25 Films that have inspired me (2nd Edition)

Welcome to the second edition of the films that have inspired me in some way or other to keep working, living, and strive to be myself – the list comprises of both new and old films and a brief explanation as to why they are so special to me.

  1. Eddie the Eagle (Starring: Taron Egerton, Hugh Jackman) – Egerton does a fantastic job as the titular character, whose ambitions in becoming an Olympian since childhood are quite contagious and inspiring. Born with a disability, and poor eyesight, Eddie Edwards gets his ambition fueled by magazines, posters and television spots that showcase athletes competing – and from only one person in his life: his mum. Throughout the movie this Eddie has been stonewalled, ruled out, booted out and mocked for wanting to be the person he knows he should be – did all these negative situations stop him? No. He pushed forward and made history and broke records. More of us underdogs should be like Eddie the Eagle, soaring through the sky with our accomplishments even if everyone (and I mean EVERYONE) is standing against us telling us we cannot become the person we know in our hearts we are meant to be.
  2. Hello, My name is Doris (Starring: Sally Field, Max Greenfield) – while the IMDb description of this film is “a self help seminar inspires sixty-something woman to romantically pursue her younger co-worker” Doris is much more than that. Field is the titular character and portrays her to perfection. After losing her mother (whom she spent all her life taking care of) Doris is struggling to find her footing in the world. While she becomes enamored by the younger, and very good looking new co-worker (Greenfield) she’s thrust into the dwellings of young people and how we manage to live our lives in “retro” and modernity, while trying to balance her old friendships and new ones. I smiled through the entire movie and laughed out loud through many other parts of it and cried at others. Anyone who is a caregiver of a parent, a young person who is trying to figure out who they are – or a human in general can relate to different aspects of this movie. It’s beautiful, it’s sweet, it’s daring and there’s an awesome sexy scene involving Field and Greenfield that everyone must see.
  3. Far from the Madding Crowd (Starring: Carey Mulligan, Matthias Schoenaerts, Michael Sheen) – Mulligan stars in this period film as Bathsheba Everdene, the headstrong and very independent woman who inherits a huge piece of land that is home acres and acres of oak. The film is beautifully shot, the characters are well developed and engaging and there is an independent woman who has made a point of not marrying anyone for the sake of marriage or protection. At some point Everdene says “I have a house, I have land, I have no need for a husband” during the Victorian times that was a radical statement – something that many women feel today, and to see that in a period character (albeit a fictional one) is still inspiring. As the story goes on, we see who she really loves and who she ends up choosing as the perfect man for her and as a business partner.
  4. The Wave or Bølgen (Starring: Kristoffer Joner, Ane Dahl Torp, Jonas Hoff Oftebro) – Set in the Norwegian Fjords, this movie is far from the Hollywood productions of what a natural disaster would look like if it came to happen. Still, the effects, the science and the people make it compelling and amazing to watch. Joner plays geologist Kristian Eikjord who figures out the mountain that houses hundreds of people is shifting and tries his best to warn others. Thinking it’s practically impossible for what he predicts will happen, will actually come to pass – they ignore him (typical) but that doesn’t stop him from trying to help them, and to save his family from the effects of the tsunami that will surely pass when the mountain collapses. The performances are great, the actors humanize these characters in a way that Hollywood could never do (i.e. San Andreas was flat with the character performances, 2012 fell short in that aspect as well) which is making strong and relatable characters that the audience can relate to in those circumstances. Not just the “OMG the world is going to end” and add tons of CGI to the film….
  5. Chasing Mavericks (Starring: Jonny Weston, Gerard Butler, Elisabeth Shue) – as a person who cannot live too far from the ocean, this movie touched me in many ways. The story of Jay Moriarty and his ambition to ride the biggest waves – Mavericks – is moving, endearing, and inspiring. Weston’s portrayal of a young(er) Moriarty is clean, crisp and full of that naiveté that is needed in an actor that is playing a real life character that had that natural ambition and passion for life, for knowledge and especially surfing. Moriarty lived his life with a deep love of the ocean, for his family and for his girl. Although living in a one bedroom apartment off the coast of Santa Cruz, California – he went on to accomplish many things in his short life. A good example that nothing should stand in the way of you achieving your dreams.
  6. Brooklyn (Starring: Soairse Ronan, Emory Cohen, Domhall Gleeson) – Ronan stars in this period romantic drama as Eillis, a young Irish girl who reluctantly leaves her home town and family behind for a new life in Brooklyn, New York. Eillis’ experiences in New York reminded me of mine in great part. Only I didn’t have a boarding house, or a priest, or a job waiting for me when I moved to New York at 17, I related to her incredible homesickness and how hard it was to integrate into a place where there are so many people, and everything is so different. I have to make a note that Emory Cohen’s portrayal of Tony is absolutely adorable and made me fall in love with him.
