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Sliding Scale Of Idealism Versus Cynicism / Film

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  • Star Wars is heavily on the idealist side of the spectrum: although the galaxy is no place for Wide Eyed Idealists, more cynical characters tend to discover The Power of Love/Friendship, and The Good Guys Always Win ... eventually.
    • However, the Expanded Universe is much more cynical, Force Unleashed and Knights of the Old Republic 2 being the official Dark Fic of the series.
      • The games are downright Lighter and Softer compared to the direction that the books have been taking.
      • In fact, official policy is that in games where the player can choose a Dark or Light Side ending, the Light Side ending is canonical.
    • Despite its overall idealist tone, the film generally considered to be the best in the series is The Empire Strikes Back, possibly the darkest. The same applies to Revenge of the Sith, which was considered to be the best of the prequel trilogy. And despite everything, both films end on hopeful notes.
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  • Rambo IV (2008) has its foot firmly planted in the cynical side. The pacifistic missionaries attempting to peacefully change civil-war torn Burma are naive and misguided, whilst the gritty, war-hardened mercenaries are the only ones who can defeat the evil forces leading that regime. It's showing its '80s action-movie pedigree. The common theme in most of those films was that diplomacy was useless against America's enemies, and that lawyers and judges existed solely to let drug dealers and sociopathic murderers back on the streets. In both cases, one or two badasses unconstrained by rules were all you needed to defeat Third World dictators or clear the streets of crime.
  • John Hughes films are usually rather a lot of harsh realism, but not towards people, rather an idea. However, all of his films feature relateable and sympathetic characters, and there's always enough humor to go around. For example: he directed both Ferris Bueller's Day Off and Planes, Trains and Automobiles.
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  • Believe it or not, the original Godzilla is very cynical to the point it's not hard to see why it is. Everything gets From Bad to Worse every time the monster appears. It's practically invincible, and the military is absolutely useless against him. The only weapon to defeat it is a horrifying weapon that strips organisms to the bone and then nothing is left. The biggest downer?: Godzilla is a Tragic Monster.
  • Godzilla vs. Destoroyah is nearly cynical to the point of dead-seriousness. Godzilla dying would cause The End of the World as We Know It via literal Super-Power Meltdown, an evil creature hell-bent on destroying everything (his name is Destroyer), and the death of Godzilla's son. Godzilla dies and the evil monster is dead, but Godzilla's son succeeds him, ultimately giving Japan the future it deserves.
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  • E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial is probably one of the most idealistic movies ever made, with the idealism made from E.T. and his interactions with Elliot and his siblings. You might think that the scientists are the cynical part, but when E.T. falls ill, which makes Elliot ill too, they turn out to be better people than they seem as they try to relieve them.
  • Short Circuit had this kind of conflict between the idealistic Newton Crosby (PhD, who wanted to capture the wayward Number 5 intact and unharmed to study why it was acting the way it was) and the cynical Captain Skroeder (who had a bit of a technophobic streak and was understandably wanting to take the robot out before it could do any harm with its fully armed and combat-ready laser weapon; Word of God has even admitted that despite being the villain for the movie, he is still doing the right and logical thing by trying to destroy Number 5). Also, the crew purposely used this trope in combination with What Measure Is a Non-Human?, wanting to get away from the "idealistic" approach of having the characters treat their start as always being "alive" and instead explore the question of how people would react to artificial intelligence in real life (their answer being that no one would believe it for a second).
  • Mexican films can be divided in two. Back in The '50s, during the Golden Age, Mexican movies were the most idealistic films you could ever imagine, with lovable characters who were the absolute incarnation of Christian poverty and all the implied heavenly bliss and richness of spirit, often becoming The Woobie of the rich guys who were the incarnation of the Seven Deadly Sins. On the other hand, pretty much every single Mexican film made in The '90s and later lies far, far away towards the Cynical side of the scale, with plots often involving massive trainloads of suffering and misery, often portraying Mexico as a grim, gritty place, sometimes (e.g. Amores perros or Perfume de violetas) even more Cynical than Evangelion!
    • This is justified due to censorship, since the Mexican government wanted to give the best image about the country after The Mexican Revolution, but this changed in the 60s with the Luis Buñuel's movie Los Olvidados, who was the Ur-Example of the genre.
