The 10 Most Inspiring Biographical Movies of All Time

The most inspiring biographical movies include Schindler's List, Rudy, A Beautiful Mind, and The King's Speech

By Rick Gonzales | Updated

Inspiration can come from many different sources. In the movies, there are plenty of examples of uplifting and emotional movies that carry significant weight to them. When they are biographical movies, ones that show the true spirit of a person or a group of people, they can be even more inspiring. With that in mind, we have come up with the 10 Most Inspiring Biographical Movies of All Time.


Schindler’s List (1993)

inspiring biographical movies

Not going to lie, as far as inspiring biographical movies go, this film ends up being a supremely tough watch. Schindler’s List stars Liam Neeson as Oskar Schindler and tells the true story of Schindler, a successful German industrialist who ended up saving thousands of Polish Jews during the Holocaust.

The inspirational film ended up being nominated for 12 Academy Awards, winning 7 including Best Picture, Best Director (for Steven Spielberg), and Best Adapted Screenplay.

Spielberg was not shy about the brutality of the Holocaust, showing numerous unnerving and heartbreaking scenes without flinching. Ralph Fiennes also starred as the brutal SS-Untersturmführer Amon Göth while Ben Kingsley was Itzhak Stern, Schindler’s Jewish accountant.

The King’s Speech (2010)

inspiring biographical movies

Overcoming one’s physical limitations can be an inspiring biographical movie and that is exactly what The King’s Speech is all about. Colin Firth stars as King George VI, whose traumatic speech impediment, a stammer, was so bad that he eventually had to go to a speech defects therapist to help him cure his stammer.

Geoffrey Rush is on hand as Lionel Logue, the man who attempts to help King George work his way through the stammer. The process is long and arduous, one that frustrates King George, even when he begins to see positive results.

It is when King George has to make a broadcast to Britain and the Empire after England has declared war on Nazi Germany that the King realizes that Logue worked wonders and his speech impediment is no longer. For Logue’s work with King George, he received the Royal Victorian Order for his service to the Crown.

Gandhi (1982)

inspiring biographical movies

Gandhi is an inspiring biographical movie about the life of Mahatma Gandhi, a lawyer, political ethicist, and man who used non-violent ways to help India achieve its independence from British rule. The film starred Ben Kingsley in an Academy Award-winning performance.

The film begins with Gandhi’s tragic death, at the age of 78, at the hands of a solo shooter, who had approached Gandhi on one of his nightly walks.

The film then flashes back to 1893, when a young Gandhi leans his first lesson about British rule when he is tossed off of a train for being an Indian sitting in the first-class section, even though he held a first-class ticket.

Gandhi spends the rest of his life fighting for the people of India, always seeking non-violent ways to achieve his goals. He spent much time in jail for his opposition to British rule, and he even went on a hunger strike to try to stop the religious tension between the Muslims and the Hindus.

Dallas Buyers Club (2013)

inspiring biographical movies

There was a time not too long ago when AIDS was a death sentence. Dallas Buyers Club tells the biographical story of Ron Woodruff, a man diagnosed with AIDS in the mid-1980s. Matthew McConaughey stars as Woodruff in an Oscar-winning performance, matched by Jared Leto, who also took home an Academy Award for his role as Rayon, a transwoman who also was diagnosed with AIDS.

This true, uplifting, and inspiring biographical movie is about Woodruff who ended up smuggling unapproved drugs into Dallas, Texas when he realized they were effective at improving his symptoms. Woodruff contracted the disease by having unprotected sex with a prostitute, though his family and friends thought he got it from having gay sex.

Woodruff’s first inclination with these drugs was to sell them for money, hence the Dallas Buyers Club. But as time went on, he began to find inspiration from the LGBT community he was selling the drugs to.

The Theory of Everything (2014)

inspiring biographical movies

The Theory of Everything tells the story of the life of theoretical physicist, Stephen Hawking. The inspiring biographical movie is based on the 2007 memoir Traveling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen by his ex-wife, Jane Hawking. In this uplifting and inspirational tale about one man’s battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Eddie Redmayne plays Hawking so well that Redmayne won the Best Actor Oscar.

Hawking was a young man when he finds out he has motor neuron disease, aka ALS, that will leave him unable to move or swallow or even breathe. He is told at the time he has maybe two years to live. As we all know, Stephen Hawking’s will to live won out. Although his condition worsened over time, he survived well past the two years he was given to the point where he and his wife Jane had a child.

Eventually, the ALS forced him into a specialized wheelchair and a tracheotomy forced him to have to use a spelling board, but Hawking’s ability to survive and thrive and continue his work should be an inspiration to all.

