Sometimes film has the power to create positive change! Hollywood has a long list of movies that strike a chord motivating viewers to improve, to feel better about something that ails them or to simply turn a frown upside down. Here are 25 inspirational movies you can stream right now that will make your soul feel brand new!
“The Pursuit of Happyness”
One of the joys of the movies is seeing how people overcome the incredible hardships that they are presented. That is very much the case with the Will Smith film, The Pursuit of Happyness. The Fresh Prince and his son, Jaden Smith, star as a homeless father and son. When Will’s character gets an unpaid internship that could change his life, it does nothing to put food in his boy’s mouth or provide shelter, but he dives into the opportunity and brings entrepreneur Chris Gardner’s struggle to life. You may look at the speedbumps that derail dreams and simple plans a little differently.
Stream on: YouTube, Vudu, Amazon Prime, Google Play, iTunes, Netflix
“What’s Love Got To Do With It”
The story of Tina Turner may be a well-known story, but the way it is captured in the biopic What’s Love Got to Do with It is pretty magical. Angela Bassett is a marvel as the “Proud Mary” singer and impeccably captures the essence, spirit and heart-tearing reality of being a woman in an abusive relationship. Toss in the fact that her journey took place when there were fewer rights for women — particularly in the male-dominated recording industry. It’s easy to love Laurence Fishburne, but in What’s Love Got to Do With It, he personifies Ike Turner’s evil behavior so perfectly that it’s hard to separate art and artist. The stars make movie magic and each scored an Oscar nomination.
Stream on: Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu
“The Greatest Showman”
With The Greatest Showman, all you have to do is look to the Oscar-nominated song This Is Me to feel better about oneself. The track is just a sliver of the brilliance of the Hugh Jackman movie musical. The story of P.T. Barnum (Hugh) is one to never abandon one’s dreams and, most importantly, to never listen to those who would undercut your success or deny you the opportunity to succeed.
Stream on: YouTube, Google Play, Vudu, Amazon
There were a number of behind the scenes women helping the nationwide effort to put a man on the moon by the end of the ‘60s, but there were not very many African-American women with these jobs, which makes Hidden Figures such a profoundly inspiring story. It’s actually amazing that it took until 2016 for this story to reach the masses. Taraji P. Henson stars as Katherine G. Johnson, with Octavia Spencer as Dorothy Vaughan and Janelle Monáe tackling Mary Jackson. All three play mathematical geniuses serving a priceless role with John Glenn’s historic journey into space. As demonstrated by director Theodore Melfi, there were countless obstacles keeping these women from achieving their own personal goals while also playing an integral role in helping a national dream become a reality. Hidden Figures will not only give you goosebumps but strike a chord of major motivation.
Stream on: YouTube, Amazon, Google Play, Vudu, iTunes
“Bend it Like Beckham”
Besides introducing the masses to Keira Knightley, Bend it Like Beckham introduced countless young girls to the excitement of soccer. The film also shows what life is like for an immigrant family hoping to make a new country their home — while still maintaining their traditions. Parminder Nagra shines as Jess, the daughter of Indian parents whose hopes for their child does not include soccer. Her love of David Beckham prevails. His good looks might have figure somewhat into her passion for him, but it is his famous footballing feet that make her strap on cleats and defy her parents’ will.
Stream on: YouTube, Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, Sling TV
Traditionally, ‘80s movies seem a bit dated. Whether it’s the synthesizer score or the hair, eyeshadow or costumes, the very thing that anchors it in the Decade of Decadence can be the thing that sometimes turns modern audiences off. That was never the case with Working Girl. Sure, some of the hair is enormous and those huge shoulder pads might look dated. The film’s message has made Working Girl timeless and a testament to the human spirit. Many people, when faced with doors closing in their face, retreat and accept defeat. That is not Tess McGill (Melanie Griffith). Pigeon-holed as a secretary, she sees an opportunity when her boss (Katharine Parker, played by Sigourney Weaver) gets hurt on a ski trip. Her gumption and work ethic (and a little help from Harrison Ford’s Jack Trainer) showcased to audiences that it doesn’t matter where you are from, it only matters where you want to go.
Stream on: YouTube, Amazon, Google Play, Vudu, HBO Now, HBO Go
The real-life story of Aron Ralston may seem like an odd choice to get your New Year, New You going. 127 Hours isn’t just about a man (played by Oscar nominee James Franco) who spent 127 hours with his arm stuck under a boulder after a hiking accident. He had to use a dull knife to cut off his own arm so he would at least have a chance at survival. The film is ultimately about the choices we make, who we are and how things can change at any point in our personal history. Cutting off his own arm and somehow making it through the Utah desert to find help is inspiring. Beyond this, the movie goes much deeper and becomes even more inspiring.