  • Terry Gilliam's films are all over the place. Brazil is extremely cynical, The Fisher King is his most idealistic film and Time Bandits lies in the middle of the scale.
  • The 2007 Disney film Enchanted falls squarely in the idealistic side of the column, being just a bit Anvilicious in its commentary on the world's need for optimism, especially in matters of romance. Then again, this doesn't necessarily make it bad. Another interpretation is that it's a story about Giselle, an extreme idealist, and Robert, an extreme cynic, meeting each other and both having their extreme views tempered by exposure to each other, reaching a more moderate compromise in the end.
  • Surprisingly, The Dark Knight, for all its darkness, slides towards the idealistic side of the spectrum at least once. In a key scene, two ferries full of passengers choose near-certain death over murdering each other. Where the remainder of the movie falls is largely a matter of opinion.
    • Thought it can be debated that the trilogy is the poster child for swinging from one side to the other, AKA Earn Your Happy Ending.
      • To elaborate, though Batman's idealism is shown to be heroic (refusing to let Ra's al Ghul destroy the decaying city of Gotham, refusing to kill Joker, etc.), there are some moments in which the effectiveness of the cynical approach are played up ("letting" Ra's die, Batman's killing Two-Face, etc.).
  • Even more surprisingly Batman (1989) also fits on the idealistic side, although not quite to the point of The Dark Knight, but for Batman's actions, he becomes publicly loved and gets the girl, and The Joker is dead. Although he had to take the cynical route of killing people to get there. It is mostly cynical, but it too is a case of Earn Your Happy Ending
    • Batman Returns on the other hand is even more cynical to the point of nihilism and is even more dark than the original with Gotham being more of a hellhole despite that the film did have a few campy moments but at the end?? Batman loses the girl, ends up being forced to do even more killing, the one person he loves ends up being morally ambiguous, and everyone hates him again thanks to The Penguin via the murder of The Ice Princess.
    • In contrast, Batman Forever and Batman & Robin are heavily on the idealistic side.
  • Joker (2019), in contrast, swings so strongly to the cynical that it's entirely nihilistic, with the only light at the end of the tunnel being Batman eventually emerging to combat this incarnation of the Joker.
  • Speaking of Christopher Nolan, his later film, Interstellar proved to be even more idealistic, given its themes of humanity solving its problems and the love of family. It certainly helps that the generally very idealistic Steven Spielberg was clearly an inspiration for much of the film.
  • 28 Days Later represents this scale through hardened survivor Selena, whose experiences have made her bitter and cynical and convinced that the only way to survive is to kill before you get killed and abandon anyone who might hold you back, and Frank, the optimistic cab-driver who is convinced that an outpost of survivors exists to the North who will protect and defend them, roping the others into helping him find them. Jim, the main character, is somewhere in the middle. Selena survives the movie, whilst Frank is eventually infected and killed by the very soldiers he came to find (who turn out to have been luring people there so that they could rape the women anyway). However, things are not quite as cynical and bleak as this makes out; Selena's cynicism is worn down by the fact that she is falling in love with Jim, who ultimately convinces her that there is hope after all and that abandoning others is not the way to go, and the final scenes reveal that she is working harder than any of them to contact the survivors they have come to believe are outside of Britain.
    • Actually, the original ending involved Jim dying. The only reason cynicism didn't prevail is because test audiences found it too depressing.
    • Then came the sequel, in which there is utterly no hope.
  • The major reason why La vita è bella was so critically acclaimed was thanks to its ability to keep a fluffy idealist tone in the middle of a freaking concentration camp. It also sparked controversy for having a sympathetic protagonist trying to distract from the horrors of the Holocaust with slapstick.
  • Charlie Kaufman's work is usually cynical in tone, but surprisingly still optimistic at its core.
  • Films by Steven Spielberg are usually full of optimism and wonder, even those that portray the harsh realities.
  • Richard Linklater films differentiate on the scale, but several end on a believable Hope Spot.
  • Dead Poets Society liked to play with this trope. A LOT. It tends to be more on the idealistic side on the whole, but the entire subplot about the conflict between Neil and his father is definitely one of the most cynical moments in Peter Weir films, like...ever.
