Finding Inspiration in “Unwholesome” Places

The R rated movie debate emerged recently at another blog, so I can thank them for inspiring this post. It goes without saying that what is offensive is highly subjective. Hopefully we as Latter-day Saints would have at least some consensus about some films. Try as you might, justifying a XXX movie is pretty tough to do (and that goes for either the porno kind or the abysmal Vin Diesel kind). But other things are tough to pin down. I had a friend (one who’d been to several R rated movies with me) strenuously object to showing Gone with the Wind at a ward movie night. He was appalled at the scene where Rhett Butler snatches up Scarlett in the middle of an argument, carries her upstairs amid her protests, and insists she needs to be loved. In the next scene, we see Bonnie, the product of the night’s passion. “He basically rapes her and it’s portrayed as romantic,” my friend argued. Those 10 seconds ruined the 4 hour movie for him.

I’ll confess right now, I’m tough to offend at films. Those who are easily offended are quick to label folks like me, “desensitized” (we don’t feel the same way they do, you see). I used to return the favor with labels like “sheltered” and “prude.” Now I just try and appreciate that we’re different.

With that in mind, I’d love to hear everyone’s most inspirational R rated films. The rules are: 1) Unless you are absolutely convinced you’ve got a brilliant, original new point to add to the “no R rated movie” debate, let’s just avoid that line of discussion altogether. Yes I’ve heard President Benson’s talk; yes, I know how crappy the rating system is; yes, I know about . . . yada yada yada. 2) Feel free to disagree with a film selection and tell us why, but please do so respectfully. In other words, don’t just say that you were offended at this film and you just can’t imagine why the rest of us haven’t seen the light like you. 3) Tell us your reasons. Don’t list Zombie Mutant Cannibals 4: Death Rides a Zombie without a little explanation as to why this inspired you. 4) Try and stick to movies that truly moved you – especially movies that changed the way you view life or enhanced your spirituality somehow. I love Stripes just as much as the next guy, but it didn’t exactly change my life. Finally, 5) You don’t have to list only R rated movies, but I am especially curious about movies that might not traditionally be considered inspirational.

I’ll kick it off with a very cliched one, but one that changed my view of war forever: Saving Private Ryan. I can’t explain why or how, but in the first 20 minutes of the film I was overcome with grief. I’d read about World War II, I’d studied it and watched veterans on TV. But that film made the sacrifice so real, so tangible. For the first time I was struck with the knowledge of what war means. I knew as I watched the camera pan across Omaha Beach after the battle, that if I were to go to war, I most likely wouldn’t be a rugged Tom Hanks-like hero. No, I’d be the guy lying face down in the sand in the corner of the screen, next to other nameless, faceless people. Hopefully I’d be lucky enough to still have my dog tags so my family could be notified properly.


  1. “can a Mormon write/direct/produce/star in Glengarry Glen Ross…”

    I sure hope so, because I plan on doing David Mamet’s work for him once he’s dead. And I’ll be doing Jack Lemmon’s this weekend.

  2. Nate Oman says:

    “I simply reject the idea that church leaders should think they can direct one’s choice of movies to watch (or art to view, or books to read, or music to listen to, or religious topics to discuss, etc.).”

    Yes Dave, we know. The interesting question is what matters do you think Church leaders CAN legitimately give you direction about.

  3. “So I’d rather not dance around the central point by pointing to a something inspiring about Heat (love the gunfight in downtown LA) or Crimson Tide (I’m a sucker for submarine movies). I simply reject the idea that church leaders should think they can direct one’s choice of movies to watch (or art to view, or books to read, or music to listen to, or religious topics to discuss, etc.).”

    The breaking of several rules aside :) I agree Dave.

    I started this thread primarily because I wanted some recommendations of what to see. But I also did it for those of us who agree with you and get frustrated that we’re told what we should and shouldn’t find inspirational and what we should and shouldn’t be offended at. I don’t want people to have to stretch and come up with an eloquent post about why the Buddhist themes in Animal House moved them to tears, while the dichotomy between good and evil changed their life after watching Porky’s II.

    I love movies that produce a visceral reaction, much the same way Private Ryan did for me, or even Lost in Translation, or Mystic River (though Mystic wasn’t quite as “inspirational” as the other two for me).

