A Listing of Films for Men and Boys
What follows are descriptions of what I call “guy films.” They have been submitted by a variety of sources: The men of the Boys to Men Mentoring Network, Man-Making Blog subscribers, suggestions from conferences and workshops, and men working with boys across the planet.
These films can be great discussion starters for groups of men, and for a group of men and adolescent males. The debrief can always add some depth to a film for young guys, and you’ll be surprised where a discussion can lead a group. While the film will suggest the best questions, sample debrief questions might include:
- What scenes in the move were the most memorable for you? How did those scenes make you feel? Why?
- What was the most exciting part of the film?
- Who was your favorite character and why?
- What did the film teach you about being a man? Do you think men are like that in real life?
If the title of the film is underlined, clicking on it will take you to the film at Amazon.com for a longer review, viewing online, or possible purchase.
At the end of the list, you’ll find the names of suggested films that have not yet been reviewed. If you know something about any of those films and you’d like to write up a brief synopsis, let me know.
Finally, if you are aware of a film that would fit into this category, please send me your recommendation and I’ll list it here.
DISCLAIMER: For the record, I have not previewed all these films and do not necessarily endorse their content.
Here, in no particular order is the list:
Journeyman is a one-hour documentary available on DVD about rites of passage, mentoring, and male culture in America. The film follows Joe and Mike, two teenage boys from diverse backgrounds who struggle with depression and violence, both of whom are in dire need of support and guidance from adult males. In a mentoring program, they face challenging rites of passage, discover their inner strength, and learn to engage with a community of supportive men.If you want to open a man’s heart and move him in the direction of helping boys on their journey to manhood, I highly recommend this DVD. You can order the Journeyman DVD and see a clip at mirrormanfilms.org.
- Gran Torino; 2009
The film starts showing us an old man that nobody wants to be around. He is isolated, gruff, uncaring, haunted by his past, and quite content to be left alone. He is trapped in a struggle to break free from the past and embrace the present. Gran Torino also profiles a male teenager with similar feelings. He’s new to the neighborhood and trying to be himself. He has cousins in a gang that are determined to have him join them. One man said, “As an older male, it brought home to me the need to try harder, to reach out more to young men. I was reminded, once again, of how the young males in this country painfully need older
- Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys; 2006
America’s boys are in trouble. They are the most violent in the industrialized world. Many are unable to express their emotions. On average, boys are doing worse in the classroom than they were 10 years ago. Who is responsible for this situation? How do we learn to listen to and support our boys? How can we guide them on the path to becoming responsible, caring men? The documentary, Raising Cain: Boys in Focus, provides answers, insights, ideas, and hope. See a clip of the film at this link.
- Hoop Dreams; 1994
This documentary follows two inner-city Chicago residents, Arthur Agee and William Gates, as they follow their dreams of becoming basketball superstars. Beginning at the start of their high school years, and ending almost 5 years later, as they start college, we watch the boys mature into men, still retaining their “Hoop Dreams”. Both are recruited into the same elite high school as their idol, former Detroit Piston superstar Isaiah Thomas. Only one survives the first year; the other must return to a high school closer to his home. Along the way, there is much tragedy, some joy, a great wealth of information about inner city life, and the suspense of not knowing what will occur next. This is not a “by-the-numbers” film. This would be a great discussion starter for a group of men and/or boys. See a clip of the film at this link, and buy a copy from Amazon at this link.
- Tender Mercies; 1983
Mac Sledge, a once-famous country western singer, wakes up broke, alone and hung over in a tiny Texas motel run by widowed Rosa Lee. Having nowhere else to go, Sledge takes a job at the motel, and through the kindness and faith of Rosa he changes his self-destructive ways. He marries Rosa (after he’s baptized at her urging) and becomes a father/pal to her son. Given an opportunity to make a comeback, Sledge considers leaving his new family behind, but after a reunion with his own unhappy daughter, he vows never again to ruin anyone else’s life. A simple story simply told, Tender Mercies is a warm, persuasive tale of redemption, with Robert Duvall giving one of his finest performances.