  • The film A Foreign Affair lies somewhere in between. Since it's about postwar Berlin, it has its cynical view of American occupation, and the destroyed lives and city. But it shows its idealistic side; people are shown as resilient against the backdrop of hardship, and that their hardworking spirit lives on.
  • The Hunt (2012) is critical of human behaviour and prejudice, particularly when it comes to assumptions and gossip. A little girl named Klara rapidly develops an unhealthy obsession with her kindergarten teacher, Lucas. After she kisses him on the lips during school playtime, he is quick to rebuff her infatuation. In a childish rage, she unwittingly implies to the head teacher that he has sexually abused her. This lie begins to mutate and grow, and Lucas is ostracized by his community. Even though it's proven he's not a pedophile, and Klara eventually openly admits to making it up, he is still voraciously hated by some of his peers.
  • Lord of War was on the deep end of the cynical side. It features an arms dealer selling guns to African warlords and avoiding the law as he works himself to the heart of the gunrunning trade. The only idealistic characters are the Interpol Agent Valentine and Yuri's brother Vitaly. In the end of the movie Vitaly is killed and the massacre he was trying to prevent is carried out anyway. Valentine manages to arrest Yuri but becomes disillusioned after Yuri uses his government contacts to get himself free and keep doing his work. Yuri himself talks about how grey morality is his favorite brand of morality and delivers this beautifully heartbreaking line towards the end: They say evil prevails when good men fail to act. What they ought to say is: Evil prevails.
  • All of Stephen Chow's films are heavily on the idealistic side (Shaolin Soccer). Even the ones that appear grittier and more cynical are idealistic in disguise, as all of the protagonists pass through a redemption before beating the Big Bad (God Of Cooking, Kung Fu Hustle.)
  • The Colombian film La Virgen de los Sicarios (Our Lady of the Assassins) shows Medellín as a crime-ridden, violent city of drug pushers and hopeless addicts where Anyone Can Die. This is probably Truth in Television, as it deals with the very violent period of control by the Escobar drug cartel.
  • Juno has taken a lot of flak for just how far to the idealism end of the scale it goes re: its treatment of teen pregnancy and its consequences.
  • August Rush is idealistic in the extreme, to the point of being implausible - a 12-year-old learns to compose full symphonies and play multiple instruments without any musical training, AND he gets admitted to the Julliard School (not their preparatory program, like other pre-college musicians would, but the college itself), and his cutesy piece manages to impress a 21st-century composition faculty so much that they get him a reading with the New York Philharmonic? And it happens to be the same concert his mom is playing, and which his dad attends? No wonder so many critics panned it.
  • Critics accused Valentine's Day of being a bit too much on the cynical side for a romantic-comedy (one reviewer compared it to "expecting milk chocolate but getting baking (bitter) chocolate instead"; another compared it to "getting bad Valentine candy from a pretty/handsome person" in reference to the brilliant but wasted All-Star Cast), especially compared to its spiritual predecessor Love Actually.
  • The Element of Crime: When you make a non-parodic deconstruction of a genre that is already quite on the cynical end of the scale, do not expect the result to have much idealism left.
  • The Thin Red Line: the film is a rumination on the nature of war and its tie to nature. At first it seems to suggest a cynical worldview (as the opening Internal Monologue asks: "What's this war in the heart of nature? Why does nature vie with itself? The land contend with the sea? ls there an avenging power in nature? Not one power, but two?"), but the final scenes suggest that the universe is based on harmony and spirituality rather than conflict.
    • In the arguments they have, Witt and Welsh represent idealism and cynicism respectively.
    Welsh: In this world, a man himself is nothing. And there ain't no world but this one.
    Witt: You're wrong there, Top. I seen another world.
  • The 1976 film Network. Talk about your cynical films! But the craziest thing of all about that film is that the film was actually considered a Slice of Life docudrama by TV news people, which makes sense considering Paddy Chayefsky (who wrote the film's screenplay) consulted with actual reporters and behind-the-scenes TV news people while writing his script.
  • Any Mafia stories - not just films, but also video games - that you can bring up always falls into the cynical end of the sliding scale. The protagonists are often put in a desperate situation and a gritty urban setting, forced into the life of villainy, and almost all of them meet a tragic end.
  • Moulin Rouge! flits from side to side during its running-time, but the ending jumps into the space between the two extremes. Nearly all of the main characters lose absolutely everything (and the Duke relatively gets away with it), but they keep their ideals intact and win the moral argument.