  4. “The interesting question is what matters do you think Church leaders CAN legitimately give you direction about.”

    I think many people, including Church leaders themselves, ponder this question. But on different threads, Mr. Love Actually.

  5. (The rest of my post. Why–why?–am I so longwinded?)

    Suffice it say that I seek out stories for more than just inspirational value. Therefore, I’m willing to tolerate less-than-inspirational stories in order to learn something about the author/director’s world-view or about life in general from the thoughts or behavior of the actors.

    One of my top-five favorite movies is Pulp Fiction. Thoroughly, drippingly violent and profane. But I think of Jules’ monologue at the end of the film often. It is one of the best portrayals of a repentant and willing heart that I know of. Likewise, Vincent — Jules’ spiritual opposite — is, for me, a memorable and instructive example of egotism and cynicism at its worst. Watching him doesn’t make me want to shoot people and do drugs, it makes me want to look for something to believe in, something my religion provides me.

    I might add that the most inspirational, Christ-centered film I’ve ever seen was R. Spielberg’s Amistad. It’s not my favorite movie, but it’s powerfully inspiring.

    You seek out stories for your purposes in your ways, and I’ll do so for my purposes in my ways. Sadly, certain overzealous bishops immortalized in recent blog posts don’t feel the same way.

  6. A few off the top of my head:
    Maria Full of Grace moves in its visual eloquence and empathy for typically unsympathetic figures.

    Bowling for Columbine inspires critical thinking about the roots of violence in our country, beyond the simple NRA/anti-NRA stances.

    Unfaithful was in no way inspiring, rather it was a dark commentary on the emotional and physical unraveling that betrayal wreaks on a marriage.

  7. After watching Changing Lanes a few years ago, I felt more penitent than I have ever felt leaving a church service. I saw in myself Ben Affleck’s lack of ethics and Samuel Jackson’s lack of discipline, and realized the havoc that my weaknesses were wreaking on my relationships.

    The movie succeeds in portraying sympathetic characters on both sides of a violent conflict. Neither opponent is an intrinsically evil person, but Ben Affleck has been trained in the art of unethical lawyering by his boss, who is also his father-in-law, and Samuel Jackson has fallen victim to the bottle and to a volatile temper. The most chilling scenes of the movie involve Affleck realizing what kind of a family he has married into, and Jackson realizing that he is so addicted to drinking and fighting that he can avoid one vice only by engaging in the other.

    More fundamental than the question of why bad things happen to good people is the question of why good people do bad things. The film A Simple Plan took a stab at this question, but, in spite of its strengths, left me empty. Changing Lanes held up a mirror that revealed to me my flaws, but also offered hope for redemption.

    I think it’s time to see it again.

  8. All of you cinephiles put me to shame, but here is an oddball contribution. I am generally oblivious to ratings, and unsullied by this valuable knowledge, there are some movies on this thread that I am shocked, shocked (well, OK, surprised, surpised) to find are R-rated. Now I find myself trying to guess why they would be R-rated:

    Glory (flogging Denzel Washington??? — the battle scenes weren’t any worse than hundreds of other war movies)

    Rain Man (gambling???)

    This Is Spinal Tap (the cucumber scene???)

    Shakespeare in Love (???)

    So there’s a list of movies that this naif enjoyed without even realizing he was risking the wrath of whoever (as for the last two sometimes I just go to the movies to have fun, is that OK or does that mean I have to resign from BCC for lack of intellectuality?!?).

  9. Apparently you do know what I know, Logan — ie, that it is hilarious.

    When I was growing up pre-internet, it was hard to figure out which movies were rated R “just for swearing”, and thus possible to convince my mother to let us rent. The Breakfast Club and This is Spinal Tap were two of the big ones we were able to talk her into.

  10. At first blush I thought that this would mirror the SoM thread as well, but I think we’re looking for something different that they were. Die Hard, for example, was an extremely cool film, as was Heat, but neither was very inspirational.

    I agree with Aaron about American Beauty, incidentally.

    Does inspirational mean “upbeat” or “ennobling”, incidentally? I would think that Glengarry, Glen Ross would be one of the most thought-provoking, inspirational movies I’ve seen, but it’s clearly not inspirational in the sense of Glory or Schindler’s List.

