15 Motivational Movies All Students Must Watch

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If you’re looking for movies to help you get through the challenges you face at school, you'll like today’s collection of motivational movies for students.

The academic life can be both exciting and challenging. It takes a lot of focus, determination, and grit to be able to meet all of your course requirements in order to pass.

For this post, we’ve rounded up the best movies to watch when your drive to excel academically is at a low point.

Watching any of these films is guaranteed to get you back on track and inspire you to start meeting your academic goals once more.

Here are some of the reminders you’ll find in the films featured today:

  • Hard work is rewarded.
  • Believing in yourself is important.
  • Always stay true to your beliefs.
  • Passion for your work can overcome physical limitations.
  • Having someone who believes in you matters.
  • Being yourself is an important component of success.

This list of motivational movies will get you back on track. Sit back, put your feet up, take out that bowl of popcorn, and enjoy the show.

1. With Honors

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This movie is about living a simple yet rich and meaningful life. If you feel that there is more to life than just getting good grades, this movie points the way to what truly matters.

In this movie, an ambitious graduate student who is about to complete his thesis meets a homeless man living in the boiler room of one of the buildings on campus. The student loses his thesis and the homeless man finds it.

They make a deal that the homeless man will return one page of the thesis for every favor the graduate student does for him.

Along the way, the student and his friends learn valuable lessons that ensure they will graduate life with honors.

2. The Theory of Everything

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This 2014 film is based on the life story of renowned physicist Stephen Hawking.

Hawking was considered one of the greatest physicists of our time, due to his discovery of black holes and other major contributions in the fields of physics, quantum mechanics, mathematics, etc.

In the early 1960s, he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

Despite the incurable and degenerative nature of his illness, Hawking continued to work. In fact, he produced some of his most important contributions after he contracted his illness.

This film was lauded as an accurate portrayal of the scientist’s life. It won several prestigious awards, including Outstanding British Film, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Leading Actor in the 2015 British Academy Film Awards.

This movie shows how passion can overcome the adversities we encounter in life.

3. Freedom Writers

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This movie is based on the book The Freedom Writers Diary, which is a compilation of actual students’ journals from Erin Gruwell’s writing class at Woodrow Wilson High School in Long Beach, CA.

The film inspires viewers to believe that they are heroes in their own right. It is a wonderful reminder that, in our own small ways, we can help change the world and make it a better place.

4. The Pursuit of Happyness

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This movie gives you a dose of courage to take on what life’s dishing out.

It tells the story of a down-and-out father whose life is deteriorating before his eyes. However, he doesn’t give up. Instead, he perseveres until he comes out on top.

The movie is based on the life of American businessman Chris Gardner. In the 1980s, Gardner experienced homelessness while raising his toddler son, Christopher, Jr.

Despite all the challenges, Gardner succeeded in building a strong foundation for his professional ventures.

The movie is a powerful reminder that we should pursue whatever makes us happy. This will be different for each person, but the pursuit of these dreams is as important as reaching your goal.

5. Dead Poets Society

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Have you ever felt that you’re living a life someone else designed for you? If that’s the case, here’s a movie that throws open the doors and helps you reach your full potential.

This is the story of boarding school students who are expected, both by faculty members and their parents, to follow a prescribed path.

However, one teacher challenges this and encourages his students to design their lives according to how they want to live them, and not base them on someone else’s expectations.

6. The Blind Side

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This film was inspired by former NFL player Michael Oher, whose life story was the basis for the screenplay.

In the film, we witness Oher’s struggles as he bounces from one foster home to another. One day, he meets the Tuohy family, who let him into their home. He eventually becomes a full-fledged member of their family. With the new opportunities available to him, Oher rapidly blossoms to his fullest potential.

This movie is about the value of hard work, the importance of inclusivity, and the value of family.

7. October Sky

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This heartwarming story is based on true events in the life of young men living in Coalwood, West Virginia.

They dreamed of launching their own rocket after being inspired by Sputnik 1’s launch. They had to overcome personal and logistical challenges to realize their goal.

This film is a beautiful reminder to believe in ourselves and the power of our dreams to change our lives for the better.

8. Legally Blonde

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This iconic film from the 2000s provides a dose of inspiration if you’re overcome by self-doubt.

