Movies have an incredible influence over our lives and can open us up to a whole new world of possibilities. Not only do films entertain us, they can also teach us things and show us a different perspective on life, society and even ourselves.

Some films go much deeper than the traditional action movie or romantic comedy by exploring issues such as race, religion, consciousness and our place in the universe. This list looks at 15 movies that will have you staring into the TV set in awe long after the credits finish rolling.

1. Fight Club


David Fincher created a visual masterpiece with his adaptation of Fight Club based on the book by Chuck Palahniuk. The movie’s dark, brooding scenery and pulsing soundtrack echo the despair and hopelessness felt by Edward Norton’s character who is trapped in a mundane existence.

He meets Tyler Durden, a charismatic iconoclast who introduces him to a way to break out of the psychological shackles of modern life. The two men start Fight Club, an underground bare-knuckle boxing club that quickly gains in popularity as more people who have become disillusioned with their circumstances seek a way to feel alive for a few hours.

2. Conviction


Conviction is the awe-inspiring true story of what love and devotion can accomplish. Sam Rockwell plays Kenny Waters, a man accused of a brutal murder who is sentenced to life in prison without parole. Hilary Swank plays his sister Betty who believes her brother is innocent and sets out to prove it.

After Kenny tries to commit suicide in prison, Betty decides to go to law school to become a lawyer in order to help her brother. Despite the breakup of her marriage and her two sons leaving to go and live with their father, Betty continues her fight to exonerate her brother for 18 years.

3. Into The Wild


Into the Wild is the true story of Christopher McCandless, a wealthy university graduate who abandoned his comfortable life and travelled to Alaska in order to live a life without money.After graduating with high honours, Christopher donated his life savings of $24,000 to Oxfam, burned his credit cards, identification and remaining cash and set off for the wilderness.

He never tells his parents or his sister of his plans and never contacts them during his absence leaving them in despair. The movie is directed by Sean Penn and offers an interesting insight into life without material possessions.

4. The Fountain


Although death is an inevitable part of life that will come to us all, many people cannot accept this part of existence and violently reject it. Tommy Creo is a brilliant doctor who is set on finding a cure for his wife Izzy’s terminal brain cancer. Despite Izzy’s pleas for him to spend her final days with her in peace, he cannot accept the fact that she will soon die.

The movie is a masterpiece told through three different storylines set more than five centuries apart. The ultimate theme is about coming to terms with our own death, and this movie will leave you in deep thought for hours afterwards.

5. American History X


Edward Norton’s portrayal of an American neo-Nazi is both gripping and disturbing at the same time. After brutally murdering two black men he finds attempting to steal his truck, Edward Norton’s character Derek is sentenced to three years in prison.

Whilst inside, Derek joins the Aryan Brotherhood but soon becomes critical of their actions involving drugs and socialising with non-white inmates. This leads to the brotherhood viciously attacking Derek in the shower. This movie exposes the rampant racism and neo-Nazi underground that still operates in the US. The movie opened to worldwide critical acclaim despite its extremely violent content.

6. Peaceful Warrior


A Peaceful warrior is an inspiring tale about an aspiring gymnast who meets a spiritual guide in the form of Nick Nolte. The movie incorporates many of the teachings of Buddhism. Nick Nolte’s character known as Socrates shows the young athlete how to use Zen mediation techniques in order to improve his ability.

The movie draws more than a few comparisons with The Karate Kid, but tends to delve deeper into the subject of spiritualism. It is based on the memoirs of Olympic gymnast Dan Millman and is a wonderful example of how Eastern philosophy is relevant in the Western world.

7. Eyes Wide Shut


Do the Illuminati exist? Eyes Wide Shut is Stanley Kubrick’s exploration of secret societies and their alleged rituals. Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman team up again as a married couple to play the lead roles in the highly controversial film. Tom Cruise sneaks into a secret gathering where masked guests indulge in hedonistic activities in a stately English mansion.

However, he is discovered by the organisers and things take a sinister turn causing him to fear for his life. Eyes Wide Shut is shrouded in conspiracy theories including the theory that Kubrick was eventually murdered for making his movie due to the fact that the director died just five days after filming ended.

