Here we are at the end of the 2010s. To say it has been a transformative decade would be an incredible understatement. It has been a decade of massive advancement and change in everything from tech to human rights to art. There is so much to discuss — this past decade has been inspiring in so many different ways.

To honor this, we wanted to give a run down of some of the most inspiring and impactful movies that have been released this decade. They paint a beautiful picture of the priorities we as a society have come to hold these last ten years.

In the past decade, film has become more available than ever before with the takeover of countless streaming services and overall digital accessibility. That, in part, has given rise to a massive boom of the film and television industry.

Films have always been a place where the deepest and most impactful of topics can be addressed in palatable (or sometimes not so palatable) ways. But now, with the accessibility to film and visual media at an all time high, there is a need for film to show all parts of people in increasingly creative ways.

Here are the most inspiring movies of the decade:

20. The Impossible (2010)

The Impossible

No joke: this movie made me wake my kids up to hug them. Based on the “impossible” true experiences of a family who survived the devastation of a tsunami in Thailand, it hits your right in the feels.

Not only is this movie inspiring because of the pure power of a will to survive is so beautifully displayed, but also because you truly see the strength of unconditional love even in chaos. There is also definitely an element of the Universe, or some sort of higher power, truly intervening in the family’s search for each other after the Tsunami tears them apart.

The Impossible is such a touching story. Anyone who watches it feels how the depth and strength of a family’s love for one another brings them together against all odds.

On top of that, it really helps to give you a sense of what it would really be like to go through a natural disaster such as this and by the end your heart is opened to anyone who has ever had to experience anything like what this family went through.

19. Creed (2015)

Creed seemed like an underdog. It was the first Rocky sequel not to focus mainly on Sylvester Stallone’s iconic boxer. Surely the series had run out of steam?

Ingeniously, the movie instead follows the rise of Adonis Johnson, the son of Apollo Creed, as he trains to excel in the sport that led to his father’s death. Along the way, he gets some unlikely support from Apollo’s former opponent, Rocky, and develops into a future champion who is ready to embraced his father’s last name: Creed.

Ryan Coogler’s movie subverts so many assumptions we have about Rocky movies, but it retains the core message of Rocky– that the underdog can become a champ through determination and driver– while adding some complexity that perfectly updates the story for this decade. It feels how the Rocky theme song sounds.

18. Arrival (2016)

At first blush, Arrival seems like a twisty sci-fi story about aliens trying to communicate with humans– and it is, but it’s also so much more.

Without giving too much of the plot away, what unfolds is an powerful lesson about how, despite loss and conflict, the love of a mother and the determination of a hero can bring about world peace.

All it takes is one person who’s willing to listen– and one who’s willing to speak up.

17. 12 Years a Slave (2013)

Though set in pre-Civil War America, the beauty of this film is that its dedication to showing the power and fortitude of the human spirit is just as powerful and inspiring now as it would have been back then, and was to all those who read Solomon Northup’s original book of the same name.

There are some moments in the movie that are challenging to watch and even more so knowing that it is a true story but, on the flip side, that is also what makes it so important.

No matter how beaten Solomon may be, he is never truly broken. He never loses the belief that he will be free, and that his friends and family will be waiting for him. It is truly a statement of the power of love and determination that has been relevant for the last 150 years.

In telling these stories, the ones that many would like to remain forgotten, we continue to show our commitment to letting them never happen again.

16. Inside Out (2015)

Yes, this is a cartoon, but, to say it is a revolutionary and inspiring movie is an understatement. Inside Out follows the personified emotions in a growing girl’s head as they try to process the changes she’s experiencing.

Not only does Inside Out describe emotions in a way that children can understand but also it brings awareness to the power of emotions.

Additionally it shows that adults also don’t always have control over their emotions, which is a beautiful thing for children to be able to understand in pretty colors.

This deliciously cute and colorful Pixar flick has also been immensely helpful for children and adults with developmental disabilities. Counselors even have Inside Out dolls to help them explain their emotions.

Normalizing the fact that we all are constantly dealing with our emotions and that they can sometimes be overwhelming is so essential for our growth and the health of our children. Inside Out nails it. 

15. The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)

Alright, this one really hits a deep part of me that I can’t fully express and, honestly, that is one of the most impactful and inspiring parts of the film.

So often, stories set in a high school environment seem to glamourize the experience but for so many of us, high school was not glamourous. Not just because we all had braces and made stupid choices, but because adolescence is really about learning how to accept the facets that make us human and therefore flawed.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower tells the story of the shy and awkward Charlie as he makes friends and mistakes in high school, while also confronting past trauma.

It can be hard to cope with your identity, especially as a teenager, and the journey of learning how to do that is one we are on forever.

