Top 10 Inspiring Immigration Movies

Written by Q.V Hough Films and movies that look at the stories of immigrants coming to america to start a new life. WatchMojo presents the Top 10 Movies that portray the life of an immigrant. But what movie will take the top spot? In America, All Fear Eats the Soul, or The Godfather Part II?
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This land is your land; this land is our land. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 inspiring immigration movies.

For this list, we’re taking a look at films that paint a picture of the trials, tribulations, ups and downs experienced by people leaving their home countries in search of greener pastures. We’re highlighting feature films only, which means short films and documentaries are excluded.

#10: “Dirty Pretty Things” (2002)

Directed by the acclaimed Stephen Frears, this gritty London flick focuses on the sacrifices made by struggling immigrants. When a Nigerian cab driver and Turkish Muslim woman cross paths, they become mixed up in dangerous operation where kidneys are exchanged for passports. Desperate for a secure future but unable to break old habits, Okwe and Senay must confront the brutal realities of their predicament in order to break free and begin anew. With brilliant performances from Audrey Tautou and Chiwetel Ejiofor, “Dirty Pretty Things” highlights the dark side of both illegal AND legal immigration.

#9: “A Better Life” (2011)

In an Academy Award-nominated performance, Demián Bichir stars as a Los Angeles gardener desperate to provide for his teenage son. Surrounded by despair and opportunistic gang members, Carlos Galindo is trying to run his own business and to do so he relies heavily on both his truck and his reputation. But after reaching out to an immigrant in need, his life is turned upside down when his most prized possession is snatched away. With one simple act, Carlos may lose his dream of a better life, and his own son.

#8: “The Immigrant” (2013)

When two Polish sisters are separated at Ellis Island, one of them must immerse herself in the underbelly of 1921 New York City. Gracefully portrayed by Marion Cotillard, Ewa Cybulska falls under the guidance of a questionable businessman, who not only develops feeling for the beautiful immigrant but forces her into prostitution. Meanwhile, an illusionist falls under Ewa’s spell as well, and all hell breaks loose when the futures of her admirers are compromised. Masterfully directed by James Gray, “The Immigrant” touches on fatalist themes within the context of the immigrant story with a unique style and tone.

#7: “Lorna’s Silence” (2008)

The Dardenne brothers delivered yet another masterpiece with this tale of love, addiction and sham marriages. In the titular role, Arta Dobroshi stars as an Albanian woman searching for her ideal life in Belgium. As part of Lorna’s plan, she must hitch up with a Russian man, but her current fake husband Claudy is in the way. Their contrived divorce becomes even more little tricky when Claudy, a drug addict, desperately attempts to turn his life around. Forced with many troubling moral decisions, Lorna must come to grips with a distant future, and the trappings of the present.

#6: “Brooklyn” (2015)

Based on the award-winning 2009 historical novel, "Brooklyn" is a dreamy, Oscar-nominated romantic drama set in the 1950s. It follows the young Irish Eilis Lacey, who seeks and finds a better life for herself in Brooklyn, USA. Despite some homesickness, Eilis manages to get a job, succeed in her classes and fall in love with a local Italian. But after things take a turn for the worse back in Ireland , Eilis finds herself having to go back. Once there, she must decide between her past life and the life she's begun to live somewhere else, and the result is an emotional ride with outstanding performances, as well as a thought-provoking look at beginning anew.

#5: “The Visitor” (2007)

In the post-9/11 world of New York City, a widowed professor is renewed through music, friendship and hope for the future. After visiting his old home in the Big Apple, Walter Vale finds an illegal immigrant couple shacked up there, but the trio soon become friends while partaking in the arts and learning about one another. When Tarek winds up in a detention center, and his mother arrives from Michigan, the professor realizes that life is to be lived to the fullest and that all things must pass.

#4: “House of Sand and Fog” (2003)

Dumped and struggling with a drug addiction, a young Northern California woman finds herself on the wrong side of the law and fighting against an Iranian businessman when her home is seized and sold. With remarkable performances from Jennifer Connelly and Ben Kingsley, “House of Sand and Fog” centers on familial bonds, traditional values and personal suffering. Constructed from the 1999 novel by Andre Dubus III, the film earned three Academy Award nominations and offered a poignant take on the honor of successful immigrant families.

#3: “The Godfather Part II” (1974)

Widely regarded as one of – if not the – best film of all-time, this gangster classic also contains a heavy backstory focused on immigration. Before Vito Andolini became “Don Corleone,” he was just another Sicilian immigrant trying to get by in the big city. Through a combination of intellect and calculated violence, Vito overthrows a local Black Hand boss and establishes himself as the go-to guy in the neighborhood. With a plot steeped in history and revenge, “The Godfather Part II” amazingly surpassed its predecessor by painting a rich portrait of immigration in early 20th century America.

#2: “Ali: Fear Eats the Soul” (1974)

Xenophobia is at the forefront of the Rainer Werner Fassbinder film, in which a 60-year-old widow and native of Germany falls in love with a much younger Moroccan immigrant. Society and her family verbally terrorize the unlikely couple, causing the unconditional love between them to slowly erode, and forcing Ali and Emmi to drift apart. Speaking to the pressure and prejudice immigrants face daily, this film sets the stage for a most unforgettable conclusion. The title spoke volumes in the ‘70s, and it’s certainly relevant today.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- “Gangs of New York” (2002)

- “America America” (1963)

- “Eternity and a Day” (1998)


#1: “In America” (2002)

Every immigrant leaves something behind – and some take the journey alone – but there’s nothing more important when you’re seeking a new life abroad than the support of a loving family. In Jim Sheridan’s joyous and semi-autobiographical tear-jerker, a family of Irish immigrants tries to get by in Hell’s Kitchen, and soon forms a close relationship with their Nigerian neighbor. With touches of both brutal realism AND magical realism, “In America” chronicles one family’s story and proves that – even though there will be bumps along the way – anything is possible with hard work and a strong support system.
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