15 Movies About Moving and Moving On
“It’s been a quiet week in Los Angeles.” Said not me, not ever. This week was born of flailing wildly against outside forces, attempting to see some kind of meaning in the chaos but mostly just riding the wave of consciousness. I am moving out of the Los Angeles apartment I’ve had for years, and looking for reasonable employment. Packing my apartment up, I wildly vacillated between listening only to “The Sensual World” by Kate Bush or “Watch the Throne” by Kanye and Jay Z. Both have kind of the same message if you hear them over and over, ad nauseum.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau says that evil first entered the world when mankind put a fence around a piece of property and called it his own. Well, I’d love to get in on that kind of evil as opposed to the low-level nonsense I’ve been fooling around with — unsignaled lane changes, willing other people to fail so hard I get headaches, drinking dollar wine like there’s no tomorrow. Those last two could be related, and who am I kidding, I would never fail to signal a lane change.
It seems that moving and moving on go hand in hand, some kind of hapless seraphic dance that heralds a new season. It’s also boot season, so let’s all get excited for that immensely special two-week span of Southern California life before we go back to blistering hot endless summer. I went to a wedding a few days ago, a very special kind of moving on that is sanctioned and blessed by those around you, and it was lit up like Marquee in Las Vegas, they had a million glow stick accoutrements, from headbands and halos to bracelets and necklaces, replete with several flower girls relentlessly handing them out all night long as the adults destroyed the dance floor.
Back at the homestead, I did find not only a passel of teenage diaries that were unbearable to even read more than a few pages of, but a rather lengthy Lord of the Rings fan fic I hand wrote about myself, a certain young 14-year-old lass who caught the eye of the director and soon became the center of attention during filming. A more vile piece of literature certainly does not exist. Moving and moving on. Well, while you’re goofing off at your desk at work reading this list, just know I’ll be standing in my small dirty kitchen, a dopey look on my face, trying to decide whether to just burn it all down and start from scratch or actually take the time to mop the floors and get my security deposit back.
This is definitely about the worst moving that can happen in a young man’s life. Ren (Kevin Bacon) moves to a small town where dancing is outlawed! I vastly prefer this film to Dirty Dancing, and used to try to construct a coherent timeline where Sarah Jessica Parker in this movie grew up to be Carrie Bradshaw. Both this movie and Sex and The City vastly improve if you operate under this simple premise.
Kicking and Screaming
Not the Will Ferrell one, the Noah Baumbach one. This movie is really best seen when you’re 24 and just graduated from university. I remember waxing on and on about how great this movie was and watching it again this year and it being less great than I had somehow remembered, but damn, still great. The dialogue alone is astounding, and the listless sort of haze that envelops you post-grad, even as you try to move on. Still, if you’ve never seen it, a lot about it will simply slay you. Eric Stoltz as a philosophical bartender? Check. The two writers dating who argue over who “gets this material,” meaning the argument, to write about. Yes, that’s my life.
One of the weirdest movies I’ve ever seen, I saw this little ditty in high school and tracked down a DVD copy a few years ago. Rufus Sewell, playing a man who has far too many get rich schemes for his own good, and Minnie Driver, swanning around being sensible. Plot, plot, okay, the plot is about Sewell’s uncle trying to get him to let go and surrender to the universe. There’s also a wine cellar, a bunch of strange visitors, and a Chinese man playing guitar. I quote this movie about once a month. “Manganese mine? MANGANESE MINE!”
Dan in Real Life
A father (Steve Carell) whose wife passed away finds himself falling in love with an off-limits woman (Juliette Binoche), while at his family reunion. Moving on amidst a host of difficulties, this film has one of the best and gentlest soundtracks I’ve ever heard, courtesy of Norwegian musician Sondre Lerche.
The Toy Story trilogy
What story better encapsulates the struggle of moving as well as moving on than the Toy Story trilogy? In fact the plots of these movies don’t need any introduction, but the message continues to hit home, even as we grow older. There’s something sweet about the nostalgia of growing too old for our toys, and Andy’s commitment to his own toys is heart rending in the best ways. Pixar always wins.