This film does such an incredible job of capturing the pain and heartache that comes along with coming of age. It is inspiring to see reality displayed in such a simple yet powerful way and truly helps the viewer integrate the parts of themselves that may be hard to look at.

14. Life of Pi (2012)

Life of Pi is the incredible story of young who gets shipwrecked on a boat journey to Canada, with a tiger as his only companion. He tells the story of his long journey to safety– but how much of it is true?

There are quite a few ways that the movie and story are inspiring, but the most impactful thing that I left the theater with was the notion of the power of storytelling.

As humans we get to create and choose our own stories, and the process of telling those stories is incredibly healing. Stories are the way that we cope with our own humanity. They are the way we interact with ourselves. And through this movie, the power of choosing your own story is illustrated in such a painful but real way.

13. Love, Simon (2018)

This story, about closeted gay teenager Simon falling for his anonymous pen pal, is a great example of using a high school story to help so many people see and understand different parts of themselves.

It’s not just that Love, Simon itself was inspiring and impactful, but the stories that came out when it was released as well. So many people talked about how amazing it was to see teenagers cheer and clap at the end when Simon gets the love he so desires.

This film normalized both the feelings that a lot of closeted people experience along with the reactions of the people around them when they do come out. It showed the good, the bad, and the ugly of the experience so people who hadn’t gone through something like this before could truly understand. And it created even more awareness around the struggles people of the LGBTQ+ community experience while also beautifully illustrating the immense power of unconditional love.

12. Hidden Figures (2016)

Hidden Figures

The true story told Hidden Figures is one that you watch and don’t understand why you didn’t already know it! It’s just so amazing!

In a time of segregation and separation, the brilliant African-American women working as mathematicians for NASA used paper and adding machines to send someone into space. I still don’t even understand how that works but again, knowing that what you are witnessing on your screen actually happened makes it all the more inspiring.

To make it even better, Katherine Johnson, one of those very mathematicians was awarded the medal of freedom this decade. In fact, most of the women the film features are still alive to this day!

This, combined with the stunning visuals that really pull you in emotionally, perfectly communicates its message of inclusion and fearlessly reaching for your dreams.

11. Wonder Woman (2017)

Wonder Woman - 2017

The 2010s were truly the decade of superhero cinema. The Marvel Cinematic Universe broke records at the box office while inspiring future heroes around the world, but a different superhero stands above the rest.

Wonder Woman never uses her powers to keep others down. Nor does she give into her impulses towards rage and revenge. Instead, driven by love, she protects those in need and empowers them in turn.

Not only was Wonder Woman an anthem of empowerment for the little kids who now look up to such a powerful and positive role model– it’s also a reminder that true strength requires compassion.

I admittedly cried many times throughout this movie, because I could genuinely feel the power of seeing a proud and strong woman on the screen inspiring so many to be the same. 

10. The Greatest Showman (2017)

Not only is The Greatest Showman inspiring but it is the soundtrack of a generation. We are in a place where accepting and loving yourself for what makes you different being talked about on a wide scale. This film was exactly what our society needed to mirror that conversation.

The beauty of this movie is that not only do the circus performers learn to love themselves for who they are (and create amazing music about it) but so does the main character, played by Hugh Jackman.

My favorite story about this movie however comes from the casting. Keala Settle who plays Lettie, aka the bearded lady, actually wasn’t hired to play that role initially. She was just signed on to do the first table read for the producers but because she did so well they wanted her to play the part she read for.

Prior to this she stayed out of the spotlight because of her own confidence issues but in playing this role she was able to fully own her talent. So when you hear the fantastic song “This Is Me” know that all the emotion in it is her own. Talk about inspiring. 

9. The Hunger Games (2012)

Hunger Games

The Hunger Games trilogy is one of my favorite book series of all time because of the content, message, and writing. Usually, when adapting books to film, it is hard to make something near as good, but wow did The Hunger Games manage it!

Being part of the generation that was raised on dystopian fiction, the message that someone so small can truly make a difference and ultimately change the world was deeply impactful.

On top of that Katniss Everdeen is anything but perfect. In fact, she not only is selfish through a lot of the story but she is also traumatized multiple times to the point of being almost broken. This, in particular, was inspiring to so many, myself included, because it showed how powerful you can still be in spite of the perils thrown your way. 

8. Inception (2010)

That this movie has been memed and parodied like no other (looking at you, Rick and Morty) gives just us an inkling of the impact it’s had on this decade. It addressed the power and potential of healing from our past wounds on a subconscious level.

The surreal story of a team of thieves who break into people’s dreams to steal their ideas captivated audiences back in 2010, creatively and intellectually.

Inception makes the idea of facing mistakes and the effect trauma has on our mental health so visually stimulating and intriguing that doing the work to heal from your own past seems far less daunting.

