“I learned that when life pulls you under, you can kick against the bottom, break the surface, and breathe again.”
This quote by Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO, may be easier said than done. But if you need something to uplift you from your melancholy, a good movie may just provide the jolt you need.
We’ve selected five films, both informative and inspirational, that reflect personal battles and surviving the vicissitudes of life, in addition to carrying powerful messages that will stick with you long after watching.
Homeless to Harvard
Based on a true story of Liz Murray who went from being a homeless person in New York, US, to an ivy league student at Harvard University, the movie details how Murray, whose parents were drug addicts, often went hungry as a child and eventually ended up living on the streets as a teen.
Despite dropping out of high school initially, at the age of 17, she dug deep and decided to continue school. She eventually completed high school in a mere two years (instead of four) and scored a scholarship to continue her tertiary studies.
Dead Poets Society
‘Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary.’
This 1989 movie may have been made before most of our readers were born, but it drives a powerful message to viewers about not being afraid to go against the status quo.
The Dead Poets Society is set at a prestigious boarding school in 1959. John Keating is a new English teacher at the school who impresses his students with energy and unorthodox teaching methods.
Many of his students face enormous pressures from their parents and school to excel, but Keating proves to be a breath of fresh air, encouraging them to seize the day and follow their dreams instead.
The Blind Side
Michael Oher, a homeless black teen, is adopted by Leigh Anne Tuohy and her husband, Sean, a well-to-do white family.
Oher comes from an impoverished background, but Tuohy gives him a loving home and even hires a tutor to help pull up his abysmal grades to help him reach his full potential. Under their care, Oher grows by leaps and bounds and becomes a successful NFL prospect.
This movie comes with so many lessons, but chief among them is the understanding that you can achieve your goals if you set your mind to it, as well as the importance of giving others a chance and lending them a hand to help them out.
Billy Elliot is a 11-year-old living in Durham, UK, who aspires to become a professional ballet dancer. Elliot faces backlash from his widowed father and brother, both coal miners on strike, for expressing an interest in ballet instead of ‘manly’ sports such as boxing or football.
Despite that, his ballet teacher sees potential in him and continues to teach him in secret, preparing him to audition for the Royal Ballet School in London despite his father forbidding him from taking dance lessons.
This spirited film chronicles his struggles and shows us that achieving our dreams doesn’t come without its challenges. But with perseverance, the results may well be worth the pain and effort.
The Great Debaters
It’s the 1930s and Melvin B. Tolson, a professor at Wiley College in Texas – a historically black institution – forms a debate team comprising of black students.
Under the guidance of Tolson, the students go on to break the chains of inequality and challenge students at Harvard University in the debating championships, overcoming adversity in the process in an era where African Americans still faced racial discrimination.
This movie forces us to look into history and understand how segments of society, or in this case, African Americans, endured and confronted racial discrimination, but that never stopped them from achieving great things.