Here are several key takeaways from Legally Blonde that will give you the motivation you need to believe in your abilities:

  • Have faith in yourself.
  • Let go of people who bring you down.
  • Don’t judge a person by their appearance.
  • You can get what you want if you set your mind to it and work hard enough.

9. The Karate Kid

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Here is a classic film from the 1980s that shares several lessons you can apply in any situation, especially at school.

The following are some of the key takeaways from the film that inspired many young people to study martial arts:

  • Hard work is the key to success in anything.
  • Cheating never gets you anywhere.
  • Never give up on your dreams.
  • Try to achieve balance in everything you do.

10. Rocky

via The Cauldron

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The Rocky series endures because of the numerous life lessons that resonate with everyone who sees the films.

In this first movie in the series, Rocky Balboa teaches us that winning isn’t everything. He encourages viewers to see the best in every person we meet.

He also teaches us that if life knocks us, we should get back up and do our best to keep on fighting. Even when we lose, we can find comfort in knowing that we did the best we could under the circumstances.

[Here are 5 motivational lessons from Rocky’s speech to his son.]

11. Lady Bird

via IMDB

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In this coming of age film, we meet Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson, a 17-year-old girl who dreams of going to college on the East Coast after her high school graduation.

She declares her hometown of Sacramento to be the “Midwest” of California and she’s eager to go somewhere she thinks she’ll find culture.

Throughout the movie, Lady Bird is at odds with her mother, who is not ready to let her daughter go and live her own life.

The relatable characters and their struggles are what make Lady Bird such a great film. It is a dramedy that offers several important lessons to help you embrace life to the fullest.

When you watch this movie, you’ll be reminded that:

  • Your dreams are worth fighting for.
  • You are unique.
  • True friendships are hard to come by and should be cherished.
  • Goals are important, but so is learning to live in and appreciate the present moment.

12. The Breakfast Club

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If you’re looking for more coming-of-age movies to give you motivation, this next film on the list also comes highly recommended.

It is the story of five high school students who have different personalities but are forced to spend eight hours of detention together one Saturday.

This movie encourages viewers to own their insecurities and to be proud of who they are. It reminds us that all we are all struggling with something in life, and that most people are just good at hiding their pain.

It also shows us that parents (or the absence of them) have a big impact on our behavior.

In 2016, this film was selected by the Library of Congress to be preserved in the National Film Registry for its aesthetic and cultural significance.

13. The Imitation Game

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If you’re creatively blocked at the moment, this movie can help you start moving forward again. It is a historical drama based on the life and works of cryptanalyst Alan Turing.

Turing is known for inventing a machine that deciphered German codes during World War II. He is also considered the father of AI and theoretical computer science.

This movie is largely about Turing’s work in creating the machine that helped crack intercepted messages from the Nazis in order to help the British win the war.

The major takeaways of this film are:

  • Take big risks if you want to fulfill your dreams.
  • Welcome the outsider.

14. Accepted

via Dafa Reyhando Imama on Medium

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This comedy film is about a high school senior, Bartleby Gaines, who gets rejected by all the colleges he applied to. To appease his demanding parents, he creates a phony acceptance letter for himself from an equally phony college he named South Harmon Institute of Technology.

He gets his friend to create a functional website for the institute, but through a glitch in the site, lots of students get accepted into Bartleby’s fictional college.

Although the storyline is farfetched and we do not condone fraud, this movie has some important lessons that can help you navigate the challenges of life, such as:

  • Embrace your uniqueness.
  • Avoid judging others.
  • Think out of the box.

Ultimately, this movie is about finding your why and acting on it to help others. [Check out strategies for finding your life’s purpose in this post.]

15. The Social Network

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Finally, we have a movie about how social media giant Facebook was founded. The major themes tackled in the film are friendship, loyalty, and power.

Through the film, we are reminded that change can happen in the blink of an eye, and that it is not necessarily about who has the brightest idea, but instead who is able to manifest this idea in real (or, in this case, virtual) life.

Final Thoughts

There you have it—15 motivational movies for students that will inspire you to keep moving forward and give you a valuable lesson or two about life.

We hope you enjoyed this collection as much as we did.

Need more movie recommendations? Here are a couple of posts you might want to check out:

Finally, if you want to take your goal-setting efforts to the next level, check out this FREE printable worksheet and a step-by-step process that will help you set effective SMART goals.

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