Being called a loser is a relatively cutting insult when you’re 10, yet as your grasp for the English language broadens, and your pool of insulting vocabulary graduates from intermediary to expert, loser gradually loses its efficacy as a credible slur. Predominantly replaced with expletives, the word is cast away into the semantic abyss. Yet, the truth is, being a loser as a child isn’t necessarily a negative thing — just look at Richard Branson, Robert Pattinson, and Jennifer Lawrence, all self-proclaimed childhood “losers.”
However, being a loser as an adult is an entirely different story; its connotations change with age, and being a 30-year-old loser usually infers one is a sad, unsuccessful lowlife who is probably still living with their mum. Some movies embrace loserdom, transforming the bum or the middle-aged-man-making-bad-decisions into something extremely fun. There have been many a screenplay written about losers, so let’s take a look at just some of the best.
A group of four Danish high school teachers grappling with the existential crisis of middle-age embark on a social experiment based on a famous psychiatrist’s thesis that humans are born with 0.05% Blood Alcohol Content, making them more creative and relaxed. Of course, this becomes an excuse for the men to get drunk at work and around their families.
The Academy Award-winning Danish-language film Another Round follows their exploration and the impact it has on their personal and professional lives as the real threat of alcoholism begins to take its toll.
Inspired by his own writer’s block, screenwriter Charlie Kaufman’s 2002 comedy-drama Adaptation, starring Nicolas Cage as two brothers, is a richly original picture. Cage plays Charlie Kaufman, a self-deprecating, self-hating scriptwriter whose constant self-reminders of his shortcomings and tussle with the familiar foe of writer’s block has him losing both his mind and his hair. Tasked with dramatizing a best-selling novel about orchids, Kaufman creates new and inventive ways to tackle the almost unadaptable source material.
Following the massive success of Joker, Joaquin Phoenix is set to reprise his role as the Joker in Todd Phillips’ musical sequel, Joker: Folie à Deux. With the first installment offering an examination of the sad life of Arthur Fleck, a societal outcast and recluse, 2019’s Joker is the ultimate origin tale.
A failed clown fired from his job, Fleck aspires to be a comedian and dreams of appearing on TV personality, Murray Franklin’s (Robert De Niro) chat show. This was a project initially greeted with skepticism, but Phoenix’s flamboyant display as the clown-faced, nihilistic delinquent is full of such organic melancholic self-pity, mixed with terrifying volatility.
The fail-proof duo of Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro combine for 1982’s The King of Comedy. The film invariably inspired Phillips’ and his fellow Joker creators when penning their screenplay. De Niro stars as Rupert Pupkin, a delusional middle-aged man who fantasizes about hosting his own chat show.
A depressingly unsuccessful, unfunny stand-up comic, Pupkin resorts to drastic measures to fulfill his dreams. Following a chance encounter with the disinterested talk-show host Jerry Langford (Jerry Lewis), Rupert essentially stalks and then kidnaps Langford in an attempt to get him to agree to him appearing as a guest on his show.
Dope-smoking bums; we all know a few — the ones that picked the habit up at 14 and never had that hazy epiphany that they were blazing their lives away. The Big Lebowski is one big kush-cloud of a film and follows the story of Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski and his friends Walter (John Goodman) and Donnie (Steve Buscemi). After being beaten up and mistaken for a multi-millionaire with the same name, The Dude seeks recompense for his damaged rug, but subsequently becomes unintentionally embroiled in a kidnapping conspiracy.
“I’ve got a lust for life!” screams Iggy Pop on the soundtrack to the opening sequence of Danny Boyle’s 1996 movie, Trainspotting; a sense of deliberate irony was certainly present in the score selection process. Heroin chic is taken to a new level in this grim, gritty, and hard-hitting drama about a group of heroin-addicted junkies in the Scottish capital.
Renton (Ewan McGregor), Sick Boy (Tommy Lee Miller), Begbie (Robert Carlyle), and Spud (Ewen Bremner) are a disorderly rabble, whose lives are dominated by their smack dependence. Determined to leave his miserable existence and friends behind him, Renton moves to London in search of his lust for life, yet old temptations and faces begin to creep back in.
Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman are divine as a pair who strike up a peculiar friendship in 1960s New York City. Joe Buck with his youthful, optimistic glow and cowboy-inspired style moves from Texas to New York in the hunt for new, more prosperous beginnings. Meeting the disheveled, and impoverished con man, Ratso Rizzo the two become business partners and fellow con artists. Winning three Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Director, Midnight Cowboy is one of the very best movies about Platonic love and an unbreakable friendship.