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10 Movies That Made People Change Careers

by Charlie Parker
fact checked by Darci Heikkinen

Cinema has long held a mirror to society, reflecting not just our hopes and dreams but also guiding us toward introspection and, at times, action. It’s a medium that transcends entertainment, embedding powerful messages within its narratives that can shape personal identities, ethics, and career aspirations. The influence of film on personal career choices is profound and wide-reaching, with certain movies becoming catalysts for individuals to reassess their life paths, embrace new challenges, or pursue long-held passions.

This list celebrates films that have not just entertained millions but also inspired them to take bold steps toward fulfilling careers, pushing the boundaries of what they believed was possible for themselves. As we dive in, we invite readers to reflect on their own sources of inspiration and the moments that have shaped their professional journeys.

Through the lens of cinema, we can explore the diverse ways art influences life, encouraging us to dream bigger, work harder, and pursue our passions with relentless determination. These stories of change and transformation remind us that, sometimes, all it takes is a single film to set us on a path toward a new and unexpected future.

Related: 10 Real Historical Events That Inspired ‘Game of Thrones’

10 Erin Brockovich

Erin Brockovich | The Master Negotiator’s Best Scenes

Erin Brockovich, a film that chronicles the true story of an unconventional heroine, has left an indelible mark on its audience, propelling many to reconsider their career paths and venture into the realm of environmental law and activism. The movie showcases Erin, portrayed by Julia Roberts, as a determined and tenacious single mother who plays a pivotal role in a landmark case against a polluting power company despite lacking a formal legal education. Her relentless pursuit of justice and her unyielding spirit in the face of adversity have not only won hearts but also inspired a wave of individuals to take up the mantle of environmental advocacy, demonstrating that passion and perseverance can indeed effect change.

The ripple effect of Erin Brockovich extends beyond the legal sphere, encouraging viewers to believe in the power of the individual to make a difference. It challenges the conventional narrative of what it means to be a “qualified” professional and underscores the value of grit, intelligence, and moral courage. This film has become a touchstone for those feeling constrained by their circumstances, inspiring them to break free from societal expectations and pursue careers that align with their values and passions.[1]

9 The Devil Wears Prada

THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA Clip – “Personal Assistant” (2006)

The Devil Wears Prada peeled back the curtain on the high-stakes world of fashion publishing, serving as a beacon for many to either brave the cutthroat industry or rethink their career aspirations within competitive environments. Through the transformation of Andy Sachs (Anne Hathaway) from a naive graduate to a sophisticated assistant, the film offers a gritty insight into the personal sacrifices and relentless drive required to succeed in fashion. This portrayal has not only demystified the glamour associated with the industry but also highlighted the importance of resilience, adaptability, and integrity in the workplace.

Beyond its cautionary tales, the movie celebrates the idea of personal growth through professional challenges, encouraging viewers to embrace opportunities for self-discovery and pursue their passions with determination. For many, The Devil Wears Prada is more than just a film about fashion; it’s a lesson in navigating life’s transitions and the value of hard work, making it a source of inspiration for those standing at the crossroads of their career paths.[2]

8 October Sky

October Sky (ending) – Last Rocket Launch

October Sky, based on the true story of Homer Hickam and his journey from a coal miner’s son to a NASA engineer, ignited the imaginations of countless viewers, steering them toward the stars and the fields of science and engineering. The film captures the essence of determination and the relentless pursuit of one’s dreams, set against the backdrop of a 1950s coal mining town. Hickam’s fascination with rocketry, spurred by the launch of Sputnik 1, becomes a metaphor for the aspiration to rise above one’s given circumstances through education and persistence.

This cinematic gem does more than just recount a tale of ambition and scientific curiosity; it serves as a powerful reminder that the path to achieving one’s dreams is often fraught with obstacles that require courage and resilience to overcome. For many, October Sky is a beacon of hope, a demonstration that passion, coupled with dedication, can lead to a fulfilling and groundbreaking career in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.

