Throughout the years I have been inspired by various movies that depicted the challenges children face and how specific people show up and change their lives for the better. I thought you would enjoy this recommended list of movies.
Dare to Be Wild – 2015
Sweet Tooth – 2021
The Ride – 2020
Antwone Fisher (2002)
Reviews: 154 user | 120 critic | 32 from Metacritic.com
Director: Denzel Washington
Writer: Antwone Fisher
Stars Denzel Washington, Derek Luke, Joy Bryant
1938 Drama/Biography 1h 47m
The devout but iron-willed Father Flanagan (Spencer Tracy) leads a community called Boys Town, a different sort of juvenile detention facility where, instead of being treated as underage criminals, the boys are shepherded into making themselves better people. But hard-nosed petty thief and pool shark Whitey Marsh (Mickey Rooney), the impulsive and violent younger brother of an imprisoned murderer, might be too much for the good father’s tough-love system.
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- Starring: Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, Alvin ‘Xzibit’ Joiner
- Directed by: Phil Joanou
- Runtime: 2 hours 6 minutes
- Release year: 2006
- Studio: Columbia Pictures
Dwayne Douglas Johnson was born in Hayward, California on May 2nd 1972 to Rocky Johnson and Ata Johnson. While growing up, Dwayne traveled around a lot with his parents and watched his father perform in the ring. During his high school years, Dwayne began playing football and he soon received a full scholarship from the University of Miami where he had tremendous success as a football player. In 1995, Dwayne suffered a back injury which cost him a place in the NFL. He then signed a 3 year deal with the Canadian League but left after a year to pursue a career in wrestling. He made his wrestling debut in the USWA under the name Flex Kavanah where he won the tag team championship with Brett Sawyer. In 1996, Dwayne joined the WWE and became Rocky Maivia where he joined a group known as “The Nation of Domination” and turned heel. Rocky eventually took over leadership of the “Nation” and began taking the persona of The Rock. After the “Nation” split, The Rock joined another elite group of wrestlers known as the “Corporation” and began a memorable feud with Steve Austin. Soon the Rock was kicked out of the “Corporation”. He turned face and became known as “The Peoples Champion”. In 2000, the Rock took time off from WWE to film his appearance in The Mummy Returns (2001). He returned in 2001 during the WCW/ECW invasion where he joined a team of WWE wrestlers at The Scorpion King (2002), a prequel to The Mummy Returns (2001). He is divorced from his first wife Dany Garcia (Garcia). They have a daughter together named Simone Alexandra, born in 2001.
Keanu Reeves stars in this story that might best be described as Bad News Bears in the projects. Conor O’Neill (Reeves) is a charming ne’er-do-well with a disturbing gambling addiction. His penchant for betting on the wrong teams leaves him owing several thousand dollars to very violent people, and he ends up coaching a children’s baseball team to pay off his debt. The movie skimps a bit on process: the kids start out as terrible players and become better but we don’t see how; Conor starts caring but we don’t see why. As by-the-numbers movies go, though, it isn’t a bad one. The young actors in the cast are talented and understated. Most of the kids’ characters are only barely fleshed out by the script, but this keeps the movie from being hijacked by extra-cute mugging. Parents should be cautioned–this movie has some very violent scenes that will frighten young children, and swearing is depicted as precocious and adorable. Still, like a baseball game, it isn’t a bad way to spend your time. –Ali Davis
Life of a King
2013 PG-13 1hr 41m
After being incarcerated for 18 years, Eugene Brown establishes the Big Chair Chess Club to get kids off the streets and working toward better lives.
Life of a King is the unlikely true story of Eugene Brown and his one-man mission to give inner-city kids of Washington D.C. something he never had – a future. He discovered a multitude of life lessons through the game of chess during his 18-year incarceration for bank robbery. After his release and reentry into the workforce, Eugene developed and founded the Big Chair Chess Club to get kids off the streets and working towards lives they never believed they were capable of due to circumstances. From his daring introductory chess lessons to group of unruly high school students in detention to the development of the Club and the teens’ first local chess competitions, this movie reveals his difficult, inspirational journey and how he changed the lives of a group of teens with no endgame.