    • Baz Luhrmann's entire Red Curtain Trilogy arguably takes the same trajectory. First there's Strictly Ballroom, an idealistic romantic comedy with a happy ending. Then there's William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet, the most nihilistic of the three films, with a total Downer Ending that even downplays any hope of the lovers' deaths leading to peace between their families. Finally, the trilogy ends with Moulin Rouge!, which, as outlined above, plays with both idealism and cynicism but ends in a bittersweet middle space.
  • What Dreams May Come, a romantic drama film detailing a pair of lovers' journey in the afterworld, sets its soul on the idealistic end of the scale. It shows that against all odds, true love will always last, as a sincere lover is willing to sacrifice his or her everything to drag their loved ones out of even the darkest misery - and they get their deserved reward at the end.
  • For a Black Comedy, Horrible Bosses is ultimately surprisingly idealistic. Only one character is capable of murder, and he's both the main villain and arrested by the film's end.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • As a whole, the franchise tends strongly to the idealistic side, which provides a contrast to Mark Millar's very cynical Ultimates comic book run, which a lot of the movie continuity takes elements from. However, there are still some bittersweet moments, if the endings for both Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger are any proof.
    • The Avengers: A major part of the conflict stems from Steve Rogers' "outdated and irrelevant" idealism clashing head on with Tony Stark's hedonistic and materialistic cynicism. Ironically, Steve and Howard (Tony's father) were friends and allies during World War II.
    • Avengers: Infinity War: The most cynical film in the MCU to date. Virtue Is Weakness, following idealistic principles ("we don't trade lives") and refusing to forgo love and compassion in favour of the "simple calculus" will get half the universe killed, while coldly accepting what needs to be done no matter the cost will grant victory.
    • Avengers: Endgame: Leans heavily on the idealistic side, with the heroes being able to reverse the effects of the previous film through The Power of Friendship, some Heroic Suicides and good old fashioned Heroic Resolve to boot. Overall it's a great callback to The Avengers, and the conflict between Cap and Tony is resolved when it's confirmed that Tony would jump on the wire to save his fellow teammates
  • The Alien franchise, films and video games alike, ultimately lands on the far end of the cynical side. Aside from Ripley and a few other heroic characters, the universe of the movies is very much a Crapsack World where uncaring governments and profit-driven MegaCorps place little value on human lives as long as they can experiment on them with alien SuperSoldiers, and virtually no hope for humanity is present.
  • Apocalypse Now is about as cynical as it gets. War Is Hell and Humans Are Bastards are the defining tropes of the film.
  • Blade Runner is fairly cynical, with a heavily dystopian interpretation of the future and Black-and-Gray Morality at best. The ending is slightly more positive, though, because the film is ultimately about an Anti-Hero realizing the error of his ways.
  • Terminator is ultimately a very idealistic film series, despite its bleak vision of the future. Many characters make Heroic Sacrifices and discover The Power of Love.
  • Planet of the Apes is one of the most cynical science fiction franchises out there. EVERY movie has a Downer Ending, and both the Human and Ape sides of the conflict are viewed in a negative light.
  • Most comedies nowadays usually go into the cynical side, as most of the humor is either offensive, gross or satirical.
  • Allied movies about WWII (Soviet and American, generally) are usually idealistic - despite the Downer Ending they often have. The idealism is reinforced by the fact that though people suffered hardships and many died, they ultimately contributed to winning the war and saved their country, becoming heroes forever. The more corny offerings sometimes show the dead heroes entering Heaven and smiling at the audience just before they pass through the Pearly Gates.
  • A major point of The Expendables is how Sly's character realizes his lack of humanity when he questions why Sandra would stay behind and try to help her Crapsack World of a country, despite there being absolutely no chance of success (in his eyes, at least), which leads him to try and take down the tyrannical government and the corrupt CIA Agents backing it. His buddies tag along not because of the reward (that motivation died after they refused the mission the first time), but because they are his friends, and, as Lee's character said, "friends stick together". At the end, he gives the reward to Sandra to rebuild her country. Plus, Everyone Lives. It's not idealistic to the point of Thou Shalt Not Kill (it is a throwback to the 80's Action Movies), but it's not cynical.
