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20 Thought-Provoking Movies That Offer Valuable Life Lessons

Besides being entertaining, movies portray themes with very instructive messages. Or how else can it be a tool for world change? Here are 20 movies voted on in an online discussion that contain tenets useful for life.

1 – Good Will Hunting (1997)

Good Will Hunting Robin Williams Matt Damon Ben Affleck
Image Credit: Miramax.

Accepting the vulnerability in love and the imperfections of others are the key highlights in this story of a mathematician, Will Hunting, who faces an emotional crisis and seeks the help of a psychiatrist to recover.

2 – Rain Man (1988)

Rain Man, Tom Cruise, Dustin Hoffman
Image Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.

Charlie Babbitt’s greed gradually dissipates after the road trip with his insipid brother, Raymond, who had been checked into a mental facility. His initial intent? To gain control of the money willed to Raymond by their late father. His final resolve? To have a relationship with Raymond. In between, he had learned the tolerance required to connect with people different from him, a relatable nugget for the viewer. Humorously, you also realize that casino games are thrilling.

3 – Falling Down (1993)

Falling Down, Michael Douglas
Image Credit: Warner Bros.

Learning resilience is depicted in the effects of William Foster’s involvement in crime as is his response to his unemployed and divorced state.

What happens when life gives you lemons? Make lemonade.

4 – Chef (2014)

Chef, Jon Favreau
Image Credit: Open Road Films.

Carl’s passion for cooking diminishes after a bad relationship with his boss at the restaurant he was working at. His path to success comes with valuable lessons of stepping out of one’s comfort zone and having those who recognize your strengths and push you to harness them.

5 – Sound of Metal (2019)

Sound of Metal, Riz Ahmed
Image Credit: Amazon Studios.

This story of deafness and addiction captures the fragility of life emphatically and passionately. The film chronicles the life-changing event of Ruben Stone (Riz Ahmed), who loses his hearing. Facing a future of silence, he charts the arc of his upturned life through low-key choices in a way that models restraint. This piece allows for silence and thrives in it.

6 – Inside Out (2015)

Inside Out
Image Credit: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

Inside Out is an animated family comedy that permits us to “not be okay.” It reminds us that getting comfortable with uncomfortable feelings is the way to grow. Riley exemplifies this morale as she is in the company of her five core emotions and coping with her new life away from home.

7 – Soul (2020)

Soul, Jamie Foxx
Image Credit: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

After his trip to another realm, Joe Gardener does good learning (and teaching us) to enjoy the little and big things of life as they come our way. The film highlights that it is enough for us to be able to enjoy the beauty of life and its little blessings without the conventional sense of wealth, fame and success.

8 – Up (2009)

Up, Edward Asner, Jordan Nagai
Image Credit: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

In the movie, Carl goes on an adventure to find Paradise Falls in fulfillment of his promise to his late wife. Up in the skies in his flying house, he gets a clear head for new realizations that life offers endless opportunities for adventures as long as we are alive. Some of the most significant adventures are right in front of our eyes. You don’t have to go “up” to realize.

9 – Scrooged (1988)

Scrooged, Bill Murray
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Another viewer who sees this movie as a yearly must summarize his take home as: “Put a little love in your heart!” Ghosts from his past, present, and future were the refresher courses Frank Cross needed to reform himself. We usually get so busy with our endeavors that we sideline the vital things. The experiences of others and lessons in movies like this are the refreshers we get from time to time to get our perspectives back.

10 – Pay It Forward (2000)

Pay It Forward, Haley Joel Osment
Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures.

This movie is a solemn reminder of how inspiring good deeds can be, even in a world where it is rare. Young Trevor develops a concept that alters many lives after being inspired by a school assignment. He pays it forward by doing kind deeds for three individuals rather than reciprocating a favor.

11 – To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

To Kill a Mockingbird, Gregory Peck, William Windom
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

Atticus Finch acts out the principle of the proverbial title by defending a black innocent, Tom Robinson, who is accused of molesting a white woman. Although he lost the case, he garners respect for representing Robinson. Broadly, it speaks to how prejudice based on nationality, wealth, fame, or success can breed injustice, harming the innocents.

12 – Razor’s Edge (1984)

Razor's Edge, Bill Murray
Image Credit: Columbia Pictures.

What is the meaning of life? Larry Darrell’s (Bruce Murray) life after a war provides a reasonable answer. Darrell finds himself on a razor edge with survival guilt after a fellow soldier sacrificed his life for him in World War I. However, he makes a trip to hone his mind again and find meaning in life.

13 – To Live (1994)

To Live, Gong Li
Image Credit: The Samuel Goldwyn Company.

The title hints at the story’s underlying fundamental theme: despite challenges, hardships, and exceptional moments of wonder and joy, the characters carry on with their lives. Jiazhen emphasizes that no matter how hopeless the situation seems, living is the only choice.

14 – Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (1987)

Planes, Trains & Automobiles, Steve Martin, John Candy, Bill Erwin
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

The topsy-turvy of life is caricatured in this comedy of two passengers who must get home by Thanksgiving despite the transportation system’s challenges. With their eyes on the prize of Thanksgiving dinner with family, they defied all the obstacles, including their personality differences. Life is a whirlwind of problems; maneuvering your way around them earns you the prize.

15 – Driveways (2019)

Driveways, Brian Dennehy, Lucas Jaye
Image Credit: FilmRise.

Friendship and love know no racial or age boundary as Cody befriends Del, a war veteran. Cody accompanies his mother to clean up the house of her recently deceased sister, Kathy. Thus began the unexpected friendship between a boy who has his future ahead of him and a retiree who has the past to reminisce.

16 – The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)

Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty has often been credited as one of the most inspirational movies of all time. When Walter falls on hard times and is about to lose his job, he decides to find wonder and excitement in his life instead of just waiting for adventure to come to him.

17 – Yes Man (2008)

Yes Man 2008
Image Credit: Warner Bros.

What happens if you say “yes” to everything? That’s pretty much the premise of Yes Man, where a man attends a conference where they encourage him to agree to do things instead of always turning them down. Because of this new rule he has, he finds himself in situations he never expected, experiencing life in new ways, and falling in love.

18 – Hotel Rwanda (2004)

hotel rwanda
Image Credit: United Artists.

Hotel Rwanda cast a bright light on the horrible atrocities happening in Rwanda that many people didn’t realize were happening. One person online said this movie changed the way they saw the world and ended up sponsoring orphans in Africa after they saw this heartbreaking and touching movie.

19 – Harold and Maude (1971)

Harold and Maude
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Harold and Maude is a touching story about death and aging, especially what it’s like to live the life you want to live even in your older years. The movie follows an unexpected couple, a young Harold and an aging Maude. The peculiar couple find life and love in the corners of life where people often forget to look for it.

20 – Big Fish (2003)

big fish
Image Credit: Columbia Pictures, Inc.

Big Fish is a wonderful film about love and family, especially trying to understand the lives our parents and grandparents have lived. We often don’t believe the stories we hear from our elders growing up, but Big Fish teaches us to look for the truths in the stories we’re told. 

Source: Reddit

Amaka Chukwuma is a freelance content writer with a BA in linguistics. As a result of her insatiable curiosity, she writes in various B2C and B2B niches. Her favorite subject matter, however, is in the financial, health, and technological niches. She has contributed to publications like Buttonwood Tree and FinanceBuzz in the past and currently writes for Wealth of Geeks.



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