We all look for inspiration in different ways. Some people turn to religion; some turn to the self-help section at the local Barnes & Noble. Some crank up their go-to motivational tunes (read: anything by Destiny's Child), while others pore over
The Secret and try to bibbidy-bobbedy-boo their way into realization of their goals.
And us? Well, a good ol' movie night always helps. Whether it's a biopic celebrating someone who turned the world upside-down for the better, a sports film with "Eye of the Tiger" on repeat, or a tale of overcoming adversity, certain movies simply have a knack for lifting us up and inspiring us to
do more and be more.
Who hasn't aspired to the wisdom of Atticus Finch, or the tenacity of Rocky Balboa? What movie-goer hasn't felt a spring in their step after watching the women of
Hidden Figures rightfully get their due? Hell, even the Jamaican bobsled team can make a compelling case for the importance of chasing your dreams, no matter how far-fetched they may seem.
Looking to shake yourself out of complacency and get a little fired up? These films should do the trick.
20th Century Fox/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock
(2017) The Greatest Showman It's like this movie was created just so you, yes you, could shout "This is me!" when you need a pick-me-up — or whenever someone criticizes your personality.
(1989) My Left Foot The miraculous true story of Christy Brown (Daniel Day-Lewis), a spastic quadriplegic with control over only his left foot. He's written off as being a helpless case, consigned to live out his days on the fringes. But Christy is extremely determined, and extremely smart. Using solely that foot, he's able to become a painter, poet, author.
(2017) Call Me By Your Name This lush, sumptuous movie set in the Italian countryside is, primarily, a love story. Yet the unbridled emotion that Elio (Timothee Chalemet) and Oliver (Armie Hammer) experience over the course of a summer will compel you to go out in search of an equally fulfilling emotional experience. Are you living a life that fills you up?
George Kraychyk/Miramax/Imagine/Parkway Prods./Kobal/REX/Shutterstock
(2005) Cinderella Man Sports movies have a way of getting a heart rate going, and Cinderella Man is no exception. Russell Crowe plays James J. Braddock, a Depression-era heavyweight boxer whose path to success also involves potential brushes with death in the boxing ring. Cinderella Man is an underdog story in which the stakes are very, very high: Glory, or death.
(2017) Darkest Hour Days after being appointed Prime Minister, Winston Churchill (Gary Oldman) has to make a decision that will determine the history of his country. Will he submit to peace talks with Nazi Germany, or uphold democratic ideals, even if it means an invasion from Germany? This rousing portrayal of a people bravely staring down a grave threat is certain to inspire.
(2017) Lady Bird You'll watch Lady Bird, the simple story of a high school senior gearing up to face her next phase in life, and be inspired to live a life that would make your 18-year-old self proud.
(2003) Seabiscuit Seabiscuit is the true story of how a jockey, a businessman, and a trainer, all with issues of their own, teamed up to make a scrawny racehorse named Seabiscuit a winner.
(2014) Wild Seeking to find a way out of the spiral of disasters she'd found herself in, Cheryl Strayed, played by Reese Witherspoon, sets off on a months-long trek on the Pacific Crest Trail. With not much outdoors experience and a far-too-heavy backpack, Cheryl is drastically unprepared for what's to come. Strayed is already such an inspirational cultural figure, and it's fascinating to see this formative moment play out with such vividness.
(2003) School of Rock He may be lazy, he may be a man-child, he may be incapable of making a bed — but Dewey Finn (Jack Black) is more than capable of unleashing his students' musical prowess, and inner songs, in this irresistibly fun movie.
(1995) Mr. Holland's Opus A classic in the Inspiring Teacher genre, Mr. Holland's Opus tells the story of a professional musician (Richard Dreyfuss) who takes a job teaching high school music. Holland's dream of writing his own magnum opus threatens to be subsumed by the everyday drudgery and struggles (and triumphs) of working in a school.
(1976) Rocky Go drink your raw egg smoothie, run up flights of stairs, and get ready to take on whatever challenges come your way.
