Are you tired of watching movies that leave no impression whatsoever? Tired of films that are entertaining, but have no real message? Let’s change that with the following list of motivating and inspiring movies! If you’re looking for movies that inspire you and give you an excellent boost of motivation, then look no further. In this huge article, you’ll find THE best motivational movies of all time. These motivational films will ignite that spark of inspiration that makes you reach beyond your limits. Not just that, they will also give you the kick in the *** that we all need from time to time so that we get up and do something about our situation. Some of these movies will motivate you so much that you just want to get up to work hard to achieve your goals. Other films in this list will profoundly inspire you and make you dream big. Also, be sure to have a look at our list of incredibly inspiring songs and motivational music to further boost your motivation.
Movies can be a wonderful source of inspiration and motivation, as some of them can help you to change your mindset quickly into a more positive one. When movies are able to spark the interest to apply their message in real life, it was well worth watching them. The movies in this list are ranked by the average score they received from critics, but also by their potential to motivate and inspire. However, something that is by far more important than a movie’s popularity is its ability to get you motivated.
Without further ado, here are the greatest motivational movies ever, so be inspired and let them help you to become the person you want to be.
Top motivational movies
Rocky is perhaps one of the greatest sports movies of all time. It inspired millions and its main character Rocky Balboa became a symbol of strength, perseverance, and willpower for an entire generation.
Plot: The movie tells the inspiring and Academy Award-winning underdog story of Rocky Balboa, a kind-hearted depth collector and part-time boxer, who gets a one-in-a-million chance to fight the heavyweight champion. Thanks to this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity Rocky starts living the American Dream by fighting himself from rags to riches. The movie’s main character, Rocky, is a common man that audiences can identify themselves with. We see a man struggling in life, who is dragged down to the ground and humiliated in the boxing ring. Despite this, Rocky maintains his positive outlook and manages to get back up. His incredible willpower turns the debt-collector from being labeled as one of the biggest losers by his competitor to a boxer that “goes the distance.”
What is so motivating about this movie? The character of Rocky is one of the greatest icons in movie history that has inspired millions to do whatever it takes to achieve their dreams. The motivational message of this movie is to never give up, despite the circumstances. It is a loud and thundering message to all the underdogs out there who are confronted with unbearable opposition. It inspires us not to accept the status quo, but to fight hard for a positive change.
IMDb score: 8.1
Link to YouTube trailer: Rocky Official Trailer
The Pursuit of Happyness
Life is often not fair. Sometimes it deals you lemons. The pursuit of happyness is a movie about a man who goes exactly through such a situation. Life gives him a hard time, but the movie goes on to show how this man was able to make lemonade from it if you excuse the pun.
Storyline: The story is based on the life of Chris Gardner, who struggled for nearly one year with homelessness. Will Smith stars as the main character, whose life just got turned upside down by a combination of bad luck and many strokes of fate. As a result of this, the salesman Gardner finds himself unemployed and without a home. But no matter what it is that strikes him down, Chris Gardner keeps moving on in his pursuit to find a better life for his son, for whom he has taken custody after. For these reasons, The Pursuit of Happyness readily a spot on this list of the most motivational movies.
Why is this such a motivating movie? Even though Chris Gardner is hit by many blows that strike him to the ground, he never gives up and always gets back up. The movie shows what persistence really is, and what it means to never give up, no matter what. The true story of Chris Gardner tells us that we often must fight hard for our dreams and that one should never ever allow anyone to stand in between oneself and one’s dreams.
IMDb score: 7.9
YouTube trailer: The Pursuit of Happiness Official Trailer
Pay it Forward
Far too many people live an egocentric life. They are highly demanding of others but give nothing in return. Pay it Forward shows what a powerful effect the willingness to help others could have for the entire population.
Plot: Trevor McKinney, a seventh grader from California, is being given a challenging assignment by his social studies teacher. The objective is to plan and implement a strategy that changes the world for the better. Trevor comes up with the inspirational plan to encourage others to pay a favor forward three times, instead of paying it back. The charitable plan starts with Trevor doing three major favors to three people, always asking them to pay the good deed forward to three other people.
