Top 10 Most Inspirational Movies

February 26, 2013 — 109 Comments

I believe that each moment in life requires a unique and inspirational movie. Other things can be inspirational. I find inspiration in life’s story, in my wife and kids, the Bible, hiking, traveling, or a great book. But nothing quite beats the perfect movie for life’s important moments. Movie heroes overcome great odds, and their stories inspire us to get up on our feet and do something spectacular!

Below is a list of my top ten inspirational films. I drew it up by narrowing down all the ones I could think of by category and then asking myself, “When I feel like (fill in blank), which movie will help?” The result is my arsenal of cinematic emotional motivators.

I hope it will also be helpful to you in your journey.


Top 10 Most Inspirational Movies

Big Fish (2003) (Living the dream, Pursuing the love of your life)

I first saw Big Fish when I was trying to compile a bucket list. It challenged me to keep thinking well beyond what is ordinary and to strive to always go deeper into the dreams I have inside of me. This life is a grand adventure, and God wants us to think big! And so, like Edward Bloom, I am learning to think bigger than my small pond.

Edward Bloom: There’s a time when a man needs to fight, and a time when he needs to accept that his destiny is lost… the ship has sailed and only a fool would continue. Truth is… I’ve always been a fool.

Roman Holiday (1953) (Becoming yourself/Adventure)

Roman Holiday is the perfect antidote for when I feel most constrained by everyday life. It is the story of a love affair between two strangers, a princess and a reporter. Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck are some of my favorite classic actors, and the film is an ode to beautiful Rome, one of my favorite cities in the world. Watching this movie makes me smile at the thought of how I can live a better adventure.

Dr. Bonnachoven: The best thing I know is to do exactly what you wish for a while.

Braveheart (1995) (Freedom/Adventure)

Although Braveheart is far from being historically accurate, it was spot on for inspiration. To watch it is to understand what it means to fight for someone or something you believe in. Braveheart had a big effect on me. I went on to learn more about Scotland and eventually moved there six years later.

William Wallace: Every man dies, not every man really lives.

We Bought a Zoo (2011) (Risk/Adventure)

I have shown some parts of the movie to my daughters so they could get a beautiful glimpse of what courage looks like. This quote captures the essence of not only the movie for most of Cameron Crowe’s films.

Benjamin Mee: You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.

Dead Poet’s Society (1989) (Risk-taking and the value of teaching)

I wrote about Dead Poet’s Society in an earlier post called Raising the Dead Poet’s Society. This movie reminds me that I should be a student of life. The students it portrays are young and eager for life. They are reminders that though I am now in my thirties, I should not lose their spirit. Similarly, the young men of Welton Academy fear failure in the face of their parents sometimes overwhelming expectations. And though today I do not fear the rejection of my parents, I still have fears of failure and often find myself timid and needing a talk from Professor Keating.

Professor John Keating to his students looking at alums from decades ago: They’re not that different from you, are they? Same haircuts. Full of hormones, just like you. Invincible, just like you feel. The world is their oyster. They believe they’re destined for great things, just like many of you, their eyes are full of hope, just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable? Because, you see gentlemen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen, you hear it? – – Carpe – – hear it? – – Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary.

October Sky (1999) (Belief in yourself/Friendship/Father-son relationship)

I wrote about this movie in an earlier post called Being There as a Father in the October Sky. It is one of the best American stories set in the 1950s, and it reminds me that I should never stop dreaming and setting goals.ver stop dreaming and setting goals.

Homer (to his dad): Dad, I may not be the best, but I come to believe that I got it in me to be somebody in this world. And it’s not because I’m so different from you either, it’s because I’m the same. I mean, I can be just as hard-headed, and just as tough. I only hope I can be as good a man as you. Sure, Wernher von Braun is a great scientist? but he isn’t my hero.

Saving Private Ryan (1998) (Sacrifice)

I have a deep appreciation for our military and the sacrifice they make for ordinary Americans like you and me. Saving Private Ryan captures the service of our American military during World War II. It is an inspiration and a reminder to thank any soldier who has served or is currently serving in our military.

Sergeant Horvath: I don’t know. Part of me thinks the kid’s right. He asks what he’s done to deserve this. He wants to stay here, fine. Let’s leave him and go home. But then another part of me thinks, what if by some miracle we stay, then actually make it out of here. Someday we might look back on this and decide that saving Private Ryan was the one decent thing we were able to pull out of this whole godawful, shitty mess. Like you said, Captain, maybe we do that, we all earn the right to go home.

Chariots of Fire (1981) (Strengthening Faith)

This is another movie that captures the beauty of Scotland. I was a young Christian when I first saw Chariots of Fire, and it helped me understand what deep conviction looks like. It is a beautiful portrait of a man Eric Liddel loving his God first; thanking him for the ability to run; and rejoicing in the service of his country, Great Britain, and of his true and eternal King.

