Top 10 Motivational Movies

1. Seabiscuit 

If you’re looking for a motivational movie, we cannot really offer up anything other than Seabiscuit as number one. Cutting across all divides, including gender and race (the hero is a horse), this heartwarming tale of an underdog making it big is Rocky with hooves. Charles Howard has a hard time during the Depression, with a wife and child to manage, alongside poor finances. He decides he really wants to get into the world of horse racing, and calls on trainer Tom to find him a horse that will win him some races. For some reason both men start to believe in a horse called Seabiscuit. The horse is none too fast, or strong, and this is where the audience really begins to root along for the heroes in the story. 

Full of warmth, and with a breathtaking lack of irony, sea biscuit is 100% guaranteed to make you feel better. This is a true underdog story. The horse needs help to get anywhere in a race, but the belief of the two men is what carries it through. With great performances all around, and a sweeping score, as well as a great showing by Toby Maguire, Seabiscuit is a winner. 

2. Dead Poets Society 

If you think that the sight of Robin Williams is enough to make any child run for cover, think again. This movie really lifts you, and was very close to beating Seabiscuit to the top spot. 

A top American school hires an unconventional English teacher (Williams, naturally) to bring on the students. He turns up, and turns the kids around. The boys he teaches become captivated by his approach to teaching the works of ancient poets (the Dead Poets of the title), and are inspired to form the titular society. 

Things do not go too well. Alongside the inspiration William’s character provides, there is a suicide, and much soul searching as the young boys quickly become men. What works the best is the incredible mood of the film, which is slow and stately, and totally anchored to Williams. The very last few minutes of the movie, where his students show their loyalty to the one man who has changed their lives forever, is enough to make even the hardest of hearts melt. Slow and captivating, a truly powerful movie. 

3. Erin Brokovich 

Julia Roberts has never been better, and her performance here is destined to go down in history as one of the most empowering for women ever committed to celluloid. 

Roberts plays Brokovich, an unemployed single mother who discovers that a company is poisoning a piece of land it has successfully bought. She only finds this out because she has hectored her lawyer into giving her a job. A little rough around the edges, she pursues the company, who of course deny that they are willfully trying to contaminate the bodies of hundreds of people. 

Brokovich then takes on the giant company, successfully winning, and setting a precedent for industrial trials for years to come. Roberts is exceptional in the role, which must have at first seemed like a foolish one to take. However, she fits the part of an earthy but fiercely intelligent single mother easily, and brings to life the kind of personality that will stand up for the truth no matter what the pressures.  

Erin Brokovich may work at its very best as a tale of female empowerment, but the sight of Julia Roberts taking on a mighty company with true conviction is enough to motivate anyone. 

4. Braveheart 

Mel Gibson may have courted much controversy in recent times, but back in the best of his movie spread, he was in Braveheart, which cemented his reputation as a fierce and single-minded filmmaker. 

Gibson pays William Wallace, who leads a Scottish rebellion against the English. He does this with such conviction and pride, it becomes almost emblematic when his character is on screen. Wallace keeps losing the people closest to him, who are killed in the struggle, but this drives him even further, to the extent that he becomes one big, powerful figurehead of rage and purpose. 

The movie is quite violent, but this only adds to the power and rage that lights up the screen. This may deter some people from watching the movie, but Gibson ace sure that he and his team do not shy away from the grittier side of the conflict. This violence would later come to mar his work, but here it shines as realistic depiction. Full of great speeches and a truly rousing performance from Gibson, Braveheart is one of those movies that truly lifts your sprit, whether you are Scottish or not. 

5. Ray 

Okay, we think of Ray Charles and we think of someone who was truly inspirational to start with. It could be argued that any Hollywood treatment of his life would be over the top and rather obvious. After all, he revolutionized jazz music, and was blind. This was not an unfulfilled life. 

However, Jamie Foxx turns in an incredible performance, one that truly carries the movie. You believe he is Ray Charles, without question. So much heart and soul is pushed into the performance by Foxx that it is hard to imagine anyone else ever playing the singer. 

Want a bad life? Try losing your sight at six years old due to glaucoma. Then a hard, hard life, trying to make it as a serious jazz musician, not to mention being black too.  

With a great central performance, and a real statement to be made about the civil rights movement that Charles was very much part of, Ray gives the viewer plenty of reasons to smile and be grateful. Ultimately though, the music steals the show, with stirring anthems sitting alongside bar room rockers that really make the movie come alive.  

6. A Beautiful Mind

This is a real goody. Take Russell Crowe and a story about a genius mathematician. Place it in a period setting, and ensure that everyone around the main actor on set just spends most of the movie in awe and you pretty much have the premise of this piece. 

