If you are searching for inspiration and motivation, there are many places you might find what you are seeking. Many of us turn to self-help books or the inspirational memoirs of successful entrepreneurs. Others will search out quotes from successful people the world over, whether they are business leaders, religious figureheads, or just those who are very good at what they do.
It may be that the speeches made by motivational speakers do the trick, and make us think about the points highlighted in a particular address or lecture. Most motivational speakers will sell videos of their presentations, which we can watch in the comfort of our own homes. There is, however, another visual-art form that can inspire and motivate, and that is the inspiring documentary.
Firstly, what do we mean by a documentary? A documentary is a film that is factually based, and has been made for educational or instructional purposes, or to add to the historical record relating to the subject of the film. Early documentaries were very short. Gradually, as the genre has become more accepted, it has grown in length. Nowadays, a documentary made for cinema release can be the same length as an average feature film.
With the growth of the documentary as a type of film, the cinematographic quality has improved. Audiences demand that they are entertained as well as informed by these films. As a result, scripts have become much better and often more dramatic, and the standard of the acting demanded is higher, with the result that top actors are happy to sign up for a documentary film. Many documentary films have specially written music scores, with top technicians, stuntmen, and animators involved in the production. Well-known producers and directors also get involved with promising documentaries, and some win Oscars and other film industry awards.
It is also true that currently, the documentary film is enjoying a golden period. There are some outstanding documentaries to be viewed, and undoubtedly many are inspirational. Documentaries can capture aspects of a person’s life, or a major event, that feature films cannot. Of course, the writer or director of a documentary film can skew things to emphasize the point they are trying to make, but the film is still reality. Reality TV is big business today, and the viewing public does seem to have a voracious appetite for the genre. This enthusiasm has transferred to the big screen, and documentary films are the beneficiaries of this move. We are all able to be a part of someone else’s life, if only for a few short hours.
Below, 12 of the best inspiring documentaries are listed, with a short synopsis to help you choose the ones you would like to view. This will help you to open your mind and your heart to the beautiful stories that these inspiring documentaries bring you. Hopefully, you will see the opportunities that life gives when you see how others have reacted to them in their lives.
1. Happy (2011)
“Happy” does something rarely attempted in a documentary. It tries to find out what makes people happy. The film features interviews with people from a range of different cultures across the world. Each of the stories they tell are filled with optimism and positivity. Watching will raise your spirits and provide motivation and hope for the future. Happy is one of the most inspiring documentaries around.
2. Senna (2010)
Brazils Ayrton Senna was a top-rated Formula One driver who won the World Drivers Championships on three occasions. With a string of victories under his belt, he was worshipped in his native country. Superstar status in the 1980s and 1990s did nothing to change his modest nature. This documentary is the story of how his achievements influenced many other people throughout the world.
3. Kumare (2011)
“Kumare” documents a social experiment carried out by the filmmaker Vikram Gandhi. He attempts to become a guru in India, intending to expose the absurd nature of unquestioning faith. His experience, however, takes a different course, and he ends up gathering followers and becoming a wise man. The film turns into a study of faith and the nature of beliefs.
4. I am (2010)
Tom Shadyac directed the Ace Ventura series of feature films. He had a brush with death when mountain-biking and had to spend an extended period recuperating from his accident. “I am” will bring inspiration to anyone who feels they have no hope left, as Tom’s fight back to health is a testament to positive thinking.
5. Man on Wire (2008)
“Man on Wire” follows the Frenchman Phillippe Petit as he pursues his dream to walk a high wire between the twin towers of the New York World Trade Center. The planning and execution of the mission are examined in detail, as are his motives. The theme is very much to follow your dream.
6. Searching for Sugar Man (2012)
The rock singer Rodriguez was discovered in Detroit in the early 1970s. The producers who happened upon him playing in a bar signed him to their record label, and an album soon followed. The album was a spectacular failure, and Rodriguez vanished from the public eye.
In South Africa, however, he became a legend, and this film follows two fans from that country as they try to find out what happened to him.
7. Finding Joe (2011)
A student of mythology named Joseph Campbell discovered the underlying pattern in every story that he called the hero’s journey. The film is devoted to how we can each become the hero in our own story. Our own journey of self-discovery is just as important as studying the successful journeys of self-made men and women.
8. Sans Soleil (1983)
“Sans Soleil” charts a journey of self-discovery through travel. The traveler follows routes across the world, with stunning photography and insightful meetings with people encountered in many of the places visited—a visual delight with a serious message.
9. Hungry for Change (2012)
This film intended to expose the diet racket by revealing some of the shady practices that companies working in the diet industry employ to make money. It did this, but at the same time, featuring a series of success stories. This involved people who, by sheer determination and will-power, overcame various health problems, including obesity.
10. Ronnie Coleman: The King (2018)
The GOAT from the Pro Bodybuilding world Ronnie “The King” Coleman wins the 8 Mr. Olympia titles to become one of the greatest bodybuilders of all time.
This documentary by Generation Iron explore the history of Coleman’s career as a bodybuilding legend and following his journey to recovery.
11. When We Were Kings (1996)
In 1974 probably the most famous boxing match ever took place in Zaire. It featured Muhammad Ali and George Forman. Forman, at 22, was the world heavyweight champion. Ali was challenging to recover his world title. Ali, at 32, was considered past it. Many felt he should have retired. Ali thought otherwise.
When We Were Kings follows the build-up to The Rumble in the Jungle as the fight became known. The training regimes of both boxers are followed, plus interviews with them and a host of others. This is a truly inspirational film, which won an Oscar in 1996 for Best Documentary Feature.
The fight was held in Zaire as the country’s president, Mobutu Sese Seko, was the only person willing to financially back the fight to the tune of 10 million.
12. Hoop Dreams (1994)
The feature from follows two boys in Chicago (William Gates and Arthur Agee) over the course of eight years of their lives. Gates and Agee are recruited from their inner-city high schools to attend the suburban St. Joseph High School in Westchester, Illinois, and play in its renowned basketball program.
Hoop Dreams depicts the culture shock Gates and Agee experienced in the predominantly white high school, to which the two boys commuted 90 minutes every day. A modern masterpiece of documentary filmmaking, the film stirred controversy when it was shut out of the Best Documentary category at the Academy Awards—its sole Oscar nomination was for Best Film Editing.
What are you favorite documentaries? Let us know in the comments below!