Financial independence. Early retirement. Minimalism. They all go hand in hand yet are sometimes difficult to convey to others. As an avid movie viewer I love seeing a good film that I can relate to. As I’ve recently begun my quest towards early retirement, as well as minimalism, I was thinking about some of the movies that I enjoy watching and how they’ve shaped my thoughts on saving, budgeting, and retirement. Because of this I’ve made a list of my 5 favorite movies that I often turn to when thinking about the subjects of minimalism and financial independence. Although they may not relate to everyone, I think they do a good job of showing that in life you need to do what you’re passionate about, not what others think you should be doing. Please keep in mind that I’m only listing movies which I have seen and that have also had an impact on me. If you know of a great movie that has made you wish to reach financial independence sooner, or that promotes minimalism, please let me know and I’ll check it out. In a way there are many movies that could be listed if it’s about someone following their passion in life, decluttering their lives, or trying to quit the rat race. Without further ado let’s get into my top five movies that have made me want to think twice about spending money on things and to instead live a more minimalistic, mindful life.
5 - Everything Must Go. (2010, R, Comedy/Drama) Starring Will Ferrell, Michael Pena, Rebecca Hall
In this (relatively) low budget, and also underrated film, Will Ferrell plays a very different role than in prior comedies. Nick Halsey (Will Ferrell) is a traveling salesman who has battled alcoholism most of his adult life. Although successful in his sales position several events have led Nick to become under scrutiny at work. Early into the movie we learn that Nick has come across the perfect storm as he is let go from his job and his wife is leaving him that same day. Nick comes home to find all of his belongings on the front lawn and the locks to the house changed. As his credit cards are temporarily shut off Nick has no source of income other than to sell his physical belongings. No longer the free-spirited jokester that we’re used to seeing Will portray, he does a great job of balancing his comedy with the seriousness of the situation he has created for himself in the film. Often depressing at times, the movie shows just how many material items a typical household can obtain in a short amount of time. In fact, there are times in the movie where it seems as though Nick has no idea what he is even selling at his own yard sale. Although this movie isn’t the typical laughable film that we’re used to it does showcase just how little the physical things in life will contribute to a person’s happiness.
4 - Office Space. (1999, R, Comedy) Starring Ron Livingston, Jennifer Aniston, Stephen Root
Peter Gibbons (Ron Livingston) is a frustrated programmer working in corporate America. He’s unmotivated by his work and hates the thought of continuing the rat race into the future. After seeing a hypnotherapist one evening he wakes up relaxed and worry free. It seems like Peter has a newfound passion for life and it doesn’t include working the routine 9 to 5. Although he puts in less effort than before he saw the hypnotherapist, he ends up getting promoted and making more money than his peers, even though he couldn’t care less. If you have seven seconds to spare, check out the clip from the movie below. Leading up to the scene Peter tells his neighbor that if he had a million dollars he would do nothing. What the neighbor responds with is something that some financial independence seekers seem to think.
Overall Office Space is a comedy classic. Although it really doesn’t promote minimalism and financial independence all that much, the scenes do show just how awful corporate America can be at times. And for that reason it is good enough to land the #4 spot on my list.
3 - The Family Man. (2000, PG-13, Comedy/Drama) Starring Nicholas Cage, Don Cheadle, Tea Leoni
Jack Campbell (Nicholas Cage) plays a Wall Street executive who thinks he is living the high life in New York City. He has a great job (on the surface), plenty of money, and plenty of costly toys. When his guardian angel shows him an alternate life that he could have had if only he didn’t have a one-track mind he is initially very put off. In this life, where he lives in a modest house in New Jersey, he doesn’t make a boatload of money, nor does he have the cars and suits of his prior life. He is, however, fortunate enough to have a steady job, a family that loves him unconditionally, and several good buddies. When Jack is given his actual life back from the guardian angel will he continue to go after money or will he try to make a shift and instead prioritize his happiness? With a star studded cast and a plot that can relate to millions of people I found this film did a great job at inspiring balance in people’s lives. This film teaches people that money isn’t everything and by neglecting certain areas of your life you can greatly reduce your happiness unexpectedly. Too often we see people so focused on their career that they lose time for friends and family. This film shows that money cannot buy happiness and has also caused me to take a step back and focus on what’s truly important to me.
2 - Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things (2015, Documentary) Starring Dan Harris, Joshua Becker, Shannon Whitehead
Quickly developing a cult-like following, this inspirational documentary takes the viewer inside the lives of several different people, all of whom have been searching their lives for something that they just couldn’t put their finger on. Eventually they all landed on a similar realization. Minimalism was the answer to decluttering their lives and finding an enhanced level of satisfaction within themselves. If you have any questions at all about what minimalism is then I would recommend you check this documentary out. It does a great job at answering the question of what minimalism is, as well as how can one accomplish it. Many of you are probably wondering how a post talking about the 5 best films related to minimalism can NOT put this at #1. I agree that this documentary has made me want to change my lifestyle and get rid of excess belongings, however, I just enjoyed the #1 film a little too much to remove it from the top spot.
1 – Into the Wild. (2007, R, Drama) Starring Emile Hirsch, Kristen Stewart, Vince Vaughn
This 2007 film directed by Sean Penn, which is based on Jon Krakauer's 1996 non-fiction book of the same name, takes viewers on a journey from the city of Atlanta to the wilderness of Alaska, with several adventures in between. Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch) has recently graduated near the top of his class, from the prestigious Emory University in Atlanta, and is destined for success in the conventional sense. It seems as though he has what most people his age are striving for, future financial prosperity in exchange for entering the corporate world. His parents were successful in their own time and believe they’ve been great parents to Christopher as they’ve always been able to give him the things that money is capable of buying. Unfortunately for them, Chris has his own blueprint for his future and nowhere in it does it include being a puppet to society. Instead Chris ventures out west, taking his rusty, yellow Datsun on its final road trip. Through encounters with unforgettable people, beautiful scenery, and conflict within his own mind he determines that he truly was not meant for life in the traditional sense. Instead he was meant to live a very simplistic lifestyle and enjoy what has already been created in nature. Although he doesn’t seem to care about cultivating relationships it’s obvious that Chris is a truly good person and leaves lasting impressions on anyone he comes across. As Christopher’s adventures get increasingly risky he finds himself deep in the Alaskan wilderness. Will he be able to save himself before it’s too late? Although somewhat long, Into the Wild is a great film that I highly recommend to adults. Everyone can gain something from it and if you’re at all into hiking and the wilderness then this is a film for you. Not to mention the clip below should resonate with some of you minimalists.
What are your thoughts on my top 5? Did any of these movies help shape your attitude towards minimalism or financial independence? If not, do you have any movies you think I should watch?