Movies can be so much more than mere entertainment. They can serve as a source of inspiration for many people, forcing us to look at stuff from different perspectives and conveying powerful messages. Movies on our today’s list are true works of art and deal with life’s purpose. Whether you’re looking for a light-hearted comedy with a deep message or a tragic life-changing cinematic experience, we got you covered. Let’s take a look at our pick of the 20 best movies about life purpose that have the potential to change you.
1. Into the Wild (2007)
We start off our list with one classic that has to be mentioned every time we discuss life’s purpose. Into the Wild is a biographical adventure drama based on the book written by Jon Krakauer that was in turn inspired by the true story of Christopher McCandless. Alex Supertramp (Christopher McCandless) was a golden child and grew up to be a respectable young man.
He was a talented sportsman and scholarship-winning student who one day decided to give up all of his earthly possessions to fulfill his dream of hitchhiking through Alsaka and living in the Alaskan dangerous but beautiful wilderness. Even though he met lots of interesting people during his travel he was content for a while to live in isolation “living off the land”. Worsening conditions in nature forced him to re-think that attitude. He realizes that happiness is not real unless shared with others but sadly for him, the realization came too late.
2. Harold and Maude (1971)
Harold and Maude is perhaps not the best love story of all time, but it’s an inspirational movie nonetheless. Harold comes from a rich influential family but there’s something wrong with him if you ask his family. He searches for attention constantly and has strange hobbies that involve macabre rituals, attending strangers’ funerals, staging suicides, and many to say the least bizarre things.
One day while attending a random funeral he meets a 79-year-old Maude who shares some of his hobbies but with a completely different outlook on life. Where Harold is sullen and gloomy, Maude is cheery and quirky. The two make an unlikely pair, but Maude will manage to change Harold’s life forever.
3. Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Shawshank Redemption based on the novella written by Stephen King is among the greatest inspirational movies of all time. The story follows Andy Dufresne who landed in prison after allegedly murdering his wife and her lover and Ellis “Red” Redding Andy’s fellow inmate. Andy and Ellis bond over similar life philosophies and eventually learn how to make peace with their lives through small acts of common decency.
4. Gran Torino (2008)
Walt Kowalski (Clint Eastwood) is a retired war veteran with a racist outlook unable to deal with change happening all around him. He lives in near isolation due to being on bad terms with his family and his racially diverse neighborhood. When his Ford Torino almost gets stolen by his young Asian neighbor, both of them get a second chance at redemption through mutual partnership and learning.
5. Good Will Hunting (1997)
Will Hunting (Mat Damon) is a genius but his life started on the wrong tracks. He’s been jailed and is now working as a janitor at M.I.T in his spare time, he mostly wastest his life. His luck is about to change when he solves a complex mathematical problem posted by Professor Gerald Lambeau (Robin Williams). Gerald Lambeau is impressed with Will’s potential and will force him to take a good look at his life and in time, try to overcome his demons.
6. Groundhog Day (1993)
Phil Connors (Bill Murray) is an embodiment of cynicism that mockingly accepts his next job to cover groundhog day at Punxsutawney in Western Pennsylvania. He loathes the job and cannot wait to leave, only to realize he is stuck in a time loop. Every single day when he wakes up, it’s February 2nd. At first, he abuses the possible choices that suddenly opened up for him until he realized there’s more to life than cheap thrills.
7. Leap of Faith (1992)
Jonas Nightengale (Steve Martin) is a con man, he earns his money as a faith healer and believes himself secure in his life’s purpose. One day while traveling through Rustwater, Kansas his truck breaks down. It will take a while and a decent sum of money to get it repaired. Jonas comes to the idea that he can sell his “talents” around town but what he will soon learn is that not all people are naive as he thinks them to be. This will force him to look at his life from a different perspective and make some changes.
8. Fight Club (1999)
in Fight Club Edward Norton takes on the role of an unfulfilled generic office worker who has trouble making peace with his own current state of life. Nothing brings him joy, he feels empty and unfulfilled and realizes that most of the things in life are meaningless. While on a business trip he encounters Tyler Durden (Bradd Pitt) who poses as a soap salesman, the two find an unconventional way to deal with their frustrations. This eventually leads to a complete breakdown of the Narrator’s life.
9. The Fisher King (1991)
Jack Lucas’ (Jeff Bridges) life is about to change in a second when his on-air comments lead an unstable maniac to commit mass murder in a local Manhattan restaurant. One night Jack comes really close to dying in his awful state of mind but is accidentally saved by Parry (Robin Williams) a deranged homeless person, the kind of person that he would usually mock.
Jack learns that Parry is looking for the Holy Grail, and even though his first instinct is to mock him he decides to help him instead. He finds out that Parry’s life was irreversibly ruined during the accident that happened in a restaurant due to Lucas’ comments.
10. Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)
Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller) has a tedious work life. His coping mechanism is to daydream and escape into his mind once in a while just to survive the day. His life is about to change though. Walter is a negative assets manager at Life magazine and the only connection between Sean O’Connell, a mysterious photographer, and his workplace.
A packet of important negatives is suddenly missing and the only person that can possibly hope to find Sean is Walter. Piece by piece, clue by clue Walter figures out that Sean must be somewhere in Greenland. This sets him up on an entirely impulsive adventure, but the one he will never forget until the end of his days.
11. Cloud Atlas (2012)
Cloud Atlas is one inspirational movie dealing with the purpose in life, hope, and destiny. The story follows characters from several timelines and different historical eras, they are most likely connected through supernatural concepts such as reincarnation. The main premise of the movie suggests how events from the past, small and big gestures alike can completely change and revolutionize an individual’s life.
12. Swiss Army Man (2016)
Hank Thompson is a hopeless man stuck on a deserted island. He has no choice but to lose his mind. Hank considers just killing himself but suddenly he sees a corpse that recently washed up on the beach. He fails to revive the dead person but finds other uses for the corpse. Against all odds and reason, Hank and the corpse (Manny) form a strong and unique friendship. Hank teaches Manny everything about life and the two eventually decide to brave the journey home.
12. Equilibrium (2002)
Equilibrium is a science fiction film dealing with deeper philosophical issues. John Preston (Christian Bale) lives in a society that attempts to suppress all means of emotions in the hope of stopping all kinds of conflict. Human emotions are put under control and purged by the use of propaganda and various drugs that keep people docile.
One fated day John will accidentally skip a dose, near instantly he feels a change within him which leads to skipping additional doses as well. This in turn results in the start of the revolution in order to free mankind from ruthless terror.
14. Lost In Translation (2003)
Bob Harris (Bill Murray) a fading movie star and Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) accidentally meet each other while on a trip abroad to visit Tokyo. Even though they make an unlikely pair the two will bond over discussing personal matters, insecurities, and doubts about the future.
15. Scrooge (1935)
One seemingly Christmas movie on our list with a far deeper message. Over the decades Charles Dickens’ character Scrooge has become synonymous with personal growth. This movie retells his story as he faces his ugly past and tries to make amends to turn the future into a more beautiful and fulfilling life.
16. Gattaca (1997)
Gattaca first and foremost deals with the concept of eugenics, but it also deals with the idea of destiny and our purpose in life. Vincent Freeman (Ethan Hawke) is one of the few people that were conceived through natural means and this resulted in him being “imperfect”.
The fact that he carries several genetic defects will lead to many hardships in his life. He manages to find his purpose and rise above the challenge in this brilliant and touching story of overcoming life’s obstacles.
17. Soul (2020)
Soul is an animated movie with a profound message of what it means to be alive and achieve your goals and purpose in life. Soul follows Joe Gardner, he is a talented pianist on the verge of having everything he ever hoped of having. He dreams of becoming a professional Jazz pianist and the opportunity presents itself when Dorothea Williams a famous Jazz performer visits the local club and holds an audition for the position of the pianist in her quartet.
Joe leaves a great impression and Dorothea Hires him on the spot. In his euphoric state, Joe never notices the open manhole cover, and the accident results in him being in a coma and his soul transported into the afterlife. This strange journey through the afterlife will teach him a thing or two about the purpose of one’s life and what it actually means to be alive and fulfilled.
18 Billy Elliot (2000)
The story of Billy Elliot follows the titular character, an 11-year-old-boy from a working-class family who accidentally discovers his love for ballet. Billy lives with his father and a brother, both of who are coal miners and hold a different view on life than small Billy.
In an attempt to toughen him up, Billy’s father signs him up to take up boxing in the local gym and this in turn leads to Billy taking up ballet. Billy has great potential and the only thing standing between him and his dream is the prejudiced community and Billy Himself.
19. Stranger Than Fiction (2006)
Stranger Than Fiction follows the bizarre story of Harold Crick (Will Ferrell). Harold lives a seemingly ordinary if not slightly boring life as an IRS agent. He is about to audit Ana Pascal, accused of dodging taxes when a voice appears inside his head narrating his entire life.
This worries Harold greatly and he decides to involve professional help as he seeks psychiatrists and literary experts. The voice will eventually save his life, both literally and philosophically.
20. My Life Without Me (2003)
We finish our list of best movies about life purpose with My Life Without Me. The movie follows Ann hardworking mother of two stuck in a routine of the same and boring life. Her life is not easy by any means as she struggles with her mother’s disapproval, her husband’s lack of a job, and her mess and unfulfilling relationship with her own father.
Her life takes a turn for the worse when she is diagnosed with late-stage ovarian cancer, she finds out she has only two months to live but decides to tell no one. One of her last decisions is to try to make the most of the life that she has left.