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The 100 Most Inspirational

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Watched or Not Key

1. It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

    Also on the 10th Anniversary (20), Romances (8), Greatest (11), and the 10 Top 10 - Fantasy (3) Lists - The classic about a man who feels his life is in the dumps and then a miracle grants him his wish of never being born and shows to him how much of an impact he has had. The epitome of the idiom "careful what you wish for." A little impractical at times, especially the view of the world without him, but uplifting and enjoyable non the less.

 

 

2. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

    Also on the Greatest (34), 10th Anniversary (25), and the 10 Top 10 - Courtroom (1) Lists - The movie takes place in Alabama during the Great Depression. Not a very racial friendly place now, not even close to it then. The movie is about a black man wrongly accused of raping a white girl and the following turmoil that the hearing brings. Based on the novel that is also on the 100 Greatest list, it is listed as one of the best racial relations movies ever made. Makes one stop and think and realize our past is not as good as one might think.

 

 

3. Schindler's List (1993)

    Also on the Greatest (9), 10th Anniversary (8), and the 10 Top 10 - Epic (3) Lists - The rather depressing look at life in a concentration camp and how a man named Oscar Schindler tried to rescue them. Just knowing that this movie is based off real life makes it hit that much harder. A must watch so that we don't forget history, you know all that doomed to repeat it stuff.

 

 

 

4. Rocky (1976)

    Also on the Thrillers (52), 10th Anniversary (57), Greatest (78), and the 10 Top 10 - Sports (2) Lists -After rewatching this movie recently I have come to the conclusion that this was not the movie I thought it was. Most of the characters are very awkward throughout movie, making the viewer feel awkward during most of their interactions. The movie is about a man who gets the shot at the title even though he never should have even had the chance. It is uplifting though, where the first half of the film makes the characters appear as low as they could get. Then things start to come around to the Rocky that everyone seems to remember. A very good movie, but not the one I remembered. I think this is a better movie than what it is typically made out to be though. It's not very often you see a movie where the guy tries to get the girl and the girl isn't a supermodel, but a normal looking girl.

 

5. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)

    Also on the Greatest (29) and 10th Anniversary (26) Lists -

 

6. E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

    Also on the Thrillers (44), 10th Anniversary (24), Greatest (25), and the 10 Top 10 - Scifi (3) Lists - What can I say about this movie that nobody already knows. Not the original of Spielberg's alien stories but definitely the best one. Heartwarming and tender.

 

 

 

 

7. The Grapes of Wrath (1940)

    Also on the Greatest (21) and 10th Anniversary (23) Lists - Based on one the 100 Greatest Books, of which I have not read yet. The story is about migrant workers of the Great Depression and their difficulty in finding work when their Oklahoma farms turns into a dustbowl and they are promised work in California. Of course you don't need me to tell you that work was not to be found. A gripping tale of people's struggles in the face of tragedy.

 

 

8. Breaking Away (1979)

   Also on the 10 Top 10 - Sports (8) List -
 

9. Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

   Also on the 10 Top 10 - Fantasy (5) List -
 

10. Saving Private Ryan (1998)

    Also on the 10th Anniversary (71), Thrillers (45), and the 10 Top 10 - Epic (8) Lists - A rather grisly tale about some soldiers going to take one soldier who lost all his brothers out of WWII. The movie is bloody and shocking and very realistic. As one review I read, "this movie pulls no punches." Very good and heartwarming and inspirational tale of courage and war.
 

 

 

11. The Best Years of Our Life (1946)

    Also on the Greatest (37) and 10th Anniversary (37) Lists -

 

12. Apollo 13 (1995)

    The thrilling real life movie based on the third manned moon mission. On their way to the moon the shuttle starts to break down and oxygen is leaking. This is a rather exciting movie since most people nowadays do not know much if anything about this mission. This is also fairly accurate based on several sources I have seen. A very good and definitely inspirational movie.
 