  7. The Danish Girl (Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander) – What was it like for the first transgender woman? How did she know she was transgender? This film really shows the struggles of accomplished painter Einar Wegener into becoming Lili Elbe. The love he lost while becoming a she, the loved she gained by exploring her true herself. The love that endured between a marriage as time and one of them changed drastically. Eddie’s performance was so moving, I fell in love with both is Einar and Lili, the struggles in the eyes that only a great actor like he can convey and Alicia was amazing as well. As she interpreted the broken hearted, yet supportive Gerda it reminded me of many people I’ve known throughout my life. This film is about love, about self discovery and about friendship – all of the things that encompass what life is truly about.
  8. 200 Cartas (Starring: Lin Manuel Miranda, Jaime Camil, Dayanara Torres) – Miranda portrays Raul, a Young Newyorican who meets a Puerto Rican who is visiting NYC – he falls in love in that first and only meeting and sets off in an adventure to return to her a necklace she dropped in the club they met. Since he doesn’t have her number, he searches the phone book and ends up finding 200 women with her name (Maria Sanchez) so ends up sending each and every one of them a letter (hence the title of the film) what comes after is a crazy adventure and comedy that showcases the beauty and troubles in the island and the evolution of a man from being “smitten” by a beautiful girl he met once, to being actually in love with a woman who helps him in his journey.
  9. For Keeps? (Starring: Molly Ringwald, Randall Batinkoff) – let’s face it, if you’re over 25 years old, chances are that you’ve seen many a Molly Ringwald film while growing up. This film in particular was a departure of her previous work as the sweet girl next door. This was the first movie I saw that focused on a teenage mother and father. Both characters are struggling to make ends meet, struggling through post partum depression and struggling to evolve from young love to adult love. This was an incredible movie for me to see as a young person. The possibilities of unprotected sex, young parenting and everything that our sexual education (still) doesn’t cover.
  10. Sixteen Candles or 16 Candles (Starring: Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall, Michael Schoeffling) – John Hughes made some iconic films in the 1980’s, most of them staring Ringwald, and this has to be mentioned in my list. Why? Because for most of my life I felt like Ringwald’s Sam felt on her sixteenth birthday, forgotten for a larger event. Sixteen Candles is a crazy comedy that involves some crazy racists scenarios, but fun in many other aspects. It gives hope to the girls like me, who used to be mostly quiet and crushing on the popular guy. We can all get a guy like Jake to pick us up in his sports car with a birthday cake just for us.
  11. The Iron Giant (Animated – Starring: Eli Marienthal, Harry Connick Jr., Jennifer Aniston, Vin Diesel) This animated film was different than anything I’d ever seen before. A war machine falls from the sky, suffers amnesia and befriends a local kid with a weird name (Hogarth). He’s entirely repurposed, basically saying “just because you were a bad person in your past, doesn’t mean you have to always be a bad person” Every time I watch this film I cry, and smile, and laugh out loud – it’s fun, it’s classic and inspiring.
  12. Wild (Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern) – Who doesn’t want to leave their current pain behind by going on a long ass hike? Or sailing across the ocean, or driving cross country? I don’t know of anyone who doesn’t want to do any of these things at some point in their lives. I also, still haven’t met anyone who ACTUALLY has done it – so to see a film that is based on real events of a woman who hiked 1, 100 miles down the Pacific Coast Trail to get over losing her mother was inspiring. The cinematography is exquisite and the contrast of what she’s leaving behind to what she’s moving towards works perfectly. Made me want to start planning my own PCT hike (which I have, with an Amazon wish list and all).
  13. Pelo Malo (Samuel Lange Zambrano, Samantha Castillo, Beto Benites) – Zambrano plays Junior, a nine year old boy who is obsessed with straightening his thick curly hair, this obsession leads him conditioning his hair with mayonnaise and combing it excessively. His mother Marta (Castillo), thinks that all this obsession with his hair and dancing and singing might mean that he’s gay. As the film progresses, we see many inappropriate things happen, as well as painful things that many a young artist has experienced in their lives. This film has motivated me to not be as close minded as Marta, or imposing as Junior’s grandmother Carmen (brilliantly played by Nelly Ramos).
