9 Uplifting and Inspiring Movies for a Rainy Summer Day

by Henrik Edberg

“A film is – or should be – more like music than like fiction. It should be a progression of moods and feelings. The theme, what’s behind the emotion, the meaning, all that comes later.”
Stanley Kubrick

“It’s not what a movie is about, it’s how it is about it.”
Roger Ebert

I don’t know if I have mentioned it here on the blog before but I love movies.

Long before I started this website – in the early 00s – I even studied film theory for three semesters at the Gothenburg University here in Sweden.

It was, mostly, a ton of fun.

So today I want to combine personal development, inspiration and motivation with my love of movies and the regular occurrence of rainy days during the summer.

Here is my very personal list of 9 movies – in no particular order – that have lifted my spirits and inspired me over the years.

Be sure to chime in with your tips for most uplifting and inspiring movies in the comments section.

Gattaca (1997)

In a not too distant future one man wants to achieve his dream of traveling into space. In this future he is however deemed genetically inferior and part of an underclass that only gets to do the simplest jobs. But he’s got a very risky plan that he hopes will get him up there among the stars.

This is a movie about not giving up. A movie about the untapped and often undervalued potential we have inside of us.

It is also a truly suspenseful thriller and drama with excellent performances by Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman and especially Jude Law. And it contains a very beautiful soundtrack that adds a sad and longing undertone to the whole story.

My Neighbour Totoro (1988)

My personal favorite among all the fantastic animated movies Hayao Miyazaki has made.

It’s uplifting, light and filled with childlike curiosity, imagination and energy. It makes you smile. A lot.

It doesn’t have a villain. But it has a magical bus.

And lots of fantastic and fabled creatures that two young girls encounter during their adventure in the Japanese forests.

Rocky (1976)

This classic from the 70’s about the underdog boxer still packs a big emotional punch. Probably because although it is motivating and inspiring it is also relatively low-key and realistic compared to the sequels (Rocky IV sure is entertaining but maybe not so grounded in reality).

Unlike the other Rocky movies it is also more focused on Rocky and his rather lonely life in a worn-down apartment rather than the upcoming boxing match and winning in the ring.

Features my favorite performance from Stallone who also has a really nice chemistry with Talia Shire as the shy pet shop clerk Adrian.

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

Andy Dufresne is sentenced to life in prison for killing his wife and her lover. But unlike the other men in the prison who all claim that they are innocent, Andy actually is.

And so begins a long movie and story that spans over decades about friendship, hope and freedom.

Truly one of the best movies ever made. There is a reason why it has been # 1 on The Internet Movie Database’s list of the top 250 movies of all time for many years now.

The Muppets (2011)

In the beginning of most light-hearted entry of this article the Muppets have been forgotten. But as their old theater is threatened the three friends Gary, Mary and Walter start reuniting up the old gang to put up a fight against an evil oil tycoon.

Like Rocky and many movies on this list The Muppets is about not giving up and going home even when things are tough.

But with more dance. And awesome muppets.

Plus, with a real heart pounding beneath all the light and clever fun and comedy. Mostly in the form of Kermit. He sure is one awesome frog.

October Sky (1999)

In the 50’s in a small town called Coalwood pretty much every man works in mines.

But as young Homer Hickam sees Sputnik pass by in the night skies a dream of launching his own rockets is ignited.

October Sky is about going for your dream even when the odds are stacked against you. It’s about going your own way even if the most important people in your life – like Homer’s father in the movie – may not understand.

The contrast between the young people’s dream and the confining, souldraining and bodybreaking work in the mines combined with great performances from Chris Cooper, Jake Gyllenhaal and Laura Dern makes this something more and bigger than just one than just another inspiring movie you have forgotten a week from now.

Amélie (2001)

A young woman named Amélie anonymously helps people to find happiness and love. And she sees the world from her very own and unique perspective.

This is a fantastically creative and imaginative story and world that the director Jean-Pierre Jeunet builds on the streets and in the landscape of Paris. And it is a sad and joyful movie about life and enjoying the small things and perhaps breaking out of your comfort zone and going for something bigger than that too.

I remember that this French movie was insanely hyped up when it first came out. And it was one of the few movies I have seen that actually lives up to such a hype.

Before Sunrise (1995)

The American tourist Jesse and the French student Celine has a brief encounter on a train in Europe.

