Applause gets me. Death, of course, other people crying, heartbreak, a dog dying, that's a tough one, but applause is the biggie. I always start leaking when someone inspires a big group of people. Don't be ashamed if a movie makes you weep. They were made to do so. It's the magic of film. It's also usually the result of joy. Sad movies are their own thing, but I tend to lose it more during inspiring ones. When the Colonel stands up for Charlie. When Rudy gets carried off the field. "O Captain! My Captain!" Pass the Kleenex. And ignore the squeals of happiness.
On Netflix, you'll find many films worthy of inspiration. These are some of my favorite documentary choices:
1. The Dawn Wall (2017)
If you liked Free Solo last year, you need to see The Dawn Wall. Named for the sheer rock face of El Capitan in Yosemite, the film traces climbing legend Tommy Caldwell's mission to become the first to conquer it. But the film is much more. It's about Caldwell's incredible life. He was dangling from hundreds of feet up at six-years-old before taking the climbing world by storm. His tale of resilience, love, death, and chopped-off appendages will enrapture you. This is riveting stuff.
2. Senna (2010)
Even if you could care less about auto racing, you should know about Ayrton Senna. The Brazilian Formula One champ was a racing prodigy who captured fans' hearts all over the world while representing his home country. His life behind the wheel led to a famous rivalry with Frenchman Alain Prost, with the two trading championships in the late '80s and early '90s. His accomplishments were staggering, but most heartbreaking was Senna's drive to make his sport safer. He watched crash after crash while Formula One did little for years. A day after his friend, Roland Ratzenberger, was killed in 1994, Senna died himself on the same track. He was in the lead.
3. 20 Feet From Stardom (2013)
The stories told in this Oscar winner will warm even the coldest of hearts. It's about the unheralded backup singers we've all taken for granted our entire lives. Darlene Love, Judith Hill, Merry Clayton, and many others, take us behind the scenes of some of music's biggest stars and shows. Their Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen stories are incredible and the collective spirit of these women is inspiring. They eschewed fame for their art, sacrificing financial success, in many cases, to simply sing.
4. Undefeated (2011)
Another Oscar winner, Undefeated documents the life and times of the Manassas Tigers of Memphis, Tennessee. They're perennial losers, but their coach is poised to turn things around and introduce an entire community to unadulterated joy. Undefeated isn't just about football. It takes you inside the lives of the players and people involved in the team, offering a glimpse of modern American life rarely seen.
5. Shirkers (2018)
For movie buffs, Shirkers is an essential, heartfelt journey into the soul of an artist truly devoted to her craft. Director Sandi Tan's film is an autobiographical remembrance of making her first feature that she brings all the way to the present, revealing how it was produced and subsequently stolen from her before she finally got her hands on it 20 years later. Tan narrates Shirkers, revealing her inner thoughts, inspirations, and ideas along the way. It even doubles as a class in film and pop culture history as Tan cites dozens of movies that helped shape her.