We all waver and can benefit from a bit of inspiration. The best thing about humanity is our capability to crawl out of the hole and see the other side. Here are my top ten inspirational movies of all time. I have excluded all religious based films no matter the denomination. This list is not about the best overall movie as that would not be correct. It is about inspiration.
10. Half Nelson (2006):
How can one be an excellent teacher and girls basketball coach whilst also being a drug addict? Ryan Gosling scored an Oscar nomination (which he should have won) in his portrayal of Mr. Dunne in “Half Nelson”. He is an inner city mentor for junior high students with a knack of being prone to the extreme crazy night life. There is no question that he is an excellent teacher and coach who loves the kids, even when showing up hungover, but he is who he is. The relationship he creates with one ball player (Shareeka Epps) makes him question his moral compass. The idea of coming out of the other side of the tunnel is what “Half Nelson” is all about.
9. Up (2009):
What an opening! From the start, Pixar was firing on all cylinders for the heart strings of both kids and adults. “Up” has claim to fame for one of the best opening and ending sequences ever assembled, kids movie or not. To make a group of old guys mixed with a Boy Scout, a balloon floating house, and a dog that chases every time he hears “SQUIRREL!” is genius. “Up” is one of those rare children films that both the adults as well as the kids can walk out having learned something.
8. Jerry Maguire (1996):
“Jerry Maguire” Is not simply inspirational, it is unfathomable. Yes Tom Cruise is an all timer, yet how did this movie get made? Fortunately it did and the rest is history. From the Bruce Springsteen score to the ‘SHOW ME THE MONEY!’ scene to Tom Cruise saying ‘You Complete me’, this is an all timer. It has heart and genuine love. The core of “Maguire” is about finding oneself. The scary part is doing so and trying to figure out how to navigate your way through it when the one thing you care about is staring you in the face.
7. Cinema Paradiso (1988):
Ignore the individual idea of falling in love. Work, spouse, career, or siblings. Italian director Giuseppese Tornatore is all love. One can be captivated simply with a beautiful woman, but also an old man striving for the love of his life. And that love is film. The late 80’s Italian classic “Cinema Paradiso” is absolutely drenched in happiness as a young boy falls in love with the perfect girl as well as cinema thanks to an angry old projectionist. The boy becomes angry as an adult then remembers the joy of his youth in the end. When it comes down to it, “Paradiso” is about the stuff that truly matters.
6. Hoop Dreams (1994):
No list about inspiration would be complete without real life. Initially planned as a brief look into four months of two inner city basketball players, Steve James amazing documentary “Hoop Dreams” turned into a story that took years to develop. The potential NBA players are taken advantage of, incur injury, are used by the high level school system, and deal with parental drug use. Somehow they come out not perfect, but they survive. “Hoop Dreams” is about being dealt a bad hand and doing the best that you can.
5. Network (1976):
Whether you have seen it or not, who doesn’t know the catch phrase from the ’76 classic “Network”. It is very simple, a television news anchor loses his mind and screams “I’M AS MAD AS HELL AND I’M NOT GONNA TAKE THIS ANYMORE”. This inspires the city of New York to say the same damn thing, making him an icon. Unfortunately Peter Finch’s character is swallowed up by the system, making him must see television, then ultimately ruining his life worse than his initial outburst. “Network” is however the best example of getting to the point of simply saying ‘Fuck It’! And we’ve all been inspired to say those words, no matter how much you want to deny it.
4. Philadelphia (1993):
Unless you are so homophobic that you cannot open your mind to this incredible film, “Philadelphia” is a heartbreaker at first. But once you get to the end an A-hole lawyer played by Denzel Washington learns the error of his thinking and realizes that we are all just humans trying to find our own sense of happiness. Tom Hanks won his first of two consecutive Oscars playing Andrew Beckett, a brilliant lawyer who prefers the gay community and contracts a life threatening disease, causing his being fired by a bunch of bigots. Beckett’s fight to not just stay alive but also his right to live his life is something we can all relate to. Add in the Bruce Springsteen song “Streets of Philadelphia” and you have got one classic tale of never giving up.
3. Rocky (1976):
This one needs no explanation, but I’m going to give you one anyway. The Italian Stallion aka Rocky Balboa. The ultimate underdog in cinema history gets a shot. In his downtrodden life, his career, and in love. There is a reason why there is a statue of “Rocky” placed front and center in Philadelphia. What other major fictional movie character has a full on statue on display for a big city to see everyday? The sequels are a mixed bag of fun, campy, to simply ridiculous. But there is no denying the O.G. film is captivating from start to finish.
2. Apollo 13 (1995):
Another true story about human beings trying to survive. This Ron Howard space epic (His only classic in my opinion) puts faces on the astronauts trying to survive during the famous “Apollo 13” screw up by N.A.S.A. and their scrambling to get them home. An unbelievable cast led by Tom Hanks battles the unbeaten beast that we call time to get home while Ed Harris does everything he can to get them there from the ground. Coupled with the famous line ‘Houston, we have a problem’, there is no questioning “Apollo 13” is a classic example of survival under extreme circumstances.
1. Good Will Hunting (1997):
Redemption is not the key to life. Intelligence isn’t either. It is about acceptance of who you are and what you truly want. “Good Will Hunting” is about a genius played by Matt Damon. His mind has the same gifts as Lebron James’s body does on the basketball court. Unfortunately he is so smart that it is eating him inside. Add in his troubled past and drunkard Boston friends and he is lost. Not bad, just lost. Throw in a psychiatrist played by Robin Williams who knows what he’s going through and a beautiful college student played by Minnie Driver and Will suddenly has a reason to live. The scene in which co-star and best friend Ben Affleck tells him to f-off is the ultimate example of inspiration. Never think that you are too smart to bury yourself into a corner. Let the ones you love help dig you out.