With today’s trending hashtag being #WednesdayWisdom (as it is every Hump Day), I thought I’d take the time to write a fun little article about it. Of course, since this is MOVIE Pilot, I’m making it about movies. Because I can. So there. Films serve multiple functions. They entertain us, bring us together (or divide us), make us think, make us laugh, make us cry. Sometimes they even teach us. In honor of that, here are some of the greatest life lessons I’ve ever learned from movies.
“Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line.” – The Princess Bride (1987)
Let’s start with a classic and my favorite movie of all time, shall we? In Vezzini’s battle of wits with the Man in Black, he freely shared his advice, but none stuck out more than the above. Now, I’m pretty sure I’ll never find myself in a position where I am forced to play Russian roulette with iocane powder in order to rescue a princess. But being of Sicilian heritage myself, it taught me from a young age that we are a resilient and wily bunch, and grow harder to best as we age. The scariest person to defy is a tiny, Sicilian grandma – and I know this, because my grandma is pushing 90 and could verbally kick my ass and cut me down to size before I even knew what hit me. She’s terrifying. Amazing…but a little terrifying. I’m still about 47% convinced that when Death finally comes for her, she’ll give him a tongue-lashing and he’ll just leave her alone. Basically what I’m saying is…don’t bet against a Sicilian. Especially the grandmas.
“But the one thing they love more than a hero is to see a hero fail, fall, die trying.” – Spider-Man (2002)
Ah, Spider-Man. I bet you all thought I would go with the “With great power…” quote, didn’t you? But no. This is the one I chose. It may seem cynical, and perhaps it is. Yet, it’s a quote that has served me well in a career path that’s so public, writing on the internet. We see it time and time again that when a celebrity does something good and charitable, some people read. But when a celebrity falls from grace, everyone does. The Green Goblin’s quote to Spider-Man is a daily reminder to never act online or in public in a manner that would come back to bite me in the ass later, because the internet loves nothing more than a scandal, and people have long memories. I don’t always succeed at this, but as long as I keep this in mind, I think I’m safe.
“Listen to me, kid. If she doesn’t reach over and lift up that button so that you can get in, that means she’s a selfish broad and all you’re seeing is the tip of the iceberg.” – A Bronx Tale (1993)
When Sonny gives the young Calogero this advice, he’s referring to picking a girl up for a date. If a guy unlocks a gal’s door to let her in and she doesn’t return the favor by leaning over the driver’s side seat to unlock his door, then she’s selfish and not worth pursuing. I still remember automatically doing this on one of my first dates, and my date grinning: “You passed the Bronx Tale test.” I had no idea what he was referring to at the time, but that comment has always remained with me. Consideration and little acts of thoughtfulness matter. They matter a lot. Putting yourself in another person’s shoes doesn’t come naturally, but it’s vital in building up trust and mutual respect in any relationship, romantic or otherwise.
“Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” – Love Story (1970)
You may think I chose this quote because it’s one of the most famous romantic movie quotes of all time. I did not. I chose it because it’s stupid. I’ve never seen the movie and yet this quote sticks in my head. That’s how stupid it is. To Ryan O’Neal’s credit, when Barbara Streisand says it to him in the movie, he retorts, “That’s the dumbest thing I have ever heard.” Unfortunately, no one remembers that part – just the first. Of course love doesn’t mean that. Everyone has to say sorry and mean it when they’ve screwed up, acted badly, or let down the person they love. There’s a fine line between accepting one another for who you each are, flaws and all, and then never pushing each other to be better people, to grow. That’s not love. That’s stagnation. If you want a partner who never calls you out on your crap, then you don’t want a partner, you want an enabler. And who wants that?
“It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to your enemies, but a great deal more to stand up to your friends.” – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001)
Bravery can be hard. Standing up to bullies or those you disagree with takes a measure of courage that we often don’t achieve until we grow in self-confidence. But what happens when the bullying or cruelty or wrongness is coming from someone you love or respect? Going against your tribe takes even more courage, especially in our modern times when a “with us or against us” mentality permeates so much of our discourse. Calling a friend out for their bad behavior is always a tough conversation to have, but a necessary one when you care about someone and don’t want to see them self-destruct or harming others. It’s easier to stand up to a bully when you’ll never have to speak them again; it’s much harder to do it when the effects of your words become part of your personal life. Hopefully, we all find the bravery to do what’s right, whether it’s facing a foe or a friend.
What are the best life lessons you’ve ever learned from movies? Share them in the comments!
Editor-at-large here at Moviepilot. Nerd out with me on Twitter, comrades: @alishagrauso