25 Films That Remind You What's Important in Life

by Matador Creators May 16, 2011
The community-generated follow-up to our September 2010 post, 25 movies to remind you what’s important in life.

AT THE TIME OF WRITING, that post has nearly 25,000 page views and just under 80 comments. Lots of people suggested films they thought should be on the list, so we felt it was time for a follow-up.

We included a film if the person commenting gave a good reason for doing so, or if more than one person had left a comment in support of that film. Comments were edited for clarity and punctuation where necessary.

All plot summaries were taken from the Internet Movie Database. The films are arranged alphabetically.

1. A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints

Director: Dito Montiel
Year: 2006
Summary: The movie is a coming-of-age drama about a boy growing up in Astoria, N.Y., during the 1980s. As his friends end up dead, on drugs or in prison, he comes to believe he has been saved from their fate by various so-called saints.

This was suggested by Jasmine P, who had this to say:

A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints was amazing, and one of the few times I have seriously noticed how something I’ve seen or read, having bought the book the next day, has affected my life. It made me appreciate the hell that is my past. It also helped me recognized important people in my life and little things that I may have taken for granted as being important.

2. About a Boy

Director: Chris and Paul Weitz
Year: 2002
Summary: Based on Nick Hornby’s best-selling novel, About A Boy is the story of a cynical, immature young man who is taught how to act like a grown-up by a little boy.

For Jen Laceda, the end of the film was powerful:

I would add ABOUT A BOY to my list…something about the last bit of the movie that sticks – that statement about human relationships.
Marcus (the boy): “I used to think two was not enough. But now things are great; there are loads of people… I don’t know what Will was so pissed about. I don’t think couples are the future. The way I see it now, we both got back-up. It’s like that thing Jon Bon Jovi said: ‘No man is an island.’”
Will (Hugh Grant): “Every man is an island. But clearly, some men are island CHAINS. Underneath, they are connected…”

3. City of Angels

Director: Brad Silberling
Year: 1998
Summary: Inspired by the modern classic, Wings of Desire, City involves an angel (Cage) who is spotted by a doctor in an operating room. Franz plays Cage’s buddy who somehow knows a lot about angels.

A few commenters thought this film should have been included.

Abi – I agree with the first comment…there are plenty of movies who talk about what life means: CITY OF ANGELS
ThaisChalencon – I love movies and this list is really good. I just missed “City of Angels”. I think fits well with the theme.

4. Contact

Director: Robert Zemeckis
Year: 1997
Summary: Dr. Ellie Arroway, after years of searching, finds conclusive radio proof of intelligent aliens, who send plans for a mysterious machine.

Sierra Hiker thought Contact provoked interesting questions:

The other film that always reminds me of what’s important in life is “Contact” with Jodie Foster and Matthew McConaughey. It brings about spiritual questions like, “What is ‘belief’?” in the guise of a sci-fi flick. This one really is worth a view.

5. The Darjeeling Limited

Director: Wes Anderson
Year: 2007
Summary: Three American brothers who have not spoken to each other in a year set off on a train voyage across India with a plan to find themselves and bond with each other — to become brothers again like they used to be.

Reagan felt the film should be on the list, and Marc Saint-Cyr had this to say:

I simply love The Darjeeling Limited – it’s a great one for travelers, obviously, but is also such an insightful and warm film – and it comes complete with a dope soundtrack, to boot!

6. Dead Poets Society

Director: Peter Weir
Year: 1989
Summary: English professor John Keating inspires his students to a love of poetry and to seize the day.

Jane said the film really moved her:

I don’t know if anyone else was as moved as I was by Dead Poets Society. It’s my favorite movie and makes me appreciate life and love and poetry every time I watch it.

7. Forrest Gump

Director: Robert Zemeckis
Year: 1994
Summary: Forrest Gump, while not intelligent, has accidentally been present at many historic moments, but his true love, Jenny, eludes him.

A number of commenters seemed to think Forrest Gump and his metaphorical chocolates deserved a place:

Amy – I would add Forrest Gump
Mandy – I can only see one that I really missed from this list, Forrest Gump. “Sometimes there just aren’t enough rocks.”
Sylar – Where is Forrest Gump?

