka finds himself in the middle of a battle between the forest gods and a mining colony. Yes, this is complete fantasy. But the visuals are outstanding and the underlying theme of protecting the environment is a great message for the youth.
4. “Aliens” (1986):
While many consider the original movie the best, director James Cameron took the franchise to a whole new level with one of the best sequels ever in “Aliens”. The close-contact horror space expedition Ridley Scott made with “Alien” was expanded to a whole new level in this amazing sci-fi action saga pitting marines against these sneaky little horde of black creatures with tongues that have teeth and acid for blood. The mind changing part was a character with one name, Ripley. Sigourney Weaver’s portrayal of the titular character changed the minds of action fans that were convinced the ultimate badass has to be a man. Being one of the last survivors against the relentless Xenomorphs, she steps out of a cargo hanger and yells the classic line “GET AWAY FROM HER YOU BITCH!” While not the first female hero by any means, “Aliens” made sure you do not fuck with Ripley.
3. “The Tree of Life” (2011):
When it comes to head cases in cinematic history, look no further than director Terrence Malik. A legendary recluse and nightmare on set, Malick has created some of the most beautiful imagery to hit the silver screen. The pinnacle for me was “The Tree of Life”, the last American movie to win the prestigious Palm D’Or grand prize at the biggest world movie festival in Cannes. This is not a movie for everyone. Picture an art exhibit as a movie. The 20 minute sequence showing the creation of the universe that includes dinosaurs in the middle of a tale about a 1950’s family that ends with a vision of an eventual heaven is, for lack of a better word, out there. What makes Malick’s masterpiece starring Brad Pitt such a mind changing journey is that it highlights the importance of cherishing every moment. The theme of humanities place in the history of time is the overlying thought, but it is the singular images of life that remind us to never take things for granted.
2. “25th Hour” (2002):
A big thing about Spike Lee’s hall of fame film career is his unrelenting series of racially charged movies centered around the African-American community. While he is not wrong by any stretch, some that he made throughout the years are phenomenal and others are angry “SCREW YOU WHITE PEOPLE!” nonsense with no purpose. What changed my mind with him was what I argue is his second best picture to this day (“Do the Right Thing” is his great one) in “25th Hour”, a movie ironically centered around mostly white people. The story of three lifelong friends, a teacher, Wall Street broker, and Heroine dealer, “25th Hour” is about the last night before Montgomery Brogan (Edward Norton) goes to jail for seven years having been caught dealing. All of this is set with the backdrop of 9/11. It does not just change ones mind about the racially charged director in Spike, it reminds one the importance of friendship as we grow apart in life.
1. “To Kill a Mockingbird” (1962):
It would be great if racism was eradicated. That is never going to happen. All we can do is try to understand and grow from it. Based on the famous Harper Lee novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird” is the best example of why you should change your mentality and do what is right. Gregory Peck won Oscar gold as Atticus Finch, a small town lawyer in a racially charged community known for berating the poor black community in the era of the Great Depression. When a black handyman named Tom Robinson is wrongly accused of raping a white woman, Finch elects to defend the uneducated man against a jury of white people who call finch a “N-word lover”. Atticus stands pat because he is moral. All of this is told through the lens of his young daughter. We will always have our differences. “To Kill a Mockingbird” makes you realize that each person deserves the right to breath free air.