I’ve compiled a list of great inspirational movies with important life lessons to learn. The first part of the post features 10 films complete description, and my personal review am sure that you will thank me later.
1. Bruce Almighty
Bruce Almighty is a fun yet inspiring film with a meaningful message. It’s about a TV reporter (Jim Carrey) who constantly has bad things happening to him. He complains that God is doing a terrible job — at which point God appears to him and offers him all his powers to see if he can do a better job. Along the way, he learns lessons that change his life.
On the whole I think the film can place greater focus on the life lessons — the humor tends to take over the film sometimes, possibly to cater to the mainstream audience. Great weekend film to watch with friends.
2. The Peaceful Warrior
A friend read my blog when I started it back in 2008, and told me that I had to watch the Peaceful Warrior. He said that many of the things I talk about on PE are similar to the film’s messages. So he shared with me his copy of the movie and I watched it.
Based on Way of The Peaceful Warrior (book), the film features Dan, a student from U.C. Berkeley who has everything a college student could possibly want — looks, fame, great friends, attention from every girl, and talent in his gymnastics, his passion. Yet he’s unhappy, deeply troubled, and has trouble sleeping at night. One night, he meets a guide and his journey of self-discovery begins.
I like the Peaceful Warrior and there are many meaningful messages scattered throughout the show. In fact, I’ve included several dialogue in the movie in my inspiring quotes series. Some of my favorites are:
- “There is never nothing going on. There are no ordinary moments.”
- “The ones who are hardest to love are usually the ones who need it the most.”
- “Death isn’t sad. The sad thing is: most people don’t live at all.”
- “A warrior is not about perfection or victory or invulnerability. He’s about absolute vulnerability. That is the only true courage.”
While I agree with the overall message of the movie and I feel that there were some great moments (like the rooftop scene), I found the movie quite slow paced and predictable. When I was watching, there were many times when “Socrates” (the guide) said something or revealed a lesson I already knew and already guessed he was going to say (in the same exact words too). I think a large part is because I already came to these conclusions myself before, so I’m just not the right target audience for the movie.
That said, there’s definitely some good stuff in this movie, especially as evidenced by the rave reviews by others. If you’re feeling jaded, losing their passion, or looking for a deeper meaning in life, this movie is a great starting point.
3. The Family Man
The Family Man is a comedy drama about a highly successful, single investment banker (Nicholas Cage) who gets to experience how his life would have been if he made a different decision 13 years ago (staying with his girlfriend rather than opting for a high-flying career). It’s a movie that presents a ‘what if I had done this instead?’ scenario and contrasts a life with great wealth and success vs. a quiet family life.
It’s a great movie that gets you thinking about life, though I’m not in exact agreement with the implicit message that life has to be either/or — in this case, either wealth or family, not both. It encourages people to justify not pursuing career/wealth goals because they have a family, or that they shouldn’t pursue love/ have a family because they’re busy with work. Both are achievable — it’s a matter of expanding our capacity, prioritizing, and planning.
What I do like is the film gets you thinking about what you’re currently doing in life. If you continue what you’re doing today, where is it going to lead you? Would you have a lifetime of achievements and wealth, but no real friends or loved ones to speak of? Would you have lived a life conforming to norms while never taking action on your goals? A life living for others but not for yourself? Would you be someone bitter at life and at the end of it yourself?
Click is about a man (Adam Sandler) who receives a magical remote controller that allows him to rewind, stop, and fast forward through time. He uses it to skip past moments that he finds mundane/boring like family dinner, shower, and sickness. Initially this seems fun, but after a while he realizes that it comes with unexpected consequences — which you have to watch to find out.
Forget the trailer/marketing which comes across as your typical Hollywood slapstick comedy. This really isn’t. At first it may seem like that, but halfway through you realize that there’s something deeper that the film is driving. It gets you thinking about life’s moments and how each moment is no less important than another. IMO, it drives home the message that “every moment is a moment to be lived” more strongly than Peaceful Warrior.
I really, really love this film and highly recommend this to everyone. There is this really moving scene near the end where I cry like crazy every time I watch it. A great plot with a provoking mesage, and humor injected throughout the film to keep it light-hearted. I highly recommend you to watch it. Kudos to Adam Sandler too for his acting.
5. Forrest Gump
I haven’t watched Forrest Gump before but I’ve heard too many great reviews not to include it in this list. Here’s a summary from Wikipedia:
Forrest Gump is a 1994 American comedy-drama film based on the 1986 novel of the same name by Winston Groom. The story is of Forrest Gump, a simple man who comes from Alabama and his journey through life meeting historical figures, influencing popular culture, and experiencing firsthand historic events of the late 20th century.
6. The Secret
The Secret is a self-help film on the Law of Attraction and positive thinking. It’s more of a documentary, not a fictional film. The Law of Attraction (LoA) refers to the idea that both your conscious and subconscious thoughts affect your outcomes in life. The Secret took the world by storm when it was released and has been featured on Oprah, The Ellen Show, Larry King, among countless other mainstream media.
