10 Movies That Teach Us to Dream

by Steve Prager on December 30, 2010

Movies can teach us a lot about our dreams and what’s involved in the whole tricky process of living them out in the real world.

Below are a few of my favorites along with the takeaways I’ve gleaned between trips to the kitchen for more popcorn.

PS. Although I’ve given up on TV, I still enjoy movies.

“Film…is the church of the 20th century.” – Martin Scorsese

Some of my favorites:

Gattaca –I get by with a little help from my friends.

In the not so distant future, your genetics determine whether you’re a janitor or an astronaut. A genetic loser (played by Ethan Hawke) craftily assumes the biological identity of his super human, crippled patron in order to live their dream of becoming a spaceman. Ringo was right and this film proves it.

Educating Rita- Education is destiny.

A working class woman stifled in a dead end marriage and career decides to pursue her dream and go back to college. She battles family resistance, her own lack of book learnin’ and class inertia to emerge as a new person. Along the way, she inspires her drunken professor (Michael Caine) to put down the bottle and pick up his dreams too. New word learned – assonance.

Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle – Even a small goal can be worth the effort.

Battling (deleted) and (deleted) and (deleted) Harold and Kumar learn that fighting to accomplish a small, seemingly trivial goal (a delicious White Castle burger) can open up new opportunities, much needed self awareness and a big case of the munchies.

The Last Holiday – Live your dreams before it’s too late.

A staid single woman is given a terminal (mis-) diagnosis and decides to abandon her nowhere life, travel to Europe and do everything she has put off till ‘someday’. It sounds corny, but I really enjoyed this movie. When you risk everything to go after IT, the universe makes a way.

The Best of Times- It’s never too late to get it right the second time.

This wonderful comedy starring Robin Williams and Kurt Russell deals with the pain of flubbed opportunities. This film humorously captures mid life regrets, boomer angst, ‘should haves’ and teaches us… it’s never too late to try again.

Waiting For Guffman- A lack of talent is no excuse.

Corky St.Clair (Christopher Guest) has a dream- to get back to Broadway. Trouble is, he and the rest of his theatrical troupe in Blaine, Mo. don’t possess a shred of talent. A loving send up of regional theater and proof that skill never trumps heart.  

Cool Hand Luke- Only rebels make it into the history book.

In this 1960’s classic, Paul Newman plays Luke, the tenacious uber rebel. I’ve hated hard boiled eggs ever since I first saw this film. Probably a failure to communicate…

Fool’s Parade- Not everyone will jump on board just because you have a vision.

This 1971 classic starring Jimmy Stewart has never been released on DVD. Look for it on AMC or buy a bootleg copy. Filmed entirely in West Virginia, it’s full of great characters and quotable dialogue. My favorite-“God uses the good ones. The bad ones use God.”

Joe Dirt- Sometimes the friends we make along the way are the real prize.

Joe Dirt is a plucky idiot savant looking for the trashy family that abandoned him. As he recounts his road trip-like search to a smirking radio shock jock, we are struck by how beautiful his ignorant optimism is. Plus, Brandi is hot.

Running BraveStart running… don’t stop.

You probably missed this Robby Benson chestnut, but this freakin’ movie saved my life! Such a strange story - it deserves its own post.

What’s your favorite movie?

Leave a comment below so we can get our Netflix queue fired up!

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Jim Scarle December 30, 2010 at 12:59 am

Forest Gump, The Four Seasons, The Big Chill, Wall Street, Tootsie, Mrs. Doubtfire, Bring on the Night (Sting), Bird, just off the top of my head, Steve. Great blog Buddy!


Steve Prager December 30, 2010 at 1:21 am

Thank a lot Jim!


Jim Scarle December 30, 2010 at 2:09 am

…and The Deer Hunter


Steve Prager December 30, 2010 at 7:18 am

Jim,…Thanks! A classic that I hadn’t thought of.


Steve Prager December 30, 2010 at 7:21 am

Jim,..Thanks! I need to re watch Bird and Bring on the night. Great comments,..appreciate it!


Christy Lack Smith December 30, 2010 at 7:35 am

“You’ve Got Mail” is a movie that continues to inspire me. I am consistently moved to tears when Birdie (Jean Stapleton) tells Katherine (Meg Ryan) that selling the Bookshop on the Corner is not an act of fear but is, instead, an act of courage because she has “dared to dream you can have a different life.”
Wasn’t it Thoreau who said to live the life you dreamed? I am convinced that the life of which we dream does not magically find us; WE must orchestrate it.


