Many people watch films to escape from their real lives. The comfort that the ‘reel’ world provides is matched by a few similar avenues. The magic of movies has often drawn us towards it, especially films that have positive energy and leave a lasting impact. The medium has the power and courage to represent stories that might usually be averse to public attention and sensibilities. The universal appeal and desire of a second chance more or less seem elusive. The delicate balance on which the prospect of its realization lies is seldom obvious to us.

Seeing the light at the end of the tunnel becomes a monstrous liability and innately unhappening. Reading in between the lines and the euphoria of hope always pushes us to believe, and that’s what keeps us going. There are moments when we feel everything is going against us, and the realities of life take the shape of whispering conspiracy theories, but more often than not, they fizzle out with time. See the bright side of life and make a beaming start to your day with this list of great movies about the empowering feeling of making a fresh start.

Honorable Mention

Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

Movies About Making a Fresh Start - Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

Wes Anderson’s unique and creative penchant for masterpieces like ‘Mr. Fantastic Fox’ has delivered us some great heart-warming stories. The British filmmaker’s quirky characters are not only great cinematic models but also easy to relate to. For instance. Mr. Fox. The charming once-in-a-generation athlete believes he’s the greatest thief in the fox community. There are none like him. On his way back with his wife, he attempts a robbery and is caught. The revelation of a junior Mr. Fox on the way pushes him to change his methods. But old habits die hard, only this time, the people he steals from do not take intruders lightly.

Mr. Fox’s journey from a carefree drifter dancing to his own tunes to a true and sincere family man with filial responsibilities is an example for people in a similar circumstance who feel lost. It only takes trust and love from the people who really matter to change. Felicity, Ash, and Mr. Fox’s entire troop of loyal professionals help him reinvent himself and focus his efforts to make a new home for them all. The fairy-tale end to ‘Mr. Fox’ is actually not too hard to conceive, but few possess the courage and conviction to dream on.


10. The Woodsman (2004)

Movies About Making a Fresh Start - The Woodsman (2004)

There is a saying in jails that people who have committed crimes against women and children are given special treatment. Starting fresh is even more challenging because acceptance from society is not forthcoming or even inclined to be gotten forever. A brilliant Kevin Bacon plays Walter, who is returned to the world after twelve years in prison for child molestation. His road to redemption in a small town is hardly given confidence by upset people, who, after discovering his past, feel well within their right to ostracize him. Walter’s family disowns him and vows to maintain the status quo. Without hope, Walter nearly falls into his old habits, further putting the viewer in a quandary if individuals with these proclivities can really change.

Bacon’s portrait is not the “creepy guy in a hood” stereotype that has come to be frequently associated with pedophiles. His act is unnerving, but not overtly apparent and forceful. His hacked demeanor and awkward gaze are chief in allowing that to happen. Like Mikkelsen in ‘The Hunt’, Walter is not glorified, neither are his acts justified. Director Nicole Kassell attempts to establish a dialogue with the viewer and put their moral high ground through a challenging litmus test. Walter’s arc eventually leads him towards self-awareness and a realization of the inherent flaw in his character. Subsequently, starting again doesn’t seem too foreign an idea to not put in an effort.

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9. The Big City (1965)

The Big City

Satyajit Ray’s films almost always revolved around empowering a social stratum of life. Despite its insignificance in mainstream cinema, Ray never abandoned his cinematic obligation and lifetime mission to contemplate a change of thought through his works. A wife fanning her husband while eats and the husband returning the favor (Apur Sansar) without a word being said is suggestive of his creative genius and keen eye of observation.

The Big City’ is as much about unveiling the Bengali middle-class hypocrisy about the position of women in the social structure and figures of authority as it is about reconstructing gender economics and the dilemma of shaping a new lifestyle. A working Arati and the consequent unease of Subrata is central to Ray’s idea of perspective. Much of his efforts are streamlined to bring out this dichotomy between the two doing the same things and a fleeting, yet only a strapping sense of how they feel.

Ray captures the changing Indian household and with a delicate balance, the male reaction to it. If the idea of a working woman wasn’t enough, her excelling over the male counterpart dealt a stellar blow. Despite this being a good thing for the family, given the financial constraints. But the gradual acceptance of the idea and its sponsored encouragement is no less than a fresh start.

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8. The Grapes of Wrath (1940)

The Grapes of Wrath (1940)

The Great Depression wreaked havoc in the wake of the most devastating economic collapse in man’s history. Countless families were rendered homeless, businesses shut down, and the world really had no option but to start again. A noteworthy shift was observed in the working habit of people. Many opted to become migrant workers, earning their livelihood day-to-day, wandering from one place to the other in search of a new home.

John Ford’s adaptation of the novel of the same name is a hard-hitting and searing call back to those unrelenting and unkind times, exploring the hardships through the Joad family. A present-day corollary unfurls in front of eyes and as their suffering is a testament, picking yourself up can be really tough. The economic abandonment by the State fuels millions out on the road to turn on their beliefs and let go of any compassion. It becomes a story of every man for himself. The tendency to resist that urge almost becomes humanly possible and alien.

