Too often a “guy movie” has some action hero shooting stuff up, blowing stuff up, and then having his way with whatever women he happens to see. Or it’s just a collection of stupidity which is supposed to be a comedy. There are movies out there, however, that while good for everyone to see, tend to play well with the male psyche. They play well with the idea of hope, an epic struggle for fulfillment, or the battle close to every man, that of father and son relationships.
Being someone who loves to watch movies, especially good ones, I have a few movies in mind that I think play well off the male mind, though anyone and everyone ought to see these movies. This list is in no particular order, just a list of ten really good movies worth watching:
10: Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles
The story follows a man (Gou-ichi Takata) estranged from his son in Japan. As his son dies of a disease, in an attempt to reunite with his son he goes to Chine to record a famous folk singer that his son likes. In order to get the singer to cooperate, he must unite the singer’s son with the father. The entire movie centers on father son relationships and shows that even halfway across the world from America, such a relationship is an incredibly important and formative thing. It shows there is a universal desire for reconciliation in all of us, especially for men with their fathers or sons.
9. Road to Perdition
The fact that this movie has Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Jude Law, and Daniel Craig should be enough to justify watching this movie. However, the theme behind it is a man attempting to redeem his legacy via his son while also working against a surrogate father who practically raised him. The entire movie is beautiful – almost any shot from the movie could be a painting – and full of incredible acting. There’s one scene in the movie that makes the entire thing worth it.
8. Cinderella Man
Every man knows the feeling of life coming against him, of wanting to give up, but finding the courage to fight back against all odds and make his own destiny. Cinderella Man is that story and what is better is it’s based on a true story.
7. Children of Men
Clive Owen plays a hero, but not the typical hero. A man who is caught in bad times, he’s a typical “every man,” but he’s thrust into a situation where the fate of the world possibly rests on his hands. It shows that every man has within the ability to be the hero, albeit an unconventional and awkward hero, when the moment arrives. A man can either give up hope and become reserved to his fate, or dare to hope and accomplish something worthwhile.
What happens when a man goes back on his word and goes back into a life of crime? What are the real consequences of violence? While I love a good Western and while other lists would include a few “shoot ’em ups” westerns for manhood, Unforgiven does a good job of putting violence in perspective. Rather than encouraging our young boys and men to be violent like they see in the movies, we need more movies that put such violence in perspective and show that it’s an incredibly tragic thing.
5. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Speaking of showing the tragedy of violence, The Assassination is possibly one of Casey Affleck and Brad Pitt’s best performances ever. The movie itself is based on the true events of how Robert Ford assassinated Jesse James. What it does, however, is show the cost of the betrayal and what Robert Ford had to endure. It shows the guilt of survival and that even when justified, when doing what the law required, the blood of a man on one’s hands simply isn’t something to take lightly.
4. Field of Dreams
If ever there were a movie about fathers and sons, this is in. Kevin Costner is in his prime in this movie, a man seemingly gone crazy, hearing voices telling him to build a baseball diamond, all of it, every bit of it, leading up to the last scene. That last scene is incredibly rough to watch, very difficult, especially for men who had father issues or regretful fights with their fathers in which they never sought forgiveness. Yet, in it all, it is beautiful because it allows for reconciliation.
3. Schindler’s List
Admittedly, this is an incredibly difficult movie to watch. Yet, while showing the struggle of the Jews during the Holocaust, it shows the character transformation of a man who chooses to cease living for himself and instead to live for others. In a world where men are told to look out for number one, where they’re instructed to be self-centered in their choices, to seek after the next biggest thing, it’s nice to find some grounding and realize that man is only truly satisfied when he’s in the service of others and doing something significant.
2. Dances with Wolves
This is one of my favorite movies of all time, but worth putting on this list as well. A true American epic (in the true sense of the word), dealing with issues of love, isolation, discovery, and friendship. The beauty is it shows that no man lives in isolation from his community. In many ways, Dances With Wolves is both an homage and an affront to great American writers such as Emerson and Thoreau. It is an homage because it is man getting in touch with nature yet again, learning to live on his own, but it becomes an affront when he learns that man cannot live on his own and instead must join a community. It encourages men (and women) to realize that they are part of a greater community and they must throw themselves into those relationships, or perish.
1. Shawshank Redemption
In my opinion, Shawshank is the best movie ever made, period. Every single scene could be framed in a museum, every line a masterpiece, every bit of acting done to perfection. Most importantly, however, it is the story of hope. It is the story of friendship, and of a man overcoming all odds in order to see his hope actualized. This is a movie that can’t really be described, but can only be experienced. In the end, however, it plays on every man’s desire to overcome the mundane of this life, to escape the institutionalization of “these walls” (what society tells you to be) and instead to live a free life, a life desired.
While there are other movies that could be added, I believe these ten serve as the best. They ought to be appreciated as works of art that convey a deep message to anyone who watches them. What other movies would you add, stuff that actually plays to the deeper parts of the male psyche, beyond violence, humor, and sex?