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Teen's Favorite Inspirational Movies

Film Writing Contest Summary

What Are Teens' Favorite Movies?

This is the formal summary report from on Teens and Movies.  Below you'll find our poll results outlining how teens consume movies at the theater and at home along with over 100 of the featured essays from students participating in our monthly national teen writing contest.

Knowing teenagers and college students are a prime demographic for the big movie houses, we wanted to find out what films speak to teens and college students. Which movies are the most inspiring? 

What movies help make a positive difference in this world?

So, we asked 4,885 teens who visited our writing contest page that month to name and write about the one film that made the biggest difference in their life.  Hundreds of teens participated in the writing contest and shared a story about the film that touched or inspired them the most.


As a part of the essay contest, also polled the participating teens about their media and movie viewing habits...
  • 56% of teens go out to the movies at a cinema at least once per month, with 11% reporting they pay for more than four movies per month at a theater.
  • 41% of teens report watching an additional two to three movies at home each week.
  • When viewing movies at home, teens report use the following methods:
    • Watching movies from home collection: 53.9%
    • Netflix:  45.1%
    • DVD Rental:  44.7%
    • Cable:  39.8%
    • YouTube:  32%
    • Satellite (DIRECTV or Dish Network):  21.4%
    • Hulu:  16.5%
  • When asked if they had to give up just one form of entertainment, teens would forgo:
    • Social Media:  28.2%
    • TV:  21.8%
    • Live Events: 19.9%
    • Books:  18.4%
    • Movies:  5.8%
    • Music:  3.4%
    • Web:  2.4%
  • 80% of teens watch movies with their parents.
GRAPH SURVEY RESULTS - Click to view larger data slide.
How much money teens spend per month on seeing movies at the theater
How much money teens spend per month on going to the theater
 How many movies teens see at the THEATER per month
How many movies teens see at the theater per month
 How many movies teens watch at home per month
How often teens watch movies at home per month
 How do teens watch movies at home?
How do teens watch movies at home?
What form of media could teens live without if they had to?
What form of media could teens live without if they had to?
 Teens and Parents movie watching statistic
Do teens watch movies with their parents?


From the essay submissions, five trends emerged about how teenagers felt about their nominated, inspiring movies:

  1. Inspiration: The positive messages in these movies inspired teens to be better and do better: be kinder, volunteer more, and spend more time with friends and family. Several teens admitted that their movie choice changed their lives.
  2. Follow Your Dreams: No matter what stands in your way, it is always possible to achieve your dreams and goals. These teens felt motivated to strive for the best possible future thanks to these movies.
  3. The Golden Rule: As Ellen Degeneres says at the end of every show, “Be kind to one another.” Although this cliché has been repeated since we could speak, it still carries a very important and very meaningful message: Don’t judge others—period.
  4. Community Service: Some movies had a very strong message to give back to others, and that’s exactly what these teens did. Community service activities are a great way to help others—and sometimes, to help yourself.
  5. Cherish Your Time: Material things like cell phones and sports cars don’t matter when compared to the boundless love teens receive from their family and friends. These teens learned that their time on this earth is precious and fragile; it is best to spend it with those that matter most.


Immediately below, you'll find links to the winning essay, our semi-finalists and over 100 other movie essays from college students and teenagers.  Please take a few moments to read a essay or two. If you have the time, make a comment on the responses you enjoyed the most.  We know the student writers will love hearing your positive input (they'll get an email notifying them if you comment on their contest entry).

Essay Winners:


Check out the movies featured in our winning essays:

Other Featured Essays:

1.      13 Going On 30 inspired me to live every moment of life to the fullest by sbrusca527 (Live every day like it’s your last)

1.      17 Miracles by lane (This teen was touched by the Mormon pioneers’ determination)

1.      50/50: Confronting the Inevitable by Ryan.Paine (This teen struggled dramatically with the thought of death)

1.      127 Hours has taught me to start living my life by lvest (“You only get one chance to live”)

1.      A Beautiful Mind inspired me to explore the world’s mysteries by Jonesy1106 (“I need to believe that something extraordinary is possible”)

1.      A Goofy Movie taught me how to be a better daughter by jklawls (Parents have their kids’ best interests at heart)

1.      A Lesson Before Dying inspired me to learn more by keilisha203 (Racism is still alive today)

1.      Act of Valor by Christian.d.kaye (Don’t give up)

1.      American Beauty Taught Me to be Different and be Entranced with the World by jaymayay (Don’t sit around and let life happen)

1.      Another Earth expressed life’s openness to offer redemption by lavanya.bakshi.3 (Compassion leads to redemption)

1.      Aquamarine taught me how to make peace with moving away from my friends by Cfarg (“Why go through life unnoticed?”)

