Ah gratitude: something we all strive to feel in our hearts perpetually – but do we?
T’is the season that reminds us to feel grateful again, because we do need a reminder, especially during a time of high tension and continuous uncertainty all around us.
And while most of us in the developed world have all our basic needs met and do enjoy the luxury to fret over other gripes, a look at the world beyond our own sphere can bring back a sense of reality, and that means our hearts should actually overflow with gratitude every minute of the day.
Just to give you a perspective: my friend in Ukraine is without power most of the day due to the continued Russian attacks on their civilian infrastructure. About 80 % of the people in Kyiv, where she lives nearby, don’t have water right now. It’s like a massive storm is running over them, but this one is (mad) man-made destruction, and it keeps on coming back!
Think of the people whose homes were destroyed by hurricanes in Florida and Puerto Rico recently, and who have to build everything back from scratch. These are real problems.
My family lives in Germany and across Europe there will be severe austerity measures to reduce their energy use this winter due to the war-caused shortages, which means that lights will be off and homes will be colder.
And these are examples from just two parts of the world. There are many, many other places where everyday life is difficult and a continuous challenge – even without natural disasters or ruthless, war-waging dictators.
Yes, I know, it is human nature to want more and more, and to take the things we have for granted. If we live in comfort and danger is far from our doorstep, it is easy to forget that our “normal” lives are the stuff that dreams are made of for many others.
If we have our health, a warm home, safety, enough to eat, power, water, all the necessities to live comfortably, the freedom of choice, and we know that our loved ones have the same – that’s a tremendous number of things to be grateful for!
To help us get some perspective and to feel a little more grateful for what we have, I have curated a list of lesser-known movies, which promise to touch our hearts in all the right places. These films are not the usual blockbusters that are rerun on every streaming channel during the season, while still featuring many known names and award-winning acting.
I hope you will browse through the list and find something that will inspire you to watch and enjoy!
And after a good movie night, fill your heart and send love to all the people you can think of, who are less fortunate than you are.
With love and gratitude,
Founder and President of Health, Healing & Happiness LLC
Fabulous animated movies with a strong message
This list is for the whole family. Animated movies are so good nowadays that they are loved by kids and adults alike. The stories in the movies below cover all ages with their unique perspectives, challenges, and outcomes that remind us that love is stronger than anything else.
This may be a better known movie, but it's so charming that you can watch it again! In Disney/Pixar’s vibrant tale of family, fun and adventure, aspiring young musician named Miguel (voice of Anthony Gonzalez) embarks on an extraordinary journey to the magical land of his ancestors. There, the charming trickster Hector (voice of Gael Garcia Bernal) becomes an unexpected friend who helps Miguel uncover the mysteries behind his family’s stories and traditions.
This movie is a bit on the darker side and may not be suitable for very young children. It is super cool and has a Halloweenish style to it. Stuck in a rambling old house in a boring new town, Coraline (voice of Dakota Fanning) discovers a door that leads to a fantasy version of her life, including an Other Mother (voice of Teri Hatcher) who is everything she wishes her real mother would be. But when Other Mother kidnaps her actual parents, Coraline must risk life and limb to get her old life back.
Growing up can be a bumpy road, and it's no exception for Riley, who is uprooted from her Midwest life when her father starts a new job in San Francisco. Like all of us, Riley is guided by her emotions – Joy (Amy Poehler), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith). The emotions live in Headquarters, the control center inside Riley’s mind, where they help advise her through everyday life.
A 78-year-old curmudgeonly balloon salesman is not your average hero. When he ties thousands of balloons to his house and flies away to the wilds of South America, he finally fulfills his lifelong dream of adventure. But after Carl discovers an 8-year-old stowaway named Russell, this unlikely duo soon finds themselves on a hilarious journey in a lost world filled with danger and surprises.
Movies to remember the important things in life
We take so many good things in our life for granted and can easily forget that not everyone else is so lucky. Find out how the characters in the movies below respond to their unique challenges with humor, grit and selflessness.
A recently retired man (Jack Nicholson) embarks on a journey to his estranged daughter's wedding, only to discover more about himself and life than he ever expected.
An absolute classic and must watch! When an open-minded Jewish Italian waiter and his son become victims of the Holocaust, he uses a perfect mixture of will, humor, and imagination to protect his son from the dangers around their camp.
The story of a social studies teacher who gives an assignment to his junior high school class to think of an idea to change the world for the better, then put it into action. When one young student creates a plan for "paying forward" favors, he not only affects the life of his struggling single mother, but he sets in motion an unprecedented wave of human kindness which, unbeknownst to him, has blossomed into a profound national phenomenon.
Movies about overcoming hardships and challenging beliefs
Nothing is more satisfying than watching someone triumph over obstacles and hardships that range from family quirks to life-threatening situations. Laugh, cry, empathize with and cheer for the protagonists in the movies below, who will fill your heart to the fullest.