- Y Tu Mama Tambian; 2000
Alfonso Cuaron’s “Y Tu Mama Tambien” (aka “And Your Mother Too”) is a simple road movie about childhood friends Tenoch and Julio, two high school guys who, like a lot of high school guys, are a little preoccupied with sex, drugs, and more sex. The teenagers develop a plan to lure an older female cousin, Luisa, out of the city with the promise of a road trip to a beach that doesn’t exist in order to — what else? — get laid. Ultimately, the film makes the point that the boys, despite their braggart attitudes toward sex, they really are just boys. While the boys believe that because they have had sex and smoke dope that they are adults, but it’s Luisa’s presence, and her subsequent sexual encounters with them, that proves otherwise. Not for every group of boys, but the men will love this film… taking them right back to their adolescence.
- The Power of One
Tormented by racist bullies in boarding school, a white South African orphan named P.K. is sent to live with Doc, a friend of his grandfather. There, the boy befriends a political prisoner who teaches him how to box. After years of witnessing injustice all around him, P.K. — now 18 — unites with a former boxing adversary to fight the uphill struggle against apartheid.
- Empire of the Sun
Jim, a British expatriate, is separated from his parents when the Japanese army invades Shanghai at the outset of World War II. Eventually interned in a civilian prison camp, Jim hooks up with several American prisoners and becomes the camp mascot. Elsewhere, war tidings grow ominous for the Japanese.
A riveting portrayal of Australian virtuoso David Helfgott and his ultimate triumph over a domineering father; schizophrenia; and an obsession with the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 3.
Pushed to succeed and live up to his parents’ ambitions at an early age, young Vitus is a virtual genius and a prodigy at the piano. But as Vitus grows older, he decides on a different path: one that leads to an ordinary childhood. Great mentoring being modeled. (Subtitles)
Six blind Tibetan teenagers set off on a gripping adventure as they attempt to climb the 23,000-foot Lhakpa Ri on the north side of Mount Everest. Considered cursed in Tibetan culture, blind children are often hidden away to live as pariahs. Determined to challenge that perception, the kids gear up for a demanding expedition led by climber Erik Weihenmayer — the first blind man to scale Everest — and learn some lessons about life along the way. (Subtitles and English)[We had an outing with our boys that included a variation of the blindfolded trust walk followed up with watching this film. It was a powerful experience for us all, teens and mentors.]
- My Bodyguard
Tormented by a gang of bullies, sheltered new kid Clifford seeks protection from older student Linderman, a burly loner who’s rumored to have killed — and possibly eaten — his own brother. A coming-of-age story about an unlikely friendship between two outcasts.
- Billy Elliot
When 11-year-old Billy Elliot trades boxing school for ballet lessons, his father — a hardworking miner from Northern England who despises the idea of his son running around in toe shoes — is less than pleased. But when the boy wins an audition for the Royal Ballet School, he experiences a change of heart. A powerful story about a boy following his dream and his passion in the face of big odds.
- The Blind Side
Oversized African American Michael Oher, the teen from across the tracks and a broken home, has nowhere to sleep at age 16. Taken in by an affluent Memphis couple, he embarks on a remarkable rise to play for the NFL. In this movie, the mentor is a mom.
- The Chorus
In this gentle French drama, music teacher Clement Mathieu lands a job at a boys’ boarding school populated by delinquents and orphans — and run by a martinet headmaster. Sensing potential in the rambunctious ruffians, Mathieu forms a choir to rein in his charges through the transforming power of song, even at the probable cost of his career. (Subtitles)
- Is Anybody There?
Growing up in a seaside nursing home run by his parents takes its toll on 10-year-old Edward, but things begin to look up for the lonely boy when a retired magician with a zest for life moves in. Set in the 1980s, this poignant tale follows the developing friendship between Clarence — a spirited old troublemaker hiding from his past — and death-obsessed Edward, a youngster unable to live life in the moment.
