The 15 Best Inspirational Movies

Get motivated with a few feel-good movies

The best motivational movies leave you laughing, smiling, and even misty-eyed. This collection of inspirational and feel-good films is a tribute to what touching movies do well: motivate, educate, and offer an escape from the daily grind. 

If you're ready to celebrate real-life heroes alongside fictional characters that aim to move the needle forward in their own lives or for the greater good, you're sure to find something on this list. Grab a box of tissues and a snack and gather loved ones to stream these uplifting movies over a weekend-long marathon or a digital viewing party.

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CODA (2021): A Different Kind of Coming of Age Film

Key art for the Apple TV original film 'CODA'


IMDb Rating: 8.2/10

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Music

Starring: Emilia Jones, Troy Kotsur, Marlee Matlin

Director: Sian Heder

Motion Picture Rating: PG-13

Runtime: 1 hour, 51 minutes

Teenage Ruby (Emilia Jones) acts as an interpreter for her deaf parents, who she also helps run a fishing business. However, her true love is music, and she's starting to feel torn between following her dreams and supporting her family.

CODA was nominated for three Academy Awards, including best picture.

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Hidden Figures (2016): Inspirational Women Who Shaped History

Scene of main characters dancing in Hidden Figures

20th Century Studios

IMDb Rating: 7.8/10

Genre: Biography, Drama, History

Starring: Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae

Director: Theodore Melfi

Motion Picture Rating: PG

Runtime: 2 hours, 7 minutes

Hidden Figures draws back the curtain to tell the true story of the brilliant African American female mathematicians at NASA. Though unknown to the public, they were instrumental in making John Glenn become the first U.S. astronaut to orbit the earth. This movie is a celebration of their brilliance and their deserving place in the history books.

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Remember the Titans (2000): An Inspirational and Timeless Story of Unity

Denzel Washington in Remember the Titans

Walt Disney Studios

IMDb Rating: 7.8/10

Genre: Biography, Drama, Sport

Starring: Denzel Washington, Will Patton, Wood Harris

Director: Boaz Yakin

Motion Picture Rating: PG

Runtime: 1 hour, 53 minutes

This inspirational sports story is based on an African American coach's real-life experience brought to lead the first integrated football team at a Virginia high school. While the players, coaching staff, and town members initially express resistance and intolerance, hope and unity win.

This movie delivers an enduring message of racial acceptance that doesn't require you to love football to root for the team or feel moved by their bonds.

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The Pursuit of Happyness (2006): An Uplifting Movie for Tireless Strivers

Father and son reading in The Pursuit of Happyness

Sony Pictures

IMDb Rating: 8.0/10

Genre: Biography, Drama

Starring: Will Smith, Thandie Newton, Jaden Smith

Director: Gabriele Muccino

Motion Picture Rating: PG-13

Runtime: 1 hour, 57 minutes

Inspirational movies based on true stories offer us encouragement, and this biographical movie does that in abundance. It tells the story of how real-life entrepreneur Chris Gardner went from struggling and homeless with his young son to eventually completely changing his profession and transforming the course of his life for the better. 

It's impossible not to root for Gardner and his son and feel moved by the heartfelt outcome of the main character's hard work and determination.

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Chef (2014): A Film for Fathers, Foodies, and Families

Scene of the food truck and father and son in Chef

Open Road Films

IMDb Rating: 7.3/10

Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Drama

Starring: Jon Favreau, Sofia Vergara, John Leguizamo

Director: Jon Favreau

Motion Picture Rating: R

Runtime: 1 hour, 54 minutes

Some of the best feel-good movies revolve around food and family; Chef keeps these priorities in heartwarming harmony. After a creatively and personally stunted chef gets a fresh start with a food truck, he rediscovers his passion for food and his family. If you love delicious food, there's plenty to eat up with your eyes in this food-centric feel-good feature.

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The Biggest Little Farm (2018): A Movie for Daydreamers and Doers

Aerial shot of the farm in Biggest Little Farm


IMDb Rating: 8.1/10

Genre: Documentary

Starring: John Chester

Director: John Chester

Motion Picture Rating: PG

Runtime: 1 hour, 31 minutes

This film follows the journey of a couple who leaves the bustle of city living in Los Angeles to start a new life on the sustainable farm of their dreams. They struggle through obstacle after obstacle but emerge with a new appreciation for the land and nature and a desire to share their experience with others.

Be warned: This movie could leave you wanting to frolic in nature and take better care of the planet.

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Happiest Season (2020): A Feel-Good Holiday Love Story

Scene featuring main characters from Happiest season

Tristar Pictures

IMDb Rating: 6.8/10

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Starring: Kristen Stewart, Mackenzie Davis, Mary Steenburgen

Director: Clea DuVall

Motion Picture Rating: PG-13

Runtime: 1 hour, 42 minutes

If you love a festive holiday movie, Happiest Season checks those boxes with humor and hijinks. It centers around a young couple, Abby and Harper, traveling to spend the holidays with Harper's family for the first time. The only catch is that Harper's family doesn't know Abby is her girlfriend—or that Harper is gay.

Part rom-com, part holiday movie, this feature doesn't reinvent the wheel, but it offers Yuletide cheer with a fresh pinch of inclusivity.

