Hollywood movies typically present some form of the Hero's Journey, a narrative structural device that frames a protagonist's hard-earned success story. Beyond that, what can we learn from these larger-than-life characters and their struggles amidst the premise of escapist entertainment?
Here five movies packed full of lessons about leadership and decision-making.
Ikiru (1952) – Akira Kurosawa’s film depicts a middling Tokyo bureaucrat’s search for meaning as he faces terminal cancer. Roger Ebert once noted in a review, “Over the years I have seen Ikiru every five years or so, and each time it has moved me, and made me think. And the older I get, the less Watanabe seems like a pathetic old man, and the more he seems like every one of us.”
The Mist (2007) – This campy ode to supernatural monster movies is gross, schlocky, and surprisingly thought-provoking. Based on a Stephen King novella, The Mist examines leadership, human rationality (or irrationality) and dire decision-making based on limited information. We see a breakdown of mob behavior and how different people process pressure and how they react during crises.
12 Angry Men (1957) - The quintessential examination of group dynamics, personality management, collaboration, and conflict in a confined setting. 12 jurors are tasked with reaching a consensus verdict in a capital crime case. How they reach the verdict reveals so much about our biases and prejudices.
Gravity (2013) / 127 Hours (2010) / The Martian (2015) – These movies all showcase our innate survival instinct no matter the cost. These white-knuckled dramas are explorations of perseverance, determination, resourcefulness, improvisation, and extreme motivation during disastrous circumstances. These underdog stories have audience rooting and cheering when obstacles are confronted and triumphs are achieved.
The Truman Show (1998) - Jim Carrey plays an ordinary suburbanite "trapped" in extraordinary circumstances. He's the unwitting star - since birth - of a reality TV show that covers every moment of his life. This satirical dramedy can be seen as one individual's "awakening" of his surroundings and the habits he forms for himself. More importantly, Carrey's self-questioning imparts wisdom to us in terms of taking risks, venturing into the unknown, and having faith in yourself and your intuition.
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