Inspirational message of the movie: This movie is all about the importance of helping others. What is more, it shows us that even small acts of kindness can have ripple effects that change things for the better. The movie encourages us not to give up on the vision of helping and empowering others. But it also highlights that we should not be discouraged if we can only contribute small parts to this mission. Pay it Forward comes with a clear message: don’t give up helping others, because when you abandon your attempts of changing the world, everybody loses.
IMDb score: 7.1
YouTube trailer: Pay it Forward
The Shawshank Redemption
Sometimes life throws one into a miserable situation, which has arisen through no fault of one’s own. More often than not, it is not possible to make this undone. What can be influenced, however, is the way you deal with the situation.
Plot: Andy Dufresne, a banker from Portland, Maine, is wrongfully convicted of murdering two people and is sent for two consecutive life sentences to prison. It is at the Shawshank State Prison where he meets Ellis Redding, another inmate who is sentenced for life. Even though the cruel reality of life in prison confronts Andy with sadistic guards, a corrupt warden, and brutal inmates, he remains his innocence and quickly starts to change things for the better. It is through these acts of decency that he finds redemption and brings back some dignity to the inmates.
What is so motivating about this movie? The Shawshank Redemption holds a very inspirational message. It is about the times in life when everything seems to be going downhill. The movie tells you to never give up no matter how terrible the situation seems. Andy Dufresne, instead of losing hope, remained tranquil and focused all his thoughts on one goal: escaping from prison. His vision of freedom allowed him to endure his suffering. The message of this uplifting film is clear: if you have an ambitious goal, it will fuel your motivation to get up every day and work hard towards its accomplishment. But it also teaches us not to allow the circumstances of life to put us down and to discourage us.
IMDb score: 9.3
YouTube trailer: The Shawshank Redemption Official Trailer
It’s a Wonderful Life
It’s a Wonderful Life is a heart-warming and uplifting classic that grounds the American Dream in real life and could be called one of the best motivating movies of all time. The movie is ultimately about the importance of making this world a better place by taking responsibility.
Plot: Set in the fictional town of Bedford Falls, George Bailey meets his guardian angel during his darkest hour. The angel convinces him that life would be much worse for everyone around George if he had never lived. By doing so, the guardian angel can stop him from committing suicide.
What is the motivational message of this movie? It’s a Wonderful Life portrays an empowering message: that everyone of us is important. The movie shows us that we all contribute in some way to the greater good, even though we might not realize this at first sight. Furthermore, it wants to show us that life is, even though it is often harsh and painful, simply just wonderful.
IMDb score: 8.7
YouTube trailer: Official Trailer to It’s a Wonderful Life
A simple approach to life can be the source of true happiness. Without being constantly overwhelmed by trying to force things, life can unfold until it flows as if it was effortless.
Plot: This marvelous tale depicts the life of Forrest Gump, who is a simple man and naïve, but also a very good-hearted person. The film shows how this man was able to break the boundaries that have bound him and by doing so took part in major historical events that were going on at that time.
What is the inspiring message that Forrest Gump portrays? The movie proposes a difficult question: Are you following along a path that has been pre-determined for you, or have you become the master of your own fate? Unlike the characters around him Forrest Gump is not bound by desperately trying to control the world around him. Instead, he makes the best of that which life brings him. Ultimately, the message of the movie boils down to this one sentence: You may not be blessed with riches, intelligence, family and good looks, but if you have your heart in the right place your impact on this world will be tremendous.
IMDb score: 8.8
YouTube trailer: Official Trailer to Forrest Gump
Remember the Titans
The movie is centered around the true story of a racially diverse football team and its ups and downs during the high school football season in 1971. The deeply motivational message of the film is that sport has the power to help us overcome perceived differences.
Plot: The storyline of Remember the Titans centers around the newly integrated football team of the T. C. Williams High School. As a result of the mixed racial heritage of the team members, various racially motivated conflicts start to arise. It is not until the African-American head coach Hermann Boone intervenes that the harmony of the team can be restored.