  11. Bowling for Columbine, CTK? I mean, an interesting movie, sure. I liked the message about how fear-obsessed we are. But most inspirational R-rated movie ever? I’m not convinced. I thought MM’s tactics were pretty cheap, and I’ve certainly seen documentaries that were more affecting (Capturing the Friedmans comes to mind).

    I do want to see Maria Full of Grace, though — I’ve heard it’s amazing. On a side note, have you seen City of God?

  12. D. Fletcher says:

    But here’s the important thing I just learned from the T&S thread.

    I mentioned that I wouldn’t have to do heroin to know that it wouldn’t be good for me. Well, nobody called me on this, but how do I know this? Because I’ve learned the lesson without trying it. Because I’ve learned the lesson some other way. Perhaps from a movie, a harsh movie with a harsh lesson. Kaimi has mentioned that “Requiem for a Dream” should be required viewing for 9th graders. I don’t know if I’d go that far, but if I could save my children from a horrible fate of addiction, simply by having them watch an R-rated movie, I certainly would do it.

    So, a movie might be ennobling, or inspirational in the “upbeat” sense, or it might be inspirational in the sense of teaching important lessons about life, relationships, even God.

    It’s really hard for me to find a movie that’s inspirational to me that’s rated R, because I like older movies best.

    Have any of you ever seen “The Good Mother,” a movie with Diane Keaton and Liam Neeson? It’s based on a novel by Sue Miller, about a divorced mother of a six-year-old girl, who finds sexual fulfillment (and a good, trusting relationship) with a new boyfriend, but at a devastating cost. It is the most moving, thought-provoking, and bleakly realistic film about marital and non-marital relationships I’ve ever seen, plus it makes some poignant points about our current system of justice. Looking at the DVD, I see it is rated R, so it fits the category.

    For an older movie, for real inspiration, look to “The Best Years of Our Lives.”

  13. D. Fletcher says:

    But I need to pronounce judgment on the other films here:

    Magnolia, Punch-Drunk Love, YEA

    American Beauty, BOO (too simplistic and didactic)

    Amelie, Kieslovski’s Colors, YEA

    Schindler’s List, YEA (best movie of last 25 years)

    Shawshank, BOO (way, way overrated)

    Mystic River, OK (a tad overrated, but worthwhile)

    Dead Man Walking, YEA (brilliant character studies, and a point which changed me)

    Pulp Fiction, YEA AND BOO (the form took a leap, but do I really need to see that violence? — I’m not sure)

    The Thin Red Line, BOO (boring beyond boring)

  14. Greg Call says:

    D mentioned “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” which made me think of the terrific, um, documentary “They Shoot Movies, Don’t They?” Check it out!

  15. Greg Call says:

    You’re breaking other rules, too. My Dinner with Andre is PG (and is not a documentary) and Fog of War is PG-13.

  16. Dave, you’re breaking John’s Rule #1 — a e-smackdown shall be sent forthwith.

  17. Aaron Brown says:

    First, to get the obvious out of the way, “Schindler’s List” and “Shawshank Redemption” are probably the two most inspiration, moving films I’ve seen. “Glory” would probably make my list too, except that it’s been so long since I’ve seen it, I’m not sure I remember it well enough to say for sure.

    “American Beauty” was great, but I’m not sure I’d call it “inspirational” in the same sense.

    “Amelie” put me to sleep. I couldn’t make it through the first half. Sorry… I’m sure that will offend everybody.

    As I’ve said elsewhere, Charlize Theron’s “Monster” was one of the most impactful films I’ve seen in a long time. There’s probably a sense in which I could call it “inspirational,” but that may not quite be the right word.

    Aaron B

    “Unfaithful” was interesting and an effective treatment of its theme, but once again, I’m not sure it was that “inspirational.”

    Nate, my wife and I really enjoyed “Love Actually” as well.

  18. Great post I must say.

    A couple (not mentioned) come to mind:

    Owning Mahoney, an incredible look at the stranglehold of addiction (in this case gambling, but can be projected to all kinds).

    Shattered Glass, (PG-13) a beautiful look inside the mind of someone who just wants to be loved and the measures he takes to remain so.

    Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, one of my all-time favorites, a look into the regrets and memories of past relationships. A must-see.

    The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly not particularly inspiring, but has one of the greatest lines in cinema, “You see, in this world there’s two kinds of people, my friend: Those with loaded guns and those who dig. You dig.”

    I find many other movies inspiring in just the way that they are filmed (The Thin Red Line), or the dialogue (Kill Bill 2), or the premise/story (Memento).

    This is great stuff.

  19. D. Fletcher says:

    Here’s what I just bought:

    Made for Each Other
    (Carole Lombard, James Stewart)

    The Young in Heart
    (great comedy! with Paulette Goddard, Janet Gaynor, Doug Fairbanks, Jr.)

    They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?

    Damn Yankees

    That’s Entertainment (3 movie set plus extra disk with extras!)

    Mulan (special edition)

  20. Hey John, any chance of you filing through all of these comments and then posting a list of all of the movies mentioned? There have been some great recommendations. Most of the ones that I’ve seen mentioned seem to be pretty well-known so I’m going to plug one of the classics that I just saw recently. Please, anyone who thinks complex movies about the effects of war are a recent occurrence, see “Best Years of Our Lives.” Epic. Props to the person who recommended it earlier. Um…to fit the requirements of this talkback, can I pretend it’s rated R, even though it came out in 1946?

  21. Hum, maybe a few that haven’t been mentioned . . .

    Has anyone seen the new Manchurian Candidate, I don’t think I’d call it inspirational, but it certainly was powerful. Or maybe a better word is Viseral in a good way.

    Similarly I thought Three Kings was a powerful movie. Very personal and thougthful violence. It made violence as deeply ugly as it should be.

    The Color Purple, is that rated R? That really really affected me as a young woman. On the helplessness of being a especially a black woman. Inspirational yes.

    It’s really hard for me to stick to the idea of inspirational, so I’ll just list some I thought worthwhile.

    Sleepy Hollow is the most beautifully creepy movie ever. Anything with Tim Burton is brilliant (convienently forgetting Mars Attacks, la la la).

    And of course because I have a crush on Daniel Day Lewis, I have to say

    Last of the Mohicans, a lovely love story

    The Boxer, wonderful real characters in lots of pain

    My Left Foot, now that is an inspirational movie

    The Unbearable Lightness of Being, WOW

    In the Name of the Father, mostly depressing, but I think you could call it inspirational if you really wanted to.

    Gangs of New York, who knew our history was like this, plus DDL made a great bad guy

    I could go in with DDL movies, but I think I’ve made my point: If you don’t like DDL as much as me then you’re a big dummy.

  22. Anonymous says:

    I agree with almost all of D’s sentiments on the movies mentioned, but strongly disagree on the Thin Red Line. That movie affected me much more than Saving Private Ryan. (I have a whole anti-SPR tirade, but I’ll spare you.)

    Here are some that haven’t been mentioned: Do the Right Thing, Roger and Me, Manhattan, You Can Count on Me, Paris Texas, Heaven.

  23. D. Fletcher says:

    I don’t know if there’s a good answer to Wendy’s question. I put it to my friend Catherine Hyde, when we saw The Grapes of Wrath onstage. At the end, Rose a Sharon bares her breast, and breastfeeds a starving man.

    I asked Catherine if she could do this, and she said, “No, my wearing of temple garments would prevent such a thing.”

    Why is that, I wonder?

  24. Nate Oman says:

    I don’t know that it was the most inspirational movie (R rated or otherwise) that I have ever seen, but I really enjoyed “Love Actually.” There was something poignant and real about the various stories that moved me.

    Also, for some reason I just find the line where Hugh Grant says “Did you ever have problems like this? Of course you did, you sexy minx.” to a picture of Thatcher hillarious.

  25. D. Fletcher says:

    I got Mulan because I get ALL the Disneys. I have children over here all the time, and they need something to do. Plus, I watch these movies myself and feel younger.

    I’m an sentimental old sap, what can I say? I don’t like Reservoir Dogs, but I do like Damn Yankees.

  26. I know this one’s cliche, too, but I love Braveheart because of the tension between passion and strength on hand and restraint and control on the other.