 

 

13. Hoosiers (1986)

   Also on the 10 Top 10 - Sports (4) List -
 

14. The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)

    Also on the Thrillers (58), 10th Anniversary (36), and Greatest (13) Lists - Another war movie for war movie lovers. Although Veronica did not like this one that much, I thought it was terrific. Alec Guinness played the perfect lead role and the story line was riveting. The plot follows a British POW in Burma who is forced to build a train bridge. Since they are doing this they decide to build the best one they can. While building the bridge, Colonel Nicholson (Guinness) looses sight of what he is supposed to be doing in Burma when the British try and blow up the bridge. I thought it was fantastic and a must watch, but that is just my opinion.

 

15. The Miracle Worker (1962)
 

16. Norma Rae (1979)
 

17. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)

    Also on the Greatest (20) and 10th Anniversary (33) Lists - A very funny look at inmates in an insane asylum staring Jack Nicholson. Jack plays the part of a new patient who rallies the other patients with him incurring the wrath of the nurses including the now infamous Nurse Ratchet. Though not listed on the 100 greatest comedies list for some reason. It has my vote.

 

 

 

 

18. The Diary of Anne Frank (1959)

    This is a very depressing movie about the tragedies that abounded in WWII. Like most people I watched this movie in history class and it was disheartening to know the cruelties man is capable of. I can understand why it is on the inspirational list because it shows the courage that the Jewish people had to endure during such a time but it is very very sad as well. The movie is based a diary of a little girl that was in hiding during the Jewish raids of WWII. They are eventually found and sent to a concentration camp. Again a very good movie about the tragedies of war.
 

19. The Right Stuff (1983)
 

20. Philadelphia (1993)
 

21. In the Heat of the Night (1967)
    Also on the 10th Anniversary (75) List -

 

22. The Pride of the Yankees (1942)

    Also on the 10 Top 10 - Sports (3) List -
 

23. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
    Also on the 10th Anniversary (72) List -

 

24. National Velvet (1944)

    Also on the 10 Top 10 - Sports (9) List -
 

25. Sullivan's Travels (1941)

    Also on the 10th Anniversary (61) and Comedies (39) Lists -

 

26. The Wizard of Oz (1939)

    Also on the 10th Anniversary (10), Thrillers (43), Musicals (3), Greatest (6), and the 10 Top 10 - Fantasy (1) Lists - Another of the classics, but unlike some of the others, I think everyone has seen this one. Don't know what to say about this one that people don't know. After reading some descriptions of the movie, there have been quite a few remakes of the book and this one does not seem entirely true to the book unlike some of those others, but this is the best and most loved of the lot. The original directed by Baum himself apparently had Dorothy as the dethroned princess of OZ. Makes me want to read the book. 

 

27. High Noon (1952)

    Also on the Thrillers (20), 10th Anniversary (27), Greatest (33), and the 10 Top 10 - Western (2) Lists - High Noon is the type of movie that builds suspense over the entire length of the movie. The premise of the movie is that the marshal (Gary Cooper) of this western town is expecting a killer that he put away several years ago to come in on the noon train, which is roughly 1.5 hours away. He spends the majority of the movie trying to find recruits to fight against him with the climax of the movie being the expected battle. Overall, I felt the movie dragged on a bit but it was interesting watching him go through the town and dealing with the townspeople. Most of those he asks directly refuse to fight but all of those who insist on joining are all turned away. The one surprising aspect of the movie was the role of the marshal's wife (Grace Kelly). The ending of the story turned around for her and I wasn't expecting her to act the way she did. Overall I thought it was a good movie but I would not say great movie. I felt the frustration from the marshal and I believe that was what was driving the movie but overall I thought that the story was rather thin and probably could have been condensed down.

 

28. Field of Dreams (1989)

    Also on the 10 Top 10 - Fantasy (6) List - I love this movie. "If you build it, they will come", so he does. This is a fantastic movie about following your heart and listening to unknown voices telling you to do seemingly crazy things.
 