Eric Liddel: 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. You experience elation when the winner breaks the tape – especially if you’ve got a bet on it. But how long does that last? You go home. Maybe you’re dinner’s burnt. Maybe you haven’t got a job. So who am I to say, “Believe, have faith,” in the face of life’s realities? I would like to give you something more permanent, but I can only point the way. I have no formula for winning the race. Everyone runs in her own way, or his own way. And where does the power come from, to see the race to its end? From within. Jesus said, “Behold, the Kingdom of God is within you. If with all your hearts, you truly seek me, you shall ever surely find me.” If you commit yourself to the love of Christ, then that is how you run a straight race.

Moneyball (2011) (Overcoming “the way it’s always been done”/business as usual)

As a businessman, I am in a daily battle analyzing what should and should not be done to achieve results. In an ever-changing business world, it is easy to sit in a corner and rely on a comfortable strategy. Anytime I feel stuck in what I am doing in business, I use this movie as a lesson to reject business as usual and take time to strategically think what really needs to happen. On top of that, I am a huge baseball fan, which makes the movie even more enjoyable.

Scout to Billy: We’re all told at some point in time that we can no longer play the children’s game, we just don’t… don’t know when that’s gonna be. Some of us are told at eighteen, some of us are told at forty, but we’re all told.

To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) (Fatherhood/Honor)

Atticus Finch is a man of action eager to do what is just in the eyes of God. What man doesn’t want to be like Atticus Finch? As a father of two daughters, I think often about what it means to stand up for what is right. My children pay close attention to not only my words but, more important, my actions. Therefore, I am thankful to Harper Lee for creating such a wonderful character and to Gregory Peck for bringing that on-screen character to life.

Rev. Sykes: Miss Jean Louise. Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father’s passing.

Honorable mention: 

Rudy, Good Will Hunting, The Pursuit of Happyness, Invictus, Finding Forrester, Rocky, Jerry Maguire, The Way, and Say Anything. I am sure there are many more but these are the ones that stand out.

What are your top 10 most inspirational movies and why? 

Which ones stir your soul and make you want to act?

109 responses to Top 10 Most Inspirational Movies


    Great list and for the ones I know I concur. Off the top of my head I would have to add Schindler’s List, Babettes Feast, Gran Torino and Au Revoir Les Enfants.


    Inspirational… Rocky, My Run, The Natural, Worlds Fastest Indian, The Eyes of Thailand.


    Thanks for the list, I have some research to do on these! My short list includes The Secret, The Moses Code, I’m Fine Thanks, and Limitless


    Good will hunting , the breakfast club .


    Reblogged this on thenostalgiaessays.


    impressive list David ,however doubt whether you saw shawshank redemption…because it should not have been missed .


    I also like A beautiful mind..


    I agree with Johny on Good Will Hunting and Breakfast Club and would like to say the film The Warriors have always inspired me never to give up and to persevere.


    The Pursuit of Happiness …


    soul surfer 🙂


    I like your list but i would personally add the following films
    Forest Gump, The Help, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Cast Away, Hachiko: A Dogs Tale, The Impossible And One true thing.
    I Love all those Films 🙂


    Boiler Room (2000), awesome movie.


    Just wanted to add another one – Awakenings


    How about Life of Pi?


    Finding Nemo. Crash. And how could anyone not include Electric Bugaloo 2


    I think slumdog millionaire and 42


    has anybody mentioned “Life is beautiful”?


    All great choices, I am bookmarking this page for future reference. Everyone has great recommendations too. I have to add some sports inspirational movies to this conversation: Field of Dreams, Remember The Titans, Coach Carter, and The Greatest Game Ever Played.


    Hi David!
    Very well done. I enjoyed your clips and comments. In a very strange way one of my favorites is “What Dreams May Come.” To love someone so much to voluntarily enter the depths of hell, is very powerful and…very motivational.
    Thanks for this piece!


    Add War Horse to your list 😉


    no friends.inspirational movies list should be started with shawshank redemption.


      Thanks Maddy for the input. I am a big fan of Shawshank Redemption and although I believe it is a wonderful film, I wouldn’t put it the “inspirational” category. It is uplifting to a degree as the story leads toward hope and redemption. But it doesn’t necessarily motivate me to do one thing or another. That is just a personal opinion but I can see how it does in others.


        can you please suggest a movie, which can help me reclaim my life and motivation. I am lost the will to do anything after I got dumped by a girl I loved most and we were going to marry soon.


        Rocky, I am very sorry about what you are going through. Although married now, I have gone through similar situations. This is a time of opportunity and adventure for you. Loss is part of “story” in life so be encouraged that your story is not over with. Braveheart or Gladiator are favorite movies for inspiring me to do something beyond me. You are a creative person so watch the movie and then pray and dream about what adventure you should go on next.


    I’d like to recommend a couple of movies that has touched me and will do the same to anybody, i believe.
    Unconditional, 2011- This movie, i have had to watch countless times, and i would continue to do so.
    Taught me about God’s love like no other.
    Crash, 2005- Teaches me about forgiveness, and how events come together to change ppl’s lives forever.
    John Q, 2010- A movie about love and sacrifice, about a man who would do anything to get his son to live.
    The Book of Eli- about a man who was in danger for saving the last copy of the Holy Bible. Wonder why bullet shots didn’t affect him. Think its about having a vision and working towards it. Teaches about faith too.


