Hollywood is out of movie ideas. Most of the latest top ten films are either a remake, a sequel, or a film based on old comic book characters. And the remakes typically aren’t even as good as the originals, though they may be much more woke.
Does it need to be like this? Are all the great stories already told in film? Hardly. Never mind what movie ideas fiction still has to offer, let alone thousands of year of human history. Here are ten interesting stories — ten movie ideas for screenwriters — ripped from the headlines as it were of times either current or in the not too distant past, stories of real-life heroes and villains who have so far garnered only slight attention in books or documentaries, but who deserve so much more.
Less than twenty years ago, if you complained to a doctor of painful stomach ulcers, chances are you would be told the cause was stress. Take it easy. Try some antacids. Perhaps a psychiatrist could help. Or in an extreme case, maybe surgery. Of course, sometimes the ulcer would develop into stomach cancer, a terrible way to go.
But in 1981, Australian scientist Barry Marshall began to suspect that the bacteria Helicobacter Pylori was responsible. Unfortunately, professional gastroenterologists dismissed the idea. It was well established that stress was the underlying cause of ulcers.
Marshall needed more proof, but animal experiments were useless in this case, and human experiments were forbidden. He often saw patients in agony from bleeding ulcers, and was desperate to save them. He was sure he had the answer. In a moment of extraordinary medical daring, before anyone could stop him, he swallowed a vial of Helicobacter Pylori, the very disease he knew to be so dangerous. He took the ultimate chance to prove his cure. He experienced the predicted symptoms – and did indeed cure himself of it. But still no one listened. His discovery was dismissed and ridiculed for ten years. “The science was settled,” so he was told.
Then Proctor & Gamble took up the battle on Marshall’s side, after learning that the company’s Pepto-Bismol product was part of Marshall’s treatment against the disease (in combination with antibiotics). The company launched a PR campaign that brought Marshall’s discovery to the attention of the public – bypassing the “scientific” community. The public was interested, and pressure was exerted on the FDA to fast-track tests, which eventually confirmed Marshall had been right all along. At last, the millions suffering could be treated.
In 2005, the Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded to Marshall and Robin Warren (who had first discovered the bacteria), “for their discovery of the bacterium Helicobacter Pylori and its role in gastritis and peptic ulcer disease.”
As movie ideas go, it would be hard to find one with a more heroic main character or triumphant ending.
The Girls of Enghelab Street
On December 27, 2017, a one-woman revolution occurred in Iran, and that revolution has spread since. On that day, Vida Movahed climbed up on a utility box in Enghelab Street (Revolution Street) in Tehran, removed her hijab, tied it to stick, and waved it to an astonished crowd. It was an act of tremendous heroism, as the penalty for removing the hijab can be up to 20 years, and further defiance can be answered with death.
She was arrested, but thanks to international pressure was at least initially released, though it’s unclear what has happened to her since. Regardless, others have followed, some have been imprisoned, but more keep coming.
They have received very little support from virtue-signaling feminists in the West, many of whom are too busy donning hijabs in acts of solidarity with orthodox Islamic women.
Imagine the drama, the sacrifice, the risk – and the courage. Is this not worthy of storytelling?
Britain’s Other Finest Hour: The West Africa Squadron
After Britain passed the Slave Trade Act of 1807, which abolished the slave trade throughout the British Empire (thanks to the heroic efforts of William Wilberforce and other abolitionists), its anti-slavery efforts were taken much further, though hardly anyone knows this glorious history.
At great expense, the Royal Navy created The West Africa Squadron – at its height roughly a sixth of the entire navy — to patrol the coast of Africa for slave ships and free the slaves. The squadron’s efforts ultimately captured or destroyed 1,600 slave ships and freed 150,000 slaves.
The cost was enormous for Britain, in lives as well as money, as the death rate from tropical disease for British marines was extraordinarily high; it was considered one of the most dangerous assignments a marine could be given.
Eventually, their anti-slavery efforts were spread to North Africa and the Indian Ocean. The US also later joined in the cause, contributing a few ships from its much smaller navy.
To this day, the descendants of the freed slaves commemorate the West Africa Squadron, but many more should celebrate it as another of Britain’s finest hours.
Wikipedia: West Africa Squadron
The Farmers of Xiaogang Village
Mao’s Great Leap Forward triggered the single largest holocaust in human history, with an estimated death toll of 45 million; the details, long well-hidden, are only now coming out.
The short of it is that Mao decided to collectivize the farms, and then ordered at gunpoint that these new collectivized concerns meet arbitrarily high production targets, at the same time putting in charge military personnel who knew nothing about farming. The result was a famine of unprecedented scale.