1.      Basil the Great Mouse Detective Detecting Patience by REENA (This movie imbued self-confidence on this teen)

1.      Because of Winn-Dixie by Brisha1997 (Everyone deserves to be heard)

1.      Benny and Joon inspired my life completely by hollyymazing (Be yourself, no matter what)

1.      The Blind Side Encouraged Me Never to Give Up by abcdefgh (Don’t let previous failure stop you from achieving your dreams)

2.      The Blind Side inspired me to take risks for others by haleybopc8 (Don’t take life for granted)

1.      The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is the greatest friendship story by rebeprogirl15 (Hate should be replaced by love)

2.      The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas—a Constant Reminder to Stand Up for What’s Right by brendanmsmith (“Prejudice casts an ugly shadow over society”)

3.      The Boy in the Striped Pajamas made me realize the basis of human hate by sherry3576 (This teen was inspired to be more active in raising genocide awareness)

1.      Camp Rock saved me from an empty existence as an insecure and confused preteen clone by poliredk (Be proud of your heritage and who you are)

1.      Chariots of Fire inspired my parent’s first date by bigham8 (This movie inspired her dad to find Mormonism)

1.      Chronicle Shows that Everyone Needs Caring For by glk9507 (Be kind to everyone—no exceptions)

1.      Clash of the Titans by moconnor (This movie inspired this teen to read Greek mythology)

1.      Cyberbully taught me to use my words wisely, not to harm by tonirene (Help save a life by being kind to the bullied)

2.      The message in Cyberbully opened my eyes to the harmful actions of others by delaneysue (Don’t bully anyone—ever)

1.      The Dark Knight shows what heroism really is by KrysD (This movie is a perfect example of good triumphing evil)

1.      The Devil’s Arithmetic inspired me to learn more by keilisha203 (Learn about your ancestors)

1.      The Devil Wears Prada inspired me to never give up by Noemygee (Determination can get you through anything)

1.      Dumbo has inspired me to embrace my uniqueness by neha96 (Accept your flaws)

1.      Elf: A Movie For Any and All by MikkiB326 (This Christmas movie taught this teen the recipe for a happy and fulfilling life)

1.      Elizabethtown encouraged me to strengthen my relationships with my family and taught me to persevere by emilyanne (Family is the most important thing)

1.      Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind by Puggirl (This movie holds painful memories of anorexia and family for her)

2.      Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind inspired me to hold on to the ones dear to me by vdang (Love triumphs all)

1.      Every Child is Special made me cry for seeing a smile on a child that I hugged today by Roselle (Children with disabilities deserve to be loved and encouraged)

1.      The Fabulous Destiny of Amelie Poulain pushed me outside my comfort zone by Hatman (This teen identified strongly with a foreign film’s protagonist)

1.      Ferris Bueller’s Day Off by Cassie (Stay in school)

1.      The Fighter: Keep on fighting by natalie 101 (Even if you have family issues, you don’t have to end up like your family)

1.      Fireproof showed me what kind of man I want to be by Josh Bowles (No relationship is perfect)

1.      Forrest Gump is filled with life lessons that made me reevaluate my own life by AlexisDenk (“Never give up”)

2.      Forrest Gump Inspired Me by Jbaeza (Being unique is not a bad thing)

3.      Forrest Gump: Slow Man in the Fast Lane by Elvencancan (This teen is inspired by Forrest’s humility)

1.      The Freedom Writers and My Future Job by haggers (This movie inspired this teen to change her major from PR to English Ed)

2.      Freedom Writers inspired me to believe in people by dss09 (Believe in each other)

1.      Goal: The Dream Begins inspired me to never give up by cameron123 (You can achieve your dreams)

1.      Good Will Hunting: The Genius by kmurphy91 (This teen learned that friendship and love are the most important things in overcoming a disability)

2.      Good Will Hunting inspired me to do what I love by love2dance298 (This teen was inspired to pursue her dream to be both a writer and actor)

1.      The Grapes of Wrath showed me how to overcome in trying times by Jonathan94 (Humans have a profound instinct to survive)

1.      Grid Iron Gang: Life story by riccy619 (Avoid the gang lifestyle)

1.      The Grinch Stole Christmas by Wilson12 (Don’t judge other people)

1.      The Guardian: Very inspirational movie helping me understand how great your own life is by ksi498 (Move on in life)

1.      Hairspray helped me to look inside of people, not just on the outside by Julianne (This movie inspired this teen to make friends with the “outcasts” in her school)

