Bullying is a serious issue that affects millions of adolescents every year. What else affects and influences kids and teens in such great numbers? Hollywood. While Hollywood has created documentaries and even philanthropic organizations in an effort to end bullying, fictional movies about bullying are also doing their part to reach those who are most affected. There is no single description for a bully, and these five movies reveal different paths that may lead a person to bullying behavior as well as different ways bystanders can be affected by bullying.
Inspired by the parenting book Queen Bees and Wannabes by Rosalind Wiseman, Mean Girls was written for the big screen by Tina Fey. The film became an instant hit and follows high-schooler, Cady Heron (Lindsay Lohan), who moves to the suburbs after growing up in Africa. Oblivious to the quirks of public school, Cady makes friends with the school’s outcasts before being recruited by the popular girls. Regina George, the “Queen Bee” of North Shore High School, is not the type of bully who pushes her foes on the playground. Regina is much more subtle, sucking her schoolmates into her mind games and slowly turning Cady into a clone of herself. Once Cady is called out on her behavior, she realizes that she has become a bully and someone she no longer recognizes. Mean Girls, while a comedy, does a great job of illustrating the evolution of how a good person can become a bully and that it’s never too late for the Regina Georges of the world to change their ways.
Released: April 30, 2004
Director: Mark Waters
Run time: 97 minutes
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Matilda, the precocious character in Roald Dahl’s novel, has been inspiring kids and grownups since the eighties. The story was made into a comedy/fantasy film in 1996. Bullied by her parents as well as by her principal, Matilda slowly learns to stand up for herself. Although Matilda is equipped with powers we only wish we had, her most valuable traits are her compassion and ability to encourage others.
Released: August 2, 1996
Director: Danny DeVito
Run time: 102 minutes
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The teammates who form The Benchwarmers share one thing in common, aside from their un-athleticism, they have all experienced bullying. Viewers soon learn that the player who holds the team together was actually a bully when he was growing up and is trying to make amends with those whose feelings he hurt. The film illustrates the lasting affects of bullying; how it can rob the bullied of their confidence and instill a lingering feeling of regret and sorrow in bullies.
Released: April 7, 2006
Director: Dennis Dugan
Run time: 80 minutes
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Although Harriet the Spy was temporarily a banned book, the film’s message is valuable for bullies and bullied alike. The movie’s protagonist, Harriet, makes it her mission to know everybody’s business and unintentionally became a bully by recording stories that are only half true and shouldn’t be subject to her judgment. When her notebook falls into the wrong hands, Harriet is shunned by her friends and classmates and slowly learns that there are several sides to every story and that even spies need to know when to mind their own business. Harriet the Spy teaches viewers to be cognizant that their judgment and behavior can often affect those around them whether they realize it or not.
Released: July 10, 1996
Director: Bronwen Hughes
Run time: 100 minutes
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Lessons of bullying unfold and expand as we’re getting to know and grow along with Harry, Hermione, and Ron. When the Hogwarts Express arrives at the school of witchcraft and wizardry, Harry meets his nemesis, Draco Malfoy, for the first time. Harry is offered a choice, he can be friends with the red-headed Weasley, or ditch him to become friends with a more prominent and pureblood wizard. Harry’s first opportunity to prove that he would not be prey for bullies was when he chose to be friends with Ron. The three Gryffindors go on to defeat giant spiders, basilisks, and Death Eaters, knowing that they can overcome any obstacle with the support of their friends.
Released: November 16, 2001
Director: Chris Columbus
Run time: 152 minutes
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Whether Hollywood intended for these five movies about bullying to represent their stance on the issue or not, the films teach important lessons that stick with us long after the credits have rolled. Bullying comes in all different forms and recognizing it is just one step in preventing it.
Do you have another favorite movie that incorporates bullying and how to address it? Share in the comments below. Learn more about bullying here, and unite for what’s right throughout National Bullying Prevention Month and beyond.
Featured Images via Paramont Pictures/ Warner Bros. Pictures/ TriStar Pictures