If you had to point to a work of fiction that challenged your moral and social consciousness as a child, chances are you might pick Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.
After all, the Pulitzer Prize-winning 1960 novel is reportedly the book most often placed on North American school syllabi. The story of Atticus Finch’s fight for justice in a Depression-era Southern town rife with racial intolerance, presenting complex situations and moving character portrayals, represents for many young readers the first awakenings of a sense of justice, a moral code of conduct.
We’ve been thinking about that in the past week, after the results of the U.S. presidential election spread despair and hopelessness in some, celebration and vindication in others, and spurred on frightening incidences of hate and violence throughout the nation. Many, many disparate factors brought us to this point, and many actions will be required to bring us past it, but one thing this year has underscored is the importance for better, truer, more empathetic art—the kind of art that, like Lee’s book, might set a person’s heart and mind in the right direction.
So what’s the movie equivalent—movies that every young adult, and some not-so-young adults, should watch for the sake of character development (as much as for their aesthetic intelligence)? If you could set this imaginary cinematic syllabus for students across the United States, what would you put on it? We want to hear your thoughts. What films formed the basis for your sense of morality—whether they made you realize a sense of civic responsibility, or gave you lasting insight on a person or set of people that you’d previously misjudged?
Tell us in the following form. From your suggestions, we’ll compile a list to appear in MovieMaker in the near future. MM