A musically gifted orphan, Evan (Freddie Highmore), runs away from his orphanage and searches New York City for his birth parents. On his journey, he's taken under the wing of the Wizard (Robin Williams), a homeless man who lives in an abandoned theater. After discovering his talent, the Wizard gives Evan the name "August Rush" and devises a plan to profit from his talent. Little does Evan know that his parents, Lyla (Keri Russell) and Louis (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), are searching for him too.
A dedicated teacher (Hilary Swank) in a racially divided Los Angeles school has a class of at-risk teenagers deemed incapable of learning. Instead of giving up, she inspires her students to take an interest in their education and planning their future. She assigns reading material that relates to their lives and encourages them all to keep journals.
When a man (Kevin Kline) is diagnosed with terminal cancer, he takes custody of his misanthropic teenage son (Hayden Christensen), for whom quality time means getting high, engaging in small-time prostitution, and avoiding his father.
After being abandoned by her husband, depressed music teacher Roberta (Meryl Streep) lands a job teaching violin to underprivileged children in Harlem, New York. Despite initial friction from school principal Janet Williams (Angela Bassett) and the students, the program succeeds and attracts public recognition.
A true story based on the Rocket Boys book by Homer Hickam: John Hickam (Chris Cooper) is a West Virginia coal miner who loves his job and expects his sons, Jim (Scott Miles) and Homer (Jake Gyllenhaal), to follow in his footsteps. But Jim gets a football scholarship, and Homer becomes interested in rocket science after seeing Sputnik 1 crossing the sky. John disapproves of his son's new mania, but Homer begins building rockets with the help of friends and a sympathetic teacher (Laura Dern). Rocketry, he hopes, will prove his ticket to a better life.
Quirky and rebellious April Burns (Katie Holmes) lives with her boyfriend in a low-rent New York City apartment miles away from her emotionally distant family. But when she discovers that her mother (Patricia Clarkson) has a fatal form of breast cancer, she invites the clan to her place for Thanksgiving. While her father (Oliver Platt) struggles to drive her family into the city, April -- an inexperienced cook -- runs into kitchen trouble and must ask a neighbor (Sean Hayes) for help.
In 1931, three half-white, half-Aboriginal girls escape after being plucked from their houses to be trained as domestic staff, and set off on a journey across the Outback.
A shy adolescent boy, Walter (Haley Joel Osment), is taken by his greedy mother (Kyra Sedgwick) to spend the summer with his two hard-boiled great-uncles, Hub (Robert Duvall) and Garth (Michael Caine), who are rumored to possess a great fortune. At first, the two old men, both set in their ways, find Walter's presence a nuisance, but they eventually warm up to the boy and regale him with tall tales from their past. In return, Walter helps reawaken their youthful spirit.
A young man (Tobey Maguire) is taught medicine by the doctor at the orphanage (Michael Caine) where he was brought up. However, when he clashes with his mentor over the issue of abortion, he leaves the home and finds work on a cider farm. There he falls in love with another man's girlfriend (Charlize Theron) but starts to re-evaluate his principles when one of the farm workers becomes pregnant by her own father.
In 1960s Mississippi, Southern society girl Skeeter (Emma Stone) returns from college with dreams of being a writer. She turns her small town on its ear by choosing to interview the Black women who have spent their lives taking care of prominent white families. Only Aibileen (Viola Davis), the housekeeper of Skeeter's best friend, will talk at first. But as the pair continue the collaboration, more women decide to come forward, and as it turns out, they have quite a lot to say.
Kevin Dillon (Kieran Culkin) suffers from a disorder known as Morquio's syndrome, which weakens his heart and stunts his growth. Maxwell Kane (Elden Henson) has dyslexia and towers above his classmates. The two couldn't be more different, but, when Kevin is asked to help Maxwell with his reading, they soon bond over their mutual social alienation and absent fathers. Following a run-in with local gang member Blade (Joe Perrino), the two become inseparable.
A contemporary story of love, rejection and triumph as a young Maori girl fights to fulfill a destiny her grandfather refuses to recognize.
Astounding resolve, change against all odds, and life-threatening decisions to do what is right are the themes of these unique and very different documentaries, that shine a light on the immense power of human imagination and perseverance.
For nine months prior to World War II, in an act of mercy unequalled anywhere else before the war, Britain conducted an extraordinary rescue mission, opening its doors to over 10,000 Jewish and other children from Germany, Austria, and Czechoslovakia.
On August 7th, 1974, a young Frenchman named Philippe Petit stepped out on a wire illegally rigged between the New York World Trade Center’s twin towers. After dancing for nearly an hour on the wire, he was arrested, taken for psychological evaluation, and brought to jail before he was finally released. This extraordinary documentary incorporates Petit’s personal footage to show how he overcame seemingly insurmountable challenges to achieve the artistic crime of the century.
Children are saving lives in the slums of Kolkata. Amlan Ganguly doesn't rescue slum children; he empowers them to become change agents, battling poverty and transforming their neighborhoods with dramatic results. Filmed over the course of three years, The Revolutionary Optimists follows Amlan and three of the children he works with on an intimate journey through adolescence, as they challenge the idea that marginalization is written into their destiny.