Everybody has that moment in their lives when your basic belief system is questioned or changed. Could be about race or sexual orientation. Could also be about who you are and what place do you have in the world. Could also be as simple as what you want to do for fun. Decisions on major as well as minor issues define you. During these crazy times, true colors are coming out. Peoples minds on several subjects are changing for better or worse. We all have that pivotal moment. These are my Top 10 Mind-Altering Experiences For Characters in Movies.
10. Michael Douglas as U.S. Drug Czar Robert Wakefield (“Traffic”):
Fighting the war on drugs is useless. Some people cannot get their heads around this absolute truth. In director Steven Soderbergh’s classic movie “Traffic”, the filmmaker presents the most unlikely character ever to understand this fact. Michael Douglas plays Robert Wakefield, the appointed U.S. Drug Czar in charge of defeating the drug problem. Good luck. The hard nosed politician gets hit in the face with reality when he has to see his daughter and her fellow rich friends doing any drug they can get their hands on, eventually becoming a heroine addict. Actor Topher Grace gives one of the best monologues ever when he explains to a crazed Michael Douglas about ‘THIS PLACE’ when the old man is disgusted his daughter could be inside a ghetto tenement. ‘THIS PLACE’ is where the rich kids buy drugs and trying to shun instead of understand addiction is a moment Robert Wakefield has to come to terms with in order to support the daughter he loves.
9. Warren Beatty as Jay Billington Bulworth (“Bulworth”):
Sometimes you just have to say F**k-It before life finally becomes worth living. In the political satire “Bulworth”, Warren Beatty plays the titular character. As a longtime corrupt California senator that does whatever the corporations paying for his campaign say, the senator is tired of the Bull-Crap. At the end of his rope when it comes to an inner consciousness, Jay Bulworth sets up a hitman to kill him within a few days. With death eminent, Bulworth throws caution to the wind and starts telling it like it is on the campaign trail. He pisses off everyone afraid of honesty and at the same time inspires a nation full of intelligent yet suppressed by the rich citizens to speak up. When a politician isn’t afraid to insult the Jews during a Hollywood party, you can tell that guy does not care about speaking his mind because it’s true.
8. Charles Drake as Dr. Raymond Sanderson (“Harvey”):
The most charming crazy person in film history has got to be Jimmy Stewart in “Harvey”. The titular character is the nicest guy in the neighborhood, constantly inviting any stranger in sight over to his house for dinner. The weird part, his best friend is an invisible six-foot tall bunny rabbit named Harvey. While some find the old drunk charming, most think Jimmy Stewart is batshit crazy. His family even sends him into an insane asylum, which is where Dr. Raymond Sanderson (Charles Drake) is tasked with ‘Correcting’ the kind man. When Stewart stumbles out of the facility, Dr. Sanderson goes after the old man. That is when the lightbulb goes off. During a conversation in the alley after a wonderful time at the town pub, Stewart explains how he met his friend Harvey. This chat makes the Doc rethink his assumptions as far as patients being a statistic when they are actually human beings just like the rest of us.
7. Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker (“Star Wars”):
What other life-changing moment could possibly happen to a person that would be bigger than learning about the power of ‘The Force’? Luke Skywalker in “Star Wars” is a young farm hand before becoming entangled in an intergalactic war against the vicious empire. After being approached by his future teacher Obi-Wan Kenobi, the kid realizes that he has the power of the force. Talk about a mind-job by finding out that you are destined to be one of if not the most powerful people in the history of the universe. Sign me up for that destiny. On second thought, perhaps not.
6. Olivier Gourmet as Olivier (“The Son”):
Being able to forgive is tough for anyone. Forgiving somebody responsible and even embracing them when they have taken that which is most beloved is almost impossible. In the masterful Dardenne Brothers film “The Son”, Olivier is a meticulous carpentry teacher at a French school. He often teaches troubled youths in the trade of woodworking. One day the reclusive instructor is assigned a juvenile delinquent named Francis. Olivier initially denies to teach the kid under any circumstances. There is a reason why he has such hatred for a kid that does not even know who this teacher is. Reluctantly and with pressure from the school, Olivier takes on the full of anger Francis to teach him. What Francis did, and I will let you discover that, would have ruined most people’s lives. What Olivier does by teaching instead of retaliating shows how the past cannot be changed.