8. Garden State

Director: Zach Braff
Year: 2004
Summary: A quietly troubled young man returns home for his mother’s funeral after being estranged from his family for a decade.

Along with The Green Mile, this film got the most recommendations. JoAnna Haugen said:

I would add Garden State. Something about that movie gets me every time.

And Steph, Sonia, and Amy also said it should definitely be added.

9. The Green Mile

Director: Frank Darabont
Year: 1999
Summary: The story [based on a novel by Stephen King] about the lives of guards on death row leading up to the execution of black man accused of child murder & rape, who has the power of faith healing.

The other omission that lots of people picked up on:

Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar – Where’s The Green Mile?
Steph – I agree with The Green Mile as well
Sylar – Let’s not forget the famous Green Mile
Abi – I agree with the first comment…there are plenty of movies who talk about what life means: GREEN MILE

10. I Remember Mama

Director: George Stevens
Year: 1948
Summary: The ups and downs of a Norwegian immigrant family, circa 1910.

Dianne Colombo uses I Remember Mama as a barometer of her humanity:

My second favorite movie of all time (right behind Casablanca) is an Irene Dunne film called “I Remember Mama”. It’s filmed in B/W but it is radiant with the message of family devotion, fidelity, humor, honor and the everlasting effect of love. It’s side message is about how immigrants have transformed our American society by adding the best of their homeland to our own, and in the process make us all the better for it. Love love love this movie…if the day ever comes when I do not cry throughout watching “Mama”, then I will know I no longer have a heart.

11. Ikiru

Director: Akira Kurosawa
Year: 1952
Summary: Kanji Watanabe is a longtime bureaucrat in a city office who, along with the rest of the office, spends his entire working life doing nothing. He learns he is dying of cancer and wants to find some meaning in his life.

Matt said the film is very powerful:

I would add the film Ikiru to this list and strongly, strongly recommend people see it. I would sum it up as: “It’s never too late to make a difference with your life.” Tells the story of an aging bureaucrat who discovers he has terminal cancer. It is only then that he realizes he has wasted his life, and never really lived. Very emotional and powerful film, done by a true master, Akira Kurosawa.

12. Juno

Director: Jason Reitman
Year: 2007
Summary: Faced with an unplanned pregnancy, an offbeat young woman makes an unusual decision regarding her unborn child.

From Ricky:

Oh I just love the way Juno thinks and I wish I would have a daughter as tough and as brave as her. I guess I should name my daughter Juno, if I have a daughter someday :p

13. Little Miss Sunshine

Director: Jonathan Deyton and Valerie Faris
Year: 2006
Summary: A family determined to get their young daughter into the finals of a beauty pageant take a cross-country trip in their VW bus.

Carolina would add this film, and Ricky asked:

And did anyone mention Little Miss Sunshine? That teaches lots of things about family and dreams

14. Little Shop of Horrors

Director: Frank Oz
Year: 1986
Summary: A nerdish florist finds his chance for success and romance with the help of a giant man-eating plant who demands to be fed.

Another suggestion from Jasmine P, who said:

A movie that reminds me what’s important is the silly 1986 Little Shop of Horrors. In part from how it was made, but the simple message of it being a person and not what a person has that makes other people like them. But LSoH is a movie I don’t think I could ever not like.

15. Lost in Translation

Director: Sofia Coppola
Year: 2003
Summary: A movie star with a sense of emptiness, and a neglected newlywed meet up as strangers in Tokyo, Japan and form an unlikely bond.

Lost in Translation nearly got lost in the crush, but both Kristen Patel and AJ Silver came to the rescue.

16. Mambo italiano

Director: Emile Gaudreault
Year: 2003
Summary: The son of Italian immigrants to Canada struggles to find the best way to reveal to his parents that he’s gay.

For Gwen McCauley, this film lifts him up if he’s feeling blue.

There’s a small Canadian film that I love to watch when I need a bit of a boost. It’s called Mambo Italiano. Funny, full of stereotypes and very hopeful.

17. Out of Africa

Director: Sydney Pollack
Year: 1985
Summary: In 20th century colonial Kenya, a Danish baroness/plantation owner has a passionate but ultimately doomed love affair with a free-sprited big-game hunter.

