The American Dream may be a fascinating prospect in some movies, but in others, it’s not a guarantee in life. They consider it la la land.

Live the dream

Dance and sports movies seem to be a natural fit for movies about living the dream.

In the 1980s there was Fame and Flashdance, popular films with music and dance featuring prominently.

Remember the Flashdance theme song, What a Feeling? “Take your passion and make it happen,” a lyric goes.

Those films revolved around what one does with a dream. Succeeding at it is very much to the fore.

Last year, but still very much this year, is musical La La Land which is about achieving one’s dream and yes they can come true.


La La Land (1)
La La Land


There were a series of dance movies last decade, the Step-Up movies. They focused on realizing your dreams in life, but weren’t as big as Fame, Flashdance or La La Land. Some dream big movies target their ideas to a niche audience that wouldn’t see the bigger ‘dream big’ movies.

Dream big movies are usually found in the mainstream as this is where they naturally gravitate. Because the American Dream is in the mainstream.

In the case of pro-American Dream movies, they want the audience to feel good and dream big. They want the audience to be inspired to live their life as best as possible. Some go for this and others don’t.

No guarantee

The anti-American Dream movies remind me of Robbie Robertson’s song American Roulette, a track on his 1987 self-titled debut album. In the song, he sings about how life and success the American Dream promises is not guaranteed. He references Elvis and Marilyn Munroe, two stars at the top, who came to untimely deaths, before their time was really up. Glamour and drugs does not mean you have made a life for yourself.

A pocketfull of movies with the anti-American Dream theme were American Beauty, Requiem for a Dream, and The Godfather.

In American Beauty, the film asks if there is more to life than striving everyday and more to people pursuing dreams and goals. This film asks if the American Dream has abandoned the spiritual side to life.

Young people lost in drugs and reckless behavior fuels Requiem for a Dream, leaving one viewer I talked to wondering if this is what has come of the American Dream.

The Godfather may make viewers feel how low a nation can go to the dark side of family values and pursuing wealth.

Tempting us to dream

My favorite film about the American Dream is The Pursuit of Happyness. It gets down to the nitty gritty of a man, whose wife has left him, but he attempts to work hard and make a better life for himself and his son. It’s all against the odds.

His success is embraced by the audience because the man is genuine and sincere in his endeavor. In the end there is nothing like an underdog story where the underdog rises up.

Maybe that makes me a pro-American Dream movie guy, but liking that movie means I enjoyed a nice guy overcoming his obstacles. Sometimes life is as simple but as challenging as that.

Anti-American Dream movies make good points, but without any of the life and vigor of a movie that tempts us to dream.

More from Beliefnet and our partners
Close Ad