 

 

 

29. Gandhi (1982)
 

30. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

    Also on the Thrillers (23), 10th Anniversary (7), Greatest (5), and the 10 Top 10 - Epic (1) Lists - Another excruciatingly long movie but I enjoyed it, unlike my wife who could not wait till it was over. I enjoyed the direction and the story thoroughly. The plot follows the real life exploits of T. E. Lawrence as he went from innocent observer to leader of Arabs against the Turks during the 1920's. Highly enjoyable for those of us who like war epic movies, otherwise can be considered boring since it is rather long and slow in some parts.

 

 

 

31. Glory (1989)

    One of those movies most kids now a days are forced to watch in history class. I never looked forward to most of those movies but this one was different. It was actually enjoyable and I became a big fan even though my child like attention span could not handle it at the time. Looking back it is actually interesting since I have been to the battlefield where the movie takes place, The Battle of Antietam.
 

 

 

 

32. Casablanca (1942)

    Also on the 10th Anniversary (3), Romances (1), Thrillers (37) and Greatest (2) Lists - Definitely worth its place as number 2. A great movie that was not a romance as I thought it would be, being more like an anti-romance taking place during WWII. I was hesitant to watch this movie at first but afterwards I will recommend this to anyone. The main plot is about 2 people trying to escape German occupied Morocco to the US. The dialogue is very strong and it contains several underlying plotlines not immediately noticeable. It very easily drags you into the movie.

 

33. City Lights (1931)

    Also on the Greatest (76), 10th Anniversary (11), Comedies (38), Romances (10), and the 10 Top 10 - RomCom (1) Lists -

 

34. All the President's Men (1976)

    Also on the 10th Anniversary (77) and Thrillers (57) Lists -

 

35. Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967)

    Also on the Romances (58) and Greatest (99) Lists - And yet another movie on the list regarding tolerance and race relations. Though it has a pretty simple plot white girl brings black guy home to her overly protective parents in the strict 60's. What made this movie different was the simplicity with how they presented the subject. The male was a top of his class, handsome physician. In other words he is the perfect mate to make any parent proud to have as a son-in-law. The only problem, he's black. The movie is lighthearted at times with still the reality that her parents need to come grips with the fact that her daughter is in an interracial relationship.

 

36. On the Waterfront (1954)

     Also on the Greatest (8) and 10th Anniversary (19) Lists - Right off the bat this movie resembled a cross between Gangs of New York and The Sopranos. The first half of the movie was rather depressing with all the deaths but it definitely turned around by the end. The acting was superb and the story line was great. The is no wonder why this is the 8th greatest movie of all time. 

 

 

 

37. Forrest Gump (1994)

    Also on the Greatest (71) and 10th Anniversary (76) Lists - One of the most enjoyable movie's to watch on the list. A modern classic of a mentally retarded man who always finds himself in the most famous places of recent history, meeting presidents, fighting in Vietnam, participating (sort of) at the anti Vietnam rally, ping-pong with China, and so on. Many of the movie's more humorous parts are when Forest Gump unwittingly causes some of histories famous moments including teaching Elvis how to dance. Heart warming and one of the best of the lot in my mind.

 

38. Pinocchio (1940)

    Also on the 10 Top 10 - Animation (2) List - Pinocchio is the second movie to be made by the Walt Disney Animation Studios, three years after Snow White. Having watched this movie immediately after Cinderella, I am amazed by the level of detail in the animation. True, the animation looks "rough", but it is immensely detailed, the humans actually have features, and the roughness actually gives it a personal feel. I would say that this movie may be even better animated than the majority of movies that have come before or after it. That being said, there is the story. Geppetto is the worst father figure imaginable, at least at the beginning of the movie. "Yay I have a son, 5 hours later you must leave to go to school though. Bye!". Jiminy Cricket is a horrible conscious, having quit the job 2 or 3 times over the length of the movie. And we haven't even gotten into the questionable content of the movie. To emphasize the bad behavior of the kids, I feel that Disney went places that no movie would go within a 100 miles of today, especially a kids animated movie. Young kids drinking and smoking? Kidnapping kids and sending them to a place called "Pleasure Island"? And the action sequences can be downright scary at times, like when the whale is chasing Geppetto and Pinocchio. And the story bounces all over the place, feeling more random than anything else. I mean really, all of the sudden Geppetto is swallowed by a whale, out of nowhere?  The songs are tolerable. The principle song, "When you wish upon a star" is one of the signature Disney songs now, so more than likely most kids would have at least heard that song without seeing the movie. Overall, this probably has some of the best animation in a movie of all time, the story line though has quite a bit to be desired.

