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Based on a True Story: 14 Inspiring Movies That Will Hit You Right in the Feels
Based on a True Story_14 Inspiring Movies That Will Hit You Right in the Feels
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Based on a True Story: 14 Inspiring Movies That Will Hit You Right in the Feels

There's something incredibly captivating about stories that are rooted in reality -- tales that remind us of the extraordinary resilience and indomitable spirit of the human experience.

Some movies have a way of reaching deep into our hearts, stirring emotions we never knew existed, and leaving an unforgettable mark on our souls.


In a world that can often feel chaotic and overwhelming, these 14 inspiring true-story movies will take you on a profound journey of triumph, hope, and show the raw power of the human spirit.

You know what they say, sometimes "the truth is stranger than fiction".

It can also be more inspiring!

Here are more than a dozen films based on true stories that'll make you laugh, then cry, then jump on Wikipedia and do enough googling, you could write Truman Capote's unofficial biography.

Cinderella Man (2005)

13 inspiring movies that will hit you right in the feels

The True Story: In the middle of the Great Depression, James Braddock (Russell Crowe) is an ex-boxer with a busted hand who can't feed his starving family because *spoiler alert* it's the GREAT Depression (not the MEDIOCRE depression) and no one can feed their families.

When a last-minute cancellation opens up a slot in a big fight, Braddock's old manager — Joe Gould (Paul Giamatti) — offers him a chance to fill in for just one night and earn the cash he needs to feed his starving family.

The odds are not in Braddock's favor. He is slated to fight the top-two contender in the world, and he is an old man, out of the game, with only one working hand.

(The odds are so disproportionate it's like Logan Paul fighting Muhammed Ali...)

EXCEPT BRADDOCK DOESN'T LOSE. He wins. Returning to the ring full-time against his wife's (Renée Zellweger) wishes. Because obviously, boxing is so dangerous and life-threatening and her husband is old and it's THE GREAT DEPRESSION, BUT BRADDOCK BELIEVES IN HIMSELF ENOUGH FOR THE TWO OF THEM!

Dubbed "The Cinderella Man" for his rags-to-riches story, Braddock sets his sights on defeating the defending champion Max Baer (Craig Bierko).

Why This Movie is Inspiring:

First of all--this soundtrack gives me *chills* okay. I hear the theme song and I cry. (Damn it! I'm at work,don't do this to me right now Thomas Newman!)

Even though we're not a starving ex-boxer with a busted hand in The Great Depression--Braddock is somehow all of us?

That's the beauty of storytelling because it really is transcendent.

We all have seasons of our own Great Depression, and we're all somehow fighting our own losing battles against the champions of the world, and yet you watch Cinderella Man, and are inspired to fight for your life--because even if you're washed up and the odds are so stacked against you, at the end of the day, all we have is our belief in ourselves!

It's a stunning display of how resilient we can be. About fighting for your life, and dare I say--fighting for your dreams.

This movie is for you if: Everyone keeps telling you you can't teach an old dog new tricks.

The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)

The True Story:The Pursuit of Happyness is based on the life of Chris Gardner (Will Smith), a self-made salesman-turned-stockbroker-turned-philanthropist who went through untold hard times before finally scraping his way to success.

Why This Movie is Inspiring:

This one is such a heartwarming classic throwback.

The BUZZ around this film's POWER, when it came out, was everything.

There's a gut-wrenching scene where Gardner and his son (played by Will Smith's real son Jaden Smith) are homeless and forced to sleep overnight in a locked bathroom in a subway station and even though I haven't seen this film since it was released in 2006, it's so deeply heart wrenching, 17 years later, I can picture the scene clear as day.

Moneyball (2011)

The True Story: Written by Aaron Sorkin, Moneyball is based on the 2003 nonfiction bestseller, "Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game", by Michael Lewis.

Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) is the General Manager of a losing MLB teamthe Oakland Athletics. As far as "money" and sports teams go? The Athletics are like Oliver Twist and The Yankees are like God (can't be stopped ok).

The Athletics have taken their turn losing to the Yankees like everyone else, and General Manager Billy Beane is sick of it. His solution: "Get better players", is a daring strategy--but of course, he's met with: "We love where your head's at! If you can do that, with the exact same budget we have now, that'd be perfect".

An impossible thing that Billy Beane somehow manages to pull off.

Beane meets Yale economics graduate Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) who has radical ideas about how to "evaluate players" and change the way the game is played...behind the scenes.

