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15 Best Exercise Movies of All Time

July 29, 2018
13 min read

Movies have the power to inspire us in so many different ways! We take away so much with us after watching a movie, both consciously and subconsciously. This take away is most enriching when we get inspired to bring in a change in ourselves. And then, there are also a few movie experiences that leave us all pumped up to get our life back on track and ourselves- In Shape! Working out and Staying fit is not an easy task and it takes both physical and mental stamina to achieve that. And, who better to inspire us than our favorite actors who go an extra mile to ‘fit into’ a role or a character that works its way out with the help of great physical fitness. If you are looking for films that give you a great sense of inspiration to get out there, sweat it out and stay fit in body, mind and soul, you are at the right place. Here’s the list of top fitness movies on Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime. You can use the videos from these movies to exercise and workout at home.

1. Karate Kid (Series) & Next Karate Kid (1994)

Now who wouldn’t agree to the need of some self-protection techniques in a world where you might have to face quite a few kinds of bullies? While we can all hope for someone like Mr. Miyagi to come and rescue us in times of danger, it’s always good to have our own back and be prepared. All the four parts of ‘Karate Kid’ have a master named Mr. Miyagi who teaches his young student to go out there and face the world with the help of Karate. This movie has been a huge inspiration for all youngsters who ever got bullied or physically harassed, to stay fit and learn either Martial Arts or some physical techniques of self-protection. Just so you remember, YOU are your best safety-kit!

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2. Rocky Series

All those who have grown up watching this series would have been inspired by the resilience and dedication of Rocky’s (Sylvester Stallone). Stallone and his portrayal of Rocky were the symbol of physical strength and stamina. Life can be as challenging as an opponent in the ring and Rocky was the one who reminded us time and again that once you give it your all, you can win. His journey from a small-time boxer to a winner of many titles to a boxing coach to a cancer survivor is motivational in many ways. Rocky Balboa showed us the importance of right training, right coach and our personal will to push and prepare our bodies for the fights we wish to fight.

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3. Chariots of Fire (1981)

A historical-drama based on the actual story of two athletes who participated in the 1924 Olympics is one of the most inspirational films of all time! Nominated for seven Academy Awards, this film was based on the life’s goal of the two athletes, Harold Abrahams and Eric Lidell, who had put in years of preparation and dedication to achieve it. They both wanted to win that Gold but, they wanted to win it for different reasons. Beyond the dedication to physical training, this film is also about faith and how it motivates us. After watching this, there can rarely be a soul who would not be inspired to stay healthy and fit.

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4. Into the Wild (1997)

While ‘Into the Wild’ might be remembered for its questions on life, money, society and for its strong nudge on introspection, one can also draw the message of staying fit. The protagonist, Christopher McCandless (played by Emile Hirsch), bogged down by the disturbing secrets of his family, gives up his usual social life and steps out in defiance, straight into the wilderness. He is out there, on his own. No money, no human contact for days, no domestic facilities except for a broken-down caravan van which he uses for shelter. He survives on limited ration or his hunts, drags and rows his boat, walks for days, and survives it all until he is betrayed by a wild berry! Well, while this movie must have had inspired so many of us to head out into the forests, make our own fire, break certain norms, and try to live with the words of a few visionary philosophers, it must have also inspired some on why we must stay fit in both our body and mind to live those adventures of life. And if not, then now you know.

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5. Wild (2014)

Next up in this list is ‘Wild’. Similar in the name and somewhat similar in the theme as well, this movie is about a woman named Cheryl Strayed (the name seems to symbolise her story), played by Reese Witherspoon, who sets out hiking in order to somewhat redeem herself. She takes up the challenge to take this severe survival test to reinvent herself. And, she could possibly do that successfully because of her grit and strength, both inner and outer. She pushes herself an extra mile against all kinds of tests of Nature but, ultimately overcomes them as well as her inner pain at the end. Cheryl sweats a lot while on her journey through the trail and is finally free of her demons after crying those few precious tears! Now, if you ever set out on an adventure to really meet yourself, you will need both courage and that physical fitness.

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6. Forrest Gump (1994)

Now, who doesn’t love ‘Forrest Gump’! Both, the movie and the portrayal of Gump by the legendary Tom Hanks! We love this character for all sorts of reasons including his universally adored innocence and his incredible way of perceiving life. As audiences, we are also repeatedly amazed with how he makes his way out from the most grievous of situations with the help of his talent for running. Gump is saved, appreciated, recognised because he was good at running. In the scene, where Forrest struggles to run from his bully classmates and finally breaks his leg braces, we see an epiphany of human triumph. Overall, this movie is filled with powerful messages including that anyone can possibly achieve anything with the combined power of a fit body, mind and soul.

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7. Everest (2015)

There’s not much to say about the need for working out and staying fit for those who have the love for adrenaline. People who love to stay outdoors, explore nature and its different wonders know how important it is for them to stay healthy to be able to fully experience it. ‘Everest’ is a biographical, survival tale of such expedition groups who set out on the humongous task of climbing the Mt. Everest. Now, not everyone has the nerve to accomplish such a daunting adventure and also, not everyone can do it unless they train both their mind and body to do so. But, this movie has its own way of inspiring people to stay fit, maybe not for reaching the highest mountain’s summit but, for any other goal that they have set their eyes on.

