Movie Choices (w/brief descriptions):
12 Angry Men (1957)
Henry Fonda stars in this interesting drama about twelve jurors assigned to determine the fate of an alleged criminal. When the jury deliberations begin, eleven of the jurors are convinced of the man’s guilt, but one juror’s persuasive efforts force each of them to consider the evidence as well as any prejudices and stereotypes they may hold. The film aptly illustrates the concepts of social pressure, conformity, and group decision-making.
Accused, The (1988)
This movie is based on a true story about a young woman (Jodie Foster) who goes into a bar and is gang-raped by three men while numerous bystanders cheer and others do nothing to save her. The film portrays what can happen in social groups or crowds, as well as the bystander effect and our tendency to blame the victims of crime.
Alien Nation (1988)
In the near future, humanity has made contact with a humanoid alien species, whose ship has crashed on Earth. These “Newcomers” have become integrated into human society, but not without problems. This movie tells the story of a human police officer and his Newcomer partner.
American History X (1998)
In this gripping story about race relations in America, young Danny is destined to
follow in his older brother Derek’s neo-Nazi lifestyle. Derek shoots three young
black males who are attempting to steal his car, and his experiences during his
prison stay cause him to change his outlook on minorities. Meanwhile, Danny is
engaging in similar neo-Nazi activities when a black high school principle enrolls
him in his course called “American History X,” and assigns him to write a paper
about his Derek’s life. The reformed Derek also attempts to steer his younger
brother away from the very lifestyle of race hatred he once led.
As Good As It Gets (1997)
Melvin Udall (Jack Nicholson) is a romance novelist with obsessive-compulsive disorder who develops a relationship with a waitress (Helen Hunt) where he eats breakfast every day. She caters to some of his OCD traits but also challenges him to get better. His symptoms of OCD are drastically improved due to a combination of medication and finding love. The film also relays his strong prejudices against minorities and homosexuals at the start of the film, features of his personality with also drastically improve.
Big Chill, the (1983)
This comedy drama involves a group of college pals who are reunited years later
when one of the members of their group commits suicide. The individuals in the
story all find renewed meaning in their lives and re-establish old bonds in ways
that are consistent with the Baby-Boomers generation. The film focuses heavily
on interpersonal relationships, including friendship, attraction, and love.
This animated film by Pixar describes the struggles of young Merida, daughter of King Fergus. Merida wishes to defy the customs of society, which state that she is to behave as a proper young lady and marry the man who wins a contest/conquest overseen by her father. Her incredible archery skills and nontraditional views threaten the harmony of the kingdom, and she must fight for her rights and beliefs at every turn.
The Breakfast Club (1985)
This movie tells the story of a Saturday detention with a group of high school students, each of whom represents a different common high school stereotype. The characters illustrate several topics in social psychology including conformity, persuasion, relationships, prejudices, and social roles and expectations.
Breaking Away (1979)
This comedy drama involves a group of young men who are from working-class families in a town dominated by a large university. The main character is obsessed with bicycle racing, and his interest leads him to involvement with a young woman who is a university student and to conflict with her world and problems in fitting into his own. The film illustrates ingroup vs. outgroup processes, prejudice, and issues of social class.
Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001)
Bridget Jones, portrayed by Renee Zellweger, is a 30-something single British woman searching for someone to fulfill her needs for love and intimacy. This film provides some insight into the struggle of single women who want to find security and comfort but also desire independence and success, and the characters illustrate how convoluted the dating game can really become.
Vianne (Juliette Binoche) and her young daughter move into a quiet, self-disciplined town governed by the local Catholic church and the mayor (Alfred Molina), who is not pleased when she opens a chocolate shop just in time for Lent. Despite his threats and attempts to run her out of town, the townspeople find themselves drawn to her confectionary delights, though they also feel compelled to conform to the laws of their repressive society. The film provides an interesting portrayal of the roles of conformity, obedience, prejudice and discrimination in society.
This film explores various forms of stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination in Los Angeles by interweaving the stories of many people over a 36-hour period. It illustrates how people from various backgrounds have prejudices, some conscious and some not, and how the events of life can alter our core beliefs and ideals.
Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011)
Steve Carrell portrays Cal, who finds out that his wife of 20 years has had an affair. He pines for her and whines about his life in a local bar, where Jacob Palmer (Ryan Gosling), professional bachelor, decides to help him get back into the dating scene.
The Experiment (2010 or) Das Experiment (2001, Germany)
This film is a dramatized version of Zimbardo’s famous (or infamous) Stanford Prison study, dramatized to make it even worse than it was. The movie illustrates conformity and how expectations and situations can influence behavior more strongly than personality.
Few Good Men, A (1992)
This is a military courtroom drama about two marines who are charged with the
murder of a third marine in an apparent hazing incident. Tom Cruise stars as the legal defense for the two marines, and Demi Moore assists him on the case. The defendants assert they were following orders, and the colonel (Jack Nicholson) denies any knowledge of orders being given. This film illustrates the issue of obedience to authority figures
This cult classic chronicles (and satirizes) high school cliques, focusing on the most popular girls in school and how nasty one must be to remain in their group. Or at least until the only non-Heather starts killing them.
