The first of my top 10 lists is the AFI-style list of cheers, the most inspiring movie experiences. I have not planned all of these lists out yet, so hopefully they do not all equate to knee-jerk reactions and skew toward the past few years. I will give a bit more weight to my favorite movies as opposed to ones that are more manipulatively inspirational (for example: Shane, while not really as inspiring of an experience, will receive slightly more merit than something like The Pursuit of Happyness). AFI’s list was topped by It’s a Wonderful Life, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Schindler’s List. Will those crack my top 10? Check out below. Note: There may be mild spoilers within the clips if you aren’t familiar with the stories.
Blind spots (notable unseen films): Being There (1979), The Diary of Anne Frank (1959), Miracle on 34th Street (1947), The Miracle Worker (1962), Norma Rae (1979)
Others receiving votes: Apollo 13 (1995), The Fighter (2010), Saving Private Ryan (1998), Shane (1953), Titanic (1997)
10. The Ten Commandments (Cecil B. De Mille, 1956)
This may have lost a bit of its vigor over the years, but you will be hard-pressed to find something as inspiring as the story of Moses freeing his people. I still catch myself watching chunks of this movie every Easter when ABC does its annual broadcast of it.
9. Dead Poets Society (Peter Weir, 1989)
This is the most obvious choice of inspirational sentiment on this list. Just watching this clip brought back all of those feelings I had when I first watched the movie. Of all the inspiring teacher movies, this is my overwhelming favorite. Carpe diem: seize the day.
8. A Beautiful Mind (Ron Howard, 2001)
This movie will always hold a special place in my heart, standing as the first movie to really open my eyes to seeing film as something more than just entertainment. This film is an inspiring portrait of overcoming great obstacles and achieving greatness despite them.
7. 12 Angry Men (Sidney Lumet, 1957)
There has never been a better portrait of standing up for what is right than in this movie. Conformity is easy, but holding your ground against it is much more difficult.
6. Schindler’s List (Steven Spielberg, 1993)
The power of the human spirit is on display in Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece. Even when he has saved the lives of over 1000 people, he still proclaims “I could have done more.” Chills. If this were #1 on anyone’s list, I would not argue for a second.
5. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (Frank Capra, 1939)
This is another film about standing up against something much greater and more powerful than one person. I find it hard to believe that someone would not get caught up in it. This is 1930s cinema at its finest and most timeless.
This is not exactly a typical choice, but there are few things more stirring than the final scenes of this movie. Even when it is much simpler to stay put, change is a good thing. Breaking norms and finding meaning in life is one of the most difficult things anyone can do.
3. Rocky (John G. Avildsen, 1976)
There has never been an underdog story quite like the Rocky saga. Just hearing the iconic score makes me want to get up and work out. If you are not moved by Rocky, then you do not deserve to be reading this.
2. The Shawshank Redemption (Frank Darabont, 1994)
It would be difficult to argue with anyone who calls this the most inspirational movie. It is one of the most heartwarming and rousing film conclusions that I have ever seen. “Get busy living or get busy dying.” That’s about as good as it gets.
1. Hoosiers (David Anspaugh, 1986)
Now this is the greatest underdog sports movie of all time. It is not obvious or overblown. It is grounded and just poetically-written. Watching tiny Hickory High battle its way to the top will inspire any audience. “My team is on the floor.”…“We’re gonna run the picket fence at ‘em!”…“I’ll make it.” It is so loaded with classic quotes and scenes that it almost seems corny now. This movie started it all. It is the gold standard for sports films and inspirational movies.
I know I had to exclude a bunch of favorites. I was tempted to just load this list with sports movies, but I tried to mix it up. Thoughts? Comments? Your most inspirational movies? Let me know below.
Coming up soon: Top 10 Peers, my favorite on-screen pairs!