  • Narc is a very cynical movie, which focuses on rough, poverty-striken area's and police corruption.
  • The Breakfast Club is interesting in its view of high school life and humanity in general. It's cynical in that parents and authority figures are portrayed as apathetic at best or scumbags at worst, and its hard to say by the end which of the characters has the least controversial amount of metaphorical blood on their hands. However, the film does show that not all adults are always horrible, and despite the main cast all having their own set of problems, it doesn't mean that they can't change or learn from the mistakes of both themselves and those around them. This makes way for a surprisingly idealistic in hindsight ending where, although it's unclear if The Breakfast Club remains friends after their detention, they will never forget their experience together, and it's evident that when they grow up, they will not be the useless adults that their parents and the staff are.
  • Nil By Mouth is heavily on the cynical side, but might waver a bit depending on you're interpretation of the ending.
  • A League of Their Own, a Penny Marshall's film Based on a True Story of women's baseball while the male players were out fighting in World War II, is a cynical take on the gender role in the American society and as a result several absurd requirements for female players to place beauty over ability in the ballpark.
  • Blue Valentine traverses this spectrum, both at large and within its section:
    • The "present" scenes - where Dean and Cindy argue and leads to a separation/potential divorce - is on the cynical side. Yet it has a few moments here and there where it would seem "love could conquer all."
    • The "past" scenes - where Dean and Cindy meet and leads to their marriage after she's pregnant - is on the idealistic side. Yet it also has a few moments here and there where it anticipates the future problems.
  • Welcome to the Dollhouse and other films by Todd Solondz reside in a black hole of cynicism from which no light can escape.
  • "Serenity" and really, the series, are about an idealist (Malcolm Reynolds) struggling with the balance between the two. For all his words about how he'll take any job, he seems most motivated by the ones that don't pay much in the material sense.
  • For Time Travel movies, compare Back to the Future with The Butterfly Effect. The former is an idealistic take on how one makes the future, and the latter a cynical speculation to the statement in question. Their soundtracks also help telling their audience the moods they are portraying.
  • The Hunger Games manages to slowly, painfully, and agonizingly claw its way from the cynical end of the scale to the idealistic end. The series starts by showing the ugly nature of most of the Tributes and the people of the Capital, revealed in and out of the killing game program in question, as well as relatively nicer ones being wiped out ruthlessly. However, when Katniss' sister Prim is reaped, she doesn't hesitate to volunteer in her place, knowing full well she probably won't survive. During the games, she makes good friends with Rue, who helps her out tremendously in her survival. And even when Rue dies, she isn't simply cast aside, she becomes a symbol of hope for Katniss and everybody else in the districts. Even as things go From Bad to Worse over the course of the trilogy, the series does ultimately culminate into a well fought for ending that, while far from perfect, goes to show that even when innocent people die, and the world looks bleak, things can change for the better.
  • For a horror film, The Thing (1982) Has a fairly idealistic nature, when Fuchs takes himself out rather than being assimilated, and the last four survivors decide to sacrifice themselves to save the rest of the planet. .
  • Chinatown is cynical with a capital "C". There is no happy ending to be found here, which is not atypical for Film Noir. Its sequel The Two Jakes is just as cynical.
  • Fight Club is almost relentless in its cynicism. The whole world is a cold and uncaring place with no real purpose, just a monotonous existence. Based on the movie's interpretation of society, you'd think we're just animals in business suits.
  • Before Sunrise, in spite of being an unabashed celebration of the joys of young love, is actually more cynical than the typical Hollywood romance because it doesn't end on an unambiguous Happily Ever After for its couple. Its sequel Before Sunset moves a couple more notches to the cynical side with its characters having grown up and married/dated other people, but there's still enough idealism to edge out the cynicism. The second sequel Before Midnight is easily the most cynical entry of the trilogy with its unflinchingly honest and unvarnished depiction of a long-term relationship, but retains a kernel of idealism that prevents a Downer Ending. So in summary, the Before trilogy is definitely more cynical than the typical film romance, even in its clearly idealistic first installment, but is careful to keep enough idealism in even its most cynical installment to remain a love story at its core.
