There’s an endless number of films to watch, but if you’re in the mood for an inspiring film with a deeper message that’ll really get you thinking, there are a few worth adding to your list.

From real-life stories to heartfelt films that explore the power of friendship, resilience, and hope, here are 14 inspiring films with a deeper message.

1. Dead Poets Society (1989)

English teacher John Keating (Robin Williams) arrives at an all-boys preparatory school, known for its high standards and ancient traditions.

Keating uses unorthodox methods to reach and communicate with his students, who are struggling under enormous pressure from their parents and the school.

The key theme of Dead Poets Society is ‘carpe diem’ (meaning seize the day) and Keating helps his students pursue their dreams.

2. The Help (2011)

In 1960s Mississippi during the Civil Rights Movement, budding journalist Eugenia ‘Skeeter’ (Emma Stone) decides to turn her small town on its head by interviewing the black women who have spent their lives working for prominent white families.

At first, only one housekeeper, Aibileen (Viola Davis), is willing to speak. However, as time goes on, more women start to come forward with their stories. Unlikely friendships and a sense of sisterhood are formed along the way as Skeeter inevitably faces the backlash of backward community leaders, childhood friends, and even her own family.

Based on the bestselling novel by Kathryn Stockett, The Help portrays the reality of racial discrimination during the 1960s and teaches us a lot about respect and love.

3. Marvellous (2014)

Marvellous tells the true story of Neil Baldwin, a man with learning difficulties who has an extraordinary outlook on life.

Becoming a registered clown, an honorary graduate of Keele University, and achieving his life-long dream of working for Stoke City FC, Neil accomplishes everything simply by asking and being kind to people.

In our ever-critical world, Marvellous is an inspiring film that reminds us how much of a difference having a positive outlook can make. As Neil wisely said, “I’ve always wanted to be happy, so I decided to be.”

4. Philadelphia (1993)

Out of fear that it might compromise his career at a powerful law firm in Philadelphia, Andrew Beckett (Tom Hanks) does everything he can to hide his homosexuality and HIV status.

However, after his colleagues discover his secret, Beckett is fired and faces a long fight for justice with the help of Joe Miller (Denzel Washington) – the only lawyer willing to help.

Heartfelt and moving, Philadelphia is inspired by the real-life experiences of Geoffrey Bowers, who was the plaintiff in one of the first AIDS discrimination cases to go to a public hearing. It’s a powerful acknowledgement of the suffering caused by the devastating lies connected with the AIDS epidemic.

5. The Intouchables (2011)

The Intouchables is inspired by the true story of Philippe Pozzo di Borgo and his French-Algerian caregiver Abdel Sellou.

Philippe (Francois Cluzet) was a wealthy Parisian aristocrat who owned a luxurious Parisian mansion. After becoming paralysed in a paragliding incident, Philippe hired young ex-convict Driss (Omar Sy) to be his caretaker. Although very different, the two men developed a very special friendship.

The Intouchables is a heartwarming film that shows the power of love and friendship in bringing even the most unlikely people together.

6. Seven Pounds (2008)

After causing a tragic car accident that killed seven people including his fiance, Ben Thomas’ (Will Smith) views on life change entirely. Determined to correct his wrongs and give back, Ben goes on a secret mission to change the lives of seven strangers for the better.

The film title ‘Seven Pounds’ refers to the Shakespearean pound-of-flesh metaphor, which means a figurative debt that needs to be repaid. So, handpicking seven people in need of help, Ben gives them life by donating his organs.

In this extraordinary journey of redemption, Ben comes face-to-face with different people’s struggles and purposes in life.

7. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

It’s a Wonderful Life tells the story of George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) – a man who faces a crisis which leads him to believe he’s a failure and is better off dead than alive.

However, when a guardian angel is sent from heaven to protect him, George sees what the world would be like without him. Encouraged by his value to his community, George manages to break out of his suicidal depression and return to his family – realising that the love and care of others is truly what makes life wonderful.

With deep themes of selflessness, friendship, and the power of doing good, It’s a Wonderful Life is a fantastic reminder of what really matters in life.