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The value of a life is the central conflict in Ford’s thematic structure that is dominated by assertions about family as a unit, as opposed to ‘family and man’ in its literary origins. The Joads, who are reduced to eight by the time they arrive in California, are deceived by the illusion of a decent life, one that earns them the tag of a ‘human being’, as pointed out by a passerby. Many like them wander from camp to camp, accepting whatever little they get, even though it is not enough. Ford inspires intense empathy for his beleaguered populace, his focus seldom wavering from the family.

This drama is not an indictment of institutional prejudice and neglect; of how corrupt men in police forces sell their dignity and honor; of how a company, that doesn’t even exist, within seconds vanquished lives that people have built over decades; instead, “The Grapes of Wrath” is about courage and hope in the face of misfortune and a vile sense of morality that takes and takes and never gives. Born on it, worked on it, and died on it; that’s what makes it theirs.

7. Amelie (2001)

Movies About Making a Fresh Start - Amelie (2001)

Amelie’s giving nature is indicated by the tagline of the film: “She’ll change your life”. The charming and easygoing Amelie is actually a very lonely person on the inside. Depraved of any physical intimacy by her parents, Amelie’s emptiness grows with age. After witnessing the rewarding happiness of a boy due to an act of kindness by her, she readies herself to live a life making people happy. It is the saddest people who try their hardest to make others laugh; because they know how it feels. Amelie’s situation is a similar one.

The bustling city of Paris serves as the perfect setting for this breezy and whimsical happy-go-lucky story and Tautou, the perfect actor. ‘Amelie’s rather contentious ideas might seem to be a bit too abstract in theory. I mean, you often do not come across people quite like her. But she is a movie character and at times, movies can break free of the shackles of matching up with the dread of real life. ‘Amelie’ is one of those quirky films that are different enough to be intrigued and special enough to be loved.

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6. The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)

Movies About Making a Fresh Start - The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)

The challenges that ordinary people see every day might not be unique in themselves but uniquely impact their lives. A stretched bank account, negligible capital assets, and lack of even a semblance of security are among the chief disruptors in our lives. Gabriele Muccino roots his working-class hero against these struggles and more. For much of the film, Chris Gardener finds himself chasing things around; he always seems to be a second late to where he ought to be. The elusiveness doesn’t seem to elude him probably until the moment he’s asked to put on a clean shirt to work from the next day. And when that moment finally arrives, there’s a burning sense of victory and relief that engulfs Gardner and the viewer.

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This success story isn’t wrought with flashy, cutting edge, and morally corrupt boosters. At no point in the film is Gardener out of the red zone. Every dime spent is measured and there’s a sense of almost tangible pain – for instance buying new bulbs for his machine – whenever he has to spend any. The stakes are not bet against Gardener losing millions – they’re against him losing his dignity, humanity, and child’s trust. No father in the world would want to see himself lesser in his child’s eyes. He will bear a financial loss but keep his self-respect ironclad.

Will and Jaden Smith operate at a level few father-son duos on-screen have. Their natural chemistry and affectionate bond largely conceal the story’s minor structural flaws. The former creates a compelling portrait of an honest, charming, and selfless man, who is never quite ready to give up on life. As far as movies about starting over on Netflix are concerned, the warmth you feel when you watch Smith emoting on-screen, the feeling comes down to the natural actor in him and his own personal journey. A perfect lift-you-up movie for when you’re feeling down.

5. Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974)

Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (1974)

Alice’s husband tragically dies in a motor accident. This prompts her to shift base from New Mexico and move to Phoenix, and eventually California, with her son, Tom. Now out of the abusive relationship and forced into being the breadwinner, Alice embraces her singing carer once again. An unfortunate incident involving a lover she takes for some time sees them move again, this time to Tucson. And it is here that she reinvents herself.

Ellen Burstyn portrayed the titular character and it is her outstanding skill that brings out a rather boring and plain character on paper to a vividly alive character on screen. She manages to seamlessly create shades of toughness and vulnerability in Alice, remarkably, at the same time as well. Scorcese uses the tragedy as an opportunity to perceptively explore a hardworking, caring, and sincere woman under pressure she has never experienced before. His outlook is matched by strong female characters who thrive in adversity and bend stereotypes to their fancies.

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4. Maheshinte Praathikaaram (2018)

Movies About Making a Fresh Start - Maheshinte Prathikaaram

This is not the only Faasil film that romanticizes a fresh start in life. Just like in ‘Njan Prakashan’, life gives a second chance to Mahesh, a cheerful photographer without any artistic instinct and skill (not for long, though). The entire locality knows about the brewing romance between him and his childhood sweetheart, Sowmya, but cannot foresee the devastating heartbreak about to come in the form of an NRI nurse. It is pure chance that Mahesh happens upon the straightforward and outspoken sister of his nemesis, Jimsy, and falls in love with her. This cosmological coming together can happen literally to anyone and that is what the film points towards. After his clean slate with Jimson, Mahesh sees a bright future for him; a happy future, one where his newfound eye for photography and love in his life make him full.