I watched The Secret when it first came out in 2006. At that time I was new to LoA, so learning about it from the show was intriguing. Later on I learned more about LoA from reading blogs and came to appreciate it even more. Basically the concept of LoA synchronizes with many things I’ve come to conclude from my experience, so watching the movie was more like an affirmation for me.
After watching the movie, I felt more conscious than my usual self. Just watching this once once in a while can create an upward shift in your consciousness. Of course, don’t fall into the trap of a self-help junkie — ultimately self-help is meant to accentuate what you’re doing, not replace action taking.
There are many LoA detractors who feel that LoA is a hoax, but I think their criticism comes more from a misunderstanding of how LoA works. LoA isn’t about sitting back and expecting the world to change after you start thinking positive — it’s about thinking positive, taking massive action to realize your goals, and then having reality manifest results because your thoughts and actions are in synchrony. On the other hand, someone who takes lots of action but keeps thinking negatively is self-sabotaging because his thoughts and actions are not in alignment.
7. Groundhog Day
Groundhog Day is about an arrogant TV weather man (Bill Murray) who finds himself stuck in a time loop where he keeps repeating the same day over and over. The worse part? He’s the only one who remembers the past day’s events — no one else seems to remember anything! At first he uses this time loop for personal gain. After a while though, he starts to evaluate his life and priorities.
So this movie is a really interesting one. Forget that the reason behind the time loop is never explained, because that’s not the point. Forget that this movie is somewhat old (released in 1993). Groundhog Day has deep messages that may elude you in your first viewing, and the interpretation depends entirely on who’s watching. The movie never actually discusses the lessons it’s trying to drive — rather, they are meant to be implicitly observed and interpreted by you.
Without giving away spoilers, pay attention to Phil Connors’ reaction in every scene and how it changes as the movie progresses. Also, notice how other people’s reactions change based on how he reacts. While Phil keeps reliving each day, you can see that his motivations and hence reactions change throughout the film as he realizes that he’s stuck there no matter what.
What do you do when you have eternity to live? Does Phil ever break out of the loop? Watch and you’ll know.
Someone in a forum likened Phil’s story with the path taken by most humans in life, where they are doomed to repeat certain problems until they attain the revelation to deal with it appropriately. Some likened it with the path of reincarnation, where humans are made to live over and over again until they attain the necessary lesson and ascend in their path. I found both to be very fascinating interpretations that I agree with. In fact I wrote a post about recurring patterns, inspired by Groundhog Day: Are You Facing Repeating Patterns in Life?
(By the way, it wasn’t specified in the film but Phil spends 10,000 years in the time loop. That’s a LOT of time to be stuck in a loop!)
8. The Bucket List
The Bucket List is about two terminally ill men (Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman) who cross paths in a hospital after being diagnosed with lung cancer. Through their treatments, they befriend each other. They decide to embark on a trip to fulfill their bucket lists — a list of things they want to do before they die.
I have not watched The Bucket List before but I have read about the concept of the bucket list elsewhere. I personally embrace the idea of having your bucket list and have a few posts on it:
- What’s on Your Bucket List? 101 Things To Do Before You Die
- Bucket List Interviews — I’ve been interviewed several times on creating your bucket list, and you can find the video/audio clips in my media section
9. Space Jam
I watched Space Jam when I was a kid and I continue to enjoy it today. It’s a classic. The story is simple — the bad guys (Monstars) ousts the good guys (Looney Tunes) in a game of basketball at the beginning, after which the Looney Tunes go through arduous training to triumph in the end. Michael Jordan stars as himself where he is “kidnapped” by Looney Tunes to help them succeed.
I know it may seem silly that I’m putting a movie like Space Jam in this list but the winning point of the movie is really its simplicity. It drives home the values of determination, persistence/never giving up, hard work, self-belief, and friendship. I love the opening which shares Jordan’s childhood scene with his Dad, after which it transits to present day Michael. I got goosebumps watching it. R Kelly’s I Believe I Can Fly is the perfect theme song for the movie.
10. The Lion King
The Lion King is an all-time classic and hands down the best hand-drawn animated film of all time. Even with all the 3-D films released today — which are great in their own right — none of them comes close to matching The Lion King in terms of its authentic feel. I remember the very first time I watched The Lion King was in the theaters, right when it got released. I was just 10 years old and my parents brought me and my brother out on a movie outing. Childhood memories!
If you haven’t watched The Lion King before, please rent/buy/borrow a copy and watch it. I’ve probably watched it 6-7 times at least. I never fail to cry during a key scene in the second quarter of the film. I continue to rewatch the film once every few years and continue to be moved each time, because the story just never gets old. It speaks of love, responsibility, courage, and strength.