8. Barbie (2023)

Barbie (Margot Robbie) and Ken (Ryan Gosling) are living their best lives in the seemingly perfect pink world of Barbie Land. However, when Barbie begins to question the world and her existence, she comes face-to-face with some harsh realities.

In this record-breaking film, award-winning director Greta Gerwig acknowledges women’s struggles with unrealistic standards, as well as the expectations placed on women to be perfect, no matter what.

This entertaining yet heartfelt film conveys how women should have the autonomy to be whatever they want to be in the world.

9. The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)

Chris Gardner (Will Smith) is a single father with custody of his five-year-old son (Jaden Smith).

Struggling to pay rent, Chris and his son are evicted from their home. However, determined to seek a better life, Chris takes on a competitive internship at a stock brokerage firm in the hopes of working his way up.

Based on a true story, The Pursuit of Happyness is a raw and inspiring demonstration of how holding onto hope and gratitude – even in the darkest times – can carry us through. While we all experience setbacks, hardships, and difficult circumstances, we can learn a lot from Chris’ famous quote, “Don’t ever let someone tell you you can’t do something”.

10. The Swimmers (2022)

The Swimmers is based on the incredible true story of two sisters, Yusra (Nathalie Issa) and Sarah Mardini (Manal Issa), who escaped the war in Syria to go after their dreams of competing at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

The pair journey from Lebanon to Turkey, before arranging to be smuggled into Greece on a dinghy. But their hearts and swimming skills are put to heroic use when the engine cuts out and they jump from the overcrowded boat into the ocean. Just a year after their harrowing journey, Yusra and Sarah’s dream of competing in the Olympics starts to become a reality.

Sally El Hosaini’s moving retelling of the Mardini sisters’ story is an inspiring tribute to them, and to the millions of refugees who risk everything to find safety every day.

11. The Green Mile (1999)

Based on the 1996 book by Stephen King, The Green Mile tells the tale of an unlikely friendship between John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan) and Paul Edgecomb (Tom Hanks).

Edgecomb is the head guard of a prison. Here, he meets inmate Coffey who’s facing the death penalty for brutally murdering two young sisters. While Coffey certainly has the strength to kill anyone, he doesn’t seem to have the demeanor, and Edgecomb begins to question whether Coffey is truly guilty of murder.

This moving film highlights the importance of forgiveness, and is likely to stick with you for a long while.

12. The Bucket List (2007)

Car mechanic Carter Chambers (Morgan Freeman) and billionaire Edward Cole (Jack Nicholson) are strangers, until they find themselves in the same hospital room.

Despite their differences, Carter and Edward bond over their need to accept who they are and what they’ve done with their lives. Each with a ‘bucket list’ of things they want to see and do before they die, the pair go against the doctor’s advice and leave the hospital to set out on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.

The Bucket List is a poignant reminder to live life every day as if it were your last and to find joy in the little things.

13. Reign Over Me (2007)

After losing his family in the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York City, bereaved husband and father Charlie (Adam Sandler) runs into his old college roommate, Alan (Don Cheadle).

As the pair rekindle their friendship, Alan helps Charlie break out of his cycle of avoidance and both men are given the strength to persevere.

Reign Over Me is a compelling demonstration of grief and how our relationships with others can get us through the most difficult times in life.

14. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

After being wrongly convicted for the murder of his wife and her lover, Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) is given two consecutive life sentences at the notoriously rough Shawshank Prison.

Despite his circumstances, Andy maintains a sense of hope, self-worth, and dignity and befriends Red (Morgan Freeman), a fellow inmate facing a life sentence for the murder of his wife.

The Shawshank Redemption is famous for its themes of forgiveness and long-lasting friendship, and reminds us that, while the body can be locked inside a cell, the spirit can never truly be imprisoned.

Final thoughts…

Films are great for sparking our imagination and initiating interesting conversations. And there are some films with particularly powerful messages that can really get us thinking.

For more film and television content, head over to the film and TV section of our website.

Have you seen any of the films on this list? Are there any other films you’ve found particularly thought-provoking? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!