Stream on: YouTube, Google Play, iTunes, Amazon, Vudu, HBO Now
“Places in the Heart”
Places in the Heart is an Oscar-winning film starring Sally Field in the role that scored her that Academy Award for Best Actress. You know the speech where she said, “You like me ... You really like me.” One could see why she was so happy about the film that told the story of a single mother matriarch in the Dust Bowl Oklahoma of the 1930s. She must fight for her farm to keep her family together in a triumphant turn that will have you believing there is nothing you can’t do. The film also introduced the world to a few new names including John Malkovich, Ed Harris and Danny Glover.
Stream on: Crackle (free), YouTube, Amazon, Vudu, iTunes, Google Play
“Good Will Hunting”
Matt Damon found out the hard way — early on in Good Will Hunting — that intelligence alone is not enough to find your life’s purpose. Matt’s character Will Hunting had always found that academia came naturally to him, but his background disallowed him from making the most of it. Working as a janitor at Harvard, it took the mentoring of a professor (Robin Williams’ Sean Maguire) for Will to understand that being smart was not a curse but a gift. Where Will grew up, being smart was an easy way to get beaten up. Matt and his writing partner and costar, Ben Affleck’s Oscar-winning film shows that there are many opportunities to change our lives.
Stream on: Amazon, YouTube, Google Play, Vudu, iTunes, Sling TV
Tom Hanks stars as the main character, and director Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump) is behind the camera. The A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood star plays a FedEx executive catching a ride on a doomed flight that crashes thousands of miles from where it was supposed to fly. Tom’s Chuck Noland was the only survivor and spends years stranded on an island. When he comes to the realization that nobody is coming to save him, it hits him like a tsunami. It can be inspiring when realizing that the only person who can alter your life is yourself. This is a priceless message that transcends film.
Stream on: Amazon, Google Play, Vudu, YouTube
Director Steven Soderbergh spun Oscar gold with Erin Brockovich. The true story follows a woman who must balance family, life challenges and maybe even love … all while trying to save the world or at least a Southern California slice of it. Julia Roberts stars as the title character and won an Oscar for her effort. This film could have been a simple story about big business squeezing little people out of their livelihood and their lives. Instead, it was exponentially more powerful since the director and his filmmaking team chose to focus on the idea that a single person can enact change that changes us all.
Stream on: iTunes, Amazon, Vudu, YouTube, Google Play, Sling TV
Awakenings is not a cure-all for what what might ail you, but the Robin Williams and Robert De Niro-starring 1990 film certainly has the power to lift spirits and showcase the power of wellness and how it is something many take for granted. So many of us make New Year’s resolutions that center around our health — eating better, exercising, losing weight and the like. The late Penny Marshall directed the film, so count on some well-placed humor, unique insight into life and above all else, the sense that altering one’s wellness is as important as those new intentions that center on professional success. After all, without our health, all the money and career success in the world doesn’t really matter.
Stream on: Amazon, Vudu, Google Play, YouTube
“Remember the Titans”
Struggles to overcome racism and segregation on the screen is nothing new. There are countless real life stories that Hollywood has made into movies. Remember the Titans is a whole different version of positivity. Over the years, countless leaders have stated that we are unbeatable when we work together across racial, gender and political lines. The football story chronicled in Remember the Titans showcases that, but it uniquely achieves that inspiration by tackling the entire 1971 football season for a high school in Alexandria, Virginia. Denzel Washington stars as the new coach, while his assistant — played by Will Patton — was the head coach until desegregation. The duo embodies the realities of the courts’ rulings and also shines a light on the day-to-day drama that ensues. The film is a lesson in perseverance, especially when one has “right” on their side.
Stream on: YouTube, Amazon, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu, Disney+
“On the Basis of Sex”
Can there be a more motivational life story than that achieved by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg? Her story and the uphill battle she fought her entire life (and still battles today), is the definition of determination. Watching her biopic with Felicity Jones in the lead will send you into the New Year believing that there is nothing that cannot be accomplished through hard work, intelligence and pure passion for dream achievement.
Stream on: YouTube, Amazon, Vudu, Google Play
“My Left Foot”
In My Left Foot, Christy Brown (Daniel Day-Lewis) is a quadriplegic who can only control his left foot. The 1989 film about his life will not only leave you emotional but also show you that if we have the positive attitude that Brown has, there is little that can stand in our way.
