Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Thursday Movie Picks Meme: Movies With an Ensemble Cast

So in keeping with Wanderer's Thursday Movie Picks Meme, I'm supposed to list three movies based on a common theme. Last week, we looked at Stephen King adaptations and I presented three films based not based on his horror writing. This week the theme is ensemble casts. 

These are certainly interesting movies, where there isn't a definitive protagonist but rather several different people with equal significance. Even when there is one "protagonist" it's usually only defined by some specific circumstance. In Alien, the only thing that really made Ripley qualify as the protagonist was the fact that she's the only one still alive when the credits roll (though she took a more central role in the sequels).

I've written a few pieces that use such a group of characters myself, so I respect stories that can pull it off. Now, for the list, there was one option that seemed immediately obvious, and two more that were harder to decide. Here is what I've come up with:

The Thing (1982)

A list like this would hardly be complete without John Carpenter's greatest masterpiece, in which 12 very distinct men are gradually turned against each other. Nobody is spared, nobody is innocent. What makes the movie so terrifying is the knowledge that anybody could be infected, and unlike 1951's The Thing From Another World, there is no brave hero to organize the men. All they have is terror and paranoia, the same feelings which pass onto the audience. You have no idea who to root for, who you can trust and who you can't, you just have to figure it out on your own.

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)

This is definitely one of those films that leaves you to question where you stand from a moral perspective. The three main characters each react differently to their successful discovery of gold: Howard is the level-headed man who tries to keep order, Dobbs becomes greedy and wants the gold for himself, and poor Curtin is constantly stuck in the middle. Each one represents a different extreme, and all become necessary to make the story work.

Zulu (1964)

This is certainly an ensemble cast if there was one. We follow so many different people there's some who never interact directly, and just about everyone has their own plotline. You've got the two commanding officers Chard and Bromhead, at least two different pairs of soldiers under their command: Hook and Williams and Owen and Thomas; Colour Sergeant Bourne making sure the orders are carried out, the missionary Otto Witt who wants to evacuate the station (during the first half at least), along with several other soldiers and officers. 

Now you could make a case that Chard and Bromhead are the protagonists seeing as they're the ones who lead the charge (though even then they'd be more like co-protagonists), but the victory that is ultimately achieved is very much a team effort.


  1. I still haven't seen Zulu. Sounds interesting. The other two are both great choices. If I were choosing my top ensemble movies, 12 Angry Men would have to be included.

    1. Oh, I forgot about 12 Angry Men. That would have been a good choice.

    2. Zulu is a great movie worth your time if you get the chance.

  2. I've only seen The Thing out of your picks and I didn't even think about The Thing as an ensemble...great choice.

    1. Well, not so much Thing From Another World or the 2011 prequel, but the original is definitely an ensemble piece. Thanks.