The film has thus become a catalyst for change, inspiring a new generation to explore the vast possibilities beyond the confines of their immediate environments and to reach for the skies in their professional endeavors.[3]

7 The Pursuit of Happyness

The Pursuit of Happyness: Chris is Hired (WILL SMITH EMOTIONAL ENDING SCENE)

The Pursuit of Happyness, featuring Will Smith in the compelling role of Chris Gardner, serves as a beacon of hope and a guide for navigating the treacherous waters from despair to success. This film intricately portrays the journey of a father and his son as they face the relentless challenges of homelessness, battling against all odds to achieve a life of financial stability and happiness. Gardner’s story, rooted in real-life struggles, resonates deeply with viewers, illustrating that resilience and hard work can indeed lead to monumental change in one’s life and career.

Beyond its heart-wrenching depiction of hardship, the movie beautifully captures the essence of the American Dream, where perseverance and dedication are rewarded with success and personal fulfillment. It highlights the universal quest for happiness and the inherent belief that everyone can rise above their circumstances despite how insurmountable they seem.

For countless viewers, The Pursuit of Happyness is more than a story of financial success; it inspires and encourages them to pursue their dreams with unyielding determination. It reminds us that the path to success is fraught with challenges, but pursuing one’s goals, powered by hope and hard work, can lead to truly transformative outcomes.

In a world where obstacles abound, the film is a testament to the human spirit’s capacity to overcome adversity. It motivates individuals to not only chase after their professional aspirations but also to seek happiness and fulfillment in their personal lives. The Pursuit of Happyness has empowered many to take control of their destiny, making it a cinematic cornerstone for those looking to change their careers and lives for the better.[4]

6 Legally Blonde

Elle Woods being iconic for almost 5mins | Legally Blonde

Legally Blonde revolutionized the way audiences perceive intelligence and ambition, particularly in the context of gender stereotypes. This film narrates the journey of Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) as she transforms from a sorority girl to a Harvard Law graduate, challenging the preconceived notions of who can be successful in the rigorous world of law. Elle’s journey is not just about personal triumph; it’s a broader commentary on breaking stereotypes and redefining what it means to be a strong, intelligent woman in a male-dominated field.

The impact of Legally Blonde extends far beyond its comedic surface. It has inspired countless viewers to pursue their ambitions, regardless of how others see their capabilities. The film’s underlying message—that determination, intelligence, and kindness are not mutually exclusive traits—resonates with many who see parts of their own struggles in Elle’s story.

Moreover, Legally Blonde encourages reevaluating one’s self-worth and potential, advocating that true success comes from believing in oneself and pushing through barriers. For many, Elle Woods has become a symbol of empowerment, encouraging individuals to challenge societal norms and pursue their dreams with unwavering confidence and grace. The film is a reminder that with the right mix of perseverance and self-belief, any goal is attainable.[5]

5 Catch Me If You Can

Catch Me If You Can: Outsmarting the FBI (HD CLIP)

Catch Me If You Can, starring Leonardo DiCaprio as the notorious Frank Abagnale Jr., presents an unconventional journey from deception to redemption, inspiring viewers to consider careers in law enforcement and security. The film explores Abagnale’s escapades as a con artist and his eventual transformation into an FBI consultant, offering a nuanced perspective on crime and redemption. Its portrayal of Abagnale’s cunning and creativity in evading the law, coupled with his deep understanding of forgery and deception, underscores the complex nature of security work and the importance of innovative thinking within it.

This cinematic masterpiece does more than entertain; it educates its audience about the intricacies of financial fraud, drawing attention to the critical role of security professionals in safeguarding society. Through its captivating narrative, Catch Me If You Can has demystified the FBI’s work and highlighted the potential for change and growth within individuals often dismissed as irredeemable.

For many, the film provided a catalyst for pursuing careers that contribute to the greater good, showcasing that the path to making a meaningful impact is not always linear. Frank Abagnale Jr.’s story encourages reevaluating personal choices and pursuing a career that leverages one’s unique skills and experiences for societal benefit. It’s a testament that redemption and purpose can be found in the most unexpected places.[6]

4 Forrest Gump

Forrest Gump runs across America for 1170 days and 16 hours

Forrest Gump, with Tom Hanks delivering a performance for the ages, captures the unpredictable journey of life through the eyes of its titular character, who stumbles from one remarkable adventure to another. The film, sprawling across pivotal moments in American history, not only entertains but also inspires with its underlying message: that life is a box of chocolates, full of surprises, and it’s our openness to experience that defines our journey.

