Central Theme / Film

Remember, a Central Theme is not the same as An Aesop; a theme is a question, idea, topic or concept that the text explores, while an Aesop is a conclusion the author reaches about the theme or a lesson they wish to impart to the reader. As such, you should avoid phrasing your examples as conclusions.

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    Live-Action 
  • : Creativity comes from life, from the chaos around you, from your past, your present, your fantasies, your desires, your mistakes and your guilt. There's no perfect ideal state and set of circumstances, you will have to deal with the life around you every time you create something.
  • 8 MM: Sometimes, people do horrible things for no reason other than they can.
  • The Adjustment Bureau: Do we really make our own destinies, or are there some unseen forces controlling everything we see and do?
  • Air Force One: Caring for The Needs of the Many.
  • Alien: The folly of trying to use something inherently evil for profit.
    • Aliens: The anxieties of childbirth and motherhood, and the lengths to which a mother will go to protect her child—seen both through the Alien Queen's protective instinct towards her hive, and Ripley's protective instinct towards her surrogate daughter Newt.
    • Prometheus: The agony of living in the shadow of a distant parental figure, and the natural conflict between parent and child—seen through humanity's relationship with the Engineers, David's relationship with the humans who built him, and Meredith Vickers' relationship with her father Charles Weyland.
  • Alpha Dog: Be wary of your actions or you may suffer the consequences.
  • American Beauty: Changing your life, for better or worse.
  • American Pie: Searching for things that are actually under your nose.
  • American Psycho: How the pursuit of success can blind one to obvious dangers.
  • Angels with Dirty Faces: Suffering for the good of others.
  • Apocalypse Now: The effects of war on a man's psyche, and what kind of monsters can be found lurking within as a result.
  • As Good As It Gets: The small, unexpected or even unwanted changes in life.
  • The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford: The effects that legend and reality have on each other.
  • The Avengers: Those with power should should learn to settle their differences when dealing with a bigger problem, in order to work better. This relationship is found not only between the title characters themselves, but also between S.H.I.E.L.D. and the World Security Council.
  • Back to the Future:
    • If you had the knowledge to change your life, would you?
    • No matter what time you're in - past, present, future - people are always going to be people.
  • Batman Forever: Identity.
  • Battle Royale: The breakdown of family and friendship.
  • The Big Country: The nature of bravery, particularly in the face of futile conflict.
  • Big Fish: The nature of stories, and whether the emotional meaning and impact they have on someone outweighs whether or not it's true.
  • The Big Lebowski:
    • The things the rich (money, trophy wives) and the not so rich (bowling, the rug) find important.
    • Life doesn't always make sense, but we grin and bear it because it's still the best thing we've got.
  • The Big Red One: Survival is the only glory of war.
  • Film/Birdman: Ambition and how it can screw us over.
  • Brazil: Do our dreams and fantasies make us brave and free ourselves from our surroundings, or do they serve as a means to condition us to accept our surroundings as "normal" and prevent us from truly changing it?
  • The Breakfast Club: Is there anything beneath the face one shows to the world?
  • Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid: How two people can spend their whole lives together and never really know each other.
  • Calvary: Guilt and forgiveness.
  • Carlito's Way - What debts should and should not be paid.
  • Casablanca: Are there some causes so worth fighting for that even love should be sacrificed to fight for them?
  • Chinatown: Doing what is right may lead to terrible outcomes/there is no hope for final and lasting justice in this world/wealth and power will win over truth and justice.
    • It's really hard to understand other people and learn the truth because make false assumptions and quick judgments.
  • Cinderella (2015): The refusal to let your circumstances change you.
  • Citizen Kane:
    • How will the world remember you when you are gone?
    • Money can't buy love or happiness. Even the most powerful people in the world often truly desire simple things—like having a real childhood.
    • Even in a world of mass information, it's sometimes impossible to truly "know" the people around us.
  • The Conversation: The difference between listening and hearing.
  • The Crowd: Everyone is a Hero of Another Story, if not in their own eyes than in the eyes of their children or their wives and families, even if they aren't financially successful or only mediocre in talent.
  • The Dark Knight Saga is about as a whole also explores the strengths, weaknesses and dangers in various political and social systems and what effects these can have. Batman Begins is about what happens when our established forms of authority — the police, the court system, local government etc — become too corrupt, decadent and uncaring to effectively function. The Dark Knight, is about the conflict between order and chaos, and the dangers of pure, unrestrained nihilism and anarchy. The Dark Knight Rises is about the dangers of unfettered populist mob rule.
