Movies motivate students for fall semester

Charles Liu

With the school year in full swing, it’s time to hit the books again. To help you make this semester a great one, check out a few of these movies to get motivated.


Rudy Ruettiger (Sean Astin) dreams of playing football for the University of Notre Dame, but he lacks the grades, skill and stature necessary to achieve his goal. Undaunted by his shortcomings, he sets out to become a member of the Fighting Irish, working through junior college and, later, against a defiant coach who refuses to put him in a play.

Drawing from the actual experiences of the real Rudy Ruettiger, “Rudy” builds to a stellar climax in which he finally takes to the field. Like its central character, the film is brimming with an inspirational spirit. The movie earns its biggest moments through wonderful characters and a magnetic performance from Astin. “Rudy” is, without a doubt, one of cinema’s greatest sports pictures. 

“October Sky”

Homer Hickam (Jake Gyllenhaal) is desperate to escape the mining town of Coalwood, West Virginia. When he watches Sputnik 1 pass over his home one starry night, he is inspired to build rockets of his own, hoping they will be his ticket out. He and his friends fall in love with the craft, much to the chagrin of Homer’s father, John (Chris Cooper), who wants his son to work in the coal mines. Father and son clash as a national science fair approaches, and Homer may not be able to win without his father’s help.

“October Sky” is director Joe Johnston’s masterpiece. Like “Rudy,” this movie is biographical, following the real-life Homer, who went on to work as an engineer for NASA. It’s a thoughtful throwback to the 1950s, the beginning of an age that inspired awe in people across the globe. It’s a powerful tale about a boy finding strength in his convictions, his friends and his mentors. 

“A Beautiful Mind”

The third “based on a true story” movie on this list, “A Beautiful Mind” is a biopic about John Nash (Russell Crowe), a brilliant mathematician who battled schizophrenia for much of his life. He’s introduced as a socially awkward Princeton student who develops a breakthrough theory of economics but fails at forming relationships. Then, as a professor, he meets Alicia Larde (Jennifer Connelly), a woman who will change how he sees people in ways he couldn’t have imagined.

Director Ron Howard’s “A Beautiful Mind” features loss and tragedy as Nash repeatedly succumbs to his disease. Crowe is devastating as a broken man, while Connelly brings warmth and comfort to the film’s sometimes cold, sometimes unsettling, atmosphere. “A Beautiful Mind” urges people not to overcome disability alone, but by leaning on the love of others.

“Stranger than Fiction”

It’s refreshing to see Will Ferrell in a dramatic role as Harold Crick, an IRS agent obsessed with keeping his life ordered, living strictly by the time on his watch. One day, he wakes up to hear a disembodied voice (Emma Thompson) narrating his activities — and the voice declares he will soon die. With the help of a literature professor (Dustin Hoffman), Harold discovers that he is the main character in a book by author Karen Eiffel, renowned for killing off her main characters. Harold must grapple with the inevitability of his death and the unfulfilling life he’s lived.

“Stranger Than Fiction” uses the certainty of death as a motivator for improvement. It forces us to ponder what we would do if we knew our lives would be cut short. Crick’s journey of self-discovery is a lovable and endearing one, and it’s one we all should take.