What is the moral of Remember the Titans? This feel-good movie transports an important and positive message: A team can only maximize its efforts if it works together to succeed. This means that each team member needs to let go of preconceived judgments. Furthermore, the movie sets an example that a team can only succeed if the individuals set aside their need for personal gratification. The movie tells us that we shouldn’t judge people based on their appearance, but that we should make an effort to judge them based on their behavior.
IMDb score: 7.7
YouTube trailer: Remember the Titans Official Trailer
The movie Billy Elliot tells the story of a boy who is forced to fit into the role of an average kid that takes boxing lessons. It is incredibly motivational to see this young boy fighting really hard to pursue his real dream, no matter the odds against him.
Plot: Billy Elliot is sent by his widowed father to the local gym to take up boxing lessons. At the gym, Billy happens to see a ballet class, which ignites his passion for dancing. Obviously, Billy’s family is not ecstatic about his new passion, but Billy gives not up on convincing them that he should be allowed to chase his dream.
What is so motivating about Billy Elliot? The movie holds a strong message: it shows us what kind of determination and willingness is necessary if you want to pursue your dreams. That you should work towards your aims without allowing others to get in the way. The movie also teaches us that we should not allow society to dictate us what kind of a role we need to play in life, but should follow where our passions lead us.
IMDb score: 7.6
YouTube trailer: Official Trailer Billy Elliot
The movie Warrior accompanies Tommy Riordan when he has not only to face a David vs. Goliath type of situation in the boxing ring, but is also struggling with his conflicted relationship with his father and brother.
Plot: U.S. Marine Tommy Riordan asks his father, a recovering alcoholic, to train him for a mixed martial arts tournament so that he can raise money for the widow of a fallen friend. It is at this tournament where he crosses paths with his brother who runs danger of losing his house.
What is the inspirational message? Despite being a movie about martial arts, the message of Warrior centers around the importance of forgiving. Like in real life, the characters of the movie find it very difficult to forgive each other but are continuously fighting for redemption. Reconciling is not easy, and for the brothers, it involves having to fight several brutal matches in the ring. Ultimately, the movie portrays the message that we should do away with our bitterness so that forgiveness can heal the wounds of the past.
IMDb score: 8.2
YouTube trailer: Warrior (2011)
Good Will Hunting
Good Will Hunting tells the story of an exceptionally intelligent young man and his struggle to find his place in life.
Plot: Will Hunting, a laborer from the Boston area, is prosecuted to see a therapist, after assaulting a police officer. It is during the therapy sessions where he first begins to reevaluate his life and his relationships with the people that he loves. Thanks to the therapist, who is portrayed by Robin Williams, Will Hunting can bring his life into balance and starts pursuing the studies of advanced mathematics.
What is motivational about Good Will Hunting? Finding the right place where we need to be is a true struggle, especially for young people. This movie describes the problem that most young people have: they have no faith in themselves until someone else believes in them. The movie is about embracing the activities that we love, but also the many problems that can come with this. By realizing what matters most to us we can understand the value that we can offer to the world.
IMDb score: 8.3
YouTube trailer: Trailer to Good Will Hunting
Chariots of Fire
Chariots of Fire is perhaps the most inspirational film for runners, but it also contains many important lessons for the rest of the audience.
Plot: The film focuses on the true story of two athletes, who led the British team to one of its greatest victories in the 1924 Olympics. The main character, Harold Abrahams, is a Jewish runner who has to fight against prejudice towards his religion. The other character is Eric Liddell, a devout Christian, who beats Abrahams in the Trinity Great Court Run, thus challenging him to reach new heights.
What’s the inspirational message of Chariots of Fire? The movie tells the story of two men who stand up for what they believe in. Both do not compromise on their values, even if that means a significant drawback for them. In general, the movie is a celebration of the triumph of two men over adversity. It is a hymn of praise to all the people who stood up for what was right and the motivational film also encourages you to do the same.
IMDb score: 7.1
YouTube trailer: Chariots of Fire
Field of Dreams
Field of Dreams is a magnificent film that centers on the importance of preserving the past for those that may come.
