Sociology Theory


Soc 365: Film & Social Theory Paper: 5-7 page paper.

No last-minute planning for this paper! The goal is for you to be not only intellectually engaged but to actually enjoy the assignment.

Part of the challenge of learning classical theory is applying the concepts introduced in class to contemporary culture. Films have been a fundamental medium for over a hundred years for having people consider social issues, problems, and other social phenomena. For this paper, choose a film (not a series or documentary) from the list supplied below (or check with your instructor for approval of another film), and write an analytical paper of 5-7 pages that synthesizes your learning from the class reading, lectures, and discussions about three of the social theorists, covered in the class.

Imagine watching the film you choose with an audience of four—you and three of the social theorists we have studied in the class. Imagine them interpreting and analyzing the film, and supporting or arguing with one another as they discuss the characters, plot, setting, action , and theme of the film. What would Durkheim, Marx, and Veblen have to say about the plot and characterizations of one of the many film versions of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations or Hard Times or of the classic Frank Capra film It’s a Wonderful Life? What would Marx, Veblen, and Gilman think of the themes developed in any of the various film versions of Jane Austen’s Emma (a modern version of Clueless) or Parasite? What would Marx, Veblen, and Martineau think of the plot and characterizations of Mean Girls or The Devil Wears Prada? How would Marx, Durkheim and Truth respond to Erin Brockovich? What would Durkheim, Simmel, and Truth make of The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly? Imagine asking what DuBois, Truth, and Comte would think of The Help or Hidden Figures.

In your paper you will need to:

  • Write an introduction in which you name the film and the three theorists you have chosen, providing a rationale for why you chose each to analyze the film.

Provide a brief plot summary of the film, and critical information such as the year it was released, who directed it, and the main characters. This summary must be no more than 125 words, a long paragraph, a half page, at most.

Develop separate paragraphs in the body of the paper. Name and explain concepts developed by the social theorists you have chosen to analyze not only the plot, action, and setting but the characterizations of the major parts played by the actors. Using each theorist, explain what social forces have shaped the characters, and have influenced their motivations, aspirations, goals, and behaviors? What kind of society do they live in? How does that society shape the individual? You must analyze and interpret the film, using the theorists; don’t get carried away with merely describing the film’s story.

Balance your use of the theorists. You must use all three equally. Choose from: Comte, Durkheim, Marx, Weber, Simmel, DuBois, Veblen, Freud. If you would like to use one of the Martineau, Gilman, or Truth, choose one only.

Academic Research: Using the APA, cite and reference a minimum of three scholarly sources to support the claims you make in your paper. Of course, you will need to cite and reference additional sources such as background information about the film. has information about all the films listed below, as do promotional webpages about the films at the time of their release. (Wikipedia and blogs are not acceptable sources but they may guide you to sources that are).

Format: Double-space your paper and use 10-12 Times Roman or Ariel fonts. A title page and reference page do not count toward the 5-7 pages required. Please review an English writing handbook, NU Library re: peer reviewed sources, and the APA about what constitutes a reliable academic source. If you know you have trouble with your writing, I recommend that you make an appointment with the NU Writing Center, well in advance, to help you with this assignment (see syllabus for the link).

Some Film Recommendations

A Single Man

A Star is Born (any)

The Age of Innocence

All the President’s Men

American Beauty

American Hustle

Anna Karenina (any)

Apocalypse Now


The Blind Side

Blood Diamond

Blue Collar

Blue Jasmine


Call Me by Your Name

Captain Fantastic

Chariots of Fire

A Christmas Carol (any version of the Dickens’ classic)

Citizen Kane


The Constant Gardener

The Counterfeiters


Dallas Buyers Club

The Devil Wears Prada


Django Unchained

Downton Abbey

Dr. Strangelove

Down and Out in Beverly Hills

Emma (any version of the Austen classic)

Erin Brockovich



Full Metal Jacket

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Girl with the Pearl Earring


Gone with the Wind

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The Graduate

Gran Torino

The Grapes of Wrath

Great Expectations (any version of the Dickens’ classic)

The Green Mile

The Help

Hidden Figures


Howard’s End

The Hunger Games

The Hurt Locker

I, Tonya


Indecent Proposal


The Insider

The Irishman

Les Miserables

Little Men

Mad Max (any)

Maid in Manhattan

The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit

Mean Girls



Mississippi Burning


Modern Times

Monuments Men

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

Mrs. Brown


9 to 5


No Country for Old Men

Nocturnal Animals

Norma Ray

Notes on a Scandal

Office Space

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest


Paths of Glory

The Piano

The Pianist


Pride and Prejudice (any version of the Austen classic)

Primary Colors

Remains of the Day

The Revenant

Revolutionary Road

Roman Holiday


Sabrina (either version)

Schindler’s List



Sense & Sensibility (any version of the Austen classic)

Shawshank Redemption


Slumdog Millionaire

Son of Saul


Swimming with Sharks
Swing Shift

Titanic (any version)

Trading Places

Up in the Air

Wall Street
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

The Wolf of Wall Street

Working Girl

Zero Dark Thirty

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