If you’re like me, you love films. Movies have the power to effect our entire mood. They make us want to change ourselves and even change the world. There are films that make you cry (when you need a good cry), films that help you vent your frustrations and films that enliven you.
Here are 10 movies with themes that range from motivational to fun. This list includes Hollywood classics and Pixar titles, and every one of them has the potential to leave you feeling inspired, motivated or bring you to your happy place.
1. Meet John Doe
“I know a lot of you are saying, ‘What can I do? I’m just a little punk. I don’t count.’ Well, you’re dead wrong.The little punks have always counted because in the long run, the character of a country is the sum total of the character of its little punks.” – Long John Willoughby/John Doe
Meet John Doe is the quintessential ‘fight for the underdog’ film. Gary Cooper’s character represents the John Doe’s of America. The movie includes a series of speeches about empowering the average citizen. Its theme is about the power of the people and never thinking you don’t matter just because you’re an Average Joe. Its message of hope and determination will leave you feeling self-confident, better about humanity and optimistic about the potential of the world’s citizens to enact positive change.
2. Chariots of Fire
“You came to see a race today. To see someone win. It happened to be me. But I want you to do more than just watch a race. I want you to take part in it. I want to compare faith to running in a race. It’s hard. It requires concentration of will, energy of soul.” – Eric Liddell
This film has a spiritual foundation in its message, but isn’t about religion. Eric challenges conventional thinking and questions what it means to glorify God. For those of us who are not spiritual, this can mean making your mark on the world the best way you can, regardless of how others think you should. Chariots of Fire is about endless determination, working hard towards achieving your goals, being proud of your accomplishments and doing what you love. Its infamous ‘running on the beach scene’ might be a cheesy pop culture reference, but anyone who tells you they didn’t feel at least a little inspired by that scene is lying. Nothing gets the heart pumping like watching an intense race!
3. The King’s Speech
“King George VI: L-listen to me…”
“Lionel Logue: Why should I waste my time listening to you?”
“King George VI: Because I have a right to be heard! I have a voice!”
“Lionel Logue: …Yes, you do. You have such perseverance, Bertie. You’re the bravest man I know. You’ll make a bloody good king.”
The King’s Speech is the true story of the former King of England, George VI, and his journey to overcome a debilitating stammer. Not only is The King’s Speech a heartening film, it also has gorgeous cinematography. The color schemes might be cool and dark, but the plot is anything but. It’s hard to feel hopeless when you’re watching a king struggle, just like commoners. The movie makes you realize even the royals have mortifying moments and personal flaws. It will leave you renewed and determined to conquer your obstacles.
4. Remember the Titans
“This is where they fought the battle of Gettysburg. Fifty thousand men died right here on this field, fighting the same fight that we are still fighting amongst ourselves today… Listen to their souls, men. ‘I killed my brother with malice in my heart. Hatred destroyed my family.’ You listen, you take a lesson from the dead. If we don’t come together right now on this hallowed ground, we too will be destroyed, just like they were.” – Coach Boone
This movie is a cult classic, and rightly so. If you’re not interested in sports, don’t let that deter you from watching this movie. Although it’s about a high school football team, the personal and professional obstacles the team and their coach must overcome are highly relatable. Watching the characters prevail against prejudice, and learn to work as a team, is something we can all be motivated by. Remember the Titans will make you feel ready to take on the world.
“That might sound boring, but I think the boring stuff is the stuff I remember the most.” – Russell
Once you get past its tear-jerking opening, Up is full of feel-good moments. This is one of those go-to movies when you need a pick-me-up, or to need to feel like there’s some good left in this world (even if the world appears computer-animated). If you’re feeling low, or just kind of “blah”, Up will never fail to boost your mood.
6. School of Rock
“Dude, I service society by rocking. I’m out there on the front lines liberating people with my music.” – Dewey Finn
As the Dewey says in the film, “You’re not hardcore, unless you live hardcore.” If you need more than just a mood boost, but an energy boost as well, few movies beat School of Rock. It’s hilarious and jam-packed with classic rock anthems to pump you up. Plus, there are a few gems of actual heart-warming advice in there. Rock on, kids.
7. The King and I
Kralahome: “Why are you so blind; have you no eyes to see? King tries impossible task – wishing to be scientific man who know all modern things… He will only tear himself in two, trying to be something he can never be!”
Anna: “Of course he can never be, if those who are closest to him are unwilling to help him!”
Another classic from the way-back machine, The King and I has a unique premise and provides a good laugh too. The silly, 1950s era “cultural differences” between the King of Siam and the English-bred schoolteacher in his court are ridiculous and entertaining. Among the one-liners, there’s also a good story about breaking down cultural barriers in order to understand one another. Add this movie to your bucket list, it’s a classic that is still relevant in modern times.
8. Despicable Me
“When we were adopted by a bald guy, I thought this would be more like ‘Annie’.” – Edith
Despicable Me is so enjoyable, that I don’t even mind when my little brother asks to watch it a million times. This is one of those kid movies that appeals to adults too. When you’re feeling grumpy, or extra jaded, watching this movie will easily lift your spirits. The sequel isn’t half bad either.
9. Cool Runnings
“Hey, it doesn’t matter tomorrow if they come in first or fiftieth. Those guys have earned the right to walk into that stadium and wave their nation’s flag. That’s the single greatest honor an athlete can ever have. That’s what the Olympics are all about. Sixteen years ago I forgot that. Don’t you go and do the same.” – Irving “Irv” Blitzer
Pure inspiration and motivation, Cool Runnings is a film you won’t forget. This is a must-see movie. The plot, a group of native-born Jamaicans trying to train for Olympic bobsledding, provides all the comedy you could ever want. The movie is based on a true story and the raw determination of the athletes is energizing. Their story is remarkable and if you only pick one film from this entire list – watch this one.
10. Legally Blonde
“I just don’t think that Brooke could’ve done this. Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands, they just don’t.” – Elle Woods
If you’ve never seen Legally Blonde, don’t write it off as a chick flick. The lead character, Elle Woods, is a boss. Watching her disprove all the people who doubted her intelligence is truly satisfying. You’ll feel like taking on a room full of haters after seeing her slay in and out of the courtroom. And you’ll learn the famous ‘bend and snap’…just try not to break anyone’s nose.
Featured photo credit: Meet John Doe/Warner Bros. Entertainment via doctormacro.com