Movies have a way of playing us like harps—it lets us laugh, it lets us cry, and sometimes, it even lets us think. Today, superhero franchises and endless sequels are dominating the big screen, but before that, there were actually some films that are so good, it can change your very perspective in life. Here are some of them:
Apocalypse Now, 1979
The Vietnam War epic by famed director Francis Ford Coppola is considered one of the most influential films in history. Based on the Joseph Condrad novel Heart of Darkness, it centers on battle-hardened Army Major Ben Willard (played by Martin Sheen) who is tasked with finding and killing an officer that has since gone insane and built a compound deep in the jungle with native followers who worshiped him as a god.
Exploring both war and human nature, this film is the kind that pulls its audience into a kind of darkness that sets at the heart of humanity. Its philosophical nature also culminated in the hypnotic monologues of Brando during the final act of the film that turns it from a war movie to a provoking and disturbing film that could stay with you for all time.
Who would have thought that a one-man show could make such an impact? In this Robert Zemeckis film, Tom Hanks plays Chuck Nolan, a Fed-Ex employee who lived their company motto: The World on Time.
However, when his plane crashed en route to the United States, he found himself to be the lone survivor as he was washed ashore of a deserted island. Alone for four years, he only had his volleyball friend, whom he called Wilson, to talk to and keep him company. When he was finally rescued, he found that nothing was the way it was when he left.
Castaway explores the possibility of long-term ramifications of everyday decisions, an if you let it, this is the kind of heartbreaking film that may touch your heart.
The Fountain, 2006
Darren Aronofsky‘s film spanned a thousand years starring the same main character: Hugh Jackman as a Spanish Conquistador, a modern-day neurosurgeon and a snow-globe dwelling space explorer on his way to a dying star.
The story weaves three narratives into one, about a man coming to terms with the death of his wife. The title of the film, meanwhile, refers to the book that Jackman’s wife is writing as she fell ill, but it doesn’t actually span that long—it was the events as Jackman was reading it that spanned such long a time. He was the conquistador in the book, a neurosurgeon in real life; and after he finished reading what his wife wrote, the space explorer was how he felt after she died.
A meditation of death and rebirth, the film, despite being a box-office flop, became a cult favorite due to its sci-fi yet very Zen nature regarding death and rebirth. Warning: tissues may be necessary when watching this film.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, 2008
What happens if you were a baby born in the body of an old man? The film follows Brad Pitt as the titular character, who finds that he was actually aging in reverse—born an old man, becoming more and more youthful over time and eventually dying as a baby.
Based on the short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, we follow Benjamin go through his life and struggle as he fell in love with his childhood friend, Daisy, played by Cate Blanchett. Filled with stunning cinematography and filled with melancholy, David Fincher’s film sums up the message that nobody should forget about life, we have to appreciate and live it as much as we can before time washes us away.
Idiots and Angels, 2008
The only animated film on the list, artist Bill Plympton follows the story of a loathsome, lust-filled man in his daily activities waking up one day to find angel wings growing out of his back. He initially uses them for nefarious purposes, but eventually, the wings took on a personality of their own, forcing him to become a decent person—whether or not he wanted to.
Weird and devoid of dialogue, the story is told through pantomimes with highly stylized animation that evokes a gothic atmosphere accompanied by a rather great soundtrack by Cory Jackson. In the end, the film makes us question just how capable we are of doing good, no matter how loathsome we initially think we are.