6 Motivating Films for Teens

by Anita Naik

Finding entertaining films and thought-provoking for teenagers can be a challenge. However, you can get your teens thinking about politics, race, history, activism, and more with the right choices. Here are six of the best films to inspire and motivate them.

Hoop Dreams (Amazon Prime)

A hugely motivating and inspiring documentary following high school students and their dreams of becoming professional basketball players.

The film follows Gates and Agee, two teenagers who are recruited to an outstanding basketball program. Taking 90-minute commutes to school, enduring long and difficult workouts and practices in a foreign social environment, the two boys struggle to improve their athletic skills amidst heavy competition.

The film raises several issues concerning race, social class, education and the economic divide between poor and wealthy students that will have your teens thinking.

A Plastic Ocean (Netflix)

A Plastic Ocean is a film that will make everyone think, and they want to act. We've been producing plastic in huge quantities since the 1940s, and the documentary looks at the devastating impact this plastic waste has on the environment.

The film begins as a journey to film the largest animal on the planet, the blue whale. Still, during the journey journalist Craig Leeson and environmental activist Tanya Streeter make the shocking discovery of a huge, thick layer of plastic floating in the middle of the Indian Ocean. They then present all the short-term and long-term solutions that we can all do to reverse the tide of plastic flowing worldwide.

Destined to have your teens recycling and thinking about their carbon footprint.

Blackfish (NETFLIX)

This award-winning documentary shows how a film can inspire worldwide outrage and change. Blackfish examines the life of Orca whales in captivity at SeaWorld. Focusing on Tilikum, who has caused the deaths of several trainers in captivity, this documentary inspired worldwide outrage at how Orcas were being caught and treated. In response to this legislation began asking for the ban on keeping orcas in captivity.

Showing that public outcry works by November 2014, SeaWorld announced that attendance at the parks had dropped and profits had fallen 28%. A year later thanks to further declines, SeaWorld announced plans to end killer-whale shows at its theme park, stop its orca breeding program and phase out all live performances using orcas.

The Hate U Give (Amazon Prime)

A timely film telling Starr Carter's story, who witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend by police. At first, she gives her testimony in private not wanting to get involved in what's happening in her city.

Then slowly over the course of the film, she realises the power in using her voice to become an activist and fight against local gang culture and police violence. It's a very motivating look at how to stand up for what you know is right and believe in on a personal and more public level.

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (Amazon Prime)

This thought-provoking film about the Holocaust is based around Bruno, a young German boy who relocates with his family the "countryside" (occupied Poland) far from any town. After spotting people working on what he thinks is a farm (really a concentration camp), he goes to investigate and befriends a boy named Shmuel.

Bruno believes the striped uniforms that Shmuel and other workers wear are pyjamas and starts bringing them food. Eventually, he dons a prisoner's striped outfit and a cap to join Shmuel with devastating consequences.

With themes around ignorance and innocence and nationalism, it's a powerful look at Nazi Germany and the Anti-Semitic rhetoric used by Nazi Germany.

Hidden Figures (Netlfix)

Based on a true story, Hidden Figures follows the U.S. and Russian race events to put the first man in orbit. Behind the scenes of one of the greatest operations in U.S. history, a group of African-American women teamed up to solve mathematical equations to enable NASA to win the race.

Set during a time of racial and gender inequality, where they had to work under segregated conditions the film tells the story of the three females' achievements in-spite of all the hardships. As a result of the film, the "Hidden No More" exchange program, 50 women from around the world have excelled in STEM careers such as spacecraft engineering, data solutions and data privacy, and STEM-related education part of an exchange program in the United States.