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Palm Springs (2020): Finding Love, Off Repeat

Andy Samberg and Cristin Millioti in Palm Springs


IMDb Rating: 7.4/10

Genre: Comedy, Fantasy, Mystery

Starring: Andy Samberg, Cristin Millioti, J.K. Simmons 

Director: Max Barbakow

Motion Picture Rating: R

Runtime: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Palm Springs delivers many of the same aspects you love about the original looping film plot from Groundhog Day, with a timely 2020 twist. While it's a love story that centers around two characters stuck on the same day at a Palm Springs wedding, it offers a wry, humorous, and slightly out-there message of living every day fully present and genuinely appreciate the opportunity to do so.

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The Sapphires (2013): A Feel-Good Music Movie with Universal Appeal

The Sapphires movie

Goalpost Pictures

IMDb Rating: 7.0/10

Genre: Biography, Comedy, Drama

Starring: Chris O'Dowd, Deborah Mailman, Jessica Mauboy

Director: Wayne Blair

Motion Picture Rating: PG-13

Runtime: 1 hour, 43 minutes

Loosely based on the story of the real-life Aboriginal Motown girl group from Australia, The Sapphires, this movie tells the unlikely story of how they traveled to Vietnam to perform for U.S. troops. There's a little bit of everything: iconic music, love, friendship, and the universal importance of acceptance and visibility.

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Mangrove (2020): An Inspiring True Story of Activism

A protest scene in Small Axe: Mangrove

Amazon Prime Video

IMDb Rating: 8.2/10

Genre: Drama

Starring: Shaun Parkes, Letitia Wright, Malachi Kirby

Director: Steve McQueen

Motion Picture Rating: TV-MA

Runtime: 2 hours, 7 minutes

This movie recounts the real-life heroism and activism of Frank Crichlow, the owner of the Mangrove restaurant that serves as a gathering space for the West Indian community in London. In 1970, Crichlow and others organized a peaceful protest against mistreatment by the police and were later tried in court for inciting a riot.

Their trial leads to the first acknowledgment of racially motivated behavior in the London police system. The film is a stirring tribute to those who stand up against injustice. (Mangrove is one of five films in Amazon Prime Video's Small Axe collection.)

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Joy (2015): For Entrepreneurs, Big Thinkers, and Mothers Who Do it All

Jennifer Lawrence and Robert De Niro in the movie Joy

20th Century Studios

IMDb Rating: 6.6/10

Genre: Biography, Drama

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Bradley Cooper 

Director: David O. Russell

Motion Picture Rating: PG-13

Runtime: 2 hours, 4 minutes

Inspired by real-life, self-made millionaire Joy Mangano and her struggle to do more than make ends meet as an out-of-work mother and aspiring entrepreneur, this movie follows Joy's journey as she struggles with numerous professional and personal obstacles. Joy's determination and won't-quit attitude makes it easy to feel wholly enthralled.

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Inside Out (2015): A Comforting Reminder That It's OK to Feel All the Things

Joy from the animated movie Inside Out

Walt Disney Studios

IMDb Rating: 8.1/10

Genre: Animation, Adventure, Comedy

Starring: Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, Lewis Black

Director: Pete Doctor, Ronnie Del Carmen

Motion Picture Rating: PG 

Runtime: 1 hour, 35 minutes

Inside Out is one of those solid inspirational movies that offer time away from reality while gently tackling the genuine nature of life transitions' ups and downs.

While the story centers around young Riley and her new move to San Francisco, it's a priceless reminder to all of us, at any age, that embracing our emotions is an excellent thing.

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The 40-Year-Old Version (2020): Finding Your Voice at Any Age

The 40-Year-Old Version

Hillman Grad Productions

IMDb Rating: 7.2/10

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Starring: Radha Blank, Peter Kim, Oswin Benjamin

Director: Radha Blank

Motion Picture Rating: R

Runtime: 2 hours, 3 minutes

Based on playwright Radha Blank's real-life career struggles, this semi-autobiographical film follows the main character's attempt to reinvent herself as a hip-hop artist. In music, she finds relief from feeling that she's sacrificing too much of her authentic voice to gain recognition in New York City's theater world.

If you need a reminder that success doesn't always have a set path or fall by a certain age, this is a cathartic and humorous homage to staying true to oneself.

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The Peanut Butter Falcon (2019): Adventure Tale About Friendship and Chosen Family

Raft scene from The Peanut Butter Falcon

Roadside Attractions

IMDb Rating: 7.6/10

Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Drama

Starring: Zack Gottsagen, Shia LeBeouf, Dakota Johnson

Director: Tyler Nilson, Michael Schwartz 

Motion Picture Rating: PG-13

Runtime: 1 hour, 37 minutes

This touching adventure tale follows Zak, a young man with Down syndrome who dreams of becoming a wrestler. After escaping from the senior home where he's assigned to live by the state, he quickly finds an unlikely new friend looking for a fresh start.

Heartwarming without being saccharine, it's a story about unconditional acceptance and forging friendships and family in unlikely but beautiful places.

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Crip Camp (2020): Celebrating the Power of Community and Advocacy

Crip Camp documentary

Higher Ground Productions

IMDb Rating: 7.8/10

Genre: Documentary

Starring: Judith Heumann, Jim LeBrecht, Denise Sherer Jacobsen

Director: Nicole Newnham, Jim LeBrecht

Motion Picture Rating: R

Runtime: 1 hour, 46 minutes

This film documents the true story of camp members and counselors who met at Camp Jened, an inclusive camp for young people with disabilities who become advocates for their community.

They are visible and independent at camp and strive to achieve the same qualities in everyday life by fighting for representation and long-overdue civil rights for people with disabilities.

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