A connection is quickly formed and they decide to spend a day together in Vienna before his flight leaves the next morning.

The wonderful and realistic dialogue and the relaxed chemistry between Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy as they walk around in beautiful Vienna makes this simple love story into my favorite romantic movie.

Has two sequels, Before Sunset (also really good) and Before Midnight (haven’t seen it yet, it is brand new).

The Intouchables (2011)

Philippe is lonely man in the middle of Paris. He has millions but as a quadriplegic he is confined to his motorized wheelchair and a boring existence.

But his life is shaken up when he hires Driss, a new care person from the poor projects in the city.

This recent French movie could just like October Sky become an overly cheesy movie about overcoming difficulties that you have seen too many times before and can be summarized as “pretty good I suppose”.

Fortunately it, thanks to an excellent script and especially the performance by Omar Sy, hits the notes just right and becomes one of those inspiring movies of recent years that you’ll find yourself still thinking about months later.

Image of person in the rain by Vinoth Chandar (license).




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{ 28 comments }

Laurie July 11, 2013 at 4:47 pm

The Sound of Music – love the music, the story, the love.
The Notebook – A beautiful movie of unconditional love.
Under the Tuscan Sun – beautiful scenary and story.
Eat, Pray, Love – amazing movie about a self journey, true story.
Tuesdays with Morrie — movie based on the book by Mitch Albom.

Henrik Edberg July 11, 2013 at 4:55 pm

Thank you for adding your best tips, Laurie! I haven’t seen most of the movies on your list yet.

Bernadette July 18, 2013 at 1:38 am

Totally love The Notebook! Good pick! Have heard about Tuesdays with Morrie… must watch it :)

Vincent July 11, 2013 at 5:08 pm

May I add Ferris Bueller’s Day Off as my personal uplifting movie? It’s my favorite and it’s just the ultimate feel-good movie for me. Ferris’ commitment to friendship is inspiring and we see how much he really cares for his best friend.

Henrik Edberg July 11, 2013 at 6:33 pm

Awesome addition, Vincent! I actually saw it for the first time just a week ago and I agree, it is a really good and uplifting one.

Shawna July 11, 2013 at 5:27 pm

Henrik, I’ve followed your blog for a while and I love this post!

I’ll add a couple of my favorites to the list:
The Incredibles — Pixar magic at its best, great characters, great storytelling, and it just makes you feel good!
The Inn of the Sixth Happiness — A classic from 1958 starring Ingrid Bergman.

Henrik Edberg July 11, 2013 at 6:35 pm

Thank you for the kind comment and for reading, Shawna!

I love the Incredibles too, definitely one of my absolute favorites from Pixar.

Haven’t seen the the Bergman film yet, but will make a note of it.

Jennifer July 11, 2013 at 5:39 pm

Great selection of movies, especially Intouchables and Before Sunrise!

When I was younger I used to love watching epic adventures or action movies to motivate me and help me get through my battle with chronic illness. Dramas like The Blind Side or La Vita e Bella are also inspiring films. Life of Pi is next on my watch list of uplifting movies – I hope they did the book justice! :-)

Henrik Edberg July 11, 2013 at 6:38 pm

Thank you, Jennifer! And I am glad to hear that the movies helped you with your illness.

La Vita e Bella is a good one, haven’t seen the The Blind Side yet.

And I thought Life of Pi was good one too – especially the gorgeous photography – but I haven’t read the book.

Paula B. July 11, 2013 at 6:14 pm

Enjoyed reading your list, it’s a hot but rainy day here in New England so I will be enjoying a movie at home this afternoon. Funny, you mention Shawshank Redemption, on your best list. Although a huge movie fan I had shied away from watching this one for many years. Well, awhile back I was teaching high school seniors in an elective course on Criminal Law and they begged me to show this movie. To say I was mesmerized would be an understatement. And, of course, I had a roomful of smug teens, secretly delighted that I had thoroughly “got” the movie.

Henrik Edberg July 11, 2013 at 6:41 pm

I’m glad to hear that you took the advice of your class and that you liked the movie so much, thank you for sharing that story, Paula. :)

Nancy July 12, 2013 at 8:04 am

I normally don’t pay attention when people offer lists of favorite movies, but this caught my eye because you included Gattaca and Shawshank Redemption, which are two of my all-time favorites, and I like Totoro too. So, I’ve added several of your suggestions I haven’t seen to my library hold list. And I’ll suggest another one of my favorites: Contact (from 1997 with Jody Foster).

