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6 Movies like The Green Mile: Magical Realism

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Dale Barham itcherAs awesome as they are, you don’t always need Harry Potter or Gandalf to make a film about magic. Movies like ‘The Green Mile’, ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ and ‘Groundhog Day’ have all the elements of magical realism. Heck, they even throw in an extra slice of poignancy – check ‘em out! ~ Dale Barham


As a firm optimist, I believe that there is magic to be found in this crazy little world of ours. Films like The Green Mile take that to the next level within their own subgenre of magical realism.

To put it simply, movies with elements of magical realism are these are set in the real world and deal with real problems. However, they also contain an element of the fantastical and unbelievable. In The Green Mile, for example, this comes in the form of John Coffey, a man who has the amazing ability to heal any affliction with a extraordinary gift. But he also faces execution for a crime he did not commit.

As he bonds with the guards on death row, they realise he may not be the killer the state says he is, and that they may have to kill an innocent man with a beautiful gift.

In this case, magic serves as a yardstick against which all the other characters weigh their ethics and morality.

In other movies, magic can be used as a metaphor or an ambiguous, dream-like feature. Whatever the form, it has to be said that magic is always intriguing and never fails to inspire.

Let’s get cracking!


Movies Similar to ‘The Green Mile’…

‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ (Guillermo Del Toro, 2006)

When young Ofelia moves to the Spanish countryside with her mother during the Civil War, she finds herself caught in the middle of a brutal back and forth between the guerilla freedom fighters and her new stepfather, a ruthless fascist named Captain Vidal. While there, Ofelia discovers a labyrinth (with the help of some fairies) where an ancient faun dwells; a faun who holds the secret to her reclaiming her place as princess of a magical kingdom.

Sinister and beautiful all at the same time, ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ is a cinematic fairy tale I recommend everybody watches at least once. This is filmmaking at its most original and spellbinding.

Similarity Match: 70%
Like ‘The Green Mile’, you’ve got a historical setting interjected with a touch of magic, only this time questions can be raised on whether or not that magic is actually real.

‘Midnight’s Children’ (Deepa Mehta, 2012)

Based on Salman Rushdie’s incredible (read: perfect) novel, ‘Midnight’s Children’ tells the fascinating story of two children who are swapped at birth during the precise moment India gained its independence. As they both lead lives destined for the other, they find themselves growing up in a country that is radically different from that of the previous generation.

The movie was never going to live up to the book, but it’s still a fascinating story and definitely worth a watch for anybody interested in Indian history, fate or simply beautiful cinematography.

Similarity Match: 65%
The magic is just as miraculous as it is in ‘The Green Mile’ but it blends into the everyday life of the characters a lot more seamlessly. This is more of an alternative retelling of history rather than a fantastical tale.

‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’ (Benh Zeitlin, 2012)

Set in a ramshackled Louisiana bayou community, ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’ tells the story of a little girl called Hushpuppy who has to deal with her stern father’s ill health, the devastating effects melting ice caps on her little town and finding her long lost mother.

Meanwhile, a bunch of mythical Auroch’s (they’re like giant hogs) are set free from their frozen Arctic tomb by climate change and are headed straight for Hushpuppy in the bayou.

I whinged like a baby during this movie, from the beginning scene, right through until the end credits. Maybe I was feeling overly sentimental that day, or maybe it really is that moving!

Similarity Match: 55%
You’ve got the southern setting like in ‘The Green Mile’, but the magic element is a lot more understated and abstract this time round.

‘Groundhog Day’ (Harold Ramis, 1993)

When a grumpy and irritable news reporter (Bill Murray) is snowed in in a town he hates to cover a stupid story about a groundhog who can predict the weather, he just wants the day to be over. But it seems as if the gods are in a mischievous mood, as they decide to make him relive the day over and over and over and over and…you get the picture!

Stuck in this nightmarish time loop, he starts to use the unique situation to his advantage. He gets to know his attractive new coworker (very well in fact), learns a whole bunch of skills (the dude can kick serious butt on the piano) and even tries to kill himself in every way possible. How can he break this incessant spell? Will he ever see the light of a new day?

Watch the movie and find out!

Similarity Match: 50%
You’ve got a magic element that seems to be teaching somebody a lesson, although it isn’t embodied in a person this time. There’s another intriguing and original concept here, but this is a comedy first and foremost.


If You Like ‘The Green Mile’, You Will Like…

Apart from being a movie with more than a hint of magic realism, ‘The Green Mile’ is also an adaptation from the work of the endlessly imaginative, Stephen King.

Although he’s known primarily for his work in the horror genre, he’s also proven time and time again that he can whip up a story with an emphasis on heart, relationships and real human emotion. You see, it’s not all blood and guts!

Here are two more King adaptations with said themes.

‘The Shawshank Redemption’ (Frank Darabont, 1994)

Based on a short story by Stephen King entitled ‘Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption’, this movie tells the story of Andy Dufresne, a man wrongfully convicted of murdering his wife and her lover, who is sent to a tough prison where he struggles to survive amongst the inmates. While there, he forges a strong bond with a small group of prisoners, and strikes up a deal with the Bible toting psycho of a warden to make his time a little bit easier.

But we all know he’s only got one thing on his mind: escape this hellhole and reclaim your freedom!

Both movies are prison epics with morality and human conscience at the forefront of their storytelling, but you’ll find less literal magic here.

‘Stand by Me’ (Rob Reiner, 1986)

Adapted from Stephen King’s ‘The Body’, ‘Stand by Me’ is about four young boys growing up in Oregon who hear word that there is a missing corpse hidden somewhere way off in the woods. As they set off down the train tracks to find the human remains, they learn more and more about each other: where they’ve come from in a familial sense, their fears and their joys. Although they don’t realise it at the time, this adventure might just prove to be life changing for all of them.

With an emphasis on growing up and the importance of your childhood bonds, ‘Stand by Me’ is a seminal coming of age drama that should be compulsory viewing for everybody.

Once again bonds are forged and solidified by an amazing adventure or fantastical event, but the focus is on children this time rather than inmates and guards.


Do You Believe in Magic?

So there you have it, six movies that are designed to move every fibre of your being into giving a damn about something. I’ve no doubt you’ll shed at least one tear during the end of this movie marathon. Who knows you might even stumble across magic like this in the real world yourself one day. I’ve still got my fingers crossed that it’s out there!

Have you got any suggestions to add to the list?

Let me know in the comments section below!

Hi, I’m Dale and I’m a Blu-Ray addict. When I’m not obsessively fixating over the ever-growing mountain of movies taking up most of the front room, I’m usually writing about all things Hollywood. Go figure, huh? If I’m not glued to the television watching ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ for the billionth time, you can probably find me crooning in my hard-rocking blues band or having inane conversations with the resident cats.
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