It is remarkable how films can have such a hold over the human race. Depending on who you ask, we watch films for a plethora of different reasons: to laugh, to cry, to smile, to inspire, to feel loved – even if it’s for a mere two hours. Regardless, people watch films to make them feel something. Perhaps the most intriguing kind of film is the one that makes you feel infinite, and by this, I mean the ones that are entirely sublime in nature. The ones you watch that fill you with equal amounts of sorrow and happiness, and the ones that have you leaving the theater feeling like an entirely new person who has gained some kind of unspoken and indescribable knowledge. These, which I refer to as infinite films, are certainly not easy to come by and even more difficult to forget. Below are infinite films that I carry with me.
The Rocky horror picture show (1975)
Once a show on stage and later adapted into a cult classic film, The Rocky Horror Picture is a movie that will leave you staring at the television, trying to comprehend what you just watched and unsure of whether you loved or loathed it. After its release, this film was only allowed to be shown on television after midnight – and for good reason! All seems well when the young, innocent and newly engaged Brad and Janet decide to visit their high school teacher to share their exciting news, but when their car breaks down in the middle of a storm on the way there, they have no choice but to knock on a nearby castle’s door for help. There, they are forced to stay for the madness that ensues, thanks to the castle’s owner, Dr. Frank-N-Furter – the “sweet transvestite” alien scientist who is attempting to create life – and his entourage of strange individuals. The Rocky Horror Picture Show is by far the strangest film anyone will ever see – making you feel as though you’ve entered a 1970s musical fever-dream – but once you’ve watched it, nothing will be the same.
“Don’t dream it, be it.”
Dead poets society (1989)
Carpe diem – Seize the day – those are the wise words that the private school teacher, Mr. Keating, played by the remarkable Robin Williams, instills in his students during their first day of English class. This story follows a group of teenage boys who have lived their lives doing exactly what they are told in a school that focuses on principle, order and respect. When Mr. Keating arrives, he brings with him the lesson of freedom, art, poetry, passion, and love – concepts once foreign to these orderly students. They soon grow accustomed to Mr. Keating’s strange outlook on life and decide to revive a long-forgotten club that Mr. Keating, himself, had been a part of back in his high school years – the Dead Poets Society – and begin to act upon their desperation for freedom and passion, even if it means going against orders. Dead Poets Society brings about lessons of free will, the joys of the arts and the pain that may arise from them in this remarkable film that will most likely have you reaching for your tissues by the end.
“. . . medicine, law, business, engineering – these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for!”
The Breakfast club (1985)
This film would arguably be on anyone’s movies to make you feel infinite list and is perhaps the most simplistic one on my list. On the surface, this plotline is as straightforward as they come – five high school teenagers, all from different social groups, enter a Saturday detention not knowing anything about one another and leave with bonded souls and an unspoken connection. “The Princess”, “The Jock”, “The Brain”, “The Athlete” and “The Basket-Case” are defined by their social titles, but beneath it all, are still just lost teenagers looking for themselves in a sea of judgment and uncertainty. This film is neither sad nor happy – but it’s real, it’s raw and it’s honest about every individual’s desire for connection beneath our masks of society.
“Screws fall out all the time, the world is an imperfect place.”
Across the universe (2007)
One of the lesser-known films on this list, Across the Universe is a Beatles “jukebox musical” that follows the story of the English worker Jude on his journey to America to find his father. While there, he meets the carefree college student, Max, and Max’s sister Lucy. The three of them move to New York City and do the best they can to survive in 1960s America. As Jude and Lucy begin to fall in love, their relationship is threatened by the social upheaval that accompanies the Vietnam War. Love and tragedy are riddled throughout this sublime film and are accompanied by several of the Beatles’ hits to set the framework of the film’s plot. Lessons of sacrifice, duty and the importance of unconditional love will surely linger in watchers’ minds after seeing this film . . . along with the melody of “All You Need is Love” playing on repeat.
“If everybody is nobody, then somebody could be anybody . . .”
american beauty (1999)
One of the darker films on this list, American Beauty offers a closer look at suburban America and the sorrows that lurk beneath. Middle-age Lester Burnham becomes disillusioned with his existence and seeks excitement outside of his humdrum day-to-day routine – brought on by his fascination with his teenage daughter’s best friend, Angela. His mid-life crisis causes him to completely change his life and sends him on a hunt to rediscover his youth and passion from years past. Filled with countless characters who struggle with their own desires and demons, this film is chalked full of both tragedy and inspiration. The ending monologue alone is enough to serve as a revelation for watchers.
“Sometimes there’s so much beauty in the world, I feel like I can’t take it, and my heart is just going to cave in.”
The great gatsby (2013)
Two versions of this film exist, one in 1974 and the other in 2013. I am partial to the 2013 version strictly for the new level of tragedy and aesthetic beauty it offers. This film follows the 1925 novel of the same name, telling the story of Nick Carraway, a young man searching for his own destiny in New York who moves next door to a millionaire named Jay Gatsby and across the bay from his cousin, Daisy. Nick falls in the background of his own story as love, deceit and loss take over those who surround him. He soon realizes that the ‘American Dream’, beneath the twinkling lights of wealth and glamor, is more of a nightmare and learns about the complexities of humanity and their imperishable desire for the past in the process.
“All my life – I wish it could always be like this.”
The TruMan Show (1998)
Though Jim Carrey is primarily known for his comedic roles, The Truman Show offers him the chance to play a character far more complex than he had in years prior. This film follows Truman Burbank – a man who, his whole life, has unknowingly been living in a television show. Beginning from his birth and carrying through into adulthood, Truman has had his entire life broadcasted and recorded by secret cameras hidden all over the “world” he lives in. Every person in his life and every experience that he has had has been a lie and planned out by the directors of the show, unbeknownst to him. As time progresses, Truman begins to notice strange things in his life and he must decide if he is in charge of his own fate, or if he is simply another actor on some higher being’s stage. The Truman Show is a spectacular film, filled with comedy, romance, and of course, drama, that allows watchers to question their own free will and the lives that they, supposedly, lead.
“We accept the reality of the world with which we are presented.”
The Perks of being a wallflower (2012)
One of the films that inspired me to make this list (and the one to suggest that a work of art could be infinite in nature) is The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Based on the 1999 book of the same name, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is about high school student Charlie who, his whole life, has been living on the sidelines as an observer. His life begins to change when the eccentric Patrick and his kind, lively sister Sam befriend him and teach him all about what life has to offer when you live it as it’s intended. At their side, Charlie experiences first love, heartbreak, inspiration, confusion and the feeling of acceptance more than he ever has before. Swept into the happier side of teenagedom, he then struggles when he realizes his new friends are departing for college and leaving him behind. Despite this film being coming of age story – much like Dead Poets Society and The Breakfast Club – it can touch individuals from all ages and backgrounds, changing their entire outlook on what it means to be accepted.
“You are alive, and you stand up and see the lights on the buildings and everything that makes you wonder. And you’re listening to that song on that drive with the people you love most in this world. And in this moment, I swear, we are infinite.”