However, in 1978, eighteen local farmers in the village of Xiaogang met and signed a secret agreement, by which they would break up the commune and reestablish private property, each receiving their own plot of land. If caught, it would have meant torture and death. But as recurring food shortages were a constant worry – the village had already lost half its population to famine – the farmers decided to go for it anyway.
In the first year operating privately, their combined efforts produced five times what had been produced on the same land as a commune. The bounty was so extraordinary that it couldn’t be hidden from neighboring villages, and the news gradually got back to Beijing. Luckily for the villagers, Mao had just died and the new leader, Deng Xiaoping, was a reformer in search of solutions to the country’s abject poverty. After learning the full story, instead of killing the farmers as Mao would have done, Deng ordered all farms to follow their lead. This is widely credited as the moment when China’s economy turned around and finally began its climb into modernity.
Probably never in the history of man have so few people – eighteen – been responsible for turning around a nation the size of China. Their courage has meant food and clothing and everything else for a nation of a billion people.
Wikipedia: Xiaogang Village
Saul & Me
Imagine a typical college student. She’s studying to become a doctor, economist, engineer, teacher, or maybe doesn’t yet know what she wants to be. She has hopes, perhaps, of a family, maybe has her eye on a special someone, enjoys time with her friends and perhaps a sport. In other words, she’s a normal kid launching herself on a happy path. That’s 99% of kids going to college.
Now imagine how different that young woman must be, not to mention perhaps a little weird, for her to discover, seek out, and befriend, of all people – Saul Alinsky, the godfather of thug politics — whose teachings, summed up in his book Rules for Radicals, spawned pretty much everything wrong with politics today and divided the country like never before.
That young woman was Hillary Clinton.
Hardly anyone knows it, but as a college student Hillary met Alinsky, arranged speaking opportunities for him, interviewed him, corresponded with him by letter (and continued to do so after college) and was so thrilled with his message she wrote a glowing college thesis on him. Yes, she wrote her college thesis on Saul Alinsky, the very essence of “by any means necessary” socialism. She adored him.
It’s a miracle that we know any of this, by the way. The Clinton White House requested Wellesley College to keep the thesis under lock and key, and it was only inadvertently later released to a Republican student who published it. That too should be part of any film on this subject.
Of course, in the end, Saul Alinsky did get one of his close progeny into office: Barack Hussein Obama. But just imagine if two Alinsky acolytes had held the White House in sequence, what sixteen uninterrupted years of Alinsky would have done to the US.
You have to wonder how many more of Alinksy’s hidden intellectual heirs are still out there.
Stanislav Petrov: The Man Who Stopped WWIII
On September 26, 1983, just three weeks after the Soviet air force had shot down Korean Air Lines Flight 007, Stanislav Petrov, the officer in charge of the Soviet Union’s nuclear early-warning system, was told that US-launched missiles were airborne and on their way to Soviet territory. By standard practice, he should have communicated that information through the chain of command so that the USSR could return fire; had he done so, it’s not unlikely that millions would have died on both sides.
But Petrov had suspicions about the new Soviet technology being used to track missiles, and ground radar could not confirm the sighting. Every second mattered – getting it wrong might mean the defeat of his country, and solely due to his own incompetence. He later said about that moment “My cozy armchair [in the bunker] felt like a red-hot frying pan and my legs went limp. I felt like I couldn’t even stand up. That’s how nervous I was.” He alone made the decision to not return fire.
As it happened, he was right. The new technology was faulty. Petrov should have been awarded the highest honors humanity has to offer, but the Soviet military, though relieved a mistake was not made, was also embarrassed by Petrov. They reassigned him to a new job and he eventually suffered a nervous breakdown. In 1998, the BBC quoted Petrov as saying, “I was made a scapegoat.”
In 2006, Petrov was finally honored by the United Nations, and a few documentaries were made about him, but he is now little-known.
Wikipedia: Stanislav Petrov
Voice of Poland
The long occupation of Poland by the USSR was the usual story of socialist oppression, poverty, and desperation, and it seemed at the time like it would never end. But in the 1980s, the spirit of liberation was in the air, and people began taking great risks to move that forward.
One of the best ways to undermine a totalitarian regime is simply to break its monopoly on information, by creating alternative channels through which people can learn what is actually going on. Zbigniew and Sofia Romaszewski were a brave young couple who did just that, establishing an underground radio station at considerable risk.
However, their broadcasts had to be very short. The problem was that the source of the radio broadcasts could be quickly located by electronic surveillance, so they could only broadcast about ten minutes at a time before moving the equipment to a new location. It seemed a nearly hopeless exercise, and an extremely dangerous one for them.
At some point they began to wonder – was this worth it? Was anyone actually listening? If people were, of course, it was huge, because they were a sole voice of truth in a sea of government propaganda. But if they weren’t, they were risking their young lives for nothing.
