The best inspirational movies leave an indelible impression on the viewer. In this selection I’ve chosen 35; from Oscar winners to cult favorites, they’re worthy of anyone’s DVD collection.
In an attempt to avoid this list being cliché, I’ve picked films you may not have seen before, and ones which may have slipped from your memory. As a result, you won’t find certain well known films below, such as Schindler’s List, Forrest Gump, and Shawshank Redemption. The exceptional films on offer should, hopefully, make up for it!
This wonderful period epic, loosely based on Mozart’s genius, boasts fine performances and exceptional music.
“This was a music I’d never heard. Filled with such longing, such unfulfillable longing.” A description of Mozart’s music.
King George III loses his mind, throwing government into chaos. Revolutionary medical man Dr. Willis is called in to restore order in this brilliant drama.
“No life is without its regrets yet none is without its consolations.” King George III.
A quirky, life-affirming claymation film. Two loners become pen pals and strike up a long distance friendship.
“My fifth job was a garbage collector. I cleaned up after litter bugs and didn’t have to talk to anybody. Sometimes I liked to pretend I was an intergalactic robot.” Max.
A sweeping masterpiece from Studio Ghibli. Young warrior Ashitaka fights to restore order between supernatural forces and the human world.
“This is what hatred looks like! This is what it does when it catches hold of you!”Ashitaki.
Schoolgirl Chihiro is inadvertently transferred to the spirit world, forcing her to work in a Japanese bathhouse to reclaim her freedom.
“Once you’ve met someone you never really forget them. It just takes a while for your memories to return.” Advice for Chihiro
Three teenage boys, annoyed by their families, take to the woods to live in a house they’ve built, embracing life along the way.
“You’re right, it’s a classic kidnapping. They took our children and the canned goods and pasta.” Frank, an irritated parent.
A thrilling account of the 1976 Formula 1 season. James Hunt and Niki Lauda battled for the World Title, the latter overcoming an appalling accident in the process.
“It’s impossible to perspire through a skin graft, so sweat will never run into my eyes again, which is good for a driver.” Lauda following his accident.
A quirky romantic drama. Adam Sandler’s eccentric loner Barry Egan is wooed by Emily Watson’s mysterious Lena.
“I have a lot of puddings, and in six to eight weeks it can be redeemed. So if you could just give me that much time, I think I can get enough mileage to go with you wherever you go.” Barry to Lena.
Gary Sinise’s excellent adaptation of John Steinbeck’s classic novella. Strong willed George, and mentally disabled Lennie, travel around America as farm hands, dreaming of one day owning their own land..
“We got a future. We got somebody to talk to that gives a damn about us.” George.
Based on Jean-Dominique Bauby’s book, this poignant French film tells of his life after a paralysing stroke. Suffering locked-in syndrome, he nevertheless wrote a novel.
“I decided to stop pitying myself. Other than my eye, two things aren’t paralysed, my imagination and my memory.” Bauby.
A couple divorce, forcing their children (Walt and Frank) to cope with the psychological games which erupt between their parents.
“We’d look at the knight armor at the Met. The scary fish at the Natural History Museum. I was always afraid of the squid and whale fighting.” Walt.
Sylvain Chomet’s sublime animated tale of a struggling magician as he travels across Europe, bonding with a young fan on the way.
“Magicians do not exist.” The Magician’s note.
Anxiety ridden Charlie Kaufman (Nic Cage) is a screenwriter adapting a difficult novel, becoming increasingly unstable during his attempts.
“All my problems and anxiety can be reduced to a chemical imbalance or some kind of misfiring synapses. I need to get help for that. But I’ll still be ugly, though.” Charlie.
This fantasy drama centres around six year old Hushpuppy. As her community is stricken with environmental issues, she learns to adapt to a new world.
“I see that I am a little piece of a big, big universe, and that makes it right.” Hushpuppy.
The story of Pi’s fight for survival whilst stranded in the Pacific Ocean. A volatile Bengal tiger is his sole company.
“The whole of life becomes an act of letting go, but what always hurts the most is not taking a moment to say goodbye.” Pi.
Based on neurologist Oliver Sack’s book. Robin Williams stars as introverted Dr. Sayer, who discovers a drug which awakens catatonic patients.
“Another awakening took place; that the human spirit is more powerful than any drug—and THAT is what needs to be nourished: with work, play, friendship, family. THESE are the things that matter.” Dr. Sayer.