(2016) Lion In Lion, the truth is more grand and unlikely than you'd ever believe in a novel. When he's five, Saroo is separated from his older brother on a trip away from their rural Indian village. After surviving alone for months in Kolkata, Saroo is eventually taken to an orphanage and adopted by Australians. Though he grows up in a loving household, memories of his former life haunt him. Then, when the technology of Google Earth becomes available, Saroo commits himself to finding his lost home, even though all he remembers is the presence of a water tower and the number of days he was on a train. Lion is based on the true story of Saroo Brierley.
(1999) October Sky In this movie based on a true story, Homer Hickam (Jake Gyllenhaal), the son of a West Virginia coal miner, breaks from his expected path and finds a passion for rocketry. With the help of an encouraging teacher, Homer and his friends shoot for the stars (literally). It's one of the ultimate feel-good movies.
(2000) Erin Brokovitch Who says women can't do it all? In this film based off a true story, a single mother becomes a legal assistant and, with sheer determination, takes down a California company polluting the state's water supply.
(2013) The Secret Life of Walter Mitty Working in Life magazine's photo department, Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller) spends his days developing photos of other people's adventures. At last, he gets an adventure of his own: Find the perfect cover for Life's last print issue. Walter will trek around the world to find the elusive photographer Sean O'Connell (Sean Penn) to provide the cover image.
(2015) The Little Prince Like the iconic children's book, this clever film adaptation will inspire you to hold on to a youthful sense of wonder and curiosity — no matter how old and jaded you've become.
(2001) Spirited Away Feeling worn down by the monotony of adult life? Recapture the whimsy, imagination, and occasional terror of being a child in a confusing world with the classic Japanese film, Spirited Away. The plot is wacky. Chihiro and her parents turn off the road to an enchanted market. Her parents turn into pigs after eating the food, and Chihiro gets recruited to work in a spa for spirits. Despite the spirits' efforts to erode her sense of self, Chihiro remains determined to save her parents.
(2011) The Intouchables This unlikely friendship between a wealthy paraplegic and his new caretaker from the rough suburbs of Paris will make you believe in life, love, friendship, and everything good in the world. The best part? It's based on a true story.
Photo: Liam Daniel/Working Title/Universal/REX/Shutterstock.
(2014) The Theory of Everything Eddie Redmayne won an Oscar for his moving portrayal of theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking. The biopic captures Hawking's fight to have his brilliant discoveries communicated to the world, pushing back against the physical limitations of his motor neurone disease. Pictured: Redmayne as Stephen Hawking
Photo: Atsushi Nishijima/Paramount/Pathe/Harpo Films/REX/Shutterstock.
(2014) Selma Who's more inspiring than Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.? Ava DuVernay's Oscar-winning drama about King's fight for civil rights and the events leading up to his march on Washington is moving and motivational. A true testament to the ability of one person to make a difference. Pictured: David Oyelowo as Dr. King
(2016) Moana At last, a Disney princess who doesn't need some floppy-haired prince to save her hide. Despite the efforts of The Rock's mighty demigod Maui, it's clear that Moana is the one with all the strength and determination. Get it, girl. Pictured: Moana
(1994) The Shawshank Redemption Every word out of Morgan Freeman's mouth will have you nodding your head in agreement. This drama starring Freeman (Red) and Tim Robbins (Andy) is about so much more than just prison life; it's about holding on to hope, letting yourself live, and tap-tap-tapping away at those goals. Pictured: Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman
Photo: Moviestore Collection/REX/Shutterstock.
(1992) Strictly Ballroom Though it's one of director Baz Luhrmann's lesser-known films, this Australian rom-com is a must-watch for anyone who likes to cheer on underdogs, so-called ugly ducklings, and splendid, sequined dance numbers. Pictured: Tara Morice and Paul Mercurio
Photo: Focus Features/REX/Shutterstock.
(2008) Milk Like MLK, Harvey Milk was a hugely important champion of civil rights who met a tragic end. Sadly, few outside the LGBT community knew about his work and legacy as the first openly gay man to hold political office in the U.S. until this biopic was released. Pictured: Sean Penn as Milk
Photo: 20th Century Fox/REX/Shutterstock.
(2016) Hidden Figures Let's hear it for the unsung heroes of the Space Race: the Black female geniuses who helped send John Glenn to space. Pictured: Janelle Monae, Taraji P. Henson, and Octavia Spencer
Photo: Moviestore Collection/REX/Shutterstock.