5. Tom Cruise as Jerry Maguire (“Jerry Maguire”):
An absolute closer, Tom Cruise as“Jerry Maguire” is the best in the business when it comes to sports agents. Most of the top ballers use Maguire, and all of the executives behind the scenes he’s on a first name basis with. Suddenly the son of a hockey player begging Jerry to stop his concussed father from playing makes the rich agent have an epiphany, this business is inhumane. He writes a manifesto about how his agency needs to be more kind to the clients. This promptly causes his being fired. From there he is different. He dumps his hot shot, sexy as hell fiancee and eventually falls in love with a single mom who has never flown first class in her life. Jerry Maguire is a perfect example of throwing away being a douche bag and becoming a good human being no matter the financial and class-status it costs. Even if Jerry is still kind of a cocky a-hole.
4. Bertil Guve & Pernilla Allwin as Brother and Sister (“Fanny & Alexander”):
Oh, rich kids. They have it so good that they often are not exposed to the bad stuff. In director Ingmar Bergman’s masterpiece “Fanny & Alexander”, the young bucks get a look way too soon at what real life evil looks like. Taking place in early 20th century Sweden, “Fanny & Alexander” features two children that have it made. For the first twenty-plus-minutes of this picture the kids celebrate the holidays with parents that love them and an exquisite wait staff waiting on their every need. Yes there are transgressions in the family, particularly there fun-loving uncle screwing every handmaid he sets his eyes on. But they do not understand that because there is so much joy in the house. Then the tragedy happens. Their father dies suddenly and the mother is distraught to be a young widow. Out of pure desperation, momma remarries to the families’ Catholic Priest. This guy is an evil S.O.B. that is not afraid to torture these kids all in ‘THE NAME OF GOD’ not because it is justified, but simply because he can. While there is a somewhat happy ending, “Fanny & Alexander” is the story of kids being confronted with real evil in the world years before they should.
3. Edward Norton as Derek Vinyard (“American History X”):
To this day I do not get it. Racial stereotyping is one thing. My personal favorite is that white people don’t know how to season their food (funny because it’s true). Being an actual racist that adamantly hates a culture of people because they exist makes zero sense. At least gun owners have an argument albeit weak to stand on. Racist have literally zero arguments to claim they are better than any other culture that has even a sliver of validity. Edward Norton’s character in “American History X” learns that because he is forced to. Derek Vinyard is a high ranking figure in the Neo-natzi movement (Side note: ‘FUCK YOU NEO-NATZI A-HOLES!’). While yes Derek’s car was being robbed by two black men, the guy has to literally curbside one of them because he hates blacks so much. In prison Derek slowly learns that those with darker complexion are just like us lite skinned folk and hatred accomplishes nothing. The lesson comes at a cost with a tragic event at the end, but the lesson of treating every human being with respect is incredibly important.
2. Rufus Sewell as Richard Murdoch, Maybe? (“Dark City”):
SPOILER ALERTS ON THIS ONE: There have been plenty of Sci-Fi realization movies throughout the years that blow a characters mind. “The Matrix” and “Total Recall” come to mind. But when it comes to mind altering, I have got to give it to the cult classic “Dark City”. Rufus Sewell plays Richard Murdoch. Or perhaps, its Jack, John or Frank. Imagine waking up in the bathroom of a hotel with a dead girl in the other room and you have no idea who or where you are. Welcome to this guy’s life. Murdoch is absolutely clueless and also trapped in a world in which it is always nighttime. Who is he and why are there a bunch of bald albino’s in trench coats chasing him? Turns out he’s on a floating structure in space where aliens are analyzing humans. The realization Murdoch achieves is that he has the same mental-type powers as the creatures from another world. At its heart, “Dark City” is about coming to the understanding that you can and will not be suppressed. Even if that message is in a Sci-Fi flick.
1. Denzel Washington as Joe Miller (“Philadelphia”):
I will continue to say this in my lists and reviews until the day I die. Why in the world does a person dislike gay people? I am straight, yet how does my sexual orientation or gender identity have anything to do with being a good person? How does whatever a person decides to do with their genitals affect you? It’s just sex people, no matter how it is done. A lesson learned by Denzel Washington’s character in “Philadelphia”. With AIDS being a big topic in the early 90’s the idea of being gay was not cool, particularly in big business. When a top litigator played by Tom Hanks contracts the disease and is fired, he reaches out to his homophobic co-worker Joe Miller (Denzel Washington) to help in a lawsuit centered around being fired illegally. At first Miller is hesitant, even afraid to touch Hanks. Then, as the case goes on, his mind is opened to several portions of the gay community. While yes the gay’s are thought of as ‘Different’ from many ‘Normal’ people in society, the character Joe Miller realizes they are just the same as the rest of us. Going to a gay Halloween party is pretty much the same as a straight people hosted party. Only difference, the homosexuals are having way more fun with life. A lesson Joe Miller has to learn in order to put his bigotry aside.