Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Movies That Show One Person Really Can Make a Difference


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature brought to you by the Broke and the Bookish.

I don’t talk about politics on this blog for the most part. Mostly because I think it can be very divisive and because there are very few people whose minds are going to change because of it–no matter how well-reasoned the argument.

If you’re reading this and you’re from the United States (or even if you’re not) I would say there’s at least a 50% chance that you, like me, are disappointed with the election results.

People will always be afraid of change, willing to go backwards even if it’s worse–it’s what they’re used to. But I’m not going to talk about Trump’s shortcomings or the influence of sexism in the election because in the words of Macbeth what’s done is done.

Eventually we have to move forward. But that doesn’t mean we stop fighting for what’s right–what we believe in. No matter what your political views are, there’s always work to be done to make to world better, brighter, safer, more accepting, more sustainable. And that work begins with you and me.

So here are ten films (and there are so many more than these) that show one person can make a difference. I’ve chosen films across political lines, across genres, and across time periods just to show that no matter what your goal is, you are powerful enough to achieve it.

They’re listed in chronological order of the year of their release:

  • Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) They don’t call it the greatest year in film for nothing. This movie, starring Jimmy Stewart, is a classic story about the power of special interest groups in Washington and one man’s fight for his state. If you wonder how/why politicians get corrupted, this is a great film to watch. It is an inspiring look at individual choices, the power of honesty, and the importance of a free press.
  • The Princess Bride (1987) Westley, played by Cary Elwes, not only risks everything for love, he becomes everything for love. His transformation from obedient farm boy to the Dread Pirate Roberts would be inspiring simply as a coming of age story. But always, there is Buttercup, there is true love, there is a goal worth becoming great in order to achieve it.
  • Evita (1996) Played by Madonna, Evita is the ultimate underdog story–a Cinderella-like tale without a fairy godmother. Ambitious and determined, Eva Peron forced a whole country to say yes to her, even when her father’s legitimate family said no. Politically, we’re worlds apart, but you can’t help but admire a woman who didn’t stop until she had everything and not even then.
  • A Knight’s Tale (2001) Can a man change his stars? If he’s Heath Ledger yes he bloody well can. When jousting was reserved for noble birth, William Thatcher impersonates a nobleman and shows that fate is in your own hands.
  • Harry Potter Series (2001-2011) One boy against impossible odds. And he wins.
  • Slumdog Millionaire (2008) No one wants to believe that a young man from the gutter could be smart enough to win a trivia game show. But intelligence is about more than formal education–it’s about observation and experience. A great lesson that appearances can be deceiving and that you can rise up against expectations even when everyone wants to keep you in your place.
  • The Dark Knight (2008) Batman is the superhero for the rest of us–the one without actual powers who decides to turn his wealth and privilege to further a goal greater than himself. He also shows the importance of facing fears, discipline, honing instincts, and making sacrifices. You don’t have to have a lot of money (or a great car) to follow his example.
  • The Young Victoria (2009) Well of course someone born with wealth and power can wield it. But nobody expected Victoria to be one of the longest reigning monarchs in England, to expand her territories in monumental ways, to usher in a new century and a new world of industrialization. Did she make mistakes? Of course. Was she the model of imperialism? Yes. But she didn’t let anyone take away her agency or her sovereignty–she fought against having a regency and she didn’t allow love and marriage to take away her crown. In short–she forced people to question their assumptions about her abilities based on her sex. I love Emily Blunt in this film.
  • The Help (2011) Maybe your voice is political but not involved in actual politics. Never underestimate the power of listening, of writing, of documenting the truth and reality as it exists around you. Social change comes with social consciousness. You have to be aware before you can make a difference.
  • The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012) This could apply to all three films, but I have to admit the first one in this series is my favorite. No one expects a hobbit to be able to accomplish great things, but Bilbo finds courage and a taste for adventure no one would have guessed.


The largest criteria for these films today was my ownership of them, so naturally a lot of movies have been left off this list. Did I miss/list your favorite underdog or power-of-the-indivdual film? Let me know in the comments.

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