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Philosophy in Modern Film

Updated on October 4, 2011

Mary Poppins - Movie Philosophy

Would you believe that in modern films there is a good deal of philosophy?

In the 1964 film classic, "Mary Poppins" there are nuggets of good advice. Mary, an ordinary nanny, teaches the Banks' family a thing or two. A wealthy banking family at the turn of the last century, the father is preoccupied with running the bank, and the mother is active in the cause for women's right to vote. Unfortunately, the children are not being attended to. Enter Mary Poppins! With a little of her practical wisdom, she is able to get the family back on track.

For example,

  • Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down! We all know this is true.
  • Feed the birds, tuppence a bag. Look out for the little guy, it costs you hardly anything at all.
  • If you make the chore a game, it's fun to do the job you don't like! (Like cleaning the children's nursery!) Of course Mary used some magic to help things go faster - but the job CAN be a game when you treat it that way! I like to use an approach that I call "what's wrong with this picture?" It feels more like fine tuning than a major project, and feels more fun.
  • Burt and his friends have possibly the worst, dirtiest job in all of London - cleaning filthy chimneys. Are they sad, depressed, irritated? Heck no! They use their brushes as canes and dance along the rooftops, consider themselves the luckiest of blokes. Why? Because they alone can savor the fantastic view of the city.
  • Both Mary and Burt use their imaginations to make something extraordinary of the ordinary. A chalk drawing on the sidewalk becomes a theme. They know how to make memories out of daily life.
  • Mary tells it like it is. She tells the little boy Michael that he is "stubborn and a little suspicious".
  • Burt considers every day spent with Mary "a holiday". This is great advice! Love blossoms in such an attitude of appreciation. Who says you need fistfuls of money to keep romance alive?

The Force

Star Wars, another Great

As of 2008, the overall box office revenue generated by the six Star Wars films has totalled approximately $4.41 billion, making it the third highest grossing film series, followed only by the Harry Potter and James Bond film series.  

Highly spiritual in nature, the 1977 classic has the timeless battle of good versus evil. Our young hero Luke must not only overcome the wicked Darth Vader, but the self-defeating weakness. Here, his teacher Yoda helps him uncover his potential. This is a frustrating endeavor, but with time, Luke is able to manifest his own capabilities. At the final moment of the film, he must accomplish an impossible feat. Instead of being distracted by technological aids, he turns it all off in order to listen to the voice within him, frequently referred to as "the Force". At his side are his fighter pilot and friend Han Solo and twin sister, Laura.  This adventure's journey is best taken alongside like-minded company - courageous and pure hearted.  Good wins out over evil, but not before upsetting Luke in learning that evil Darth Vader is actually his own father.  The plot continues across three additional films expanding on the outer space - but wholly relevant - epic.

Daniel LaRusso

The Underdog

Daniel LaRusso, a young high school boy, son of a single mother, has a world of troubles.  Not only does he have to overcome his economic disadvantages, he must find a way to gain the respect of his peers, and win his first true love from the other side of the tracks, Ali.

After a few run-in's with the local rich boys, known for terrorizing their enemies, Daniel realizes he must learn to compete with them and beat them at their own game. They are all members of the Karate Club, whose evil Sensei (teacher) enforces negative attributes like fear, violence, and attacking the injured.

Unbeknownst to Daniel, his quiet, Japanese, bonsai-tree growing neighbor, Mr. Miyagi, is an expert at karate.  After saving him from a potential deadly run-in with the bullies after the school dance, Mr. Miyagi offers Daniel to be his Sensei and to teach him karate at his home.

Learning karate

At first, the boy feels completely useless, because Mr. Miyagi gives him lots of hard chores, physical labor and meaningless tasks.  Finally Daniel explodes.  "I thought you were going to teach me Karate!".  Little did he know, all  this action was for a reason. The car waxing is to learn body movements needed in maneuvering an effective karate execution. The training was untraditional, but very effective.  In a matter of months, Daniel has become a formidable contender for the tournament. 


The tournament, although tightly controlled, is not enough to prevent the bullies from threatening Daniel.  First they would like him to disqualify himself.  Before the match our hero is pressured to give in, not compete, and threatened with violence. When that doesn't work, dirty tricks and foul play abound, including being attacked on an injury. With Ali and his trainer Mr. Miyagi by his side, and his dedicated mother cheering on the sidelines, the injured but determined Daniel makes it to the final round, and in spite of jeering and threats, manages to win over his opponent and chief agitator.


Daniel won. He holds the trophy in his hand. But his takes his victory as the beginning, not the end. He will continue to perfect his skill and safeguard against misuses of power, authority and violence.


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