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A Philosopher’s Guide to 75 Thought-Provoking Movies

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About the Book

Many believe there is nothing like seeing a good movie, one that is enjoyable both in itself and for the thought processes it stimulates. From The Usual Suspects and When Harry Met Sally to Gandhi and The Color Purple, this handbook functions as a guide to watching and reflecting upon 75 great films. The author, a philosophy instructor, presents a text designed to lead readers through a series of intellectual gymnastics; to help strengthen critical thinking abilities and to inspire exciting and philosophical thoughts and discussions.
“Civil Disobedience,” “Death,” “Fate and Determinism,” “War,” “Sexism and Women’s Issues,” “Gay Rights,” “The Greatest Happiness Principle,” “Anxiety and Inauthenticity” and “The Holocaust” are examples of the 18 different categories into which the films are divided. Each chapter includes the author’s introductory comments to be read prior to watching movies along with a section of “Questions to Ponder” to be considered afterward. Photographs of many movie scenes are included throughout the text.
Instructors considering this book for use in a course may request an examination copy here.

About the Author(s)

William G. Smith is chair of the philosophy department at Millersville University of Pennsylvania.

Bibliographic Details

William G. Smith
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 216
Bibliographic Info: 75 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2004
pISBN: 978-0-7864-1878-7
eISBN: 978-1-4766-0397-1
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface      1

1. Did You Ever Think You Knew Something, but Didn’t?      5
Movie 1: Twelve Angry Men      9
Movie 2: The Return of Martin Guerre      10
Movie 3: House of Games      14
Movie 4: Rashomon      16

2. The Greatest Happiness Principle      19
Movie 5: Abandon Ship      23
Movie 6: The Field      25

3. Doing One’s Duty      27
Movie 7: High Noon      29
Movie 8: The Road Home      29

4. Anxiety and Inauthenticity      32
Movie 9: Hannah and Her Sisters      33
Movie 10: My Dinner with Andre      35
Movie 11: About Schmidt      38

5. Fate and Determinism      42
Movie 12: Tess      45
Movie 13: Sliding Doors      46

6. Jesus, Muhammad, Buddha, Tammy Faye and Miscellaneous Religious Issues      48
Movie 14: The Last Temptation of Christ      48
Movie 15: The Message      51
Movie 16: Little Buddha      53
Movie 17: The Apostle      55
Movie 18: Breaking the Waves      56
Movie 19: The Eyes of Tammy Faye      58
Movie 20: The Decalogue      59

7. The Journey Upward      67
Movie 21: Billy Elliot      69
Movie 22: Girlfight      70
Movie 23: The Truman Show      72
Movie 24: The Matrix      74
Movie 25: The Color Purple      78

8. Civil Disobedience      81
Movie 26: Gattaca      82
Movie 27: Gandhi      84

9. Death      87
Movie 28: Shadowlands      87
Movie 29: Under the Sand      89
Movie 30: Fearless      90
Movie 31: Whose Life Is It Anyway?      92
Movie 32: Dead Man Walking      94
Movie 33: Resurrection      96
Movie 34: The Seventh Seal      99

10. War      104
Movie 35: The Red Badge of Courage      105
Movie 36: Paths of Glory      106
Movie 37: Saving Private Ryan      108
Movie 38: Full Metal Jacket      109
Movie 39: No Man’s Land      112

11. Racism      115
Movie 40: The Birth of a Nation      116
Movie 41: Mississippi Burning      117
Movie 42: American History X      119
Movie 43: Do the Right Thing      120
Movie 44: The Long Walk Home      122
Movie 45: Imitation of Life      123

12. The Holocaust      126
Movie 46: Shoah      126
Movie 47: The Pianist      129
Movie 48: Mr. Death      130
Movie 49: Life Is Beautiful      131

13. Sexism and Women’s Issues      134
Movie 50: In the Company of Men      137
Movie 51: Thelma and Louise      138
Movie 52: Ladybird, Ladybird      140
Movie 53: If These Walls Could Talk—Part I      142
Movie 54: Real Women Have Curves      144
Movie 55: Artemisia      145
Movie 56: Whale Rider      147
Movie 57: Daughters of the Dust      148

14. Gay Rights      152
Movie 58: Chasing Amy      153
Movie 59: If These Walls Could Talk—Part II      155
Movie 60: Philadelphia      156
Movie 61: The Celluloid Closet      157

15. Pornography      161
Movie 62: The People vs. Larry Flynt      162
Movie 63: The Pornographer      164

16. Love, Love, Love      167
Movie 64: When Harry Met Sally      167
Movie 65: East-West      169
Movie 66: The Lover      171
Movie 67: The Bridges of Madison County      172
Movie 68: Sidewalks of New York      173
Movie 69: Indecent Proposal      174
Movie 70: Babette’s Feast      176
Movie 71: Pop and Me      178

17. Puzzlers      183
Movie 72: The Usual Suspects      183
Movie 73: Memento      185
Movie 74: Mulholland Drive      186

18. The Love of Movies      189
Movie 75: Cinema Paradiso      189

Notes      191
Bibliography      195
Index      199

Book Reviews & Awards

“thought-provoking…useful”—ARBA; “does a good job of explaining profound philosophies and their proponents”—Harrisburg Pennsylvania Patriot News; “a book that can result in many hours of enjoyment…William Smith has written an amusing, sometimes provocative, and always interesting guide to 75 films…Smith loves films and has an eye for the moral and philosophical questions that often are conveyed by the best of films…a must-read for all film mavens”—Jewish-PostOpinion.com; “always interesting…a must read”—New Jersey Jewish News; “universal appeal…opens up your eyes”—Intelligencer Journal; “digs below the visual”—FilmNewz.