Hankies in hand, get ready!  These are the films you will watch from the first second all the way through just so you can experience the wonder of human triumph.  They are the perennial favorites, the movies you want to share with your children, grandchildren and each other.  These are the films you never tire of and welcome your heart like a long lost friend.

In November 2009 we updated this list to include new films that have appeared since we originally created it in 2002.  The films presented range from pure drama to comedy and true stories.  Each has strong story lines,  incredible characters and showcase the human spirit, hope and perseverance. If you need a mental pick-me-up or just a good cry through happy tears, you'll want to watch each of these films again and again. Presenting Couples Company’s picks for the Top 25 Inspirational Films of all Time!  Enjoy!

"Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings."

The quintessential feel good movie of all time, It's a Wonderful Life celebrates the ordinary man's extraordinary life and the impact each of us has on those around us.  It reminds us of what is important, that wealth comes not from what you own but what you give and that each man is truly rich if he has friends. 

For anyone who has ever questioned their own worth or the purpose of his life, Capra's magical journey into what if, puts all doubts aside and captures the spirit of the holidays year around.

ROOTS (Mini-Series) - 5 Stars
If you were alive and old enough to remember 1977 then you can remember the phenomenon called Roots. For eight solid nights American families gathered around the television set to witness the story of Alex Haley's family's induction into slavery through liberation at the end of the Civil War.  This is the first film that brought a human face to slavery and the sins of America's past.  It has single handedly done more to promote an appreciation for the determination and sheer force of will inherent in those of African descent, while dispelling many of the myths surrounding slavery.  Roots also reignited a passion for genealogy sending American's and World citizens on a quest to define their own families roots.  This is the perfect movie for a rainy day or sick days at home when you'd rather have your children learn something instead of watching cartoons or playing video games.

The true story of  two young  athletes who ran for Great Britain in the 1924 Paris Olympics, Chariots of Fire crosses into the bigotry of the day and how sports and common goal can bring each out of the hate. Protestant Eric Liddell  runs to be closer  to God. Jewish Harold Abrahams runs for the love of it but is consistently taunted for his faith. Together their competitive nature forges a friendship where both ultimately race to victory to the tune of Vangelis's unforgettable musical score.

GANDHI - 5 Stars
Mohandas K. Gandhi,  introduced the doctrine of nonviolent resistance to the colonized people of India.  This was a radical idea and one difficult to follow, especially in the face of constant oppression, dehumanization and murder. Ultimately the Indian's  gained their independence. The philosophies of Gandhi carried into American Society supporting and galvanizing American Civil Rights Movement.

In today's violent world encompassing the Occupied Territories of the Middle East, Chechnya and Africa, a man of Gandhi's caliber is even more remarkable and increasingly needed. This film reminds us that it is not force that delivers freedom.  It is perseverance, a respect for human dignity and quiet disobedience in the face of tyranny that becomes the deliver of the oppressed.  Like all stories of good and evil, Gandhi reminds each viewer of the story that even in the face of excruciating oppression, holders of the truth with respect for their fellow man always in the end prevail. This is a great movie to watch when you become so frustrated with current affairs, hope for eventual peace seems an impossible dream.  Gandhi will restore your faith.

Based upon the autobiographical book The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, this epic story  journeys from childhood through adulthood beginning in Afghanistan pre-Taliban and ending in modern day San Francisco.  It's the story of two friends split apart by war, shame and a lie.  It's the story of a father struggling to raise his son as the world he knows crashes down around him and he suddenly finds himself on the wrong side of politics. 

Multifaceted, heartwarming and educational this is a great family film to share with tweens and teens and discuss afterward.  Many life lessons and morality issues the end in redemption and reunification of heart, soul and family. Not recommended for children under twelve.

"If you build it he will come"  

An Adaptation of W.P. Kinsella's baseball novelShoeless Joe, this film has come to epitomize American eccentricities and the joys of doing something completely illogical yet spiritually incredible. Amy Madigan is delightful as a former 1960's activist supports the wild idea, James Earl Jones plays a former '60's novelist who wants to leave the sixties in the sixties and Kevin Costner is at his peak as the slightly disillusioned but very idealistic Ray Kinsella. This movie is for anyone who has regretted past mistakes and believed in something better, even when logic tells you not to.  The ending is one of those great moments that brings tears even to the toughest guys eyes.

This is a story for anyone who has had to postpone their dreams because life gets in the way.  Glenn Holland is a music teacher frustrated by his lot in life with dreams of becoming a composer but his wife's pregnancy forces him to give up the dream and become a teacher at the local high school.  Add to this, his son is born deaf and Holland feels he has nothing in common with his child.  The ending of the movie is a testament to the power of pursuing your dreams and the bond that can develop even within adversity between a father and son.   You'll cheer, you'll cry and you'll beg for more. 
What's an opus? Basically itmeans a chapter of musical composition.  Each segment of a musical piece is an opus in the entire symphony, much like a chapter is part of a novel.