And the rest of the movie is like watching Oliver Twist paper-clip trade his bowl of soup for a Yacht on the Aegean Sea.

You don't have to be a sports — or baseball — fan for this movie to hit you in the right spots.

Why This Movie is Inspiring:

Do you know why Moneyball is sick? Because honestly -- MATH.

I know it's cool to hate math, and I was never any good at it, but damn is there something about being good at math. Mathematicians are the true underdogs.

I think why Moneyball slaps is the idea that math and statistics and nerd culture can give a losing team a fighting chance against players who are richer and stronger and just all around better than them is pretty dope.

This movie is for you if: a jock spits gum wads in your hair during class.

The King's Speech (2010)

The True Story: "Britain's Prince Albert (Colin Firth) must ascend the throne as King George VI but he has a speech impediment. Knowing that the country needs her husband to be able to communicate effectively, Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) hires Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), an Australian actor and speech therapist, to help him overcome his stammer. An extraordinary friendship develops between the two men, as Logue uses unconventional means to teach the monarch how to speak with confidence." - Jwelch5742

Why This Movie is Inspiring:

Have faith in your voice.

Both literally and figuratively, this movie has a powerful message -- especially coming from a former king of Britain.

Schindler's List (1993)

The True Story: The film follows businessman Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson), a German industrialist who is credited for saving the lives of over 1,200 Jewish refugees from the Holocaust during World War II.

In 1939 Schindler arrives in Krakow ready to make his fortune off World War II. Schindler joins the Nazi party primarily for political expediency he staffs his factory with Jewish workers for similarly pragmatic reasons.

READ MORE: Defying Evil: The Heroic Man Who Secretly Saved 669 Jewish Children from Nazi Death Camps

When the SS begins exterminating Jews in the Krakow ghetto, Schindler arranges to have his workers protected to keep his factory in operation, but soon realizes that in so doing, he is also saving innocent lives.

Why This Movie is Inspiring:

This one feels obvious.

This movie is for you if: You have a heart

Erin Brockovich (2000)

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Julia Roberts portraying Erin Brokovich (left), The Real Erin Brokovich (right)/IMDB

The True Story: "Erin Brockovich-Ellis is an unemployed single mother, desperate to find a job, but is having no luck. This losing streak even extends to a failed lawsuit against a doctor in a car accident she was in. With no alternative, she successfully browbeats her lawyer to give her a job in compensation for the loss. While no one takes her seriously, with her trashy clothes and earthy manners, that soon changes when she begins to investigate a suspicious real estate case involving the Pacific Gas & Electric Company.
As she digs deeper, Erin finds herself leading point in a series of events that would involve her law firm in one of the biggest class action lawsuits in American history against a multi-billion dollar corporation." - Kenneth Chisholm, IMDB user.

Why This Movie is Inspiring:

This was the second film they made us watch in film school because the script is so tight and it's a story that has "all the elements"-- and while all the elements may really just be a synonym for 'Julia Roberts', Erin Brockovich's real-life story is so kick-ass you can't help but root for her.

I mean it's literally a big bad evil corporation vs. a single, divorced, determined mother. And I won't give you any spoilers but the theme of environmental activism/pollution feels more relevant than ever.

This movie is for you if: You're a working mom who's trying to find the WILL to bake cupcakes for your kid's 9th bake sale of the year.

The Farewell (2019)

The True Story: Based on the director Lulu Wang's real-life story, Billi Wang's (Akwafina) family returns to China under the guise of a fake wedding to stealthily say goodbye to their beloved matriarch -- the only person that doesn't know she only has a few weeks to live.

This Movie is For You If:

You're dealing with or have dealt with grief.

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) / The Big Short (2015)

These are two different movies but they are also not.

To me, these are the same movie.

Even though they are not.

And maybe it's becausethese are two GIFS of Margot Robbie--who is in both movies.

I feel I would be hard-pressed to find someone who loves The Wolf of Wall Street but doesn't love The Big Short? (A challenge to my readers if you dare)!

*OH MY GOD! I just realized the author of The Big Short also wrote Moneyball and The Blindside.*

The True Story (The Big Short):

"In 2008, Wall Street guru Michael Burry (Christian Bale) realizes that a number of subprime home loans are in danger of defaulting. Burry bets against the housing market by throwing more than $1 billion of his investors' money into credit default swaps. His actions attract the attention of banker Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling), hedge-fund specialist Mark Baum (Steve Carrell) and other greedy opportunists. Together, these men make a fortune by taking full advantage of the impending economic collapse in America." - Jwelch5742 on IMDB

Why This Movie is Inspiring:

We all want to pretend like we don't love watching white men finesse their way from rags to riches on the big screen but we obviously do (myself included) cause The Big Short raked in 133.4 Million at the box office and that feels telling. Also, it's inspiring to see Ryan Gosling with brown contacts and know that in fact, he actually isn't as hot. It feels like the great equalizer.