 

39. Star Wars (1977)

     Also on the Thrillers (27), 10th Anniversary (13), Greatest (15), and the 10 Top 10 - SciFi (2) Lists - I had recently rewatched the original Star Wars (now subtitled A New Hope) in order to provide a better review than I had initially done when first setting up my movie and book reviews. Star Wars is a movie I grew up watching with my sister as movie marathons on New Year's Eve, so it is difficult to piece out that history from the movie that I know so well. The version I watched recently was the current Blu-ray release, with all the changes that have accompanied it as well as any previous adjustments to the movie that happened along the way. The first thing that struck me about the movie though was how slow it is. When compared to modern day "blockbusters", Star Wars moves at a snail's pace. I watched the movie with my six year old daughter and I frequently was checking to see if she was even still paying attention (she was). But even with the slow pace, the story, the visuals, and the dialogue all still hold up. The visuals are even more stunning now as emphasized on blu-ray and exploded onto a 4k tv. The amount of work done on the movies to bring them up to modern standards still holds, however the CGI done on it throughout the intervening years does not hold up as well. I still laughed at the funny parts, the random bits of witticism sprinkled throughout the movie. I am still enthralled by Alec Guinness' performance. And Darth Vader still provides a looming presence throughout the movie, that only gets heightened by the Prequels, not diminished as some people towt. So, even in a day when huge blockbuster movies are being rolled out on a monthly, if not weekly, basis, it's good to know that one of the original blockbusters still holds the charm and visual appeal that made so many people fall in love with it in the first place.

 

40. Mrs. Miniver (1942)
 

41. The Sound of Music (1965)

    Also on the 10th Anniversary (40), Romances (27), Musicals (4), and Greatest (55) Lists - One of the most popular musicals of all time. It is based on the Von Trapp family who during WWII were eventually forced to leave their native Austria. The main plot of the movie follows a former nun who finds her true calling as a governess to the family and eventually melts the heart of the once stern father. This all occurs in lighthearted nature over several irritatingly get stuck in your head musical numbers. Obviously their situation was portrayed not as dire as it actually was but it is still an enjoyable movie.

 

42. 12 Angry Men (1957)

    Also on the 10th Anniversary (87), Thrillers (88), and the 10 Top 10 - Courtroom (2) Lists -

 

43. Gone With the Wind (1939)

    Also on the Romances (2), 10th Anniversary (6), Greatest (4), and the 10 Top 10 - Epic (4) Lists - The classic itself, if not one of the longest movies on the list. The romantic movie of the Civil War era, if any others were even made. Considered by many to be the best romance of all time. The story consists of a love quadrangle that contains the horrors of war as it's backdrop. A must watch for anyone, and one of my wife's favorites.

 


44. Spartacus (1960)

    Also on the Greatest (62), 10th Anniversary (81), and the 10 Top 10 - Epic (5) Lists -

 

45. On Golden Pond (1981)

    Also on the Romances (22) List -

 

46. Lilies of the Field (1963)
 

47. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

    Also on the Thrillers (40), 10th Anniversary (15), Greatest (22), and the 10 Top 10 - SciFi (1) Lists - Having never seen 2001: A Space Odyssey before, I wasn't sure exactly what I was getting myself into. I had known only a few scant details of the plot and/or images of the movie but in reality I knew nothing. I'll probably spoil the plot going over the details, so if you wish to go in spoiler free, I wouldn't read any further. We start off in the distant past, when hominids first started tool use. These hominids are "visited (?)" by a monolith (one of the few things I knew about the movie was the presence of these monoliths). The monolith appears to have jump started mankind into tool use. We flash forward to the distant future (2000 or 2001) where a scientist is heading out to a dig site on the moon. Within a pit on the moon another monolith has been uncovered (I have no idea what happened to the first one on Earth). The moon monolith transmits a signal to Jupiter upon being discovered but other than that is silent. This prompts an expedition to Jupiter 18 months later (maybe this is 2001?) with one of the most well known sci-fi computers in history, HAL, leading the way (I love his unsettling design and voice). Upon arrival at Jupiter we find another monolith and all hell breaks loose because I don't have a clue as to what is going on. There's a baby and...the end. 

