Identity in films is a broad category. Many characters should change or develop throughout the narrative, creating a sense of that person’s identity. This list, if including all these cases, would be extremely long and unspecific, and I already have plenty of those lists made.
The films picked for this list are ones in which I feel the idea of identity is one of the most crucial aspects. I also picked films that include strange cases of identity (for example, after watching the film is there an idea that two characters are really one, or that Character A turns out to really be Character B).
I’m also including pictures. These stills are what I consider some of the best “identity moments” in the films, and some films have a couple. I am also providing these for films that seem obvious, like The Crying Game. A lot of people familiar with the film probably imagine I’m talking about Dil when placing this film on the list. But I think there are multiple interpretations of identity throughout, and I think Dil is only one of the characters involved in that theme. So I’ll put a few non-Dil pictures to represent that film.
As always, I encourage suggestions, but keep this in mind: If it’s not on the list, there’s a chance I haven’t seen it, so please, no spoilers!!
Thought of Mulholland Dr. when I watched this scene.
The Snake Pit: How does adversity create or destroy identity??
Koyaanisqatsi: Creating and Destroying Earth’s identity
La Moustache: Who are we, really??
Mulholland Dr.: Resisted the temptation to include every one of Lynch’s films.
The Crying Game: Miranda Richardson’s character fascinated me.
There was also some nice mirror imagery in the bar, but I can’t find a good picture in my search.
Secrets & Lies: When we learn a secret from the past, do we change??
Tetsuo the Iron Man: Glad I’ve never gone through this transformation!!
Babe: Yes, Farmer Hoggett, I love you. Yes, Babe overcomes a lot. But I love the way Mrs. Hoggett’s demeanor changes.
Four Flies on Grey Velvet: Fans of the identity theme shouldn’t ignore Argento’s work. It might create controversy, especially with one of the characters in this film, but identity issues are still there.
Tenebrae: There are lots of great images for this film, but any of them that connect with this theme are too much of a spoiler, so feel free to click on this film’s mubi page for a great photo.
Harold and Maude: I suppose I could have included a million and one “coming-of-age” films, but this one just felt perfect.
Do The Right Thing: What really creates our identity?? Our past, our present, our future?? How other’s perceive us?? Love? Hate?
Lord of the Flies: Horrifying way to figure out who you are, who you will become.
The Piano Teacher: Mommy issues so often make for intriguing identity stories.
Black Swan: See The Piano Teacher.
The Nun’s Story: Does it take the wrong choice to make us figure out who we are. Or at least who we aren’t??
Sisters: Can’t rightfully do this list without a twin film, right??
The Stepford Wives: Only in horror films are our identities carved out by another. Oh, no.
Fight Club: A whole lot of identity issues here.
Vertigo: Hitch’s classic identity mystery.
Psycho: Another film that isn’t just about one reveal. Layers of identity issues create an intriguing, memorable film.
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The, What Have I Done with Marion Crane, look.
A Streetcar Named Desire: Southern Identity, meet Blanch DuBois.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: If we don’t remember who we are…
8 1/2: Life imitates art. Or is it the other way around??
All That Jazz: See 8 1/2.
I couldn’t find the image I want. Will continue to search. Until then, I can’t go wrong with some jazz hands.
Sunset Blvd: When the world’s forgotten you exist, do you cling to the past, or become a horrifying hybrid of your former self??
Dogtooth: What happens when we let others dictate our identity??
Happy Birthday to Me: SPOILER !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! If you can’t beat ’em, be ’em, or frame them for a murder spree. Or both.
The Purple Rose of Cairo: Do we need a change of scenery, or is that only secondary to our own change??
The Last Picture Show: The times, they are a changin’. So what does that mean for who we are??
Cleo From 5 to 7: Will I change who I am based on one (big) piece of news??
In the Mood for Love: Gorgeous dresses, heartbreaking need to face your own identity.
The Hours: Is our identity formed by the time we live in?? The expectations of other??
La Cage Aux Folles: What do we learn about ourselves when we try to change for someone else??
Food: You are what you eat.
About Schmidt: It’s never to late to discover who you are.
Harry and Tonto: See About Schmidt.
Night of the Living Dead: The zombie identity.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers: How Paranoia (de)constructs identity.
Ydessa, The Bears and Etc.: Creating identity through our memories, our objects, and the pasts of our loved ones.
Lost Highway: You are free to be you. Or him. Or her.
King Kong: ’Twas a search for identity, killed the beast.
Memento: SPOILER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Constructing new identities to replace the harsh truth.
The Wrestler: Clinging to a false or faded identity.
Black Girl: What happens to us when we feel we’ve lost control of our identity, that someone else is creating it, changing it, distorting it??
Being There: Does Chauncey’s identity change by chance, by who he meets, by what’s on television??
That Obscure Object of Desire: Perception.
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof: More studies in Southern Identity from Tennessee Williams.
I love the disconnect represented in this photo.
Dazed and Confused: What Linklater’s 1970’s can teach us about the identity of youth, the identity of culture.
The Picture of Dorian Gray: What do we do when significant forces cause us to change——or stay the same??
Mother Joan of the Angels: Another horrifying look at our theme.
Repulsion: Inspiration for multiple films or film makers on this list.
A Star is Born: When one identity begins, another ends.
Persona: Who are you??
The Wolf Man: Classic look at identity given the monster treatment. What have I become??
Drive: Driver’s identity, still something I’m thinking about weeks after I watched the film.
The New World: Stolen identity. New identity. Human identity. Land identity.
Martha Marcy May Marlene: Another film that I watched recently. Still thinking about identity issues in it.Read less