Cinematic Existential Journeys: 25 Films That Prompted Soul-Searching and Reflection


Movies go beyond entertainment — they can change one in ways they did not think possible. You leave some films with a changed mindset, renewed hope, or increased motivation to chase your dreams. 

Here are 25 movies that have had that life-changing effect on people and what they have to say about them. 

1 – Blood Diamond (2006)

Image Credit: Warner Bros.

As a college freshman with a privileged life, one person did not know the movie’s central themes were real and even more graphic in reality. It left a significant impact on their 14-year-old self. 

2 – Paterson (2016)

Image Credit: Amazon Studios.

A fan admits the movie was not perfect, but it changed how they saw art and opened their eyes to its purpose. “Art doesn’t only have to be ‘good’, and it doesn’t have to be performative. It can be a crucible in which we burn our thoughts and emotions to reveal crystalline truths, just for ourselves.”

3 – Men In Black (1997)

Image Credit: Sony Pictures Releasing.

For one, it was their second PG-13 movie, and they saw it opening weekend in theatres. On the drive home, they had an epiphany and realized they wanted to make stuff like that.

So, they went home and began drawing storyboards and writing scripts almost immediately. To date, they can’t focus on anything else. 

4 – Dreams (1990)

Image Credit: Warner Bros.

Imagine not being able to move for thirty minutes after watching a movie. This movie struck a viewer so much that multiple images filled their head a long time after the final credits rolled, leaving them pondering the powerful messages about humankind. 

5 – Big Fish (2003)

big fish
Image Credit: Columbia Pictures, Inc.

Some call this Tim Burton’s best film, which is saying a lot, considering his expansive and impressive filmography. One claims it helped them move back to their home city. 

6 – Joe Versus the Volcano (1990)

Joe Versus the Volcano
Image Credit: Warner Bros. Inc.

“It shook me out of my teenage cynical eye-rolling phase and made me appreciate earnestness and wonder,” a fan shares, adding that it made them realize that a movie can be heartfelt without being saccharine.

7 – The Fountain (2006)

The Fountain Rachel Weisz
Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures.

The Fountain is one of the most remarkable cinematic experiences for one viewer. They cried when they watched it and have never watched it a second time because “they can never top the first time.”

8 – The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)

Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox

This film is inspiring and genuinely life-changing. One fanatic saw it solo on a rainy afternoon and felt renewed afterward.

9 – Romeo and Juliet (1996)

Romeo + Juliet
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox.

Baz Luhrmann always delivers. His work on the classic tale of Romeo and Juliet inspired many to be curious about the process of filmmaking and perhaps also inspired others to get into the biz. 

10 – The Crow (1994)

The Crow
Image Credit: Miramax Films.

One person became obsessed after watching the movie, even as they were very young. It also changed the way they thought about films. 

11 – Blue Velvet (1986)

Blue Velvet
Image Credit: De Laurentiis Entertainment Group.

“Before Blue Velvet, I was about teenybopper flicks, bad horror, movies in general with nothing deep to be said,” a cinephile shares. “Blue Velvet was a FILM & Lynch totally nailed the small town thing being surface with a seedy underbelly.

12 – The Fly (1986)

The Fly
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox.

Loving yourself when you feel inadequate or like you fall short of beauty standards can be challenging. Music, art, and movies exist to help us see the beauty in life and ourselves.

This film did it for someone who realized they, too, were “the Fly.”

13 – Beach Bum (2019)

The Beach Bum
Image Credit: Neon.

At a point in a movieholic’s life when they felt very stressed and lost, they saw this movie. It helped them relax and put them in a better mental state. It is now their “mental reset” movie when they need to take control of their life. 

14 – Electric Dreams (1984)

Electric Dreams
Image Credit: MGM/UA Entertainment Co.

Imagine having a crush on someone for forty years because of a role they played in a particular movie — that’s the power of good acting. In this film, Virginia Madsen is only stellar. The small details changed a viewer’s life in a small but meaningful way. 

15 – Buffalo 66 (1998)

Buffalo '66
Image Credit: Lions Gate Films.

To one, this film was the best Vincent Gallo ever did. “Dark but funny, philosophical, whimsical, tender, just a real gem,” they add.

The movie tells the story of Billy Brown, a troubled ex-convict who returns to his hometown of Buffalo, New York. After returning to Buffalo, Billy kidnaps a young tap dancer named Layla and forces her to pose as his wife when he visits his parents.

Billy’s dysfunctional relationship with his parents, as well as his own struggles with anger and emotional instability, are explored throughout the film.

16 – Under A Tuscan Sun (2003)

Under the Tuscan Sun
Image Credit: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution.

After watching this movie, a contributor was assured that even when life goes south, you can start over, and it’s never too late. To others, it may be corny, but it is a movie that inspires them in unique ways. 

17 – Wonder Boys (2000)

Wonder Boys
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

The stellar cast of this movie is the first sign that it is incredible. An overzealous fan watched it so many times until they realized they had to go to college. 

18 – Lost In Translation (2003)

Lost in Translation
Image Credit: Focus Features.

This movie may have received high accolades, but not enough, according to someone who found it life-changing. They also found the unique bond between the characters so moving.

19 – A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 Dream Warriors
Image Credit: New Line Cinema.

As a child, I was terrified and intrigued by this movie. However, another person learned a valuable lesson from the fear. They had nightmares as a kid, and this movie taught them they could control their dreams if they tried hard. It worked. 

20 – Ghost World (2001)

Ghost World
Image Credit: United Artists.

Ghost World was a cautionary tale for one high schooler as a freshman. It showed them they needed to grow up and quit being toxic and cynical before the world left them behind. They also think the reason the movie receives hate is that it is easy to misinterpret. 

21 – Buried (2010)

Image Credit: Warner Bros.

Most people have stopped watching movies because they find nothing exciting or new anymore. But this changed for a former cinephile once they watched this film — it reignited their fire for movies. 

22 – Event Horizon (1997)

Event Horizon
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

There are some movies we go into without expectations and realize they are better than we thought they could be. After watching Every Horizon, one viewer had many questions and felt their wheels spinning like never. “I was just left so mesmerized in a very profound way,” they say. 

23 – The Killing Fields (1984)

The Killing Fields
Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures.

The best movies inspire you to do something meaningful with life. This film inspired one fan to go into journalism, where they had a successful career. 

24 – Meet Bill (2007)

Meet Bill
Image Credit: First Look International.

Making that giant step or decision can be challenging, and often we may linger in wrong choices, scared to take that step. But this film gave a man the courage to divorce his wife after he found out she had been cheating on him. It made him realize he deserved better. 

25 – Watchmen (2009)

Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures.

This 2009 movie spun the wheels in one movieholic as they gush about the masterpiece. They say, “Absolutely amazing performances in that movie (especially Rorschach), and the plot is a mystical experience (written by an actual wizard) that explores the deepest questions one can think of.”

 Source: Reddit

Boloere Divine Seibidor, fondly called B.S. is a Nigerian-based writer and poet. Her favorite topics to cover include music, especially Hip-Hop, film, lifestyle, and fashion. She’s been published by Feral Journal, Fantasy Magazine, The Temz Review, and most notably, Wealth of Geeks. She enjoys romantic dinners, movie nights, and touring new sites. When she’s not writing, she’s delving back in time to the underground world of Hip-Hop, watching TikTok, or visiting the cinema.

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