- Captain Abu Raed
Airport janitor Abu Raed has long wanted to travel the world, but he’s had to settle for imagined experiences through books and conversations. When a group of children mistakes him for a pilot, he captivates them with made-up tales of adventure. As he begins to form close friendships with these poor neighborhood kids, it dawns on him just how challenging their lives really are. (Subtitles) (This film reminded me of Gran Torino, in some ways. I wonder who borrowed from whom? Check out the ending of the film to see what I mean.)
- The Overture
Captivating drama inspired by the real-life story of Thai musician Luang Pradit Pairoh, whose skill at playing a xylophone-like instrument called the ranard-ek has granted him legendary status in the world of classical music. Different actors portray the musical master at various ages. Powerful scenes of a boy learning from his father and connecting with his cultural heritage. (Subtitles)
- The Blue Butterfly
The fact that entomologist Alan Osborne is at the height of his career doesn’t stop precocious 10-year-old Pete Carlton from asking him to grant his life’s wish: the opportunity to catch a rare Blue Morpho butterfly. After all, with a terminal illness, the boy has no time to spare. Based on a true story, this stirring adventure includes breathtaking natural footage shot on location in the rain forests of Costa Rica.
- Bang, Bang, You’re Dead
This is a great film about bullying, which includes a Columbine-like scene. The play version (there’s a play within the play) has been performed by many high schools and colleges and because of its impact and popularity was made into a film.
- The Twilight Samurai
A heartfelt elegy with a twist on the usual samurai movie, The Twilight Samurai tells the story of Seibei Iguchi, a man who has trained as a samurai and belongs to a samurai clan, but doesn’t fight alongside them in any battles. Instead, Seibei, a recent widower, has devoted himself to caring for his two daughters and ailing mother. His reluctance to fight makes him a curiosity — and soon lands him an assignment that could cost him his life.The person who submitted this said, “I recommend this one because the violence that happens in two scenes is not overly graphic or gratuitous, yet realistic and honest. It sheds a different light on the life of the samurais and the main character has gentleness, strength, integrity, respect, and honor. Even though this film isn’t about mentoring, I think it provides good modeling for teenage boys in this culture.”(Subtitles)
A fun, epic adventure film with an Aboriginal boy around the time when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and attacked Australia too.
- Spring Forward
About two men, one older and one younger (thirty maybe) and their conversations and time together.
“Dad” is a 1989 comedy-drama based on William Wharton’s novel of the same name. Dad is a movie to cry over.
- The Man Without a Face
Mel Gibson plays a fatherless boy who had almost given up all his dreams… until one man believed in him enough to make them come true.
- Billy the Kid
A documentary story of hope and innocence, the sweet, raw, emotion of first love and the predictability of heartbreak. Billy doesn’t represent everybody with Aspergers syndrome–just himself (and he wasn’t diagnosed until after filming concluded). His biological father split the scene early on, leaving Billy with abandonment issues. At 15, though, he has the same hopes and desires as other high-school students. For one thing, he wants a girlfriend. Billy the Kid is a look into a young life you understand because you were there.
- The Kid
A boy robs a home and it turns out the owner is the boy at older age.
- Secondhand Lions
A coming-of-age story about a shy, young boy sent by his irresponsible mother to spend the summer with his wealthy, eccentric uncles in Texas.
- Where the Red Fern Grows
A bonding film about a boy in the Ozarks and his hunting dogs. It’s about sacrifice and doing the right thing.
- The White Squall
The story is a rite-of-passage adventure for a group of high school boys who spend their senior year as the crew-in-training on the Albatross, a sailing vessel skippered by an experienced sailor and schoolmaster (Jeff Bridges) who teaches hard lessons of teamwork and individual responsibility.