Also, I don't wanna say but we both know...it's the MATH thing again. Now that I've said it, you can't un-hear it.

The True Story (Wolf of Wall Street): Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) is living every man's dream life married to Margot Robbie.

Thats it. That's the whole story.

A Beautiful Mind (2001)

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The True Story: Speaking of math, I present to you another spectacular arithmetic-based entry -- Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind!

Russell Crowe does not miss.

Crowe plays John Forbes Nash Jr. an American mathematician who made plenty of important contributions to math at large.

This is a beautiful narrative of the peaks and valleys of Nash Jr.'s life as he navigates both the light and dark sides of his genius.

This Movie is Definitely For You If:

You are a conspiracy theorist (watch and you'll see)...

Hotel Rwanda (2004)

The True Story: Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle) is a hotel manager, who houses over a thousand Tutsi refugees during their struggle against the Hutu militia in Rwanda, Africa.

This film feels like a cross between The Schindler's List and The Harriet Tubman Biopic we deserve--that we're still waiting on!

An incredibly heartbreaking, moving film that I can't recommend enough.

This movie is definitely not for you if: You are 10 years old or under, I do not know why my parents thought this would be a good, character-building movie for me to watch when it was released. But, it's very impactful.

The Imitation Game (2014)

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The real Alan Turning (left), The Fake Alan Turing (right)/History vs Hollywood

This one's the king of MATH come-ups!

It involves a real-life mathematician, using MATH, to beat the NAZIS.

Hell yes. I get why my trig teacher was so passionate about Pythagoras now.

The True Story: Gay Mathematician Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) is secretly gay (this is a huge plot point I've spoiled for you) but not-so-secretly a genius.

Alan Turing creates a machine called "Christopher" that cracks a bunch of codes!! Or as journalist Ella Bennett puts it more eloquently, "The Imitation Game tells the inspiring story of mathematician Alan Turing and his team of code-breakers whose work was crucial to British efforts in World War Two."

Why This Movie is Inspiring:

I mean listen, I had you at "gay mathematician beats the Nazi" am I right? This film is so dope, because like the rest of the stories on this list--it's INSANE but TRUE??

Here's the thing with montages--they are the best part of the movie and The Imitation Game has some great ones where the two main heroes are a gay man (Cumberbatch) who loves math and a woman (Keira Knightley) who is a puzzle genius and together basically take down Hitler's weird brogrammers for the British Empire.

This is for you if: You do one sudoku in under 15 minutes and think you have just taken the limitless pill and you start seeing the world like you're Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind.

The Social Network (2010)

Watch the opening scene though. It's actually the best part of the whole film, and has an iconic farewell-bad-boyfriend-diss I've used on many an ex: "You are probably going to be a very successful computer person. But you're going to go through life thinking that girls don't like you because you're a nerd. And I want you to know, from the bottom of my heart, that that won't be true. It'll be because you're an asshole."

*This is obviously a weird comeback when they are not a computer person and they're like..."do you even know what I do?", but gets the point across.

Why It's Inspiring: The guy created arguably the internet's most influential social media platform. What more do we need to say?

The Blind Side (2009)

The True Story: Of how Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron) went from being a homeless teenager to an offensive linebacker for the NFL Baltimore Ravens.

When Leigh Anne Tuohy (Sandra Bullock) sees 6 foot 4 Michael 'Big Mike' Oher walking alone on the road at night, with no warm place to sleep, she convinces her husband, Sean (Tim McGraw), to take him in.

The Tuohys eventually become Michael's legal guardians, transforming both his life and theirs.

Michael's tremendous size and protective instincts make him a formidable force on the gridiron, and with help from his new family and devoted tutor, he realizes his potential as a student and football player.

BONUS - Top Gun: Maverick

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Allegedly not a "true story" BUT HONESTLY I kind of think if Tom Cruise was in the US Navy, he would be Maverick.

Why It's Inspiring: I could do a TedTalk on Top Gun AND MAYBE I WILL, DON'T THREATEN ME WITH A GOOD TIME!

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