Fahadh chetta is the most effective in roles that suit his natural spontaneity and Mahesh fits the bill perfectly. His observant portrayal generally seems to match up with a lot of other characters he’s previously played like Prakash or even Prasad from ‘Thondi’.  There are hardly any false notes in how the film unfurls and a spoonful of sweetness and humor. Director Dileesh Pothan creates magic with his easy-going narration and Bijibal’s catchy songs are the icing on the cake. Rain is used as a metaphor for what Mahesh and other heartbreak sufferers go through internally. It ends once and for all just as Mahesh puts behind his contorted revenge. But like that Anfield anthem goes, “At the end of a storm, there’s a golden sky”.

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3. Punch-Drunk Love (2001)

 Punch Drunk Love

Barry Egan’s eccentric journey of finding his self-worth and something to fight for takes him through a series of events that can hardly be called commonplace. A nervy affair with sex-line schemers, public humiliation at the hands of his overbearing sisters, buying a lot of pudding, running linearly through empty spaces; excruciating but undeniably funny. The lonely blue boy wanders around hoping to find someone to talk to about his troubles when one day, that person drives up to him in a white two-seater.

Along comes a harmonium mysteriously delivered right in front of him following a brutal car crash. And here we go. ‘Drunk on love’, Barry rids himself of all the awkwardness that characterized him and evolves into some kind of an action hero – seamlessly beating up thugs and making it look cool. He can no longer be found strutting backward – afraid of confronting challenges – but marches ahead, full beat, ready to take on the world.

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Greenwood’s propelling background score is sweeping and fleeting. The music makes the soundscape of the film inseparable from the moving pictures. It adds another dimension of subtle tension to Barry’s public interactions. The recurring motif of blue – Barry’s suit, the wall paint in his office, the flair-like streak in many scenes – depicts his loneliness and frustrations at other people, not for failing to understand him, but for not even trying to. His low confidence forces him to abandon spontaneous explanations for questions and instead makes him appear weird and freak-like to others.

Adam Sandler’s honest performance is no less than heroic. The daunting challenge of execution that Barry’s character presents, Sandler nails them head-on. In cahoots with a similarly brilliant Emily Watson, the actor creates a warm, tingling feeling inside you when you watch the two together.  It does not happen too often, so relish this opportunity. Anderson’s powerful punch of love will force many out of hiding and lead them on their personal journeys with a renewed sense of optimism.

2. After the Storm (2016)

After the Storm

After the Storm’ revolves around the life of a once acclaimed writer now reduced to a private detective with a gambling problem. His fractured relationship with his divorced wife is tested time and again as he defaults on child support payments. His aging mother houses the family on a rainy night, where they attempt to reignite their lost happiness. The title refers to the aftermath of the night the family spends together.

Kore-eda’s steady exposition is not merely melancholic but full of life and moments that inspire laughter. Forgiveness and the fear of overcoming failures, both personal and professional, are the emotional core of the film. Ryoto’s slice of life is not about correcting the past but accepting that mistakes are part and parcel of our human existence and instead, focusing on doing our best in the present. Being caught up with old, cherished memories is hard to resist but significantly important to not lose sight of the now.  Getting past unrequited love that once wasn’t, takes special courage. Making an attempt to recreate your life’s greatest achievements has tremendous risks attached. Ryoto seems to realize he’s that special person who can do it: maybe you’re special too?

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1. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

Movies About Making a Fresh Start - The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

An innocent banker is found guilty of the murder of his wife. He gets transferred to a special prison facility, Shawshank, and quietly starts putting the pieces of his grand escape plan together. So much happens in the background that we don’t pay attention to that our jaw drops, in the end, seem foolish. Frank Darabont’s adaptation of the King novel holds a special place in the hearts of the broader audience. If there’s one film that passes the litmus test of purists and the non-serious folk alike, it is Shawshank. The inundating commentary on ‘Shawshank’ has seen enthusiasts talk about multifarious themes and viewing it from all different angles. The over-analysis shrouds their ability to see the film for what it is: a simple tale about friendship and how it can kickstart life like it is your first day ever.

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Morgan Freeman plays Red, just one of the many men who feel escape from the institution that has been most of their adult lives is impossible (for the former, it turns out not). Like Brooks, who could never adjust to life after prison, where he was something, as Red points out. The reformation process and the justice system extract a heavy toll on a man’s will to try.  But amongst the suffering souls, Andy Dufresne stands out. He’s the free-est of them all and acts like a man whose soul can never be imprisoned. He makes a promise to Red and delivers, all without his best man in the prison even getting a whiff of Dufresne’s grand scheme. Everything comes together on that fateful day and fortune truly favored the brave.

Red shortly follows suit and to his surprise, he does find Dufresne living on a beach with a boat, just like he said he would. Can the breaking out by an innocent man count as prisonbreak? Not for me to answer.

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