EDITORIAL: Movies that epitomize the American Dream (Part 6)

Over where my blog movie reviews get published on Examiner.com, I was presented with an editorial project opportunity dealing with the topic of the "American Dream."  The suggested angles pertained to how the American Dream presently relates in the many real-life sections (Home, Job, Finance, Parenting, Education, etc.) that Examiner.com reports on.  You know me.  When I heard the topic, I immediately thought about the many movies that embody the spirit of the American Dream.  It was an angle in the entertainment realm of Examiner.com that I thought wasn't touched on, so I took it upon myself to gather a few angles myself.  From the immigrants of Coming to America to the self-made man of Citizen Kane, you'll see that more movies than you think end up embodying the American Dream.  So many, in fact, that I had to break this editorial into sections.  Enjoy!


Two of the more decadent routes to achieving the American Dream are sports success and stardom through performing arts.  In sports, everyone wants their name in the record books, that moment playing a kid's game in front of thousands of cheering fans, or the chance to earn millions of dollars.  When the sports part of the nightly news is as popular as the lead news and when athletes have higher Q ratings than Presidents, you begin to realize what I'm talking about.  Glory and wealth aside, the big question is whether this is a good or prudent way to strive for the American Dream.  Like the upcoming singing category, there's almost too many to list (because of that and tedious time, you're on your own to IMDB or YouTube for info and trailers).  Here are some highlights:

The Rocky series-- Rocky is the ultimate underdog sports movie has its American Dream well rooted in the streets of Philadelphia.  Fictitious or not, everyone loves this Sylvester Stallone classic series.  The final chapter, Rocky Balboa, is a great finish to the story.

Cinderella Man (2005)-- If it's a true story that you like more than fiction, definitely consider Ron Howard's Cinderella Man with Russell Crowe as boxer Jim Braddock coming back during the Great Depression.

Raging Bull (1980)-- Another stunning true story is that of Jake LaMotta (Robert De Niro) in Martin Scorsese's brilliant black-and-white masterpiece.

The Hurricane (1999)-- Sometimes the American Dream of stardom via sports success gets sidetracked along the way.  Wrongful prison time in racially-charged Patterson, NJ was the case for middleweight contender Rubin Carter, played by Denzel Washington (cha-ching, makes every editorial list).

Ali (2001) and The Fighter (2010)-- The same can be said for the well-told story of Cassius Clay growing into Muhammad Ali and the Boston upbringings of Micky Ward and Dick Eklund.

Friday Night Lights (2004)-- Peter Berg's film is the most true-to-life cinematic story of high school football, high expectations, and the small-town aspirations connected to them.

Rudy (1993)-- You can put Rudy right there with Rocky in my book as an American underdog story and maybe even a little better because it's a true story while Rocky Balboa is fiction.  It's my #1 football movie for a reason.

Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story (1993)-- Speaking of biopics, none of the real people on these latest two parts of this editorial series may have had more promise and a longer journey to American popularity and success than Bruce Lee.  It also falls into the woulda-coulda-shoulda realm of dreaming of what might have been if he was still with us.

8 Seconds (1994)-- Whether you watch them on cable or not (do try, it's better than you think), rodeo events are definitely sports for rural American farmers and ranchers to achieve success, money, and stardom. The great biopic of Lane Frost, played by Luke Perry is a personal favorite sports movie of mine and definitely speaks to a different American sports dream than big stadiums and record books.  Obscure sport honorable mention:  Without Limits and Prefontaine on track and field running star Steve Prefontaine.

The Blindside (2009)-- The last true story on this first list is the dramatized story of Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman Michael Oher and how he was "rescued" from homelessness and given the opportunity to learn football.  It's a great story of humility in sports for a man not looking for the fame and fortune, but for a place to belong.

Cobb (1993)-- Tommy Lee Jones is mesmerizing as the troubled and arrogant baseball legend Ty Cobb in one of the better sports biopics out there.  Two equally not-so-glamorous honorable mentions go to Eight Men Out from John Sayle and *61 from Billy Crystal.

Field of Dreams (1991)-- Moving away from the biopics, but staying in baseball is Field of Dreams.  Is there anything more American dream-like than playing catch with your dad or with an idol, even if that person is one and the same?  I don't think so!

The Natural (1984)-- Equally as mythical in it's feel is the parable of Roy Hobbs.  The Natural is a great story for how the American Dream can be born from potential, misguided by poor choices, and later redeemed.

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006)-- By contrast, Will Ferrell's Ricky Bobby is the ant-Roy Hobbs, yet his movie is equally about potential, misguided choices, and redemption.  Opposite to Roy, Ricky had everything and squandered it himself, yet battled his way back.  The comedy is also a great story for the American Dreams of partnership, marrying a red-hot smoking wife, naming your children after television shows, and living in a total world of American consumerism and advertising.  Did I just successfully and academically compare The Natural to Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby?  I bet you won't see that on another fancy pants movie website!

BASEketball (1998)-- Speaking of American consumerism, advertising, and sports success, why don't you just invent your own sport?  That's what South Park slackers Matt Stone and Trey Parker did with BASEketball.  It's stupid, but completely works as an example of the American Dream.

Warrior (2011) and Moneyball (2011)-- The last and two newest editions to this list are the outstanding new releases Warrior and Moneyball.  The former surrounds the world of mixed martial arts while the latter looks inside the statistical front office of Major League baseball. Warrior has family drama of a movie twice its size and overcomes the brutal public misconception of the MMA world, while Moneyball is about building a winning team and winning culture with less money than the big boys with big pocketbooks.

NEXT PART: The American Dream Through Stardom