Inspirational Movies to Help You Through College & Life


By Staff Writer Published on September 26, 2017

Movies can have a powerful impact on us. They can scare us, make us sad, or make us laugh. Sometimes, though, what we need them to do is give us a little emotional support. Sometimes, when we’re in the process of attempting something difficult, like earning a college degree, we need a morale boost to remind us we’re capable of anything.

So if you’re in need of a little tenacious positivity in your life, try out some of the following movies to give you that “Little Engine That Could” feeling.

Pay It Forward

Made in 2000, Pay It Forward tells the story of a middle schooler who is given an extra credit assignment by his social studies teacher to come up with a plan to change the world for the better, and then put it into action. The student comes up with a plan to pay favors “forward,” doing a good deed to three new people rather than to the one who originally did the favor.

It’s a compelling and emotional movie that shows that one person can start a chain reaction, affecting lives and promoting change in a ripple effect across the world. Be advised, however, as the movie has some pretty shocking downer moments, and the ending is a little bittersweet. Still, it’s a moving film, and it will likely have you using the phrase “pay it forward” sooner than you think.

The Pursuit of Happyness

The first of several on this list based on a true story, The Pursuit of Happyness (yes, it’s spelled wrong) details the life and struggles of Chris Gardner as he and his son become homeless, and desperately pursue a better life. After being evicted, Gardner gets an unpaid internship at a well-respected brokerage firm which promises opportunities to move up, but leaves him and his son living in shelters and struggling to survive in the meantime. He doesn’t give up, though, and through hard work and tenacity he turns his life around.

A tough movie to watch with an ultimately happy ending, The Pursuit of Happyness proves that persistence and dedication pay off and that you can rise up from rock bottom. It’s hard to find a story as inspirational as Chris Gardner’s real life success story.

Remember the Titans

One of the quintessential underdog sports stories and based on real events, Remember the Titans portrays a newly integrated football team in 1971 as they try to overcome racial prejudices and compete against non-integrated schools. Their journey toward victory on the field and acceptance among themselves is a compelling one, and it’s hard not to get emotional during their successes.

Stand and Deliver

For something focused specifically on education, Stand and Deliver’s story comes from the real life of Los Angeles high school math teacher Jaime Escalante, who took a classroom full of troubled students and turned them into math whizzes. It’s a compelling case study in the difference a teacher can make, and how even students no one expects results from can overcome and excel.

Dead Poets Society

A 1989 masterpiece starring Robin Williams, Dead Poets Society tells the story of several students at a strict, uptight boarding school, most of whom have parents with severe and very specific expectations. Amidst a faculty of lackluster teachers, the students find the dynamic and compelling John Keating teaching their English class. Through the course of their time in his class, they learn to think for themselves, to seize the day, and to value the beauty of poetry. Like Pay It Forward, there are some tearjerker moments in this film, and its ending isn’t a completely happy one. Still, it’s a movie that stands out, even 30 years later.

Freedom Writers

This one (another based on real events) tells the story of a new teacher faced with a class of “at-risk” students who hate the teacher almost as much as they hate people of other races. The teacher, who is denied access to textbooks for fear of them being lost or damaged, helps them overcome racism. She helps them learn to do the right thing and encourages them to keep a journal of their experiences living in the underprivileged inner city. Mentoring the students on toward success, she eventually publishes their diaries together as a book called The Freedom Writers Diary.

Hopefully, one of these movies will give you the inner strength to push through toward difficult, but worthy goals. And if you’re pursuing any of those goals, you can find help at Stevens-Henager College. We have a variety of degree programs, and a faculty and staff that want to help you succeed. Contact us for information on our programs, and learn what you can do to prepare for college and adjust to life studying at college and pursuing those life-changing goals.