ByKatieMai Burnside, writer at
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KatieMai Burnside

Movies are constantly teaching us lessons and broadening our knowledge. Depending on the viewer, each of us will take away different life lessons because we all consume things differently and have our own opinions on the cinematic journeys we are taken on. Here, in no particular order, I take you through eight mind-bending films that I think teach us something important.

1. 'Requiem For A Dream': Addiction Isn't Just About Drug Abuse

'Requiem For A Dream' [Credit: Artisan Entertainment]
'Requiem For A Dream' [Credit: Artisan Entertainment]

Directed by Darren Aronofsky, starring Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly and Ellen Burstyn, this psychological drama film is about addiction — and not just the kind you might think.

"A guy needs something to give his life a reason or what's the point of living?" — Hubert Selby Jr.

We all search for a reason to live, but what if finding that reason kills us? The characters in this film have dreams that they'll do anything to achieve, including popping pills. It does show the deterioration of what drugs can do to a person, but ultimately this movie isn't about addiction to drugs, it's about addiction to dreams and desires. They use drugs to help them achieve their goals, but in the end it destroys them instead. How far are you willing to go to achieve what you want? Is it worth risking your life for?

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2. 'Memento': To Achieve Your Goals, You Must Learn About Yourself

'Memento' [Credit: Summit Entertainment]
'Memento' [Credit: Summit Entertainment]

This neo-noir psychological thriller film was directed by Christopher Nolan and stars Guy Pearce and Carrie-Anne Moss. It's about a man setting out on a journey to solve his wife's murder, all the while suffering with amnesia.

"My wife deserves vengeance. Doesn't make any difference whether I know about it. Just because there are things I don't remember doesn't make my actions meaningless." — Leonard

I find this quote particularly important because I think it expresses that anyone can do anything. You can achieve anything you want if you put your mind to it. No amount of setbacks can stop you if you have the motivation for something. With the dark subject matter, I also think the film is also about understanding yourself. This film stresses the importance of understanding who you are.

3. 'Fight Club': Live for Yourself

'Fight Club' [Credit: Fox]
'Fight Club' [Credit: Fox]

Starring Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, Helena Bonham Carter and Jared Leto, this David Fincher film is (unsurprisingly) about fight clubs and an insomniac.

"This is your life and it's ending one minute at a time." — Tyler Durden

Ultimately, this film teaches us about the inevitable. We're all going to die and we need to accept that. It also teaches us that material things don't matter, like how much money you own or what car you drive. In the end, none of it matters. If we're all going to die in the end then why do we try so hard to impress other people when the only thing that matters is what we think of ourselves? Live for yourself.

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4. 'Vanilla Sky': It's Never Too Late To Change Your Life

Cameron Crowe directs this psychological thriller, starring Tom Cruise, Penélope Cruz, Cameron Diaz and Kurt Russell. The film follows the life of a man who was in an accident that left his face disfigured, and then struggles to separate reality from dreams.

"Every passing minute is another chance to turn it all around." — David Aames

We all get second chances, sometimes third chances, sometimes more. Every morning when you wake up, it's another chance for you to change your life — a chance for you to do something different today. You are alive and living, so do something meaningful. It doesn't matter how old you are, if you want to make a change, then do it, because tomorrow might be too late. Do it now. What is the point in waiting?

5. 'Donnie Darko': It's OK To Be Yourself, No Matter How Different You Are

Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Jenna Malone, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Drew Barrymore, this fantasy film is about a boy exploring life and what it means to be alive.

Gretchen: "You're weird."

Donnie: "Sorry."

Gretchen: "No, that was a compliment."

You don't have to blend in, there is nothing wrong with standing out. If you're not being yourself then how can you be happy? This is your life, live it how you want to live it and don't let words bring you down. You are not defined by labels. Words are meaningless. It doesn't matter if you're different or what you look like, all that matters is being truthful to yourself and if you stand out, then own it!

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6. 'Shutter Island': The Importance Of Letting Go

'Shutter Island' [Credit: Paramount Pictures]
'Shutter Island' [Credit: Paramount Pictures]

Leonardo Dicaprio, Mark Ruffalo and Michelle Williams star in this neo-noir psychological thriller film, directed by Martin Scorsese. Two Marshals head to a federal mental hospital for the criminally insane. A woman has escaped and they're there to investigate.

"You have to let me go." — Dolores

Throughout the film we see clips of Teddy's (Dicaprio) wife as he struggles to come to terms with his loss. The film expresses what this loss does to him and it clearly tears him apart. It's the true portrayal of loss that we have to endure everyday. We all lose someone eventually and it hurts, but life still goes on. It isn't just about death — keeping people in your life who are not good for you can mentally destroy you, too. Set yourself free and move on; it's unhealthy to stay stuck in the past.

7. 'The Butterfly Effect': Everything Happens For A Reason

'The Butterfly Effect' [Credit: New Line Cinema]
'The Butterfly Effect' [Credit: New Line Cinema]

Directed by Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber. This psychological thriller film stars Ashton Kutcher and Amy Smart. The film is about a man who goes back in time to try and change the past to better the future.

Everything happens for a reason. Change one thing, it changes everything. — The Butterfly Effect

I genuinely believe everything in life happens for a reason and this film highlights this. If you have a choice to make in life, you have to think of all the consequences of each choice. The film represents cause and effect. Every action we take changes something. If there's two paths in front of you — which one do you go down? We're all on a journey and everything we do leads to something else. Why do we meet the people we meet?

8. 'Inception': An Idea Can Transform The World

'Inception' [Credit: Warner Bros.]
'Inception' [Credit: Warner Bros.]

Starring Leonardo Dicaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Paige and Tom Hardy, this is a complicated science fiction film directed by Christopher Nolan. It's about a man who enters other people's dreams.

"A single idea from a human mind can build cities. An idea can transform the world and rewrite all the rules." — Dom Cobb

The film teaches us that everything starts off as an idea. It shows the importance of humans; without us technology and furniture wouldn't exist. Our dreams have to start somewhere, and they start by a single thought — a single idea in our minds. It also teaches us that communication helps us deal with our problems. Cobb eventually talks to Ariadne about his past and she helps him. Everyone around us has problems, none of us are alone in the world. Talk to someone if you're struggling because it can help.


Out of these films, what is your favorite?


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