Movies To Help You Love Life

Ten Life-Affirming Films

Image by Bela Geletneky from Pixabay

To see a World in a Grain of Sand. And a Heaven in a Wild Flower.

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand. And Eternity in an hour.

William Blake (Auguries of Innocence)

Isn’t life grand? Isn’t life great? What a magnificent opportunity we have to feel, and think, and love. If you don’t see it this way, then perhaps some movies can help you experience the joys of living, the pleasures of the world, and the wealth that comes from appreciating and being grateful for what you have.

Sure, there is sadness; there is pain; there is fear. But at the end of the day, to have had the chance to live is to be immeasurably lucky and fortunate in a most profound and monumental way. Life is a gift. Here are a few movies where characters learn that:

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) is a fantasy directed by Frank Capra about a kindly bank executive, George Bailey (James Stewart), who has always tried to help others, even at the cost of his own dreams and ambitions, until a financial setback plummets him to despair when he realizes that he is worth more dead than alive, but a stranger, Clarence (Henry Travers), helps him see how valuable his life is by showing him what it would have been like had he never been born.

Life Lesson: Be grateful for your life; it beats the alternative.

  • Movie Scene:

    Clarence: Strange isn’t it?  Each man’s life touches so many other lives. And when he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?  […]  Your brother Harry Bailey broke through the ice and was drowned at the age of nine.

    George: That’s a lie! Harry Bailey went to war. He got the Congressional Medal of Honor. He saved the lives of every man on that transport.

    Clarence: Every man on that transport died. Harry wasn’t there to save them, because you weren’t there to save Harry. You see George, you really had a wonderful life. Don’t you see what a mistake it would be to throw it away?

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) is a comedy written and directed by John Hughes about Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick), a high school senior who knows that time is running out to be with his friends and decides to skip school in order to enjoy a day with them.

Life Lesson: “Stop and smell the roses.”— Idiom

  • Movie Scene:

    Ferris: I said it before and I’ll say it again. Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987) is a comedy written and directed by John Hughes about two very different men, uptight executive Neal Page (Steve Martin) and jovial salesman Del Griffith (John Candy), who embark on an accident-prone Thanksgiving journey together.

Life Lesson: “Don’t sweat the small stuff … and it’s all small stuff.” — Richard Carlson

  • Movie Scene:

    Del: You have any idea how glad I am I didn’t kill you?

    Neal: Do you have any idea how glad I’d be if you had?

    Del: Oh, come on pal, you don’t mean that. Remember what I said about going with the flow? … Like a twig on the shoulders of a mighty stream.

Scrooged (1988) is a comedy directed by Richard Donner, adapted from Charles Dickens’ classic book, A Christmas Carol, about Frank Cross (Bill Murray), a cold-hearted TV executive who is given the chance to change his callous ways by three ghosts.

Life Lesson: “Put a little love in your heart, and the world will be a better place.” —Jackie DeShannon

  • Movie Scene:

    Frank: You have to do something. You have to take a chance. You do have to get involved … There are people that don’t have enough to eat. There are people that are cold. You can go out and say ‘hello’ to these people. You can take an old blanket out of the closet and say ‘here.’ You can make them a sandwich and say, ‘oh by the way, here.’ I get it now! And if you give, then it can happen, then the miracle can happen to you. It’s not just the poor and hungry, it’s everybody.

Dead Poets Society (1989) is a drama directed by Peter Weir about a group of students at a private preparatory school, Welton Academy, where their unconventional English teacher, Mr. Keating (Robin Williams), encourages them to seek passion, be freethinkers, and fully express their identity and individuality.

Life Lesson: Carpe Diem — Seize the Day.

  • Movie Scene:

    Mr. Keating: Peruse some of the faces from the past … Their eyes are full of hope, just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable? Because you see, gentlemen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you … Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary.

Groundhog Day (1993) is a comical fantasy co-written and directed by Harold Ramis about Phil, a self-centered grouch played by Bill Murray, who repeatedly wakes up on the same day, February 2, until he learns to care about others.

Life Lesson: You will be a happier person if you take joy in the simple pleasures of life: books, music, learning, being kind to others.

  • Movie Scene:

    Phil (discovering love): I think you’re the kindest, sweetest, prettiest person I’ve ever met in my life.  I’ve never seen anyone that’s nicer to people than you are … The first time I saw you, something happened to me. I never told you, but I knew that I wanted to hold you as hard as I could.

