Have you ever seen a movie that changed how you look at the world? A movie that, after watching it, you walked through life with a whole new perspective, ultimately impacting how you interact with those around you?
Though these types of films don’t come around every day, the reality is that they do exist. Plus, some movies have an even greater effect on people who work in a particular field.
So, if you’re a social work major and looking for some flicks that can potentially have this type of effect on you, making you even better at your career because of it, there are a few films you just might want to add to your must-see list - or your Netflix queue.
1. Girl, Interrupted (1999)
Though it is almost 20 years old now, this film still appeals to many working within the social work field because it deals with a variety of psychological and behavioral issues at their core.
The main character is 18-year-old Susanna Kaysen, played by Winona Ryder, and the movie takes place inside an inpatient mental health facility. During the movie, Girl, Interrupted takes you through Kaysen’s journey as she tries to come to terms with her own issues related to depression. It also touches on some of the issues faced by other patients in the facility, some of whom are struggling with schizophrenia, sex abuse, and obsessive-compulsive behavior.
This film gives great insight into how complex mental health issues typically are, both for the patients experiencing them and for those who are trying to help treat them. It also opens your mind to how people’s views of the world can really impact the way they navigate through their lives. Plus, it does a great job of humanizing people with these types of conditions.
2. I Am Sam (2001)
If your goal is to work with individuals experiencing some level of developmental delays, I Am Sam can really tug at your heart strings.
In it, Sean Penn plays Sam Dawson, a high-functioning, developmentally delayed man who suddenly becomes a single father to a young girl named Lucy (played by Dakota Fanning), whom he had with a homeless woman. Though Sam can do a fairly good job taking care of her on his own, authorities question his abilities, sending Sam to court in an effort to prove he has what it takes to be a good parent, entering a major battle to hold on to his parental rights.
This movie serves as a great reminder that, in social work, many lives are typically at stake. So, even if you’re just working with one person, it’s likely that any decision you make will affect the family unit as a whole. It also underscores how important a strong support system is.
3. A Beautiful Mind (2001)
Winner of four Academy Awards, A Beautiful Mind is a true story based on a man by the name of John Nash (played by Russell Crowe) who, despite being exceptionally smart, develops paranoid schizophrenia. During the film, you’re taken through Nash’s delusions, as well as what occurs in his real life, as he struggles to figure out which is which.
This film highlights how real things can be to someone who experiences hallucinations consistent with mental illnesses like schizophrenia. It also gives you a taste of what it’s like to deal with this type of issue when you realize that the lines between what is fact and what is fiction are suddenly starting to blur.
4. Precious (2009)
Based on the novel, Push, this movie was nominated for six Academy Awards, eventually winning Best Adapted Screenplay.
It’s about a 16-year-old girl who goes by the name of Precious who lives in Harlem. Precious has been a longtime victim of multiple forms of abuse—mental, physical, and sexual—the last of which results in two separate pregnancies by her father before she even graduates from high school. It is this sexual abuse that connects Precious with her social worker, Ms. Weiss, who is played by Mariah Carey, who works to get her the help she so desperately needs.
What makes this one of the top movies for social work majors is that it addresses many of the issues that are oftentimes hidden within family dynamics. It also features how quickly someone’s life can change when they’re given a chance and a helping hand.
5. The Glass Castle (2017)
Though most of these movies are older, one of the latest movies to appeal to a social worker’s heart is The Glass Castle.
This movie is based on a true story about a woman, Jeannette Walls (played by Brie Larson) who grew up in poverty with an alcoholic father, Rex (played by Woody Harrelson),,, and an eccentric artist mother, Rose Mary (played by Naomi Watts). Seeing the way each of them operates as a parent gets you thinking about how every action a mother and father make can have a lasting impact on a young child who is simply caught in the mix.
Though it has had mixed reviews, three out of four people on the review site Rotten Tomatoes said that they liked it, with one top critic calling it, “Dark, dysfunctional, and filled with blinding hope.”
Another reviewer said it was “a powerful, poignant tale of resilience, compassion and forgiveness that will have you in tears.” That makes this a film worth considering.
Which Movies Have You Seen?
If you’ve seen any movies related to social work that stand out, feel free to tell us about them in the comments section below. Then learn more about our Master of Social Work program.