We all love success stories, and the more rags to riches they are, the better we like them. Is it any wonder that Cinderella is a favorite romantic theme or that stories where the underdog rises up and takes the prize thrill us more than chronicles of a slow and steady progress to winning?
It is in our natures to want to see the small guy make it big. We pull for the down and out fellow to have a turn of luck and find a fortune, we will the plain unlovely girl to become loved, valued and turn into a princess, and we cheer loudly when the cellar-dweller team makes it up to the light of victory. This is heady stuff in entertainment!
Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins comes to DVD on June 17th, and while it isn’t so much a poor boy finding fortune, it is the story of a misfit who has done well, and is having to prove himself yet again to his toughest critics, his family.
Those who come from large families who are emotionally close will recognize the killer blend of love and teasing (torturing or tormenting) that poor Roscoe Jenkins (Martin Lawrence) has endured, and sympathize with the frustration that drove him to become Dr. RJ Stevens, self-help guru, television host and creator of The Team of Me.
Now the question remains, will his family allow him to be Dr. RJ Stevens, Man in Control, or will they love, push, drag, tease, and subdue him into being the less than perfect brother, cousin, father, and man, Roscoe Jenkins.
In talking with friends and family about this movie, a discussion developed about other rags to riches stories. Like other topics, I discovered that “rags to riches” meant different things to each person, and as we talked I could understand the reasoning behind their choices of favorites.
What developed was such a mixed bag of treats it just seemed natural to turn them into a list to share with others. The terms “feel good” and “funny” were mentioned often with these films as well as “made me almost cry” or “I did cry, but in a happy way,” and “applauded,” “cheered” or “laughed out loud” seemed to be primary reasons why people love these films.
Some of these are old, some more recent, and with such a variety, there should be something for everyone. In no particular order, here are our “divisions” and selections.
ROMANTIC RAGS TO RICHES – There were so many of these stories mentioned, I just selected a few that were representative of the types we discussed.
Pretty Woman – This movie starring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere had multiple votes as the best, as viewers adore watching the transformation of a character from good-hearted prostitute to elegant beloved princess.
Cinderella – The Disney classic animation where Cinderella, the downtrodden overworked stepchild is transformed by the magic of a fairy godmother, and goes to the ball as a princess.
Ever After – Drew Barrymore stars as a sympathetic yet strong minded stepchild in this live-action retelling of the Cinderella story. There is a lot of humor, nice costumes and wonderful scenery.
Jane Eyre – There are many filmed versions of this story, the latest from BBC starring Ruth Wilson and Toby Stephens. Plain orphaned Jane begins as a governess, but through her courage and goodness earns love and respect, and even inherits a fortune. Charlotte Bronte purposely created Jane as an unremarkable heroine, and in doing so gave the world one of the best romantic rags to riches stories.
Working Girl – Melanie Griffith and Harrison Ford. This actually ran second to Pretty Woman in our discussions as the best rags to riches romance. A lot of women identify with the Melanie Griffith character and would love to have the chance to run things.
Pride and Prejudice – Again there are many filmed versions of the favorite Jane Austen novel of a great number of people. While technically not a rags to riches story, as the Bennet girls are the daughters of a gentleman, the primary romances and alliances develop with men of great fortune. For an entertaining modern take on the story see Bride and Prejudice, set in India and sprinkled with colorful Bollywood musical numbers.
WINNER'S CIRCLE – Success in sports endeavors are always popular. When combined with heartwarming backstory these become the films many hold in their hearts.
Rudy – Sean Astin made us weep and cheer in his portrayal of a character with great determination to attend Notre Dame and play for the Fighting Irish football team. His devotion to his dream and love of the game of football made this one of the top picks in our group for the little guy getting the glory.
Miracle – This film about the USA Hockey Team’s unexpected win over Russia in the Olympics is the top rags to riches in sports stories.
