Movies have come quite a long way since they started in the very late 1890s, and although not every single one is universally believed to be meaningful, some of these inspiring movies have great messages that can even pertain to the theme of recovery and those who have struggled with alcohol and drug abuse.
The Miracle Worker
Hopefully, even today, Helen Keller is a household-known name. The Miracle Worker, which is about Helen Keller, surely falls under the category of inspiring movies. Originally made in black and white in 1962, and followed by several remakes because of its legacy, the movie emphasizes how mistreated Helen Keller was because of her inability to see or hear, but how her teacher, Annie Sullivan, believed in her potential to be capable of learning a new way of life through alternate ways of communication and coached her to do so. Does this sound familiar? Although not an originally intended message, the theme of recovery carries on through the film because it can be compared to dealing with difficulty out of a person’s control. Those who have suffered from the disease of addiction were once held back from the person they were meant to be because of drugs or alcohol, but learned how to go through the motions of life on life’s terms, usually beside their sponsor in a 12-Step fellowship, like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous may relate to this movie. Another great aspect in one of the most inspiring movies is how when Helen gets unreasonably treated and prejudiced, even by her own family, by the misconception of not having the ability to understand, communicate, or be on par with the rest of the world, Sullivan remains hopeful and, despite being a stranger at first, treats her as the human being that she actually was. Helen Keller grew to be known an icon for being a dedicated, driven, and persevering woman, while Sullivan was literally called “The Miracle Worker” for helping Keller achieve all that she was told she could not.
Inspiring movies like Gattaca are a must-see. For a movie made in 1997, before the official leap into the new millennium, Gattaca not only foretold some similar technological advances and ethical debates, but also carried the theme of recovery throughout the film, most particularly noticeable in the main character, Vincent. To quickly summarize for those who have not seen the feature, Vincent is viewed by his family and the rest of the world as a person of entire flaw because of his genetic makeup. He was born naturally with nothing apparently wrong, but through the technological reading of his blood samples at birth, it was revealed he had high chances of certain health factors like heart disease later in life. However, most of humanity, like Vincent’s “perfect” brother, had been genetically pre-determined to lack these kinds of diseases, as well as other disabilities and mental or physical ailments. This set up for the movie screams the theme of recovery, because Vincent instantaneously feels different, and later even segregated from others. The drive to go against all odds, however, becomes his greatest victory when he sets out to achieve his dream of flying out to space at a corporation that he is prohibited from being accepted into due to his allegedly defective genetic structure. Inspiring movies like this can in some ways show parallels to the life of an addict, because much like stepping away from their drug and moving towards working on their recovery, the main character is able to experience his wildest dreams coming true. He finds a way to achieve the seemingly impossible. A scene in the movie that best shows this, is when he swims with his genetically-perfect brother and ends up swimming further out, causing his brother’s perplexed reaction, “How have you done any of this?” Vincent had to push himself much harder at everything he had to encounter throughout his life, and the result was not only the reward of achievement, but also of self-worth and accountability. These can also be gained as gifts of sobriety, as well as compared to the changes that a recovering addict may see in themselves after having worked all the steps in a 12-Step fellowship.
How does Cast Away, a pretty much one-man movie about the main character getting stuck on an island, connect to recovery, or even place on a list of inspiring movies? One word could sum it up: powerlessness. What better way to explore the theme of recovery than through this word? Tom Hanks’ character ends the movie with the quote:
“I was gonna die there, totally alone. I was gonna get sick, or get injured or something … I had power of nothing. And that’s when this feeling came over me like a warm blanket. I knew, somehow, that I had to stay alive. Somehow, I had to keep breathing. Even though there was no reason to hope. And all my logic said that I would never see this place again. So that’s what I did. I stayed alive. I kept breathing. And one day my logic was proven all wrong because the tide came in, and gave me a sail. And now, here I am. I’m back … And I know what I have to do now. I gotta keep breathing. Because tomorrow the sun will rise. Who knows what the tide could bring?”
Talk about inspiring movies! Honestly, this quote could be used when a recovering addict tells their story, because it is all about the theme of recovery; it explains the feelings of despair and hopelessness, which the active addict can be all-too-familiar with, as well as the struggle of admitting that powerlessness. The character explains how he kept breathing, which could translate to the addict’s necessary new-found mentality of living life one day at a time, gradually gaining a clearer mindset and growing to be hopeful for their sober future.
Catch Me If You Can
Lying, cheating, stealing, manipulating… not only were these means of living for Leonardo DiCaprio’s character and actual real-life Frank Abagnale (on whom the film is based), but they are also regular, familiar terms for an addict – particularly during their active use. Inspiring movies like Catch Me If You Can relate to recovery in many ways. The movie tells the story of how Abagnale forged checks, conned his way to become a pilot, teacher, doctor, and lawyer with no education for any of those careers, and live a completely made-up life under a false identity. The theme of recovery can be seen in the movie when Abagnale realizes how damaging of a position that his lies had placed him in, and even contacts the FBI wanting to turn himself in. This could be referred to as a “turning point” or “bottom” for an addict, which is where they feel compelled to change their ways. Also, in the movie, one of the FBI agents (again played by Tom Hanks) and Abagnale play a game of cat and mouse [as Abagnale runs to avoid getting caught for a good portion of the film], which aligns with the theme of recovery, because the active addict goes back and forth with the desire to stop using, and yet the inability to put their drug of choice down on their own. Inspiring movies like this give hope to a recovering addict because it not only shows what addicts are capable of in their addiction, but also that they are capable of change for the better.
Being the latest film on this list of inspiring movies, Limitless, has more of a literal approach toward the theme of recovery. Bradley Cooper’s character finds himself addicted to a drug that enhances his brain functionality and capacity, but for the price of mental, physical, and emotional dependence on it. The film showcases the process of how addiction can most frequently occur, as Cooper’s character falls into it without even realizing and by the end of the movie, he has crossed over to a full-blown addicted lifestyle. The end of the movie is most uplifting, and it demonstrates the theme of recovery because it alludes to the benefits that sobriety can have. Cooper’s character ends up being able to function without the use of the drug and lives a successful life that he genuinely worked for.
Whether it was made over 50 years ago or a recent theatrical release, inspiring movies can be shown to still convey a theme of recovery when a closer look is taken at them. No matter how difficult the situation, there is always opportunity to remove yourself and work toward the better future deserved. Who knew so many inspiring movies could relate to recovery? We hope these inspiring movies not only motivate you in your recovery, but help inspire you to grow each day.Tags: movie