Blast from the Past
Christopher Walken and Sissy Spacek are ’50s parents who are sure the atom bomb is about to go off, leaving behind a race of mutants, so they raise their son Adam, played by Brendan Fraser (whose official website description on Google reads: “Official web site offering filmography, biography, photographs taken by the actor, and a listing of his favorite sites.” Well, hells bells.) underground, until he ventures out to find a wife. Chances are you haven’t seen this one since it came out, so run, do not walk to Netflix to bask in the sheer ’90s ness of it all. Swing dancing! Baseball cards! Alicia Silverstone! But in all seriousness, Adam’s attempts to move on and bring his parents out from isolation are touching and memorable.
My Neighbor Totoro
Fun fact for those of you playing Amanda Mae bingo back at home, this is the first movie I ever remember watching. Two little girls move to the country with their father, in order to be closer to their ailing mother. They meet some fantastical creatures - the cat bus! Totoro! - and must deal with their own feelings of loneliness and fear. The feelings I get about this movie can’t even be considered head on but must be looked at in my peripheral vision, delicately.
Probably the finest ghost movie made in the last decade, this film deals both with moving (ghosts and families moving in together) and moving on (accepting your fate and processing the aftermath.) Nicole Kidman turns in a marvelous performance as the terrified mother, but the moody atmosphere of the film is the real star here. If you haven’t seen it, and have somehow remained unspoiled, again, get thee to a Netflixery and get learnt.
I’ve never seen this movie, but it is about moving, and it stars Richard Pryor, and if you Google “movies about moving” it comes up in just about every list, and who am I to blow against the wind?
One of my all time favorite people in the world, Richard Ayoade, directed this movie about growing up and falling in love, and he nails the fragility and futility of the teen years with stark sentimentality that never devolves into pandering. When we mess up our own lives with sheer selfishness, all that’s left to us is to beg forgiveness and move on. Impeccable soundtrack.
Now this is a movie about moving! I just went to Wikipedia to refresh my memory on the plot, and that’s a trip, man. That summary makes it sound pretty awful, but it’s actually really good. Two people die and are turned into ghosts and must haunt their former home when a new family moves in, unless they want to move on. Failing to scare the family away, they employ Beetlejuice (Michael Keaton) to do it for them. Everyone is so young in this movie it will scare you - Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, Catherine O’Hara and little Winona Ryder.
I’ve never seen this movie ever. You know how when you guys wanna complain in the comments in most lists about how I didn’t include this or that movie? It’s almost always because I haven’t actually seen them. But let me try to write a description for this one anyway, and see if you loudmouths can tell the difference.
This is a super hilarious movie about Tom Hanks and Shelley Long moving into a decrepit old house that they think is a steal but it ends up being really expensive to fix, so actually this is just a collection of home videos your mom made about your Aunt Meg’s kitchen renovations. But, super hilarious-er.
See? Wouldn’t you rather I just not include stuff? Or maybe I did see it and you can’t even tell? That’s some Exit Through the Gift Shop level crap right there. (For the record, even though I may or may not have seen it, I can confirm that this is the funniest laugh scene in the history of cinema).
Let’s play cops and robbers all day with Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo, okay? This movie is atmospherically terrifying, and earned a place on this list for the refusal to move on. The scenes of DiCaprio cradling Michelle Williams in his arms as she disappears are some of the most visceral when it comes to contemplating loss. But move on we do, in time.
This movie deserved better than it got, dealing both with Kirsten Dunst as Antoinette moving to France, and eventually with the fall of the empire and the ultimate moving on - death. Beautiful and spritely, the soundtrack and confectionery decadence should have fallen on ready ears and eyes, but perhaps the proximity to the economic downturn marked it for failure early on.
The Harry Potter movies
All the Harry Potter movies contain both scenes of moving, (remember when Harry goes to Hogwarts for the first time? I do! Better than my birthday party! Too much butterbeer!) as well as moving on. I’ll never forget Dumbledore’s invective to remember Cedric Diggory when tempted to do wrong. (Just kidding I forget it all the time especially when signaling lane changes.) But really, for a whole wide swath of us, the Harry Potter books and movies taught us a great deal about coming to terms with your circumstances, and being open to new worlds and ideas. For all of us who are protected by our ability to love, even in adverse times, Harry Potter will forever be a wonderful example of facing challenges, conquering them, and moving on.
Honorable Mentions: The Kids Are All Right, Liberal Arts, Donnie Darko, The Incredible Journey, Jaws