We seriously underestimate and discount the power of cinema when we say or believe that it cannot affect the very innate self of a living being. If humans, along with all their cognitive functions and intelligent functioning are capable of creating, understanding and appreciating the art of cinema, surely some among them tried to influence the lives of others in an overwhelmingly positive way: a way in which they created cinema with deeply profound insights on life and philosophies that have over the years been appreciated by an increasing number of people and have come to change, or atleast affect the lives of a few individuals by sheer way of their profundity.
For some, a certain sort of cinema has proven to be an amazingly personal experience: one they harbour deep within themselves almost as a souvenir and one that they carry with themselves always, as a result of which they found themselves as better humans by virtue of a good deed or two. While I have to admit that these movies are increasingly rare and have become most certainly redundant in the age of escapist, blockbuster cinema, Netflix still houses a repository of some of these classics that can be accessed whenever you need a bit of life changing sermonising or inspiration, or even just a different outlook. So, here’s the list of really good life changing movies on Netflix that are available to stream right now:
10. Cloud Atlas (2012)
Perhaps just as the film, my choice to put ‘Cloud Atlas’ on the list will also prove to be a vastly divisive move, just as the film was when it released, with a few critics giving it a standing ovation, while others terming it one of the worst films of the year. ‘Cloud Atlas’ chooses to profess a theory not too vastly different from ‘The Butterfly Effect’, but by intertwining six parallel narratives, and giving it an almost mythical feel, something that in my opinion really helped the movie transcend beyond regular viewing entertainment. You may hate it or like it, or as in my case, completely happen to love it, but you cannot deny that the film has soaring ambition and scope. If you have been fascinated by films dealing with interconnected realities and lives, ‘Cloud Atlas’ is bound to raise some interesting questions for you to fathom upon.
9. The Theory of Everything (2014)
There is perhaps no other film in my recent writings, especially in the articles for Netflix, that is as recurring as ‘The Theory of Everything’. Since I have written about a number of times and how great I find this film to be, I will reveal that I didn’t like the film much in my first viewing. I felt cheated that the film didn’t spend nearly as much time as I thought it would on Hawking’s incredible journey as an astrophysicist and his worldview altering theories, instead choosing to focus on his relationship with Jane, the love of his life, and how she played an instrumental role in helping Hawking come around when his MND hit, instilling him with hope. It was not until multiple viewings that I did realize that it was in the title, up there, all along. THAT was the theory of everything: love and hope, the only things that in modern day science remain unfathomable. In tackling that, the film remains a truly beautiful experience, especially the ending that I have mentioned multiple times.
8. Lion (2016)
With the amount of credit this film receives, it might as well be considered somewhat underrated. ‘Lion’ is a heartbreaking film, and a heartwarming one at the same time. Dev Patel stars in this film that is the true account of a boy who gets lost on the streets of the Indian city of Calcutta to be adopted by an Australian couple. Years later, he sets out to find his real family in the search of answers. The journey moulds him and changes him in ways he couldn’t have imagined, just as it will give you some little insights about life, something as I stated earlier we really discount our films for. Some of the bits in there are really haunting, and some imagery really moving. It is all that and more that makes ‘Lion’ a really powerful, well rounded film. Highly recommended.
7. The Pianist (2002)
One of the two holocaust films on the list, ‘The Pianist’ unfortunately so is also the most heart-breaking film on the list. I have always described the film in contradicting terms, something that is rare when you describe a film. It is astonishingly dark yet heart-wrenchingly beautiful at the same time. Roman Polanski, who himself was a holocaust survivor makes probably one of the most devastating films ever about the horrors of war: achingly beautiful yet hauntingly real. However, whenever a description of this film follows, it would be completely unjust if I don’t state Adrien Brody’s impossibly deep performance. His ugly crying scene as he walks through the empty ghetto is nightmarish, yet a stern reminder of a reality that we refuse to recollect, yet stares in our faces all the same as a failure of the human race in general.
