20 Must Watch Inspirational Movies

Updated on August 5, 2018
Mea Hera profile image

Mea is a medical student with a passion for movies and music

Humans have a complex range of emotions. It is actually our emotions which drive us to achieve the impossible. Sometimes we hear the success story of a man who was so downtrodden with his luck, a man who was discriminated against all his life, that he could have just given up at any moment. When everything seemed to be going against him, he fought back and achieved his goals. What about the small child who sees the world through pure eyes and seeks more ways to make it better? The woman who gains energy from the beauty of nature and uplifts all those around her?

Movies have a funny way of bringing all their stories alive on a screen and still make us feel everything we thought was impossible. These 20 movies have brought a lot of joy and inspiration in to my life. (They are not in any particular order)

1. Forrest Gump

My mama always said you've got to put the past behind you before you can move on.

— Forrest Gump

Follow the journey of a small town boy with a big heart as he tries to make sense of the world he lives in. Along the way he will meet several interesting characters who will shape his life forever.

The director, Robert Zemeckis has ingeniously incorporated some defining moments in American history in to the movie and depicts these events as seen through the eyes of a simple minded man. Forrest Gump won the Academy Awards for best picture, best director, best actor, best adapted screenplay, best visual effects and best film editing.

Cast: Tom Hanks, Robin Wright, Gary Sinise, Sally Field and Mykelti Williamson.

Rotten Tomatoes rating = 72%

2. The Help

You is kind. You is smart. You is important.

— Aibileen Clark

In the 1960s, Mississippi resident Skeeter returns home from college hoping to become a writer. However her mother has only one goal in mind; to find her daughter a successful husband. Skeeter wanted to interview several women of colour to write about their stories. Only Aibileen, the house keeper at a friend's house was brave enough to share her experience at first. Later on many women join in to enlighten Skeeter about the problems and discrimination faced by 'the help'.

This movie is based on Kathryn Stockett's novel of the same name. It was nominated for several Academy Awards including best picture and best actress while Octavia Spencer won the award for best supporting actress.

Cast: Emma Stone, Jessica Chastain, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Bryce Dallas Howard and Allison Janney.

Rotten Tomatoes rating = 75%

3. The Pursuit of Happyness.

Chris Gardner is a single father who barely gets an income by selling medical equipment. He soon finds himself and his 5 year old son evicted from their apartment. Without a place to stay, they migrate from shelter to shelter. Finally Chris gets chosen for an internship at a prestigious brokerage firm. He will struggle to complete this non paying internship amidst all existing hardships in hope of a better life.

This true story will make one question whether they should give up on life and settle for the minimum, or fight to the utmost of their capabilities to gain the rightful place in society.

Cast: Will Smith, Jaden Smith, Thandie Newton and Brian Howe.

Rotten Tomatoes rating = 67%

People can't do something themselves, they wanna tell you, you can't do it. If you want something, go get it. Period.

— Chris Gardner

4. Flipped

Every once in a while, you find someone who's iridescent, and once you do, nothing will ever compare.

— Chet Duncan

Flipped is a coming of age story about a boy and a girl who live in a small town. Julie immediately fell for Bryce when he first moved to town, but Bryce found her to be a nuisance. Their families are total opposites too. Over the years Julie kept on trying to win his heart but never succeeded. Finally she had enough and began to realize that maybe he is not right for her after all. Unfortunately during this time, Bryce began to realize that he too has been wrong about Julie all along.

This movie is a light hearted feel good story which will lighten up your mood at any time of the day.

Cast: Callan McAuliffe, Madeline Carroll and John Mahoney.

Rotten tomatoes rating = 54%

5. The Shawshank Redemption

Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.

— Andy Dufresne

Andy Dufresne, a banker, is sentenced to jail for the murder of his wife and her lover. The problem is, only he knows that he didn't do it. While in prison he befriends Red, another inmate who is serving a life sentence. Andy initially struggles to adapt to this new life and gets subjected to violence at the hands of prison gangs. Later he finds ways to make himself useful and discovers more about life than he ever knew.

Cast: Morgan Freeman, Tim Robbins, Bob Gunton and Clancy Brown.

Rotten Tomatoes rating = 91%

6. Precious

16 year old Claireece "Precious" Jones is an illiterate mother of two who is constantly raped by her father and abused by her mother. Her first child suffers from Down's Syndrome. Precious gets expelled from school due to her second pregnancy and finds it overwhelming to live with her abusive parents. One day she gets an offer from a school which helps teens who suffer to make ends meet. Under the guidance of her new teacher she realizes that she is worth more than she initially imagined.

This movie depicts the abuse and violence faced by teenagers in low socioeconomic backgrounds in vivid detail. Certain portions of the movie may not be for the faint hearted as they deal with very sensitive subject matter.

Cast: Gabourey Sidibe, Mo'Nique, Paula Patton and Mariah Carey.

Rotten Tomatoes rating = 91%

I'm gonna break through or somebody gonna break through to me.

