10 Amazing Inspirational Movies Where The Characters Were Up Against All Odds

The adage that truth is stranger than fiction is never more evident than when a true life story appears on the big screen. Incredible tales of wartime, unbelievable stories of survival, improbable coincidences, horrifying cases of serial killers that even the most talented of scriptwriters could not have made up.

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Among the many movies based on actual life events, the ones that hold an inspirational story, lift the human spirit to new heights, give life a sense of purpose, and leave the audience with renewed hope in humanity, seem to be most appreciated by the public.


‘Rudy’ (1993)

Sean Astin As Rudy Ruettiger in Rudy

He dreamed of playing football for the Fighting Irish. Given that Rudy (Sean Astin) was not the most athletic or gifted student, his loved ones didn’t have much hope in him. But Rudy decided to make his impossible dream come true the day his best friend died.

Based on the true story of Daniel Eugene “Rudy” Ruettiger, this movie is truly a testament to perseverance and hard work. Rudy’s chances of ever going to Notre Dame, much less playing for their football team, were slim to none. Nevertheless, Rudy found people who believed in him and helped him achieve his goal. He was the first player carried off the field by the Fighting Irish. Rudy’s story proves that no dream is too big if you put your heart into it.

‘Adrift’ (2018)

Sam Claflin and Shailene Woodley as Richard and Tamy in Adrift

Richard Sharp (Sam Claflin) and Tami Oldham (Shailene Woodley) get hired to navigate a luxurious yacht from Tahiti to San Diego, California. After crossing paths with Hurricane Raymond, the boat sustains severe damage. Relying on a makeshift mast, a sextant, and a watch, the couple’s only hope of survival is to try to make it to Hawaii.

The movie’s clever plot twist is a real tear-jerker for those going in not knowing Tami Oldham’s incredible true story. The boat was practically dead on the water, and Tami was an inexperienced sailor. Still, she drew every last inch of courage to make it to safe shores. This movie inspires respect for the treacherous seas and awe for one person’s remarkable will to survive despite overwhelming odds.

‘The Hurricane’ (1999)

Denzel Washington as Ruben Carter in The Hurricane

In 1967, the justice system wrongly convicted middleweight boxer Ruben “Hurricane” Carter (Denzel Washington) of a triple homicide. Sentenced to life in prison, Ruben wrote a book that landed in the hands of a young American living in Canada. Along with his Canadian family, they set things in motion to get the conviction overturned and set Ruben Carter free.

Ruben Carter’s 20-year incarceration nearly broke him. But he found hope in young Lesra and his family, who believed in his innocence. The amazing part of this story is not the fact they succeeded but their bewildering love for one another. Ruben’s story is one of unwavering trust and friendship, unyielding faith, and one who sheds light on the terrible injustices many people suffered at the hands of the law.

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‘The Impossible’ (2012)

Tom Holland and Naomi Watts as Lucas and Maria Bennett in The Impossible

Dr. Maria Bennett (Naomi Watts) and her family are vacationing in Thailand when a tsunami engulfs everything around them and separates them.

Based on the real-life experience of Maria Belón and her family during the 2004 tsunami that hit Southeast Asia, this story is one of extraordinary survival. Gravely injured, locals take Maria to a hospital with her son Lucas by her side. Meanwhile, Henry is looking for them and leaves his two younger boys in the care of strangers. Submerged by fear and helplessness for most of the time, the characters’ reunion at the end is tremendously joyous. The incredible improbability of their survival and timely reunion defies all odds. It demonstrates that while life can be unfair, it can also be quite miraculous.

‘The Pianist’ (2002)

Adrian Brody as Wladyslaw Szpilman in The Pianist

During WWII, Polish-Jewish pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman (Adrien Brody) hides in the Warsaw ghetto after he’s separated from his family. Nazi Captain Wilm Hosenfeld (Thomas Kretschmann) finds him and asks him to play after learning Szpilman is a pianist. Hosenfeld, moved by Szpilman’s performance, allows him to stay hidden and regularly brings him food.