ROCKY - 5 Stars

The film is inspirational.  The back story of a screenplay thrown together in 3-days and filmed on a miniscule budget that eventually won the coveted Best Picture Oscar is equally inspirational. Hear just the first 3 seconds of Bill Conti's theme song and you too will be ready to take on the world.

Rocky Balboa is the epitome of the underdog who overcomes all odds to make it.  An absolute favorite film with men, Rocky is a part of American culture with a theme that illustrates our mindset.

Few films will impact you more deeply than The Killing Fields, especially if you were alive and old enough to witness the refugee's flight to the United States. However, this is not a film for children.  The subject matter is far too graphic and complex.

This film is about three themes: the friendship of men, life as a war correspondent and finally a man's journey from forced slavery under a communist regime to freedom.  Based upon New York Times reporter Sidney Schanberg and his Cambodian assistant Dith Pran (Haing S. Ngor) real life experiences,The Killing Fields covers their friendship's development prior to and up to the Khmer Rouge's  complete occupation of Cambodia and its brain washing of its citizens.
What makes this movie so inspirational is the Dith Pran's amazing survival and escape from the Communist controlled government.  Somehow despite the fact he has to drink ox blood for protein, hide his identity and avoid the constant brainwashing, he escapes death several times, he maintains his humanity and ultimately reaches freedom.  The ending is one of the most joyous you'll ever experience and you will gain a new respect of the people of Southeast Asia for what they had to endure, overcome and accomplish to get here.


This is one of those great films that grows on you each time you watch it and given the economy today, quite apropos. The story takes place during the Great Depression and follows a fighter who loses everything material and almost his kids due to an injury but through his humility and ability to do what it takes comes back and wins the world's heavy weight championship.  This film is about love, friendship, humility, sacrifice and never giving up. It is the perfect film for anyone scared because they're about ready to lose their home or lifestyle and need some inspiration.  Cinderella Man is a wonderful film to give to newlyweds because it focuses on what marriage really is and how together as a couple, they can survive anything life throws there way.

'Damn the doctors and don't tell me what I can't do!' should be the theme line of this film.

You are never too old to follow your dreams as this inspiring true story of New Zealander Burt Munro, makes clear. At 64 he sets out to break the land-speed record at Utah's Bonneville Salt Flats in 1967 and does it against all odds on his battered 1920 Indian Twin Scout Motorcycle. Anthony Hopkins plays the lead, a mild-mannered eccentric.
This film is a favorite with men and darling to women. It's also one of the fifty films I took with me to Saudi Arabia in 2008 and the guys there absolutely went nuts over it!  (They also liked American Gangster and Rendition) Anyway you look at it, Indianis a 100% feel good and inspirational. Great Fathers Day, birthday or Christmas gift for any man in you life old enough to drive. They'll enjoy watching it again and again.
Love it!
Love it!
Love it!
And you will too.  You can't watch World's Fastest Indian and not walk away smiling!

RAY - 5 Stars
Ed Hustle wrote a great review on this film for Barnes and Nobel so we're just going to quote him:

"There’s rarely been a biopic that’s done a better job of capturing its subject’s essence, which is why Ray can be forgiven its occasional departures from the historical record. The film doesn’t simply present the hit songs and other professional triumphs, although those are extremely well represented; it delves into the psyche of Ray Charles Robinson, whose destiny was shaped by back-to-back childhood traumas: his brother’s accidental death by drowning, which Ray witnessed; and his sudden descent into blindness a few years later. Driven by his poor but proud mother to succeed despite his handicap, the boy gets an education and becomes a talented musician who eventually carves out an amazing career.

The opening scene of Julie Andrews singing "The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music" alone is enough to fill you with inspiration.  But this Roger's and Hammerstein classic based upon the true story of the von Trapp family's flight from Nazi controlled Austria in 1938 delivers so much more. It's a story about God's will where a young woman finds her calling isn't the church but to be a mother to six children.  It's about wringing a man from the clutches of grief and reintroducing him to his family and the joys of life he once thought he lost. It covers the crisis of conscience when political events force you to choose between duty to country and morality and ultimately force you to leave everything behind except your family and its love.  Finally it's about the passion that develops when God brings two people together as one.  The Sound of Music is inspirational on many levels whether its the story, the courage, the message or the music, few can experience it without being touched for a lifetime.