    • In addition to the above political themes, each film explores an aspect of the human psyche and condition. Begins is about fear: it's the ubiquitous state of the general populace, and used as a weapon by all three principle villains (Falcone, Crane and Ra's al Ghul), as well as by Batman himself. Dark Knight is about freedom and responsibility, order and chaos, whether it's best to be The Fettered or The Unfettered. And Rises is about truth, trust, and pain: every lie and deception carried out in the course of the series contributes to making the situation much worse, and revealing the truth provides the steps to improving matters. Bane is a villain defined by the physical pain he feels, contrasted to the psychological pain Batman feels. Significantly, by the end of the film every main character knows Batman's true identity.
    • The power of myth also is a significant theme, as is the problem of escalation — Batman ultimately derives his strength not from his money, which can be lost, or his physical powers, which can fail him, but his power as a symbolic icon to the people of Gotham, and in doing so becomes "more than just a man". On the flip side, however, the more powerful the myth of Batman becomes, the more powerful his enemies become as they rise to challenge him.
    • The films also warn about making short-sighted decisions to solve immediate problems. Bruce Wayne joining the League of Shadows, Gotham's gangsters hiring The Joker, Dagett hiring Bane and Catwoman stealing Bruce's fingerprints all prove to be very bad ideas.
  • Dangerous Liaisons: Corruption and Redemption.
  • Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: Peace doesn't happen if only a few are willing to work at it. All must be striving to achieve it.
  • Dirty Dancing: The rediscovery of innocence.
  • Dirty Harry: How crime and law enforcement are hideously intertwined.
  • Dr. Strangelove: How do you save mankind when they are bent on destroying themselves?
  • Film/Drive: Your actions speak much louder than your words. Also, how important is it to have a code?
  • Evil Dead: Man's capacity to persevere in the face of overwhelming odds.
  • Fargo: The stupid things people do out of desperation.
  • Fatal Attraction: How one stupid, isolated mistake can derail one's whole life.
  • Ferris Bueller's Day Off: Don't be afraid of taking chances.
  • Final Destination: The futility and madness of putting off the inevitable.
  • Forrest Gump: American life after the war has changed radically with every decade and nobody knows how to fit into the times.
  • Full Metal Jacket: Is killing part of human nature and can one become a killer and still remain human?
  • Heat:
    • The thin line between police and the thieves they pursue.
    • The price of devoting yourself to excelling in a particular vocation on yourself and those around you.
  • Her: The connections that people share with one another, even if you can't see them at first.
  • Galaxy Quest: The appreciation of fandom, warts and all.
  • Ghostbusters: Heroism is a thankless job, but someone has to do it.
  • Giant: The constantly changing face of family.
  • Gladiator: How A Simple Plan never seems to go right. Also the role of charisma, personality and popularity in leadership.
  • The Godfather: Loyalty to family is well and good but to what extent?.
    • A crime family will never "go legit" because they are useful to other powerful factions (Politicians, Businessmen, Actors, the Church). If they grow soft they will be taken out by more ruthless enemies who want to usurp their position as a power broker, so they must stay ruthless not only to protect themselves but prevent someone worse than them to take their place.
    • Families contain tensions that never truly go away and people who feel they are doing good for the family can do the most to destroy them.
  • Godzilla (2014): That Nature Is Not Nice and that mankind isn't nearly as powerful as they think they are. Also, family is important.
  • Gone Baby Gone: What is ethically right and what is lawfully right don't always overlap.
  • Gone with the Wind: The conflict between lofty ideals and hard edged reality.
  • The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Even war won't stop the greedy.
  • Goodfellas: Why are people lured into organized crime?
  • The Grand Illusion: Fighting a war is absurd because you will often find that you have more in common with your counterpart in another nation than you will among your countrymen.
  • Highwaymen: Revenge.
  • Hitch: Be yourself.
  • The Hitcher: The thrill of the hunt.
  • Hobo with a Shotgun: Do desperate times really call for desperate measures, or will that just make everything worse?
  • Home Alone: Self-reliance.
  • Ikiru: How do you spend the last days of your life?
  • The Indiana Jones series: What's treasure versus what's valuable; each movie sees Indy and his friends on the hunt for some ancient artefact of incalculable power and worth, but while they might not end up with the treasure they usually come to some understanding about themselves that is more valuable and meaningful.