Mary and Martha
Hilary Swank stars as Mary and Brenda Blethyn stars as Martha, an American interior designer and British housewife who have little in common apart from the one thing they wish they didn’t. When malaria strikes, the lives of these very different women change forever. They forge a deep friendship and embark on an epic journey of self-discovery to Africa, dedicating themselves to the cause of malaria prevention. Beginning to rebuild their lives, they show how ordinary people can make a difference and inspire positive change in the process. Enlisting the help of Mary’s estranged father, a former politico, the two women beseech both the powers that be and ordinary people to get involved, realizing a shared responsibility to all the world’s children.
“There will never cease to be poor in the land,” Deuteronomy 15:11 prophesied. And that has certainly proven to be true. For some, each day is a struggle to survive—to eat, to find clean water, to stay warm. That’s why, in that very same verse, God tells us to “open your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor.” Yes, maybe the poor will always be with us. But so, hopefully, will those who want to help.Irishwoman Christina Noble knows what poverty’s like. Her mother died when she was 10, and her father couldn’t be bothered with her. Some nights the fledgling songstress literally sang for her supper. She was eventually shipped off to a Catholic orphanage, then worked as a seamstress in an Irish sweatshop—skipping meals to save money for her mother’s tombstone. Christina knows the hollow feel of poverty. She lived it.
Fast-forward a few decades, and Christina—inspired by a dream—is visiting Vietnam. She knows very little about the country, but she feels an affinity for its people and called to help in some way. She sees children combing through garbage or begging on street corners. She knows the need. But what can she do?
Angel in the House
Looking to adopt a child and unable to conceive a child of their own, the Morrison’s lives are turned upside down when a 7 year old boy unexpectedly shows up on their doorstep.
Director: Jonathan Newman
Writer: Jonathan Newman
Maurice Cole, Toni Collette, Ioan Gruffudd
A Feast at Midnight
Taken in by a well-to-do family and offered a second chance at life, a homeless teen grows to become the star athlete projected to be the first pick at the NFL draft in this sports-themed comedy drama inspired by author Michael Lewis‘ best-seller The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game. Michael Oher was living on the streets when he was welcomed into the home of a conservative suburban family, but over time he matured into a talented athlete. As the NFL draft approaches, fans and sports radio personalities alike speculate that Oher will be the hottest pick of the year. Sandra Bullock stars in a film written and directed by John Lee Hancock (The Rookie, The Alamo). ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi
- John Lee Hancock
- John Lee Hancock
The Blind Side (2009) PG-13 Oversized African American Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron), the teen from across the tracks and a broken home, has nowhere to sleep at age 16. Taken in by an affluent Memphis couple, Leigh Anne (Sandra Bullock) and Sean (Tim McGraw), Michael embarks on a remarkable rise to play for the NFL. Bullock’s performance garnered a Best Actress Oscar and Best Actress Golden Globe Award. Kathy Bates co-stars.
The Blind Side Awards:
- 2009 – Hollywood Foreign Press Association – Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama
- 2009 – Screen Actors Guild – Best Actress
The Cider House Rules
John Irving scripted this screen adaptation of his 1985 novel. Set during World War II, The Cider House Rules concerns Homer Wells (Tobey_Maguire), an orphan who spent most of his childhood at the St. Cloud Orphanage in rural Maine, where he grew up under the strong but affectionate care of Dr. Wilbur Larch (Michael_Caine). Larch has passed along his medical education to Homer, and the young man helps the doctor care for abandoned children and the newborn babies of unwed mothers; however, Homer refuses to assist Larch with the illegal abortions that he performs on the side; Homer has moral objections to abortion, while Larch believes in the rights of the individual and sees it as his duty to keep women in need away from dangerous incompetents. Wally Worthington (Paul_Rudd), an air-force pilot, brings his girlfriend Candy (Charlize_Theron) to St. Cloud for an abortion, and Homer decides to go with them when they leave, hoping to see the world; however, the three end up going no further than the state line, where Wally’s mother (Kate_Nelligan) runs an apple orchard and cider mill, and Candy’s family traps lobsters. When Wally ships off to battle, Homer grows closer to Candy, and the two fall in love. But their idyllic life at the cider mill is interrupted when Rose Rose (Erykah_Badu), a field worker at the orchard, becomes pregnant and her father, cider-house foreman Mr. Rose (Delroy_Lindo), turns out to be the father of her unborn child. This news coupled with the death of Dr. Larch, forces Homer to take a long look at both his moral principles and his future.