Plot: One evening in the cornfields, Ray Kinsella, a local farmer from Iowa, hears a voice whispering “If you build it, he will come.” This strange event is followed by a sighting of a baseball player of the past, who seems to be strolling around the cornfields. The happenings convince Ray that it is his duty to build a baseball field on his property.
What is the inspiring message of Field of Dreams? The movie stresses the importance of reconciling with the people that we love and that there is no attempt that we should not take to do so. Field of Dreams also highlights that one should not give up living a selfless life, even though we live in a society where many people act for selfish purposes. The message of the movie is that one should give everything possible to make amends for the past.
IMDb score: 7.6
YouTube trailer: Official Trailer to Field of Dreams
Dead Poets Society
Dead Poets Society centers around the English teacher John Keating, who manages to inspire his students despite the conservative and aristocratic rulership that the school is placed under. Perhaps the most inspiring movie about education, this film encourages its viewers to stand up for the rights of young students to have a say in their education.
Plot: On the first day of the new term, prep school student Todd Anderson and his class are assigned a new English teacher, whose unconventional teaching methods takes them by surprise. The English teacher, John Keating, encourages his students to view life from a different perspective, to become individuals, to question authority and to live life on their own terms.
What is so inspiring about Dead Poets Society? Even though this movie can be very sad at times, it motivates and inspires just as much. Great messages are engraved along the storyline of this movie. One of these inspirational messages is that you should go your own path, instead of forcefully trying to fit in.
IMDb score: 8.0
YouTube trailer: Dead Poets Society Original Trailer
The Peaceful Warrior
The Peaceful Warrior is a philosophical movie about a gifted gymnast who suffers from restlessness but ultimately is able to establish balance in his life thanks to the aid of a spiritual teacher.
Plot: Dan Millman is a popular college athlete whose life is changed when he meets an old man at a car service station. During the course of the movie, the old man starts to take up Dan as his student, with whom he shares philosophical insights. The teaching helps Dan to overcome a tragic accident and to leave what has happened behind.
What is the motivational message of The Peaceful Warrior? The movie points out clearly that the greatest battles that we face in life are fought within us, not outside. The peaceful warrior is a person who has identified and fought their inner demons. The wonderful message of the movie is that everything that happens to us happens for a reason, but it’s up to us to discover this reason. It just screams at you to continue doing the things that you love after life has knocked you down.
IMDb score: 7.3
YouTube trailer: Peaceful Warrior – Official Trailer
October sky is the coming-of-age tale of Homer Hickam that holds an important message: sometimes it takes a lot of effort to escape the path that one’s family expects you to take.
Plot: The future of the young Homer Hickam seems predetermined. Just like his father he is supposed to work in the mine – a fate that he shares with almost all man that live in his town. That is until Homer watches the rocket launch of the Sputnik satellite and is inspired by this to build rockets for the science fair.
What is the message that is portrayed in October Sky? The film shows you how important it is to believe in yourself. Not just that, it emphasizes that you should never give up on your hopes and dreams. Life will throw great obstacles at you, your family might not support you at what you are doing or even discourage you from doing it, but one should keep trying. If you have your heart set on a dream and are willing to pursue the stream no matter what, then everything is possible for you, even escaping from a predetermined path.
IMDb score: 7.8
YouTube trailer: October Sky – Official Trailer
How much more motivational can it get than a movie about a person who freed an entire nation from the chains of its colonial emperors without using violence?
Plot: When the young Gandhi is thrown off the first-class compartment in a South African train for being Indian he starts to fight for the rights of Indians in this country. His victory leads them to become a hero to the Indian people, where he upon his return to India starts to initiate a non-violence campaign against the British Empire.
What is the message of the film Gandhi? We can only establish peace on this world by stepping in for cultural, ethnic and religious harmony amongst the people. The movie also goes on to show what a single man with his non-violent approach could accomplish in the past. How he managed to unite an entire nation behind his cause. It shows how strong we can be as a people if we are willing to reconcile differences and draw strength from unity.
