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Film Reviews

Many of these feature-length films can be found on www.imdb.com or www.amazon.com. Movies are arranged by year and then alphabetically by title. A special thanks to Sheela Murthy for compiling many of these films.

While some movies deal directly with immigration as a theme, others are slightly more nuanced yet still touch on the topic. If you know of an immigration-themed movie that is not on this list, please let us know.

Utvandrarna (The Emigrants)

From Swedish director Jan Troell comes a film that has been touted as one of the greatest Swedish films of our time - certainly one of the best depictions of the immigrant experience. Starring film history legends, Max von Sydow (Pelle the Conqueror, 1987) and Liv Ullman (Lost Horizon, 1973). Ullman was nominated for an Oscar and won the Golden Globe for this role.

Year Released: 1971

Popi

Alan Arkin (Little Miss Sunshine, 2007) and Rita Moreno (West Side Story, 1962) star in this comedy about a Puerto Rican widower, living in Harlem, who puts his children aboard a raft off of Florida's coast. Scheming for a better life for his family, Popi believes the cute "asylum-seekers from Cuba" will win hearts in America. Directed by Arthur Hiller (Love Story, 1971).

Year Released: 1969

The Party

Peter Sellers (Dr. Strangelove, 1964; Being There, 1980) shines in this Blake Edwards comedy which has become a classic picture, full of unconventional humor. Sellers portrays an Indian actor who is mistakenly invited to a party intended for Hollywood executives. The clash of cultures and Sellers's comedic talents are sure to give you more than a belly laugh or two!

The Party

Year Released: 1968

America, America

Written and directed by Elia Kazan (On the Waterfront, 1954), this story begins around 1900 centering on the life of a poor Greek in Turkey. A second-class citizen there, selling ice in the marketplace and enduring humiliation on a daily basis, he is determined to escape to America by way of Constantinople. Starring Stavros Topouzoglou and Vartan Damadian.

America America

Year Released: 1963

West Side Story

Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins directed this Oscar-winning musical. It's a modern-day Romeo and Juliet story, set in 1950's New York City. Rather than feuding families, however, the plot centers around two street gangs. Maria (Natalie Wood) is a Puerto Rican immigrant whose brother belongs to the Sharks, and Tony (Richard Beymer) is the Polish-American boy she loves, who is a former member of the Jets.  One of the greatest musicals- and films- of all time. 

West Side Story

Year Released: 1961

I Remember Mama

Barbara Bel Geddes (Vertigo, 1958) portrays an aspiring writer and daughter of Norwegian immigrant parents (played by Irene Dunn and Edgar Bergan). A warm tale of a close-knit family and children who believe their Mama can do anything. Nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Black & White Cinematography, Best Actress (Dunn) and three Best Supporting Actress nominations.

I Remember Mama

Year Released: 1948

My Girl Tisa

Overlooked because of the political climate in which it was released, this film portrays life in New York City's Lower East Side. Immigrants live lin boarding houses, look for work, and fear deportation. German-born actress Lilli Palmer stars as Tisa and Sam Wanamaker (nominated for an Emmy for his 1978 role in Holocaust) plays the attorney who helps her. Directed by Elliott Nugent.

Year Released: 1948

Music In My Heart

This classic musical stars Rita Hayworth (Gilda, 1946) as an American beauty living in an immigrant neighborhood with her younger sister, when she collides (literally) with Tony Martin who plays a penniless actor about to be deported. Full of plot twists and characters with complicated relationships, this film even features a lovesick monkey!

Music in My Heart

Year Released: 1940

The Immigrant

This is a classic for film students. Charlie Chaplin (Limelight, 1952, The Great Dictator, 1940) stars in this silent picture about a little tramp traveling steerage to immigrate to the U.S.  He is a member of the throngs who came at the beginning of the 1900s. He shows us what this felt like with the humor and poignancy only Chaplin possessed.

The Immigrant

Year Released: 1917