Why 2016 Movies Suck and What 10 Awesome Movies Are Really About

Critics say 2016 has been an uninspiring year for movies because reboots are getting tiresome, others say it’s because the stories are all the same. But I’d argue neither is true. Hollywood has been rebooting movies since the studios decided to remake all their bestselling silent films into talkies. Probably even before that.

The problem is that people only think they’re showing up to a theatre to watch the two greatest superheroes of all time duke it out. What they’re really watching is two people with fundamental disagreements about the ‘right thing to do’ try to resolve their differences. If their points of disagreement mean something to the viewer, and if the resolution is satisfactory (more on that another time), then they may watch it again. If not, they’ll pick it apart for inconsistencies and inaccuracies and convince themselves the reason your movie sucked was because you weren’t believable.

There is nothing believable about The Dark Knight, unless you think one clown could come out of nowhere, orchestrate terrorism on a level greater than any ISIS leader and drive a billionaire who trained with an Irish ninja and dresses as a bat into hiding . And yet it’s one of the best-performing superhero movies of all time both critically and financially. So I went through the AFI top 100 movies, and tried to describe the emotional cores of each entry — what they’re really about — without bringing up the genre, characters, film technique, or anything that you may think of first when I ask you to describe a movie like, say, Star Wars or Pulp Fiction. Note: Some of these movies I haven’t seen in a long time, so I may get one or two wrong.

  1. Lord of the Rings is about the capacity of people with strong moral centers to do extraordinary things even when they are powerless and average. We also see how different people relate to absolute power.
  2. Citizen Kane is about having everything but love and as a result being set up to overreach. It’s about life defying your attempts to control it over and over until you end up alone with nothing.
  3. Inception is about overcoming depression, guilt and grief.
  4. Gone with the Wind is about human resourcefulness and the human spirit triumphing despite setbacks and suffering, it’s about being forced to grow up.
  5. Lawrence of Arabia is about the disillusionment and ugliness of fighting for ideals.
  6. 2001: A Space Odyssey is about human resourcefulness and humanity’s relationship with our tools.
  7. Apocalypse Now is about the insanity of modern society and the descent into madness of those who dwell on the dark things civilizations do.
  8. The Wizard of Oz is about our quest for completeness, and the realization that the key to becoming who we once were is with us all long.
  9. Star Wars is the hero’s journey. It’s about anybody who grows up feeling removed from society and grown-up things getting involved in ‘important events’, coming out of it better but also forever changed.
  10. Taxi Driver is about unhealthy ways to deal with trauma and assert one’s significance.

Bonus: Spiderman is the constant struggle with trying to do the right thing when it leads to great personal suffering.

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