It’s taken nearly 40 years, but I finally have a worthy competitor as my answer to the question, “What’s your favorite movie?”
Since 1981, it has always been Chariots of Fire, a British historical drama film that tells the fact-based story of two athletes in the 1924 Olympics: Eric Liddell, a devout Scottish Christian who runs for the glory of God, and Harold Abrahams, an English Jew who runs to overcome prejudice. It was nominated for seven Academy Awards and won four, including Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay. It is ranked 19th in the British Film Institute’s list of Top 100 British films. For me, it was an inspirational look at the power of sports to bring out the best in people. The film is also notable for its memorable electronic theme tune by Vangelis, who won the Academy Award for Best Original Score. I’m not sure how big of a hit is was at the box office, but I think many people will recognize the classic opening scene, which I find more iconic than Rocky running up the step of the Philadelphia Art Museum (which is also incredible):
So what movie would I rank right up there with Chariots?
Blinded by the Light, a 2019 British comedy-drama film directed by Gurinder Chadha. (I guess I have a thing for British movies.)
The film is inspired by the life of journalist Sarfraz Manzoor and his love of the works of Bruce Springsteen. Manzoor co-wrote the script, with Chadha and Paul Mayeda Berges. It is based on Manzoor’s memoir Greetings from Bury Park: Race, Religion and Rock N’ Roll. Set in the town of Luton in 1987 Thatcherite Britain, the film tells the coming-of-age story of Javed, a British-Pakistani Muslim teenager whose life is changed after he discovers the music of Springsteen.
I realize I went into the movie a bit biased, being a huge Springsteen fan, but the movie was just so much better than even I expected. I was in tears several times throughout the movie, the result of the power of music to make us feel our deepest emotions.
If you are a teacher, a writer, a parent, a child, a music lover, or a dreamer, then this movie is a must-see.
We see how impactful a word or two of encouragement from a teacher can be, how powerful the written word can be (both for good and evil), how important family is, how joyful and inspirational music can be, and the power of pursuing your dreams.
And it goes without saying that if you are a fan of Springsteen, then you should stop reading this post right now and go see the movie.
I’m not going to try to compete with movie-critics who have already given it rave reviews, some of which I’ll share here, courtesy of Wikipedia:
- On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 91% based on 161 reviews, with an average rating of 7.44/10. The site’s consensus reads: “Like a life-affirming rock anthem, Blinded by the Light hits familiar chords with confidence and flair, building to a conclusion that leaves audiences cheering for an encore.”
- On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 71 out of 100, based on 44 critics, indicating “generally favorable reviews”.
- Johnny Oleksinski of The New York Post calls it “the feel-good movie of the year”.
- Jordan Ruimy of The Playlist calls it “one of the most joyous and exhilarating movies you will see this year”.
- Leah Greenblatt of Entertainment Weekly calls it an ode to “the power of music”.
- Anthony Ray Bench of Film Threat calls it “a feel-good movie that tackles a bunch of tough topics, from politics, race, family traditions, social frustrations, and romance” yet “never feels preachy or overly cheesy.”
- Adam Chitwood of Collider calls it “a rapturously joyous, heartfelt, and genuinely insightful film not just about The Boss, but about the personal nature and power of music.”
- Owen Gleiberman of Variety calls it “the sort of unguarded drama they used to make in the ‘80s — a coming-of-age tale of unabashed earnestness — but it’s also a delirious and romantic rock ‘n’ roll parable” that is “a more incandescent ode to the life force of pop music than any film ever adapted from the work of Nick Hornby.”
- Bedatri Datta Choudhury of Vague Visages says that, while “Springsteen takes the American dream and helps everyone navigate through its dismantling,” Chadha “makes it speak to an entirely different country and a whole new generation.”
My favorite Springsteen song is Thunder Road (you can watch my feeble attempt to sing the opening lines), and I was hoping that it would be included in the film, and it turned out to be one of the highlights. I don’t think I’ll ever listen to Thunder Road again without thinking about the scene at the marketplace. That scene alone is worth the price of admission.
There’s also a great scene featuring the classic song, Born to Run. It reminded me a bit of when Jimmy Fallon hosted the Emmy Awards and the show opened with a tribute to Born to Run. As great as this skit is, the one from the movie is on a different level.
Hopefully, by now you’ve been convinced to go see Blinded by the Light; if you need a bit more encouragement, here’s the trailer. It’s a movie we were Born to Run to.