    Jerry Maguire always makes me think about loyalty, duty, and love in different ways.

    And Nate, I loved Love Actually! It’s probably a bit much for many people in places, but it showed so many different aspects of love (good and bad) that it really leaves me feeling great and inspired.

  27. I should add the strange Christ-story retelling in The Green Mile. Yes, it was a flawed movie. But the image of Pilate wondering, years later, how he had let bureaucracy and mundane details get the better of him when he _knew_ that that was the Son of God — it’s a very good image.

  28. I think Glory is a great movie about struggle and doing what you think is right. Any film that leaves you saying “I just want to live a good life and make a positive impact through my decisions” can’t be bad:) The music is wonderful too.

    Amelie as well, is an excellent uplifting movie. It helps to know French, but it really is good…

  29. I watched Dead Man Walking for the first time when I was 17. I rented the video and watched it in my parent’s bedroom on a Saturday afternoon. As the film ended, I was curled up into a little ball on their bed, crying. On top of being a very well made and well acted film, the movie opened my eyes to different ways of being compassionate to those around me. It taught me about forgiveness and redemption and I think it was especially moving to me because of the stage of life that I was in at the time I watched it.

  30. I’m happy to see that most of my favorites have already been mentioned, even some that might be a little obscure. Let me second nominations for Magnolia, Secrets and Lies, Before Sunrise, My Left Foot, and Lost in Translation.

    Some other good ones are Dazed and Confused, Six Degrees of Separation, Ghost World, American History X, The Daytrippers, Sophie’s Choice.

    As you can see, I tend to prefer movies a bit outside the mainstream. This is a big problem if you don’t want to watch R-rated movies. It seems to me that most “serious” movies that aspire to really say something important or difficult tend to get R ratings. I think this could be because serious topics are seen as beeing too intense for children, and so they might be given an R rating almost by default. Nobody complains, because teenagers don’t usually want to watch those movies anyway…in fact, the R rating might become a signal that a movie is to be taken seriously.

  31. I’m thinking that the movies described in the comments here will fairly closely match the “What’s your favorite R-rated movie” post over at Sons of Mosiah … though what’s been said about Magnolia was new to me (haven’t seen it).

  32. I’ve opined on T & S that Requiem for a Dream is a powerful movie with a great message. It’s definitely on my list.

    The Shawshank Redemption has some very good moments. Yes, it’s a little long and sappy in places. But it has some nice lines — the opera singing, for instance.

    Schindler’s List (duh).

    American Beauty. The Matrix. (not the way over-the-top sequels). And Rain Man.

  33. It goes without saying, I hope, that the ‘R’ rating is somewhat arbitrary and very inconsistent. So before I lay out my case for R movies, let’s just assume I’m talking about movies that are graphically violent, profane, emotionally intense, or contain nudity, regardless of their rating. I really can’t defend movies with graphic sex because to me they are essentially pornographic. If someone else wants to make a case for them, good luck.

    Film, literature, drama — let’s sum it up as stories — attempt to perform at least one kind (and often several kinds) of service: they might entertain us, broaden our horizons about the human condition, thrill us, inspire us, titillate us, persuade us of a philosophical or political viewpoint, and so on. Consequently, different people (including different Mormons) come to stories seeking different services: some people want to be inspired, others merely want to see how others live their lives, respond to different circumstances, etc.; some people just want an adrenaline rush.

    If your main goal for a film is to be inspired, R-rated material may not be conducive to the spiritual uplift you seek, no matter how inspiring the story ultimately proves to be, but of course everyone is different, so your mileage may vary — unfortunately a lot of Saints assume that what is offensive to them must be offensive to you, which is not necessarily true.

    For example, I don’t find profanity to be especially offensive. That’s just how some people talk. To shut someone completely out of my world merely because of a few sounds in their speech that society has somewhat arbitrarily stigmatized is, in my view, tantamount to bigotry. It strikes me as Pharisaical self-righteousness, straining at a gnat while swallowing a camel –bigotry. By declaring entire people or characters to be unclean and therefore unapproachable, you are cutting yourself of from a world of learning because even profane people are children of God. They struggle with good and evil like the rest of us. Are they less worthy of our love? No, of course not. But how can you love someone if you know nothing about them because you won’t go near them? Likewise, how can you gain any insights about life from a character you refuse to spend any time with because of how they speak?

