40 Inspirational Movies to Watch on Amazon Prime

40 Inspirational Movies to Watch on Amazon Prime

May 2, 2024

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With so many movies marketed as “inspirational,” it’s important to note that inspiration can come from anywhere—while still trying to weed out the films that don’t really have much hope or motivation to offer. To make sure that you make the right decisions on what to stream or what to purchase or rent through Amazon, we’ve put together a list of lesser-known, high-quality films available through the service that should give you the boost you’re looking for. But again, remember that these inspiring films aren’t just feel-good fantasies; some can inspire empathy, others can leave you on a high from the creativity and passion they display. Either way, a healthy dose of inspiration is always good for your streaming rotation.

21. Fifi Howls from Happiness (2014)

best

8.2

Country

France, Iran, United States of America

Director

Mitra Farahani

Moods

Inspiring, Instructive, Mind-blowing

This incredible documentary is about the elusive Iranian artist Bahman Mohassess, whose work has the uniqueness of a Picasso or a Salvador Dalí.

But unlike his European counterparts, most of Mohassess’ work has been destroyed. Some in the aftermath of the Islamic Revolution in Iran but most, interestingly, by the artist himself.

After the revolution, he went into exile. For 40 years his whereabouts remained unknown — until an Iranian filmmaker based in Paris tracked him in a hotel in Rome.

Very early in the film, director Mitra Farahani points out that Mohassess died half an hour after one of their filming sessions.

The urgency of their conversations, the genius of Mohassess and his relationship to his art, and the uniqueness of the untold story of his life, all make this more than just another documentary. It’s a work of immeasurable historic value.

22. Gather (2020)

best

8.2

Country

United States, United States of America

Director

Sanjay Rawal

Moods

Inspiring, Instructive, Mind-blowing

This insightful and uplifting documentary is about a growing movement within indigenous communities: obtaining food sovereignty by going back to pre-genocide ways of cultivating food.

The violent changes that have affected indigenous communities don’t impact just the people, but also the animals, the fish, and the land. All of these are now bearing the brunt of climate change.

Historically, North American governments forbid Native people from fishing and cultivating their foods as a way to repress them and create dependency. Gather is as much a recognition of the damage that was done as it is a forward-looking vision about how these communities are taking control of their faiths.

23. This Much I Know to Be True (2022)

best

8.1

Country

United Kingdom, United States of America

Director

Andrew Dominik

Actors

Andrew Dominik, Earl Cave, Marianne Faithfull, Nick Cave

Moods

Emotional, Inspiring, Original

Whether or not you’re a fan of Nick Cave’s contemplative, idiosyncratic style of music, This Much I Know to Be True still works on a purely experiential level. There’s confusion, then a rush of euphoria, then an overwhelming sense of peace when listening to Cave’s (and musical collaborator Warren Ellis’s) cryptic lyrics and delicate compositions—shot with breathtaking use of studio lights by director Andrew Dominik and cinematographer Robbie Ryan.

And things only get more emotional when you consider how far Cave has come, that these performances are happening several rough years from the untimely death of his son. And suddenly even all the unrelated B-roll footage included in the film—of Cave talking about his sculptures, talking to Ellis, answering profound fan emails—takes on a greater urgency. This sounds like music for mourning, but in its own way it’s music for celebration, too, and gratitude despite everything.

24. So Late So Soon (2020)

best

8.1

Director

Daniel Hymanson

Moods

Emotional, Heart-warming, Inspiring

“Youth is a state of mind,” a poet once said — but, young in spirit though they are, the elderly artist couple at the center of this fly-on-the-wall documentary must confront the harsh reality that aging isn’t something the body can avoid. Jackie and Don Seiden — a yin-and-yang pair who describe themselves as “a mouse and a crocodile” — still argue and make up with all the fierce vitality of a couple half their age. They haven’t yet lapsed into living life through the rear-view mirror: both still actively make art, Don his sketches and Jackie her slideshows and found-object arrangements. They live in a creaking yet beautiful home, decorated exclusively in pastel colors; as Don puts it, they’ve “made a life that’s really unusual […] a life only [they] could’ve made.”

As his health issues — and the weakening of her ability to care for them — threaten the end of that 50-year-long chapter in their lives, the couple confront mortality and find it brings them holding ever tighter to one another. Their abiding mutual affection makes this documentary a moving portrait of enduring love, while their fiery intellectual verve gives it a sharp honesty that prevents it from ever lapsing into sentimentality.

