Study Motivation: Cozy Films

Anyone in high school knows that May is the cruelest month—when finals, AP Exams, standardized tests, and the need to finalize summer plans combine to really stress you out! Although you might love English, history, or math, even your favorite subjects may lose their luster when you’re studying for a test and can no longer focus on the page that’s right in front of you. 

I love books and films, so whenever I find myself losing enthusiasm, I turn to media to reignite my passion and give me some motivation to study. Here are some suggestions for cozy films that might help you renew your enthusiasm for intellectual pursuits and bolster your study habits. Put these movies on in the background for an aesthetic background soundtrack, take a study break with tea and cookies, or save them as a reward to refresh yourself after you’re done with exams!


English Language and Literature:

Bright Star (2009)

This quiet, beautiful period drama pays tribute to the poetry and the romance of John Keats. You’ll probably recognize some of the poems from English class, but the actors’ expressive recitations imbue the old texts with great feeling, and the film as a whole conveys a love of life that inspires me every time. Bonus: quill pens were really used, and many of the lines are taken directly from Keats’s letters. Thanks, BBC!


STEM (and US History):

Hidden Figures (2016)

Inspired by the true story of the Black women mathematicians who did vital work at NASA during the Space Race, this critically-acclaimed film embraces the love of mathematics while showcasing these trailblazers’ inspiring brilliance. Seeing women in STEM succeed is always very gratifying. Bonus: glamorous mid-century styles, feel-good anthems and classic songs, and (spoiler alert) a happy ending.


STEM (especially robotics):

Big Hero 6 (2014)

You’ll laugh, cry, and quote this feel-good family film set in a clean, colorful near-future. Although it flew under the radar, this animated superhero comedy tells a classic tale about believing in science’s power to improve our world. Robotics prodigies Hiro and his friends are all dealing with family issues, but their friendship and determination will save the day (and maybe your enthusiasm for robotics). Bonus: Super-cute robots and pets, fun sci-fi inventions, and a compassionate depiction of grief and loneliness.


US History:

The Hamilton film (2020)

Now available on Disney+, this Lin-Manuel Miranda smash hit captures the scrappy underdog spirit of the American Revolution and aftermath, depicting an exciting time when the Founding Fathers found themselves empowered to shape their own world and did so optimistically, believing (more or less) the best of humanity. Bonus: incredible soundtrack and choreography, nonstop action, deep emotions, and, of course, the famous duel (my personal highlight when I was taking APUSH).


AP Euro (and/or Spanish language):

Alatriste (2006)

If you were worried you might forget what the heck the Eighty Years’ War was about, this film starring Viggo Mortensen will help. It’s an incredibly lush historical epic that takes on lesser-seen settings in seventeenth-century Spain and the Spanish Netherlands. Detailed material culture, political scheming, visceral action sequences, romance, and syphilis: in other words, the film includes all the best parts of AP Euro. Bonus: Did you ever want to see Aragorn with a wheel-lock pistol? Here’s your chance.


Stories like these can be powerfully motivating. Good luck with studying – and may you be forever inspired!

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