We all have our differences in life. The world would be boring without it. We can disagree on politics, religion, and sexual preference. Yet no matter what, we are all human beings trying to make our individual lives better. One of the most enriching experiences in life is to come together and settle our disagreements. Conversation and understanding is far more valuable than anger and violence. These are my Top 10 Movies That Bring Us Together, and as always the only language I know how to tackle a global issue. This is not a list chronologically of the best overall movies, more about how the idea of becoming one nation/species.
10. “Selma” (2014):
To be honest, I did not have high expectations for “Selma”. I have always said making a movie based on Martin Luther King Jr. is the same as making a movie about Hitler. One is holistically good and an absolute leader of people (extramarital affairs aside) and the other is absolute evil. Not a lot of grey area with either historical figure, making drama hard to find. But I always give credit, director Ava DuVernay made, albeit PC as hell, a damn good dramatic movie about one of the most important moments in American history. Unless you grew up in a region that does not teach the civil rights movement, which unfortunately still exists, you must be aware of the march towards Selma, Montgomery led by MLK in 1965 during a fight for equal voting rights for African-Americans. Every year a collection of civil rights activists walk along side those from multiple race and gender classifications as one people. Hell, even George Bush did it. Needless to say our current president has yet to show up, especially in the wake of the death of John Lewis. No surprise. Still, “Selma” is an arm-and-arm portrayal of when humanity can benefit from being one.
9. “Three Kings” (1999):
Long before 9/11 or even Isis, America has been pillaging the Middle East for decades. You can deny it all you want, but if you don’t think the U.S. funded and created the Taliban then you are reading the wrong history books. “Three Kings” is the story of four army soldiers who clearly see how much B.S. the Gulf War in Iraq was. Before the American army pulls out, a crew of upset soldiers with nothing to lose and ‘Diplomatic Immunity’ go to rob one of former dictator Saddam Hussein’s gold reserves because they can. The only problem, Iraqi soldiers are exterminating all refugees against the harsh Saddam led regime as the four thieves see first hand. “Three Kings” is about deciding to help a group of helpless people while sacrificing a fortune in the process. In the end, it’s just money. A life being taken is far more important to prevent from happening.
8. “Babel” (2006):
Award winning director Alejandro G. Inarritu, known for crafting multi-cultural stories, went all out with his Oscar nominated “Babel”. If you want to keep it simple as far as explaining the plot, two white megastar actors in Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett play Richard and Susan, a troubled married couple hanging on by a thread on a trip to Morocco. That is only the tip of the iceberg. The privileged white couple has to rely on the slum-kids and families with dark skin to stay alive. Oh, and I forgot, this story involves an investigation by a Tokyo police officer as well as the Mexican illegal immigrant nanny taking care of the couple’s children half way around the world. At its core, “Babel” is about how it does not matter how much or little you have. When the shit hits the fan, we must always help one another. To quote the final words in the movies’ trailer; “IF YOU WANT TO BE UNDERSTOOD… LISTEN”.
7. “Arrival” (2016):
Most alien centric movies are about the Extra Terrestrial beings coming to earth in order to destroy us. The Denis Villeneuve directed original “Arrival”takes a different approach. This is not a high-powered action sci-fi movie. Instead it is centered around a group of experts brought in to understand the beings from another world. At the center is Amy Adams, a college linguistics professor who specializes in understanding language as opposed to seeing it as a danger. The key part to “Arrival” is that everything is cyclical whether we like it or not. As long as humans exist the same basic themes are going to take place. What we can improve is the way in which our species learns from various circumstances. An idea it takes a group of squid like alien invaders to teach us.
6. “Secrets & Lies” (1996):
“Secrets & Lies” is a complex story about, well, “Secrets & Lies”. Legendary British director Mike Leigh is known particularly for his unorthodox filmmaking style. Instead of a standard script, he gives the actors a scenario and allows them to explore the situation on their own terms. It brings characters together at the same rate the actors themselves must experience. “Secrets and Lies” is, for me, Leigh’s best. An optometrist named Hortense (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) is successful, but also haunted with the fact that she was an orphan. When her adopted parents die it is time to seek out her birth mother. To the surprise of everyone, the woman is a white uneducated factory worker. On top of that, the Purley family that Hortense is related to and never knew is dysfunctional as hell with some shocked that a black is coming into their lives. There are a mountain’s worth of racially and family charged tensions. But in the end, a mother and daughter love each other despite the past and each find a new perspective in life.
