Having done more than a little movie watching lately, I turn to a genre I greatly enjoy. That would be fantasy, often thought of as a tool of escapism. Here are ten films that prove just the opposite.

 

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It’s A Wonderful Life (USA 1946):

In A Nutshell:

Okay, this first one is a little escapist, but the point is still there. Everyone knows it already. A good man who has saved a town reaches the verge of despair only to have a good town save him with a little extra help of course.

Why You Will Like It:

An American classic that shows us what is best about ourselves. Heart tugging and includes the wonderful little scene with that famous line; “teacher says every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.”

Why You May Not:

If you have no soul, the sentimentality will be a bit much.

The Takeaway:

Somebody up there loves you.

 

 

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Die Himmel uber Berlin…. Wings of Desire (German 1987):

In A Nutshell:

Damien and Cassiel are not Clarence. These angels have traded in their white wings for black trench coats. We can think on them as cold and aloof, but they are ultimately ruled by Heaven’s “prime directive.” (Star Trek fans will know what that means.) Occasionally, however a divine operative “will hit the ground” and “heaven and earth will be wed.”

Why You Will Like It:

You believe in angels and are a hapless romantic not to mention Marion’s monologue is one of the most moving pieces of oratory in cinema.

Why You May Not:

This movie is plodding and slow and Marion’s monologue is pure gibberish.

The Takeaway:

Humans may think themselves small, but to “that larger than ourselves,” “we are everything.” The most powerful scene in the movie makes a strong statement about the value of life.

 

 

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Children of Men (UK 2006):

In A Nutshell:

A dystopic world living with the reality of “the last person out, shut off the lights” finds itself mystified and “threatened” by a pregnancy, the first in nineteen years. The race is on to get the mother to the Azores, where a mysterious group has not given up on curing human infertility.

Why You Will Like It:

Bleak cinematography and a lot of action. You agree with one or both of its societal messages, that is you are a consistent ethic type person.

Why You May Not:

This movie is strongly political: pro-life and pro-immigration, in today’s world those are strange bedfellows.

The Takeaway:

Do not fear and have hope!

 

 

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El Labertido del Fauno….Pan’s Labyrinth (Spain, Mexico 2006):

In A Nutshell:

Magic realism at its cinematic best. A young girl riles against the abuses of Franco’s Spain as the politics are played out and in a strange and often terrifying fairy tale world.

Why You Will Like It:

Special effects and you hate fascism.

Why You May Not:

The Spanish Civil War really had no good guys, but a lot of people still take sides in the matter and this movie is clearly a pro-Republican apologetic.

The Takeaway:

The old good overcomes evil argument here.

 

 

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Solyaris….Solaris (USSR 1972):

In A Nutshell:

Cosmonaut Kris Kelvin reunites with his dead wife while orbiting an ocean planet inhabited by a strange and unknowable intelligence. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, director Andrei Tartovsky spoke more forcefully about the spiritual undertones of this movie which went under the radar of Soviet censors.

Why You Will Like It:

You liked 2001, but it just wasn’t existential enough. Thinking types will enjoy trying to figure out the baffling entity that inhabits Solaris and sorting out those parts merely about human psychology and those about a larger philosophy.

Why You May Not:

This movie goes about as quickly as “Wings of Desire.”

The Takeaway:

A midst spiritual crisis and existential angst, you will be reborn.

 

 

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Moonrise Kingdom (USA 2012):

In A Nutshell:

Perhaps the least fantastic film on the list I include it because Ebert called it magic realism. Wes Anderson tips his hat to Malick in what many think is a rewrite of Badlands. Young lovers (or at least as much of a lover as one can be when they are twelve) run off to face the world alone and live in a tree house. Forced back into the world by the onslaught of nature, they come to realize they are not so alone after all.

Why You Will Like It:

Cute and quirky story with a great sense of location. It will make you want to recapture your childhood innocence, meet a girl (or boy) and move to Maine.

Why You May Not:

A few have been bothered by a young cast playing out the role of finding human companionship on such an adult level.

The Takeaway:

It takes two people to have a romance; it takes many more to cultivate love and family.

 

 

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Take Shelter (USA 2011):

In A Nutshell:

Father and husband Curtis is either a mystic or madman or maybe he is both. He sees a storm coming “the likes of which has never been known.” He will try to save his corner of the world. If he can’t do that, he will save his wife and little girl. The movie is ultimately a modern tale about anxiety and how much control we have in life and is played a midst the fracking economy of northeast Ohio.

Why You Will Like It:

You enjoy films that are ambiguous.

Why You May Not:

You need to leave a film with clear cut resolve.

The Takeaway:

You have to standby those you are called to be with.

 

 

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Safety Not Guaranteed (Australia 2012):

In A Nutshell:

If you are going to travel through time you need to find an ally and pack heat. But this is not really a time travel film. It is a movie about taking a chance on someone else.
Why You Will Like It:

This movie is the perfect mix of psychology and fantasy.

Why You May Not:

You don’t want psychology with your sci-fi.

The Takeaway:

Going it alone is no way to live.

 

 

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Ink (USA 2009):

In a Nutshell:

The battle for the human soul happens in our dreams. As a little girl lies in a coma, she has allies in creatures called storytellers. To give her the courage she must have to redeem an unformed man, they seek to convince her she is becoming a ferocious lioness. It will take that kind of ferocity to save someone very dear to her from becoming a creature of evil.

Why You Will Like It:

This is one of the most beautiful and daring stories ever set to film.

Why You May Not:

If someone knows a reason not to like it, let me know.

The Takeaway:

Have the courage to love and be loved.

 

 

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Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (USA 2004):

In A Nutshell:

Every moment with another person writes the story deeper into our psyche as does every trinket and picture. After a while the cumulative effect is either spending your life with someone or making the disconnect. Assuming you do the later wouldn’t you want to find those who could take away the mementos and erase the memories ? The question is posed in this movie which follows a story arc built around Alexander Pope’s retelling of the story of Abelard and Heloise.

Why You Will Like It:

It poses a question to which the answer is obvious, no matter how much we may not like the answer.

Why You May Not:

You think it is best to forget a broken heart.

The Takeaway:

Relationships may be about remorse, but they should never be about regret.

Images:  Feature image is the movie poster for Ink from Double Edge Films.  This copyrighted material is believed to be fair use.  All images here are believed to be fair use and are the property of their respected copyright owners and are used here only for demonstration.  The Creative Commons license of this post applies only to the text.

 

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