— Claireece "Precious" Jones

7. Lion

Saroo is a small Indian boy living in a village under extreme poverty. He likes to accompany his older brother to work despite their mother's protests. One day he gets lost on a train which ultimately takes him thousands of miles away from home. He had to live in calcutta alone until an Australian couple decided to adopt him along with another Indian boy. 25 Years later, Saroo embarks on the journey to find his lost family with the aid of Google earth and remnants of the memories he once shared with them.

This true story will take you on an emotional voyage through the slums of India to the cities of Australia, where one man sacrifices everything to find where he truly belongs.

Cast: Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman, Rooney Mara and David Wenham.

Rotten tomatoes rating = 86%

The world has enough people in it. Have a child, couldn’t guarantee it will make anything better. But to take a child that’s suffering like you boys were. Give you a chance in the world. That’s something.

— Sue Brierley

8. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Walter Mitty is working at "Life" magazine and is accustomed to a regular and tedious schedule. He feels anxious to ask out a co-worker he likes due to his boring life which he thinks is unworthy. To cope with the monotonous nature of his life, Walter imagines himself doing extraordinary things, going to great places and meeting great people. He never takes the steps to make his fantasies a reality. However everything changes when he gets the opportunity to experience the journey of a life-time when his boss sends him around the world to obtain the perfect photo for the final issue of the magazine.

I feel as if there is a Walter Mitty in all of us who is too scared to venture in to the unknown and merely decides to settle down in our comfort zone. This movie reminds us to get up from our chairs and start making our dreams a reality.

Cast: Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Sean Penn and Adam Scott

Rotten Tomatoes rating = 51%


To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, draw closer, to find each other, and to feel. That is the purpose of life.

— Walter Mitty

9. Invictus

This remarkable true story of the 1995 Rugby World Cup, depicts how Nelson Mandela attempted to unify his divided country following the end of apartheid. At a time when only white citizens supported the South African national team while the black citizens supported their rival team, Nelson Mandela desired to lay the groundwork to bring them together through sport by collaborating with the Springbok captain, Francois Pienaar.

Cast: Morgan Freeman, Matt Damon and Tony Kgoroge.

Rotten Tomatoes rating = 76%

I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul

— William Ernest Henley

10. Dead Poets Society

There's a time for daring and there's a time for caution, and a wise man understands which is called for.

— John Keating

John Keating is the new English teacher at an all boys' preparatory school which follows strict rules and discipline. The students are taught to listen and obey while most of them have accepted the choices their parents have forced upon them. Mr. Keating begins to use unconventional teaching methods to relieve the students' stress and to bring them out of their shells while encouraging them to seize new opportunities.

Cast: Robin Williams, Ethan Hawke, Robert Sean Leonard and Josh Charles.

Rotten Tomatoes rating = 86%

11. The Green Mile

Paul Edgecomb has always dealt with the same kind of prisoners while working as a warden. However this changes when John Coffey, a large black man convicted of murdering two young girls is brought to him. Coffey has a gentle personality which doesn't correspond to the nature of his crimes. Paul begins to experience supernatural occurrences following Coffey's arrival, and it makes him question whether or not this man is guilty of such heinous activities.

This movie was adapted from Stephen King's novel of the same name. It was nominated for four Academy Awards including best picture,best supporting actor, best sound mixing and best adapted screen play.

Cast: Tom Hanks, Michael Clarke Duncan, Sam Rockwell, David Morse and James Cromwell.

Rotten Tomatoes rating = 80%

I'm tired of people being ugly to each other. I'm tired of all the pain I feel and hear in the world every day. There's too much of it.

— John Coffey

12. The Theory of Everything

This is the amazing true story of Steven Hawking, one of the greatest minds of our time, and his wife, an incredible woman who sacrificed everything to be with the man she loved. Hawking was diagnosed with motor neuron disease at the very young age of 21, and was given only 2 years to live. However he courageously continue his study of time and the universe to formulate groundbreaking theories.

Eddie Redmayne received the Academy Award for best actor while the movie was also nominated for best picture, best adapted screenplay, best original score and best actress for Felicity Jones.

Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Charlie Cox and David Thewlis.

Rotten Tomatoes rating = 78%

There should be no boundaries to human endeavor. We are all different. However bad life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at, while there is life, there is hope.

— Steven Hawking

13. The Bucket List.

Edward Cole is a billionaire who unfortunately ends up in hospital after being diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. There he meets another man with the same condition, Carter Chambers. During their stay at the hospital, Edward finds a crumpled up paper containing a bucket list, and discovers that it belongs to Carter. He offers to finance a trip around the world for the two of them in order to complete the bucket list. Both men embark on a journey across North Pole, France, India, China and Africa to find the joy and companionship they needed all along.

Cast: Jack Nicholson, Morgan Freeman, Sean Hayes and Beverly Todd.

Rotten Tomatoes rating = 40% (I feel as if the rating does not do justice to this great movie)

You know, the ancient Egyptians had a beautiful belief about death. When their souls got to the entrance to heaven, the guards asked two question. Their answers determined whether they were able to enter or not.

