Inspirational Movies mean so much to the people who relate to them. Of course, different people will be touched by different inspirational movies, but some films are universally awe-inspiring. Depictions of love, strength, acceptance, and perseverance can help get you through hard times. Here are some of the best inspirational movies out there right now, so see if your favorites made the list!
1 Dead Poets Society
Not only is this one of the most inspirational movies I’ve ever seen, but it’s also one of my favorites. I’ll be completely honest, this movie made me want to be a boy attending an upper crust prep school. It’s one of Robin Williams finest roles, and a starting point for many of today’s popular actors. Robert Sean Leonard (aka James Wilson), Josh Charles, and Ethan Hawke star in it as well.
2 A Beautiful Mind
I’m not the biggest Russell Crowe fan, especially in light of his behavior in the not too distant past. That being said, A Beautiful Mind is a beautiful movie. The story of John Nash, a brilliant mathematician who is also a paranoid schizophrenic, is a true one. The film – and his story – bring this problem to light, and illuminates the prejudices people have against those with similar problems. It’s hugely inspiring, especially since Nash himself became a recipient of the Nobel Prize.
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3 Mr. Holland’s Opus
This is one of my favorite inspirational movies, partly because I was a huge band geek and had a band teacher just as awesome as Mr. Holland (RIP, T!). This film proves that you should never give up on your dream, and that you might have talents in areas you never expected. Mr. Holland feared he was destined to simply be “just another teacher,” but his work through the years proved how deeply great teachers resonate with their students.
4 Billy Elliot
I absolutely love this movie. I still think it was Jamie Bell’s best role. It deals so well with gender stereotypes. Billy wants to do ballet, but his father thinks it makes his son a sissy. Even now, certain stereotypes abound when boys dance ballet. They don’t all come from working class miners trying to deal with being a single parent without work, either.
5 Schindler’s List
There’s no question that Schindler’s List is one of the most inspirational movies ever made. The film proves that with strength and determination, you do not have to stand back and let atrocities occur. The WWII setting is haunting, the noir quality makes it even more believable, and the message is still incredibly relevant.
6 Erin Brockovich
It may seem weird to see this movie on here. Julia Roberts (and her breasts) are the butt of a lot of jokes. I love this movie, though. I think it sends a great message about how important it is to stand up for what you believe in, no matter who tries to stop you.
7 The Diary of Anne Frank
Not only is this one of the most inspirational movies ever made, but it’s also one of the most inspirational books. Any version of the Anne Frank is good, but I’m partial to the older one. Something about it captures the whole optimistic but doomed spirit of Anne’s own diary.
8 To Kill a Mockingbird
Again, this film spawns from an inspirational novel, as well – and again, it’s one of my favorite reads. Friendship and familial love play huge parts, but it’s Atticus Finch’s philosophies and the lessons he teaches his children through his actions that really stand out.
9 Forrest Gump
This is one of the best inspirational movies. I can’t help it, I love Tom Hanks as Forrest. Parts are unbelievable and campy, but the messages of tolerance, undying love, and friendship override that fact. This is also one of the very few cases where I enjoyed the movie better than the book(s).
10 Slumdog Millionaire
There’s a reason Slumdog Millionaire become one of the hugest films ever. It’s a classic underdog story, made even more inspirational because of the culture it highlights. You root for Jamal’s amazing lucky streak and empathize with his early struggles.
11 The Green Mile
The Green Mile is one of those movies that makes you think, it makes you really look into your life and the judgment of others. It is a movie that will allow you to really look into someone that might look different -- and be accused of something, but realize, there is something good in there. Heck, maybe there is something good in everyone.
12 Brokeback Mountain
Brokeback Mountain is easily one of those movies that is not only inspirational to everyone, but it's a movie that really allows you to peek into what it was like way back when. If you have someone that you love, someone that you are so in love with but you never, ever took the leap into them -- do it now. Who knows how long you will have to do it.
13 The Pursuit of Happyness
Coming out of the drudges of life, out of the hand that life deals you is hard, but it can be done. That's what this movie is all about. He was homeless, completely and totally until he came up the ranks and really put his mind to it.
14 The Blind Side
Who doesn't love a story where the underdog comes out on top? This particular story just happens to be true -- and it's an incredible one. It's a beautiful story about a homeless boy who ends up adopted by a family that really turns out to love him, to appreciate him and to encourage him to become the football player he is supposed to be.
15 Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood
This movie is one of my favorites and it is not only a beautiful movie about life, love and happiness, but it's a movie about family. Watch it! You'll fall in love too!
16 It's a Wonderful Life
This is a great classic that everyone loves to watch around Christmas, but it's inspirational any time of the year! It's a Wonderful Life reminds us that even when we're feeling down on ourselves, there are people out there that need us. If you've never seen it, this is definitely a movie you need to watch right away.
42 takes a story that many of us knew and found inspirational before it was ever a movie. Seeing this in movie form solidified the inspiration that the Jackie Robinson story has left us with for years. Any movie that covers a story of the destruction of barriers is almost guaranteed to be an inspiration and 42 does not disappoint.
18 Soul Surfer
A movie of never giving up, Soul Surfer tells the true story of Bethany Hamilton a surfer who lost her arm in a shark attack. While most people would have never gotten back on a surf board, Hamilton never gave up. This movie shows us that no matter what we have to overcome, we can accomplish anything we set our minds to.
19 Pay It Forward
Not enough people do anything for others, but demand things in return. Pay it Forward shows us the power of helping, not only our family and friends, but strangers too. This is a great movie that sticks with everyone who watches it, so if you haven't seen it this is one to add to your watch list.
20 Akeelah and the Bee
Another sweet story of an underdog overcoming the obstacles set in front of her. The movie tells the story of a young girl feeling the pressure of her family and community as she competes in a spelling bee. If we're being honest here, I may have shed a tear at the end of this movie.
Sports movies tend to focus on the underdog which makes them inspirational, but when they're based on true stories they become a must see. This is a beautiful story about chasing your dreams and will leave you chanting "RUDY!"
There are so many really inspirational movies that it’s hard to pick just a few. From persevering through hardships to fighting for the underdogs to finding strength even in the direst situations, these inspirational movies carry powerful marriages. Let me know about some of your favorite inspirational movies. What films touch you deeply?
This article was written in collaboration with editor Lydia Sheehan.
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