Stream on: Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, YouTube
“The Little Prince”
Bringing the beloved children's book to life in an animated film in 2015, Netflix gifted this mesmerizing and heartwarming story to the world for dreamers everywhere. One thing that is required of anyone hoping to change their life is to recall one’s youth and remember what it was that got us out of bed each day. The Little Prince will remove jadedness from the psyche. That wonder that children possess is something that the Antoine de Saint-Exupéry story stresses should be something that we never let go of.
Stream on: Netflix
Changing one’s life can be just as difficult as altering the laws of the land — at least to the person seeking to revise their place in the world. Watching Selma and its chronicling of Martin Luther King, Jr. (David Oyelowo) and his historic march on Washington, D.C. that began in the Selma, should be a heaping dose of “you can do it.” Many feel they know the story of MLK’s peaceful, non-violent march that began in the Alabama city. Alabama’s laws made what MLK did almost impossible to achieve. There was also a ton of pressure within his movement to fight back against the police officers’ clubs. Instead, Selma showed that history can be made. Real change can be achieved if one sticks to their convictions and never stoops to the level of one’s opponent.
Stream on: YouTube, Google Play, iTunes, Amazon, Vudu
No matter your lot in life, the future can always be bright. October Sky arrived in 1999 and with star Jake Gyllenhaal’s stunning performance, we learned to never give up. The true story of Homer Hickam (Jake) shows that even a boy, whose history seemed to be pre-written, can rise above community expectations to greatness. We are limited only by our own self-doubt. Instead of becoming a coal miner like his father, his passion for rockets led him to a life of a rocket scientist.
Stream on: YouTube, Google Play, Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, HBO Now
Directed as a biographical sports film, this inspiring movie tells the real-life story of Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger (Sean Astin), who dreams of becoming a football player at his favorite university, Notre Dame. Rudy is a remarkably inspiring movie showing that you can accomplish great things when you are dedicated and willing to work hard for your dreams. The movie will also motivate you to continue pursuing goals even during times when you’re confronted with the greatest of opposition. A surprising aspect of the Rudy resonance is how Rudy inspired his teammates, his classmates … and a nation.
Stream on: Amazon, Vudu, iTunes, YouTube, Philo
Sometimes, cinematic inspiration comes from the most unexpected places. 2016 brought us an animated film from Illumination. Sing features an ensemble cast of animated animals whose dreams center around singing for their supper. A bevy of characters ran the gamut, from an elephant named Meena (Tori Kelly) whose crippling stage fright had derailed her to a gorilla called Johnny (Taron Egerton), whose father is a crime boss who believes that singing is silly and more importantly, he needs his boy to focus on their next job. It is a motivational film with a catchy soundtrack that doesn’t hurt things either.
Stream on: YouTube, Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, Google Play, fuboTV
“Hector and the Search for Happiness”
Director Peter Chelsom delivered a film in 2014 that has the power to change lives. Simon Pegg plays a UK psychiatrist who feels like a fraud. Over his entire career, he’s been telling people how to be happy and, at the end of the day, he has no clue how to achieve that for himself. Simon’s character begins a journey of self-awareness that takes him all over the world to see what it is that makes people happy. There are countless moments throughout the movie that audiences can cling to for inspiration. Most importantly, Hector and the Search for Happiness will impact people in varying ways, but after watching Hector’s journey, life itself will likely be seen differently.
Stream on: Tubi, Amazon, YouTube, Google Play, Vudu, iTunes
“Eat Pray Love”
Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestseller became a big screen film from Ryan Murphy (Glee, American Horror Story), with Julia Roberts tackling the lead role as a woman who leaves her life behind to embark on a mission that takes her across the globe for a mentally dizzying and soul-clarifying expedition.
Stream on: YouTube, Amazon, Vudu, Google Play, iTunes, Netflix
Check out the original 2011 version of The Intouchables. Not that there’s anything wrong with the American remake, The Upside, starring Bryan Cranston and Kevin Hart. There’s just something about the French film that feels more raw and authentic. The story follows the relationship between an uber-wealthy paraplegic man and his not-so-wealthy helper. Each influences the other in unforeseen ways, and this true tale will do the same to anyone who dives into its inspirational majesty.
Stream on: YouTube, Amazon, Vudu, Google Play, iTunes
“Eddie the Eagle”
The 2016 feel-good sports film and unbelievable true tale will shock with how deep Taron Egerton (Rocketman) went as a ski jumper who captured the hearts of Britain at a time when they needed it the most. Michael Edwards was given the nickname Eddie the Eagle due to his fearless ski jumping that found him representing the UK in 1988 at the Olympics. He was the first to rep Britain since 1928 in the sport. Even though he finished last in two events, it didn’t matter. The nation embraced this unlikely athletic hero.
Stream on: Amazon, Google Play, Vudu, iTunes, YouTube, Cinemax