It presents the power that our subconscious mind has to change our reality, which can be a really abstract concept, in a simple and stunning way.

7. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

First, let me just say how amazingly fun this Spider-Man multi-verse story was to watch! The art and animation alone are so incredibly inspiring.

Moving on to the story elements, I am a sucker for any super hero movie that turns an established trope on its head, and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse does just that. It takes a hard turn away from the concept that to be a hero you must lose everything and be a lone masked crusader in a harsh and unfair world.

This movie made one of the most beloved heroes of all time even more lovable in such a deep, different, and human way. And A++ for diversity and comedy. 

Also, the way the movie shows how the little things we do for one another make such a huge difference was so simple and yet so moving. The notion that we are not alone and always supported even when we can’t see it is so beautifully inspiring. It brought me to tears.

6. Boyhood (2014)

Here is another one that made me totally cry all the tears– in part because I am a mom and anything about children growing up makes me want to sob. Yup, even those horrible tear jerking life insurance, or whatever, commercials. But Boyhood more than earned my tears.

Filmed over the course of 12 years, this magnificent work of movie magic follows the same actors as they age naturally. Boyhood truly tells a story that everyone can relate to about the truth and pain of growing up. It powerfully contrasts the wonderment and excitement of childhood with the pain and confusion of our teenage years.

Though the main character experiences many big milestones, Boyhood teaches us that the little moments are what truly shape us. It’s one of those movies where you walk away and want to be a better person.

5. Paddington 2 (2017)

Okay, I know that this pick may have a few people scratching their heads but this movie — and the first Paddington film– is inspiring in such a sweet and genuine way it just had to be included.

Children’s films have truly evolved to carry a message for adults as well. Paddington, despite being a movie about an animated bear searching for a home, is no exception to this.

The most inspiring part of the Paddington films is its huge emphasis on kindness and family. Paddington is always kind to everyone — even when he is in prison. And that kindness transforms those around him.

It can be a hard feet to focus on kindness in today’s world, but Paddington literally goes to prison for a crime he didn’t commit and still he chooses kindness.

Another wonderfully inspiring take away from this film is the power of choosing who your family is. With the massive amount of variance in family units that have been becoming more and more normalized in the past decade, showing this power of choice to children is wonderfully empowering and validating.

4. Her (2013)

In the past decade, humanity’s means of connecting to one another have expanded beyond even the dreams of science fiction and yet people are more depressed and lonely than ever. Addressing this exact thing, Her does a beautiful job or reminding us the importance of connection.

Set in the near future, Her tells the story of a lonely divorced man who falls in love with his AI named Samantha.

Its deep and sometimes weird look at what AI could end up being for us is the perfect platform to drive home the power of connecting with other people and embracing the flaws that make us human. Nothing can ever be perfect but sometimes the imperfections of our relationships are the parts that truly fill our soul.

3. My Name is Khan (2010)

Though released at the start of the decade, the conversations sparked by this amazing film are still incredibly relevant today.

My Name is Khan tells the story of a young Muslim immigrant who stands up to racism and terrorism in post-9/11 America. In addition, the titular character has Aspergers and it is so inspiring to see a character on the spectrum presented in such a real way.

The iconic line of “My name is Khan and I am not a terrorist” really establishes the theme of the film and the power of accepting and loving people for who they are.

My Name is Khan started so many powerful characters. conversations around discrimination and inclusion. It has somehow has gotten even more relatable as time has worn on. 

2. Mad Max: Fury Road

Mad Max Fury Road

Who would’ve thought that the fourth movie in the pulpy Mad Max franchise would become one of the most inspiring movies of the decade?

Mad Max: Fury Road unites two, equally inspiring stories. One: the tale of two rebellious loners isolated from society who find salvation in each other and in helping others. Two: a group of women break free of the captivity of an oppressive regime, seeking a better life for themselves and their children.

When these two stories intertwined, George Miller created something that was as inspiring as it was thrilling

1. The Untouchables (2011)

This French movie, based on a powerful true story, will make you laugh and cry, and then laugh and cry again!

The Untouchables follows the unlikely friendship between the rich man who is quadriplegic and the poor man with a criminal past hired to care for him. Their friendship inspires both men to reach beyond the limits of what they thought their potential could be.

Together, they teach us that human connection is the most powerful force of all and that, by putting aside our differences and pushing ourselves farther, we can change ourselves and even the world.

The true power of movies

These are just some of the amazing and inspiring films that have come out over the past decade. And with the advances in filmmaking and streaming technology, I am sure that we can look forward to many more to come. 

These movies prove that the right story has the power to change your life. If someone watches the right movie at the right time, it can inspire them to take action, to change their life, and even change the world.

I hope you enjoyed looking back on this decade of movie magic! What other movies inspired you in the last ten years?

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