Films that handle theme well and those that do it poorly

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  • Films that handle theme well and those that do it poorly

    (EDIT: Sorry about the color of the font before the edit.)

    I'm writing something and I'm finding it hard to be objective about how subtle or on the nose I'm being about touching on and stating themes, so I thought it would be useful to look at some examples of where it is mishandled and where it's handled well and subtly.

    So, what are some examples you can think of of films that handle their themes poorly, meaning in a way lacking subtlety, too overtly and bluntly or handle them poorly for some other reason? And can you explain the moment in the film where you think this mishandling occurs and what exactly is done wrong or poorly?

    For me an example would be Killing Them Softly, where throughout the film you have these political speeches pushed onto you constantly from television and radio broadcasts and then, in a really bad moment, at the very end of the film, Brad Pitt basically holds a speech in which he explicitly and directly states what the film wants to say. It feels very inorganic and very explicit.

    And if you can think of some films where the themes are stated very well, I'd be interested to hear those, too (I know the list is endless there, but if something in particular comes to mind).
    Last edited by Dimitri001; 03-25-2020, 01:35 AM.

  • #2
    Re: Films that handle theme well and those that do it poorly

    Shawshank Redemption. "Hope is a good thing, maybe the best thing. And no good thing ever dies." Not just for Andy (who we already know from the beginning is innocent) but really for Red, who we know is guilty and needs hope even more.

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    • #3
      Re: Films that handle theme well and those that do it poorly

      Would you mind editing your post to highlight the text and choose black for the text color, please? Thank you.
      "Go to the edge of the cliff and jump off. Build your wings on the way down.- - Ray Bradbury

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      • #4
        Re: Films that handle theme well and those that do it poorly

        CASABLANCA handled theme very well. As did RAGING BULL and SIDEWAYS.

        But I think it's better you watch them and find out why in your own words.
        "I ask every producer I meet if they need TV specs they say yeah. They all want a 40 inch display that's 1080p and 120Hz. So, I quit my job at the West Hollywood Best Buy."
        - Screenwriting Friend

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        • #5
          Re: Films that handle theme well and those that do it poorly

          Originally posted by TigerFang View Post
          Would you mind editing your post to highlight the text and choose black for the text color, please? Thank you.

          Sorry, I have a browser extension that makes all background dark and all text bright, so I didn't notice.


          Originally posted by roscoegino View Post
          CASABLANCA handled theme very well. As did RAGING BULL and SIDEWAYS.

          But I think it's better you watch them and find out why in your own words.

          Just curious, what would you (and others) say is the theme of Raging Bull?

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          • #6
            Re: Films that handle theme well and those that do it poorly

            Originally posted by Dimitri001 View Post
            Just curious, what would you (and others) say is the theme of Raging Bull?
            Since jealousy between the brothers causes a lot of the acting out and emotional turmoil, you could simply say that jealousy is the theme.

            Or, it's not what's in the ring that destroys you, its what's inside of you that destroys you.

            Or, the biggest opponent in your life is actually yourself.

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            • #7
              Re: Films that handle theme well and those that do it poorly

              Which Indiana Jones movies do you like?

              Probably the two with clear theme. (#1 & #3). Indy finds God and Indy reconciles with his father. Numbers 2 and 4 don't get re-broadcast and re-watched much because they're missing something -- good coherent themes.

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              • #8
                Re: Films that handle theme well and those that do it poorly

                Originally posted by figment View Post
                Since jealousy between the brothers causes a lot of the acting out and emotional turmoil, you could simply say that jealousy is the theme.

                Or, it's not what's in the ring that destroys you, its what's inside of you that destroys you.

                Or, the biggest opponent in your life is actually yourself.
                Two and three, definitely.
                "I ask every producer I meet if they need TV specs they say yeah. They all want a 40 inch display that's 1080p and 120Hz. So, I quit my job at the West Hollywood Best Buy."
                - Screenwriting Friend

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                • #9
                  Re: Films that handle theme well and those that do it poorly

                  I just watched THE FIRM again the other night, and it's an example of a film that hits the theme a little too hard. It's not subtle. How a client cannot betray his client. I had not seen the movie since it first came out and still really enjoyed it, and much of it holds up. But it felt a little ham-fisted with its 'loyalty' theme compared to today's movies.

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                  • #10
                    Re: Films that handle theme well and those that do it poorly

                    This could actually be fun. Sum up the theme of a film in five words or less.

                    MIDNIGHT RUN -- Money vs camaraderie vs the greater good

                    GOODFELLAS -- loyalty

                    DIRTY HARRY -- Kill or be killed or Justice by any means

                    CASABLANCA -- Love vs the Greater Good

                    MIDNIGHT COWBOY -- Me vs We
                    "I ask every producer I meet if they need TV specs they say yeah. They all want a 40 inch display that's 1080p and 120Hz. So, I quit my job at the West Hollywood Best Buy."
                    - Screenwriting Friend

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