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As you read this post, possibly millions of people have read Go Set a Watchman, the highly anticipated first-written draft and sequel to the beloved To Kill a Mockingbirdboth by Harper Lee.

The first printing of Harper Lee’s anticipated first book, Go Set A Watchman made recent history with a first printing of 1-3 million copies (depending on last-minute pre-orders). For comparison, To Kill a Mockingbird printed only 5,000 copies in 1960 for its first printing. Most 8th and 9th graders in the United States read it in their English or American Literature classes and most likely will continue to do so for generations to come.

I don’t anticipate Go Set a Watchman to be received in the same way.

In addition, I am not ready to read this book and probably never will. 

I, and many others are still not convinced that Harper Lee has given genuine and of sound mind consent to have the book published. I would not expect there being legal issues, though. It is not definitive though whether she gave the publisher the “go” to publish it. Nevertheless, I am no conspiracy theorist as there are plenty of articles that have covered the issue. Due to her health, rumored to be almost blind and deaf, I cannot imagine she has even looked at the manuscript in years.

The title, Go Set a Watchman, comes from the Bible, Isaiah 21:6 (KJV):

For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth.

It alludes to Scout, now commonly known as Jean Louise Finch, and her view of her father, Atticus Finch, as the moral compass (“watchman”) of Maycomb. Atticus Finch is indeed the watchman in To Kill a Mockingbird. 

Scout (Mary Badham) and Atticus (Gregory Peck in 'To Kill a Mockingbird' (1962)

Scout (Mary Badham) and Atticus (Gregory Peck in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ (1962)

I read To Kill a Mockingbird twice in high school; once at my first high school in Kansas City, then again at my second high school in St. Louis. I read it during such an important point of my life, in my formative years and during a move in which I felt so alone and like an outsider, much like the characters in Mockingbird. The book helped me see people better from their perspective, to be patient, courageous, and not rush to judgment. I trust other children experienced it in similar ways.

It is hard not to admire Atticus. Played brilliantly by Gregory Peck in the movie by the same name soon after the book’s release, it is probably the finest adapted screenplay ever created. The American Film Institute in 2003 released its 100 Heroes in 100 Years list and Atticus Finch topped it. I don’t think I’ve ever stood up and cheered louder when the list was announced during the television special.

In the new book, Go Set a Watchman, the Atticus we know is humanized further and is discovered to be more of a racist and complex person. In Lee’s new book, he is a changed watchman.

Atticus Finch matters to me, and many others I suppose, because he is one of the closest personas we could envision to what God looks like as a our Father. We know Atticus is not perfect, unlike Christ, but he is as Peggy Noonan refers to as “calm, reliable, full of integrity and always there-the kind of father anyone would want and few would have.”

I mourn what has become of Atticus Finch in this book. But, who am I to judge? After all, he is just a fictional character. But he still matters like any beloved character we love who passes away – I wrote about this a few years ago as often times it can feel like we lost someone we really knew. I don’t want to lose Atticus, though.

But, we can rest assured.

“Atticus never lived and can never die, and if you want to visit him you can pick up a book. America is an interesting place and we don’t have to look to fiction to be inspired.” – Peggy Noonan

Wise and comforting words, Peggy.

There is more to Atticus, though.

If we truly want to find Atticus, read the book of John in the Bible and you’ll see him more beautifully than ever. Atticus is a mere modern-day reflection of our true Father.

He has always been there and has never left us. Rest assured.

 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

– John 1:1

 

 

I believe that each moment in life requires a unique and inspirational movie. Other things can be inspirational. I find inspiration in life’s story, in my wife and kids, the Bible, hiking, traveling, or a great book. But nothing quite beats the perfect movie for life’s important moments. Movie heroes overcome great odds, and their stories inspire us to get up on our feet and do something spectacular!

Below is a list of my top ten inspirational films. I drew it up by narrowing down all the ones I could think of by category and then asking myself, “When I feel like (fill in blank), which movie will help?” The result is my arsenal of cinematic emotional motivators.

I hope it will also be helpful to you in your journey.

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Top 10 Most Inspirational Movies

Big Fish (2003) (Living the dream, Pursuing the love of your life)

I first saw Big Fish when I was trying to compile a bucket list. It challenged me to keep thinking well beyond what is ordinary and to strive to always go deeper into the dreams I have inside of me. This life is a grand adventure, and God wants us to think big! And so, like Edward Bloom, I am learning to think bigger than my small pond.

Edward Bloom: There’s a time when a man needs to fight, and a time when he needs to accept that his destiny is lost… the ship has sailed and only a fool would continue. Truth is… I’ve always been a fool.

Roman Holiday (1953) (Becoming yourself/Adventure)

Roman Holiday is the perfect antidote for when I feel most constrained by everyday life. It is the story of a love affair between two strangers, a princess and a reporter. Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck are some of my favorite classic actors, and the film is an ode to beautiful Rome, one of my favorite cities in the world. Watching this movie makes me smile at the thought of how I can live a better adventure.

Dr. Bonnachoven: The best thing I know is to do exactly what you wish for a while.

Braveheart (1995) (Freedom/Adventure)

Although Braveheart is far from being historically accurate, it was spot on for inspiration. To watch it is to understand what it means to fight for someone or something you believe in. Braveheart had a big effect on me. I went on to learn more about Scotland and eventually moved there six years later.

