The Best Motivational Movies of All Time

What movies make you want to get out there and make something happen? We’re not just talking about great stories of overcoming long odds, but instead movies that make YOU want to do something NOW! Below we offer our list of the 7 best motivational movies of all time:

Rocky – There’s a reason people are still running up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, pretending to be Rocky 40+ years later. Even if you hate boxing, the idea of working your butt off to contend on a level where no one believes you have a chance is super motivating. When you are done with Rocky, you are ready to get outside and start being GREAT.

The Shawshank Redemption – Even when you are literally trapped, never stop looking for a way out. Tim Robbins stars as a man sent to jail for a crime he didn’t commit, who then becomes rather valuable to a corrupt warden. Morgan Freeman is Robbins’ jailhouse friend (and movie narrator) in a memorable role.


The Pursuit of Happyness – When you’re just scraping by financially, it doesn’t take much to send you off the rails. In this movie, Will Smith plays Chris Gardner, who ends up homeless while caring for his 5-year-old son due to a series of mishaps. Gardner takes a big chance, competing as an unpaid intern against 20 others in hopes of making a new start at an investment firm. This film may just be the motivation you need to keep going when times seem desperate.

Flashdance – Welder/exotic dancer wants to be a ballet dancer — will she get her shot? The classic underdog story in which a person without the traditional credentials tries to break into the big time against all odds. The title song by Irena Cara helps ratchet up the motivational feeling. Totally ’80s in a good way.

Men of Honor – Cuba Gooding, Jr. plays Carl Brashear, the first African-American U.S. Navy diver, who overcomes the racism inherent in such a quest in the 1950s. Robert De Niro plays the dive instructor tasked with making sure Brashear doesn’t reach his goal. Brashear perseveres, only to face a new challenge that requires the help of his old instructor. While the movie takes some liberties with Brashear’s story, his real life was plenty inspirational on its own.

Breaking Away – This 1979 movie takes the poor-kids-vs.-rich-kids story into the world of cycling. In this case, the poor kids are the townie “cutters” who get looked down on by the college men. As you might guess, a bike race between the two groups provides the ultimate drama of the movie. Like many great motivational movies, you’re rooting hard for the underdog here. Great cast includes a young Dennis Quaid.

Unbroken – The life story of Louis Zamperini is so incredible that it seems like it couldn’t be true. An Olympic runner before the age of 20, Zamperini later fights in World War II, where his plane goes down and he is one of only 3 survivors out of 11. He and the others spend 47 days adrift on a life raft floating in the ocean (one of the three died during this period), only to be captured by the Japanese and tortured during their time as POWs. A great survival story. The movie is a little long at over 2-and-a-half hours, but Zamperini’s life will motivate you to make the most of yours. (BTW, he lived to be 97.)