  14. Mermaids (Starring: Cher, Bob Hoskins, Winona Ryder, Christina Ricci) – As a child, I was very similar to Ricci’s character Kate Flax in this movie. Always wanting to be in the water, but never cleaning my rocks, or timing my ability to hold my breath in the bathtub (we never had a bathtub, I always left sea rocks where they belonged). Then there was the quirky Charlotte, who was obsessed with Catholicism (and later on Greek Mythology) and reminded me of the year of my life I wanted to be a nun. Then we had the sexy Mrs. Flax, single mother, secure in her own skin and a woman who gives no fucks. Like none…at all. After suffering a heartbreak she relocates herself and her girls to a small town in Massachusetts where so many things happen, when the family seems to break apart, it only gets stronger. I love this film because of all the elements I can relate to: family, obsession with swimming, religion, love (romantic and otherwise) and struggling family to find their own footing.
  15. Como agua para chocolate (Lumi Cavazos, Marco Leonardi, Regina Torné) – I didn’t know the connection of food and sexuality until I saw this film. I had read the book before I saw the film, and was pleased to see that many of the literary aspects were put, exactly as I imagined it, on film. The casting is great, and if anyone deserved a nomination or an award of their portrayal of an unwavering torturous bitch of a mother was Torné. Her Mamá Elena is like the worst mother ever. Denying her younger daughter love, marriage and children for the sake of tradition is unthinkable. The film itself is beautiful, the characters are lovely (Gertrude being my favorite) and the story itself, while tragic has its romanticism. Also, the dishes are really great looking and how the people react to them creates curiosity if it does actually happen in real life.
  16. One night with the King (Starring: Tiffany Dupont, Luke Goss, John Noble) – I’m not really crazy on biblical stories, but this movie has stayed with me since I first saw it. Hadassah (Dupont) has to hide her Jewish identity and customs in order to stay alive, changing her name to Esther (with the excuse that it doesn’t sound so Jewish – which is like very “lol” now) she becomes Esther Queen of Persia, and risks her life to save her people from genocide. Why do I like this film? When you look at the cinematography it would seem like a low budget film – but that never matters when there’s a strong story. A young girl thrust into a destiny she never imagined, she has to have faith to keep going – decide to be safe or to risk her own life for that of others. A King (Xerxes) historically known for his barbaric nature, to be seen in a vulnerable way, to be seen as a man, who is in love with a woman and doesn’t want to make her unhappy – changing his ways. The faith of something bigger than them, bigger than everything, most importantly bigger than the looming evil towards the Jewish people is nothing to be ignored.
  17. Austenland (Starring: Keri Russell, JJ Feild, Jennifer Coolidge) – as a Jane Austen Fan I really wish this place actually existed! Austenland is filled with laughs, ridiculous performances and of course, romance. Jane Hayes (Russell) blows her savings to go on a trip to this fictitious theme park and live like Jane Austen’s character. Each travel package has a different character and romantic story to it so it’s great to see Austen’s entire characters take place in one setting, even if it’s absolutely ridiculous. My favorite scene is when Jane is prompted to play the piano – I snort-laughed at it and it’s such a great scene that there is an extended version of it in the final credits. Also Jane’s chemistry with Mr. Nobley (JJ Feild) is palpable. Just shows you that one can have a great time when you blow your savings on something deemed as insignificant to others.
  18. Maria full of Grace (Starring: Catalina Sandino Moreno, Guilied Lopez, Orlando Tobón) – What are you willing to do for a better life? Many Central and Latin Americans resort to the actions of María Álvarez, smuggling drugs to the US and then staying in the mainland to better their lives and that of their children and families. This film was particularly moving, because it really showed the dark side of being a mule. The dehumanization of those who choose to swallow the drugs, and the troubles they have to deal with later on. Why did I like this film? María was head strong, determined to move forward with her life at any cost – even if she risked her own life while trying to make a better one.
  19. Contracorriente or Undertow (Starring: Cristian Mercado, Tatiana Astengo, Manolo Cardona) – This film is supposed to be about a gay man who is torn by his tradition. I truly believe it’s about a bisexual man who finds love in both sexes, but is pressured to be straight, when he loves a man deeper than what he loves his wife. Mercado plays Peruvian fisherman Miguel, a family man who meets outsider Santiago (Cardona) a photographer who settles in the beautiful coast and as their relationship progresses, their love blossoms. But then tragedy strikes and Santiago is ends up dead and haunting Miguel. What happens in this film is hauntingly beautiful. The love people have for one another should not be denied – for any reason, because it will haunt you some day.
