Hopeful films - to make you feel like fighting

This blog is mainly for fluff and reviews, and I don't think I've ever got political. It doesn't really seem like the place for it. But the news lately has been pretty grim - borderline terrifying if I'm honest.  You get to a point where you think, maybe I should just stop watching it. There's really nothing that I can do and anyway, things can't get that bad can they?  The problem is they can, and they will if people start to treat scary things like the status quo. Anyway, sticking with the film lists and fluff, I thought I'd make up a list of films that make me feel more hopeful. Films where characters fight against injustice and win, that make you think that people are decent, and if you do stand up and stand together you can make change. Cheesy I know, and this isn't a particularly highbrow list (I still love my cartoons...) But, they're films that make me feel something. Give them a watch and see if you feel inspired!

Casablanca may be lauded as one of the best romantic films of all time, but it's also inherently political. Released in 1942 and partly intended to encourage the Americans to join the war effort, it's a film about fighting for what you believe in, knowing when there are more important things than self-interest, and when to start standing up for what is right. And obviously it's also hugely romantic and beautifully shot.
Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron
Possibly the most underrated animated film of my childhood, Spirit is an original sort of western, told from the point of view of a wild horse who is captured by soldiers who try to break him. He goes from adventure to adventure, out of each frying pan into a new fire, but he never loses his spirit and he keeps fighting oppression and inspiring others as he does. Yes, you can be inspired by a cartoon horse, this is a great film!
A little-talked-about gem of a film, Pleasantville is the story of a brother and sister (Toby McGuire and Reese Witherspoon) who get sucked into the brother's favourite TV show - a supposedly idyllic, literally black-and-white, 1950's world. At first it seems as idyllic as it's portrayed, but it soon becomes obvious that the good-old-days really weren't that good for most people, and as the modern kids start to stir things up a bit, other people in the town begin to become 'infected', turning literally 'coloured'. It's a great premise and the big, To Kill a Mockingbird-referencing courtroom scene, is one of my favourites in any film.

The Shawshank Redemption

A bit different from some of the others in this list, Shawshank is a bit of a grim film for the most part, but one with a message about the importance of hope and fighting to keep people human, even in the most dehumanizing circumstances. Andy Dufresne is a man imprisoned for a crime he says he didn't commit, but the other men inside are all guilty. Still, when Andy improves the library, or tries to get the young one his school certificate, or old Brooks struggles when he's out in the real world, we feel for these people and we want things to change. We want Andy to succeed because he's a good man, and that's better than being cruel and a hypocrite, like the prison guards and the warden.

A pretty recent film, but already one of my established favourites, I love Pride. A true story about a group of lesbians and gay men in the eighties, who recognised that the miners were being oppressed too, and started up a support group, 'Lesbians and gays support the miners'. It's a happy film, about solidarity and kindness, and standing up for what is right, even if you don't think it's your fight. There's loads of great acting talent and the final scene is so joyful. I love that it's a true story too - it shows that people can really make a difference when they work together.

It's a Wonderful Life
When you think of It's a Wonderful Life you think of Christmas, and the countless parodies in other films and TV shows of that last section - where George wishes he's never been born as is shown what the world is like without him. But when you watch the film as a whole it's so much more than that, with a powerful message that it's important for good, decent people to keep standing up and keep being good and decent, even when it feels like no good deed goes unpunished. And at the end of the day, we'd all rather be George Bailey than Potter, even if Potter's way seems like the easy way.
Made in Dagenham
I'm not as familiar with Made in Dagenham as I am with some on this list, but it's a great film, another true story and another instance of how standing up, even if public feeling is against you, can make a difference to people's lives, not just now but for generations to come. This film is a period piece but it's not set that long ago and it's good to be reminded how far we've come and that people before us has to fight to make change.
A Bugs Life
It can't be only me that thinks A Bug's Life is way underrated as a Pixar film? For one thing, it has a much better message than some (The Incredibles, for example: "With everyone special, no one will be"?? In other words, some people are made to worship and others are made to be worshipped, so you none-special people know your place. Urgh. Can you tell I'm not a fan?) A Bug's Life says that different is good, oppression is bad and you've got to stand up to the bad guys. Plus the music is amazing.

Remember the Titans
Another true story, about how people are never as different as they appear, and how friendship, and getting to know 'the other side' can make all the difference when you're fighting for change and equal rights. It just takes for us to recognise that people are people and all the other stuff isn't really a game changer. Plus, you don't need to be able to understand American Football to enjoy this film - I don't know the first thing about it but I still love Remember the Titans.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

There's a great quote in book seven, after Harry and co. return to Hogwarts, where Neville explains how he got one of his scars - punished for asking Alecto Carrow how much muggle blood she has, when she was spouting bile against 'mudbloods.' Ron whistles and suggests there's a time and place for getting a smart mouth, but Neville says no. It helps when you stand up to them, it gives people hope - "I noticed that, when you did it Harry." I didn't love the film as much as the book, but that bit when they return to Hogwarts, and it's decided they're going to fight, is fantastic. All that time Harry, Ron and Hermione felt like they were doing it alone, but there were others there all the time, people ready and wanting to join in the fight. Some one just had to be the first to stand up.

So I was just going to have ten in the list, and then I suddenly remembered Hairspray, what a great, genuinely feel-good film it is, about standing up for what you believe in and celebrating difference. And then I remembered Jennifer Hudson's turn in Hairspray Live! earlier this year, amazing, but I couldn't find a clip. So here's Queen Latifa instead, also great!
What films make you feel hopeful? Any good inspiring moments I've not mentioned?


  1. I agree - it feels like the world is spiralling, and there's nothing I can do to stop it. :( I totally agree with Hairspray, it's bright and hopeful yet all about fighting for what's right. And Deathly Hallows of course! Thanks for the list, Catherine!

    1. Yeah, I love how positive Hairspray is - and we definitely need some positivity about now! Thanks :D


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