5 Great Movies of Struggle and Triumph

Lili’s Picks:

5 Great Movies of Struggle and Triumph

By Lili Baehr, Contributing Writer

Movies are designed to move emotions. Filmmakers take you on a trip with the intent of playing with your heart. Some, like THE SOUND OF MUSIC, flood your heart with joy. Some, like MISSION IMPOSSIBLE, keep you on the edge of your seat feeling tense. My favorite movies take your heart on a journey where a dignified person must struggle to survive brutal assaults on their dignity. I love to see dignity stand tall. My heart reaches out wishing I could help, but sitting in a theater seat you can do nothing but sympathize. If the filmmakers are great, it can be a life-touching emotional experience just to sympathize.

Four of my favorites movies relate to people put under pressure in World War II. The fifth is in the Civil War. War puts people under extraordinary pressure.


In PARADISE ROAD, a diverse group of women captured while trying flee the Japanese conquest of Asia during World War II must survive in a Japanese prison camp in Sumatra. To maintain dignity, one missionary woman joins with a society matron to form a group from the other female prisoners to sing a Dvorak symphony when instruments are unavailable. The women show great courage in the face of incredibly harsh treatment. PARADISE ROAD was made by Bruce Beresford, who also made DRIVING MISS DAISY.


EMPIRE OF THE SUN is one of Steven Spielberg’s least profitable movies, but in my opinion, his best. It features a young Christian Bale as a prim and proper English boy named Jamie in China when the Japanese struck. He goes from high society to a Japanese prison camp without his family. It’s a coming-of-age-in-the-midst-of-war movie. When the war ends, Jamie has experienced far too much to be a child again.


TEA WITH MUSSOLINI is a semi-autobiography movie made by Franco Zeffirelli (JESUS OF NAZARETH on television). It is about a group of English and American women in Italy as Benito Mussolini gained power and decided to side with the Germans. The lives of the ladies deteriorate with their growing political disfavor. As the Allies approach, the ladies join together to protect and educate a motherless child, whose biological father rejects him. The boy Luca represents Zeffirelli, who in the movie grows up to save the women who saved him. I have to note that there are many mature elements in this movie, so be careful.


THE PIANIST is World War II in Poland. It won several Academy Awards. It is about a Jewish pianist buffeted by the demise of his good life. With difficulty, he manages to hide through much of World War II. The movie just goes to the depth of my being, when a German, would could have arrested him, loved his playing of a piano and help him survive the war. The music at the end of the movie is almost too moving to describe.


GLORY is a gut-wrenching look at a company of black soldiers in the Union Army. While the union did fight and win a war that ended slavery, it was not because all people from the North considered blacks their equals. In GLORY, the black soldiers had to fight to earn respect before they could fight for their own freedom. My heart was touched by their dedication, persistence and sacrifice.


I don’t expect everyone to share my taste in movies. Each of the above movies are for brave moviegoers. They are not light entertainment, but it stirs my heart to see stories of real people who stood the test of difficult circumstances.

I wish more movies showed the role faith plays in difficult times. When you know Jesus Christ, you know He will never leave you or forsake you. You can cling to the promise that, “all things work together for good of those who are called according to His purpose.” We don’t always understand how, but we know it does. Seeing people stand tall when they’re being beaten down helps me stand. It makes me want to stand on behalf of others going through difficult times.

At Movieguide®, we stand with those who want more of heaven on earth in the entertainment industry. It’s not always been easy, but we’re seeing the Allies arrive. The industry is changing. More and more filmmakers want to see heaven on earth. Sometimes I feel like one of the characters in my favorite movies. The darkness is almost over. I see my heroes coming. I’m so happy.

If you want more entertaining movies with powerful messages, please read my husband Ted’s latest book  REEL TO REAL: 45 Movie Devotions for Families, which you can buy on amazon.com

Also, for reviews of the latest movies and entertainment, click here.