It’s the age of cinematic superheroes like Iron Man and Spider-Man. Their extraordinary powers, well beyond the dreams of us mere mortals, not only protect the world but save it from obliteration over and over again.
However, an altogether more down-to-Earth hero arrives this December in the form of American TV personality Mr Rogers in A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood.
Already the subject of last year’s award-winning documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbour?, he’s now brought to life by Tom Hanks in a performance that’s already generating Oscar buzz.
From 1968 to 2001, Mr Rogers’ Neighbourhood was a children’s TV show teaching qualities such as tolerance, sharing and generally good behaviour and Rogers himself, a Presbyterian minister off screen, came to exemplify everything he promoted in the show.
The movie explores the making of the show, as Rogers is profiled by cynical journalist Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys). And perhaps we need more of that homespun goodness right now.
Ahead of the film’s release, here are a few movie favourites who bring out the best in everybody.
1. George Bailey – It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)
One of life’s true good guys, George always puts other people before himself, which means his family takes precedence over his own ambitions.
So tolerant and patient is he that when his foolish old uncle ruins him financially, he still doesn’t lose his rag. Most others would have had a very different reaction.
All of which makes him sound almost too gratingly good to be true, yet we still believe he deserves his reward, the proverbial happy ending.
After all, he’s had his tragedies and sadness, all of which culminate in him wishing he’d never been born – and that’s where his story starts. But, as guardian angel Clarence reminds him, "no man is a failure who has friends".
And thanks to James Stewart’s breathtakingly moving performance, we’re invested in George all the way.
2. Atticus Finch – To Kill A Mockingbird (1962)
Who wouldn’t want noble lawyer Atticus as their dad? True, his sense of justice means he ensures black man Tom Robinson gets a fair hearing, regardless of the colour of his skin, and the strength of his convictions helps him stand tall against small town opposition.
But his real goodness shows on a more personal level, as a devoted single father to his children. He respects them, never talks down to them and gives them a moral framework on which to base their lives.
Gregory Peck embodies all those qualities in his Oscar-winning performance, standing up for what’s right in public and private, and crafting one of the best-loved father figures in cinema history.
3. Superman/Clark Kent – Superman: The Movie (1978)
Yes, OK, we know he’s a superhero – but that’s only half his story. For many, Christopher Reeve will forever be Superman/Clark Kent and nobody has ever quite matched him.
The Biblical overtones of Clark’s Smallville upbringing are the starting point for the wisdom that both he, and his alter ego, display in adult life. Beneath Clark’s shy exterior and Superman’s all-powerful one, there’s the self-doubt that goes with an isolated upbringing, yet there’s all the reassurance and strength that we expect of a superhero.
As the film progresses, he comes to understand the depth of his responsibilities, making Supes one of the most relatable and decent of all comic book characters.
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4. Ellen Ripley – Alien (1979)
Ripley’s a rare breed. She’s heroic and pure of heart, and proved to be a ground-breaking character upon her arrival in Ridley Scott’s sci-fi horror masterpiece.
Sure, she’s tough and keeps her inherent tenderness under wraps most of the time, but her combined strength and warmth shines through, particularly when we get to 1986 sequel Aliens. And that maternal instinct of hers is so powerful that she stops at nothing to defend those she loves.
Thanks to Sigourney Weaver’s star-making performance, the character attracts love and respect in equal measure.
5. Forrest Gump – Forrest Gump (1994)
Forrest arrived in the world, and on our screens, 25 years ago with the odds stacked against him.
Raised by a single mum with little money, school proves a struggle and his crooked spine means he has to wear leg braces – but breaking out of them is perhaps the best thing that ever happens to him.
He discovers his talent for running really fast and charges through life (literally and figuratively), never allowing personal misfortune, tragedy among his friends and family and the tumultuous global events to get to him.
He sticks to what he believes was right, no matter the cost, and his sincerity and commitment to those he loves makes him both sympathetic and funny at the same time.
Tom Hanks won his second Oscar for his portrayal of the likeable Gump, and it was a highly-deserved accolade.
6. Erin Brockovich – Erin Brockovich (2000)
Julia Roberts’ Erin shares some similarities with the tenacious Ripley. However, the key difference is Erin is based on a real person who also puts in a cameo appearance in Steven Soderbergh’s critically acclaimed drama.
As depicted in the movie, crusading activist Erin is a complete one-off, but with more than a touch of Atticus Finch’s sense of right and wrong as well. Fiercely independent and determined that her clients will get the justice they so richly deserve, there’s a maternal quality in the way she protects them and shares in their pain and eventual triumph.
Who cares if she’s a little proud, stubborn even? The goodness in her nature always prevails.
Freda Cooper is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.