Films are often made for the sole purpose of enjoyment, yet sometimes movie comes a long with something more important to say. Whether we agree with their message or not, they certainly make us think about the social standing of the world around us. Here are 5 iconic films that deliver surprisingly strong social messages.
Night of The Living Dead (1968)
There are many social messages that are found throughout this cult classic zombie film directed by, George A. Romero, but there is one in particular that stands out loud and clear. The film's most resourceful character and ill-fated hero is a black man. Considering black men are often killed first in horror films or not seen at all, for a movie to include a black man in such a heroic role in 1968, was a big deal!
The true social statement however is not made until the end when Ben (the black male character) is the only person left alive only to be shot in the head by the police. Even though he is clearly trying to communicate with the police they still kill him and not rescue him.
Although George A. Romero says he hired black actor Duane Jones to play Ben because he simply "gave the best audition," his "accidental" death at the end gives the entire film a very solid socially aware feeling.
Sadly, An innocent black man being killed by the police is just as prevalent today as it was in 1968.
The Shining (1980)
If you're a Stephen King fan, then you're already aware of the heavy anti- drinking and drug message behind the famous horror story, The Shinning. Even though the film butchered many of King's original themes, it still does a decent job of getting across its warning against drinking and drugs. When King originally wrote the story, he was suffering from his own drinking addiction. It's no coincidence that the main character Jack is a writer slowly spiraling into madness. The isolation Jack experiences as a result of being at the hotel stands for the effects of alcohol.
As the isolation drives Jack deeper into madness, he becomes obsessed with destroying his family. We all know what being an alcoholic can do to one's family. This book is not just a shocking horror story about a man trying to butcher his wife and child, it serves an immediate warning of what can happen when an isolating addiction goes unchecked.
Thank you Mr. King!
Considered the best psychological thriller of all time by many (including me), Psycho shockingly displayed the results of a sexually repressed young man. Being that this film takes place in 1960, it was daring to link sexual frustration and violence. This film however takes the social message much further.
Norman Bates' degrading and judgmental "mother" represents the oppressive attitude Americans had towards sexuality in the decades prior to 1960. Norman Bates himself represents the consequence of that repression. I don't think that someone who has stifled their sexuality will always lash out in a homicidal way, but I do think this film presents a good argument for the dangers of sexual oppression.
Sex really is better than violence.
Last House on The Left (2009)
This is one of the few films where I prefer the remake to the original and both films deliver important messages about violence within out society. Although both films could have done without the long and drawn out rape scene, the movie does not skimp on showing the grotesqueness of violence.
Upon the rape and murder of their daughter, the girl's parents decide to unleash brutal revenge upon their child's killer. While I can't say I personally blame the parents at all, the film does pose a good question: does an eye for an eye really make for a better world?
American Psycho (2000)
American Psycho is without a doubt a controversial movie, but what's most controversial about it is its message about the modern-day world. The main character, Patrick Bateman (in homage to Psycho's Norman Bateman), is a body beautiful, highly successful 1980's yuppie. He makes tons of money by day, but slaughters people by night.
The film ( as well as the book), shows a shocking and perverse understanding of what the American dream really is. Patrick Bateman is a white male who has become successful while butchering anyone he wants and struggles to keep a normal appearance up. This twisted depiction of the American dream is just as relevant today as the 1980s world it puts on display.
And no, it's not coincidence that all the movies on this list are thriller/horror movies. The horror genre is one genre known for boldly examining the social and political politics that reach in to our every day lives.