Jack Nicholson stars as Randal P. McMurphy. A maverick, he feigns madness to escape prison time in a mental institute, causing mayhem in the process.
“What do you think you are, for Chrissake, crazy or somethin’? Well you’re not! You’re not! You’re no crazier than the average asshole out walkin’ around on the streets.” McMurphy.
WWII veteran Alvin hears his estranged brother has had a stroke, so sets off on a 240 mile journey to see him—via his tractor.
“There’s no one knows your life better than a brother that’s near your age. He knows who you are and what you are better than anyone.” Alvin.
Roman Polanski’s account of Polish pianist Władysław Szpilman’s remarkable fight for survival during Nazi deportation of Jews in WWII.
“[taking off his watch] Here, sell this. Food is more important than time.” Szpilman.
Daniel Day-Lewis gives an exceptional performance as Irishman Christy Brown. He suffered with severe cerebral palsy, yet became a noted writer.
“This is Christy Brown, my son. Genius.” Christy Brown’s father.
Roberto Benigni’s WWII film of a father who uses his imagination to protect his son from the horrors of war.
“This is my story. This is the sacrifice my father made. This was his gift to me.” The son narrates.
A tense survival tale by Werner Herzog, featuring Christian Bale as POW Dieter Dengler. A true story, Dengler’s bravery and charmisma are truly inspiring.
“Empty what is full. Fill what is empty. Scratch what itches.” Dieter Dengler.
Young Brit Jim becomes a POW at a WWII internment camp. Over the years, whilst fighting for survival, he matures from a petulant child to a mature young adult.
“First one side feeds you and the other side tries to get you killed, then it’s turned around; it’s all timing.” Advice for Jim.
Two teenage boys discover the enigmatic Mud living on a sparse island. As they become friends, it’s soon apparent the law are after him.
“There are fierce powers at work in the world, boys. Good, evil, poor luck, best luck. As men, we’ve got to take advantage where we can.” Mud.
Following a painful divorce, struggling author Miles heads off for a wine tasting weekend with hedonistic friend Jack. Chaos, and new love, ensues.
“Its flavors, they’re just the most haunting and brilliant and thrilling and subtle and… ancient on the planet.” Miles.
Truman Burbank lives an ordinary middle class life, unaware he’s actually the star of the most popular TV show on Earth.
“There’s nothing fake about Truman himself. No scripts, no cue cards. It isn’t always Shakespeare, but it’s genuine. It’s a life.” Christof, the show’s creator.
Aron Ralston traps his arm whilst hiking, leading to an unnerving realization.
“This rock… this rock has been waiting for me my entire life.” Ralston.
Léon is a hitman and loner. Suddenly forced to care for a child (a young Natalie Portman), he finds his humane side and seeks a change.
“You’ve given me a taste for life. I wanna be happy. Sleep in a bed, have roots. And you’ll never be alone again, Mathilda.” Léon.
Shy Joel and hedonistic Clementine begin a relationship, unaware they already share a unique history.
“Are we like those bored couples you feel sorry for in restaurants? Are we the dining dead?” Joel.
A rags to riches story. Maggie, a humble waitress, makes a break as a boxer and rapidly shoots to stardom.
“It’s the magic of risking everything for a dream that nobody sees but you.”
Estranged siblings Jon and Wendy Savage are reunited when their father displays signs of dementia.
“This upward mobility fixation of yours, it’s counterproductive and, frankly, pretty selfish. Because it’s not about Dad, it’s about you and your guilt.” Jon Savage.
When his wife is hospitalized, wealthy Matt King (George Clooney) and his family must adapt to sweeping changes.
“You give your children enough money to do something but not enough to do nothing.” Matt King.
A British drama focusing on a happily married couple. Over four seasons they observe their unhappy friends as they attempt to structure their lives.
“Young people. Everything’s for young people. Those bars, you know, they’re full of young people shouting about nothing.” A friend laments life.
Will Ferrell performs against type as introverted Harold Crick, who starts to hear a voice in his head (Emma Thompson) narrating his every move.
“I’m cursing you, you stupid voice, so shut up and leave me alone!” Harold Crick.
Last but not least, 2013’s thrilling sci-fi epic. Boasting exceptional special effects, this inspiring look at space is a visual treat.
“Either I make it down there in one piece and I have one hell of a story to tell! Or I burn up in the next ten minutes.” Dr. Stone.
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