As Francoise Sagan once said ‘Money may not buy happiness, but I’d rather cry in a Jaguar than on a bus.’ With the many rags to riches stories that feature in films, both big and small, it seems that directors tend to agree.
The rags to riches story is an endlessly appealing one.
We can all see a little of ourselves in the protagonist, and whether we’d like to admit it or not, a sudden windfall is a pleasant thought for most.
These are two of the best tales of those who really made it big.
The Founder, 2016
Written by Robert Siegel and ranked as one of the most promising scripts of 2014, The Founder is largely based in reality.
The film, directed by John Lee Hancock, follows the story of Ray Kroc, a struggling businessman who goes on to found one of the most well-known companies in the world, McDonald’s.
Admittedly, Ray less founds McDonald’s, but rather steals it from two brothers who refuse to do business with him in the way he wants.
This ruthlessness and perseverance is what Ray believes caused the success of the business.
However, when it really boils down to the actual chances of becoming rich, Ray Kroc has a better chance than most.
Interestingly enough, being born in North America sees him with better odds, albeit still a 1/586,206 shot of making it to billionaire status.
Whilst the odds may be more in his favour than perhaps a person from another country, he still has quite a climb to make it to the dizzying heights he reached.
The film highlights some of the most difficult themes around wealth acquired through business.
Ray, played by Michael Keaton, appears dogged in his pursuit of success, but we glimpse moments of kindness, such as when he offers to buy out the restaurant he originally gleaned his idea from.
These hints of good nature are occasionally followed through, but also sometimes snatched away.
Many wonder if gaining huge riches changes people and, in the case of The Founder, it seems that it certainly does.
A Knight’s Tale, 2001
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Some rags to riches tales start with a heist, some start with a business venture, but A Knight’s Tale starts with the death of a peasant’s master.
William Thatcher, played by the late great Heath Ledger, is that peasant.
In the final stages of a jousting tournament, he puts on his dead master’s armour and proceeds to win.
This win launches William into a whirlwind of adventure, in which he lives a complete double life.
During his jousting tournaments, he competes alongside nobles as Sir Ulrich von Liechtenstein, yet during the remainder of his life he remains impoverished and lower class.
Along the way William makes firm friends with many people from the upper echelons of society.
He wins many tournaments and disperses the wealth around his tight friendship group.
However, his success takes him back to his hometown where he meets with his father.
One of the other contestants sees William with a peasant and alerts the authorities, who take him to the pillory.
Thankfully, the friends he has made along the way look out for him, and he is freed just as the last joust is about to commence.
Despite great adversary, William wins and is knighted in his own right.
The film was written, produced and directed by Brian Helgeland, and it is a credit to him.
The characters are all equal parts loveable, believable and hilarious.
The soundtrack too is endlessly energetic, with absolute gems such as ‘The Boys are Back in Town’ by Thin Lizzy and ‘We Will Rock You’ by Queen, taking centre stage.
Whilst A Knight’s Tale is certainly quite a comedic twist on Medieval England, there is more than enough room for emotion.
It’s a heartwarming story that captures everything that was, and in many ways still is, so wrong with the class system.
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