 

For the most part this movie is visually breathtaking, but ploddingly slow. My wife would look up at the screen every couple of minutes to see if anything new had happened. It didn't. The visuals could almost make up for it, but I feel that Kubrick purposely drug out the scenes to emphasize the slowness (much to the detriment of the modern audience I am sure). The entire movie is rather slow up until the end, when everything kicks into psychedelic. Truthfully, I was rather interested in the movie, wondering from the get go if would we get a reason for the monoliths. My feelings wavered throughout the movie, sometimes thinking we were going to get no answers at all and sometimes thinking we would get answers to everything. However, at the end of everything, I have no clue what we got, besides a WTF. The ending definitely felt like something pulled straight from Contact (or I guess vice versa based on creation dates). But no, I don't think we got an answer. This is the type of movie that film schools thrive on I'm sure, trying to piece out the meaning behind everything. I prefer an answer though. Overall my thoughts on the movie were that, besides the slowness, I was in for most of it. The monolith music was suitably unsettling, and everything about the movie from the sound design to the visuals had me. But my big problem with the movie was that I wanted to know what was going on. I needed to know. Unfortunately, I never found out. I feel like I should watch this movie again to possibly discover an answer hidden in it, however I don't think I can do it.

 

48. The African Queen (1951)

    Also on the Romances (14), 10th Anniversary (65), and Greatest (17) - A rather fun movie about a rough around the edges man who saves a prim and proper girl. Eventually they sail down a river chasing after a German ship so that they can destroy it. Bogart plays the part of the rough guy perfectly and the match up of the two main characters is pure magic. The story seems to slow down a bit in the middle as they are just on a steamship in the river for most of the time but the movie works well with it.

 

 

49. Meet John Doe (1941)
 

50. Seabiscuit (2003)

    This is one of the extremely recent movies on any of the lists. This is one of the few movies I saw in the theatre. It is about a horse that seems past his prime and a boy too big to be a jockey who end up winning race after race. Very good and enjoyable movie.
 

 

 

 

51. The Color Purple (1985)
 

52. Dead Poets Society (1989)

    This is a very touching movie about a professor that influences a bunch of students to create their own secret society. Someone eventually dies and the teacher gets blamed, but a fantastic movie about watch teaching should be all about.
 

 

 

 

53. Shane (1953)

   Also on the Greatest (69), 10th Anniversary (45), and the 10 Top 10 - Western (3) Lists -
 

54. Rudy (1993)
 

55. The Defiant Ones (1958)
 

56. Ben-Hur (1959)

    Also on the Thrillers (49), 10th Anniversary (100), Greatest (72), and the 10 Top 10 - Epic (2) Lists -

 

57. Sergeant York (1941)
 

58. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

    Also on the Thrillers (31), Greatest (64), and the 10th Anniversary (64) Lists - Spielberg's second best and second most famous alien movie. The plot line mainly follows several mysterious events that leads people to believe that something big is going to happen, hence an alien invasion. Very good acting and rather good suspense in the movie but again not his best. I personally felt it moved a bit slow at times although the special effects were especially well done for the time.

 


59. Dances with Wolves (1990)

    Also on the Greatest (75) List - It appears stories of persecution seem to have a leg up to get on the list. This particular movie is about a Civil War officer who went out to explore the final frontier and is forced to move the Native Americans living there elsewhere. He eventually feels for their plight and becomes one of their tribe. It is a very sentimental movie about how westward expansion was not all the glories history proclaimed it to be. The scenes are at times very monumental and very well done, a must watch, although it is slow at some times.

