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Ten Top Films About Homelessness

As the city looks forward to over 10 days of TIFF, we look back on over 10 of the top rated films connected to homelessness from the past 20 years, including the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival 'International Critics Award' winner, Time Out Of Mind.

A real-life film about homelessness affords those involved the opportunity to accomplish artistic excellence while making a statement on the often misunderstood issues tied to homelessness, from working poor to mental health.

Many films true to homelessness have rated in the 90s on Rotten Tomatoes – a website that provides ratings and reviews for movies and TV. One even achieving 100 out of 100. The challenge with art, while appreciated, it often goes unnoticed.

Movies true to the themes of homeless have received critical acclaim despite paling financially compared to farcical films the likes of The Jerk and Down And Out In Beverly Hills.

According to Rotten Tomatoes, top rated films that feature a connection to homelessness include:

1. Lost Angels: Skid Row is My Home (2012) – Rated 100%, Generated $120,000

Los Angeles' Skid Row is home to one of the largest homeless populations in the United States. And we found, inside that community, the remarkable and enormously moving stories of Olympic athletes, Harvard attorneys, accomplished musicians, scholars.

2. Cats of Mirikitani (2007) - Rated 96%, generated $380,000

This documentary by Linda Hattendorf focuses on Jimmy Mirikitani, an elderly homeless artist with Japanese roots. Living on the streets of Manhattan, Mirikitani sells his paintings, which are mostly of cats, but also include scenes of imprisonment that hark back to his days in an American internment camp.

3. Dark Days (2000) - Rated 94%, generated $426,000

A cinematic portrait of the homeless population who live permanently in the underground tunnels of New York City.

4. Children Underground (2001) - Rated 94%, generated $120,000

A profile of homeless Romanian children who were born victims of the nation's reckless population growth policy during its communist era.

5. Tokyo Godfathers (2004) - Rated 89%, generated $129,000

On Christmas Eve, three homeless people living on the streets of Tokyo find a newborn baby among the trash and set out to find its parents.

6. Heaven Knows What (2014) - Rated 87%, generated $80,000

A young woman struggles to reconcile her love for her boyfriend and for heroin, as she finds out that suicide is the only way for her boyfriend to forgive her for her misdeed.

7. Wendy and Lucy (2008) - Rated 85%, generated $865,000

Over the summer, a series of unfortunate happening triggers a financial crisis for a young woman and she soon finds her life falling apart.

8. The Lovers on the Bridge (1991) - Rated 84%, generated $260,000

Alex, who's homeless and addicted to alcohol, and Michèle, who's losing her sight, form a relationship while sleeping rough on Paris's Pont-Neuf bridge.

9. The Fisher King (1991) - Rated 83%, generated $41,895,491

A former radio DJ, suicidally despondent because of a terrible mistake he made, finds redemption in helping a deranged homeless man who was an unwitting victim of that mistake.

10. Sunday (1997) - Rated 80%, generated $6,100,000

This film concerns two mysterious characters who meet on a Sunday in Queens. The film also compassionately tracks the daily rounds of Oliver/Matthew's fellow denizens of the homeless shelter, some of whom will be recognizable to New York audiences.

11. Time Out Of Mind (2015) - Rated 79%, generated $166,000

George seeks refuge at Bellevue Hospital, a Manhattan intake center for homeless men, where his friendship with a fellow client helps him try to repair his relationship with his estranged daughter.

12. The Public (2018) - Rated 65%. Featured at TIFF 2018.

An unusually bitter Arctic blast has made its way to downtown Cincinnati and the library patrons, many of whom are homeless, mentally ill and marginalized, fight the city to stay inside the library.

13. Rosie (2018) - Rated 97%. Featured at TIFF 2018.

A mother trying to protect her family after their landlord sells their rented home and they become homeless.

To put ratings and revenue in perspective, 2008’s Hancock starring Will Smith, about a sometimes homeless superhero who is on the wrong side of public favour, is rated 41 on Rotten Tomatoes and generated $227 million. Profits exceeded $120 million. Another popular film, The Soloist with Robert Downey Jr and Jamie Foxx about a homeless virtuoso, rated 56 on Rotten Tomatoes and generated $31 million.

For an industry with so many riches and so much philanthropy amongst its leaders and stars, and that offers an unmatched platform to access billions of people, it remains profit before art, and entertainment before education. To quote Richard Gere, the lead in Time Out Of Mind:

“I’m saddened that we’re all too selfish

to help each other as much as we should.”

Gere has dedicated the last 10+ years of his life to helping raise the issue of homelessness. His work in Time Out Of Mind is “Fascinating to observe,” according to the New York Times.

Last Updated: September 17, 2018




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