    But of course, I’m falling into the same trap — assuming people should, on a spiritual level, respond to profanity as neutrally as I do. It’s a gray area, I admit. (And the problem with gray areas is that, although they are an inevitable fact of life, we can have no dialogue with red-meat Mormons about gray areas because they abhor all moral ambiguities and inconsistencies. Anything that might be tainted with sin is, in their view, a threat to their salvation that must be abhorred at all costs. I just happen to think those costs are too high, and that exposure to sin does not equal temptation to sin, but I don’t expect everyone in the Church to feel that way.)


  34. It is probably a topic for another thread, but can a Mormon write/direct/produce/star in Glengarry Glen Ross, American Beauty, Magnolia and remain in good standing? Is the act of writing the swear word down on the page, participating in the simulated sex scene, hiring a woman who will be required to bare her breasts, etc. different than watching the final product on DVD over and over again? My husband is a writer/filmmaker, so we talked over those questions frequently when we were active in the church.

    I second everyone’s movie choices, except for Saving Private Ryan, which I haven’t seen, and add Kieslowski’s Blue, White and Red (I think they are all rated R), Before Sunrise, Cinema Paradiso, Amores Perros, Secrets & Lies, LA Confidential, Fargo, Mullholland Drive, and a bunch of others. Plus, while probably not “inspirational”, This is Spinal Tap may be the most important rated R movie ever made. And Aliens was pretty good too.

  35. Jacob took two of mine — “Dancer in the Dark” and “Graveyard of the Fireflies.” I defy ANYONE to not cry during those. :) But here’s one yet to be mentioned, and not depressing: “Billy Elliot.” The relationship between father and son when the son goes against tradition is timeless.

  36. Justin H. says:

    Let me second Steve’s feelings about Magnolia. It’s difficult for me to watch still, but I’m rewarded every time.

    I am especially moved by Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line, which came out about the same time as Private Ryan but didn’t do anywhere near as well at the box office.

    A lot of people object to what they see as pretentiousness in the film; I think that the interaction between Pvt. Witt (played by Jim Caviezel) and Sgt. Walsh (Sean Penn) is one of the best treatments of the Atonement I’ve ever seen/read/heard. The relationship between the two characters and the trajectories they follow through the film pays off so much more powerfully for me than anything in Private Ryan because it’s much more subtly scripted and backed up better by the cinematography. (I think that the war scenes are more moving, also–those in Private Ryan just left me cold, but I felt for Dash Mihok’s and Ben Chaplin’s characters like I knew them.)

  37. Matt Jacobsen:

    Wow. I thought I was the only American besides Roger Ebert who knew about “Grave of the Fireflies.” I first saw it in Japanese after my mission in Tokyo and was moved, but a lot of the language went over my head and I knew I was missing a lot of the movie. My wife gave a subtitled version to me on DVD last Christmas and my 7-year-old and I watched it together. He’s in a Japanese immersion public school, so he listened to the original track and I read the subtitles to myself. I had to be by myself for about an hour or so after watching the subtitled version (to honestly deal with my emotions), then my son and I had a wonderful discussion about war.

    Our favorite Japanese market sells the candy drops in the can that little Setsuko treasures. It brings tears to my eyes every time I see them.

    I highly recommend this movie. I don’t know if it’s officially MPAA rated or not, but I’d say it’s a PG. I suggest 7-or-8-year-olds are about the youngest I’d show it to.

  38. Mulan!? Just because you’re an Osmond fan, D.?

    Great picks otherwise, though, esp. Damn Yankees and They Shoot Horses.

    Remind me to start a “Greatest Horse Movies” thread. Is there anything better than National Velvet? Don’t give me Seabiscuit…

  39. Aaron Brown says:

    Nice post above, huh? I must be drunk.

  40. Greg Call says:

    Oh, I see. I thought you said “…documentaries, *a* few of which pull an R…”

  41. Ok, I wasn’t going to put this up here because it is very sexually graphic. But I can argue for the redeeming qualities of the film.

