It’s no secret that life gets us down sometimes. We all need inspiration, and we look for it in different ways. Some people seek religion, some read stories or self-help books, and some seek motivation from other mediums like music or even video games.
However, some of the best motivational stories are told on the silver screen. Whether they’re based on true stories or entirely fictional accounts, inspirational movies are great at making us feel uplifted!
Motivational movies have been around since the dawn of cinema, but truly classic inspirational films bridge gaps between time and generations to deliver a universal, human message.
Here’s our list of the top 50 most inspiring movies to watch of all time.
50. Harold and Maude (1971)
Starring Ruth Gordon & Bud Cort, this movie is about a death-obsessed young man who develops a relationship with an older woman, who teaches him the meaning of living a full life.
49. Hotel Rwanda (2004)
Starring Don Cheadle, this movie is based on the true story of the genocide in Rwanda. It’s truly a harrowing tale that will leave you respecting the sanctity of life.
48. Chariots of Fire (1981)
Starring Ben Cross, this Oscar-winning historical drama is about two diverse Olympic runners who become unlikely friends.
47. Thelma & Louise (1991)
Starring Susan Sarandon & Geena Davis, this classic road-trip movie is an exciting tale of friendship.
46. The Karate Kid (1984)
Starring Ralph Macchio & Pat Morita. A true classic, this movie is about a teenage boy overcoming his bullies with the power of karate!
45. Driving Miss Daisy (1989)
Starring Morgan Freeman & Jessica Tandy, this Oscar-winning classic tells the story of friendship between a Jewish woman, and her African-American chauffeur.
44. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
A bit old, but still holds up! Starring James Stewart, this political classic is about a US senator fighting against corruption.
43. The Black Stallion (1979)
Starring Kelly Reno, this movie is about a boy and his horse in the WWII era. It’s a truly touching tale!
42. Searching for Bobby Fischer (1993)
Starring Joe Mantegna, this movie is about a reluctant chess prodigy who makes an unlikely friend.
41. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
Starring Henry Thomas & Drew Barrymore, this incredible Steven Spielberg classic is an alien who crashes on earth who is found by some kids. Tears will be shed!
40. Places in the Heart (1984)
Starring Sally Field, this movie is about a young mother trying to make it through the Great Depression with some unlikely help.
39. The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
Based on the great American classic written by John Steinbeck, this movie is about a poor family trying to make a better life for themselves.
38. A Beautiful Mind (2001)
This Biopic is about Nobel Prize winner, John Forbes Nash Jr. This movie is hailed as one of the all time greats; it’s a 4-time Oscar-winning movie starring Russell Crowe & Ed Harris.
37. Cool Hand Luke (1967)
Starring Paul Newman, this movie is about a charismatic hero trying to make his way through the prison system.
36. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Starring Tom Hanks & Matt Damon, this movie is about a company of WWII soldiers trying to save a man amidst the horror of the Normandy battlegrounds. This movie will get your blood-pumping!
35. Norma Rae (1979)
Starring Sally Field, this movie is about a young working mother trying to overcome injustice in her workplace.
34. Working Girl (1988)
Starring Melanie Griffith, Harrison Ford & Sigourney Weaver; this movie is about a young woman’s rise to success, struggling to make her way in a man’s world.
33. What's Love Got to Do with It (1993)
Starring Angela Bassett & Laurence Fishburne, this is the true story of singer Tina Turner.
32. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)
Starring Jack Nicholson, this movie is about a charming rascal who finds himself in under the tyrannical rule of nurses in a mental institution.
31. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Starring Tim Robbins & Morgan Freeman, this movie is about a successful banker who finds himself spending life in prison. This is a true tale of friendship and resilience.
30. Serpico (1973)
Starring Al Pacino & John Randolph, this movie is about a New York cop in the 1960s dealing with inside corruption.
29. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Based on the classic literature of the same name, regarded as one of the pioneers of film. Starring Judy Garland, this movie is a tale of a young girl who’s whisked away by a whirlwind to a magical world.
28. Babe (1995)
Starring James Cromwell & Magda Szubanski, this movie is about an anthropomorphic pig overcoming adversity. A great movie for kids and adults alike.
27. Lilies of the Field (1963)
Starring Sidney Poitier & Lilia Skala, this movie is about a selfless handyman who builds a chapel. It’s a lot more interesting than it sounds!
26. Field of Dreams (1989)
Starring Kevin Costner & James Earl Jones, this movie is about a corn farmer who starts hearing voices that tell him to build a baseball field in his cornfield.
25. Gandhi (1982)
Starring Ben Kingsley as Mahatma Gandhi. This historical epic lovingly retells the story of India’s non-violent independence from the United Kingdom.
24. The Verdict (1982)
Starring Paul Newman, this movie is about a down-on-his-luck lawyer trying to turn his life around.
23. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
Starring Peter O'Toole, this true story tells the story of T.E. Lawrence, who led Arab tribes to war in WWI. A truly epic movie.
22. Erin Brockovich (2000)
Starring Julia Roberts, this true story is about a young mother who takes on a multi-billion corporation accused of polluting the water supply.
21. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
A Stanley Kubrick classic. This is the ultimate Sci-Fi movie, a true tale of man vs machine!
20. Casablanca (1942)
A pioneering film starring Humphrey Bogart & Ingrid Bergman. This is a beautiful tale of love, war, and heartbreak.
19. On the Waterfront (1954)
Starring Marlon Brando in his prime, this movie is about an ex-prizefighter who takes a stand against the people he works for.
18. Forrest Gump (1994)
Starring Tom Hanks, this is a movie about a simple-minded man who does extraordinary things. This is a beautiful tale of love, kindness, and sheer perseverance.
17. Ben-Hur (1959)
Another film classic. Starring Charlton Heston, this movie is about a Jewish prince who is sold into slavery in Roman times.
16. Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977)
Starring Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford & Carrie Fisher, this space-romp is a thrilling tale about a lost young man teaming up with a cocky pilot and a princess, to take down an evil empire. It’s hard to hate this movie, it’s a classic for a reason!
15. 12 Angry Men (1957)
Starring Henry Fonda, this movie is about a set of jurors arguing over a murder case. It’s a true tale of determination!
14. Dances with Wolves (1990)
Starring Kevin Costner & Mary McDonnell, this movie is about an American civil-war hero who develops a relationship with a tribe of Native-Americans.
13. Spartacus (1960)
Another Stanley Kubrick classic. Starring Kirk Douglas, this historical epic tells the tale of Spartacus, the great Roman gladiator.
12. Braveheart (1995)
Starred and directed by Mel Gibson, this historical drama tells the true story of William Wallace, a 13th-century Scottish rebel who leads a fight against England. A must watch for fans of history!
11. The Killing Fields (1984)
Starring Sam Waterston & Haing S. Ngor. This is a harrowing true story about the Cambodian genocide. This movie will almost certainly make you cry, but it finishes with an inspiring message of true determination against all odds.
10. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
Based on the utterly beloved book. In this movie, aging father Atticus Finch (played by Gregory Peck) fights for the rights of a young black man in the Depression-era deep south. This movie is all about rising up against impossible odds and fighting for what you believe in.
9. Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
In Oscar-winning movie Slumdog Millionaire, Dev Patel plays Jamal Malik, an Indian street kid who competes in the popular game show ‘Who Wants To Be a Millionaire’, and wins the grand prize against all expectations. While it’s not based on a true story, Slumdog Millionare is based on the book Q & A by Vikas Swarup.
8. Billy Elliot (2000)
Billy Elliot is a fictional movie about the titular character wanting to pursue his dream of becoming a professional male ballet dancer instead of having to work in the coal mines like his father. He faces opposition and judgement from his family, but is encouraged by his ballet teacher never to give up.
7. Dead Poets Society (1989)
In Dead Poets Society, award-winning actor Robin Williams plays the role of an English teacher at a prestigious all-boys boarding school and seeks to teach his students through the medium of poetry. Robin Williams’ character, Jack Keating has a child-like drive and ambition, that will make you want to jump out of your seat and seize the day!
6. Patch Adams (1998)
Another amazing movie starring the amazing Robin Williams, Patch Adams is based on a real person, Dr. Hunter “Patch” Adams. The whole movie hinges on the saying “laughter is the best medicine,” and follows the story of Patch Adams as he discovers that treating his patients with compassion and laughter is more effective than cold clinical treatment.
5. The Blind Side (2009)
One of the most inspirational sports movies in cinematic history, The Blind Side follows the true story of Michael Oher (played by Quinton Aaron), one of the most sought-after prospects in college football. This is a rags-to-riches story unlike any other, this movie will make you believe that anything is possible if you work hard enough.
4. Rocky (1976)
A cinematic classic, Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky became an instant hit because of Stallone’s portrayal of an uneducated boxing amateur beating the odds against big-time boxer Apollo Creed (played by Carl Weathers). This movie is a bit of an oldie, but it’s such a classic! Nothing gets the blood pumping like the Rocky theme song!
3. 12 Years a Slave (2013)
Widely acclaimed as the best film of 2013, this film explores the story of Solomon Northup (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man living in New York with his family who is captured and turned into a slave. This heart-wrenching film is based on a true story, from the old memoir of the actual Solomon Northup, Twelve Years A Slave, which was published in 1853.
2. The Pursuit of Happiness (2006)
Another film based on the struggles of a real person, The Pursuit Of Happiness is known for being the film debut of Jaden Smith; alongside his father, Will Smith, who plays Chris Gardner. The movie follows Chris as he struggles to raise his child while dealing with the harrowing ordeals of homelessness. This is easily one of the most motivational films of all time, it really showcases the strength and grit of the human spirit.
1. Coach Carter (2005)
Coach Carter is a film based on the real-life basketball coach Ken Carter (played by Samuel L. Jackson) that suspended his undefeated high-school basketball team in order to improve their academic performance and generally improve their livelihoods. In the film, Coach Carter reminds his players that there is more to life than basketball and encourages them to take their schooling more seriously. Coach Carter is a truly inspirational film, and the fact that it’s a true story will restore your faith in human kindness. If you want to watch Coach Carter, it’s available on Netflix to stream anytime