knotmove.com recently presented an editorial project opportunity dealing with the topic of the “American Dream.” The suggested angles pertained to how the American Dream presently relates in the many real-life sections (Home, Job, Finance, Parenting, Education, etc.) that knotmove.com reports on. I immediately thought about the many movies that embody the spirit of the American Dream. It was an angle in the entertainment realm of knotmove.com that I thought wasn’t touched on, so I took it upon myself to gather a few angles myself. From the immigrants of Coming to America to the self-made man of Citizen Kane, you’ll see that more movies than you think end up embodying the American Dream. So many, in fact, that I had to break this editorial into sections. Enjoy!
PART 5: THE AMERICAN DREAM IN POLITICS AND LEADERSHIP— One of the things that sets the United States of America apart from the world is our great democracy. It has set us apart from the great countries before us. The Constitution, adopted in 1787, was a historical piece of government law (and the shortest such constitution ever written in fact) for its time and has since been revered, emulated, and duplicated across the world. Maintaining and operating a great society within that great democracy is a piece of the American Dream. People come to this country and love this country for the freedoms they enjoy and the right to be a part of the voting and change that occurs. Citizenship and leadership is part of the American Dream and many of the movies that epitomize it. SIDENOTE: I’m extremely curious to see if the upcoming The Ides of March (trailer) directed by George Clooney and starring Clooney and Ryan Gosling can make this list.
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)— For this category, it doesn’t get better than this. Though touted as a happy-go-lucky comedy, Frank Capra’s political classic starring James Stewart as a naive scout leader appointed to the Senate and battling corruption is, in my opinion, the greatest vision of the American Dream in the realm of politics that Hollywood has to offer. You won’t see this kind of passion and speechifying on C-SPAN. (montage)
The Contender (2000)— Fast forward sixty-one years and you might notice that political corruption hasn’t changed much, but that the audience and the stakes are bigger. Directed by Rod Lurie, Joan Allen’s bravura performance as a Vice Presidential designate on trial is riveting stuff, and not just because she’s a woman. See for yourself. (trailer)
The American President (1995)— Audiences have always had an affinity for fictional movie Presidents, going to so far as to wish they were the real President sometimes. Who wouldn’t vote for Harrison “Get Off My Plane” Ford from Air Force One and who wouldn’t be inspired by Morgan Freeman from Deep Impact? Well, people, they’re actors who get multiple takes and are paid to sound cool. My favorite movie President and my opinion of the best is Michael Douglas in Rob Reiner’s The American President as equal parts steadfast and ballsy… (trailer)
Dave (1993)–– …or maybe you like a do-gooder impersonator who gets to do the real job… (trailer)
The Candidate (1972)— ..or maybe a pretty California boy who’s willing to buck the system with no hopes of winning? (trailer)
JFK (1991)— Now that the jokes are done, my personal favorite movie on this politics and leadership list is Oliver Stone’s conspiracy epic, starring Kevin Costner. Why it’s important is because it outlines and shows a time when the American Dream died a little with its assassinated and popular Commander-in-Chief. The post-Kennedy/post-Camelot 1960s were an extremely life-changing time for America and the hopes and dreams of its people. It’s a top 10 movie on my all-time list. (trailer)
Malcolm X (1992)— Call him opinionated all you want, but Spike Lee’s many movies that examine black history, racism, and ethnic relations all have a part of the American Dream at their cores. His point-of-view, rooted from an American population of former slaves, in this biopic of the origin, rise, and fall of a man born Malcolm Little who became El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz shows a far different American Dream than other movies on this list. And, yes, Denzel Washington makes another editorial. (trailer)
Men of Honor (2000)— In an enormous way, there’s nothing more American and part of the American Dream than the will and desire to serve your country. It’s the ultimate sacrifice. For a generation, plenty of John Wayne movies heroically portrayed fictional larger-than-life war heroes and soldiers in a glowing Hollywood light that the U.S. Army could have paid him propaganda wages for. I could list some of those and many other war movies and patriotic performances, but I’d rather showcase the true story of Carl Brashear, played by Cuba Gooding, Jr., in Men of Honor. Helped by its racist storyline, it portrays the real courage and reasons to be a soldier, above the glory and medals. (trailer)
Saving Private Ryan (1998) and Glory (1990)— Like John Wayne movies, I could go all day with The Deer Hunter, Cold Mountain, Platoon, Apocalypse Now…, Full Metal Jacket, First Blood, Black Hawk Down, The Hurt Locker, and dozens of other war movies to draw out examples of the American Dream. Nonetheless, there are only two war movies I’ll put on this list. They are the incredibly great Saving Private Ryan from Steven Spielberg and Glory from Edward Zwick. Robbed of the Best Picture Oscar in 1999, Saving Private Ryan towers above the others for its story of earning your life for the days you won’t have to be a soldier anymore and the brotherhood of war, and Glory is the most poignantly patriotic movie I’ve ever seen in my life. They are the best on a long list of classics. (trailer and trailer)
NEXT PART: The American Dream through sports and stardom. See you soon!
Many or all of these movies are available for rental on DVD or Blu-ray at your local Family Video stores in the Westmont area and are also available for sale to own at local department (Target, etc.) and electronics store (Best Buy, Frys, etc.).