- Starring: Tobey Maguire, Charlize Theron, (more)
- Director(s): Lasse Hallström
- Theatrical MPAA Rating: PG13
Nature’s strongest force is the will to survive. That’s a hard-learned lesson in this true story about a noble mission turned into disaster. In the early 1960s, Capt. Christopher Sheldon (Jeff Bridges) operates the sailboat Albatross as a floating school for troubled teen boys needing discipline. But a chance encounter with a freak storm offers a traumatic and troubling education in life and death.
- Cast: Jeff Bridges, Scott Wolf, John Savage, Caroline Goodall, Balthazar Getty
- Director: Ridley Scott
- Assigned the thankless task of teaching freshman English at a gang-infested Long Beach, CA high school, a 23-year-old teacher resorts to unconventional means of breaking through to her hardened students in director Richard LaGravenese‘s adaptation of Erin Gruwell‘s best-seller The Freedom Writer’s Diaries: How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them. Her students had been written off, and her chances of succeeding scoffed at, but Erin Gruwell (Hilary Swank) wasn’t about to go down without a fight. Long Beach is a place where a new war is waged with each passing day, and when the hardened students who walk those dangerous hallways sense an outsider attempting to understand their plight, their cynical resentment threatens to keep a deadly cycle in motion. Despite the initially hostile reaction she receives in the classroom, Gruwell uses the writings of Anne Frank and Zlata’s Diary: A Child’s Life in Sarajevo to teach her students not only the basis of the English language, but compassion and tolerance as well. Later, when the time comes to tell their own tales in a project specially designed to explore the daily violence that the majority of students have grown numb to, the barriers that had once stood so strong gradually begin to crumble. When the only chance for survival is to befriend the person who was once your mortal enemy, the world is opened to a whole new realm of possibilities. ~ Jason Buchanan, RoviStarring: Hilary Swank, Scott Glenn, (more)
- Director(s): Richard LaGravenese
Robin Williams toned down his usually manic comic approach in this successful period drama. In 1959, the Welton Academy is a staid but well-respected prep school where education is a pragmatic and rather dull affair. Several of the students, however, have their thoughts on the learning process (and life itself) changed when a new teacher comes to the school. John Keating (Williams) is an unconventional educator who tears chapters of his textbooks and asks his students to stand on their desks to see the world from a new angle. Keating introduces his students to poetry, and his free-thinking attitude and the liberating philosophies of the authors he introduces to his class have a profound effect on his students, especially Todd (Ethan Hawke), who would like to be a writer; Neil ( Robert Sean Leonard), who dreams of being an actor, despite the objections of his father; Knox (Josh Charles), a hopeless romantic; Steven (Allelon Ruggiero), an intellectual who learns to use his heart as well as his head; Charlie (Gale Hansen), who begins to lose his blasé attitude; unconventional Gerard (James Waterston); and practical Richard (Dylan Kussman). Keating urges his students to seize the day and live their lives boldly; but when this philosophy leads to an unexpected tragedy, headmaster Mr. Nolan (Norman Lloyd) fires Keating, and his students leap to his defense. Dead Poets Society was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor for Williams; it won one, forTom Schulman‘s original screenplay. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide
- Starring: Robin Williams, Robert Sean Leonard, (more)
- Director(s): Peter Weir