1.      Harry Potter gave me a reason by artfreak889 (This teen identified with Harry)

1.      The Help by holly.wilson (Don’t judge people by the color of their skin)

2.      The Help made me realize how awful racial discrimination truly is by mycatsteve101 (Racism still exists today)

1.      Hotel Rwanda One Last Hope by Jupiter_Hadley (This teen was inspired by the courage and selflessness of one man)

1.      The Hudsucker Proxy: changing the little things by ADeLuca (Any idea can be successful)

1.      The Hunchback of Notre Dame Saved Me by noface13 (People should like you because of your personality, not looks or money)

1.      The Hunger Games by CanTheMan64 (This teen learned survival skills from the movie)

1.      The Hurt Locker by J4y50N 5H3rR0W (This teen is joining the marine corps to make a difference)

1.      In Time has enlightened me about the severe disparity between the poor and the rich by ldh8310 (A movie that resonates with the political action of today)

1.      Into the Wild taught me the secret of life by nikitasaha12 (Happiness is the ultimate goal of life)

2.      Into the Wild: The Flight of a Free Spirit by sophialorenamarina (This movie cured her “blind eyes”)

1.      It’s a Wonderful Life inspired me to help others by Evan G (Community service is beneficial to others, and to yourself)

1.      Joyeux Noel made me realize that nothing is ever as bad as it seems by toribrooke42 (No matter how hard life is, there is always a silver lining)

1.      The Last Samurai helped me see that through determination and spirit, anything is possible by papakimmmy (“The impossible is just improbable”)

1.      The Last Song Starring Miley Cyrus by officialellie (This teen learned about love and family)

1.      How The Lorax changed my life by Rylee11 (This teen learned to “dig deep” to find the real her)

2.      The Lorax let me think about how a world would be without trees by Lizzy (We must protect the environment before it breaks down)

1.      Lord of the Rings Showed Me Nobility by thewouldbelibrarian (These movies embodied courage, friendship, sacrifice, and nobility)

1.      The Lost Boys From Sudan showed me that you can always overcome obstacles by tdss10 (This teen is grateful to live in America)

1.      Lottery Ticket made me think twice about winning the lottery by jennykhounxay (About the consequences of winning the lottery)

1.      Man on Fire changed my view by AngelRaider (Always care for someone)

1.      Mary Poppins Made Me Want to Become a More Well Behaved Child by Clare (This teen was upset by the children’s actions in the movie)

1.      Mean Girls shows the reality of cliques in high school by Izzybelle2 (Cliques can be hurtful)

2.      Mean Girls showed me that happiness and social status are not directly proportional by cossshmo (Popularity is not important)

1.      Meet the Robinsons inspired me to keep moving forward by nimrgo (Failures can be successes if we learn from them)

2.      Meet the Robinsons inspired me to make my future as wonderful as it can possibly be by bellaelenora (Life is whatever you want it to be)

1.      Megamind: A Movie That Made A Difference by jamaica34 (Make the best of every situation)

1.      Milk: The power of grassroots activism when combined with tenacity and courage by abbyri95 (This movie inspired this teen to volunteer with the Human Rights Campaign)

1.      Moneyball inspired me to chase my dreams, but also to remain rooted in reality by mptmark (Dreams can only be realized through hard work and determination)

1.      My Sister’s Keeper taught me to cherish my family by heather.E (Spend time with your family because you don’t know when they could leave you)

2.      My Sister’s Keeper Cancer cannot cripple love by medranojk (This movie encouraged her to focus on spending time with her sister, who was diagnosed with leukemia)

3.      My Sister’s Keeper has been very inspiring by cchan5 (This movie helped this teen become a better sister)

1.      The Notebook is a story of true love by talya gordon (True love is more important than money)

2.      The Notebook a love story about unconditional love that two people have for one another by alannah delapa (Love is more than chocolates and roses)

1.      Pay It Forward: The Start of My Passion to Give Back by Kaleilei (It is important to give back to the community—stand up for bullied, donate your time and money, among other things)

2.      Pay It Forward showed me how our decisions affect others by otto5 (Think about every decision you make)

3.      Pay It Forward made me realize the ultimate impact of a random act of kindness by hflanagan17 (An act of kindness can change the world)

1.      Phat Girls by mars (This movie helped this teen discover self-confidence)

1.      Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl motivated me to rise from my fail by minito50 (This teen was inspired by Jack Sparrow’s fearlessness)

1.      The Polar Express Showed Me the Power of Belief by artfreak889 (“I control me”)

1.      Prayers for Bobby saved my life from what seemed to be inevitable suicide by brycecoder (This teen found God thanks to a caring movie)