The Family Man (2000) is a drama directed by Brett Ratner about Jack Campbell (Nicolas Cage), a very successful and wealthy investment broker who gets a glimpse into the life he might have had had he made the decision to stay with his girlfriend, Kate Reynolds (Téa Leoni), thirteen years before, instead of remaining a bachelor.

Life Lesson: The choices you make have a lasting effect on the rest of your life.

  • Movie Scene:

    Kate: I think about it too. I do. I wonder about what kind of life I would have had if I hadn’t married you.

    Jack: And?

    Kate: And then I realize I’ve just erased all the things in my life that I’m sure about: you and the kids.

    Jack: Good things.

    Kate: Yeah. What are you sure about?

    Jack: I’m sure that right now, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be than here with you.

Last Holiday (2006) is a comedy directed by Wayne Wang about Georgia Byrd (Queen Latifah), a woman who is told that she has Lampington’s Disease, and with only three weeks left to live, decides to have the life she always wanted.

Life Lesson: Don’t wait to make your dreams a reality.

  • Movie Scene:

    Georgia: Look, a guy like you has all the money and time in the world to turn things around for himself, you know? So, just stop whining and get with it.

WALL-E (2008) is an animated fantasy co-written and directed by Andrew Stanton about a trash compactor robot, WALL-E (Ben Burtt), who falls in love with a highly advanced reconnoissance robot, EVE (Elissa Knight), and follows her onto the Axiom, a spaceship commanded by Captain B. McCrea (Jeff Garlin) that houses refugees sent to live in space by the BNL CEO (Fred Willard).

Life Lesson: Start living your life: do, engage, take charge.

  • Movie Scene:

    Captain: Auto, things have changed! We’ve got to go back!

    Axiom’s Autopilot: Sir, orders are “do not return to Earth.”

    Captain: But life is sustainable now. Look at this plant. Green and growing. It’s living proof he was wrong.

    Axiom’s Autopilot: Irrelevant, Captain.

    Captain: What? It’s completely relevant! Out there is our home. Home, Auto. And it’s in trouble. I can’t just sit here and-and do nothing. That’s all I’ve ever done. That’s all anyone on this blasted ship has ever done. Nothing!

    Axiom’s Autopilot: On the Axiom, you will survive.

    Captain: I don’t want to survive. I want to live.

Addicted to Life (Nuit de la Glisse) (2014) is a documentary written and directed by Thierry Donard about men around the world who seek extreme athletic challenges.

Life Lesson: Enjoy life: do things that make you feel alive.

  • Movie Scene:

    Matt Annetts (snowboard): “I’m willing to put up with that risk ’cause I love being in the mountains. I love getting out there, hiking, riding down. It’s just such an amazing feeling. That is life to me.”

    Eric Deguil (kayak): “The limits on human ability don’t depend on build or technique, but on your mind. And the limit is your fear. Fear is what creates boundaries for a person. It determines if we can overcome something.”

    Max Geronzi (skateboard): “Doing new tricks is what you dream about, and when you land them, it’s a crazy feeling. It’s a feeling of victory.”

Life is nice. Because of it, there is the possibility of finding comfort, acceptance, affection, and understanding, as well as of connecting with those who want to say “yes!” to you, and who find joy in your happiness. There is also the opportunity to build, to lift each other up, to find common ground, to experience excitement, and the joy of beautiful things. We are able to love, respect, and cherish others; reciprocate compassion and loyalty; feel empathy and sympathy; and be valued, protected, and supported. We also have minds capable of embracing new ideas with an open mind and considering them in a favorable light, which makes it easier to appreciate and enjoy observations, musings, jokes, and even complaints. In other words, it’s yet another path toward happiness. And even in difficult times, life allows for something positive to come out of a bad situation.

So, to paraphrase Clarence: you really have a wonderful life. Enjoy it!

And to help you remember, here is a short poem:

Some are born to dance and play—

Some are born to dance and play; some are born with feet of clay.

The lucky ones celebrate; the sad ones hesitate.

The lucky ones seize the day; the sad ones abdicate.

The lucky ones find a way; the sad ones agitate.

The lucky ones come and stay; the sad ones dissipate.

The lucky ones everyday, know to love them anyway—

know to love without delay, know to love, and love away.

Some are born to dance and play;

some are born to dance and play!


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