For some reason, even though it’s such a wide theme, I was having a bit of a hard time this week. I thought long and hard what kind of route I wanted to take with this topic, which angle I should have chosen and I ended up with three very similar movies – all feature artistic rivalry. More importantly, all showcase the main protagonist’s struggles not just with being the best but being the greatest version of themselves. In other words, I ended up with three movies that are pretty dark and heavy.

1. WHIPLASH, 2014

One of the most emotionally wrecking experiences was witnessing the rivalry between the student and the master in Whiplash. For the most part of the film we see our main protagonist aim for something that seems impossible to catch, all while his master is literally torturing him, taunting him and pushing him past his limits. But despite their indifference and the subtle tone of rivalry they share a common goal and as cruel as it may seem, one’s victory is the other’s accomplishment.

2. BLACK SWAN, 2010

Ballet for me has always felt like the most bitter sweet art form. The movies and shows that showcase this world are always adamant to portray the ugliness in its beauty. Black Swan is no different. Finally getting her lead role, our main character will soon find herself struggling to keep up with others and mostly herself. There is a new rival in the production as well and things escalate towards the breaking point. At the end of the day though, the biggest rival for our main protagonist is not the new ballet dancer but she herself, and her need to seek perfection.


One of my all time favourite films has a very dark underdone of being the best out there. Jake Gyllenhaal takes on a persona whose intentions may be good, whose focus might be inspiring, and yet, the drive that leads this character seems more mad than normal. Filming crime and being the first on the scene, the movie shows how some men are not cut out for healthy competition and it’s not the best to end up as their rival. Plus, it’s not even safe to be on his good side either.



  • Very good picks this week, all really good films. I especially love Black Swan; I’ve only ever seen it the once but it’s stuck with me for so long. Also, really like the header image, I noticed it in one of your other posts too, it’s v. cool! 🙂

    • Thank you so much! I wanted to have more coherence on my blog so I decided to have similar images for my weekly series and I’m glad people like it! 🙂

  • Good list of movies. I do enjoy the ones where the struggle is within. All three characters in each film are being challenged with their own demons. Except in the examples. The demon has won.

    • True, I didn’t really think about the rivalry within one self.. that’s a nice way to look at it. Not nice in regards to them all having demons of course.

    • It happens so often that you publish your list, see other lists and realise you’ve not thought about so many other movies that could have worked. It’s cool in a way too, we think and approach the same theme so differently.

  • 3 excellent films, no doubt about that. Nightcrawler is a very inspired choice as I wouldn’t have thought of it for this category in a million years. I like the way you explain it, though. That said, I do have a question about it: Can we really say the intentions of JG’s character are good?

    • His intention is to produce good quality videos, which isn’t bad, if you think about it. He even explains his work method to Riz Ahmed’s character in a way that you think to yourself, that’s a pretty good way to approach work.. so in a way, I think the character himself thinks he’s doing it for the greater good, and his intentions within his own mind are good. Once he crosses that line though, everything changes.

    • I think, like I said, Nightcrawler is one of my favourites, but all three are definitely strong and unique in so many ways. All three have original screenplays too, two of which written by the director himself, which I now only realised..

  • If I had to rank these films, I’d go Nightcrawler, Whiplash and then Black Swan. While each character basically loses their shit in the quest to be the best, I was most scared of how far JG’s character would go. I mean, he basically stages chaos by the end, right?

    This was a very cool topic. Great post!

    • I think my order would be the same, I like Nightcrawler the best out of three, and Whiplash’s ending is one of the most exhilarating experiences I’ve had in a theater. But yes, JG goes all out and literally stages a murder scene for his own benefit.. it’s awful to look at. Poor Riz Ahmed!

      Thank you for the comment! 🙂

  • Love the theme within the theme!! They all are very dark but then rivalry can be that way sometimes.

    Your mention of Black Swan made me think of The Turning Point another film about ballet and the rivalry of two dancers, though it looks at them in middle age and the different paths the women have taken. Still a similar film, not nearly as dark. Black Swan is full of good work, love the crazed mother that Barbara Hershey played.

    Whiplash was intense. I think I might have liked it more with a different lead than Miles Teller whose charm escapes me. Still for JK Simmons it was worth it.

    Sorry I despised Nightcrawler. The fact that the performances were good didn’t soften my utter disgust with that vile pile of celluloid.

    Many, many choices this week, I even stayed relatively current with my selections. Not super recent but for me newer than usual.

    The Count of Monte Cristo (2002)-Lavish version of the Dumas story of rivalry over a woman, one friend’s betrayal of another leading to an island imprisonment and the revenge extracted upon escape by the Count of Monte Cristo. Excitingly directed with beautiful production design and two robust lead performances by Jim Caviezel and Guy Pearce. A just starting out Henry Cavill has a prominent role in the latter half of the film.

    Happy Gilmore (1996)-Temperamental and frustrated hockey player Happy Gilmore (Adam Sandler) discovers he needs to find some way to save his grandmother’s house. As he’s mocking someone for liking golf he finds he has a powerful swing and on a lark enters the PGA tour where he quickly incurs the enmity of a star of the circuit, Shooter McGavin (Christopher MacDonald). They become rivals for the prize with Shooter resorting to ever more drastic measures. Not a classic but from the period when Sandler was at least trying to make an effort to turn out entertaining films.

    The War of the Roses (1989)-Oliver and Barbara Rose (Michael Douglas & Kathleen Turner) were once a happily married couple and through the years have acquired a couple of kids, a comfortable life and a beautiful home. But those days are over and while the two freely admit they want out of their commitment to each other what neither wants is out of their house. So begins a fierce combative rivalry for sole ownership with the lengths each will go to escalating to fearsome heights to emerge the victor as their divorce attorney D’Amato (Danny DeVito) takes it all in from the sidelines.

    • Was the topic of the movie the thing that made you hate Nightcrawler? I’d be curious to hear your opinion because I’m always wondering how people view movies with heavy topics as bad when clearly the negative emotion is what the movie aims to gain. We have a hero that is not a hero but a villain, and we have no intention to root for him or praise him. I find those types of movies fascinating.

  • I haven’t seen Whiplash or Night Crawler but I did see Black Swan and thought it was overblown claptrap:) Hershey was great as the mom but my hubby and I could not get into it…we call it Psycho Swan

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