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35 Inspirational Movies That Will Change Your Life

Written by Alex Morris
Creative Writer, Copywriter, & Journalist for Business, Culture, Lifestyle, & Work
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The best inspirational movies leave an indelible impression on the viewer for various reasons. Maybe it was a line from motivational movies, or the overall story itself. In fact, these are movies that will change your life or give you some new perspectives. There is always a reason people turn to these films.

Hollywood has produced several of the best inspirational movies out there. Some of them are cult classics while others have gotten Oscar nominations and awards.

In an attempt to avoid this list being cliché, I’ve picked films you may not have seen before, and ones that 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!

Top Inspirational Movies That Will Change Your Life

1. Amadeus

Amadeus - Best Inspirational Movie

    A 1984 film, this wonderful period epic is loosely based on Mozart’s genius. As you’d expect from top inspirational movies, this film’s selling point is the 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.

    2. The Madness of King George

    The Madness of King George - Motivational Movie

      A 1994 film, King George III loses his mind, throwing the government into chaos. Revolutionary medical man Dr. Willis is called in to restore order, while his lieutenants adjust to running the country without King George III, in this brilliant drama.

      “No life is without its regrets yet none is without its consolations.” King George III.

      3. Mary and Max

      Mary and Max - Most Inspirational Movie

        A quirky, life-affirming claymation film makes this list of most inspirational movies. Two loners become pen pals and strike up a long-distance friendship. Why it’s so quirky is that Mary is an eight-year-old Australian girl living in the suburbs of Melbourne, and Max is a 44-year-old, severely obese man in New York.


        This correspondence goes on for twenty years where both of them write back and forth talking about the various aspects of life.

         “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.

        4. Princess Mononoke

        Princess Mononoke - Best Inspirational Movie

          A sweeping masterpiece from Studio Ghibli. Young warrior Ashitaka fights to restore order between supernatural forces and the human world, who see Ashitaka as supporting the enemy.

          This is one of the best inspirational movies due to the precarious situation Ashitaka is in. This is on top of him being struck with a deadly curse that will cost him his life.

          “This is what hatred looks like! This is what it does when it catches hold of you!”Ashitaki.

          5. Spirited Away

          Spirited Away - Inspirational Movie

            Another Studio Ghibli masterpiece, this is another classic of inspirational movies. In this, a schoolgirl by the name of Chihiro is inadvertently transferred to the spirit world, forcing her to work in a Japanese bathhouse to reclaim her freedom.

            This spirit world is ruled by gods, witches, and spirits, and is a place where humans are changed into beasts. This alone gives plenty of incentive for Chihiro 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

            6. The Kings of Summer

            The Kings of Summer - Motivational Movie

              Another aspect of motivational movies is all about confronting the impossible and doing it anyway. In The Kings of Summer, three teenage boys decide to change their lives dramatically this summer.

              That change was embracing more independence and doing what so many of us wanted to do at one point: move out of our parents house.

              All three of them are 13 years old and tired of living with their parents so they go out into the woods, build a home, and live off the land.

              “You’re right, it’s a classic kidnapping. They took our children and the canned goods and pasta.” Frank, an irritated parent.

              7. Rush

              Rush - Best Inspirational Movie

                A thrilling account of the 1976 Formula 1 season. James Hunt and Niki Lauda battled for the World Title. Why this one is one of the best inspirational movies out there is that the latter is overcoming an appalling accident that required serious surgery. As you’d expect, what was once thought to be a downside or a flaw is a great boon in the right circumstances.


                “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.

                8. Punch-Drunk Love

                Punch-Drunk Love - Movie that will change your life

                  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.

                  9. Of Mice and Men

                  Of Mice and Men - life changing inspirational movie

                    Gary Sinise’s excellent adaptation of John Steinbeck’s classic novella Of Mice and Men. For those not familiar with the story, it follows two men: a Strong-willed George and a mentally disabled Lennie.

                    The catch here is this during the Great Depression and the two of them travel around America as farmhands, eventually settling at a farm and working there. All the while the two are working, they are 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.

                    10. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

                    The Diving Bell and the Butterfly - Best Motivational Movie

                      Based on Jean-Dominique Bauby’s book, this poignant French film tells of his life after a paralyzing stroke. Suffering locked-in syndrome, he nevertheless wrote a novel outlining the whole process.

                      As disheartening as it is from the summary, this makes the list of motivational movies as it’s a story of overcoming the circumstances that we end up in.


                      “I decided to stop pitying myself. Other than my eye, two things aren’t paralysed, my imagination and my memory.” Bauby. 

