My Favorite Movies About The Power Of Story

Today I finished reading Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, in anticipation of the movie adaptation, which will be released next month.

I absolutely loved the book, for more reasons than I can count. It’s a very unusual novel, with an unusual structure – six stories, with the first five told until the half-way point, each ending on a cliff-hanger. The last is told all the way through, then the book works backwards to the conclusions of the previous five stories. The stories are set in different times and places, and are different genres. All are connected, in more ways than one, in both overt and subtle ways.

One way Mitchell connects the stories is by having each subsequent main character experience the previous story in some form or forms. A journal, letters, a musical sextet, a mystery novel, a movie, testimony taken down by an archivist, an oral history–storytelling itself is one of the major ways the six sections of the book are brought together.

Each character is impacted by the stories they are told. It made me think about the power of storytelling as a theme of its own, and how some of my favorite movies are about characters whose lives are somehow touched and even changed by storytelling.

The Princess Bride

Of course, this has to be at the top of the list! The movie begins with a grandfather visiting his grandson, who is sick in bed with a cold. The grandson reluctantly agrees to let him read a book called The Princess Bride to him. The framing sequences of the grandfather and grandson are almost as delightful as the story itself, as the young boy is gradually reeled in by the power of the story he is listening to. One of my favorite things about the movie is how storytelling creates a bridge between generations.

Galaxy Quest

Cover of "Galaxy Quest (Deluxe Edition)"
Cover of Galaxy Quest (Deluxe Edition)

This is such an underrated film. The cast of a space opera TV show called Galaxy Quest ends up on a space ship recreated from the TV show by aliens called Thermians. The Thermians have intercepted broadcasts of the show and don’t understand that it’s make believe. They call them “historical documents.” The actors have to pretend to be their characters to help the Thermians defeat an evil-doer named Sarris. The movie affectionately tweaks sci-fi fandom, while at the same time shows how even stories thought to be silly can inspire some to greatness.

Kiss Of The Spider Woman

Cover of "Kiss of the Spider Woman [Blu-r...
Cover of Kiss of the Spider Woman [Blu-ray]
Two men share a cell in a South American prison. One is a political activist in jail for revolutionary activities, the other has been convicted of a morals charge because he is gay. Molina, the gay man, tells Valentin, the activist, the plots of movies he likes. No matter what kind of movie it is, he weaves it into a romantic story, even a Nazi propaganda film. Molina confesses he always sees himself as the heroine in the stories he retells. The men bond over the stories and become friends. Molina believes he has found an opportunity to become the heroine in his real-life story. Here, story is used to escape more than to inspire, as well as to manipulate.

Fried Green Tomatoes

Cover of "Fried Green Tomatoes (Widescree...
Cover via Amazon

Evelyn is going through a mid-life crisis when she meets an elderly woman named Ninny Threadgoode at a nursing home. Ninny tells her the story of her relative Idgie Threadgoode and her relationship with a woman named Ruth in the Depression-era South. When Ruth runs away from her abusive husband, she and Idgie open the Whistle Stop Cafe. Listening to their adventures, Evelyn gains inspiration and is eventually able to overcome her depression and dissatisfaction with life. A funny, lovely movie about women gaining strength through friendship and fellowship.

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7 thoughts on “My Favorite Movies About The Power Of Story

    1. Some people claim it’s a “difficult” book, but it isn’t, really. The only section that was a bit challenging for me was the last one set in a post-apocalyptic era, because the narrator speaks in a pigdin dialect of English. But I got used to it fairly quickly. Some of it is even flat-out hilarious. I recommend it!

      1. I got the book from Amazon ebooks and have started reading. Am only about a quarter of the way through so far but it is pretty dam awesome. Thanks for the recommendation. 🙂

    1. With the movie coming out in a few weeks, editions of the book should be easily available. I listened to the audio book, and it’s superbly done–all the readers (different ones for each section) are fantastic.

  1. I would add Usual Suspects. The entire story is told as questioning the one remaining witness to a botched crime and in the end you are not sure what is true and what was said just to make the police happy.

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