    “Secretary” is one of my favorite love story movies ever. I did find it inspirational, partly because I am a sick and twisted person. But, watching those two imperfect people find each other really made me feel good and gave me hope for myself. It felt a lot more realistic to me than most love stories. I also liked the way it portrayed love as difficult and as a sacrifice. James Spader pushed Maggie G. away because he loved her and wanted to save her from himself but she refused to go. The bathtub scene is breath-takingly beautiful. Can’t say I cared for the saddle scene.

    The movie is not for everyone. It’s about two S&M people falling in love. I hated most of the films being listed in these comments (Except American Beauty, Shawshank, Sleepy Hollow, and the DDL movies.) so you should all probably ignore me, except Lisa.

  42. Okay, first I’ll play along and list a few movies (taken from my Blogger profile), then I’ll complain. Apocalypse Now. Heat. Minority Report. Crimson Tide. A Few Good Men. No artsy stuff. For serious viewing, I like documentaries, few of which pull an “R.” My Dinner With Andre. Fog of War.

    Where did this notion come from that if you can label an R-rated movie “inspirational” then it’s okay to go, but if not (i.e., if the sex and violence is “gratuitous”) then it is wrong? Look, if it’s morally wrong to go to an R-rated movie, then finding a socially redeeming lesson won’t make it right. Would having an “inspiring” experience while high on pot make it morally justifiable to one who views “uninspiring” drug use (for “mere entertainment”) as morally wrong?

    So I’d rather not dance around the central point by pointing to a something inspiring about Heat (love the gunfight in downtown LA) or Crimson Tide (I’m a sucker for submarine movies). I simply reject the idea that church leaders should think they can direct one’s choice of movies to watch (or art to view, or books to read, or music to listen to, or religious topics to discuss, etc.).

  43. Greg Call says:

    Oops, that was me.

  44. People have mentioned Shawshank. I found it inspirational from a gospel standpoint. Andy Dufresne is a Christ figure. He’s the only innocent man in the prison (the world) and he has his group of disciples that help him fix the prison roof. He invites his friend to be with him in paradise. His escape from prison is like a birth, after which he extends his arms out to make a cross. Many more examples. A few people have told me to get a grip, but I think I’m right on this one.

    Another inspirational rated R movie that is almost universally reviled by “religious” people is The Last Temptation of Christ. In addition to having a kickin’ soundtrack by Peter Gabriel, it, more than any other religious movie, pegs the greatness of Christ’s sacrifice. People get caught so much in the supposed sacrilege that they miss the very inspirational point.

    Bottom line, the rating system was not made to guide Mormon adults, so I mostly ignore it (except for my kids, of course). The inspiration I get from these films is just too important to me.

  45. Matt Jacobsen says:

    Rather than comment on (many good)movies already mentioned, I’ll point out some different ones.

    Dancer in the Dark. Tragic story about a struggling mother and the efforts she makes to provide for her child. I find movies about sacrifice inspirational. Just to make you curious, it’s also a musical starring Bjork as a factory worker!

    La Belle noiseuse. I rented this once when I was on an Emmanuelle Beart kick. The story is little more than the relationship between an artist and his nude model and the difficulty of ‘capturing’ her essence in the painting. It was not particularly inspirational, but it certainly made me think twice about the meaning of nudity in life and film. Even though the model is nude most of the time, this movie was just about the most un-erotic thing I’ve ever seen. It’s unfortunately rather boring at 4 hours long, but there is a shorter version out there.

    Grave of the Fireflies. Okay, it’s not rated R. In fact its a G-rated Japanese anime, but it covers themes I wouldn’t share with most children under 12. For those who like to be moved by war movies, this is it. The movie deals with war from the perspective of two children during the end of World War II. The movie is so sad it took me days to recover from it. I bought the DVD but haven’t had the courage to watch it again — just reading the reviews at Amazon is enough to bring the emotion back.

  46. D. Fletcher says:

    Since I love making lists, here’s another one.

    I don’t know if any conclusions can be drawn from this, a list of the past 14 Oscar Winners for Best Picture.

