Ready to Change Your Life? 7 Inspiring Movies You Need to Watch

movies about transformation
Transformation is a huge concept to try to get your head around, and so using films as the jumping off point for your transformative scheming can be an excellent place to start. From animated classics to deep-dive documentaries, these movies about transformation – physical, mental, emotional, and more – will challenge you to see the world and your evolving place in it in new, broader ways.

Silver Linings Playbook
While the not-quite-ballroom dance montages might be what sticks with you after you’ve seen this film, it’s not just a story of transforming from a klutz to a non-dancer. After his release from a mental hospital, Pat Solantano (Bradley Cooper) is at odds with the world – fighting against his diagnosis of bipolar disorder and desperate to win his estranged wife back. He’s ultimately transformed by acceptance of himself, his diagnosis, and the idea that (schmaltz alert) he deserves love. Plus, there’s tons of football. Perfect for Super Bowl week!
Available via: Netflix

13 Going on Thirty
Plenty of movies geared toward teenagers focus on transformation, whether it’s the bully becoming a hero, the wallflower becoming the prom queen, or a group of ragtag athletes becoming a team. But 13 Going on Thirty sets itself apart because it’s more than just a teen movie where everyone realizes the nerdy girl has been pretty all along. Awkward teen Jenna Rink (Christa B. Allen and Jennifer Garner) wishes herself from (you guessed it) 13 to thirty, but that physical transformation isn’t where Jenna’s story ends as she finds herself in a unique position to change her present, her future, and her past.
Available via: Netflix

Muriel’s Wedding
A little sad and dark at times, but very funny and romantic at others, Muriel’s Wedding tells the story of a young woman in a sleepy Australian suburb, desperate to get married because in her mind, marriage is the apex of success. Muriel’s story is one part ugly duckling to swan and one part deep dive into who she is and what she wants. It’s not a pretty transformation – there’s a lot of disappointment along the way – but it’s compelling nonetheless and even inspiring, in its own right.
Available via: Netflix, Amazon Prime

The Englishman Who Came Up a Hill and Went Down a Mountain
When a pair of cartographers (Hugh Grant and Ian McNeice) do a survey of a small Welsch town, they have to inform the outraged villagers that their beloved town “mountain” is, in fact, just a 984-foot hill. Sounds like a pretty outlandish premise, but it’s actually based on a true story. What could be more inspiring than a story about a group of people coming together to transform a hill into a mountain? Nothing, that’s what.
Available via: Netflix

The Emperor’s New Groove
If you have little ones to watch with (or if you’re feeling the Disney vibe on your own – no shame in that!), The Emperor’s New Groove is a fun little parable about a selfish prince who gets turned into a llama, thwarting his plans to build a water park and forcing him to figure out how to regain his throne. More simply put, he has to learn how to stop being a total jerk. It’s a great way to start conversations with kids about how to become the person you want to be. Plus, it’s an opportunity to hearken back to the days when David Spade starred in movies and stuff. If you’re feeling extra ambitious, seek out the never-released documentary The Sweatbox, which explores how the film evolved from its original script to the released version.
Available via: Netflix

With the release of the (very good) film The Theory of Everything, Stephen Hawking has been in the news more than usual. In this film, Hawking narrates his own story and in doing so, describes how his life has been transformed by ALS and how his work has transformed (no hyperbole) the world as we know it. Augmented by computer-generated imagery, archive footage of Hawking as a child, and interviews with friends, family, and collaborators, this unique and in-depth portrait will challenge and inspire you.
Available via: Netflix, Amazon Prime

This electric little documentary tells the story of Laura Dekker, who became the youngest person to sail solo around the world at the age of 16. It’s the chronicling of an important feat, but it’s also a portrait of a young woman coming of age through the relentless pursuit of a dream and a goal. As she narrates her own story, Dekker explores freedom, loneliness, discipline, and drive. She came away from her experience changed; you just might, too.
Available via: Netflix

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Lauren Hoffman lives and writes in Seattle, Washington. By day, she's a freelance writer and editor; by night, she's at work completing a book-length non-fiction project, Up High Down Low.