  20. Goya’s Ghosts (Starring: Javier Bardem, Natalie Portman, Stellan Skarsgård) – while I would have preferred for the cast to be entirely Spaniard, I guess that’s never going to happen in a Hollywood production. Still, this film is good. Want to know about the Spanish Inquisition? This will give you a good idea. Want to see what happens when you’re devout to a religion that has imprisoned you, tortured you and kept you locked up for 15 years? Watch this movie. Want to know how a painter influenced the masses on what the Church was doing behind closed doors to the people? Watch this film.
  21. The Fundamentals of Caring (Starring: Craig Roberts, Paul Rudd, Selena Gomez) – Trevor (Roberts) is a paraplegic young man whose mother hires Ben (Rudd) to be his caregiver. Trevor likes to play mean jokes, he likes consistency and he’s incredibly sarcastic. A shell he’s been building ever since his father walked away from being responsible for him in his current state. What Trevor doesn’t expect is Ben, who picks up on his behavior and gives it back. The result is a great film where Rudd shines in his comedic and dramatic skills, and Roberts acting is pristine. I don’t comment so much of Gomez’ character since the film can do without her really, but I love this film. It’s heartwarming, and lets us know that friendship can be found in unexpected places.
  22. No se aceptan devoluciones or Instructions not included (Starring: Eugenio Derbez, Karla Souza, Jessica Lindsey) – I honestly didn’t think this film was going to be any good based on the trailer – which was really shoddy in my opinion. A womanizer has to turn his life around because he gets his daughter dumped on him. I mean, really? But one day I saw it on cable and fell in love with the deeper meaning of this film. A father who changes his life around to ensure his daughter has the best life she can, for as long as she can. It’s tragic, it’s sweet, it’s heartbreaking and heartwarming, and funny in some cases.
  23. Beasts of No Nation (Starring: Abraham Attah, Emmanuel Affadzi, Idris Elba) – I’ve always been against child soldiering. Every chance I get I watch a film that depicts the perils of young boys recruited and forced to be soldiers – losing their innocence, their childhood and subsequently the positivity of what life can be. This film was so jarring to see. Boys as young as eight years old carrying AK47’s and other high powered guns and rifles. Boys being forced to fight for a cause they can’t even comprehend entirely. Boys being violated in so many different ways. Boys not being able to be boys – innocent and free. Attah’s performance as Agu is memorable, he’s so good at depicting the pain and confusion, and Affadzi’s Dike is incredible at portraying pain, and anger. What impacted me most was Elba’s Commandant – his ruthlessness, his cruelty, and the ease as to which he does all the horrible things he does – still it didn’t kill Agu’s spirit and that to me was the most important thing of all.
  24. Superstar (Starring: Molly Shannon, Will Ferrell) – let’s face it; we all had that time during our childhood that we wanted to be superstars in some form. This endearing film about young Mary Katherine Gallagher (Shannon) and her desire to be a superstar dancer like her parents (who died while dancing to a crazy fast song) and her grandmother’s desire to protect her from the dangers of dancing hits home for creatives. While not as drastic, we have parents or parental figures who want to protect us from the possibility of the crippling failure and criticism. I mean, we don’t go around making out with trees, or smelling our fingers after they’ve been stuck in our sweaty armpits because that’s what we do when we’re really really nervous, but we all have our quirks, and this movie is just fun to watch and to see how Mary Katherine Gallager finds her perfect dance partner and becomes a S.U.P.E.R.S.T.A.R!
  25. Penelope (Starring Christina Ricci, James McAvoy) – I’ll admit, I’m a sucker for any movie that has either Ricci or McAvoy…but BOTH? It’s like movie heaven. This sweet movie is a romantic comedy about a family that is cursed – particularly the first born female child of that family after the curse, to have a pig snout for a nose and be so hideous and frightening not even her parents will love her – ironically, the way to break the spell is with the love of a person of noble blood. Penelope (Ricci) hides away from society by force, her parents, well, really it’s her mother – want to hide her from people until the spell is broken. Enter Johnny , who after a barrage of suitors presented is the only one who stays after Penelope reveals herself to them (most of them throwing themselves out windows and breaking down doors to escape her, which really I don’t know why, because Ricci, even with a pig snout is freaking adorable – also let’s make a note that he didn’t see her because he was busy doing something else) but they build a strong bond through conversations about music, books, and playing chess – which she does through a double sided mirror. In the end (spoiler alert) she breaks the spell herself because she finds herself loving who she is and what she looks like and McAvoy is just the most precious, sexy and passionate cherry on top of the cake.
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