6. Beasts of No Nation (2015)
While you are sitting in the comfort of your homes, ‘Beasts of No Nation’ will grab you by the loins and throw you in the middle of a nameless conflict in a nameless country, one that employs child soldiers in war. Quite simply put, it is a heart rendering tale of children stripped of all innocence and handed over guns instead to fight for their country in an age where they hardly understand the concept of boundaries and nations. Heart rendering to say the least, it made me feel for the people of every war torn country around the world. It renders a very humanitarian viewpoint for the viewers, especially for first world residents who are introduced to the plight of third world countries, something that the world sorely needs. Don’t miss it. Another winner for Cary Fukunaga.
5. Dances With Wolves (1990)
The one film that is quite simply responsible for making me like the Western genre of films, ‘Dances with Wolves’, proved that the genre was more than gunslinging and cowboys and horses in badlands. Easily one of the best that the 90s had to offer with an impeccable plot, the film has uncompromising production values even by today’s standards, astonishing attention to detail and Kevin Costner’s measured performance, and a deft hand at direction. One of my all time favourites, a near perfectly drawn out symphony of a film, ‘Dances with Wolves’ will make you question your way of life as you see the protagonist abandon everything for a simpler way of life. May not sound like much to inspire you to watch the film, but an excellent affecting film nonetheless.
4. City of God (2002)
‘City of God’ is a film that hasn’t till date gotten its fair due in the movie community and that of cineastes the world over. It is among the top rated movies on IMDb and is by no means not well known, which truly baffles me. Anyway, what I am going to discuss rather than the entire film, which is excellent in a raw kind of way, is the film’s closing shot that has stayed with me and is probably going to for the rest of time.
We see the favelas of Rio Di Janeiro, wherein a majority of the film is set, telling the story of its way of life for its natives, and two teenagers, one of whom chooses to rise from a criminal way of life and make a clean living as a photographer, while the other chooses the alluring life of crime. The final shot shows the streets of the city of god, juxtaposed with towering new skyscrapers being built in the background, showcasing the stark contrasting lives that two separate groups of people lead in the same city. Haunting and comprehensive, this is a film and an image that asks some tough questions, with no easy answers.
3. Schindler’s List (1993)
There are films that are uplifting by their very innate nature, and by that virtue do they inspire the very best life changing attitudes within you, a category that would include most of the films on this list. However, conversely, there would be films like ‘Schindler’s List’ that are bleak retellings of one of the darkest times in human history, and yet the heroic actions of one individual that act as faint glimmers of light in an otherwise dark rendition that will appeal to the humanity in you and make you think differently about the good that the actions of a single person can do. It is a moving, crushing piece of cinema, among the very best that 90s had to offer and easily Spielberg’s finest work. It will break your heart, but will leave you with a simmering feeling of hope about the good left in the world. Sometimes, that is all you will need.
Read More: Best Holocaust Movies on Netflix
2. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
While life certainly can be a huge overarching term, almost too large to fathom in one go, this film will most certainly change the way you look at love and modern relationships. One of the most wildly original love stories of our time, ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ is an ethereal watch, and one of Charlie Kaufman’s best written films, and that’s really saying something. Starring Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet, the film tells the story of two lovers who try to have each other’s memories erased from their minds by a medical procedure, and how despite they gravitate toward finding their way back to each other.
The concept of predestination in love is not a new one for films by any means, but ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ can be a life altering experience for you: I can most certainly promise that it will take you to the one person you have most truly loved and either lost or couldn’t have in your life. The ending, especially, is that powerful. A modern high concept film that is sure to tug at your heart and change your outlook on love and life, especially in the modern world where such terms hold fleeting significance.
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1. Good Will Hunting (1997)
I am not a complete taker for movies that make me realise I have an emotional core instead of a solid chest of tin, but ‘Good Will Hunting’ gets to me, without fail, every time. Unpopular opinion, but I found a viewing of this movie to be incredibly more moving than I found ‘The Shawshank Redemption’s. With an Oscar winning screenplay by the Affleck-Damon duo and directed by Gus Van Sant, ‘Good Will Hunting’ is simply the best of its kind: it is incredibly inspiring and uplifting in its best bits, yet it will not shy away from jerking that tear out of your pores when it has the chance. To add to that, if there is one film that I could choose to represent Robin William’s marvellously illustrious career, given the legend that he was, along with ‘Dead Poets Society’, it would be this. I don’t think there is a question that you haven’t seen this and felt exactly the same, but on the off chance that you haven’t, you are refraining yourself from a literal treasure of emotions.
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