If someone you know is struggling with unemployment this is an amazing film to rent for them.
Based upon the true story of a genius, Chris Garner who finds himself a single dad, homeless and without a job, basically as far down as a person can get in American society.  Living on the streets, he ultimately gets back on his feet and climbs to the top of the heap as owner of his own firm in 1980s San Francisco.  Smith's own son plays his son in this film. The scene where father and son have to sleep in a public bathroom is one of the all time most memorably haunting scenes in cinema history.
Heartwarming and gut wrenching, you'll be cheering in the end!
On the preceding page you'll discover the first fourteen films in our countdown.  Below you'll find the top inspirational films numbering 15-25.  You may be asking, where are the faith based films?

RUDY - 4 Stars
Against all odds including wrong physical stature, lack of education requirements,  dismissive coaches, poverty, his father's envy, and endless series of roadblocks, Rudy Ruettiger does the energizer bunny one better and keeps going, and going and going until at last he gets to play in one game at Notre Dame. Based on a true story, Rudy shows that it is not the attaining goal that provides the satisfaction but surviving and growing through the journey which is the ultimate reward.

OCTOBER SKY - 4.5 Stars
If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Highlighting determination and success this true story begins in 1957 with the launch of launch of the Sputnik. The space race goes into high gear. Homer butts heads with his father's antiquated  blue collar ethic by shunning a life in the coal mines and pursuing the cerebral paths science. In the end, with nothing but a makeshift backwoods launching pad Homer succeeds launching his rocket and the hopes of an entire town into space. This is a great movie for introducing children to the aspects of the cold war and the space race.

Stephen King's story about hope and friendship comes alive in The Shawshank Redemption.  Incredibly uplifting despite its dismal setting within a prison, the story follows the story of framed wife murder, Andy Dufrain (Robbins) and his friendship with admitted murderer Red (Freeman) within the confines of the maximum security prison.  If you're like us, you'll watch the more than two hours over and over again just to feel the wonderful sense of satisfaction the last five minutes of the movie delivers. The sentiment is pure, rewarding and wonderful.

BRIAN’S SONG - 4 Stars
This made for television biopic about the Chicago Bears' Brian Piccolo and Gale Sayers is more than a sports film. 1971 was just a few years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964  passed and racial tensions in the US were still alive an well.  Portraying a close and caring friendship between men is hard enough.  Showing them to be of different races at the time on TV, was even gutsier.
James Caan is at his free-spirited best as Piccolo, becomes stricken with cancer. Billy Dee Williams, first his rival become the rock he leans on.  Piccolo's  will to survive inspires Sayers to stretch his limits and  reach his athletic potential as a tribute to the inner strength of both.


Sissy Spacek sings every song in this movie and won the Oscar® for her portrayal of rags to riches country-music legend Loretta Lynn. Tommy Lee Jones plays her other half who takes her from teenage bride to superstar.  This is one movie that will make you believe in the American Dream and the power of talent and perseverance.  It also shows that even superstars have problems, and ultimately we are all human.

NORMA RAE - 5 Stars
Breaking through the status quo, Sally Field won an Oscar for her portrayal of naive textile worker, widow, and mother who finally says "Enough" and rallies her co-workers to unionize the textile mill.
By standing up for her rights in the workplace.  Illustrating dogged determination at its best, Norma Rae shows the power even one uneducated single mother can have once she puts her mind to it.
Another favorite movie with a similar theme is Silkwood starring Meryl Streep, Cher and Kurt Russell.

Taming the demons inside, in this case genius John Nash's schizophrenia will take you into the world of imagined reality and the cruelty others have towards a disease they don't understand.  A study in mind over matter that  can be empathized by anyone struggling with a disability or addiction, A Beautiful Mind is complex, heart-wrenching and a testament to the power of marital love, facing reality, never giving up and overcoming the odds.

One man can change the world and Mel Gibson's Braveheart proves this.  Based upon the true story of Scottish hero William Wallace, historians will bristle at the facts as the storyline covers two complete centuries within a few years of one man's life and contains few historically accurate events.  But who cares!  The story is wonderful and covers all human emotions.  Mel Gibson as Wallace portrays a man both aggressive and vulnerable.  Angus MacFadyen's portrayal of Sir Robert the Bruce is one of the great performance illustrating a man caught between passion, morality and duty.  Though very violent and brutally illustrative of medieval torture and the depths of horror men can fall to, Braveheart inspires on all levels leaves each wishing to be a Scot!

GLORY- 4 Stars
Two movies best illustrate the struggle and triumph of African American's in the US Military:The Tuskegee Airmen of WWII and this movie Glory, which illustrates the trials and tribulations of the first fully Black Regiment during the Civil War.
Based upon a true story this movie shows the struggle to overcome incredible prejudice and prove ones self  in spite of every roadblock.  Denzel Washington won the Academy Award for best supporting actor.  The most memorable scene in the movie shoes him being beaten for stealing shoes in front of the regiment, a single tear falling down his face.  This movie shows how far we've come as a nation and reminds us that all American's, regardless of color, faith or origin truly love and defend this country.