    Hi, thanks for the list! Here are some additions by me: Peaceful Warrior, Gandhi, Intouchables


    list is very good, i want to add ‘life is buityfull’. ‘two brother’, ‘gost & darkness’, ‘gandhi’


    This may sound like a strange one but I believe Lars and the Real Girl inspires me to be more accepting, less judgmental, more loving & less worried about what others think.


    the pursuit of happiness is one of the best movie i ever watched in my life.
    hats off


    Hey! 🙂 following your list I started watching October Sky and it brought me to tears!
    One of the movies that should make the top it should be: “A Walk To Remember” 🙂 Very powerful film.


    rocky???? gladiator????


    Hey go for MEN OF HONOR!!!


    List is gud but its its incomplete without World Fastest Indian, Cast Away, 127 Hours, Feith & The diving Bell & Butterfly


    please suggest some movies which related to creativity and innovation.

    Thank you


    pay it forward is a real great movie, too.


    peaceful warrior


    Love this list! I would add the following four: Return to Me, Last Holiday, Fifty First Dates and The Grace Card.


    So many great movies. I’d add a classic You Can’t Take It with You. Jimmy Stewart and Jean Arthur are in it. A crazy supporting cast, but the movie is about how family and friends are what make us truly rich.


    Thanks for the great list David! And thank you all for the additions.


    I don’t know how any list can not have Rocky # 1 ???

    The Karate Kid is another great one.

    A couple others that wouldn’t make it on very many people’s lists that are also inspirational are “Youngblood” and “Can’t Buy Me Love.”


    How could I forget to mention “Major League?”


    Great list. Thanks!


    Saw “October Sky” based off the recommendation…great recommendation!


    Amazing list david & all other contributors. It is so good to highlight the goodness that cinema brings to our lives. Well Done.


    How about million dollar baby… my favorite… client eastwood is more appealing when he is not talking in the frame!


    Hello there! I could have sworn I’ve been to this
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    That is a great list of inspiring movies and I’ll be checking out all of those that I haven’t seen! (October Sky, Dead Poet’s Society, Roman Holiday) Thanks!
    Also I love the additions of Big Fish and We Bought a Zoo – those are two of my favorites and really make you want to get out there and enjoy life!
    Some of my other favorites are The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (this has an amazing inspirational speech!), The Bucket List, and Warm Bodies


    i recently saw Akheelah and the Bee, a warm, family-friendly underdog story. Its hard not to fall in love with the movie…


    I think “peaceful warrior” should be there..


    Salmon Fishing in the Yemen was a great movie. Definitely inspiring, while also a bit funny.


    The Blind side, Forest Bump, Grid iron Gang are also good movies that leave you with a feeling and inspire you


    I would have to add the new film, Gimme Shelter. It is a lovely, inspirational film with a hopeful ending. Definitely check it out if you have the opportunity.


    I would add “Amazing Grace,” “Les Misérables,” “Life is Beautiful,” and “Gimme Shelter” (the last one just came out recently)


    thank’s for the list of movies. I’d love to share this…:)


    Rudy is my favorite


    Seabiscuit and Driving Miss Daisy?? Thanks for the list!


    Also, Music of the Heart with Meryl Streep


    my list
    men of honor
    the pursuit of happiness
    the aviator
    gridiron gang
    cinderalla man
    october sky
    facing the giants
    3 idiots from my country india watch it plz


    3 Idiots greatest movie ever!!!!


    Hardflip is one of my all time favorite movies, very inspiring.


    thank you dave, i am planning to watch all the movies in the list that i havent watched already. i would like to add in here two movies which are my all time favourites. the first one would be the shawshank redemption. the second movie which i would like to mention is citizen kane, which i wont say is exactly inspirational but gives an insight about a person as to how he can be referred to as good and evil depending upon the conditions and time. nonetheless it is a great movie.


    Patch Adams, Men of honor (all time favorite movie), Remember the titans, Pride (so good), Saving private Ryan, August Rush, Lion King, In America, Braveheart, Gladiator, The Green mile, Good will hunting, Warrior, The help, Pay it forward, Moneyball, I am sam (makes me cry every time) Scent of a woman and last but not least Man on fire!


      Brian, very good list. Moneyball is a personal favorite of mine as a baseball fan but also someone in business. CAn’t beat Lion King, SPR, Braveheart, Gladiator, Good Will Hunting, etc.


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    I do believe all of the ideas you have presaented in your post.
    They are very convincing and ccan definitely work.

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    Freedom writers is too good.


    david watch 3 idiots u will love it
    if u want other good romatic movies from my country india i will tell u


    Thank you Gautam! I will check it out.


    And Lagaan too.

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  1. 10 Most Inspirational Movies – according to Dave Schroeder | inspire4better - August 19, 2013

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