7 Movies That Represent American Culture

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Modern Times (1936)

The opening title card of the film says, “Modern Times: a story of industry, of individual enterprise, humanity crusading in the pursuit of happiness.” Modern Times is about the pursuit of the American Dream.

Citizen Kane (1941)

Citizen Kane is the story of the American Dream and its fickle nature. The film is about the rise and fall of the newspaper magnate Charles Foster Kane.

West Side Story (1961)

One of the most popular American musicals, West Side Story is a reimagining of Romeo and Juliet with gangs, racial tensions and lots of dancing. The film beautifully addresses the immigrant struggle in the country, especially in song aptly called 'America'.

Do The Right Thing (1989)

Spike Lee explores the complexity of the symbiotic racial and class tensions in urban spaces and the difficulty in navigating it.

American Beauty (1999)

Sam Mendes's satire of American suburbia is a surgical and empathetic look at the pressure of maintaining the image of the perfect American suburban family and the dysfunction that hides under it.

Mystery Train (1989)

A Japanese tourist couple comes to Graceland, a widow sees the ghost of Elvis and a gang tries to rob a liquor store. Mystery Train is Jim Jarmusch's ode to small town America, the bygone era of rock and roll and the love for American pop-culture.

Paris is Burning (1990)

One of the most intense and moving documentaries about the ballroom and voguing subculture of New York in the 80s. It shows the African American and Hispanic drag queens, transgender women, and gay men come face to face with discrimination, violence, poverty, and the AIDS epidemic and face it with joy, love and perseverance.

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