Illustrating the Powers of Love and Humor
"Not realizing the second half of this film deals with concentration camps during World War II, I innocently took my 13-year old Little Sister to see it.  I thought we were going to see a romantic comedy , which the first half is.  Though the actual film is about the lengths a father will go to protect his child and the power of humor to create a barrier against atrocities, the second half deals with surviving the horror endured by 12-million people of all faiths in the concentration camps under Hitler and Mussolini.    If a child is unaware this existed, it can be a major shock but an important lead to discussion.
The film is wonderful, endearing reminder that when any nation uses faith to determine who has value as a human and who doesn't, fascism and insanity result and everyone loses.

Wonderful story about the author of Peter Pan and his paternal love affair with a terminally ill woman and her children.

Amazing story of how Coco Channel, the woman who changed fashion stayed true to herself and went from orphan and dance hall singer to the top of fashion when women didn't own companies.

EVELYN - 4 Stars
Depicting the true story of Desmond Doyle, a man whose wife abandons their family on the day after Christmas. Unemployed Doyle takes on a system that defers to the woman even though she's unfit after the state places his children in an orphanage.  Determined not to lose his children, his custody battle in Ireland changed an entire nation and gave hope to single fathers the world over.  This is a must see for any father involved in a custody battle and the perfect Fathers Day, Christmas or Hanukkah gift for any father.

One of our favorite Robin Williams movies, Dead Poet's Society focuses on the magic and freedom education brings to young minds willing to embrace its wisdom.


Frequency is  two different--though completely linked movies: A father/son story and a crime solving mystery. HAMM radio fans will love the fact that it is this radio which reunites father and son through thirty years time travel.

Anonymous commented on 28-Aug-2011 01:21 AM5 out of 5 stars
Great Article.
Anonymous commented on 19-Sep-2011 10:51 AM3 out of 5 stars
amazing list..
Anonymous commented on 13-Oct-2011 07:00 PM5 out of 5 stars
Very interesting articles on the list
viera commented on 15-Nov-2011 12:45 AM3 out of 5 stars
Great article.a superb one.
law of attraction commented on 03-Dec-2011 01:47 AM5 out of 5 stars
My fav is Schindler's List. The display of humanity is so poignant... It's uplifting and inspiring to know that humans can be so compassionate. One man stood against the Nazis, using every cent to shield Jews from the horrors of the Holocaust. Utterly
brilliant. ANSWER: Agreed. Schindler's List is brilliant and it continues to be one of my all time favorite films. Any film which shows the power of human nature to overcome the power of the state and/or hate is excellent. The Color Purple, Miral, The Kite
Runner, Hotel Rwanda, Rabbit Proof Fence, Ararat, The Killing Fields, each of these addition to Schindler's List needs to be seen because each exposes the injustice meted upon people because they happen to be the wrong faith or the wrong color.
If you liked Schindler's List, you'll enjoy all of the aforementioned because each shows the quality of human spirit, compassion and strength against unfair and inhuman odds. Thanks for your comments!
hooray commented on 24-Dec-2011 12:41 PM3 out of 5 stars
jewish comment detected ANSWER: We're not really sure what you mean by this comment. This list has nothing to do with faith other than the fact that the principles within each movie apply to Christianity, Judaism and Islam as well as Hindu and Buddhist.
Have a prosperous New Year and thank you for your comments.
Pankaj commented on 25-Jan-2012 07:58 AM5 out of 5 stars
Very Exiting list. My Favorite OCTOBER SKY specially for school children
dell commented on 03-Feb-2012 08:17 AM4 out of 5 stars
The Pursuit of Happyness is one of the most horrible, sickening and evil movies I know of (no offence to you mme. Johnson). It seems to tell the viewer that it's okay with poverty, because one in a million will eventually manage to get out of it. It's
basically a movie about caste system in the US, and how twisted the economical system really is. No, I sincerely think this is one of the least inspirational movies ever, even if he manages to get out of his situation he leaves millions and millions behind
him, and will eventually become just another suit sheepishly disappearing into nothingness, forgetting all that is "lower" than him.
AB commented on 10-Feb-2012 05:59 AM3 out of 5 stars
Hi all hey Dell many ways u can see movie, and yes you are right from your perspective, but movie itself gives a hope to those whom hope is needed, and remember "never take hope away".... As well,from what movie does represent to each one of us is different...
stories as such are made millions and that is what matters to them...I cant agree with you and rate it as "most horrible" and evil movie...nope..there are 1000s of worst movies..... I d say 7.5/10 (5-10) Cheers....

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