5. “To Kill a Mockingbird” (1962):
No matter your beliefs on the dark-skinned citizens, it is an undeniable truth that evil groups of white men spent time, plenty of time, lyching and mutilating members of the African-American community for decades after slavery ended. Taking place in 1930’s-era Alabama, “To Kill a Mockingbird” shows how a well respected small town lawyer can stand up for a black man that is wrongfully accused of raping a young white woman because it is the right thing to do. The community is firmly against this black man, but the intelligent Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck) refuses to let injustice stand in his defense of the uneducated handyman. The other reason this film is about bringing people together is with Atticus and his kids. The growing children do not understand why Atticus would defend a black man in a racist atmosphere. On top of that, young Scout Finch (Mary Bardham) and her group of friends are terrified of a ‘retard’ monster living at the end of the road. When Scout is attacked and nearly raped by the guy who really committed the central crime the cast off Boo Radley (Robert Duvall) comes to the rescue. “To Kill a Mockingbird” is not simply about a white standing up for a black, it is also about realizing at a young age that people who are different mentally can be far more moral than people with full mental capabilities.
Real bigots are the worst when you combine being stupid with judgmental. Sam Rockwell won a well deserved Oscar for his portrayal of a drunk, small-minded police officer in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”. If you have not seen it, “Three Billboards” is the story of a hardworking mother played by Frances McDormand who is simply pissed off. Why? Because her daughter was murdered and the local police are not working hard enough to find out who did it. Out of anger she enlists the local advertising company to put up billboards shaming the sheriffs office for everyone driving into town to see until the crime is solved. Rockwell’s Officer Dixon does not take well to this public display of criticism and the violent boozer takes out his anger on multiple victims. That also causes the angry mother to hit the police back hard, and not exactly in a justified manner. In the end, The characters realize that they have a lot more in common than previously thought and continuing hatred between one-another is pointless.
3. “Django Unchained” (2012):
Who would think a German could have anything in common with a slave. That is the question director Quentin Tarantino asks in his masterful spaghetti western “Django Unchained”. Christoph Waltz won his second Oscar as Dr. King Schultz, a bounty hunter working in the old west of 1850’s America. Along his travels Schultz teams up with our hero Django (Jamie Foxx). The doctor is disgusted by the idea of slavery, but a paycheck is a paycheck. An intelligent man that has been whipped his entire life, Django has a singular focus to retrieve his slave wife Broomhilda. This unlikely duo create what is perhaps the strangest friendship in movie history. When confronted with maniacal slave owner Calvin Candy (Leonardo DiCaprio) the black and white combination of heroes come together against racism that is so terrifyingly awful that it must be eliminated no matter the cost.
2. “Invictus” (2009):
No question Nelson Mandela is one of the greatest leaders in history. Coming out of decades of imprisonment during the white driven Apartheid regime to eventually become president, Mandela did what almost nobody could possibly do. He forgave. That led a nation full of angry dark skinned men to do the same. One of his biggest accomplishments as a leader is chronicled in director Clint Eastwood’s “Invictus”. Obviously one of the most perfect casting choices ever, Morgan Freeman plays Mandela right after being elected. A mostly black administration taking over a country ran for years by white people in South Africa is going to be tense. There were many issues to deal with. Fortunately, Mandela had the foresight to realize that there was one element in life that unites more than anything. Sports. We’re seeing that right now during this pandemic. “Invictus” tells the true story of when Mandela decided to keep the Springboks as the national team name, a name synonymous with years of racial oppression. By reaching out to the team captain Francois (Matt Damon) a country of different colors was able to shake hands with their team winning a Rugby World Cup they had no business winning.
1. “Lawrence of Arabia” (1962):
How does a white guy bring people together? It is our M.O. to divide and conquer. Disgusts me personally everyday. An even bigger question, how does a white guy find a way to unite a group of tribes in the Middle East to fight against the oppressive United Kingdom dynasty? And on top of that, how is the leader of this revolution a British soldier himself sent to continue keeping the brown-skinned desert people in check? That is the true story of “Lawrence of Arabia”. A blonde-haired, blue-eyed pretty boy in the British military, Lawrence is sent to get some intel on the ‘camel-jockies’ in the desert. Turns out, these people living in tents are just as intelligent and deserving of the right to live as us light skinned folk. Sir Lawrence played by Peter O’Toole leading an army of makeshift middle-eastern soldiers to the chagrin of snarky military generals in the U.K. shows just how important it is to respect one another.