With a fiancé who prefers Oscar watching parties over Superbowl watching parties (I’m lucky), I’ve been exposed to many films that aren’t as heavily discussed in mainstream media as, say, the latest Marvel installment- at least not in my age group. However, I’ve found that the slightly indie, somewhat obscure movies are typically more inspiring than their blockbuster counterparts.
The list below contains my top 10 “inspirational” films and a short description of each. I don’t usually cry in movies, but if I did, it would be during these. You will likely recognize several of these films, as some of them received attention in the media. Hopefully, though, you will be exposed to something new.
- Short Term 12 (Available on Netflix)
Brie Larson shines in Short Term 12 as an employee at a home for troubled adolescents. This movie chronicles a transitional period in both her life and the lives of several of the kids as she deals with the arrival of a new girl at Short Term 12.
- Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (Available on Netflix)
Humor and sadness are intertwined perfectly in this movie about two New Yorkers (Kiera Knightly and Steve Carrell) living out the last three weeks before the end of the world. Watch as they accept their fate and have fun in the meantime.
- Into the Wild (Available on Netflix)
Into the Wild centers around the true story of Christopher McCandless, a man in his twenties who leaves his identity behind after college and begins the long journey to Alaska. This movie will likely have you Googling Christopher’s biography within five minutes after it ends.
Another Brie Larson film, Room is about a mom and her young son, who was born in captivity, and their life in a kidnapper’s shed. The narrative is uniquely told from the child’s perspective and spins a beautifully tragic story that feels all too real at times.
- The Way Way Back
The second Steve Carrell film to make it into my top ten, The Way Way Back is a coming of age movie, complete with a misunderstood teenage boy, a well-meaning mother, an arrogant stepfather figure (Carrell), and a girl-next-door. You’ll cheer for Duncan as he discovers who he is over the course of one tumultuous summer.
- The End of the Tour
Based on a journalist’s real life encounter with renowned author David Foster Wallace (Jason Segel), The End of the Tour takes place over a period of time shortly after the release of Wallace’s Infinite Jest and explores themes such as addiction and loneliness.
- Fruitvale Station (Available on Netflix)
Another true story, Fruitvale Station recreates the last day of Oscar Grant III’s life. On New Year’s Day in 2009, Grant died after being shot by a police officer in Oakland. Without question, this is the most heart-breaking film on this list.
- Moonrise Kingdom (Available on Netflix)
If you are familiar with Wes Anderson’s movies, you know that they are somewhat difficult to explain simply. Moonrise Kingdom is no exception, but behind the many quirky scenes and subplots is a story about young, uninhibited, summer love.
- Little Miss Sunshine
Little Miss Sunshine is a heart-warming comedy that tells the story of a highly dysfunctional family that takes a road trip together after learning that one of the children (Abigail Breslin) qualifies for a beauty pageant. Breslin’s character will put a smile on your face, and Steve Carrell’s story puts this movie in my top ten.
- The Spectacular Now
The Spectacular Now, one of Miles Teller’s breakout films and first award-winning performance, centers around Teller’s character’s romance with unpopular Aimee (Shailene Woodley). This critically-acclaimed film goes much deeper your average high school movie.
- Away We Go
Maya Rudolph and John Krasinski star in this comedy about two soon-to-be parents who travel across the country, struggling to find the right place to raise their child. With appearances by Allison Janney and Maggie Gyllenhaal, Away We Go is filled with both hilarious subplots and touching moments.
- The Fundamentals of Caring (Available on Netflix)
Who knew a movie about depression and muscular dystrophy could be so charming? To pass time while avoiding his impending divorce, Paul Rudd’s Ben takes up as a caregiver for a teenager with muscular dystrophy, eventually deciding to take him on a road trip. It is their interactions with people along the way that make this movie so enjoyable to watch.