8 Inspirational Movies Like 12th Fail You Must See

12th Fail,’ a motivational drama film by Vidhu Vinod Chopra, essays the real-life-inspired story of Manoj Kumar, a young man from a small village who dares to dream big. After an honorable DSP tries to bring honesty into Chambal, a village known for its thieving ways, his actions rouse one Manoj Kumar into swearing off dishonesty. Thus, the boy, who fails his 12th exams while his classmates pass with flying colors through cheating, aspires to become a civil servant and bring change to his country. Manoj’s journey brings him to the bustling city of Delhi, where the boy prepares for the highly competitive UPSC exams despite his lack of resources and stability.

The film brings a moving account of Manoj’s life, focusing on his time in Delhi’s Mukherjee Nagar, where he dedicates his days to work and nights to his revered education. Manoj’s life story will easily incite inspiration in anyone with a dream, especially among students working toward a better future. Therefore, if the tale has left you seeking similar films highlighting influential stories about hard work and determination, here are some recommendations you might like!

8. Dasvi (2022)

A Hindi-language comedy-drama film about the importance of education, ‘Dasvi’ directed by Tushar Jalota, follows the unique story of Ganga Ram Chaudhary, an uneducated politician who decides to complete his 10th grade as an adult under imprisonment. Jailed for corruption, Chaudhary, who always took the law lightly, remains unbothered by his predicament and simply appoints his wife, Bimla Devi, as the Chief Minister in his place until his reintroduction to society. However, his days of ease within the prison subside when tough cop Jyoti Jaiswal takes over as Superintendent.

As such, after the cop insults Chaudhary’s lack of education, the egotistical man jumps back into his studies in an effort to prove himself. Along the way, the politician learns about the significance of education. While more light-hearted in tone and storyline than ’12th Fail,’ ‘Dasvi’ presents a story that encourages people to pursue their studies despite the hurdles that stand in their way.

7. The Great Debaters (2007)

The Denzel Washington starrer and directorial, ‘The Great Debaters,’ offers an exceptional biographical success story about the underdog that fans of ’12th Fail’ are bound to be drawn toward. This film, set in 1935, follows Melvin B. Tolson, a professor at the predominately Black Wiley College in Texas. The man, armed with inspirational speeches and a hunger for success, starts a debate team to prove his college and its students’ worth. While he faces some pushback from people within his community, especially James Farmer Sr., a student’s father, his biggest adversary remains the racist prejudices working against him.

Nevertheless, after charting a tough road, Tolson and his students arrive at Harvard’s doorstep as the first Black debate team to go up against Harvard’s finest. Both ‘The Great Debaters’ and ’12th Fail’ champion underestimated protagonists at the forefront and encourage the viewers to fight for their dreams even in the face of adversity.

6. October Sky (1999)

‘October Sky,’ a Joe Johnston film, tells the true story of Homer Hickam, a boy born into a coal mining family who dreams of aerospace engineering after witnessing the wondrous Sputnik Satellite’s ascent into orbit. However, where Homer’s aspirations run wild, fuelled by one of his high school teachers, Miss Riley, the rest of the small town stands in skepticism of the boy’s endeavors. None more so than his own father, John, who wants his son to face reality and be a miner like him.

Still, despite everyone’s doubts and assumptions, Homer and his neighborhood friends work hard to win the national science fair and earn a college scholarship as their ticket out of town. Homer’s dogged efforts towards fulfilling his dreams while defying biased expectations are bound to remind fans of Manoj Kumar and his own daunting undertaking in ’12th Fail.’

5. The Man Who Knew Infinity (2015)

‘The Man Who Knew Infinity’ is a film about the inspiring life and legacy of Srinivasa Ramanujan, a pioneering Indian mathematician of the 1910s who shook up the institution of Trinity College through his self-taught knowledge of the subject. After making the jump from Madras, India, to Cambridge, England, at G.H. Hardy’s invitation, Ramanujan strives to publish his mathematical discoveries that promise revolutionary change. First, however, the man must face the prejudices of his peers at Cambridge while staying true to his cultural values and ideas. Ramanujan, who failed in college— largely due to his single-minded love for mathematics— presents a similar journey as Manoj Kumar, albeit much grander in comparison.

4. I am Kalam (2010)

‘I am Kalam’ is an uplifting Hindi-language story about an underprivileged kid from an impoverished family whose socio-economic circumstances hinder his hunger for knowledge. Chotu’s family sends him to a highway-side eatery, a.k.a. a Dhaba, where he earns money in exchange for dishwashing. However, the boy holds an insurmountable interest in reading and learning. After befriending Rannvijay, heir to a local noble family, Chotu starts dreaming of attending school like his friend. Furthermore, after learning about Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, the boy aspires to be just like the former Indian President.

The film presents a compelling story about an aspirational protagonist who fights against his social and financial disadvantages to earn an education and improve his life. Thus, people who found themselves taking a liking to ’12th Fail’s’ themes will likely enjoy this film.

3. The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)

One of the most compelling and emotional rags-to-riches stories in contemporary media, ‘The Pursuit of Happyness,’ starring Will Smith and Jaden Smith, will prove to be a favorite for people who enjoyed ’12th Fail.’ Chris Gardner, the film’s protagonist, a single father to a young boy named Christopher, struggles to keep his family afloat. Nevertheless, after learning about the world of stock brokering, Chris works hard and lands an unpaid internship at a prestigious brokerage firm. Still, the pair continues to face many hardships, as they’re evicted from their home and forced to live in shelters or places worse. Chris Gardner and his undying resolve to carve out a better life for himself and his kid through whatever means perfectly reflects the fierce devotion Manoj sports in ’12th Fail.’

2. Like Stars on Earth (2007)

Originally titled ‘Taare Zameen Par,’ ‘Like Stars on Earth’ is a Hindi film that celebrates unique differences in kids, wrongly perceived as abnormalities by their parents, peers, and educators in academic settings. The story revolves around Ishaan, a dyslexic kid with a wild imagination who often gets in trouble at school, which compels his parents to send him away to a boarding school.

However, after Ram Shankar Nikumbh, an unconventional art teacher, enters the kid’s life and recognizes his learning disorder for what it is, he helps Ishaan achieve his true potential by equipping him with the right tools. This film is a timeless classic that depicts a poignant tale about the education system. Consequently, if you enjoyed ’12th Fail,’ you will find a drastically different but equally moving story within this film that resonates similar emotions and ideas as the other film.

1. 3 Idiots (2009)

For people who relate to the stories of the characters within ’12th Fail,’ Rajkumar Hirani’s ‘3 Idiots,’ a similar tale about life and friendship in an academically challenging environment, will prove to be a captivating watch. This Bollywood comedy-drama film charts the narratives of three individuals from varying backgrounds who find themselves at the same engineering college, with dreams and aspirations of different people pinned upon them. However, within this rigorous race of education, Farhan, Raju, and Rancho find an invaluable friendship for life and realize their true ambitions and identities.

Where ’12th Fail’ highlights life as a UPSC student, ‘3 Idiots’ takes on an engineering college campus. As such, both films present similar Indian stories about two of the most competitive yet sought-after academic endeavors.

Read More: 12th Fail: Is Manoj Kumar Based on a Real IPS Officer? Where is He Now?