  • All Quiet on the Western Front does this in-universe, creating the decline from idealism that stirs up the students in going to war to the mirror opposite of the disillusionment at war itself by the end of the film. This deliberate effect portrays a critique of what people are made to believe about war and the widespread denial of countries into sending out individuals in the belief that it's glorious before exposing them to the harsh realities whilst they remain self-interested. A retread into the classroom of young students by a sombre Paul Baumer and an unenjoyable discussion around a table surrounded by generals who refuse to understand the real experience by claiming superior knowledge are significant scenes that sadly reflect the attitudes' of war as an amazing event to die for. Especially crucial is those that are in this belief are those who have not actually gone out to fight, as opposed to scenes with those who voice the horrors which highlight many attempts to silence them.
    Paul Baumer: You still think it's beautiful and sweet to die for your country, don't you?
    [Kantorek nods firmly]
    Paul Baumer: We used to think you knew. The first bombardment taught us better. It's dirty and painful to die for your country. When it comes to dying for your country it's better not to die at all! There are millions out there dying for their countries, and what good is it?
    • It doesn't help the cries of 'Coward!' by many of the students at someone who fully understands what actually happens out there on the battlefield, and the juxtaposition of positive adjectives and the exclamatives of negatives, which reinforce both the real horror and the tragic idealism injected into the students before they are exploited by war.
  • Topaze, a 1933 film from The Pre-Code Era, is one of the most cynical films of its day. Prof. Topaze is a Wide-Eyed Idealist, and a chemist who believes he's producing healthy, vitamin-filled mineral water. When he finds out that he is being used for a marketing scheme to sell crappy tap water, he responds by becoming just as corrupt as the Corrupt Corporate Executive that fooled him. He blackmails said boss into handing over a third of the company that is selling said crappy water, and the film ends with him living the good life as the crappy water is apparently still being sold.
  • Pacific Rim is very idealistic, showing a united humanity coming together to build Humongous Mecha and kick some Kaiju ass. Guillermo del Toro described the movie as having an "incredibly airy and light feel". Makes sense, considering that one of Del Toro's stated goals was to introduce the mecha genre to children.
  • Throughout the X-Men Film Series, Professor X and Magneto are traditionally at the opposite ends of this scale, but in X-Men: Apocalypse's denouement, they have both taken a step towards the middle. Xavier's actions during the Final Battle are a subtle acknowledgement that in extreme circumstances, he'll do whatever it takes to Save the World, even if it means committing murder. Erik appreciates this new, hardened edge in his old friend, and his respect for Charles is even greater than in the original timeline. Because they've reconciled, it hints that Magneto intends to tone down his warmongering and will be more open to negotiation with the Professor the next time there is a major incident between mutants and humans. From director Bryan Singer's commentary:
    "Well, the two men have never been more similar in their whole relationship as they have in this moment."
    • The New Mutants is surprisingly idealistic for a horror movie. None of the main characters die except the film's Big Bad Cecelia Reyes and Demon Bear is defeated by Dani talking down to it and accepting her newfound gifts.
  • In Heisei Rider vs. Showa Rider: Kamen Rider Taisen feat. Super Sentai, this is the main conflict between the two generations of Kamen Riders: the Showa Riders (from the original Kamen Rider to Kamen Rider J) believe being a Kamen Rider means tossing away happiness and memories of the fallen in order to protect the future. The Heisei Riders (from Kamen Rider Kuuga to Kamen Rider Gaim) believe differently, that they're strengths and a means to an end. At first, this is treated as Super Dickery, as they used their "war" to thwart the Badan Empire's plans. However, when the Badan are dealt with, it's revealed that the Showa's feelings are genuine and they are prepared to set the record straight with a Rider Kick to the face. It takes Gaim tanking Kamen Rider Ichigo's Rider Kick to protect a flower blooming on the beach for the elder Rider and the Showa to realize that.
  • Tomorrowland is set firmly and unironically on the idealism side. The Plus-Ultra group was founded by Gustave Eiffel, Thomas Edison, Jules Verne and Nikola Tesla to create technology that would benefit mankind without the distractions of politics. Casey, the main protagonist, is an unapologetic Pollyanna, (although not quite as cloying as several other examples of that trope), and hard-bitten cynic Frank ends up coming around to her way of thinking. The film ends with Casey and Frank sending out invitations to the dreamers of the world to join them in Tomorrowland, to build a better future for humanity.