After earning rave notices for powerful supporting turns as a pimp in Street Smart (1987) and an alcohol abuse counselor in Clean and Sober (1988), actor Morgan Freemanbegan his ascent to stardom with this, his first lead role in a major motion picture.Freeman is real-life high school principal Joe Clark, a tough, harsh educator and administrator who in 1987 is given a nearly impossible task by his old friend, school superintendent Dr. Frank Napier (Robert Guillaume). Clark is asked to reform inner city Eastside High School in Paterson, NJ, a hotbed of delinquent kids and drug dealers. Considered the worst school in New Jersey, the state is threatening to take control of Eastside away from the local school board. If Clark can straighten out Eastside in time to get the school’s basic-skills test scores up, he can have the job permanently. Although Clark’s tyrannical approach and hard-line policies alienate many members of the staff and the community, his uncompromising campaign gets results and even makes him famous, much to the chagrin of his powerful enemies. ~ Karl Williams, All Movie Guide
- Starring: Morgan Freeman, Robert Guillaume, (more)
- Director(s): John G. Avildsen
- Theatrical MPAA Rating: PG13
Mr. Holland’s Opus
A teacher belatedly discovers just how important his job really is in this emotional drama. Glenn Holland (Richard Dreyfuss) is a man with a deep love of music and a desire to write at least one piece of lasting significance. However, playing piano in cocktail lounges while he works on his own compositions doesn’t pay the bills, so in 1965 he reluctantly accepts a job as a high school music teacher. Over the next 30 years, Holland is able to teach a great deal about both music and life to thousands of kids who pass through the various classes he leads and school bands he directs; however, he finds it easier to reach his students than his son Cole (played, as he grows older, by Nicholas John Renner, Joseph Anderson, and Anthony Natale), who is deaf, which drives a wedge between Glenn and his wife Iris (Glenne Headly). Richard Dreyfuss earned an Academy Award nomination as Best Actor for Mr. Holland’s Opus; the cast also includes Olympia Dukakis, William H. Macy, and Jay Thomas. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide
- Starring: Richard Dreyfuss, Glenne Headly, (more)
- Director(s): Stephen Herek
- Theatrical MPAA Rating: PG
Stand and Deliver
Edward James Olmos portrays the real-life Jaime Escalante, a no-nonsense mathematic teacher in a tough East LA high school. Handed a classroom full of “losers” and “unteachables,” Escalante is determined to turn his young charges’ lives around. Drawing from his own cultural heritage, Escalante forms a bond with his largely Hispanic student body, evoking the names of famous Spaniards and Latin Americans whose great accomplishments were predicated on their ability to learn. The students gradually come to realize that the only way they’ll escape their own poverty-stricken barrio is to improve themselves intellectually. As a result, the class’ academic achievements soar dramatically — too dramatically for the Educational Testing Service, which is convinced that the class’ high test scores are the results of cheating. The triumphant exoneration of Escalante’s students provides Stand and Deliver with its rousingly upbeat conclusion. ~ Hal Erickson,
- Starring: Edward James Olmos, Lou Diamond Phillips, (more)
- Director(s): Ramon Menendez
- Theatrical MPAA Rating: PG
- A young man learns to let nothing stop him from realizing his ambitions in this drama, based on a true story. Ever since he was a little boy, Rudy Ruettiger (Sean Astin) has dreamed of attending Notre Dame University, and playing on the Fighting Irish football team. However, Rudy’s dream doesn’t seem very practical; Daniel (Ned Beatty), his father, works in a steel mill and can ill afford to send his son to Notre Dame, while Rudy’s grades are not especially impressive, and standing a shade over five feet tall and weighing a little over 100 pounds, Rudy is hardly built for the gridiron. However, with the help of Father Cavanaugh (Robert Prosky), a sympathetic priest, Rudy is admitted to nearby Holy Cross, and in his junior year manages to squeak into Notre Dame as a transfer student. Rudy works as an assistant to the football stadium’s groundskeeper, Fortune (Charles S. Dutton), to pay his tuition (often sleeping in Fortune’s office since he can’t afford a room), studies diligently, and appears at tryouts for the football team. Rudy is made a member of the practice team, which means he’s little more than a human tackling dummy, but Coach Ara Parseghian (Jason Miller) is impressed with Rudy’s devotion and determination, and pledges that he’ll allow him to dress for one game before he graduates, so his name can be recorded as an official member of the team. However, the arrival of a new coach and a tough season that allows for few unnecessary players may put a stop to Rudy’s dreams within sight of the finish line. Rudy also stars Jon Favreau, Lili Taylor, and Scott Benjaminson. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide
- Starring: Sean Astin, Ned Beatty, (more)
- Director(s): David Anspaugh
- Theatrical MPAA Rating: PG
- In the spirit of his Oscar-winning Good Will Hunting, Gus Van Sant directs this tale of the unlikely bond that develops between an aging, reclusive novelist named Forrester (Sean Connery) — who hasn’t written anything since winning a Pulitzer Prize decades earlier — and Jamal (Rob Brown), a 16-year-old with a hidden desire to be a writer. When Jamal is cited for his athleticism in basketball by an elite Manhattan prep school, he is forced to adapt to an environment far from his South Bronx upbringing, and a small mishap leads him to the eccentric, uneasy Forrester. After their initial apprehension of each other, they begin to fuel each other’s fire for writing, and become unlikely friends despite their ages and backgrounds. Forrester’s devotion to Jamal becomes enhanced when he must defend allegations of plagiarism enforced by Professor Crawford (F. Murray Abraham), jeopardizing Jamal’s future. The film also features Anna Paquin, Busta Rhymes, and Zane Copeland, Jr.. ~ Jason Clark, Rovi
- Starring: Sean Connery, Rob Brown, (more)
- Director(s): Gus Van Sant
- Theatrical MPAA Rating: PG13
- The true-life story of a coach who tries to teach his players that there’s more to life than basketball is brought to the screen in this sports drama. Ken Carter (Samuel L. Jackson) was once a star player on the Richmond High School basketball team in Richmond, CA, and years later, after establishing himself in publishing and marketing, he returns to the school and to the team as the new basketball coach. Carter quickly sees that his work is cut out for him — the team is having an awful season, and their fights off the court are more decisive than their play on the court. While Carter wants to make the Richmond cagers into a winning team, he also wants a lot more — to teach the boys to respect themselves and one another, and that they must excel in the classroom as well as in the gymnasium. Under Carter’s guidance, the team turns their losing season around, with the state title a genuine possibility. However, when Carter learns that a number of his players have let their grade point averages slip below 2.3, as mandated in a contract he entered into with the students, he decides to lock the team out of the gym and send them into study hall until their marks improve. Carter’s plan quickly becomes a subject of controversy among parents and team boosters, and their objections are soon picked up by the local news media, many of whom are not sympathetic to Carter’s belief that his players must have goals beyond college ball or the NBA. Coach Carter also features Rob Brown and Rick Gonzalez as members of the team, and R&B diva Ashanti in her film debut as the girlfriend of one of Carter’s players. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi
- Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Ri’chard, (more)
- Director(s): Thomas Carter
- Theatrical MPAA Rating: PG13
- Blood Done Sign My Name
- Author Timothy Tyson‘s acclaimed novel is adapted for the screen in this sweeping civil rights drama from director Jeb Stuart. Set in Oxford, NC, in the 1970s, Blood Done Sign My Name tells the tale of Civil Rights leader Dr. Ben Chavis (Nate Parker), who played a pivotal role in desegregating North Carolina’s public school system, and who would go on to become the youngest-ever executive director and CEO of the NAACP. The film centers on the racial tensions that flared after a white father and son were charged with murdering a black man, and were subsequently acquitted of the crime despite the fact that it took place in full view of the public.
