6 Films With Powerful Depictions Of True Heroism


There are entire corporations built on the depiction of superheroes in film – larger than life characters fighting for truth and justice, and defeating the villains. Depictions of more realistic versions of these types of stories are less frequent – but even more powerful. Their impact is based firmly in the knowledge that these characters we are watching on screen are (or were) real people, with hopes, dreams, and families of their own.

They are relatable individuals often caught up in circumstances that require them to rise to a challenge, and tackle a serious problem head-on. It may be dangerous, it may be difficult, but it is always life-changing – for themselves, and for others. The fall season is traditionally the time of true heroes in film – not least because it is also awards season, and Oscar loves a good biopic. This means that, at this time of year, we are spoilt for choice when it comes to seeing these rarified stories in theatres.

We have Sully – the tale of the ‘Miracle On The Hudson’ – directed by Clint Eastwood. This film stars Tom Hanks as Captain Chesley Sullenberger, who safely landed US Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson River in Manhattan on January 15th 2009, after a bird-strike disabled both engines. His swift, calm action saved the lives of all 155 people on board the aircraft, and prevented casualties on the ground. Sully is currently in theatres.

We also have Deepwater Horizon – a disaster thriller about the drilling rig explosion that rocked the Gulf Of Mexico on April 20 2010, causing the largest environmental disaster in U.S history, and the deaths of 11 people. The film is directed by Peter Berg, stars Mark Wahlberg as rig electrician Mike Williams, and is released on September 30th.


Later, on November 4th, Hacksaw Ridge, will arrive in cinemas. This is directed by Mel Gibson, and stars Andrew Garfield as U.S Army Medic Desmond T. Doss. He was a religiously-motivated conscientious objector during World War II, but received the Medal Of Honor for saving 75 of his fellow soldiers during the Battle Of Okinawa.

These three films centre on very different types of real events, which called for a very similar type of selfless heroism from those involved. These are the lesser-told tales of the most infamous moments in human history – when lives hung in the balance, and true heroes were revealed. While these kinds of movies are certainly fewer and further between than the fictional caped crusaders that cram our multiplexes every summer, Sully, Deepwater Horizon and Hacksaw Ridge are the latest in a long tradition of the periodic cinematic celebration of true heroism.

So, as brace ourselves for dramatic tension that accompanies these upcoming tales, let’s revisit some of those that have gone before. These are films that are among the most powerful depictions of true heroism – individuals rising to the challenge of very specific, historical events. It is glaringly obvious that this is a very male-oriented list, which gives a skewed view of the world and suggests that, perhaps, women do not engage in real-life heroism. In reality, this list reflects the fact that – as in all mainstream cinema – the stories of women are rarely told. That’s an important debate to have, but since we are discussing the films that do make it to the cinema screen, here is a run-down of six hard-hitting depictions of true heroism that have graced the big screen in recent years.