The movies and TV we watch are more than just entertainment — they have the ability to impact our behaviour. Inspiring characters and storylines can teach us something new and spur us to change our thinking, or even our lives. The change doesn’t even have to be something profound — it might just be encouraging you to pick up a new skill.
Myself? I saw the classic film A League of Their Own, which tells the story of the first women’s baseball league, when I was a kid. I ended up playing softball from the third grade through high school. Here are 11 television shows and movies that will inspire you to try something different.
Anne Marie Chadwick (Kate Bosworth) is a young surfer living in Hawaii and making a living as a hotel housekeeper, but her real goal in life is to rise to the top of the competitive surfing circuit. In a male-dominated sport, being number one as a woman is harder than it looks. She has to deal with cleaning up after football teams’ messy parties in hotel rooms and discrimination on the beach at competitions. When Blue Crush hit theatres, every little girl and her friend wanted to be a surfer when they grew up (myself included). It was inspiring to see Kate Bosworth’s character and her co-competitors (including her friend Eden, played by Michelle Rodriguez) unapologetically following their surf dreams.
Speaking of Michelle Rodriguez, she made her debut in another inspiring sports drama, Karyn Kausama’s 2000 film Girlfight. She plays Diana Guzman, who lives with her father and little brother in low income housing in New York City. When Guzman’s father forces her little brother to take up boxing, she makes a deal with him: She’ll take over his boxing classes so he can focus on school and the things he loves without their father finding out. The problem is the amateur boxing league has never featured women fighters. Guzman struggles to break into the league while combating her father’s abusive behaviour. The only boy who will agree to spar with her becomes her new love interest, and we’re thrust into an unrequited love story between Guzman, her training partner, and her love of boxing. Guzman’s audacity and tenacity are infectious. Don’t be surprised if you purchase a pair of gloves and a boxing gym membership after watching this film.
Margot Robbie plays Olympic ice skater Tonya Harding in this fictionalised retelling of her career leading up to the infamous attack on rival Nancy Kerrigan. The story highlights Harding’s upbringing, with Allison Janney playing her harsh and verbally abusive mother, LaVona. Seeing how Harding’s mother pushed her to skate harder by putting her down is not exactly the best motivator to pick up the sport, but the drama and elements of dark comedy expose you to a different side of the sport, luring you in. When the pressure is on, and Tonya Harding may lose her right to skate, you see just how much she loves it, and how building a skill can give you purpose. Harding broke barriers in her career, becoming the first woman to execute a triple axel spin in a competition. It’s enough to make you want to get on the ice to understand for yourself how addicting it is.
Gymnastics is a demanding sport. Besides being physically taxing, there are a number of rules and regulations that can disqualify a competitor at any given moment. Stick It follows Haley Graham (Missy Peregrym), who brings a “give no effs” attitude to an elite gymnastics program run by Burt Vickerman (Jeff Bridges). She sticks it to the competition and the judges by exposing her bra strap during a meet after a teammate is disqualified due to the same uniform violation, an empowering gesture that might make you want to get on the mat and flip everyone off with some backflips too.
Glass blowing is a delicate craft. Elaborate, delicate sculptures are made simply by blowing air into molten glass. The art involves intense heat, and the creations that result are extremely fragile. Blown Away is a competitive TV series from Canada that brings together glass blowing artists for a friendly competition to see who produces the most inspired and quality work. The contestants are talented and innovative — one artist even makes a plate of sunny side up eggs out of glass. Although it takes many attempts and a lot of broken glass to get it right, it is something you will feel compelled to try after watching Blown Away.
A League of Their Own
A League of Their Own is based on the first All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) which began in the early 1940s. Sisters Dottie Hinson (Gina Davis) and Kit Keller (Lori Petty) join the league on a whim and end up rivals after Dottie’s talent and attention-getting style make her a star, getting in the way of their bond. The women go through rigorous training, learning to slide into home base (with a skirt on) and how to play to the crowd at the same time. Their teammates, played by the likes of Madonna and Rosie O’Donnell, and their grumpy manager Tom Hanks, become like family to teach other. If you’re anything like me, this one will make you want to grab a bat and glove and get into the team spirit.
Big Flower Fight
Ten amateur flower sculptors compete to be “best in bloom” in this British Netflix competition show. You might learn of this show and think of elaborate centerpieces at weddings, but this is beyond your imagination; we’re talking about eight-foot sculptures in the shape of massive bumblebees and butterflies. The show does a great job explaining the work that goes into making these works of art; the artists construct structures of steel, wire, and moss to support their colourful flowers and foliage. Watching the sculptures come together will make you want to get into the garden and see what interesting things you can create with your perennials.
Food Network Star
Food Network Star is a national competition hosted by chefs Giada De Laurentiis and Bobby Flay in which hopeful television cooks compete to win a slot on the Food Network hosting their very own cooking show. The contestants take on challenges like cooking an Instagrammable dish then posting it on social media to test their online engagement skills. They also film cooking segments while the judges critique their choices. You get a chance to see the cook’s television pitches are see how well they craft and communicate their own personal brand. It makes you want to get in the kitchen and then get online, to see how you might fair as an Instagram cook.
Comedian Nicole Byer hosts the hilarious cooking competition in which bakers take on elaborate baking creations in far too little time. The best part is watching the contestants fail miserably — as opposed to a more traditional cooking show like The Great British Bake-Off, bakers on Nailed It aren’t exactly known back home for being the best with baked goods. But Nailed It gives them a chance for them to prove their friends and family wrong and win $US10,000 ($12,911) along the way. You’ll watch along, telling yourself, “I could do that.” And chances are good that you could, given the contestants’ results. You’ll be attempting strange emoji cakes in your kitchen in no time.
100 Day Dream Home
In this series, contractor and designer Brian and Mika Kleinschmidt set out to build client’s dream homes in 100 days or fewer. The husband and wife duo work with recent landowners who are ready to custom-build their forever home. Mika tours homes with the owners, seeking inspiration for their layout and decor, while husband Brian draws up the blueprints. The spouses have an amazing working relationship and a beautiful aesthetic. They build homes with layouts that give space to families small and large. As you watch them make a home from nothing in just over three months, you’ll want to learn how to make your own dream home happen.
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
Childhood friends Lars Erickssong (Will Ferrell) and Sigrit Ericksdóttir (Rachel McAdams) have always dreamed of winning the international song competition Eurovision. The duo comes from Iceland, a country that has not yet had a worthy entry on the world stage. The two-person band goes by the name “Fire Saga” and is widely known for being outlandishly clumsy while trying to pull off high-flying stunts in their performances. This charming comedy is ridiculous and heartwarming at the same time, as the duo learns to value their relationship over the commercialism of the music industry. You’ll want to get your own musical crew together to start practicing for a battle of the bands.