To inspire all the improvement, advancement and wonderfulness you have planned for yourselves in 2016, here’s a list of my favorite movies that depict deep personal transformations and growth.
If you know of a good ones please share them in the comments. Enjoy!
This unexpectedly profound comedy teaches essential lessons about how to achieve real change. Bill Murray plays Phil Connors, a misogynist TV newsman on assignment in Puxatawny PA covering groundhog day. We first see Phil as the day unfolds normally and he is his usual, insensitive, selfish and self-involved self. But then the next day is the same day…and so on. As we see Phil go through every possible permutation of reactions to the situation he’s in, it’s not until he starts to change himself that the circumstances change. Watch it now
Denzel Washington gives another spectacular performance as airline pilot William Whittaker, an excellent pilot who is deeply flawed and in denial. Despite sleeping off a bender in the cockpit (after a successfully maneuvering a scary take-off), Whittaker wakes up and lands a malfunctioning airliner in a field saving almost everyone on board. He is lauded as a hero pilot with incredible skill in the press. As the investigation into the cause of the crash unfolds, a disturbing fact comes to light about Whittaker, a fact that the airline will do anything to hide. Whittaker’s trajectory from cock-sure carelessly confident pilot to desperate liar, to self-disgust and remorse are strengthened by his resolve to make drastic and meaningful changes, including taking responsibility for his actions. I would say one of Washington’s top three performances. Not to be missed. Watch it now
This independent film is part fable part love letter to New York. The scene opens in a cab as a married couple is in the midst of breaking up because of the husband has met someone else and is ending the marriage. The wife (Patricia Clarkson) is all pain and rage in the back seat, asking questions, demanding answers getting incredibly personal. The driver (Ben Kingsley) is a silent witness to the scene and horrified. So begins the unlikely friendship between the spurned wife and the Sikh taxi driver.
Brilliant performances highlight this comedic-drama-romance about two people trying to put their lives back together after having mental breakdowns. Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper) has just been released from a mental hospital. His wife left him and has a restraining order against him, making his hopes of reconciliation difficult. He moves in with his parents (Robert DeNiro, Jacki Weaver) and for the time being, focuses on getting better. He meets Tiffany Maxwell who is dealing with her own issues, which she is open about. After asking him what medications he’s on, the two compare notes and strike up a friendship initiated by her. Although both characters change and develop, it is Pat who grows the most here, in learning to let go of the past and embrace the present. Watch it now
An unflinching look at the life and making of a white supremacist is all about Ed Norton’s wall-shaking performance and transformation from a vile, hate-spewing racist to a thoughtful, shameful man of tolerance. Difficult, but a must-see. Watch it now
Chuck Noland has everything. A girlfriend who loves him, great friends and a wonderful (if demanding) job as a trouble-shooter for FedEx. His job involves a lot of travel to the shipping company’s various depots around the world, and it’s during a trip to Malaysia one Christmas Eve that his world turns upside-down when the plane crashes and he wakes up on an island alone without a clue about how to survive or what to do next. Noland’s trajectory from frightened helpless castaway to seasoned survivalist is one of Hanks’ best performances ever. His fight to get off the island and back to civilization is inspiring and frightening. And what happens when you turn up in your old life after everyone thinks you’re dead? Watch it now
“I used to be the mother. I used to be the wife. But now I’m Shirley Valentine again.“
This ground-breaking film won awards for it’s realistic and empowering examination of women’s role in society and its portrayal of a woman achieving real happiness outside of society’s norms. One of the first films I ever saw to portray a sexually independent women as a real person instead of a psychopath. Imagine that.
Shirley (Pauline Collins) is a down-trodden wife and mother whom everyone takes for granted. After 20 years of marriage, she has basically become a maid for the household (in addition to holding down a job). Her husband throws a tantrum because she switches up the scheduled menu, and her daughter treats her like a servant. She used to be her own person with her own hopes and dreams, but she lost herself in her role as wife and mother. Then one day her best friend Jane wins a trip for two to Mykonos and asks Shirley to go with her. Shirley’s put herself first is the first step in a journey to fulfillment and self-actualization. Watch it now
This is one of the most original stories to hit movie screens in the last 20 years. Engrossing, interesting, funny and heart-wrenching, the script is further enhanced by the beautiful performances of the top-notch cast, including a beautifully restrained Will Ferrell as Harold Crick.
Harold Crick has a problem: he hears his every move being narrated by a voice in his head. Like in a book. Except it’s his life. And the narrator is not him. If anyone can make suicidal depression funny it’s Emma Thompson. Thompson plays Karen Eiffel, a respected novelist who hasn’t published a novel in ten years. She is suffering a crushing bout of depression and writer’s block, but has started work on a novel. It is her voice that Crick hears in his head. Does she write what he does or is he living what she is writing? Whose life is it, anyway?
Crick has to move far outside his entrenched routines and comfort zones to resolve the mystery of who is the narrator and whether his life belongs to him or his narrator. Watch it now
Samantha Cane is a sweet suburban school teacher with a young daughter and a cute boyfriend. And a lingering case of amnesia. At first it seems that her future holds nothing more exciting than a marriage and more kids. But when she drives a tipsy co-worker home from her Christmas party there’s an accident that shakes loose some repressed memories and some serious self-defense skills. What does this all mean? After Samantha single-handedly kills a trained assassin who shows up at her house bent on finishing her, she decides to leave home for a while with the cheap detective she hired (Samuel L. Jackson) to find information about her past. Watch it now
The film that garnered best screenplay Oscars for then Hollywood newcomers Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, launching the into stardom, stands up almost ten years later. Will Hunting, is a young janitor at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It becomes apparent that he’s also is an under-achieving genius when he anonymously solves an extremely difficult equation that a professor has left on a classroom chalkboard as a challenge to his graduate students. Unable to find who solved the equation, the professor posts an even more difficult equation on the board and catches Will in the act of solving it. The professor (Stellan Skarsgård) makes it his business to get the tough guy from South Boston to open up, lay down his defenses and deal with the trauma that’s holding him back from living his best life and achieving his full potential. Watch it now