By Jeremy Chew:
Since young, we have been taught altruistic values and brought up to not only respect others but to use our gifts and talents to help others. Good virtues such as compassion and empathy were instilled in us from a very tender age in hopes that we will one day continue to care and show love for people around us. Hollywood, one of the most influential streams of entertainment, has also risen to the mandate of bringing movies with themes on benevolence and humanity for decades now. Even the rest of the world thinks of kindness as one of the top qualities in people. So much so, there is a special day dedicated to this virtue – World Kindness Day.
Though World Kindness Day was November 13, it is still not too late to encourage each other to be kind. As such, I’ve put together a list of movies you can watch with your friends and family to encourage kindness and to see empathy personified in characters. Here are some of the best movies available that exemplify kindness.
Based on a book, the depiction of a small idea that went on to change the world started off with a young boy named Trevor McKinney. Played by Academy Award Winner Haley Joel Osment, Trevor was challenged by his school teacher (Kevin Spacey) to create an idea that would change the world. Coming up with the idea to help 3 people without expecting anything in return, Trevor formulated the concept of Pay It Forward. The only requirement was for the people who were helped to help another 3 people. With this exponential method of helping people, kindness was not only a thought, but put into deliberate action.
With his childlike enthusiasm, Trevor set out to accomplish this task by taking in a homeless man, feeding him and eventually asking him to do the same to others. Eventually, the little idea sparked a huge following and kindness was shown to many. The idea of helping others in everyday life has also become one of the principles that direct sales companies today hold on to. Ultimately, I recommend it as a must-watch movie.
I leave the real world to enter the vast landscape of Middle Earth in the Lord Of The Rings. The story was based on J.R.R Tolkein’s books. Culminating in a three-part Hollywood blockbuster, the Lord Of The Rings (LOTR) sees the journey of a young group of Hobbits take the responsibility of bringing a cursed ring to Mordor. The ultimate responsibility falls on Frodo of the Shire (Elijah Wood), whose fate crosses paths with the One Ring to rule them all. Frodo and his Fellowship of The Ring, carry the ring through perilous landscapes ridden with evils. Directed by Peter Jackson, the 3-part trilogy is worth watching every minute of the 3 hours each.
During the entire journey, Frodo’s best buddy, Samwise Gamgee follows him through thick and thin. Often times the only form of encouragement in times of despair, Sam sacrifices his own needs for his companion, eventually bringing him to complete his mission successfully. Among other lessons to be learnt are courage and determination. Winning a whopping 17 Academy Awards, the LOTR trilogy is definitely one saga to watch.
If you’ve never shed a tear while watching movies, “I Am Sam” will definitely get the feels going. The story of a mentally-challenged Sam Dawson, played by Sean Penn, in his attempt to win custody of his daughter (Dakota Fanning) in a pro-bono lawsuit will move the waterworks in your eyes. As he struggles in everyday life, he puts his daughter above everything else and makes big sacrifices for her. “I Am Sam” is testament to one of Hollywood’s greatest movies about love, sacrifice and empathy. It is definitely one of the top on our list of movies portraying kindness.
Here’s one for the comic fans – “The Amazing Spiderman 2” (2014). Many renditions of the web-slinger have been made in the past, including Sam Raimi’s Spiderman starring Tobey Maguire. But the latest installment of the Spiderman standalone film brings in the young, talented, Andrew Garfield to the big screen. Taking over rights to the Spiderman franchise, Sony has revamped the story of Peter Parker. Bringing in elements of self-sacrifice and empathy above all, Peter Parker lets go of his desires for a normal life, ultimately resulting in the death of his girlfriend, Gwen Stacy, in a fight to save his city.
You must be wondering why I chose a comic book movie for a lesson on kindness. Combining action and heroism along with man’s inner struggle, “The Amazing Spiderman 2” shows us just how hard it is to be kind to humanity.
Much like the LOTR trilogy, “The Chronicles of Narnia” brought in an adaptation of C.S. Lewis book: “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” to the big screen. The magical journey of 4 children who embarked on a quest to find the king of Narnia, Aslan the lion was an epic story. Along the way, we see how the children, Peter, Edmund, Susan and Lucy Pevensie experience the kindness of various characters in the world of Narnia. No element of kindness can compare to the forgiving spirit of Aslan after he was betrayed by Edmund. He graciously forgives Edmund and proceeds to rid the world of the White Witch. With multi-talented actors such as Tilda Swinton, James McAvoy and Liam Neeson behind the characters, The Chronicles of Narnia is one of the best family movies you can watch together.
It is said that America was built on the backs of slaves. From the motion picture “12 Years A Slave”, we see the grim side of America’s history. With African Americans sold into slavery, Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free man, is deceived by two con men and thrown into slavery. For 12 years, he lives as a slave, enduring the brutality and inhumane acts done to him and his fellow slaves. Despite the gruesome nature of slavery, we see a side of the kind nature of Solomon Northup with his friends and fellow slaves. We also see the kindness of some slave masters, trying to do the right thing to take care of the slaves entrusted them. Although there is a happy ending, I would not recommend watching the movie with your children. Some scenes are not suitable for minors. Other than that, “12 Years A Slave” is nothing short of extraordinary!
In the list of R-rated movies, we see a much talked-about movie in “American History X”. Casting the Hollywood heartthrob Edward Norton as a Neo-Nazi leader in the 1990s in rural America was simply genius. Bulking up to play his role as Derrick Vineyard, Norton’s character is sent to jail after manslaughter and endures a tough time there. From getting raped to being beaten up by those he calls brothers, Vineyard learns the hard way that violence does not solve anything.
In his incarceration, Derrick finds kindness and compassion from those whom he hated and plotted to kill. Turning to books and self-reflection, he managed to realise his wrongdoings and endeavoured to make things right when he got out. Eventually he did straighten up and vowed to show the same kindness to others.
What if you are stuck on a boat in the middle of the ocean along with a ferocious tiger? What would you do? Ang Lee answers this question with the movie “Life Of Pi”. Also based on a book, “Life Of Pi” sees the main character, Piscine Patel or Pi, stranded in the middle of the ocean after the freighter he and his family was on sunk. After witnessing the deaths of his parents and brother, he realises he’s stuck on the life boat with the Richard Parker the tiger.
Kindness sets in when he cares for the animal even though it tries to eat him at times. Risking his life to keep the animal alive, he sacrifices his food for it. At last, his kindness pays off as the tiger survives the entire ordeal. Riddled with stunning visual effects, “Life Of Pi” is a masterpiece. Watch it with friends and family.
Ultimately, we can learn thousands of educational examples of kindness from movies, but if we don’t put it into practice, all we get is entertainment. Let us together strive to do good and have compassion on others – be it other people or animals.