Henrik Edberg July 12, 2013 at 11:27 am

Thank you for reading, Nancy! I’m glad to hear that we have some of the same favorites and that the list helped you to find some new movies. And great addition, I like Contact a lot too.

Aleks George July 12, 2013 at 11:49 am

Hi Henrik – I run a blog about happiness and am a movie lover too, movies are all about moving people through a symphony of emotion – so perhaps it’s part of the personality profile.

Many great mentions – I would add Fight Club, The Big Lebowski, 2001 A Space Odyssey to name a few.

Jo Casey July 13, 2013 at 3:59 pm

I love collecting uplifting movie recommendations so I’m loving this post Henrik! Many of my favorites have been listed by others so I’m going to add Sense and Sensibility (can’t beat a bit of a costume drama) and one that I watched recently on a day where I was feeling particularly low – Roxanne with Steve Martin. It cheered me up, comforted me and allowed me a bit of valuable escapism – something we all need now and again.

Braden Talbot July 13, 2013 at 5:42 pm

Would you believe I have only seen one of these? And I’m 30!

I think I would add American Beauty and Office Space. Those films seem enlightening to me.

Erik Post July 15, 2013 at 11:07 am

Great that there are more people who love the Before Sunrise/Sunset/Midnight movies. I’ve seen the last one a few weeks back, and I think that might be my favorite one. You should check it out :) Great dialogues, beautiful shots of Greece and the most important (I believe) are the hidden insights of life in the conversations.

Thanks for the list :)

Sabrina Walker July 15, 2013 at 12:06 pm

I loved recently the film: “the purge”. Very creepy but it speaks about the violence in the society and how I would be developed in the future, as something totally normal. I can only recommend it.

Anders Hasselstrøm July 15, 2013 at 10:28 pm

Hello Henrik,

I’d like to thank you for this blog. Excellent reading and I enjoy your posts. I’d like to contribute to your list with the movie “Remember the Titans”. Inspirational movie that makes me think every time I watch it.

Best wishes from Denmark,
Anders Hasselstrøm

Kael July 16, 2013 at 5:11 am

The great thing about the Rocky movie is Stallone’s real life struggle to even get the first rocky produced and brought to life. He was literally struggling to even eat and live while trying to get this movie picked up by a studio and then was an even bigger struggle to get himself to play to lead roll as a nobody with no acting experience !

Thank you for the great movie list Henrik!

shane July 16, 2013 at 10:48 am

I haven’t visited much but can already tell I love your blog. :).

My additions would be The Dead Poets Society and Il postino.

Napoleon Nalcot July 16, 2013 at 4:37 pm

It just helped me bring back memories from the not-so-distant-past and, by using the imagination, make it as fresh as the first time I saw it. Thank you for this.

Mona July 16, 2013 at 7:18 pm

I’ve been a movie buff since childhood. I would mention movies from the TV Guide to my mom and she would guess who the actors were that played in that particular movie. My favorite “feel good movie” is Trading Places with Eddie Murphy. I’ve watched it several times and always walk away “feeling good”.

Bryan Thompson July 17, 2013 at 10:34 pm

Love this:

“It was, mostly, a ton of fun.” -I love the “mostly” part. In other words, it was still school. :)

My favorites are:
“The Shawshank Redemption” (which you have here)
“WALL-E”
“Wreck It Ralph” (I have young children so I realize I am listing a lot of cartoons.)
“As Good As It Gets.”

Kurt Koontz July 23, 2013 at 1:26 am

Sugar Man needs to be on this list. Watching this show is a lesson in humility and will restore your faith in humanity.

Love your list too. I smile just thinking about The Intouchables.

tom D August 2, 2013 at 12:10 am

into the wild … loved it

Dora August 15, 2013 at 1:21 am

I love your list!!

I also think that Finding Forrester and Wonder Boys are great rainy day movies. If you like foreign films I would definitely recommend Kolya and My life as a dog.

Fiona August 26, 2013 at 12:30 pm

Shirley Valentine is one of my favourite movies of all time. You’re never too old to get out of that rut.

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