A Beautiful Mind (2001)

inspiring biographical movies

This inspiring biographical movie, Ron Howard’s A Beautiful Mind, is truly a story about mind over matter. The movie stars Russell Crowe as Nobel Laureate in Economics-winning mathematician John Nash, a man who struggled throughout his life with mental illness, eventually spending several years in various psychiatric hospitals for schizophrenia.

The brilliant Nash graduates from Princeton University with high marks and determination to publish his own original idea. After publishing an article on his theory of governing dynamics, Nash earns an MIT appointment. A few years later, he gets an invite to study encrypted enemy telecommunications at the Pentagon. It is then that Nash begins having mental difficulties.

What he and his wife eventually learn is that Nash’s hallucinations are just that. The inspiration we get from Nash is his fight to combat his schizophrenia and how is eventually able to deal with it.

Erin Brockovich (2000)

inspiring biographical movies

Erin Brockovich is an inspiring biographical movie that stars Julia Roberts as the title character. The film is based on her life, one that tells the story of an unemployed mother of three who starts off by trying to sue a doctor for a traffic accident she had with him. Erin’s lawyer, Ed Masry (Albert Finney) thinks the case is a slam dunk, but Erin becomes confrontational in court, causing them to lose the case.

Although she helped lose the case, she confronts her lawyer saying he told her things would work out, which they didn’t. Telling him she needs a job, Ed decides to hire her. Erin now takes the fight to the courts.

The fight she takes on is a big one. Residents in the town of Hinkley, California have been experiencing serious medical problems stemming from PG&E and the groundwater they have been polluting with hexavalent chromium. Erin leads the inspirational fight to bring down PG&E while also obtaining the compensation each resident of Hinckley deserves.

Miracle (2004)

inspiring biographical movies

For those of us who witnessed it, it was the biggest moment in sports history, bar none. It was called The Miracle on Ice and became a 2004 film that told the story of coach Herb Brooks, here played by Kurt Russell, and the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team, a rag-tag group of amateurs, whose chances to medal in the 1980 Olympics were slim to none. Little did fans know just what their coach and this team were made of.

Miracle is a story about sacrifice, determination, and pride in one’s country. Coach Brooks exemplified it all by bringing his group of amateurs to the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid, New York, and pushing them even further than they imagined they could go.

It was a story of David (the U.S. hockey team) versus Goliath (the Russian national team filled with professional hockey players who had lost only one hockey game since 1964). The U.S. team played this same Soviet team in an exhibition game before the Olympics and lost 10-3, so the Olympic matchup was heavily expected to go the same route.

If you don’t know the story about that 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team, do yourself a favor and check out the film. It is truly an inspiring, all-American story. Do you believe in miracles? You will after seeing Miracle.

Rudy (1993)

inspiring biographical movies

As far as the most inspiring biographical movies of all time, why not throw in a little football?

Rudy stars Sean Astin as Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger, a middling at best, undersized high school football player living in a small steel mill town in the late 1960s with big dreams of playing football for college powerhouse, Notre Dame. Unable to get a scholarship, Rudy begins his trek toward college football immortality.

Now in 1972, Rudy discovers he is academically eligible to enroll at Notre Dame, so he then chooses to enroll at the nearby Holy Cross College in order to pick up his grades. With the help of Father John Cavanaugh, Rudy slowly builds his GPA while applying time and again to Notre Dame, only to be turned down by the college. Three rejections later, the college finally accepts him and Rudy becomes a walk-on for the football team.

Over his time as a walk-on, Rudy demonstrates his tenacity and determination, although he is never allowed to suit up. Before his final game as a junior, he visits Coach Ara Parseghian (Jason Miller) and convinces him to let him dress one time as a senior.

But Parseghian retires and the new coach, Dan Devine, refuses to dress Rudy. What comes next is some of the most inspirational moments put on the big screen. You will definitely be cheering for Rudy.

The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)

inspiring biographical movies

Just because you’re down, doesn’t mean you’re out. That is the inspiration behind this 2006 biographical story about a portable bone-density scanner salesman, Chris Gardner, played by Will Smith. He finds himself living on the street with his young son, five-year-old son, Chris Jr. (played by Will Smith’s real-life son, Jaden Smith).

Chris Garner has invested his entire life savings into these portable scanners and even though he is good at his job (he sells most of them), the time in between sales is such a lag that finances begin to mount. His wife Linda (Thandiwe Newton) becomes frustrated and decides it is time for her to pack up and leave Chris and their son.

Life goes from bad to worse for Chris and his son. He gets evicted from his apartment and the little funds he has in the bank get promptly removed by the IRS for unpaid taxes. Chris and his son find shelter in a BART station and homeless shelter.

The chips are down for Chris, but he does not fold. His unwavering faith in himself can be an inspiration to anyone who has hit bottom. Chris turned his life around going from homeless to forming his very own multimillion-dollar brokerage firm.