Sure, the motion picture industry is a business and a vast majority of films are calibrated to achieve a maximum profit, but sometimes genuine art sneaks through the studio notes and the focus groups. Art that can help us fight against a world that makes us feel powerless or give us empathy with entire groups of people for which we have no frame of reference. There are many films that blend social commentary and entertainment values.
Here are four of those movies, which don’t just challenge popular thinking, but show we all have the tools to make the world a little better for everyone.
“V for Vendetta” (2005)
Director: James McTeigue
“People should not be afraid of their governments,” wrote writer Alan Moore. “Governments should be afraid of their people.” Great Britain has become a fascist state and a masked vigilante conducts guerrilla warfare on a massive scale. The film is based on Moore’s comic book, which was released in the late 1980s, and has remained relevant. Simultaneously a “fun” superhero movie and a powerful look how easily a government can overrun its citizenry.
“Fahrenheit 451” (1966)
Director: Francois Truffaut
Based on the revolutionary novel by Ray Bradbury, “Fahrenheit 451” tells the story of a firefighter whose job is burning books outlawed by a government fearful of independent thought from its citizens. The important lesson to take from the book or film is that a strong society is built on questioning what it is being fed in the news or from the government.
“West of Memphis” (2012)
Director: Amy Berg
This documentary owes a huge debt to the “Paradise Lost” trilogy, but also beautifully summarizes all three films into one. “West of Memphis” looks at the story of Jason Baldwin, Damien Echols and Jessie Misskelley, three West Memphis, Ark, teenagers who were wrongly imprisoned for the murder of three young boys. Watching the criminal justice system fail the innocent is bone-chilling. The killer is still out there.
“The Visitor” (2007)
Director: Tom McCarthy
A sad, lonely and isolated man goes home after a long time away to find Syrian and Senegalese immigrants in his apartment. “The Visitor” is a beautiful and heartfelt look at empathy and human connection.