Steve Prager December 30, 2010 at 10:05 am

Christy, wow! Great comment. I was just thinking this morning about your point- lots of times our lives need a director,..like in a film.

For a long time I just did ‘baking without directions’ and depended on serendipity,..which is cool,..but not real fast!

I’ll rewatch the movie. I also want to talk to you about your singing goal you achieved (your comment awhile back). That’s a great story!
Thanks for sharing…….Happy New Year :)


Jeffrey McAndrew December 31, 2010 at 5:50 am

“The World According to Garp,” “Iris,” and “The Bucket List” have been inspiring among many others.


Steve Prager December 31, 2010 at 9:36 am


Thank you for your comment! I’ve never seen “Iris”, so I’ll have to check it out! It’s been a long time since I’ve viewed “The World According to Garp”, but I love the theme song-played it a lot.

I noticed your blog and will check it out. I always thought it would be a good idea to write a book about Grace and the films that give a glimpse. That would be an interesting list :)

Happy New Year!



Janean Rodgers December 30, 2010 at 7:53 am

Fried Green Tomatoes, Taught me Dream through persistence Rocky series, Fireproof, Ultimate Gift, Standing Firm
Janean Rodgers recently posted..10 Movies That Teach Us to Dream


Steve Prager December 30, 2010 at 9:01 am

Jan, great to hear from you! Happy New Year!

Thanks for the new suggestions. Some of these I’ve never seen…(well, I have seen Rocky!).

Did you know that Slyvester Stallone wrote the screenplay to Rocky??! Impressive feat.


Janean Rodgers January 2, 2011 at 2:02 pm

Thanks Steve and a very Happy New Year to you and family to.

I didn’t know that about Slyvester Stallone, he is a talented person that must set his goals and go after them zealously to achieve all that he has. I have always liked the sound track to those movies also.

The other movies (one ” the ultimate dream”) was sent to us from Netflix without being on our list to receive, came out of nowhere. I liked it because a young kid of influencial money has everything in the first place, but with the death of his grandfather, has a to do list to get his inheritance. One of the to do things was ~to dream~.
Very intertaining and a tear jerker too. Hope you can see this, must see movie :)

Janean Rodgers recently posted..How to Make New Year’s Resolutions That Stick- Part 2


Steve Prager January 3, 2011 at 7:01 pm

Jan, Thanks for the comments! I’ll be sure and check out the film. I love when those serendipitous things come into our lives!

Happy New Year :)


Kathy December 31, 2010 at 9:41 pm

I guess it surprises me that people need to be taught to dream. For me, dreaming, imagining, ‘what iffing’ comes naturally. Following through is another story.


Steve Prager December 31, 2010 at 9:51 pm

Kathy,..great to hear from you. Sadly, a lot of folks have missed both. I know I did for a long time.

I think I could have improved the title by saying more about following through.

What tips and tricks have you learned to follow through on resolutions , dreams and goals?

Thanks for your comment! Happy New Year :)


Rachel January 3, 2011 at 7:07 pm

Gattaca is more about how we are more than the sum of our parts… nothing is predetermined.

I love Forrest Gump. He works with what he has and is able to achieve so much based on the strength of his character alone.


Steve Prager January 3, 2011 at 7:39 pm

Rachel. Thanks for your comment. I never thought of Gattaca that way! I love Forrest Gump,..(my take) for awhile life seems to happen to him- then he decides to be a shrimp boat captain, and he really takes off.

Did you read the novel? A great southern story :)


Mark Powers January 3, 2011 at 7:52 pm

Wow- I’ve seriously been missin’ out. Gotta get me some Netflix!
Mark Powers recently posted..A Year In The Life 2010 Review


Steve Prager January 3, 2011 at 8:06 pm

Mark,..my mentor! Thanks for visiting and for your comment.

Just get Marcus to put them in his!


conan0506 October 13, 2011 at 7:59 am

I love Forrest Gump. He works with what he has and is able to achieve so much based on the strength of his character alone. | :P
conan0506 recently posted..Good Movies To Watch


wind0506 October 18, 2011 at 5:21 am

I love Forrest Gump,..(my take) for awhile life seems to happen to him- then he decides to be a shrimp boat captain, and he really takes off.
wind0506 recently posted..File Recovery Software


Queensilva42 October 24, 2011 at 10:12 am

I guess some folks are still popular even there are many new generation.
Queensilva42 recently posted..San Francisco Weather Radar


malunggay56 November 1, 2011 at 5:02 am

Very great movies, each of it has a lessons and learnings that need to ponder in our mind and hearts.
malunggay56 recently posted..online movies for free without downloading


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