Another one from Sierra Hiker:

I would also add “Out of Africa” because everytime I watch it, I believe in true love again! Message: “It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”

18. Rent

Director: Chris Columbus
Year: 2005
Summary: This is the film version of the Pulitzer and Tony Award winning musical about Bohemians in the East Village of New York City struggling with life, love and AIDS, and the impacts they have on America.

For Alouise, Rent reminds her to live:

It’s a modern day retelling of La Boheme. Rent always reminds me to live life to the fullest. It’s my favourite musical ever – I recently blogged about my Rent experience. There’s a movie version of the musical and a filmed live on Broadway version – both are great.

19. Seven Pounds

Director: Gabriele Muccino
Year: 2008
Summary: An IRS agent with a fateful secret embarks on an extraordinary journey of redemption by forever changing the lives of seven strangers.

Elliot Mist wondered why Seven Pounds wasn’t on the list, and Sierra Hiker explained why she’s a fan:

It is really well done and leaves you guessing until the end. Powerful message about selfless giving. Anything with Will Smith is great!

20. Stealing Beauty

Director: Bernardo Bertolucci
Year: 1996
Summary: After her mother commits suicide, nineteen year old Lucy Harmon travels to Italy to have her picture painted.

Aousten had this to say:

If I was you, I would add Bernardo Bertolucci’s film Stealing Beauty! It’s a beautiful movie that inspires you to search for love in whatever form.

21. Under the Tuscan Sun

Director: Audrey Wells
Year: 2003
Summary: While on vacation, a just-divorced writer buys a villa in Tuscany on a whim, hoping it will be the start of a change for the better in her life.

For Kim Love it’s about appreciating the simple things in life:

Under the Tuscan Sun makes me want to travel and see the appreciation in life like friends, family, beauty of nature, etc.

22. Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Director: Woody Allen
Year: 2008
Summary: Two girlfriends on a summer holiday in Spain become enamored with the same painter, unaware that his ex-wife, with whom he has a tempestuous relationship, is about to re-enter the picture.

This one from Kristen Patel:

In addition to Lost in Translation I would have to include Vicky-Cristina Barcelona – besides the amazing cast, this movie not only accurately portrayed the vibes of Barcelona in the most subtle way, but also touches on the cycle of life, and that very few people ever really know what they want.

23. Wings of Desire

Director: Wim Wenders
Year: 1987
Summary: An angel tires of overseeing human activity and wishes to become human when he falls in love with a mortal.

Scott Sayre thought it was a key film that should have been included, and
Marc Saint-Cyr said it really does have the power to change your life:

As a movie buff, I could go on forever coming up with films to add to this list, but I’ll limit it to one: Wings of Desire. This gorgeously crafted German film about angels and life before the fall of the Berlin Wall says so much about the importance of living life to its fullest, making the most of its small pleasures and cherishing love. By way of a simple yet powerful metaphor, it makes you think about how you are spending your life, and really inspires you to look at things with a new appreciation. I don’t say this about very many films, but this one absolutely has the power to change your life.

24. The Wizard of Oz

Director: Victor Fleming
Year: 1939
Summary: Dorothy Gale is swept away to a magical land in a tornado and embarks on a quest to see the Wizard who can help her return home.

Judy said she’d add the film, even though you’d find it in the children’s section. Sylar was also wondering why it hadn’t been included. Well, it is now!

25. 127 Hours

Director: Danny Boyle
Year: 2010
Summary: A mountain climber becomes trapped under a boulder while canyoneering alone near Moab, Utah and resorts to desperate measures in order to survive.

Another one Sylar couldn’t believe we’d missed:

127 hours really teaches you the importance of life. James Franco gave his best performance as Aron Ralston, a rock climber whose arm was stuck under a rock for 127 hours. He eventually cut off his arm with a dull pocket knife. If that doesn’t remind you of what’s important in life then I don’t know what does.


We almost dread to ask, but are there any more you would add to the list?
Make sure you check out the original article: 25 Movies to remind you what’s important in life. Thanks to everyone who left their comments and suggestions on the last post!

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