 

60. The Killing Fields (1984)
 

61. Sounder (1972)
 

62. Braveheart (1995)

    Also on the Thrillers (91) List - This is back when Mel Gibson was normal. The movie is very inspiring about a man come back to Scotland to free his country by inciting the people. A rather enjoyable movie but it seems to drag on a bit.

 

 

 

 

63. Rain Man (1988)

    I don't know what prompted me to start watching this movie but I enjoyed it. It is about an autistic savant who inherits a lot of money and his younger brother tries to essentially get it. The main roles by Hoffman and Cruise (before he went loco) were expertly done and you can understand why they are paid as much as they are. This movie goes to show that just because the man is autistic does not mean that he is not a man.
 

 

64. The Black Stallion (1979)
 

65. A Raisin in the Sun (1961)
 

66. Silkwood (1983)
 

67. The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)

    Also on the Thrillers (82) and the 10 Top 10 - SciFi (5) Lists -

 

68. An Officer and a Gentleman (1982)

    Also on the Romances (29) List -
 

69. The Spirit of St. Louis (1957)
 

70. Coal Miner's Daughter (1980)
 

71. Cool Hand Luke (1967)
 

72. Dark Victory (1939)

    Also on the Romances (32) List -

 

73. Erin Brockovich (2000)
 

74. Gunga Din (1939)
 

75. The Verdict (1982)

     Also on the 10 Top 10 - Courtroom (4) List -
 

76. Birdman of Alcatraz (1962)
 

77. Driving Miss Daisy (1989)

    My wife and I watched this movie one day in Undergrad since we saw it on the shelf and figured why not. This movie is about prejudice and how even old dogs can learn new tricks. Miss Daisy is an old southern woman who stops being able to drive herself around due to the accidents she gets into so her son hirers a driver for her. Over the 20 years they spent together Miss Daisy learned to get over her prejudices and learn that if you give someone a chance, no matter the color of their skin, they just might become a friend.
 

 

78. Thelma & Louise (1991)

    Also on the Thrillers (76) List - This is another movie I don't think I would put on the "Thrillers List" It is a very enjoyable movie about a couple of women on the run from the law but a great thriller? I don't think so. Although I would definitely consider this an inspirational movie.
 

 

 

79. The Ten Commandments (1956)

     Also on the 10 Top 10 - Epic (10) List -
 

80. Babe (1995)
 

81. Boys Town (1938)
 

82. Fiddler on the Roof (1971)
 

83. Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936)

    Also on the Comedies (70) List -

 

84. Serpico (1973)
 

85. What's Love Got to do With It (1993)
 

86. Stand and Deliver (1988)
 

87. Working Girl (1988)

    Also on the Romances (91) List -

 

88. Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)

       Also on the Musicals (18), 10th Anniversary (98), and Greatest (100) Lists -

 

89. Harold and Maude (1971)

    Also on the Comedies (45), Romances (69), and the 10 Top 10 - RomCom (9) Lists -

 

90. Hotel Rwanda (2004)
 

91. The Paper Chase (1973)
 

92. Fame (1980)

    I know I have seen this movie because my wife performed in it for her high school musical so she made me watch the original movie, but I can remember nothing about it. From what I remember it is a very musical movie which surprises me since it is not on the musical list. Again I don't remember it well so I can't write anything good or bad about it, just not memorable.
 

 

 

93. A Beautiful Mind (2001)

    Another of the recent movies on the list. This is about a man coping with his mental disorder where he sees people that don't exist. A brilliant man who worked for the FBI but only in his mind. Very enjoyable and inspiring to overcome such disabilities.
 

 

 

 

94. Captains Courageous (1937)
 

95. Places in the Heart (1984)
 

96. Searching for Bobby Fischer (1993)
 

97. Madame Curie (1943)
 

98. The Karate Kid (1984)

    "Wax on, wax off." This movie single handedly inspired me to start karate. The great movie about a kid who keeps getting picked on so he has an old master teach him karate where he eventually beats up everyone who picked on him, or something like that. This should be higher on the list in my opinion.
 

 

 

99. Ray (2004)
 

100. Chariots of Fire (1981)