IMDb score: 8.1
YouTube trailer: Trailer to Gandhi
If you have a dream you should pursue it against all odds. The football player Rudy has set an example what’s great results can come from a passionate and relentless pursuit of one’s dreams.
Plot: Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger dreams of becoming a college football player at the University of Notre Dame. His dream is highly unrealistic considering his poor grades and athletic skills. What is even worse, Rudy was much smaller than the other players. Despite all his, Rudy’s passion and his drive have given him the possibility of joining the team, which is why this great movie deserves a spot on this list of the best inspirational movies.
What is the message of Rudy? The true story of Rudy shows that with preservation, hard work, and dedication nothing is impossible. Even if all odds are against you, as long as you put your heart and mind to it, you can accomplish your dreams.
IMDb score: 7.5
YouTube trailer: Rudy – Official Trailer
42 tells the inspirational story of Jackie Robinson who broke the color barrier in MLB.
Plot: Jackie Robinson is recruited to hit the balls for the Brooklyn Dodgers, which would make him the first African-American player in Major League Baseball. This causes racist hostility against the player from both fans and his teammates. Despite his struggle, Jackie Robinson is able to endure what is happening, which allows him to tunnel his focus onto his goals. It is this perseverance that is shown in the movie that makes this film an integral part of this list of the most inspirational movies of all time.
What is the motive behind 42? The movie 42 emphasizes the importance of having courage, but also of maintaining one’s composure in light of tragic events.
IMDb score: 7.5
YouTube trailer: 42 – Official Trailer
Lawrence of Arabia
The movie depicts the emotional struggle T. E. Lawrence experienced during World War I, where he was stationed in the Arabian Peninsula. It shows a man who is torn between his allegiance to the British Army and his sympathy for the people within the desert tribes of Arabia. The movie tells the story of a man of great courage, but also his fall from grace.
Plot: Young intelligence officer T. E. Lawrence is assigned to an investigation of the Arab revolt against the Turks in 1916. During his investigations, he develops a sympathy for the cause of the Arabs and starts to organize their efforts of fighting the Turks in a guerrilla tactic.
What is the message of Lawrence of Arabia? Even though this is a war movie, its main protagonist Lawrence slowly but surely starts to realize the horrors of the war. We see a man who is keen on altering the course of history and the price he has to pay for this.
IMDb score: 8.4
YouTube trailer: Official Trailer to Lawrence of Arabia
That is it, that was our list of the best motivational films of all time. I hope you like this nice little collection and can draw inspiration and motivation from it.
The following movies did not reach the top 10 motivational movies, but they are still great and motivating films that you can have a look at.
- Stand and Deliver
- American Beauty
- …And Justice For All
- Erin Brockovich
- Slum Dog Millionaire
- Soul Surfer
- Erin Brockovich
- Coach Carter
- The Karate Kid
- 8 mile
- Patch Adams
- Dangerous Minds
- Fight Club
- 7 pounds
- The Blind Side
- Life of Pi
Reader submitted movies:
- The secret life of Walter Mitty
- A beautiful mind
- Bruce Almighty
- Evan Almighty
- The Delivery Man
- The Apprenticeship
- The Agony and the Ecstacy – Charleston Heston
- Stanley and Livingstone – Spenser Tracy
- Red River – John Wayne
- The Searchers – John Wayne
- The Son of Fury – Tyrone Power
- Saving Private Ryan – Tom Hanks
- High Noon – Gary Cooper
- Jim Thorpe All American – Bert Lancaster
- The Circle of Iron – David Carradine
- Sea Biscut – Jeff Bridges
- The Back Stallion – Mickey Rooney
- The Right Stuff – Sam Shepherd
- Searching For Bobby Fischer
- Captains Courageous – Spencer Tracy
- Nevada Smith – Steve McQueen
- Legend of Baggervance
- Gridiron gang
- Men of Honour
- The martian
- I am legend
- The curious case of Benjamin Button
- The theory of everything
- The danish girl
- Freedom writers
- Cast away