William Wallace: Every man dies, not every man really lives.

We Bought a Zoo (2011) (Risk/Adventure)

I have shown some parts of the movie to my daughters so they could get a beautiful glimpse of what courage looks like. This quote captures the essence of not only the movie for most of Cameron Crowe’s films.

Benjamin Mee: You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.

Dead Poet’s Society (1989) (Risk-taking and the value of teaching)

I wrote about Dead Poet’s Society in an earlier post called Raising the Dead Poet’s Society. This movie reminds me that I should be a student of life. The students it portrays are young and eager for life. They are reminders that though I am now in my thirties, I should not lose their spirit. Similarly, the young men of Welton Academy fear failure in the face of their parents sometimes overwhelming expectations. And though today I do not fear the rejection of my parents, I still have fears of failure and often find myself timid and needing a talk from Professor Keating.

Professor John Keating to his students looking at alums from decades ago: They’re not that different from you, are they? Same haircuts. Full of hormones, just like you. Invincible, just like you feel. The world is their oyster. They believe they’re destined for great things, just like many of you, their eyes are full of hope, just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable? Because, you see gentlemen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen, you hear it? – – Carpe – – hear it? – – Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary.

October Sky (1999) (Belief in yourself/Friendship/Father-son relationship)

I wrote about this movie in an earlier post called Being There as a Father in the October Sky. It is one of the best American stories set in the 1950s, and it reminds me that I should never stop dreaming and setting goals.ver stop dreaming and setting goals.

Homer (to his dad): Dad, I may not be the best, but I come to believe that I got it in me to be somebody in this world. And it’s not because I’m so different from you either, it’s because I’m the same. I mean, I can be just as hard-headed, and just as tough. I only hope I can be as good a man as you. Sure, Wernher von Braun is a great scientist? but he isn’t my hero.

Saving Private Ryan (1998) (Sacrifice)

I have a deep appreciation for our military and the sacrifice they make for ordinary Americans like you and me. Saving Private Ryan captures the service of our American military during World War II. It is an inspiration and a reminder to thank any soldier who has served or is currently serving in our military.

Sergeant Horvath: I don’t know. Part of me thinks the kid’s right. He asks what he’s done to deserve this. He wants to stay here, fine. Let’s leave him and go home. But then another part of me thinks, what if by some miracle we stay, then actually make it out of here. Someday we might look back on this and decide that saving Private Ryan was the one decent thing we were able to pull out of this whole godawful, shitty mess. Like you said, Captain, maybe we do that, we all earn the right to go home.

Chariots of Fire (1981) (Strengthening Faith)

This is another movie that captures the beauty of Scotland. I was a young Christian when I first saw Chariots of Fire, and it helped me understand what deep conviction looks like. It is a beautiful portrait of a man Eric Liddel loving his God first; thanking him for the ability to run; and rejoicing in the service of his country, Great Britain, and of his true and eternal King.

Eric Liddel: You came to see a race today. To see someone win. It happened to be me. But I want you to do more than just watch a race. I want you to take part in it. I want to compare faith to running in a race. It’s hard. It requires concentration of will, energy of soul. You experience elation when the winner breaks the tape – especially if you’ve got a bet on it. But how long does that last? You go home. Maybe you’re dinner’s burnt. Maybe you haven’t got a job. So who am I to say, “Believe, have faith,” in the face of life’s realities? I would like to give you something more permanent, but I can only point the way. I have no formula for winning the race. Everyone runs in her own way, or his own way. And where does the power come from, to see the race to its end? From within. Jesus said, “Behold, the Kingdom of God is within you. If with all your hearts, you truly seek me, you shall ever surely find me.” If you commit yourself to the love of Christ, then that is how you run a straight race.

Moneyball (2011) (Overcoming “the way it’s always been done”/business as usual)

As a businessman, I am in a daily battle analyzing what should and should not be done to achieve results. In an ever-changing business world, it is easy to sit in a corner and rely on a comfortable strategy. Anytime I feel stuck in what I am doing in business, I use this movie as a lesson to reject business as usual and take time to strategically think what really needs to happen. On top of that, I am a huge baseball fan, which makes the movie even more enjoyable.

Scout to Billy: We’re all told at some point in time that we can no longer play the children’s game, we just don’t… don’t know when that’s gonna be. Some of us are told at eighteen, some of us are told at forty, but we’re all told.

To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) (Fatherhood/Honor)

Atticus Finch is a man of action eager to do what is just in the eyes of God. What man doesn’t want to be like Atticus Finch? As a father of two daughters, I think often about what it means to stand up for what is right. My children pay close attention to not only my words but, more important, my actions. Therefore, I am thankful to Harper Lee for creating such a wonderful character and to Gregory Peck for bringing that on-screen character to life.

Rev. Sykes: Miss Jean Louise. Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father’s passing.

Honorable mention: 

Rudy, Good Will Hunting, The Pursuit of Happyness, Invictus, Finding Forrester, Rocky, Jerry Maguire, The Way, and Say Anything. I am sure there are many more but these are the ones that stand out.

What are your top 10 most inspirational movies and why? 

Which ones stir your soul and make you want to act?