Eddie The Eagle soars into theaters this week, telling the true story of a determined young Brit who wouldn't let anything get in the way of his Olympic dream. It's a film that won't leave a dry eye in the house; you'll be crying with laughter, weeping at the unfairness of it all, and cheering through your tears to see how the world embraced Eddie to make him a ski jumping sensation.
Don't be fooled, though. Eddie The Eagle is so much more than your typical inspirational story. Where other films show that hard work and determination will make you a champion, Eddie focuses on the journey, not the destination. It's the perfect film to pick you up on a rainy day, but it's not the first one that can make you feel incredible without putting on the pressure to be the best of the best.
In honor of Matthew Vaughn's latest cinematic triumph, we bring you the 10 best films that will inspire you with their quirkiness and a focus on being your best, not the best. In no particular order:
10. 'Cool Runnings' (1993)
The '88 Calgary Winter Olympics has to be the most inspirational Olympics ever, as this '90s classic movie is another true story from the same year as Eddie The Eagle's. When there is an accident during the Jamaican qualifier for the 100-yard dash, it looks like the dreams of three runners are shattered. However, nothing can stand in the way of Derice Bannock (Leon). He recruits a disgraced coach and a soap-box-derby-racing friend to form a Jamaican bobsled team, and fights through ridicule, lack of funds and lack of faith to make it to the Winter Olympics.
Cool Runnings isn't about winning. It's about being flexible and not giving up at the first hurdle, even when that hurdle is huge (and followed by more hurdles). It's about never losing sight of who you are as the team starts to fall apart when Derice becomes obsessed with being like the successful Swiss team. It's about moving past the judgment of others and focusing on being the best you can be. Most importantly, it's about the fact that sometimes things happen that aren't within your control, and that even if you can't win, you can always finish.
9. 'Run, Fat Boy, Run' (2007)
Simon Pegg stars in this offbeat British comedy about a dad trying to make up for past mistakes and present failure. Dennis ran out on his pregnant fiancée on their wedding day five years ago (ouch), and has regretted it ever since. Now, he's trying to win her back, but she's dating a man who can only be described as a smarmy git: rich, arrogant, overbearing and a serious runner. In an attempt to prove that he can commit to something, Dennis decides to compete in the London Nike River Run, even though he's never so much as jogged to the bus stop.
Run, Fatboy, Run reminds us that as wonderful as the image of one man conquering all is, it's not realistic. We need our friends to give us a push. We also need to keep on running, even after losing hope. Watching an out-of shape guy just. Keep. Going. Is more inspirational than any hard-fought victory, because he's no longer attempting to show anyone else up. He just wants to prove something to himself.
8. 'The Full Monty' (1997)
When unemployed steelworker Gaz (Robert Carlyle) is about to lose his right to see his son because he can't afford to take care of him, he and his best friend come up with a desperate plan. They will put on a Chippendales-style male striptease, along with a ragtag band of other unemployed locals. Of course, it's not that simple, especially as they start to wonder who on Earth would want to see a motley crew like them strip down.
The Full Monty is a fantastic reminder that you don't need a six-pack to strip off and get cheered on. The boys manage to take control of their own situation, creating jobs in a town where there are none, refusing to let their situation beat them down and learning how to be proud of themselves, no matter how they look.
7. 'Forrest Gump' (1994)
An absolute classic when it comes to inspirational movies, Forrest Gump is about the incredible life story of a man with a low IQ, but a pure heart. Forrest (Tom Hanks), his mama (Sally Field), and the love of his life Jenny (Robin Wright) come together as we follow Forrest through a childhood in leg braces, a career as a football star, service in the Vietnam War, his time as a shrimp-boat captain and a return to his home in Alabama.
He does end up wildly rich, famous, and married to Jenny — but he wouldn't be Forrest if he looked down on the less fortunate. In fact, he simply doesn't care what other people think of him, and that's the biggest takeaway here. He succeeds because he cares, and he does the best he can with the purest of intentions. He just wants to do right by others, and it's a simplicity of motive that is so much better than all the film characters who are desperate to prove people wrong.
