1. Pursuit of Happyness (2006)
Starring Will Smith and his son Jaden Smith, the Pursuit of Happyness will give you goosebumps in the end. Based on the true story of Chris Gardner this is a true story of triumph. It seems like life just can’t get any worse for Chris after he fails to make ends meet, his wife leaves him, becomes homeless to the point where he spends the night with his son in the washroom of a subway station all while trying to sell bone density scanners and interning at a brokerage. The movie concludes with Chris being hired full-time as a stock broker.
I love nothing more than a movie where someone hits rock bottom and rises to the top. Today Chris Gardner is worth millions of dollars.
Don’t ever let someone tell you that you can’t do something.
Not even me. You got a dream, you gotta protect it.
When people can’t do something themselves,
they’re gonna tell you that you can’t do it.
You want something, go get it.
Period. -Chris Gardner
2. Rudy (1993)
I rented this movie on VHS for a grade 10 marketing assignment thinking I was going to hate it. Little did I know it would become one of my all-time favorite movies which I’ve re-watched many times. Starring Sean Astin as Rudy, this is another true story about Rudy Ruettiger who had a dream to play for the Notre Dame football team. Unfortunately Rudy was surrounded by negativity his whole life. Too small for football and struggling in school he eventually becomes motivated by his best friends death to pursue his dream. Despite being dyslexic he is eventually accepted to Notre Dame University and despite being of a small frame being only 5’6 he eventually makes the cut and plays for the Notre Dame football team.
In reality, Daniel Eugene “Rudy” Ruetigger inspired the rest of his siblings to attend college and today he is a motivational speaker.
3. Invincible (2006)
Another true story and football movie. Vince Papale (played by Mark Wahlberg) is high school teacher who is laid off and wife leaves him due to his professional failure and also leaves a vicious note behind about how he’ll never amount to anything which eventually fuels him. Vince is just a fan of the Philadelphia Eagles but while working at a bar his friends convince him to participate in an open tryout since he stands out so well in their friendly games. Despite his age and lack of professional experience, Vince eventually makes the Philadelphia Eagles.
Another great movie of a guy who’s down on his luck and eventually turns things around to prove he can prove the naysayers wrong.
4. Braveheart (1995)
Mel Gibson puts on an amazing performance as his character William Wallace who leads the Scottish against the English. After his wife his killed by the English, William avenges her death and leads the Scottish against the English. Even though the Scots are outnumbered and lack weaponry they defeat the English fueled with heart and with their hunger for freedom. Mel Gibsons speech before the battle is one that will give goosebumps.
“Every man dies, but not every man lives” -William Wallace
5. Into the Wild (2007)
Based on a true story about Christopher McCandless played by Emile Hirsch who decides to leave his middle class existence and modern society to travel to Alaska where he can live a real existence. He gives up his family ties and all possessions before he embarks on his journey as he touches the lives of those he crosses paths with. This movie probably has one of the best soundtracks by Eddie Vedder.
“I will miss you too, but you are wrong if you think that the joy of life comes principally from the joy of human relationships. God’s place is all around us, it is in everything and in anything we can experience. People just need to change the way they look at things.” – Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch)
6. Cinderella Man (2005)
Another true story about James Braddock (played by Russell Crowe) who is a washed up boxer who is forced out of boxing after breaking his hand in the ring. As his family is slipping into poverty due to the great depression of the 1930’s James shocks the boxing world by beating formidable opponents and eventually getting a title shot against Max Baer who has killed two of his opponents in previous fights. This is yet another great rags to riches story which is why he was called the “Cinderella Man”.
” I have to believe that when things are bad I can change them” -Jim Braddock
7. Cool Runnings (1993)
I remember watching Cool Runnings in grade 8. This is loosely based on a true story about a Jamaican bobsled team which was formed mostly around a team of sprinters who didn’t qualify for the 100 metre dash. John Candy plays Irving Blitzer who is eventually convinced to coach the team on bobsledding in Jamaicas tropical conditions. This is a fun movie to watch with some comedy relief. The team is mostly laughed at and not taken seriously however when they qualify and make the Olympic Games in Calgary they team is given respect.
Yul Brenner: Look in the mirror, and tell me what you see!
Junior Bevill: I see Junior.
Yul Brenner: You see Junior? Well, let me tell you what I see. I see pride! I see power! I see a bad-asss mother who don’t take no crap off of nobody!
8. 300 (2006)
In the Battle of Thermopylae of 480 BC, King Leonidas (played by Gerard Butler) is faced with the option of fighting the vast Persian army or watching his city burn to the ground. King Leonidas who leads 300 spartans against Xerxes and the Persian army of over 100,000. While engaging the Persians in a narrow canyon the Spartans defeat the Persians using their superior martial skills and heart.
Persian: A thousand nations of the Persian empire descend upon you. Our arrows will blot out the sun!
Stelios: Then we will fight in the shade.
9. Million Dollar Baby (2004)
Million Dollar Baby is about Maggie Fitzgerald (Hillary Swank) a 30 year old waitress born into poverty from Missouri. Maggie trains at Frank Dunn’s (Clint Eastwood) gym. Scrap (Morgan Freeman) who is the gyms custodian gives her a few pointers until Frank finally agrees to train her and eventually develops a father-daughter-like relationship with her. Maggie knocks out all her opponents until she has her chance to fight the welterweight champion. This movie then takes a depressing but interesting turn of events that I won’t spoil.
“To make a fighter you gotta strip them down to bare wood: you can’t just tell ‘em to forget everything you know if you gotta make ‘em forget even their bones… make ‘em so tired they only listen to you, only hear your voice, only do what you say and nothing else… show ‘em how to keep their balance and take it away from the other guy… how to generate momentum off their right toe and how to flex your knees when you fire a jab… how to fight backin’ up so that the other guy doesn’t want to come after you. Then you gotta show ‘em all over again. Over and over and over… till they think they’re born that way.” – Eddie “Scrap-Iron” Dupris
10. Invictus (2009)
Poem from “Invictus” Movie – Nelson Mandela in prison
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.