Help, the (2011)
Emma Stone portrays Skeeter, an aspiring author who wants to write a controversial book describing the viewpoint of African-American maids who work for southern white families during the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. The film accurately depicts the topics of prejudice and discrimination as they existed during that time, as well as social relationships, conformity, obedience, and persuasion.
A romantic comedy about Hitch (Will Smith), a romance expert who helps men woo the women of their dreams. He runs into problems, however, when he finds himself falling in love. The film gives a relatively good overview of the concepts of superficial attraction vs. falling in love with someone’s internal characteristics.
Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)
Robin Williams plays a man who decides to dress up as a woman to become a housekeeper for his ex-wife in an effort to get to spend more time with his children. The film explores the impact of divorce and its many consequences on family systems, as well as the importance of parent-child relationships.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002)
This is an interesting film about Greek tradition and family relationships. The
main character, Toula, is constantly hounded about finding a nice Greek boy to
marry, but she instead falls in love with Ian, who is a non-Greek vegetarian. The film provides glimpses of multiculturalism, the Greek culture, gender roles, and social and cultural influences on one’s life choices.
Pay It Forward (2000)
A touching story about Trevor (Haley Joel Osment), an 11-year-old who comes
up with a unique way to change the world. As part of a school assignment, Trevor comes up with the idea to do a kind thing for three different people and take nothing in return; instead, you ask them to “pay it forward.” This film emphasizes the issue of prosocial behavior, and Trevor provides the ultimate example of altruism near the end of the film.
Tom Hanks stars as an attorney with AIDS who sues his employers for wrongful termination, and Denzel Washington plays his lawyer. The film illustrates the prejudices faced by homosexuals and individuals with AIDS. Of special interest is the point at which Washington’s character recognizes the parallels between their experiences with prejudice and discrimination.
A high-tech television remote control zaps two teenagers into the 1950’s sitcom
they are watching. Their presence in “Pleasantville” causes the characters’ worlds
to turn upside down in strange and unusual ways. The film illustrates the issues of conformity and obedience as well, with the townspeople mesmerized by the changes they are undergoing despite strong protests by city officials.
The Proposal (2009)
Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds co-star in this romantic comedy about a not-too-friendly boss & reluctant employee who pretend to be engaged to help her avoid deportation back to Canada.
Remember the Titans (2000)
When a 1971 court order forces three high schools to integrate, the new high
school hires African-American coach Herman Boone (Denzel Washington) to coach the newly integrated football team. Neither the previously all-white student body or faculty provide a warm welcome to Coach Boone, and the football team is also full of racial tension on both sides. Boone’s determination and motivation lead the team members to eventually put aside their differences and learn to trust and respect one another.
River’s Edge (1987)
This film portrays the aftermath of a murder involving a high school-aged boy, who has killed his girlfriend. The disturbing part is that no one seems to care very much as the young man brings people to view the body; no one turns him in to authorities. Even more disturbing, the story is based on a real incident, which illustrates bystander indifference and conformity.
Schindler’s List (1993)
Based on a true story, this award-winning film by Spielberg tells the story of a
man who originally saw Naziism as a way to earn money, as he hired Jews to work for free in his plant. However as the film progresses and he sees how Jews are being treated, his conscience takes over and he begins taking many risks, hiring as many Jews as he possibly can. Schindler is credited with saving the lives of over 1,000 Jews even though his efforts to save them caused him to lose his fortune, which provides an obvious example of prosocial behavior and altruism.
This is a comedy drama about a woman and her daughter who move from Mexico
to California in the hopes of finding financial security. The woman becomes the
housekeeper for a well-to-do family, and she works hard to maintain their Latino
identity despite her daughter’s gradual Americanization. The film provides an
interesting look at multiculturalism, cultural identity, and some problems
associated with communication between individuals from different cultures.
Stand By Me (1986)
This story involves three friends who begin a journey to see the body of a boy who has been killed in a train accident in a small town in the early 1960s. It illustrates their friendship as well as issues of social class, group pressure to conform, and group decision making.
Time to Kill, A (1996)
Samuel L. Jackson portrays a father who takes the law into his own hands when the men who brutalized his young daughter are not adequately punished. The film contrasts two types of aggression, one aimed at harming another and possibly racially-motivated, the other aimed at revenge for a terrible injustice. Numerous social psychology concepts are illustrated in this film based on a best-selling novel by John Grisham.
Village, The (2004)
A film about a pastoral village in Pennsylvania where the natives live in peace,
except for the demonic creatures believed to reside just outside their borders. Over the years the community develops a very restrictive existence based on fear, and their beliefs are passed through the generations via expectations of conformity. When one of the villagers is dying and needs medication from the outside world, one brave young man (Joaquin Phoenix) decides to leave the village and risk everything. The film, which illustrates the effects of group leadership, membership, and conformity, has a nice surprise ending.
What Women Want (2000)
Mel Gibson stars as an advertising executive who develops the ability to really
know what women are thinking and feeling. The film provides an interesting look
at gender roles, and the misperceptions men and women often have about each
other, as well as the topics of love and attraction.
Wild Hogs (2007)
An all-star cast portrays a group of middle-aged men who long to escape the stress of their daily lives and embrace the open road – as leather-clad bikers. They quickly learn that their road trip brings more than they can handle when they encounter a real biker gang whose members do not take kindly to the biker wannabes. This film illustrates several psychological concepts, including relationships, self-presentation, stereotypes, aggression, and conformity.