10 great movies with huge moral dilemmas
There are moral dilemmas that line most films. Almost every movie sees the protagonist having to overcome difficult choices and then eventually face the consequences and consequences of those choices.
But some movies do it better than others, and some choices pose fascinating ethical dilemmas that would leave even the greatest Puritans and Samaritans scratching their heads. Between deciding to torture a man who might be innocent and lobbying for the tobacco companies by trying to be a decent role model, these characters have been placed in the most difficult positions.
ten Watchmen (2009)
Movie villains can sometimes do bad things with good intentions, and the actions of Ozymandias are the best example of this. Yet there are many who could very easily agree with his actions. Ozymandias killed three million people to prevent nuclear war and in doing so saved the entire human race. Yes, what the character did was wrong, but it was also the right thing to do.
In one of the film’s most memorable dialogues, Nite Owl says, “You killed millions”, and Ozymandias replies, “To save billions”. Watchmen is one of those movies where the villain wins, and yet it’s actually hard to call Ozymandias a villain, in the end.
9 Sophie’s Choice (1982)
When it comes to famous moral dilemmas in the movies, Sophie’s choice is the obvious answer. It’s such an obvious answer, in fact, that the film’s title has even become a metaphor for moral dilemmas.
Sophie’s choice is an emotionally draining film, and it’s worse than any viewer could imagine when the main character had to make an impossible choice at Auschwitz. Sophie was forced to decide which of her two children should live and which should be sent to the gas chamber, and if she didn’t decide, they would both be killed.
8 Prisoners (2013)
Prisoners follows Kelly Dover who goes to great lengths to find her kidnapped daughter. When a suspect is dropped off by the police, Kelly takes matters into his own hands by taking the former suspect captive and torturing him.
The logic behind Kelly’s actions is that if Alex is the kidnapper, he will find out once Alex can no longer endure the torture. But if Alex is not the kidnapper, Kelly will have tortured an innocent man. The worst part is that Alex turned out to be completely innocent in the crime, even though it was his mother the whole time.
7 Thank you for smoking (2005)
Compared to other moral dilemmas in cinema, that of Thanks for smoking is quite simple. Not only that, but it makes it one of the most misunderstood and entertaining films of the 2000s, not to mention it’s Jason Reitman’s best film.
The film is about a Big Tobacco spokesperson who is on television to lie through his teeth that cigarettes are not unhealthy. However, he does not smoke himself and he has to act as a decent role model for his son while continuing to lobby for these tobacco companies. It’s brilliant satire, as the lobbyist convinces even a cancer patient to start smoking.
6 The Dark Knight (2008)
There’s a lot about the Joker’s plan in The black Knight it doesn’t make much sense, like being captured intentionally just to escape again. However, it all adds up to a shocking finale that is the classic Joker. On the sea there are two cruise ships, one filled with hardworking civilians and the other filled with convicts, and they are both rigged to explode.
In a classic Sophie’s choice predicament, either cruise ship can detonate the other, but if neither does, Joker will detonate both. This holds up a mirror to the audience and forces them to think about what they would be doing for themselves.
5 The Mist (2007)
At the end of Mist, when David, his friends and his young son are stuck in the car and running out of gas, they think the best thing to do would be to kill themselves quickly rather than get taken down by the monsters. David shoots everyone, including his young son, to spare them from the creatures.
While choosing to kill his own son or have him be killed is a heartbreaking moral dilemma, it doesn’t take long for David to decide what to do. It’s an instant decision, and that’s part of what makes it so exhausting to watch and why Mist should only be viewed once.
4 Batman Forever (1995)
In Batman forever, the Riddler makes Batman choose who to save, Robin or Dr. Chase Meridian, because he can only achieve one or the other. Although Riddler seemed to be much more of a threat in some incredible Batman forever deleted scenes, there wasn’t much at stake when it came to the moral dilemma. In the end, Batman, of course, ends up saving them both.
It was even much better done in The black Knight, because the caped crusader must choose between the love of his life or the only man who can clean up Gotham, Harvey Dent. However, the 1995 film is representative of all the superhero movies that follow this heavily rehearsed trope. It is used in other Batman movies, almost all Spider Man movie, and so many other superhero blockbusters.
3 Toy Story 2 (1999)
Toy story 2 is one of the best examples of why Pixar is one of the best studios when it comes to storytelling, not just its groundbreaking animation. It is a lesson adults can learn as much as children.
Woody is torn (literally, because he tears his arm in the process) between being locked in glass and living for generations, or having a family and being loved. It’s a classic moral dilemma that’s been at the heart of stories for centuries, where characters choose between being immortal or enjoying the life they have, and Toy story 2 approaches it in such a unique way.
2 Looper (2012)
This is the age-old dilemma: If someone could go back in time and kill Hitler when he was a baby, would they? On the one hand, it would save the lives of six million people, but on the other, it hasn’t done anything wrong yet. Curler essentially poses the same dilemma.
In the time travel film, the criminals are sent back in time to be shot, leading to a debate as to whether or not they should be killed for their potential harm. However, a much more interesting moral dilemma arises within this first one. The man who is hired to shoot these criminals sees his old self sent back in time, creating the dilemma of whether or not to kill himself.
1 Old Boy (2003)
The moral dilemma in Old boy is one of the most vulgar and difficult to watch. At the end of the film, Oh finds out that he unknowingly had sex with his own daughter, whom he hadn’t seen since childhood. Either he has to live his whole life knowing he did it unintentionally, or he can kill himself.
In the same situation, Lee’s character kills himself, but Oh no, and it’s one of the most shocking twists in cinema. There was a Hollywood remake of the film in 2013, but it didn’t have half the impact of the original.
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