One night they came up with the idea of asking those listening to blink their lights on and off. They hoped to see a few lights blinking somewhere out in their city of Warsaw. But when they looked out of their window, that was not what they saw. All night, in all of Warsaw, Poland’s largest city, lights everywhere were blinking on and off. The entire city had been listening.
Such efforts were part of a much broader Polish resistance, of course, but it’s notable that Poland was the first Soviet-occupied nation to revolt and declare its independence from the USSR.
That’s a story to inspire all who encounter tyranny, wherever it occurs.
It has been called “the US Navy’s finest hour,” and yet no narrative film commemorates what happened in the sea off Leyte Island in 1944.
The Pacific War was finally turning to the Allied advantage. The Japanese had suffered a series of major losses and the US had landed 100,000 troops on the Philippine island of Leyte, to begin the liberation of the Philippines and the final containment of Imperial Japan. The Japanese Navy was on the run, so it was thought, and there was little concern that the troops were in danger from sea or air attack.
However, the Japanese Navy had regrouped, and it had a plan. A few ships were used as bait to lure away the formidable US fleet, which pursued them thinking it was finishing off the stragglers. Meanwhile, 23 Japanese battleships and cruisers, which had remained concealed at sea, arrived at Leyte to bombard and annihilate the 100,000 largely unprotected American troops. Had their plan succeeded, it might have been the largest single loss of American blood in the entire war and dragged out the war immeasurably.
However, a small naval task unit, Taffy 3, made up of three lightly-armed destroyers and four destroyer escorts, called “tin cans” because they had no armor, had remained behind. They were support ships, not readied for major battle, and were largely staffed by reservists with scant experience. Nonetheless, these ships and the planes they carried engaged the enemy for hours and with such terrific ferocity, continuing to make attack runs even after they had run out of ammunition in an almost preposterous defense of their fellow troops on the island, that the Japanese commander became convinced that he was being attacked by the entire American fleet – and withdrew.
It’s one of the most incredible stories of heroism and loyalty in American history. A thousand US sailors died in the battle. If anyone deserves a major motion picture, they do.
Wikipedia: Battle off Samar
For the Children: The Eva Moscowitz Story
Eva was born in 1964 and grew up in Harlem, where she attended a public school that wasn’t very good. She prospered anyway because her parents were professors, and she had the advantage of being tutored by them at home. But she was keenly aware that other kids in her school did not have that advantage, and it seemed very unfair to her that these other kids had to just put up with substandard teaching and all that implied for their future.
When she grew up, she decided to do something about it. In 2006, she launched the Success Academy Charter Schools, which essentially put formerly underperforming public schools under new management and without the heavy hand of the teachers union. In each case, the schools she was given were ill-kept and indifferently staffed. Among the notes she jotted down from those times: “We have two weak 1st grade teachers. One is extremely emotional (cries every day) and they are inefficient instructors. Milk was frozen. Kindergartners cried. Mayhem resulted. Electricity went down again. Rugs were dirty.” She turned such places upside down.
Needless to say, to the United Federation of Teachers and to the NYC Democratic Party, she’s public enemy number one, and indeed has been threatened with violence more than once. Charter schools aren’t privatization, but they are a step in the direction of decentralization that is a direct challenge to the monopolists currently in charge.
Eva Moscowitz has overcome all obstacles including the NYC political environment, and today Success Academy is the highest-performing, fastest-growing charter school network in the country. This is a tremendous story of moral heroism, triumph, and hope – with the futures of kids at stake; a story of a courageous and caring reformer overcoming a threatening and formidable opponent, it would make a drama of the first order.
A School for Heroes: The Story of the Boy Scouts
In the early 1900s, the Boy Scouts were founded with the idea of inculcating boys with patriotism, courage, and self-reliance. Eventually an award system was created that recognized acts of extraordinary courage. Early records of the Boy Scouts are littered with accounts of boys saving people from drowning, from fires, from fallen electrical wires, etc.
However, a series of terrible tragedies also occurred in which young boys attempted to save others and lost their lives in the process. The leaders of the Boy Scouts had a moment of guilt and regret. They wanted to encourage the boys to great things, but they had underestimated the risks. After some soul searching, they reorganized, holding on to their original goals, but emphasizing safety training. Entire generations have since learned not just to be heroic, but how to be heroic: always be prepared.
Since the founding of the Boy Scouts, 110 million Americans have participated. An estimated 3 to 5 million people – roughly one in every hundred Americans — are alive today because they, or one of their parents or grandparents, had their life saved by a Boy Scout.
What a terrific family film that story would make. It’s one of the better movie ideas on this list.