Best Movies with Redemption Themes

I love movies where the main character is burned out, or beaten down, or maybe even a bad person, but then that character finds some avenue for redemption in the course of the film. The film usually (but not always) ends on a hopeful note. Let’s compile a list of such movies, shall we?

I’ll start with The Verdict. Paul Newman is a beaten-down, burned-out lawyer. A good case falls into his lap, and he nearly blows it, only to redeem himself at the end in a classic David-vs-Goliath battle against the powerful and corrupt. His closing argument is a great cinematic moment.


not exactly redemption in the happy sense, but still… SLING BLADE

my favorite movie of a villian’s redemption- BLADE RUNNER

2nd- BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA (the Coppolla one)

(I left out one subcategory - films where the main character has been through a horribly traumatic event, but then rebuilds his or her life and finds redemption.)

The Shawshank Redemption. Those last lines always get to me.

“I hope.”

Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven is my favorite movie about redemption, even if I’ve always read the message as being that some are beyond redemption.

Casablanca is arguably a movie about redemption.

Through love. :slight_smile:

The Road To Perdition?

I go with drillrod’s pessimistic reading of Unforgiven: for me, William Munny is beyond redemption. But then, how many people do get it? Does Travis Bickle achieve redemption through his actions? Surely not. And what about The Wild Bunch? Do they get redemption or are they simply wiped out as anachronisms?

This brings me to my second point. I think that Michael Sullivan (Road to Perdition) does get his redemption. But where does the idea that the character has to die to achieve it come from? Certainly it is the very antithesis of the Christian idea, where the Redeemer’s self-sacrifice is supposed to save us all. What is the basis for the idea that death is necessary?

So perhaps the model for a Christian redemption genre is Jules in Pulp Fiction: converted by a miracle, and one of the few “bad guys” who survive the film.

Rain Man

Dustin Hoffman’s Raymond character redeems Tom Cruise’s morally ambiguous Charlie.

American History X, perhaps? With Edward Norton’s character…

Pulp Fiction

Dogma. Assuming that you interpret the ending the same way I do.

Pitch Black.

Vin’s character starts as a cold-blooded killer and turns into a hero who regrets that someone else gave their life to save him.

Monster’s Ball was a great movie about redemption. I loved the ending because I really, really thought their relationship was doomed, and at least 3 times during the movie I thought the film was leading up to a break up based on miscommunication and lack of faith, but Hank and Leticia managed to get through it. Some people thought it was corny or unrealistic, but I thought it was great.

Groundhog Day. Bill Murray should have won some awards for his work there.

It would have to be ‘A Tale of Two Cities’. What more can you give than your life? Other than that it would be ‘The Rakes Progress’.

Jerry Maguire: He doesn’t just just go through a professional redemption (losing all of his clients but one) but he also learns to not be a cold bastard through the love of a woman (and her son). Awww.

I love that movie though. I may have to watch it again.

A really good movie about redemption, with a twist.
The Rapture

(Plus you get to see a lot (and I mean a lot!) of the beautiful and buxom Mimi Rogers!)

Midnight Run is in large part about the redemption of Robert DeNiro’s character.

And then of course in the “redeemed burnout” category (and this being the season) we can’t forget about It’s a Wonderful Life.