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Films That Will Actually Teach You Something

Watching movies has always been one of my favorite pastimes. Whether its a romantic comedy starring Matthew McConaughey, Disney Pixar’s newest animated family-favorite sing-along, or–my personal favorite–movies based on real things, I no doubt will enjoy watching it. The following is a list of movies, in no particular order, that I think everyone should watch at least once. This list ranges from a variety of genres, but they all have one thing in common: they will actually teach you something.

Don’t Look Up (2021)

If you have a lot for politics, media, and the intersectionality of the two, Don’t Look Up is the movie for you. This was easily my favorite movie from 2021. When two scientists discover that a giant meteor is headed towards earth, inevitably leading to widespread extinction, they turn to their government for help. The bigger problem? No one will take them seriously. This film is witty, satirical, and focuses on a lot of bigger themes relating to the polarization of our society. It also has a star studded cast, including my personal favorite, Timothee Chalamet! I could talk about this movie for hours, but I digress.

Call Me By Your Name (2017)

Another Timothee Chalamet movie because I truly believe that everything he is in is amazing, nonetheless this is one of his best performances. This coming of age film explores the romantic relationship between Elio Perlman (Timothee Chalamet) and Oliver (Armie Hammer) during the summer of 1983 in northern Italy. The ambiance and aesthetic choices of this film is enough to watch this movie. However, this film examines the fluidity of sexuality and recognizes the familiar feeling of one’s first love.

Vice (2018)

Whether you love politics, or you don’t, Vice is a movie that every American should watch. Vice breaks down the extremely interesting and secretive political career of former Vice President Dick Cheney (Christain Bale). As they walk through Cheney’s rise to political power, it becomes very evident the impact of 9/11 on American politics today. This film does a great job on examining the impacts of politicians and personal agendas in politics. The best part about this movie is that it is based on real events and says a lot about the political climate of the US post 9/11.

Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020)

Based in the late 60s, at the beginning of Nixon’s presidency, the political climate of the US was at a cultural turning point. With the Vietnam War and the rise of anti-war activists, cultural revolutionists, and far left political group leaders, this era of America was not just interesting but radical. Trial of the Chicago 7 details the arduous conditions of this era as it tells the true story of the criminal investigation against 7 protestors that allegedly “incited the Chicago riots”. This film focuses on political ideologies, police brutality, and hippie culture to frame a truly engrossing story about seven men that come from vastly different backgrounds, yet are fighting for the same cause.

The Theory of Everything (2014)

We all have heard of Steven Hawking and his remarkable contributions to science as well as his inspiring experience with ALS. The Theory of Everything walks viewers through Hawking’s career as an exceptional astro-physicist as he tries to discover the theory of, well, everything. This film shows the viewer the importance of life and purpose to one’s passions. Ultimately, this movie successfully tells both the story of Hawking’s life and his journey to discovering the true meaning to life itself.

The Farewell (2019)

If you want a good tear jerker, The Farewell is the movie for you. This movie is centered on a Chinese family who goes back to China for a wedding. Only, that isn’t completely true. The wedding is actually a front to get the family together one last time to say goodbye to their grandma who is dying from cancer–only she doesn’t know she is dying herself. This film focuses on the matriarchal power in Chinese family culture. The matriarch, usually the grandmother for the family, is the center gathering and nurturing force. The Farewell focuses on deep cultural values to the Chinese as it tries to navigate the main characters’ struggle to cope with the fact that this is the last time she will see her beloved Nai Nai (Mandarin for grandmother).

While these are some great movies that I think everyone would find interesting. There are plenty of other movies out there that you can learn valuable lessons from. I focus most of my film choices on political and cultural relevance. However, there are many other types of films that can have the same impact. Feel free to recommend some in the comments down below!

Written by: Meredith Ho

Meredith is the Communications Associate in The Women’s Network at IU. She is a sophomore from Carmel, Indiana, studying Public Policy Analysis on the Pre-Law track. Besides TWN, she is also involved in IU’s fashion magazine, SEASON, as a staff photographer. She also works as the Visual Arts Liaison for HHArt.

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