(2000) Remember the Titans Come for the early Ryan Gosling film credit, stay for the powerful story of a newly desegregated football team beating the odds, one racist official at a time. Pictured: Will Patton and Denzel Washington
Photo: Moviestore Collection/REX/Shutterstock.
(1992) A League of Their Own This story about the real-life All-American Girls Professional Baseball League still makes us want to trade it all in for a baseball bat. Pictured: Rosie O'Donnell and Madonna
(2009) Slumdog Millionaire With all due respect to Drake, Jamal's (Dev Patel) started-from-the-bottom-now-we're-here story has his beat. Dude won a pile of money, got the girl, and broke it down to "Jai Ho"... what could possibly be better? Pictured: Dev Patel as Jamal
(1992) To Kill a Mockingbird This film has so many bittersweet and tragic moments, but somehow Atticus Finch's (Gregory Peck) moral compass guides us through. Let's just forget all about Go Set a Watchman, shall we? Pictured: Mary Badham and Gregory Peck
Photo: Barry Wetcher/Warner Bros./MGM/REX/Shutterstock.
(2015) Creed Consider this a blanket endorsement for the inspirational attributes of all 3 billion Rocky films. Pictured: Sylvester Stallone and Michael B. Jordan
Photo: 20th Century Fox/REX/Shutterstock.
(1988) Working Girl Never mind your body. If you've got a mind for business, this tale of an unappreciated underling who outbosses her boss is pure inspo-board material. Here's to one day getting your own office and having your best friend shout it from the rooftops. Pictured: Melanie Griffith
Photo: Larry D Horricks/20th Century Fox/Marv Films/Saville Productions/REX/Shutterstock.
(2016) Eddie the Eagle This feel-good sports film about Britain's first Olympic ski-jumper is an excellent reminder that it's not whether you win or lose, it's whether you even dare to dream. Pictured: Taron Egerton
Photo: Bend It Films/Film Council/REX/Shutterstock.
(2002) Bend It Like Beckham Responsible for countless young girls signing up for soccer (okay, fine, football) teams. Pictured: Parminder Nagra
Photo: Universal Studios/REX/Shutterstock.
(2016) Sing Yes, that was you totally tearing up at an animated elephant overcoming her crippling stage fright. Pictured: Meena, voiced by Tori Kelly
Photo: Egoli Tossell Film/Film Afrika World Wide/Construction Film/Wild Bunch/REX/Shutterstock.
(2014) Hector and The Search for Happiness This under-the-radar film stars Simon Pegg as a bored British psychiatrist who travels the world in search of meaning. Think of it as the male version of Eat Pray Love. Pictured: Simon Pegg as Hector
Pictured: Columbia Pictures/REX/Shutterstock.
(2010) Eat Pray Love Speak of the devil. For all its criticisms, this film based on Elizabeth Gilbert's bestseller is a handy argument for leaving the drama behind and indulging in some self-discovery. Now, who's going to bankroll all this navel-gazing? Pictured: Julia Roberts
(1993) Cool Runnings If Jamaica can have an Olympic bobsled team, you can at least take a stab at whatever your goal may be. Pictured: Malik Yoba, Leon Robinson, Doug E. Doug, and Rawle D. Lewis
Photo: Fox 2000/REX/Shutterstock.
(2015) Joy Anyone with big dreams and a thankless job can take comfort in the story of self-made businesswoman Joy Mangano, a struggling single mother who became a hugely successful entrepreneur. Pictured: Jennifer Lawrence as Mangano
Photo: Dale Robinette/Black Label Media/REX/Shutterstock.
(2016) La La Land Love story aside, this musical rom-com is really about pursuing your dreams. Pictured: Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone
Photo: 20th Century Fox/Rex/Shutterstock.
(1979) Norma Rae Sally Field's factory worker taught us the art of fighting the man and standing up for your rights. Pictured: Sally Field
Photo: Zade Rosenthal/Columbia/REX/Shutterstock.
(2006) The Pursuit of Happyness Nothing like a real-life rags-to-riches story to motivate you (and make you cry like a baby). Pictured: Will and Jaden Smith
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