"Have you found joy in your life?" And "has your life brought joy to others?"

— Carter Chambers

14. 42

I have always fought for what i believed in.

— Jackie Robinson

In 1946, Jackie Robinson, a person of colour, was signed on to the Dodgers baseball team. At a time when discrimination existed in great proportion, Jackie must fight to keep his place in the team amidst racial divisions brought on by his own team as well as the public.

The remarkable story of Jackie Robinson, who became the first African American to play Major League Baseball in America will give you inspiration to push forward and achieve anything your heart desires.

Cast: Chadwick Boseman, Harrison Ford, Nicole Beharie, Lucas Black and Christopher Meloni.

Rotten Tomatoes Rating = 79%

15. The Man Who Knew Infinity

In the early 1900s, G.H Hardy, a renowned mathematician at the university of Cambridge receives news about a poor man in India with an extraordinary mind. He decided to meet him. Therefore in 1913, this brilliant man, Srinivasa Ramanujan travels to Trinity College in England to work with other mathematicians. He finds it difficult to cope with racial prejudice and the stress of being away from his home.

Cast: Dev Patel, Jeremy Irons, Toby Jones and Jeremy Northam

Rotten Tomatoes rating = 63%


Don't be intimidated. Great knowledge comes from the humblest of origins.

— Littlewood

16. Good Will Hunting

Will Hunting is a troubled but intelligent young man who works as a janitor at MIT. One day he was discovered by a professor (Lambeau) after solving a complex math equation on the board. After getting arrested for assaulting a police officer, Will is offered a lenient sentence only if he seeks treatment from a therapist. Sean Maguire, a psychologist and an old friend of Lambeau takes on the challenge to rehabilitate the problematic youth.

This movie won the Academy Awards for best supporting actor (Robin Williams) and best original screenplay, and was nominated for many more including best picture.

Cast: Matt Damon, Robin Williams, Ben Affleck, Minnie Driver and Stellan Skarsgard.

Rotten Tomatoes rating = 97%

You'll have bad times, but it'll always wake you up to the good stuff you weren't paying attention to.

— Sean Maguire

17. The Lord of the Rings trilogy

Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.

— Lady Galadriel

Frodo Baggins is a young hobbit in the quiet village of Shire. He inherits a ring with strange writing from his uncle. Gandalf a wise old wizard identifies it as a dangerous ring forged in the fires of mount Doom by Sauron, a power hungry evil being who once seeked to subjugate the whole world under his tyrannical rule. A dangerous task lies ahead for Frodo when he becomes the ring bearer- to destroy it in the fires of mount Doom, where it was made.

Cast: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellan, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Orlando Bloom, Sean Bean, John Rhys-Davies, Liv Tyler, Cate Blanchett and Hugo Weaving.

Rotten Tomatoes ratings,

  • The Fellowship of the Ring = 91%
  • The Two Towers = 95%
  • The Return of the King = 93%


18. Rain Man

After hearing about the death of his father, Charlie Babbitt goes back home and discovers that he has an older brother with autism. Their father has left his entire fortune to the mental institute where he lives. Motivated by money, Charlie takes his brother Raymond out of the institute and the two brothers embark on a life changing journey.

This movie received the Academy Awards for best picture, best director, best original screenplay and best actor in a leading role for Hoffman.

Cast: Dustin Hoffman, Tom Cruise

Rotten Tomatoes rating = 89%

When i was a little kid and i got scared, the rain man would come and sing to me.

— Charlie Babbitt

19. Hotel Rwanda

During the Rwandan genocide, a Hutu hotel manager Paul Rusesabagina attempts to save his family and as many Tutsi individuals as possible after the United Nations pulls out of their country. He uses his hotel as a secret refugee shelter and tries to survive in the midst of escalating Hutu violence.

Cast: Don Cheadle, Sophie Okonedi, Joaquin Phoenix and Nick Nolte.

Rotten Tomatoes rating = 91%

If we want to change things, we must first change ourselves. If we want to play, if we want to change the world, we must first show up on the field to score.

— Paul Rusesabagina

20. Secondhand Lions

Sometimes the things that may or may not be true are the things a man needs to believe in the most. That people are basically good; that honor, courage, and virtue mean everything; that power and money, money and power mean nothing; that good always triumphs over evil; and I want you to remember this, that love... true love never dies. You remember that, boy. You see, a man should believe in those things, because those are the things worth believing in.

— Hub McCann

An adolescent boy, Walter is taken to spend the summer with his two uncles, by his mother Mae. Mae has an ulterior motive mind; to find the rumored treasure possessed by the two men. Garth is the cautious uncle while Hub is the free spirited grumpy one. Walter tries to adapt to a simple life with these two men while they gladly share amazing stories about their youth.

Cast: Michael Caine, Robert Duvall, Haley Joel Osment and Kyra Sedgwick

Rotten Tomatoes rating = 59%

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