25. Still Mine (2012)

best

8.0

Country

Canada

Director

Michael McGowan

Actors

Barbara Gordon, Campbell Scott, Chris Farquhar, Chuck Shamata

Moods

Easy, Inspiring, Lovely

A slice-of-life true-story-based film on growing old and in love. When on his own land, Craig Morrison (played by James Cromwell) starts building a more convenient house for his ailing wife Irene (Geneviève Bujold), he is faced with crippling bureaucracy. The state gives him the choice between stopping the construction or going to jail, while he is witnessing his wife’s health deteriorating even further. The act of going against the system brings out both how beautiful his relationship with his wife is, as well as his own resilience in this moving, insightful drama.

26. How to Change the World (2015)

best

8.0

Country

Canada, Netherlands, UK

Director

Jerry Rothwell

Actors

Bill Darnell, Bobbi Hunter, David Garrick, Emily Hunter

Moods

Inspiring, Instructive

How to Change the World is an insightful and candid documentary about the formation of Greenpeace in 1971 by a small group of environmentalists and activists in Vancouver, British Columbia. Beginning with their attempt to disrupt U.S. nuclear testing in Amchitka, Alaska, the film follows their subsequent efforts to thwart commercial whaling in the Pacific, their anti-sealing campaign in Newfoundland, and their ongoing efforts to defend the natural world against what they perceive as excessive human intervention and abuse. How to Change the World is as much a poignant tale of inspired activism as it is an interesting study of the organization’s early tribulations: idealism vs. anarchy, social movement vs. organizational structure (or lack thereof) and leadership vs. disunity. The voice of co-founder Robert Hunter (de facto leader of Greenpeace from inception) is heard posthumously throughout via narrator Barry Pepper, and it adds an impassioned air of gravitas to the film, detailing the many complexities Greenpeace experienced over the course of its early years of growth and development. A compelling and educational viewing experience.

27. A Most Violent Year (2014)

best

8.0

Country

United Arab Emirates, United States of America

Director

J. C. Chandor

Actors

Albert Brooks, Alessandro Nivola, Annie Funke, Ashley Williams

Moods

A-list actors, Inspiring, True-crime

Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac star in this slow-burning but impeccable crime thriller.

Abel Morales (Isaac) owns a fuel distribution company in 1980s New York. His competitors are violent and corrupt, and the feds are after him. The temptation to resort to unlawful methods is high, especially that his wife (Chastain) is the daughter of a mobster.

A Most Violent Year is about how this temptation of corruption unfolds and whether Abel will surrender to it or not.

28. Borg vs. McEnroe (2017)

best

8.0

Country

Denmark, Finland, Sweden

Director

Janus Metz, Janus Metz Pedersen

Actors

Anders Berg, Ben Bradshaw, Bjorn Granath, Bob Boudreaux

Moods

Inspiring, True-story-based, Uplifting

Shia Laboeuf and Stellan Skarsgård star in this true story about one of the greatest tennis matches in history: the 1980 Wimbledon final. The movie dissects what drives both competitors (one played by Laboeuf and the other by Sverrir Gudnason). Their personalities, considered opposites, are studied through their paths and how they got into tennis. All this leads to that one match, in this beautiful story of dealing with competition and fear of failure. Don’t stop watching when the credits roll, read what they say!

29. Marcel the Shell with Shoes On (2021)

best

8.0

Country

United States of America

Director

Dean Fleischer-Camp

Actors

Andy Richter, Avan Jogia, Blake Hottle, Brian Williams

Moods

Dramatic, Easy, Emotional

There’s a lot of good to be found in the charming, poignant, and endlessly quotable Marcel the Shell With Shoes On. It follows a documentarian named Dean, who has as his subject the one-inch talking shell that is Marcel. Marcel looks after an empty house along with his grandma Connie, and together they run a delightfully intricate system subsisting on electric mixers, tennis balls, and the occasional human hair.

Despite his small size, Marcel unwittingly makes big observations about life and the world around him, often moving Dean (and this writer) close to tears. It’s a simple film with a grand message, with lots to say about the importance of participating in life as opposed to merely observing it. But ultimately this is a movie with a precocious talking shell at the heart of it all, so really, what’s not to like?

30. The Resurrection of Jake The Snake (2015)

best

8.0

Country

United States of America

Director

Steve Yu

Actors

Adam Copeland, Aurelian Smith Jr., Chris Jericho, Cody Hall

Moods

Discussion-sparking, Dramatic, Inspiring

This journey is as much about Jake Roberts overcoming his addiction and damaged self-outlook, as it is about the heroic, life-changing efforts that DDP made to get him there. DDP’s brand of aggressive wholesomeness and belief in Roberts is palpable, and the rawness of the presentation only accentuates how real this friendship is, and how urgent DDP’s mission is—he will do this himself because no one else can. The documentary is inspiring with its vulnerability alone, as the underlying story is of men renouncing toxic behaviors that keep them looped into destructive habits. It doesn’t waste time with fluff minutes or details, just straight to your heart from start to finish.

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