Movies are made to tap into our emotions at every level. There’s the sheer elation we feel after watching a laugh-out-loud comedy through to our empathy with a sad, somber storyline. Some movies deliver pure escapism as we venture with the characters into sci-fi worlds, dark and dangerous situations, or high-octane, adrenaline-fueled action. Others bring us heart-warming romance or sweet coming-of-age stories. And then there are movies that have actually made an impact in the real world as well as on-screen.
Movies can entertain, engage, inspire and educate. And they can motivate us too – perhaps to overhaul our career, change our personal circumstances, even seek to improve who we are. Take the 1993 classic Groundhog Day, where Bill Murray’s character, obnoxious TV weather reporter Phil Connors, lives the same day over and over again until he learns to change his selfish ways and begins to help others during the course of that same repeated day. The movie motivated many people leading insular, stuck-in-a-rut lifestyles to make little changes each day and achieve different outcomes.
Real-life winners on the big screen
We all love a movie where we root for the underdog to come out on top, and many in this genre are based on real-life people and their quest to overcome adversity. Who can’t help but be motivated by the never-give-up attitude of Rocky Balboa, a role Sylvester Stallone created based on the lowly-rated boxer Chuck Wepner, who held his own against the great Muhammed Ali? The 2000 box office smash Erin Brockovich was the motivational true story of an unemployed single mom who took on corrupt big business in the courts – and won.
Another movie based on real-life events taps into everybody’s dream of winning the lottery, and how we’d be motivated to spend or share the money if our luck comes in. In 1994’s It Could Happen to You, Nicolas Cage’s cop Charlie Lang can’t leave a tip for Bridget Fonda’s bankrupt waitress Yvonne Biasi. Instead, he promises to share his winnings with her if he ever wins the lottery – and promptly scoops $4 million the very next day! True to his word, he splits the money with Yvonne and the movie’s twists and turns begin, with a lot of philanthropy along the way.
The one movie that changed many lives
In many life-changing movies, it’s just the characters on screen who finally achieve their dreams or ambitions, from lasting love to sporting fame. But there’s one iconic movie that many cite as being their main motivation to devote their lives to the teaching profession. That movie is, of course, the unforgettable Dead Poets Society starring the late Robin Williams as English teacher John Keating. Whilst the on-screen fictional character inspired his pupils, so a new generation of real-life teachers was motivated to follow that lead and change their pupils’ lives for the better, as well as their own.
There are so many motivational movies in every genre and appealing to every demographic that we can all find the one that speaks to us the loudest. Whether that’s Billy Elliot’s boyhood dream of becoming a ballet dancer or Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman ticking off their Bucket List adventures, movies can most definitely motivate us as well as entertain.