Feel-good movies are perfect when you are feeling down about the heavy aspect of life. One of these films is the 1997 drama film Good Will Hunting.
Watching it for the first time is incredible, with its emotional beats and heart-wrenching story. Fortunately, there are twelve best movies like Good Will Hunting you can try out.
Good Will Hunting (1997)
A stellar drama film starring Robin Williams and Matt Damon, the movie tells a story about turning your life around. It serves as an inspirational and feel-good movie for many.
The film centers around Will’s harrowing journey of self-discovery as a young janitor at MIT and a math genius. Despite growing up with limited education due to being an orphan, Will has a natural skill in solving complex mathematical equations.
Professor Lambeau left a challenging math problem on the blackboard for his graduate students to solve.
To everyone’s surprise, the problem is solved anonymously by Will, earning praise and leaving the professor curious about the identity of this math prodigy.
His search concluded when he caught Will solving the problem while on janitorial duty. With the help of Dr. Sean McGuire, a psychologist and Lambeau’s old classmate, Will is on track to try and move his life around.
At its core, the film is about making a better life for yourself despite having a troubled past. Ultimately, Will is ready to face the world through a new lens, knowing his friends and mentors are there to watch his back.
The film garnered a ton of awards and received critical and commercial success. With its $10 million budget, the film grossed $225 million. The movie’s excellent screenplay and charismatic actors serve an incredible and harrowing tale.
1. Dead Poets Society (1989)
English 2h 8m IMDb
Director: Peter Weir
Stars: Robin Williams, Robert Sean Leonard, Ethan Hawke
A film starring Robin Williams, it’s not a surprise that Dead Poets Society received the praise and success with the same caliber as Good Will Hunting.
The film revolves around a group of junior high school students and their teacher, Mr. Keating. The teacher then starts to make their life a little bit better through the power of art and poetry.
Due to his extraordinary teaching and influence, Mr. Keating’s students start to go against the status quo and let their lives improve and seize the day. By the end, the students are set to make something out of their journey with the power of poems and art.
The film garnered enormous critical and commercial success due to its brilliant actors and an excellent screenplay. Dead Poets Society even garnered multiple accolades and is a known literary classic.
2. Akeelah and the Bee (2006)
English 1h 52m IMDb
Director: Doug Atchison
Stars: Angela Bassett, Laurence Fishburne, Keke Palmer
Plagued by the dire circumstances of her life, Akeelah is an impoverished student living in a rundown neighborhood. With her father’s death and her mother’s neglect, she has difficulty catching up with school compared to her schoolmates.
All of that changed when she joined a spelling contest and won. With the help of the English teacher, Dr. Larabee, Akeelah must push through as she enters the regional spelling contest. Faced with an opportunity to prove herself, Akeelah must move past her trepid home life and insecurities.
Like Good Will Hunting, Akeelah also comes from an unstable background, and with the help of Dr. Larabee, she has a shot at making her life better. This film is perfect if you are a sucker for emotional and inspirational movies.
3. Finding Forrester (2000)
English 2h 16m IMDb
Director: Gus Van Sant
Stars: Sean Connery, Rob Brown, F. Murray Abraham
Finding Forrester details the unlikely bond between a reclusive older man, Forrester, and a gifted yet uninterested young man, Jamal.
The talented and creative Jamal struggles as a person of color as he navigates the conflicting forces in his life. After being dared to go inside Forrester’s house, the catalyst of their friendship is planted.
Finding Forrester is one of those films that will leave you feeling emotional. The moving story of trauma, self-discovery, and friendship is enough to give anyone inspiration. If you are a fan of inspirational and mentorship movies, this film is a perfect must-watch.
The film received positive attention and reviews and is often compared to Good Will Hunting due to their similar plot beats. However, many also notice the plot and characters that make this movie its own unique experience.
4. October Sky (1999)
English 1h 48m IMDb
Director: Joe Johnston
Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Chris Cooper, Laura Dern
Based on the true story of Homer Hickam, October Sky details his journey as he shoots for the stars. Growing up in an impoverished background as a coal miner’s son, Homer is expected to be another coal miner in their small town, but Homer has another plan.
Homer is inspired to pursue rocket engineering as he and his friends saw the first launch of the Sputnik 1, much to his father’s anger.
With the support from his friend and teacher, Homer is set on his goal despite the dire circumstances of their livelihood. October Sky is a striking commentary on the struggle in education for the impoverished.
Through its storytelling, the story of Homer Hickam and how he rises above the challenges is an excellent inspirational material for anyone.
5. Searching for Bobby Fischer (1993)
English 1h 49m IMDb
Director: Steven Zaillian
Stars: Joe Mantegna, Ben Kingsley, Max Pomeranc
Another tale of a prodigy, Josh Waitzkin, shows the excellent ability for chess at a young age. During his quick matches at a park nearby, Josh captures the attention of another park layer, Vinnie. Vinnie is a mentor to Josh, teaching him reckless tactics that are not akin to the more streamlined chess-playing.
To aid their son, Josh’s parents decided to take him under the wing of Bruce, a brutal chess teacher. The kid starts to dislike chess because he finds the teachings stressful as time passes. Can Josh win the National Chess Championship?
If you love chess and inspirational movies, this movie is a perfect blend of the two. The film makes for a moving tale of a young prodigy by reconciling the threads between drama and sports.