Chariots of Fire – The inspiring story of two British track athletes preparing for competition during the 1924 Olympics. Ben Cross stars as Harold Abrahams and Ian Charleston stars as Eric Liddell, two men who couldn’t be more different, but whose goals to win are evenly matched. The tag line reads that they will sacrifice anything, except their honor.
Seabiscuit – Tells a story of courage and love, bringing both the jockey played by Tobey Maguire and the horse to the attention of the world. Seabiscuit became a symbol of hope to people during the Depression years.
Bend It Like Beckham – This film was also suggested for the Follow Your Dreams category AND Family category. Jess (Parminder Nagra) is an 18 year old who is very good at soccer and wants to play, but whose traditional parents are pushing her to become a lawyer and settle down with a nice Indian boy. Kiera Knightley stars as Jules another would-be soccer star with troubles of her own.
Hoosiers – Gene Hackman and Barbara Hershey starred in this film about an Indiana school’s basketball success in the 1950’s. It was voted number 13 in the Top 100 American Films from the last 100 years.
The Final Season - Sean Astin again works magic as he plays a coach devoted to leading his baseball team to a final victorious season before the school is closed down.
FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS – It is good to dream big, and work to achieve success. These movies start with a big dream and end with so much more than could be expected in the original idea.
Dreamgirls – Set in the 1960’s and 70’s this story charts the rise of a group The Dreamettes in Motown and their transformation to pop stars as The Dreams. Starring Jamie Foxx, Beyonce Knowles, Jennifer Hudson, Anika Noni Rose and Eddie Murphy. The tag line reads “Fame comes and goes, stars rise and fall, but dreams live forever.”
How She Move – Success in the world may mean trying to achieve one dream to help reach another. Winning the Step Dance prize money will help Raya (Rutina Wesley) with her big dream to go to medical school.
The Unsinkable Molly Brown - Based on the life of the Denver socialite Molly Brown, this musical tells the story of her rise from poor prospector’s daughter to Queen of Denver society. This includes her brave stance as one of the Titanic survivors. Debbie Reynolds and Harve Presnell starred in this lavish and fun musical film.
Enchanted April – The rags in this story are the emotions of four post World War I British women who “escape” to a castle in Italy for a holiday during the month of April. The riches are the calm, beauty and peace they gain from this sojourn. It is a gentle story, but full of healing and power.
FAMILY – Achievement and family as a combination has many facets. Some people are looking for their family, feeling lost or alienated without them, while others are trying to get away and find their true place in the world in spite of their family. Those closest to us can be our strongest champions or our worst adversaries on the road to success.
Oliver – The musical based on Charles Dickens Oliver Twist, tells the story of orphaned pauper Oliver who after many misadventures in the seedy underworld of London is reunited with his true family. Mark Lester is the engaging waif, with wonderful performances by Ron Moody, Shani Wallace and the late Jack Dawkins.
What a Girl Wants – A sweet story of a young woman who simply wants to meet her father, and get to know him. In the process she gains an entire family. Stars Amanda Bynes and Colin Firth as the daughter and father.
Sweet Home Alabama – Reese Witherspoon plays a successful fashion designer, engaged to the son of the mayor of New York, but who returns to her small hometown to ostensibly tell her parents about the engagement. In truth she is still married to her hometown sweetheart who has refused to give her a divorce. Which dream will she pursue.
Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins – Sometimes it seems no matter how successful you are in life, those closest to you won’t recognize your achievements. Roscoe learns the value of real love and being true to yourself.
All in all, success for the little guy is hope for us. If Molly Brown can survive the Titanic, or the Team USA beat the Russians, or Roscoe Jenkins find respect from his family, then we feel we are a step closer to making those big changes for ourselves, finding our fortunes or achieving our greatest dreams.
The film industry has always been a source of these good movies, stories which allow us to escape our reality for a short time, and to come away not only entertained and uplifted, but feeling rejuvenated, or inspired to take up our life battles again and this time succeed. These are just a few, and I’m certain that there are many more to be added to the list.
If we’ve left out your favorite, please add it, as these are some of the most beloved types of films.