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8. Batman Begins (2005) & Dark Knight Rises (2012)

This movie needs no introduction or much reasoning as to why it is on this list, but yes it does inspire us to overcome exactly what stops us from achieving anything in life- Fear! Bruce Wayne’s (Christian Bale) tremendously challenging training with the League of Shadows, led by Ra’s al Ghul (Liam Neeson) in ‘Batman Begins’ leaves us in excitement and in awe of the character, the actor and the director (Christopher Nolan). This movie leaves a very strong message about the role of fear and that how we can make it our strength once we have overcome it. This message is painfully yet, beautifully depicted again in the ‘Dark Knight Rises’ where Bruce is able to come out of the pit only after he regains his physical strength and conquers his fear to take the leap of faith. This scene alone captures the essence of the story and leaves us with motivation to conquer our fears and train our body & mind to do what we want.

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9. 127 Hours (2010)

‘127 Hours’ is a gruesome survival drama based on the memoirs of mountaineer and canyoneer, Aaron Ralston who gets stuck under a boulder while hiking in one of the Canyonlands in Utah. James Franco’s portrayal of Aron inspires us for going on solo-adventures! However, it’s the unfortunate accident that leaves us aghast till he doesn’t emerge as a survivor. He fights the situation both inside and out and depicts the most natural human instinct of survival with utmost credibility. The mere thought that something of this sort actually happened with an adventure enthusiast sends a shiver down the spine but, it also leaves me with an important message! Fitness is not only important for enjoying nature’s gifts, but it is also crucial when put face to face with a life-threatening situation. Speaking of unexpected and unfortunate events, there are few movies which talk about how we can befall on unprecedented circumstances and while we cannot prepare for everything we must do the best we can which includes taking care of our health.

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10. Enough (2002)

A story of an abusive husband and an abused wife and mother who walks out to protect herself and her young daughter. That is what ‘Enough’ is simply about. Slim (Jennifer Lopez) never saw it coming when she married Mitch (Billy Campbell) for love. It unfolds only later that he has a history of physical abuse. This movie might be not be appreciated critically but, its storyline leaves a simple message with the audience (especially women) that if you want to protect yourself from any sort of violence then you must equip yourself in all possible ways, both physically and mentally. And, staying fit is just a start of that.

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11. Million Dollar Baby (2004)

Clearly one of the best movies ever made on sports training and a coach-trainee relationship! And who else to have delivered the exceptionally honest performances than Hillary Swank and Morgan Freeman. Under Clint Eastwood’s brilliant direction, ‘Million Dollar Baby’ is a tragic tale of an amateur boxer who is in it to win it for more than just her love for the sport. This Oscar-winning performance of Swank’s was really a well-deserved one as she completely enthrals us with her fighting spirit on-screen! While not all of us may want to or need to get out there in the ring to box for our lives but, we all have our own battles to win. And this movie definitely leaves you with the after-thoughts of keeping that spirit going, both in the body as well as the mind!

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12. Ex Machina (2014)

You might wonder that how on earth does this sci-fi movie based on human vs. A.I. inspire anyone to stay fit? Well, for those of you have watched it, the answer is- Nathan (played by Oscar Isaac). One of the leads in the movie, the young, genius scientist who lives alone on his estate has the habit of indulging in alcohol. He drinks too much too often and then goes on a complete detox. And, the sequence where he gets so drunk that he passes out is consequential to the movie’s climax. Nathan’s character raises serious questions on how far he can go to achieve his goal but, he also leaves a message about the need for detox, work out, and fitness for those who are dedicated to a long-term aim. The movie may or may not have intended to teach so but, one can learn about the importance of a sharp mind, a healthy body, and good intentions for accomplishing great things.

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13. Fifty Shades of Grey (2015) & Fifty Shades Darker (2017)

There are two kinds of people out there. One, who like this movie and two, not so much! No matter what kind you are, you are likely to know what this movie is all about. But fitness? Well, Yes! Based on a romantic erotica by E.L. James, this movie will constantly make you think about all that is physical; money, technology, physical attraction, et al. The movie opens with the protagonist Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) jogging and his physical pursuits continue to intrigue the audiences. Both the characters look flawless on-screen and while that might be the result of long, rigorous training and the help of a few technicians, it still leaves some of us ambitious to achieve a fit body. Anna (Dakota Johnson) stands gawking at Christian while he shows his athletic workout skills and that scene is good enough for some to indulge into some sort of exercise. This movie might be from an inspiration on staying fit but, is definitely about looking good.

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14. Step Up (Series)

Now, working out and staying fit cannot be achieved only through sports or exercise! There are some other enjoyable ways too to shed that extra weight that has been bothering you. Yes! I am talking about – Dance. The ‘Step Up’ series has been entertaining dance lovers through screens across the globe for years now. This movie gave dance a step up in the world of cinema and motivation to many of us to stay fit, so we can enjoy this one thing that we love so much! While this movie is ALL about the sincere passion for dance, it also gives us major goals to achieve a great physique along with those ‘moves’.

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15. Sex and the City (Part 1 & 2)

This two-part movie is about the story of four friends who have come a long way in their lives and in their friendship. They sure do know how to live life, love their men and also, look amazingly fit while doing all that in their 40s, and even at 50! Now, looking at the four leading ladies of this movie series (based on the HBO TV series by the same name which was again based on Candace Bushnell’s novel by the same name) most women would want to look and feel that young at that age. For those who have followed this series earlier, would know that how often Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda (all character names) would be seen doing Yoga, Pilates, Aerobics or simply Jogging. Charlotte York, in particular, has been an inspiration when it comes to the importance of a morning run. In the age where there is no dearth of artificial means to look younger or thinner, I am still a believer in going the good-old organic way to fitness.

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