The Art of CinemaTherapy

What I Learned From the Movies  

Home Therapist Directory Links to Counseling Resources Online Counseling Advertise on FMC About The FMC Directory

By: Dr. Noah H. Kersey Ph.D.

Growing up in the fifties and sixties, my two favorite things to do were to read comic books and go to the movies at a downtown theatre, which was long before we had video games, personal computers, or DVDs.

I learned from comics that I wanted to be like the superheroes, especially ‘Superman', because they always helped people who were in trouble. At the theatre, it was like magic, the smell of popcorn and the thrill of escape from the doldrums of reality and into the world of adventure.

Reaching adulthood, I became a Christian and reading my Bible became a high priority. I gained a great deal of comfort reading Proverbs and Psalms. It soothed my fears and helped me feel closer to God, which is something I always wanted. I had my favorite Bible verses, like Philippians 4:6 "Be anxious for nothing……" and Psalms 46:10 "Be still and know that I am God….".

However, I still have a fervent passion for movies and I find that when I can't get someone to read a book for their own personal growth and development, I can always get them to watch a good movie.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from great movies I have seen and what I learned from them:

"It is only at the end of a man's life when he realizes how important his decisions were at the beginning".
-The King of Denmark from "The Prince & Me"

The wisdom of this statement hit me squarely between the eyes.

In our youth, we make decisions all the time not giving much thought as to how it will affect us later in life. When we, as elders, try to share some of our hard earned wisdom with our children, they look at us as if we were from another planet.

"Let us learn to show our friendship for a man when he's alive, not after he's dead".
-Meyer Wolfsheim from "The Great Gatsby"

This conveys to me that we should not take our friendships for granted. We should honor a friend while they are alive and do things for them now. It is too late, once they have passed away, to show them how much we cared about them in this lifetime.

"Life changes because it has to."
-from "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants"

This is a great reminder for those of us who stay stuck in our ways, or worse, stuck in the past. I have always promoted that we should "learn from the past, live in the present, and hope for the future". This can be much harder to do than it sounds but, nevertheless, its good advice.

"And don't forget….. don't ever forget. You've promised to become a new man, Jean Valjean, my brother. You no longer belong to evil. With this silver, I've bought your soul. I've ransomed you from fear and hatred. Now I give you back to God."
-Monsignor from "Les Miserables"

When I heard this passage it gave me ‘goose bumps' because it was so powerful.

I learned that incredible kindness can win over evil and a hardened heart. Jean Valjean spent the rest of his life making sacrifices for others, showing great kindness for his fellow man (and woman). This movie was very inspiring about demonstrating the extreme contrast between human cruelty and human kindness. Ultimately, kindness trumps cruelty in the end.

"You can't have living without dying. Don't be afraid of death…… be afraid of the ‘unlived life'"
-Angus Tuck from "Tuck Everlasting"

I found these to be powerful words since so many of us fear death. We can be so overwhelmed with this fear that we forget to enjoy the life that we have. Life is so very short and too precious to waste.

"You got to get busy living or get busy dying"
-Andy Dufresne from "The Shawshank Redemption"

It is easy to allow life's hardships to paralyze us into immobility where we do nothing and accomplish nothing. In a sense, if we are not busy with life, then spiritually and emotionally, we are dying. Andy chose to get busy living.

"Never wrestle with a pig…… you both get dirty, only the pig likes it"
-from "Good Advice"

From this statement, we learn that we have to be careful with whom we do battle. Some folks thrive on conflict and very little peace can be found in their relationships. We must "avoid loud and aggressive persons, for they are vexations to the spirit" [from the poem, Desiderata].

"I would rather have thirty minutes of ‘wonderful' than a lifetime of ‘nothing special'."
-Shelby from "Steel Magnolias"

Even though Shelby was putting her health at risk to have a baby, she still wanted the experience and joy of having a child even if it meant she would not live as long. The desire to procreate and to parent is a very powerful one. I think she made a very profound and cogent argument for having children, or doing something great for a moment rather than to "live the unlived life".

"My momma always said, ‘you got to put the past behind you before you can move on'."
-Forrest from "Forrest Gump"

Sometimes we are bogged down by events from our past and it can be difficult to move on with our lives because we can not escape it. Often we do have to deal with our apperceptions, that is, the way we perceive ourselves, the world, and others, based on our earlier emotional experiences.

"Its not who you are underneath, its what you do that defines you."
-Rachel Dawes from "Batman Begins"

This statement reminds me of the old adage, "you have to be careful about your thoughts because your thoughts become your words. You have to be careful about what you say, because your words become your actions. You have to be careful about what you do, because your actions become your habits, and you have to be careful about your habits because, collectively, your habits become your character." Your thoughts, words, actions, and habits are behaviors that define who you are and what your ‘character' will be.

"Now I have no choice….. God put you in my way."
-Harry from "The Four Feathers"

Often times, God will place people in our path, either to help them, or to have them help us. It is a responsibility that the Lord gives us when someone comes into our lives. We cannot shun that duty.

"You haven't really lived unless you have something to regret."
-Dr. Blalock from "Something The Lord Has Made"

We all make mistakes and a part of living is doing things that we regret. I heard this as a strong statement about the human condition of sin. Not that we should set out to do wrong, but that because we are imperfect, we are bound to make mistakes and, hopefully, we will regret those mistakes and ask for forgiveness.

"Every man is going to die……. Its what you do before dying that's important."
-from "Vertical Limit"

Another interesting statement about how we live our life that defines us. The message is, don't waste what time you have. Make the most of living and do things to help other people. This, and God, is what gives our lives meaning.

"Nothing wrong with old age…….. as long as you get there."
-Julia Sullivan from "Frequency"

Entering into the final stages of our lives is not easy. Aging can be difficult as our bodies begin to breakdown and we cannot do the things that we once did. People who age gracefully with a positive attitude tend to live longer than folks who wallow in self-pity, and negative thinking.

A friend of mine once said that she did not mind growing older, because the "alternative was much worse." She was right.

So, I have gained much from watching movies. As many people are, I know I am a visual learner.

After twenty-four years of reading books for public school and four colleges, sometimes it's just nice to lean back and watch a good movie, especially those that will illustrate one of life's many lessons.

Finally, another of my favorite Bible verses is one that I instructed my wife to someday place on my headstone, at the time of my death. The verse reads:

"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."
- 1 Timothy 4:7

From movies, or from scripture, there is a great deal about life to learn from watching and reading.

Dr. Kersey has been providing mental health services since 1977 and provides services for individuals, couples, families as well as groups. He has a special interest in areas of co-dependent relationships, adoption issues, marital therapy, as well as stress of life issues. Dr. Kersey is a licensed psychologist and has been practicing in Indiana since 1987. You may contact him at his website:

Get The FMC Directory "Help Guide" via Email:



Home - Therapist Directory - Resources - Online Counseling - Books - Divorce Resources
Articles Archive -  Advertise - About FMC - Disclaimer - Privacy Policy - Terms of Use - Sitemap

The Family & Marriage Counseling Directory (TM) © Copyright 2003 - 2013