Movies often function as mood reflector or a mood hammer. When looking for the perfect movie to watch on a given evening or at any given moment, we tend to try to assess our mood: what do we feel like? Are we happy or bummed? Once that’s determined, the impulse can be to select a title that mirrors our mood back to us, so a happy movie if we’re feeling good about life, and a sad movie if we’re feeling like an outlet for our trapped emotions. In other cases, it’ll be the opposite. We’ll feel like a cheery movie to pick us up, or a downer because we’re in a state where we can actually handle something depressing.
For me, at least at the moment, I’m into movies that are sort of depressing but with a kind of personal earnestness that makes them just hopeful enough. Or maybe it’s ones with the message that life sucks but it’s not that bad, that there is plenty of stuff to be bummed about but that we’re doing our best.
Then again, the natural companions for these types of films are those that point out how terrible the world can be, full of injustice, pain, despair, and perpetual imbalance. Movies like this are valuable too, and though they may be hard to watch, they’re tremendously important to ensuring a cinematic landscape that dives into every aspect of human emotion and experience. But they also provide the societal landscape, the picture of the world that informs the previous group of movies to react against, offering that universal, never-ending oscillation between optimism and pessimism that defines our very existence.
Sometimes we just need to go to some dark places, and then prove to ourselves that we can emerge from the darkness and persevere. Here are 10 movies that can help with that.