- Starring: Rick Schroder, Nate Parker
- Director(s): Tim Tyson, Jeb Stuart,
- Theatrical MPAA Rating: PG13
- A dedicated teacher learns some important lessons about himself years after he retired from the classroom in this drama. William Hundert (Kevin Kline) is an instructor at St. Benedict’s School for Boys, an exclusive private academy on the East Coast where Hundert drills his charges on the moral lessons to be learned through the study of Greek and Roman philosophers. Hundert is fond of telling his students, “A man’s character is his fate,” and he strives to impress upon them the importance of the ordered and examined life. In 1976, however, Hundert finds himself with an especially challenging group of students — party-minded Fred Masoudi (Jesse Eisenberg) , introverted Martin Blythe (Paul Dano), bright but mischievous Deepak Mehta (Rishi Mehta), and most notably, openly rebellious Sedgewick Bell (Emile Hirsch). The son of a powerful politician, Bell pointedly runs against the current of Hundert’s example, questioning the importance of the material, flouting the school’s rules, talking out of turn in class, and devoting as much time to his interest in girls as in his studies. However, Hundert sees the possibility of great things in Bell, and encourages him to take part in the school’s annual academic competition for the title of Mr. Julius Caesar. Hundert even goes so far as to bend the rules in scoring to favor Bell in the early stages of the contest, but his faith is betrayed when Bell is discovered cheating during the contest finals. Years later, Hundert is reunited with his students, where they learn the years have taught them all a great deal about their virtues and weaknesses. The Emperor’s Club also features Harris Yulin, Rob Morrow, and Edward Herrmann. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi
- Starring: Kevin Kline, Emile Hirsch, (more)
- Director(s): Michael Hoffman
- Theatrical MPAA Rating: PG13
- An assemblage of young Hollywood actors poised for stardom marked this tale of anti-Semitism at a 1950s prep school. Brendan Fraser stars as David Greene, a working-class Jewish quarterback from Scranton, Pennsylvania, who is offered a senior year scholarship to a prestigious New England academy. It’s David’s ticket to an Ivy League education and a way out of his Rust Belt hometown, but there’s one condition: the school’s elders ask him to be discreet about his religion. At first willing to do so, David struggles with his silence about his faith as his popularity grows. David strikes up a friendship with his roommate Chris Reece (Chris O’Donnell) and a possible romance with Sally Wheeler (Amy Locane), a student at a nearby girls’ school. When jealous classmate Charlie Dillon (Matt Damon) learns David’s secret at an alumni party, he exposes the school’s new gridiron hero, and David faces the full force of religious intolerance from the prejudiced WASP institution. Also featuring early performances from Ben Affleck, Anthony Rapp, andCole Hauser, School Ties was loosely based on the real-life experiences of producer Dick Wolf, creator of TV’s popular series Law & Order. ~ Karl Williams, All Movie Guide
- Starring: Brendan Fraser, Matt Damon, (more)
- Director(s): Robert Mandel
- Theatrical MPAA Rating: PG13
- Drawing inspiration from the true story of a temperamental debate coach who molded the students of a small East Texas college into a formidable team that gave even Harvard’s elite squad a run for their money, Denzel Washington‘s The Great Debaters features the director himself as the ambitious educator, and Forest Whitaker as the resentful father of a student whose loyalties now lie almost exclusively with his coach. Melvin B. Tolson (Washington) is the kind of educator who truly recognizes the remarkable power of knowledge. An outspoken Wiley College professor who boldly challenged the discriminatory Jim Crow laws of the 1930s, Tolson’s recognizes that his young debate students possess the spark of a new generation. Convinced that they could invoke great change if given the confidence and tools needed to do so, the tireless educator implores his students to take responsibility for the future while furtively attempting to protect them from his clandestine role as an organizer for the Southern Tenant Farmers Union. Chief among Tolson’s promising young students is a 14-year-old prodigy named James Farmer, Jr. (Denzel Whitaker). Farmer’s father, James Sr. (Forest Whitaker), is a renowned scholar and an important presence in the emerging student’s life. Yet despite his formidable reputation, James Sr. has not yet learned how to truly harness the power of knowledge through action and assertion. James Jr. has seen the raving effects of racism all around him, and longs to live in a future where no one must be in fear simply because of the color of their skin. Other talented debaters on Tolson’s team include fiercely independent student Henry Lowe (Nate Parker), and Samantha Brooke (Jurnee Smollett) — the first ever female ever to join the Wiley College debate team. While most educators may not have recognized the remarkable potential of assembling such a disparate team, Tolson’s unique vision truly set him apart from the pack as the team begins to experience a series of consecutive victories on their road to challenging Harvard at the National Championships. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi
- Starring: Denzel Washington, Forest Whitaker, (more)
- Director(s): Denzel Washington
- Theatrical MPAA Rating: PG13
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