                      11. The Squid and the Whale

                      The Squid and the Whale - A Remarkable Movie

                        A couple divorce, and naturally it affects both the parents and children. In some cases with these films, it takes on the perspective of the parents. This is slightly different as we follow the kids instead – Walt and Frank – as they cope with the co-parenting life and their parent’s own psychological tricks while also trying to live a normal life.

                        “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.

                        12. The Illusionist

                        The Illusionist - Best Inspirational Movie

                          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.

                          13. Adaptation

                          Adaptation - Top Inspirational Movie

                            Like many on this list of inspirational movies, this is a story of someone facing severe mental issues and trying to overcome a difficult task. In the case of Adaptation, an anxiety-ridden Charlie Kaufman (Nic Cage) is a screenwriter attempting to do his job.

                            The only issue is that he is trying to adapt to a difficult novel and that’s proving to be tough. As a result, he becomes increasingly unstable during his attempts at screenwriting.


                            “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.

                            14. Beasts of the Southern Wild

                            Beasts of the Southern Wild - life changing inspirational movie

                              This fantasy drama centres around a six-year-old girl named Hushpuppy. As her community is stricken with environmental issues, the inspirational aspect is her learning to adapt to a new world.

                              With constant changes and new challenges that she faces, this is one of those life changing inspirational movies that gets you thinking about our own struggles and adapting to them.

                              “I see that I am a little piece of a big, big universe, and that makes it right.” Hushpuppy.

                              15. Life of Pi

                              Life of Pi - Inspirational Book

                                An incredible and inspirational book has gotten a film adaptation as well. The story of Pi is an interesting one where Pi is left on a small boat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

                                Initially, you’d think this is a simple fight for survival whilst stranded in the Pacific Ocean. Pi could row to shore eventually and feast on fish along the way.

                                Well, the story isn’t so simple as not only does Pi have to deal with surviving, he also has to handle his other passenger, a Bengal tiger.


                                An amazing book naturally has one of the top inspirational movies out there as it pits survival with psychological and physical elements.

                                “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.

                                16. Awakenings

                                Awakenings - Most Inspirational Movie

                                  When Robin Williams wasn’t playing a humourous character, he often played in these inspirational films, uplifting people with his positivity and charm. In this film, he plays as the introverted Dr. Sayer who discovers a drug that awakens catatonic patients.

                                  Coincidentally, this is another one of those inspirational movies based on a true story.

                                  “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.

                                  17. One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest

                                  One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest

                                    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.

                                    18. The Straight Story

                                    The Straight Story - Best Motivational Movie

                                      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.

                                      19. The Pianist

                                      The Pianist - Top Inspirational Movie

                                        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. 

                                        20. My Left Foot

                                        My Left Foot - life changing inspirational movie

                                          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.

                                          21. Life is Beautiful

                                          Life is Beautiful - Movie that will change your life

                                            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.

                                            22. Rescue Dawn

                                            Rescue Dawn - Best Motivational Movie

                                              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.

                                              23. Empire of the Sun

                                              Empire of the Sun - Top Inspirational Movie


                                                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.

                                                24. Mud

                                                Mud - movie that will change your life

                                                  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.

                                                  25. Sideways

                                                  Sideways - Movie that will change your life

                                                    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.

                                                    26. The Truman Show

                                                    The Truman Show - Top Inspirational Movie

                                                      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.

                                                      27. 127 Hours

                                                      127 Hours - Motivational Movie

                                                        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.

                                                        28. Léon: The Professional

                                                        Léon: The Professional - Best Inspirational Movie

                                                          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.

                                                          29. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

                                                          Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

                                                            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.

                                                            30. Million Dollar Baby

                                                            Million Dollar Baby - life changing inspirational movie

                                                              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.”

                                                              31. The Savages

                                                              The Savages - Movie that will change your life

                                                                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.

                                                                32. The Descendants

                                                                The Descendants - Best Inspirational Movie

                                                                  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.

                                                                  33. Another Year

                                                                  Another Year - Best Motivational Movie

                                                                    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.

                                                                    34. Stranger Than Fiction

                                                                    Stranger Than Fiction - Top Inspirational Movie

                                                                      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.

                                                                      35. Gravity

                                                                      Gravity - Best Inspirational Movie

                                                                        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.

                                                                        Get Inspired by These Inspirational Movies!

                                                                        As cliché as these films can be and how predictable they can get, these films do try to mix the formula up a bit. Nevertheless, these are stories that people can get lost in and get inspired by. So don’t be afraid to watch some of these classic films.

                                                                        Featured photo credit: Tech Daily via unsplash.com

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