How Do Stories Change the World? 6 Movies That Encourage Kindness and Compassion
The best movies in the world are the ones that draw you—the viewer—into the story. The dialogue and characters provide such an engaging experience, that you end up with this very real feeling that inspires you to follow their lead in your own life.
Many movies get people thinking in a different way, but it’s those that offer lessons and values that we want to extend into our families, our communities, and around the world that can have a dramatic impact. If movies are going to set a precedent and ripple a message out into the world, why not focus on the positive influence that movies can inspire?
Dale Strack,Charmain of SDFF, chose six movies that encourage kindness and compassion through their characters, storyline, and values, “I know when I watched them, they made me want to be a better husband, father, boss, neighbor and overall human being, and I hope they have had that same positive impact on other viewers around the world.”
- Hotel Rwanda
This movie highlights courage and kindness to a powerful degree. In the middle of violence and war, one heroic man risked his life—and the lives of his loved ones—to save over a thousand refugees in danger. Hotel Rwanda focuses on the important notion that even in the midst of hatred and extreme darkness, it only takes one courageous act of empathy and kindness to make a difference.
- Little Miss Sunshine
A feel-good movie at heart, Little Miss Sunshine isn’t shy to highlight the sadness, dysfunction, strangeness, and disappointment we can all identify with in this world. But the true lesson here is that all you need to soothe the negativity in life, is a dose of sunshine, kindness, and humor. This gem of a movie teaches the importance of being comfortable in your own skin, finding true acceptance for how things are, and sticking by family and those you care about no matter what.
A young man gets an unusual cancer diagnosis, and he’s beaten down by the side effects of chemotherapy, doctors without empathy, uncertain prognosis, surgery, and an unhelpful and heartless girlfriend. But he’s lifted up by his good friend, who sticks by him and offers unconditional love and support in the most heartwarming of ways. If this film doesn’t inspire you to alleviate someone else’s suffering, I’m not sure what will.
Amélie speaks to how big a difference the small and random acts of kindness can have on the world. The movie is centered around a woman who makes it her mission to make others happy—through true demonstrations of kindness that will make you want to do good in the world for no apparent reason at all.
- Patch Adams
Based on a true story, this touching movie follows a med student who has made it his mission to help patients—not just to alleviate their physical ailments, but to support them emotionally as well. He used laughter as medicine and vowed to connect with his patients below the surface of their diagnosis and treatment, despite the fact that in order to do this, he had to break the rules and risk his career.
“You treat a disease, you win, you lose. You treat a person, I’ll guarantee you’ll win.” ~Patch Adams
- Forrest Gump
Forrest Gump is a naïve and good-hearted man from the South who was raised by his mother to believe he could do anything in life. And so he did. Throughout the movie, Forrest displays incredible acts of loyalty to his loved ones and his duties. In one scene, when serving in the Vietnam War and his platoon is ambushed, Forrest helps several wounded soldiers, ensuring their safety before even considering how he might be compromising his own. Forrest dashes home to care for his sick mother, gives most of his hard-earned money to various causes, and scene after scene demonstrates how he puts others before himself. Forrest Gump highlights the good, old-fashioned values that are often lost in today’s modern world. When the movie ends, you’re called not only to do good for others—but to embrace life for all it’s worth.
“No act of kindness, no matter how big or small, is ever wasted.” ~Aesop
Each of these films, along with so many others, create an instinct in viewers to take positive action which embodies this year’s San Diego Film Festival theme: social justice. Take “He Named Me Malala,” for instance. There is so much sentimental value surrounding this film from the depths of its inspiration to the outstanding effect it has on others. Malala’s father named her after a mythical Pashtun girl who was killed as a result of her decision to courageously speak out. Malala, too, was almost killed for courageously speaking out. As the director of this filmology peeled back the layers of this story, he was able to find new ways to celebrate his children and better himself as a father. Films have the power to effect an audience far beyond the viewers and instill the notion that it takes courage to be kind, but the effects are everlasting.