6. 'The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty' (2013)
Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller) is a shy and retiring man working in the photography department of Life magazine, who daydreams about wild adventures, but lives an entirely ordinary life. He has a crush on a co-worker, but is too timid to approach her, and it seems he's destined to live out his life in his fantasies, never doing anything real. Then, when a negative of a photograph destined for the cover of the final print issue of the magazine goes missing, Walter embarks on a worldwide search, using the remaining negatives from the roll as clues to find the photographer who took them, hoping he can find the negative before he's fired for misplacing it.
Walter manages to do more than he ever thought possible, but The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty isn't about becoming an adventurer if that isn't who you really are. Instead, the message is a far more realistic one: Stop living in dreams and forgetting to live.
5. Jack (1996)
One of Robin Williams' most underrated films, Jack centers on a boy with a rare genetic condition that means he ages at four times the usual rate. At age 10, he looks like a 40-year-old man, but all he really wants is to go to school and play with the other kids. It's a powerful story as he tries to deal with his physical differences, his heartbreak, and the fears of his parents.
Not all stories end with fame and fortune. Some stories just end, and that's OK, because life doesn't have to be about a goal. It can just be about enjoying each day. Jack reminds us that living just like everyone else isn't a bad thing — you don't have to be the best to be happy. You just have to be yourself and know that life can be spectacular just by being lived. Jack is incredibly sad, but it's inspirational all the same.
4. Mona Lisa Smile (2003)
Similar to the 1989 classic Dead Poet's Society, Mona Lisa Smile is a period drama set at Wellesley College in the '50s. A school that acts primarily as a distraction for well-bred girls while they wait to get married, Wellesley isn't ready for the forward-thinking professor Katherine Ann Watson (Julia Roberts), who expects her "girls" to actually care about art and education. Although she has a positive effect on her students, her unconventional methods and attitude put her at risk of being fired unless she moderates her beliefs.
Much like Dead Poet's Society, Mona Lisa Smile is about challenging conventions, but also about knowing that holding onto ideals won't always lead to a happy ending. And that's ain't necessarily a bad thing.
3. Water For Elephants (2011)
An elderly man sits alone in a nursing home, treated as an invalid and an obligation. But when the circus comes to town, everything changes. Water For Elephants spins out his story at two different times: in the nursing home, and as a young man when his life fell apart and he ended up working for a traveling circus during the Depression. Between a secret love for a married woman, his violent and unpredictable boss and a show that must go on, Jacob's (Robert Pattinson) stories are inspirational in their own right.
While his circus days are incredible, it's Jacob's tail in the present day that is the truly inspirational one. In a world focused entirely on the young and beautiful, people are discarded once they reach a certain age, but Water For Elephants reminds us that you are never too old to run away and join the circus.
2. It's A Wonderful Life (1946)
As a kid in the small town of Bedford Falls, George Bailey (James Stewart) had big dreams. He was going to go out into the world as an explorer, shake the dust of the town off his shoes, and nothing was going to stop him. Life, however, got in the way, as one thing after another kept George from leaving. Now a middle-aged man, George is a family man running the family business. But when things start to go horribly wrong, he wonders if there has been any point to his life at all.
With a Christmas angel helping him, George learns that success isn't just about honors, riches and big dreams, but about the people who love you. By seeing the world as it would have been without him, he gains a new perspective and an appreciation for the little things that will have you grateful for the little things in your own life.
1. Eddie The Eagle (2016)
Eddie was just a normal kid with bad knees, but he was determined to be an Olympian. In a story of absolute determination, we follow Eddie's life as he pursues his unlikely dream. Although he manages to become a talented downhill skier, he'll never be the kind of camera-ready kid from a wealthy family that the Olympic Association wants representing Britain. On the verge of giving up, he discovers that he might still make it to the Olympics — if he can learn how to ski jump in the next year. Despite having no money, an unwilling alcoholic trainer and being ridiculed by the rest of the sport, Eddie never gives up, and wins the hearts of millions.
Anyone who watched the '88 Winter Olympics knows how this story ends, but Eddie The Eagle isn't about the end. It's about perseverance and positivity. Eddie never lets anyone else get him down, but he also never lets them make him bitter. He remains charmingly naive and open-hearted, and believes in the Olympic spirit even when everything stands in his way.
The important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win, but to take part; the important thing in Life is not triumph, but the struggle; the essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well. — Pierre de Coubertin