6. School Ties (1992)
English 1h 46m IMDb
Director: Robert Mandel
Stars: Brendan Fraser, Matt Damon, Chris O’Donnell
Set in the 1950s, the story showcases the struggle of being a Jew in a systematically upheld prejudice. It stars Brendan Fraser’s David as he attends the elite school of St. Matthews. During his first encounters with the other students, it’s clear that they are prejudiced towards many people, including those of the Jewish faith.
With this information, David resigned to keeping his background secret. Unfortunately, he is betrayed by his friend Charlie and the news spreads to the campus like a wildfire. Will David succeed at the hands of his former friends and schoolmates?
The story is an excellent commentary on the elitist view of the world of academia. Although the circumstances might be bleak, David fights with all his might to combat what life throws at him.
7. Manchester by the Sea (2016)
English 2h 17m IMDb
Director: Kenneth Lonergan
Stars: Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler
Much like Good Will Hunting, this movie’s protagonist, Lee, is a janitor that is very down on his luck. Stricken by the debilitating grief, he resigned to a life of being a cold and antisocial man.
When all is going bad in his life, a call from his old town informs him that his brother died of a heart attack, and he is now tasked with the guardianship of his nephew.
The film is an incredible drama that builds up Lee’s complicated and brutal past. Through the support and reconciliation of the accidents in his life, Lee has finally started moving on. Like with Good Will Hunting, Lee finally finds the proper support in which he can continue living on and better himself.
8. A Beautiful Mind (2001)
English 2h 15m IMDb
Director: Ron Howard
Stars: Russell Crowe, Ed Harris, Jennifer Connelly
Based on the Nobel Prize winner John Nash, A Beautiful Mind details the story of how he overcame his schizophrenia. Fighting with the outside factors is hard, but what if it’s your mind who commits these hallucinations that may ruin your life?
John Nash is a mathematical genius; he teaches and works with complex math problems daily. However, there is still something missing in his life. After receiving a job from William Parcher, John is tasked to work for the Department of Defense. He will soon realize that there is something off about the whole ordeal.
At its core, the movie is about self-discovery and the process of triumph against the circumstances of life. A Beautiful Mind is a commercial and critical success through its solid storytelling and brilliant actors.
9. Kill Your Darlings (2013)
English 1h 44m IMDb
Director: John Krokidas
Stars: Daniel Radcliffe, Dane DeHaan, Michael C. Hall
Kill Your Darlings examines the rigid and stifling limits of the traditional 1940s education system. Starring Daniel Radcliffe’s Allen Ginsberg, the film tackles his descent into the complicated world of his colleagues. Then, a murder happens, which makes him reevaluate his life.
Same with Good Will Hunting, Kill Your Darlings showcases a young man’s struggle as he takes their journey of self-discovery. With the influence of morally ambiguous friends, Allen needs to learn what he wants for himself. However, with his passion for writing, the future might look bleak, but he is assured to keep moving forward.
The film garnered a low commercial success, being an independent film, and showed in limited theaters. However, it’s a hit with the critics and audiences, garnering praises from people who watch it.
10. The Social Network (2010)
English 2h IMDb
Director: David Fincher
Stars: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake
People sometimes boil down the Social Network to just being a film about Facebook. However, this retelling of Mark Zuckerberg’s life is an excellent example of a journey to success. It details the life of the youngest billionaire in the world.
You might hear that name before, as Mark Zuckerberg is the owner of the most significant lines of social media networks such as Facebook and Instagram. Well, his journey is laced with irony. Studying at Harvard, Mark struggles to make connections as an antisocial techy nerd.
The film garnered critical and commercial acclaim. As it details a very inspirational and moving story, many people are inspired to pursue what they want despite the challenges they might face. In the end, Mark’s success is a testament to the power of what someone can do by starting to put their mind through it.
11. The Karate Kid (2010)
English 2h 20m IMDb
Director: Harald Zwart
Stars: Jackie Chan, Jaden Smith, Taraji P. Henson
The tale about Kung Fu might be the farthest thing from the melodrama tone of Good Will Hunting but hear us out. At its core, the remake of the 1984 classic, The Karate Kid, serves the same plot beats Good Will Hunting has.
Trapped by the circumstances, Jaden Smith’s Dre Parker must come to China with his mother for a better job opportunity. Of course, as a young boy, this leaves Dre alone as he struggles with the cultural differences and bullies in the area. With the help of Jackie Chan’s Mr. Han, Dre is learning how to solve his problems with the power of kung fu.
The film is a comedy and drama classic. It’s a perfect family film with emotional plot beats and a philosophy you can easily apply to better your life.
12. Legally Blonde (2001)
English 1h 36m IMDb
Director: Robert Luketic
Stars: Reese Witherspoon, Luke Wilson, Selma Blair
Legally Blonde is another tale of breaking boundaries and making something for yourself. Despite being a relatively intelligent and capable woman, Reese Witherspoon’s Elle Woods is dumped by her boyfriend for being the quintessential gorgeous blonde. Elle is the stereotypical rich girl who loves fashion, her sorority, and pink.
To her lover, Warner, a law student at Harvard, Elle’s attitude and looks are not what he wants. Their breakup is the catalyst for Elle to pursue law, opting to attend Harvard, much to Warner’s surprise.
As the movie continues, Elle continues to find herself fascinated by the case she is assigned and strives to win the case due to her feminine knowledge.
Legally Blonde is a classic chick-flick that is considered ahead of its time. If you love your inspirational film with a touch of comedy, you will also love this film.
Good Will Hunting has a unique charm on its own. With the work of brilliant actors and a strong story, it has garnered multiple accolades since its release. However, as you roll down this list of twelve best movies like Good Will Hunting, you might discover something you want to watch and inspire.