  • Inception: The power of an idea.
  • Iron Man 3: How much are we defined by our pasts?
  • Interstellar: Maintaining hope in the face of seemingly impossible odds.
  • It's a Wonderful Life: The importance of a single person to the community of man.
    • The people who truly make the community happy are the No Respect Guy for whom Being Good Sucks and however much people take them for granted they should never be forgotten.
  • James Bond:
  • Jerry Maguire: Whether or not ideals and principles are a liability in business.
  • Jurassic Park: The fragility of man's control over nature.
  • Jurassic World: Cloned dinosaurs are just like naturally born animals.
  • The Karate Kid: The different dynamics of the student/mentor relationship.
  • King Arthur: Is freedom tangible? Can it be given or taken away?
  • The Killer: Even in a world of criminals, brotherhood and loyalty are still important traits to have.
  • The Last Emperor: "Is that really so bad? To be useful."
  • The Last Temptation of Christ: What does it mean to be fully human and human divine?
  • Legend (1985): The duality inherent in life and in all of us — good vs. evil, light vs. darkness, innocence vs. corruption — and what it takes for the former to triumph over the latter.
  • The Leopard: Society will change and alter in all manner of unexpected ways and not everyone can live in a changed world.
  • M: Helplessness.
  • The Machinist: The truth will set you free, no matter how awful.
  • Mad Max: Holding on to the bits and pieces of society and civility.
  • The Magic Christian: Every man has his price.
  • Maleficent: The loss and reclamation of faith in humanity.
  • The Maltese Falcon: Can matters of the heart override one's sense of justice?
  • Manof Steel: The freedom to choose one's own path in life and how working for the greater good sometimes means making hard decisions.
  • The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance: Is the truth more important than a good legend?
  • "Manos" The Hands of Fate: Possession and ownership.
  • A Matter of Life and Death: There is nothing on earth more powerful than love.
  • The Matrix: The nature of reality and the world around us; can we trust what our senses tell us? Might authority be using this to mislead us?
  • Memento: The ways in which memory — and thus people — can be distorted and manipulated, by ourselves and those around us.
  • Monty Python's Life of Brian: Whether it is wise or not to follow someone who seems to have all the answers.
  • Mystery Team: How do you find the perfect balance between growing up and following your childhood dreams?
  • Network: How viewers and network execs are enslaved by television.
  • No Country for Old Men: The world is a harsh and uncaring place. Deal with it.
  • On the Waterfront: "Conscience, that stuff can drive you nuts".
  • Oldboy (2003): What is at the end of revenge, contentment or heartache?
  • The Ox Bow Incident: Taking the law into your own hands is a bad thing.
  • Over the Edge: Delinquency and how society often fails to tackle it.
  • Pacific Rim:
    • Family. All of the regular Jaeger pilot teams we see, barring Raleigh and Mako, are related in one way or another, and there's a recurring theme of surrogate family members. Even the Kaiju, in an odd sort of way, are related to each other, despite being genetically-engineered bioweapons. One is even pregnant.
    • Unity. All of the family teams are defeated. The final victory requires everyone to work together; people of different races and nationalities, people who love and hate each other, fighters, scientists, and even criminals have to contribute something to achieve the win.
    • Hope. The hero of the movie refuses to trade ten lives in favor of improved odds for saving two million more, and instead resolves to save two million and ten lives. The entire Jaeger outfit at the end is still unhesitatingly going out to fight even when the war is visibly beyond the point of no return. The politicians who try to cut their losses and be pragmatic and play lifeboat are shown as taking the road of good intentions straight down to Hell. It's only the people who refuse to acknowledge 'hopeless' odds and instead persist in believing that they can score a clean victory rather than a mediated loss who end up achieving anything.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Can a good man be also a scoundrel and vice-versa?
  • Pleasantville: The conflicts between nostalgia for the past and the reality of the past. Also, accepting the present, flaws and all, versus living in the past.
  • The Prestige: Always pay close attention to everything around you. You never know what you might miss.
  • Pulp Fiction:
    • The ways in which people and their lives connect and overlap, even if those connections may not be immediately apparent or clear at first glance.
    • The unexpected. The movie's plot can be succinctly summed up as "A series of classic film noir stock plots that are all thrown out of whack by various bizarre and/or unexpected twists". Whether those twists take the form of a freak drug overdose, a random encounter with a pair of psychotic rapists, miraculously surviving a flurry of point-blank gunshots, accidentally blowing a man's head off, or a hit-man having a sudden religious conversion, nearly all of the film's major plot points stem from them.
