Films You Must See To Be A Functioning Member of Society

all_the_presidents_men.jpgI recently saw All The President’s Men, a 1976 film which chronicles the true story of journalists Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward as they investigate the break-in at Watergate. It’s been added to my list of Films You Must See To Be A Functioning Member of Society. Let me explain why, and then what other films are on said list.

All The President’s Men is simply put, an extra-ordinary story: possibly the most important American political tale of the 20th Century. A President and an administration who were supposed to be working for the people, attempting to control their choice of presidential candidacy and then using every tool available to them to cover it up.

These events undeniably led many Americans to question the role of government and how much power they should get. Causing many to have an underlying suspicion of ‘big government’ – regardless of the extra services such a government may be attempting to provide. (cf. The Tea Party Movement).

The film itself still completely holds up, irrespective of your over-familiarity with the events it depicts. Even almost forty years later, there’s something completely compelling and unbelievable about a government who thought they could get away with anything, and the young, rookie journalists who uncover a story way bigger than they had ever imagined.

The involvement of the CIA, FBI and a mysterious rouge agent (‘Deep Throat’), have since become staples of the modern political thriller. If you’ve ever seen any film which deals with ‘shady government agencies’ and/or ‘shady corporations’ it will undoubtedly have been influenced by this film.

In many ways it’s impossible to understand American culture, and by extension western culture without understanding the Watergate scandal, and All The President’s Men is a fairly definitive account of the infamous tale.

I mentioned earlier the idea of Films You Must See To Be A Functioning Member of Society. Put simply, it’s the films I think you need to see in order to fully understand the world we live in today. A world profoundly influenced by events like The Holocaust, Vietnam, Watergate, The Collapse of the Berlin Wall and 9/11.

My (very short) list is as follows, although it is an ever-evolving, ever-changing list, and I’d be more than open to suggestions for films that should be included, or films that should be removed:

1. The Wizard of Oz

2. Schindler’s List

3. All The President’s Men

4. United 93

Note, that the films above have an undeniably American slant to them. However, that is only because of its profound influence on so many countries’ cultures: the music, films, television and websites we all consume.

Note also, I don’t have a film that looks at the rise of aspiration and individualism over the past thirty years. Should I include Fight Club or Wall Street for this end? Should I also have a movie which deals with The Cold War? The Civil Rights Movement? And so on?

Suggestions are welcome. As are criticisms: Can films ever be important in helping our understanding of modern culture? Shouldn’t we just read a good history book about for this end?


7 responses to “Films You Must See To Be A Functioning Member of Society

  1. Seen none of them. Oh…

  2. Johannes de Silencio

    Watergate, pah! what about COINTELPRO?!

  3. City of God?

  4. City of God is one of my favourite films, although what it tells us about the (western) society we live in today, I’m not entirely sure. Much as The Daily Mail would have us believe all kids are running around with guns nowadays, I simply don’t believe that to be anywhere near the case. Were there a Brazilian version of the list above, I would probably be compelled to put City of God there. Likewise, Michael Collins for an Irish list or practically anything by Mike Leigh or Ken Loach, for a British list.

  5. I would suggest you are missing a war movie . I think probably a Vietnam one, full of futility and wasted youth- Full Metal Jacket maybe?

  6. @Luke

    You’re right in the sense that we often define a generation by the war they fought in (World War 2, Vietnam, The “War on Terror”). So I’m torn as to whether or not I should have included a war movie here.

    Almost all war movies do deal with that theme of the futility and wasted youth, Platoon, Deer Hunter, Full Metal Jacket, etc. However, despite these depictions of war, we still don’t seem to have been that shaped by them. Governments/Societies seeming just as willing to send young men and women off to war as they did pre-Vietnam.

    I would suggest the effects of Vietnam were for America to come to terms with its own fallibility, however, I’m not sure what impact that war, or even Iraq/Afghanistan, has on society today.

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