Continued from Part 1, more films that depict the promise of the American Dream:
The Godfather: Part II (1974) Like all stories about immigrants, this one too follows a journey to America in hopes of making it. This one does make it, but only does so by entering into a life of crime.
Sin Nombre (2009) The American Dream must be even more important to Mexicans, who brave difficult treks to cross here illegally. This film is a sad story about a young gang member whose past catches up with him on his journey into America.
The Last Picture Show (1971) Everyone comes of age in this sad drama, but nobody makes out the way they want to. This story of an early 1950s small town has given the American Dream promise to its youth, as well as its adults. Unfortunately, growing up is about settling with what you’re given, and no one here gets what they had imagined.
Blue Velvet (1986) The opening shot displays a white picket fence in a charming suburban neighborhood. The camera pans closer, and we notice there is a severed ear resting on the ground. So begins David Lynch’s dive into the seedy underbelly of what goes on behind closed doors in suburban America. Later films like Mulholland Dr. (2001) and Inland Empire (2006) would follow this blueprint into Hollywood for greater effect.
Raising Arizona (1987) An oddball comedy about a couple who steals a rich person’s kid to raise as their own. Unable to have a kid, they are denied the last piece of the puzzle in their American Dream. We watch this country couple do whatever necessary, including fighting off a mercenary, to keep that dream alive.
A Serious Man (2009) A cursed man tries to be the best person he can be, but God just keeps dropping rocks on him. He decides to go see several rabbis to help him sort out his life, but they have little wisdom. Things end up working out for him in the end. Maybe.
Requiem for a Dream (2000) Three heroin addicts and one of their TV-addicted mothers chase after the good life in this drama. The promise of fame and the American Dream are one and the same: fleeting and futile, and often with several severe side-effects.
Happiness (1998) Yet another film about the dark side of suburban life, Todd Solondz’s controversial film watches the lives of its characters crumble. You’re not sure if the director is laughing at them or sympathizing with them, but it’s definitely one of the creepiest films ever made.
Falling Down (1993) Another cog in the wheel flips a switch and goes mental. The American Dream is a weighty beast. Some can’t bear it and snap in an attempt to fight back.
In America (2002) A family of Irish immigrants cross the border from Canada and venture to Hell’s Kitchen to carve out a new life for themselves. They work hard, shelter their young daughters from upsetting feelings, and live the good life. Yes, this one is a joy to watch and has a happy ending.
Here are a few more, but you should start with In America, it’s all downhill from there: A Raisin in the Sun (1961), The Grapes of Wrath (1940), The Great Gatsby (1974), Of Mice and Men (1992), On the Waterfront (1954), Scarface (1983), Precious: Based on the novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire (2009), The Corporation (2003).