Much more than a numbers movie, A Beautiful Mind stars Crowe as John Forbes Nash Jr, a truly genius Maths guy, who can work hugely complex formula entirely within his head. However, he also suffers from mental illness, and is plagued by problems throughout the movie. 

It is extremely well crafted, and solidly depicted. The scenes where Nash starts to lose his mind and then receives yet another rescue by the wonderful people around him are truly inspirational, and a testament to the human spirit. Crowe is entirely believable, and lifts the movie up above anything else like it. 

It is arguable that Crowe has never bettered himself, and he has been in some very highbrow movies in his career. Intense and brooding, but entirely ‘real’, he portrays Nash as a man who is cut down by his internal demons, and saved repeatedly by the grace of human nature. 

7. Hoosiers 

Gene Hackman is an unemployed basketball coach who finally gets a chance to do some good in the world and coach a high school basketball squad. They are hardly championship material, but he manages to work them through a difficult time and come out on the other end all smiles and gratitude. This is a true underdog story, perfect if you want an inspirational movie that will lift your spirits. 

His assistant coach is Denis Hopper, who puts in a great performance as a man who is struggling with a past life as an alcoholic. This performance alone makes the movie, and the scenes with Hopper are moving and testament to the power of the human spirit.  

Hoosiers has had some bad press in the past because people think it is almost formulaic, pushing all the right buttons to get a reaction out of the audience. Some movies are like this, and at times Hoosiers seems to be so good at making you feel tearful it almost seems mechanical. 

However, the games themselves are full of high drama, and Hackman and Hopper light up the screen. And it would be a hard heart indeed that did not melt in the final scenes, where true championship qualities are brought to the fore by al involved. Worth seeing. 

8. The Shawshank Redemption 

This film is all about the discovery of Morgan Freeman. The rest of the movie is moving and extremely uplifting, but Freeman’s performance made him one of the most respected actors in the world, and truly transformed what could have been a plodding film. 

Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) is sent to prison for life for double murder. He protests his innocence, and soon is subject to beatings and other humiliations by the other inmates. He meets a ‘lifer’ called ‘Red” (Freeman) and an unlikely friendship develops, in which both men decide that they will face their life term with dignity.  

But that is just the story. The way Robbins’ character endures a horrible ordeal almost daily, and the way he maintains his spirit at all times, is mainly down to the support from Red. Freeman lifts the movie, and gives a truly memorable performance. 

In the end this is a story about friendship, and although it is sometimes very uncomfortable viewing, it does lift the viewers, offering hope for anyone who thinks they have an unendurable time ahead of them. Whether this is being in a job they hate, or facing life imprisonment, the last few minutes of this movie will surely offer some words to soothe. 

9. Field of Dreams 

This movie came out back when Kevin Costner was largely an unproven talent. He made two baseball movies back to back (the other being Bull Durham), but this one convinced the movie going public that he was a man to watch. 

Costner gets to build a baseball diamond in his farm cornfield. This is crazy, but he does it anyway, because a voice tells him to do it. Soon a disgraced baseball player (or rather the ghost of one) arrives, and makes Costner’s character do lots of other crazy stuff, like bring reclusive writers to the field to give them what can only be described as a second chance at life. 

Finally, the impact of the field hits closer to home. The movie is a testament to the inseparable bond between father and son, and is therefore a real ‘guy’ movie. Men are allowed to cry, and even Arnold Schwarzenegger confessed to shedding some tears after watching this movie. 

Beautiful to look at and perfectly acted, Field of Dreams is an old-fashioned movie about old-fashioned subjects. However, it keeps its dignity, even when it threatens to disappear into schmaltz. 

10. The Pursuit of Happyness 

This is a real gem of a movie that works principally due to the stellar performance from Will Smith. He truly lights up the screen, with a focus on his character that drowns out almost everyone else on the screen. 

His son also features in the movie, but happily this does not appear to be a case of nepotism. Instead the two work well together. Smith (Sir) plays a man who has no money, and has to take care of his son. He tries for an internship at a finance firm and gets it. But it takes a very long time for him to be accepted as a full time employee. A very long time indeed. 

Smith’s character goes through what can only be described as months of stress and tribulations, as he tries to feed and accommodate himself and his young son. The movie creates a true feeling of hope, because the characters are not trying to do anything other than just be happy. 

There are some harrowing scenes. The worst occurs when the two of them are forced to sleep rough in a train station toilet. This will make you cry at times, but it works best as an inspirational movie, and the inspiration comes in buckets at the end. See the movie to see what happens, but suffice to say it is a truly uplifting ending.

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