Life as a single parent comes with many challenges and obstacles to overcome. Stigmas surrounding single parenting can have an effect on how single parents view themselves. Having a bit of inspiration can help lift the spirits of single parents as they work to navigate the trials that can come with raising children alone. Sometimes the best forms of inspiration come from watching on-screen characters overcome similar obstacles that we battle in life.
Watching movie characters whose stories mirror our lives can help us see ourselves in them and inspire us to overcome our challenges.
If you’re looking for characters that inspire single parents everywhere, this list has you covered.
Warning: You’ll need to keep a box of tissue nearby for some of these because they tug at your heart. Some will have you raising your fist in solidarity, and others provide you with several spine-tingling thrills from start to finish.
Here is a list of inspirational movies single parents can enjoy again and again.
Table of Contents
- Mrs. Doubtfire
- Erin Brockovich
- I am Sam
- The Pursuit of Happyness
- Forrest Gump
- Where the Heart Is
A 90s classic, Mrs. Doubtfire highlights the effects of divorce on the entire family. Robin Williams portrays a struggling actor whose marriage is on the rocks and makes one last push to stay in his children’s lives. He goes to hilarious lengths, even dressing up as a nanny, to stay connected with his children.
While the movie is filled with many side-splitting moments, it also brings attention to several sobering topics, such as
- How far some parents are willing to go to stay in their children’s lives
- The challenges that newly divorced parents must navigate
- softening the long-term consequences that a failed marriage can have on children.
This inspirational film starring Julia Roberts is about a twice-divorced mom of three who must fight tooth and nail to make ends meet. While working as a legal secretary, Erin Brockovich’s hard-nosed efforts helped her take on a multi-billion dollar corporation and expose one of the most significant environmental health hazards in recent memory.
Erin Brockovich serves as a beacon for those who remain committed to doing what’s right and serves as inspiration for knocking down barriers that show up at every turn.
The fact that this movie is based on a true story can give you even more reason to cheer on every action that Erin takes.
I am Sam
A unique spin on single parenthood, I am Sam highlights a seldom talked about single-parenthood perspective, a family broken by a mother’s abandonment instead of the other way around.
In this movie, Sean Penn does a masterful job of portraying Sam, a father with the mental capacity of a 7-year-old trying to raise his daughter Lucy, played by Dakota Fanning.
Sam and his daughter have a special bond, but as his daughter matures, she realizes that her dad is different from others, which puts her in a unique position as both his daughter and his intellectual superior.
A social worker gets wind of their situation and has Lucy removed from Sam’s custody, placing her in a foster home. The film’s premise is centered around the power of love, having supportive friends, and the importance of kindness. I am Sam is definitely a movie that will take you through a wide range of emotions, so make sure that you’re ready to laugh, cry and feel every emotion from this uplifting story.
Room is one of the lesser-known films on the list, but it remains an inspiring story of a mother’s courage and willingness to do whatever it takes to protect her son. Brie Larson stars as Joy Newsome, a woman who has been abducted and held against her will and must raise her young son in a filthy shack.
The story follows Joy as she desperately fights to protect her son from their captor, the despicable Old Nick. Even as her mental health deteriorates, Joy does her best to preserve her son’s hopeful outlook on a world that he has never seen beyond a television screen.
She fights to protect him from danger by any means necessary, even suffering through repeated sexual abuse from her captor.
Room is a realistic look at how parents are willing to do anything for their children, even at steep personal costs.
The Pursuit of Happyness
Based on an incredible true story, the pursuit of happyness follows Chris Gardner, played by Will Smith, as he fights through many setbacks and heartaches to raise his young son on his own while chasing his dream of becoming a stockbroker.
During the film, Chris must cope with the end of his marriage, underemployment, and homelessness as he works tirelessly to make a better life for his son. The film is a tale of a man who nearly loses everything on his way to success but finds a way to persevere despite crippling setbacks and the odds heavily stacked against him.
Many people can quote this 1994 academy award winner line by line. While this story primarily centers around significant historical events told through the eyes of a mentally impaired man, Forrest Gump (played by Tom Hanks), the unsung hero of the story is Forrest’s mother, played by Sally Field. Forrest’s mother plays a pivotal role in shaping his positive outlook on life and instilling confidence in him.
She never allows him to use his handicap as an excuse not to be the best he can be and works to get others to see Forrest as worthy of all the opportunities available to him. Many single parents can identify with having to build their children up while the world works hard to destroy their self-esteem.
This movie confronts many uncomfortable truths about loss, healing, and navigating parenthood alone. Kevin Hart plays Matt, a recently widowed man trying to raise his daughter alone despite his mother-in-law’s disapproval, sexism, and his limitations.
Fatherhood tackles the reality that single fathers must grapple with daily, such as
- Perceived incompetence from others
- Disbelieving family members
This movie hits on the lows of adjusting to sudden loss and also celebrates the concept of recovering from your wounds as you forge ahead through parenthood.
As you watch, you may question yourself about what you would do if facing any of the dilemmas the characters in this film had to shoulder.
Where the Heart Is
This film tackles the difficult subjects of abandonment, teen pregnancy, and single motherhood all in one. Natalie Portman portrays a 17-year-old named Novalee, whose boyfriend has deserted her at a grocery store, leaving her to fend for herself as her due date approaches. The story becomes comical as Novalee takes up residence inside the store as she is out of options. She is forced to deliver her baby in the store, which makes her an overnight celebrity.
You’ll encounter many twists and turns throughout this story which is packed with plenty of comic relief mixed into the drama.
One of the great things about movies is seeing ourselves in the characters. Being a single parent brings ebbs and flows that can wear down even the most optimistic person.
But, these films are among many that single parents can utilize to help them navigate the complexities of raising children–or simply find a good laugh.