- Lean On Me
Morgan Freeman plays the tough-love educator who wields a baseball bat and bullhorn to keep discipline in his hallways and to motivate underachieving students to keep their acts together. Based on the true story of new jersey high school principal Joe Clark,who wins the support and respect of his students for his controversial methods in ridding the school of violent students and drug dealers.
- Stand By Me
This is about the joys and pains of boyhood friendship and a morbid fascination with corpses. It’s about four boys ages 12 and 13 who take an overnight hike through the woods near their Oregon town to find the body of a boy who’s been missing for days. Their journey includes a variety of scary adventures (including a ferocious junkyard dog, a swamp full of leeches, and a treacherous leap from a train trestle), but it’s also a time for personal revelations, quiet interludes, and the raucous comradeship of best friends.
- The Great Santini
A fighter ace pilot who calls himself “The Great Santini,” compensates for peacetime inactivity by waging war on his intimidated children. His wife lovingly tolerates his behavior, but his 18-year-old son is working up the courage to defy the domineering patriarch. When push comes to shove (and shove they certainly do), the son earns his father’s begrudging respect, and as it turns out, just in time.
This is an awesome film about “going the distance”. Rudy is based on the true story of a young athlete whose ambitious goal of playing for Notre Dame football team was unquenchable. This film also demonstrates the values of “never giving up your dreams” and “overcoming all obstacles.”
- The Lord of the Rings
This multi-film retelling of the Tolkien epic has great themes applying to men, youth, and the mythic dimension. The values it teaches are: fellowship and teamwork, “being small” is a good thing, never giving up, taking care of each other in tough times, facing fears, the shadowy power of addiction or obsession (portrayed in the ring’s power over others), and the importance of stepping into your kingship or leadership (portrayed in Aragorn’s struggle). Lengthy but loaded with discussion material.
- The Emerald Forest
This film about coming-of age to face life harsh realities is also a beautifully-shot adventure set in the Amazon forest. A European boy ends up being raised by an Indigenous tribe and then must face the challenges of the modern culture and values in an effort to rescue captured members of the forest people. Topics or values discussed here: indigenous initiation, tribal relationships, and contrasts between indigenous harmony with land and people vs. corporate “taking whatever it wants no matter who gets hurt”, “women as merely sex-objects” mentality of Western men.
- Blade Runner
This popular film of sci-fi genre features Harrison Ford as a specialist agent who struggles with the morality of “terminating” run-away androids in search of their creator. Values are: the sacredness of life, questioning what we are as human beings, questioning authority, the shaping of our world, the role and ethics of androids or artificial intelligence, exploring the meaning of our emotions.
This film is a classic WWII film with George C. Scott as the legendary General. Values: history, politics such as the cold-war detente (how we came to conflict with the Soviets), also: perseverance, life purpose, reaching for difficult goals, “doing what they say can’t be done”, the pro’s and con’s of ego and ambition, the bloody reality of death and destruction beneath the valor and pomp of war.
- Finding Forrester
A powerful story about a young black student from the rough side of the tracks who earns a grant to attend a very up-market school. While, his integrity is sorely challenged, he seeks guidance from a famous author William Forrester (Sean Connery). Mentor and student challenge each other in a way that could generate great conversations.
- Pay It Forward
Young Trevor McKinney, troubled by his mother’s alcoholism and fears of his abusive but absent father, is caught up by an intriguing assignment from his new social studies teacher, Mr. Simonet. The assignment: think of something to change the world and put it into action. Trevor conjures the notion of paying a favor not back, but forward–repaying good deeds not with payback, but with new good deeds done to three new people. Trevor’s efforts to make good on his idea bring a revolution not only in the lives of himself, his mother and his physically and emotionally scarred teacher, but in those of an ever-widening circle of people completely unknown to him.
Here is a listing of suggested films that have not been reviewed: If you know something about any of these films and you’d like to write up a brief synopsis, let me know:
Road to Glory
We Are Marshall
The Doe Boy
By Dawns Early Light
Lord of the Flies
War of the Buttons