    1990 Dances with Wolves PG-13
    1991 Silence of the Lambs R
    1992 Unforgiven R
    1993 Schindler’s List R
    1994 Forest Gump PG-13
    1995 Braveheart R
    1996 The English Patient R
    1997 Titanic PG-13
    1998 Shakespeare in Love R
    1999 American Beauty R
    2000 Gladiator R
    2001 A Beautiful Mind PG-13
    2002 Chicago PG-13
    2003 Return of the King PG-13

  47. Sorry, thought this was Times and Seasons.


  48. Speaking of the opposite of uplifting, American Beauty filled me with so much RAGE the first time I saw it. I think that themes in the movie are as insiduous as the cinematography is beautiful, and I’m not talking about the homosexual/repression themes. And the movie Snatch by Guy Ritchie, I could strangle grown men after seeing that film. The thing is I don’t “hate” these movies, they just put me such a state of pure anger that I will probably never watch them again.

  49. Steve – by uplifting I mean inspirational, by inspirational, specifically, inspired to think. I’m uplifted when I’m engaged to think and when I’m challenged, and that’s what Bowling for Columbine did. Maria Full of Grace was beautiful. See it. Haven’t seen City of God, but want to. have you? P.S. promised post is upcoming but this silly job keeps getting in the way …

  50. The question is an easy one for me to answer: I was awestruck by “Changing Lanes,” a 2002 film starting Ben Affleck and Samuel L. Jackson. The story is about two men who struggle to do what is right; each truly wants to forgive the other but is unable to. As it turns out, the film symbolizes the Atonement, and it’s no coincidence that the entire story takes place on a Good Friday. The storyline was absolutely inspired, and I wouldn’t say that about very many movies.

    (As an aside, this is one of the films that shows the weakness of the rating system. The film has no sex, little violence and less offensive language the many PG-13 films. In my opinion, in terms of content, the film would be appropriate for young adolescents, although they wouldn’t be mature enough to appreciate its message.)

  51. There are several that have already been mentioned – Glory, Saving Private Ryan, Schindler’s List, The Shawshank Redemption (and I’d include its little brother The Green Mile with it), but pound for pound, I like Gladiator the most. I love the life after death themes and the ennobling idea of dying for what is right. I have a friend who compares Maximus to Captain Moroni, and there are definite similarities between the two.
    Suffice it to say I was inspired.

  52. These are great comments! The movies I haven’t seen I’m going to rent.

    I’ll second “Lost in Translation” by a mile. A beautiful movie about being unfulfilled and the need for human connection. Simply amazing.

  53. We just watched Finding Forrester (sp?) as a family again. My wife and daughter really like it, me too. The four year old … she went off to watch a different movie.

    Some neat stuff like that out there.

  54. We should rent City of God this weekend, CTK. Remember, Battle of the Supercouples starts soon…

  55. just visiting says:

    Well, when I was a kid, Flashdance became very popular among people in my sport.

    What was interesting was that the married people were the most likely to walk out or get offended, but those of us who had not yet had sexual intercourse subliminated parts and all went back to training with increased fevor.

    Interesting, not sure how I’d feel about the movie now.

  56. Whoa, Wendy — I laughed my butt off during Spinal Tap and I love 80’s butt rock, but “the most important rated R movie ever made”?! You must know something I don’t, but I’d love to hear what it is!

  57. Wow — most inspirational R-rated movie? Good question.

    I’m a big fan of PT Anderson. Magnolia and Punch-Drunk Love are among my favorites, because of the way they deal with love and resentment and (with Magnolia) intergenerational conflict in real-world ways. Yet at their hearts, they’re sentimental, romantic movies that aren’t afraid to to flout film convention. Others will disagree about these movies, I’m sure.

    Alternatively, I’d have to pick Mystic River, for amazing portrayals of grief, or Lost in Translation, for sheer beauty and its ability to capture a sense of emotional distance and a desire to belong.

    I agree with you, John, about Saving Private Ryan, except that the film’s more sentimental moments (the beginning and ending in particular) don’t hold up very well under repeated viewings. It’s just a little too obvious in its emotional manipulation for me. In that vein, though, Band of Brothers was amazing.

    One of my favorite stories, incidentally, is Gideon Burton’s story about how a good friend of his was able to finally understand the restored Gospel and the role of Christ by watching The Last Temptation of Christ. I’ll try to find it online.

  58. Yeah, and you’re dumb!

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