8. Waking Life


Waking Life is an unusual movie by director Richard Linklater that is filmed using a technique similar to rotoscopy which gives the movie a dreamlike quality. It follows a young man who slowly realises that he is living out a dream from which he cannot awaken.

He meets several interesting characters and they hold deep, philosophical discussions on issues such as metaphysics, existentialism, the afterlife and the meaning of existence. The movie is heavily based on the phenomenon of lucid dreaming which is often characterised by a series of false awakenings which the main character experiences throughout the movie.

9. The Celestine Prophecy


Based on the best-selling novel by James Redfield, The Celestine Prophecy covers issues such as Eastern philosophy and New Age Spiritualism. The main protagonist named John travels to Peru in order to search for an ancient manuscript that contains a list of nine spiritual insights.

As the movie progresses, John, played by Matthew Settle, begins to understand the true meaning of these insights through experiences that occur around him. Whether or not you have an interest in spiritualism, the movie still offers an interesting perspective on the meaning of life, human relationships, the universe and the consequences of our actions.

10. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind


One of Jim Carrey’s best movies, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a romantic drama like none you have ever seen before. Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet meet by chance on a train and begin a whirlwind romance. Kate’s impulsive, carefree nature is the perfect antidote to her lover’s bookishness.

After the relationship turns sour, Jim attempts to reconcile with Kate shortly after but is stunned to discover she doesn’t remember him or their relationship. After investigation, Jim discovers that Kate visited a clinic that specialises in erasing painful memories in order to remove all traces of him from her head.

11. The Pursuit of Happiness


The Pursuit of Happiness is the true story of Chris Gardner, an American salesman who lost his life savings in an ill-advised investment and found himself destitute and living on the streets with his young son. Whilst moving between homeless shelters, Chris manages to land an internship as a stockbroker.

He manages to keep his desperate situation secret from his colleagues even giving his last $5 to a wealthy colleague who has forgotten his wallet. Will Smith takes on the role of Chris whilst his son Jaden Smith plays Chris Jr. Will’s emotional performance earned him a nomination for an Academy Award.

12. Contact


Contact is a science fiction drama starring Jodie Foster, Matthew McConaughey and James Woods. Jodie Foster plays a scientist working on the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence program in Puerto Rico. After picking up a signal sent from the star known as Vega, Jodie translates it as a continuous loop of prime numbers that refer to Hitler’s opening address at the Berlin Olympics in 1936.

Along with other scientists, Jodie eventually decodes the message further and discovers that it contains detailed blueprints on building a spacecraft. The story is based on a book by Carl Sagan, an astrophysicist who dedicated his life to teaching the public about the universe.

13. Pi


Pi is Darren Aranofsky’s psychedelic masterpiece that explores the hidden codes and sacred geometry in nature. Maximillian Cohen is the main protagonist who is a mathematical genius plagued by paranoia, obsessive thoughts and severe migraines. Max uses his computer named Euclid to generate stock picks and predict the financial market.

After spitting out a seemingly random 216 digit number, Max believes the computer has crashed. However, he later realises that this number has incredible significance. He is pursued by different groups who want the number for their own reasons ranging from stock market manipulation to bringing about the messianic age.

14. Machine Gun Preacher


If you ever feel like you are too small to make a difference, then Machine Gun Preacher will change your mind in an instant. Gerard Butler assumes the role of Sam Childers, a former heroin user and member of a biker gang.

After being released from prison, Sam is enraged to learn his wife has given up her job as a stripper as she has converted to Christianity. Sam eventually converts and travels to Sudan with the church. There he learns of the atrocities being committed by the Lord’s Resistance Army and vows to help save the children of Sudan.

15. The Guitar

The Guitar

The Guitar begins with the main character named Mel receiving the news that she has a terminal illness and has only 2 months to live. Receiving no support whatsoever from her self-absorbed boyfriend, Mel begins the mother of all spending sprees believing she will never have to pay back her credit cards.

She leaves her stuffy apartment and rents a loft, orders new clothes, furniture, big screen TVs and a shiny red guitar. Mel also begins relationships with both the TV delivery man and the pizza delivery girl as she attempts to enjoy her last few months on the planet.