True art is an expression of beauty, and beauty has the power to move our hearts and shape our souls.
Film is one of the most influential mediums in art, and there are so many films that have left me better person for having seen them.
This is by no means a comprehensive list, nor are they in any kind of order — but here are 15 movies that will inspire you, challenge the way you view life, and leave you with an experience that can change your heart.
(Disclaimer: I purposely excluded “The Passion of the Christ” here because it’s arguably the best film of Jesus Christ ever made, and since it’s about Jesus, it’s just a given that it’s going to change your life.)
1. Les Misérables
Les Misérables is life-changing on so many levels and teaches us so much about sacrificial love. The line, “To love another person is to see the face of God” just nails it.
2. Schindler’s List
This isn’t a fun movie to watch, but you’ll be a better person for having seen it. Oskar Schindler, who started out saving Jews for his own benefit, later had a change of heart and saved them because he cared. He saved over 11,000 Jews during the Holocaust.
“I could have saved one more.”
3. The Pianist
There is always reason for hope in the darkest times — for famous musician Wladyslaw Szpilman, it was his ability to play piano that kept him sane. Everyone, no matter what side they’re on, recognizes the ability of art to lift the human spirit beyond itself.
4. A Beautiful Mind
In this biopic about John Nash, who struggled with schizophrenia, the film shows the unique beauty within people who struggle with mental illness. It also reminds us of the beauty of the sacrament of marriage in the most difficult times.
5. Lord of the Rings
This trilogy is also life-changing on so many levels, but this scene from The Two Towers sums it up pretty well: Sam tells us that no matter how hard the fight, no matter how dark the world, “there’s some good left in this world…and it’s worth fighting for.”
6. Life is Beautiful
When Guido and his son are separated from his wife during World War II in a concentration camp, Guido makes his son believe that survival in the camp is a game in this hilarious scene. The film speaks to the beauty of optimism in the direst circumstances.
This movie is not for the faint of heart. But this film’s portrayal of priesthood is one of the most beautiful I’ve seen in film. The portrayal of this priest is colored with such honesty and raw humanity, and his goodness contrasts the bleak brokenness surrounding him. It’s a beautiful reminder of what our priests go through as our shepherds, and the message of forgiveness hits home.
8. Dead Poet’s Society
This film reminds us not only the importance of thinking for ourselves, but also that we are all of worth and have something important to say that our world needs to hear.
This is a really underrated film, but it speaks to the beauty of forgiveness, especially in families. At this point in the movie, two brothers with a lot of anger toward each other are fighting in an MMA competition and this moment just captures the grace that comes in forgiveness.
(Warning: Again, this is the end of the movie, so if you haven’t seen it, don’t watch it.)
10. The Young Victoria
This is another underrated film that’s a wonderful expression of sacrificial love that mirrored Christ’s love for me as I watched it. Jesus’s love is a little bit life-changing.
11. Forrest Gump
Forrest Gump shows us the beauty of simplicity and seeing the best in others. His son is “the most beautiful thing” he’s “ever seen.”
12. The Book Thief
At one point in the film, the narrator says of humanity, “I see their ugly and their beauty and wonder how the same thing can be both.” This clip shows the beauty of sight, the human mind, and the ability to be a light in someone else’s suffering.
There’s a reason why this is rated as one of the best films of all time. Because he loves her, he does the right thing at the end. “Here’s to looking at you, Kid.”
14. It’s a Wonderful Life
Because, obviously. Every life matters and touches so many others, whether or not we see it.
15. The Great Dictator
First of all, if you’ve never seen a Charlie Chaplin film, make haste and watch them all. Second, this film (aka the original dictator parody before The Interview’s time) is not only one of his funniest, but this speech is still as relevant to us today as ever.