  • Paddington: A very topical one about welcoming immigrants.
  • The Patriot: Is there really such a thing as "rules" of war?
  • Prisoners: Two of them: The limits of man and and how far one will go to break them.
  • ''Psycho:
    Norman Bates: "I think that we're all in our private traps, clamped in them, and none of us can ever get out. We scratch and we claw, but only at the air, only at each other, and for all of it, we never budge an inch."
  • Rambo: The war that goes on inside every soldier.
  • Rashomon: Truth is subjective.
  • Rebel Without a Cause: The need for grown ups to grow up. The realization that adults don't always have the answers to the larger questions in your life, and the need to be your own man without completely falling into cynicism.
  • Red Riding Hood: The devastating effects of secrets in a community.
  • The Red Shoes: You must make personal sacrifices to truly excel artistically.
  • Requiem for a Dream: The lengths to which someone will go to escape their reality.
    • Time passes by quicker than you realize, and life isn't defined by single events, so you need to learn to live in the moment.
  • Reservoir Dogs: Loyalty and betrayal.
  • RoboCop (1987): He may be a corporate mascot but Robocop, along with good honest cops, will always stand for what's right. Even if the people who made him don't.
    • The dangers of unrestrained, unfettered capitalism.
  • Romy and Michele's High School Reunion: Living well is the best revenge. Also, life goes on after high school, and one's experience there eventually matters very little, if at all, in the grand scheme of things.
  • The Rock: The power of the will.
  • Run, Lola, Run: Learn from your mistakes.
  • The Running Man: The dehumanising effects of sensationalist television on those who participate in it and those who watch it.
  • Saw: Overcome your Fatal Flaw. Your life might depend on it.
    • Even more prominent is: Cherish your life, and don't squander it for any reason.
  • Seven Psychopaths has two themes: Everyone's a little bit crazy and violence is not always the answer (but it works a hell a lot of the time).
  • Seven Samurai: Who has it better, the peasants who live normal but undistinguished lives or the warriors who live exciting but violent lives?
  • The Seventh Seal: Why death is necessary to the great scheme of things.
  • Shaun of the Dead: Getting stuck in a rut with your life, and what it might take to kick you out of it and realize your potential. For some people, it might be a bust-up with their loved one or an argument with their friend. For others, a Zombie Apocalypse might be necessary.
  • Silence of the Lambs: Disillusion with authority figures.
  • Spider-Man Trilogy Movies have the theme of whether one can remain a hero even as their life crumbles around them.
  • Star Trek:
  • Star Wars:
    • How big things can be beaten by something small.
    • How even the worst people can find redemption by facing their pasts.
    • The eternal—and cyclical—nature of the battle between Good and Evil, and how people can be brought to either side by a single choice.
    • Good exists where you may least expect it.
  • Swing Kids: What should someone do when faced with evil in a corrupt society?
  • The Terminator: There is no fate but what we make.
  • The Terminal: Rules shouldn't be absolute. While the rules exist for a reason, they can sometimes prevent good people from getting the help they need.
  • The Thin Red Line: War as a truly unnatural phenomenon.
  • The Thing (1982): Paranoia and the loss of trust.
  • Trading Places: How wealth (or lack thereof) affects peoples' lives.
  • True Grit: How can you tell if one has grit or character?
  • Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil: How first impressions can be misleading and deceptive. Also, the importance of communication to avoid misunderstandings.
  • Unforgiven: Violence, as a means of establishing law and order, and violence, as a means to get revenge, is one and the same and equally self-destructive.
  • Vertigo: It's hard to love people for who they truly are, since you never really know if what you see is how they really are and you can be so lost in your fantasy that you can go insane.
  • Warm Bodies: Time healing old wounds.
  • The Wicker Man: The need to believe that things will get better in the future.
  • The Wild Bunch: The Power of Friendship, Teeth-Clenched Teamwork and Undying Loyalty.
  • The Wolf of Wall Street: Money is a drug, it's addictive, it gives you a high and you will always want more and more, and will never really be satisfied.
  • X-Men: Days of Future Past: The importance of maintaining hope, even in the face of hardship and tragedy, because hope can conquer anything, and that just because someone has lost their way, it doesn't mean they're lost forever.

    Animation 
  • An American Tail: Searching for a new home.
