EDITORIAL: Movies that epitomize the American Dream (Finale- Part 8)

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!


My last chapter on movies that epitomize the American Dream deals with the aspirations of the American youth.  The naive mentality and innocence of youth is where new American Dreams start.  The classic cinematic coming-of-age stories and movies of rebellious youth are great examples for this theme.  In each instance, their intentional independence and freshness from their respective parent generation present set them apart from the other American Dream themes in this series.  Here are some prominent films that fit:

Rebel Without a Cause (1955)-- James Dean is the quintessential rebellious American youth and his signature film speaks to an entire generation of 1950s Baby Boomers.  It's the perfect example of the American Dream through the eyes of youth.  (trailer)

The Last Picture Show (1970)-- In a shocking film for its time and Jeff Bridges's first movie, The Last Picture Show looks far more graphically at those repressive James Dean-era 1950s.  It's an underseen classic and sharply opposite in Texas black-and-white compared to Rebel Without a Cause's vibrant California color.  (trailer)

Stand By Me (1986)-- Another great example is Rob Reiner's highly-revered 1959-set coming-of-age-tale of kids who lose that innate naivity and innocence through understanding and encountering death.  (trailer)

Pleasantville (1998)-- Generations later, the nostalgia of those straight and safe 1950s gets a satire through the television of its today intruded by the youth of today.  Very clever use of black-and-white and color transition for people coming out of their shell and into their own.  (trailer)

October Sky (1999)-- When the Sputnik launch of 1957 set the stage for the Space Age of the 1960s, it inspired teenage minds, like aspiring rocketry inventor Homer Hickam trying to break the family and small-town tradition/trap of working the coal mines for life.  (trailer)

The Graduate (1967)-- Between the 1950s and the swinging 1970s was the progressive and hippy 1960s.  Dustin Hoffman plays the perfect disillusioned and lost youth for his generation.  It's a near perfect film.  (trailer)

The Goonies (1985)-- On one simple level, The Goonies is about a little brother trying to intervene into adult problems and save his house, but what it really it's really about what outcast youth can accomplish with loyalty and courage in each other and themselves.  (trailer)

The Karate Kid (1984)-- This probably could have made the list two parts ago on the sports success, but The Karate Kid isn't about being a millionaire professional athlete.  Pat Morita tutoring Ralph Macchio is way more about conquering bullying and being accepting as the new kid.  (trailer)

Risky Business (1983)-- The big dreams of teenager trying to play with the adults by spending money and picking up chicks is youth version of that 1980s excess shown earlier in this editorial series with movies like Wall Street and Working Girl.  (trailer)

Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)-- Tom Cruise might have been cool, but no teenager is cooler than Matthew Broderick's Ferris Bueller.  His day of ditching school is every high school kid's dream to this day, which is surprising for a guy who has a plan for that, but not for the rest of his life.  (trailer)

Back to the Future (1985)-- Speaking of a kid without a plan for the present... or the past.... or the future! (trailer)

Say Anything... (1988)-- The 1980s American Dream of disillusioned Generation X kids in a time of excess gets its defining sweet love story with John Cusack wooing Ione Skye.  (trailer)

Dazed and Confused (1993)-- Writer-director Richard Linklater ditches his Gen-X roots and goes a generation earlier to the last day of school in 1976 West Texas.  Back then, the American Dream of chilling out, skipping college, and getting high was far simpler than the decadent decade that followed. (trailer)

American Beauty (2000)-- While the bulk of this movie is centered on the growth and change of Kevin Spacey's father character, the bleak and hopeful youth angle in Sam Mendes's Best Picture winner has a fitting place on this list.  (trailer)

Van Wilder (2002)-- It may be a little bit of a weak vision of the American Dream of youth, but the opportunistic and popular Van might as well be the college version of Ferris Bueller for a newer generation. (trailer)

Juno (2008)-- While it stays in its small Minnesota town, Juno takes the bold chances to talk about parenting and pregnancy thrust onto a youth and how the 21st century looks at those issues.  (trailer)

That's my eight parts.  Thanks for hanging with them all.  I hope you were enthralled and inspired.  Carry on the conversation!