When I say “agenda film,” I’m talking about movies that pose an obvious moral dilemma, or examine social issues that often divide people. The possibilities here are endless, but below are a handful of films that have triggered memorable discussions with my friends and family after the fact.
Do the Right Thing (1989)
Possible discussion: What motivates and perpetuates racism?
From there, your debate may organically transform into a widespread conversation about race in America. Then, and now. Which is, I believe, one of Spike Lee’s major intentions with his film.
Malcolm X (1992)
Possible discussion: Can people really change?
The first time I saw Malcolm X, I watched it with my father, and when it was done, he asked me what I thought. And I said something to the effect of, “I guess the movie was so long because it had to show that he really did change as a person. But did the real man actually change?”
His response, and again, I’m paraphrasing: “If you figure that out, then you may be able to teach a few people some things.”
Possible discussion: Gay rights – to believe, or not to believe.
Did Andrew Beckett’s firm have the right to fire him because he had AIDS? Did Andrew’s firm even know he had AIDS? Was the settlement paid to Andrew and his family fair? Was it too generous? Again, you tell me.
Breaking the Waves (1996)
Possible discussion: Is infidelity ever acceptable?
I can hear the arguments from here…
A Time to Kill (1996)
Possible discussion: Is it okay to kill in the name of revenge?
Should Carl have let the justice system run its course? Did he have a right to kill two men who senselessly ruined his daughter’s life? Is murder ever justified?
Deliver Us From Evil (2006)
Possible discussion: Is true forgiveness possible?
Does O’Grady have the right to do this? Are there instances when forgiveness (under the eyes of God, or under the laws of human decency) is simply not attainable?
Lake of Fire (2006)
Possible discussion: Abortion – the pros and cons of Life vs. Choice.
Lake of Fire doesn’t tell you which side is right and which is wrong, but you’ll be damn sure to ask yourself that once it’s over.
Gone Baby Gone (2007)
Possible discussion: What is best for an innocent child trapped in a bad situation?
Patrick’s decision to call the cops, thereby sending Amanda back to her mother and the Captain to jail, ends his relationship with Angie, and divided audiences about what is right and what is wrong for a little girl who can’t decide for herself.
Possible discussion: Are people really that stupid?
Now, the whole time I watched Compliance, I kept saying to myself what I’m sure a lot of people said to themselves, which is something related to, “Oh, cut me a break.” Thing is, everything in Compliance happened. Everything. More than once.
Just today, I was having a conversation on Twitter with a few people concerning this film and my proposed discussion topic. Watch this movie with some people, and I’m sure you will too.
United 93 (2006)
Possible discussion: When is Too Soon, too soon?
When the first teasers for United 93 hit theaters in late 2005, it famously encouraged cries of “Too soon!” in a handful of New York City theaters. But was it? Was releasing a 9/11-related film (a very good 9/11-related film) less than five years after the actual event too soon? Ask me, and I’ll say no. But last week, I read that an indie filmmaker is scouting locations in Connecticut in preparation for the Sandy Hook massacre-related film he plans to soon make. Too soon for that? You’re goddamn right.
10 more bound to provoke discussion:
Kramer vs. Kramer
Thelma & Louise
Capturing the Friedman’s
Million Dollar Baby
Super Size Me
Away From Her