  • Beauty and the Beast: You can find love even in the least likely of places, and even then, it takes time and understanding for a relationship to fully bloom.
  • Big Hero 6: Healing. Both the obvious kind (seen through Baymax's role as The Medic), and the not-so-obvious kind (seen through Hiro's struggle with the pain of losing his brother, and Professor Callaghan's struggle with the pain of losing his daughter). Not all wounds can be stitched or bandaged; some require the aid of loyal friends.
  • Brave: Reconciliation and compromise between those with different ideals.
  • Frozen: Familial love can be just as strong, if not more so than romantic love.
  • Despicable Me: Parenthood can change you in ways you never expected- but always for the better.
  • Despicable Me 2: You can always be a hero for someone, regardless of your personal appearance.
  • Home: Finding your home. Family is another.
    • You can run as far and as fast as you can, but sooner or later, your past will catch up with you, and hurt those around you. When that happens, all you can do is stop running, and face it.
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame: What makes a monster and what makes a man?
  • Ice Age: Friendship, forgiveness, redemption, and how the actions of one innocent person, kidnapped for the slaughter, can transform a trio of misfits into a true family. Love and forgiveness can create harmony in spaces where sin has crept in. Love is shown through acts of sacrifice/sacrificial love.
  • The Incredibles: What does it mean to be extraordinary?
  • Inside Out:
    • The value of ALL our emotions, even those we might not want to feel.
    • The struggle to maintain balance between happiness and sadness.
    • The importance of honesty and openness regarding what you're feeling — towards yourself as well as others.
  • The Iron Giant: It doesn't matter if you appear threatening or villainous. You are what you choose to be.
  • Kung Fu Panda: The need for love and acceptance. Both from others and from yourself.
  • Kung Fu Panda 2: Learning to accept your past without being ruled by it.
  • Kung Fu Panda 3: Finding out who you are, and what that means for you.
    • For the series in general: Anyone can find greatness- they just need to believe in themselves.
  • The LEGO Movie: Creativity is a wonderful, and powerful thing.
    • Anyone can be special. Creativity can often crop up in unexpected places- and sometimes, unexpected people.
  • The Lion King: You cannot hide or run from your past forever. You'll have to face it sooner or later. And a King can't do what he likes.
  • Meet the Robinsons: Letting go of the past and moving forward.
  • Megamind: Doing what you believe you have been chosen or are fundamentally supposed to do (destiny) versus doing what you want to do (free will) in order to achieve happiness.
  • Monsters, Inc.: What do you do when you find out your profession is unethical? What does it take to try and change it for the better?
    • Monsters University: Sometimes you have to accept disappointment to better understand and appreciate what talents you have and you have to work hard even if it means starting at the bottom.
  • Mr. Peabody & Sherman: The constantly changing definition of family.
  • ParaNorman: The importance of forgiveness and not getting overcome by anger. Also, don't give in to blind fear and mob mentality because they can make you do monstrous things.
  • Return to Neverland: The loss and rediscovery on one's innocence.
  • South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut: Human life being sacrificed for the sake of unattainable ideals. There are much worse things in life than swearing. The dangers of being so invested in a cause, that you forget what's really important. Also, learning to stand up to those you know are doing wrong, even your loved ones.
  • The Toy Story series as a whole: Growing old and confronting your insecurities and mortality.
    • Toy Story: The destructiveness of jealousy and insecurity, and The Power of Friendship.
    • Toy Story 2: Confronting your mortality and deciding how you will live your life because of it; is it better to take risks if it means you'll get damaged or even killed, or to live the safe life — and is the safe life really living at all?
    • The second film also has choosing between long-lasting, superficial admiration or a genuine, fleeting relationship.
    • Toy Story 3: Moving on and accepting change.
  • Up: Life is an adventure. Don't let grief and bitterness keep you from it.
  • WALL•E: Even in the bleakest of scenarios, love can renew life. Also, get up and do something!
  • Wreck-It Ralph: Don't be afraid to go against your nature. Don't let your nature be defined by your role: Just because you're a "bad guy" doesn't mean you have to be a "bad" guy.
    • We should think about others feel and be more inclusive. Likewise you mustn't let your resentment get to you because if you lash out you will often hurt innocent people and ruin the whole community.
  • Zootopia: Regardless of who you are, you must define yourself.
    • Broad, wanton discrimination can be hurtful, even when you mean well.

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