  • The Martian is very much on the idealism side. Everyone in this movie who isn't Watney is either trying to help Watney, or following his progress and rooting for him. No villains, no self-serving politics, no ulterior motives, just intelligent people attempting to save a man's life.
  • Despite its Crapsack World setting and brutal violence, Mad Max: Fury Road is actually more on the side of idealism. Both Max and Furiosa and one of the Big Bad's minions who makes a Heel–Face Turn work together to rise up and make things better for their world, so while the apocalypse is certainly a mess, the ending implies that things may get better, even if it worked out in a Earn Your Happy Ending kind of way.
  • Nightcrawler: A film about a sociopathic Karma Houdini Villain Protagonist gathering news footage for a TV station which believes that If It Bleeds, It Leads. Yep, cynical.
  • Sicario is very much on the cynicism side. Life across the border is depicted as dangerous and grim due to the cartels' violent actions, kids aren't spared from this violence, law enforcers are either on the cartels' payroll or are fighting them with more violence, and the few idealistic law enforcers are constantly belittled or eventually corrupted with violence. The ending scene even shows that Mexicans have come to accept violence as their reality and just turn a blind eye to it all.
    • Villenueve's next film, Arrival leans much more on the idealistic side of the scale. The protagonist is able to save the day by using her ability to see future events.
  • Fame is stuck firmly on the cynical end, when it comes to the realities of the entertainment industry. If you follow your star, live the dream and stay true to yourself... you will be kicked in the head by the people who put in the work, paid their dues and honed their skills. And even if you put in the work, pay your dues and hone your skills, there is no guarantee that this will be enough. Back the wrong project and you will fail. Antagonize the wrong people and you will fail. And even if you do everything right... chances are good you'll still never make it. "Seven harsh lessons and a cooked lunch" is this films tagline for a reason.
  • The message of Whiplash can be seen as an ideal being deconstructed despondently: those who aspire to greatness should push themselves beyond their limits to reap the rewards that come with such achievements. The cynicism shines in the form of the characters that strive for greatness being assholes at best and psychopathic at worst. Andrew, and to a lesser extent the other students, sacrifice their self-respect, sanity, and social kinship to become better artists from an instructor who sees even his ace students as beneath him. By the end of the film, the audience is left to conclude whether or not Andrew’s achievements were worth the sacrifice.
  • The World of Kanako: On the far end of the cynic side. In this movie the world is exclusively populated by complete assholes and scumbags who all have only the very worst things in mind and the few good people out there are either mercilessly corrupted, betrayed, bullied, manipulated or forced into isolation and there is no way to break out of this cycle. What protagonist and ex-cop Akikazu does can't be morally justified in any way but still is consequent, as the world this movie takes place in destroys anybody and crushes every dream. The only bright things in this film are the bright lights and colors, the fast editing, the many flash cuts and one constantly smiling character, that give it an artificial and hard to grasp atmosphere.
  • Most films by Quentin Tarantino average out somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, leaning more towards, perhaps counterintuitively, the idealistic side; violence that would otherwise be very cynical becomes strangely idealistic through either absurd Black Comedy or righteous motivation, and characters who behave cynically nonetheless usually manage to achieve their goals and be "good" (relatively speaking); if they don't, they'll probably at least Face Death with Dignity. See Django Unchained or Pulp Fiction for examples.
  • WWII Play Dirty starts out with the (Allied) captain of a group of murderers and rapists being bribed by a general (who himself has the ethics of a sewer snake) to not murder his commanding officer on his next mission. It only gets more cynical from there as the suicide mission they're sent on proves to be completely pointless, and chucks in a downbeat ending of casual brutality that just hammers home the point. It's the kind of war movie that could only have been made in the midst of the Vietnam War.
  • Deewaar: The brothers occupy different points along the scale; Ravi is closer to the idealistic end, and Vijay is closer to the cynical one. The film itself skews cynical.
  • Miracle on 34th Street is an odd case, with an idealistic outcome largely generated by cynical motivations (news publishers' desire for a profitable media circus, postal workers' desire to get rid of a glut of letters to Santa, the judge's desire to avoid public backlash for committing a kindly old man).
  • Like most of the other films of Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite is quite comfortably on the cynical side. Most all of the characters have selfish motivations, and much of the plot plays out in nasty ways, especially towards the ending, where no one really has a happy ending.


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