Movies possess a power over popular culture, one that is diminishing but nevertheless impossible to ignore. They have the ability to broadly influence people in a way that perhaps no other form of art/entertainment is currently able to do. With that great power, it is said, subsequently comes great responsibility. So for as long as it has been culturally significant, film has for many people been the subject of a certain moral requirement, that it should teach its huge audiences how to be righteous while it entertains their attention.
Plenty of casual and professional critics have offered their opinions on movies largely based upon the how effectively they deliver a sound moral message. To an extent, everyone does this. It’s tough to like a movie when you find its dominating theme completely repellant. There are many, myself included, that can’t take the show 24 seriously largely because of its insistence that torture is awesome (I also don’t find it interesting enough to sustain a 24-“hour” season). More recently, Zero Dark Thirty has also caused many to question its portrayal and attitude toward torture. Other recent hits like Django Unchained have sparked debates over violent depictions in movies and the complications around hailing violent movies as great.
In the latter two cases, I think the objections are unfounded because both of them deal with their central moral conundrums in interesting ways. But is it possible for a movie to excellent at the same time that it is morally disgusting? Can we be of two minds, that a film is excellent in its filmmaking and artistry, but repugnant in its ideas? I say yes, based on several experiences with movies that I find incredible as well as incredibly foul. It’s a weird and troublesome duality to try and deal with, but that just makes it fun to think and talk about. Here are 7 instances of morally problematic movies I’ve seen that fall into this category, and have left me conflicted.
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