If ever there was a story that proves that music is the universal language that transcends time and breaks down barriers, this one is it. There is no doubt that Szpilman’s undeniable talent as a pianist saved his life. Hosenfeld saw in Szpilman something worth saving. Szpilman tried to return the favor and find Hosenfeld after the war. But he was too late. Both men saw each other as humans through music, making each worth saving.

‘Alive’ (1993)

Josh Hamilton and Ethan Hawke as Roberto Canessa and Nando Parrado in Alive

In 1972, a Uruguayan plane crashed in the Andes mountains. The survivors remained in the fuselage for protection and resigned themselves to cannibalism to stay alive. After several days, two of them decided to walk down the mountains to seek help.

This story is one of the most unbelievable stories of survival. These young men survived by doing everything they could, even the unthinkable. And leaving to find help was suicidal, but Nando Parrado (Ethan Hawke) was determined to die trying. And his perseverance paid off. He and a friend made it down the Andes and came back to rescue the 14 men still in the mountains. A testament to the strength of the human spirit, this story leaves its audience wondering if they would have done the same.

‘Gorillas in The Mist’ (1988)

Sigourney Weaver as Dian Fossey in Gorillas in The Mist

In 1967, Dian Fossey (Sigourney Weaver) founded a research center in the mountains of Rwanda to study gorillas. Unfortunately, poaching was rampant, and the government failed to take action. Left to her own devices, Fossey protected the gorilla population using extreme tactics that earned her many enemies.

Based on the memoir of primatologist Dian Fossey, this story of going above and beyond to protect an endangered species still resonates with many people today. However controversial, her extreme tactics were efficient, and her work studying gorillas’ behavior contributed to a better understanding of these primates. Fossey sacrificed everything to protect her beloved gorillas, and she paid the ultimate price. On December 27, 1985, someone butchered Fossey to death in her cabin, and her murder remains unsolved.

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‘Hacksaw Ridge’ (2016)

Andrew Garfield in Hacksaw Ridge

Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield) enlisted in the army during WWII. But the military wasn’t so thrilled to have him. Doss was a conscientious objector and a Seventh-Day Adventist whose religious beliefs of doing no harm were deeply rooted. After pleading his case, he was allowed to go to war unarmed against the Japanese in Okinawa.

Doss’s unit sustained heavy casualties at Hacksaw Ridge and had to pull back as heavy artillery rained down on the Japanese. Knowing many wounded soldiers were still alive on the hill, Doss stayed behind and single-handedly saved 75 men. He received the Medal of Honor. To go into a warzone unarmed with the intention of not harming anyone is courage beyond measure. To come out of such an ordeal alive is divine intervention.

‘Patch Adams’ (1998)

Robin Williams as Hunter Adams in Patch Adams

After being hospitalized for suicidal thoughts, Hunter “Patch” Adams (Robin Williams) discovered that humor and compassion positively affected his fellow patients. Leaving the mental institution, Patch enrolled in medical school. His innovative ideas of treating with humor were not well received. And his many antics landed him in trouble with the Dean, who wanted to expel him from the school.

Patch Adams understood that hospitals could be depressing places inconducive to a good healing process. He knew patients needed to find joy again and laugh, requiring a compassionate doctor. He knew that bending the rules, questioning the status quo, and not falling into lazy conformity had their rewards. And if those rewards were to improve the quality of life of the sick and the dying, it was worth the fight.

‘Conviction’ (2010)

Hilary Swank as Betty Anne Waters in Conviction

Betty Anne Waters (Hilary Swank) and her brother Kenneth (Sam Rockwell) were very close siblings. When Kenneth found himself falsely convicted of first-degree murder, his sister decided to become a lawyer to get him out. Her quest took her 18 years, but in the end, she was successful.

Her incredible accomplishment is rendered even more extraordinaire by the fact that Betty Anne grew up in foster care and was a high school dropout. Knowing no one would take her brother’s case, she took it upon herself to become his lawyer and look for the evidence to exonerate him. She sacrificed her life, her marriage, and time away from her children to do this. A true testament to the strength of sibling love and how far one would go for family.

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