The film’s portrayal of Forrest’s unwavering optimism and his accidental successes in various careers—from a shrimp boat captain to a running enthusiast—speaks to the heart’s capability to lead us through life’s myriad paths. Forrest Gump has moved audiences to embrace the unexpected twists and turns of their own lives and encouraged a generation to stay open to the possibilities that come their way, no matter how unplanned they might seem.

Moreover, Forrest’s simplicity, kindness, and integrity, despite the complexities around him, are a powerful reminder of the impact of personal values on success and fulfillment. This narrative has inspired viewers to evaluate their own careers and life choices, encouraging them to find joy in the journey and make the most of life’s opportunities, regardless of the challenges. Forrest Gump’s story is a testament to the idea that sometimes, the most rewarding paths are those taken unintentionally.[7]

3 Billy Elliot

Billy Elliot ‘Boys don’t do ballet’ scene

Billy Elliot, set against the backdrop of a 1984 miners’ strike in England, tells the uplifting story of a young boy’s journey from the boxing ring to the ballet class, challenging societal norms and family expectations along the way. This film captures the struggle of pursuing one’s passion against all odds and is a poignant reminder of the transformative power of art and expression. Despite facing ridicule and opposition, Billy’s defiance and dedication to ballet inspire viewers to follow their own dreams, no matter how unconventional.

The movie’s message resonates deeply with those feeling trapped by their circumstances or pressured to conform to traditional career paths. It encourages an exploration of one’s true interests and talents, emphasizing that fulfillment comes from authenticity and self-expression. Billy Elliot’s narrative is a call to break free from societal constraints and to courageously pursue what truly brings joy and meaning to one’s life.

Furthermore, the film highlights the importance of family and community support and understanding in achieving one’s dreams. It showcases how perseverance and encouragement from unexpected places can lead to achieving the seemingly impossible. For many, Billy Elliot has been a source of inspiration to embrace their passions fully and to make the leap toward a career that resonates with their deepest aspirations.[8]

2 The Big Short

The Big Short (2015) – Jared Vennett’s Pitch to Front Point Partners (Jenga Blocks Scene) [HD 1080p]

The Big Short, with its riveting dissection of the 2008 financial crisis, offers a stark revelation of the complexities and vulnerabilities within the financial sector. Through its engaging narrative and innovative storytelling techniques, the film demystifies the events that led to one of the most significant economic downturns in recent history. This eye-opening portrayal has sparked a newfound interest in economics and finance, motivating viewers to pursue careers that strive for transparency, ethical practices, and innovation within the industry.

The film’s unique approach to explaining financial instruments and market mechanisms has made the intricate world of finance accessible to a broader audience, encouraging critical thinking and active engagement with economic issues. By highlighting the consequences of negligence and greed, The Big Short becomes a cautionary tale, urging future finance professionals to advocate for reforms and contribute to a more stable and equitable financial system.

Moreover, the film has inspired a generation to seek deeper understanding and challenge the status quo, emphasizing the importance of integrity in financial dealings. It has paved the way for individuals passionate about making a difference to explore careers in finance, economics, and related fields to prevent future crises and foster a more responsible economic environment.[9]

1 To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird | Atticus Finch’s Closing Argument

To Kill a Mockingbird, an adaptation of Harper Lee’s seminal novel, has left an indelible mark on viewers by portraying the profound impact of integrity, empathy, and justice through the eyes of Atticus Finch. Set against the backdrop of racial injustice in the American South, the film transcends its period setting to deliver timeless lessons on morality and human rights. Finch’s unwavering commitment to justice and equality has inspired countless individuals to pursue careers in law with a focus on civil rights and advocacy.

The film’s exploration of themes such as moral righteousness, the fight against prejudice, and the power of compassion is a clarion call to those aspiring to make a difference through the legal profession. It underscores the significance of standing up for what is right, even in the face of societal opposition. It highlights the role of lawyers in championing the cause of the marginalized and voiceless.

Finch’s character has become a symbol of moral fortitude and ethical leadership, encouraging a new generation of legal professionals to strive not only for career success but for the betterment of society as a whole. To Kill a Mockingbird continues to inspire us, reminding us of the enduring power of empathy and justice in driving societal change.[10]

fact checked by Darci Heikkinen