2.      Prayers for Bobby inspired me accept myself for who I am by rkeemb (Praying doesn’t “cure” homosexuality)

1.      The Prestige by jamrox01 (This teen was thrilled by this movie)

1.      P.S. I Love You: Love, Grief, and Life Through Memories by queeniebelle1314 (This movie taught this teen how to grieve)

1.      The Pursuit of Happyness Encouraged Me to Persevere by sampsoncaitlyn (With determination, you can achieve any goal)

2.      The Pursuit of Happyness: The Power of Love Changes Everything by GHill (Material possessions are not the most important things in the world)

1.      Rain Man: Stand Up for Autism by kmurphy91 (Be an activist for autism)

1.      Ratatouille changed my life by small (Don’t judge anyone based on their appearance)

2.      Ratatouille inspired me to never give up by House2202 (Try to succeed, even if you fail)

1.      Real Steel by Eduardo (Don’t be selfish)

1.      Remember the TitansA Didactic Approach to Acceptance by dyu (A movie about accepting all races during a time when racism was prevalent)

2.      Remember the Titans inspired me to never give up by jpeters (With determination, you can always succeed)

1.      Rocky and the Realm of Possibility by clegan777 (This movie taught her to follow her dreams)

1.      The Sandlot caused me to realize the blessings of living in a free, democratic society by alecanderson34 (Enjoyment in the American dream and American pastime)

1.      Saving Private Ryan: An emotional roller coaster of epic proportions by EagleScout13 (This movie made this teen to  develop a deep respect the troops)

1.      Scent of a Woman taught me how to “tango on” by AlexCunningham (Keep pushing forward through the hard times)

1.      School of Life teaches a real life lesson by 15kcleary (Don’t let others get the way of your success)

1.      Singing in the Rain pushed me to stand in the spotlight by OliviaZZZ5 (Take control of your life and be proud of who you are)

1.      Shaolin by dkhut (Family is greater than power)

1.      She’s the Man made me forget to be sad by Mildstart (This movie helped her cope with the death of her best friend, her dog)

1.      Soul Surfer inspired me to never give up by hgordon16 (It is possible to overcome impossible odds)

2.      Soul Surfer inspired me to triumph adversity with the intentions of coming up on top by KiaWinding (This movie made her appreciate her family more)

1.      Spirited Away: This Movie Reminded Me That I Can’t Forget the Past by ribbitsquad2 (Your past shapes who you are today)

1.      Star Wars is the reason I am who I am by GraceSkywalker (This teen runs a female Stars Wars fan site called “Her Universe”)

1.      Step Up 3 influenced me to change in many ways by StuBz (Be passionate to achieve your dreams)

1.      Taare Zameen Par taught me the importance of volunteerism by Asmaan (The protagonist’s struggle with learning made this teen more sensitive to others’ needs)

1.      Three Idiots taught me that the reason I go to school every day is not for a bright future but for the enjoyment of learning by Roselle (Success in school doesn’t matter as much as enjoying the subject)

1.      Titanic inspired me to appreciate the virtues of humanity by yiyijessicali (“Only crisis can bring one’s character into light”)

1.      To Save a Life made me realize what impact my life can have on those around me by huntter93 (This movie challenged her way of life and thinking)

   To Save a Life a hero in disguise by LadiesLoveJaceb (This movie made this teen a better person

1.      Toy Story 3 is a marker of an amazing childhood by jselfe4 (This teen related to Andy leaving for college)

1.      The Ultimate Gift by mangmcflang (Material items shouldn’t consume our lives)

1.      Wall-E: No Walls Against Humanity by REENA (Life is hard but fair)

1.      Warrior by Whopp3rSR (A movie about two brothers who come to love each other)

1.      Where the Heart Is Made Me Grateful by awwjonna (This teen is now grateful for her privileges)

1.      Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken inspired me to persevere through hard times by smiley:) (“The grass is not always greener on the other side, but we can make our grass greener with a little extra work”)

1.      Zombieland: Enjoy the little things by meloveskittys (Live and break the rules in life)

Writing Contest Archive - Students

Writing Contests and Teen Trend Reports Student Writing Contests

Below you will find all of the monthly writing contests and teen trend reports from the last five years hosted by  Our dedication to digital literacy efforts have reached over 1,000,000 students and teachers in the last half decade, received mention on, and features in the news.  Feel free to click through and read the top essay submissions from any given month. is honored to be one of the most-visited writing contests for students in the world.  We love working with you as we celebrate the journey as life-long readers and writers...

2016 Writing Contests

Writing Contest for High School Students

2015 Writing Contests

2014 Writing Contests

 2013 Writing Contests

2012 Writing Contests

2011 Writing Contests

 2010 Writing Contests

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