in: Entertainment, Living

• Last updated: March 9, 2024

10 Movies That Inspire Thumos

Thumos-inspiring movies.

The ancient Greeks believed that the human soul, or psyche, was composed of three parts: reason, appetite, and thumos. While we still understand the first two elements of this triparite model, the concept of thumos has largely been forgotten in the modern day.

Interestingly, there is no direct translation for this term in our language. 

According to the Greeks, thumos was crucial for andreia (manliness) and was viewed as a complex and powerful energy. It can be described as a person’s life force — the force that instills a lofty spiritedness in the young and an evergreen vitality in the old.

Thumos is a source of discernment. It’s related to gut feelings and intuition — what Jeffrey Barnouw calls “visceral thinking” — and also has a prophetic quality, giving you a sense of foreboding about where a decision may lead.

More fundamentally, thumos is the motivation that drives a man to take action, strive for success, and fight for what he believes in. It also encompasses his courage, determination, and ability to persevere in facing challenges. It’s the “fire in the belly” that pushes someone to leave behind comfort and security, reject mediocrity, seek honor, and strive to be the best among his peers. 

Thumos, in short, is heart.

The ancient Greeks would listen to a poet recite the Iliad to fill them with thumos. Men living in Elizabethan times would likely feel thumos course through their veins while watching King Henry give his St. Crispin’s Day speech in Shakespeare’s Henry V

Today, film is an artistic medium that can inspire thumos in the hearts of men. Below, we highlight ten films that show what thumos looks like when lived out, and more importantly, inspire thumos while you watch them. Whenever you need to get pumped up, queue up one of these films, and then don’t let the feelings they fill you with go to waste: put your renewed spiritedness to work in taking manly action.  


An inspiring movie poster for Braveheart, filled with thumos energy.

There’s so much going on in this film that stokes the thumotic fire. 

The sweeping shots of Scotland. The stirring bagpipe music. Dudes in warpaint holding broadswords. 

But what really sets one’s heart afire after watching Braveheart is seeing William Wallace rouse his men to battle and lead them in fighting for freedom, love, and honor even when the odds are against them. If thumos had a mantra, it would be the movie’s tagline and most famous quote: “Every man dies; not every man really lives.” 


Inspiring Gladiator movie poster with a man holding a sword.

General Maximus Decimus Meridius was a good man, and good at being a man. 

He loved his family and his country, and he had the strength and skill to fight for them. 

But most importantly, he was filled with thumos, a spiritedness that moved him to action and to know how to outmaneuver the morally bankrupt Commodus. 

Maximus also knew how to inspire others with thumos. You can’t help but walk a little taller after hearing him yell: “What we do in life echoes in eternity!”


A thumos-inspiring poster for the movie Warrior showcasing two men standing next to each other.

Sports movies are prime for inspiring thumos, and perhaps no genre does it better than the boxing film, which places two men directly in the arena to battle it out mano-a-mano.

Warrior is an excellent entry in this category and tells the story of two estranged brothers, Tommy and Brendan Conlon, who enter a mixed martial arts tournament for their own personal reasons. Tommy, an ex-Marine with a troubled past, seeks redemption, while Brendan, a high school physics teacher, fights to save his family from financial ruin. Thumos guides both men as they prepare for their climactic confrontation in the ring. Watching them will inspire you to tap more into your own thumos. 

The Lord of the Rings 

An inspiring movie poster depicting the epic adventure of "The Lord of the Rings" that captures the essence of thumos.

Most of the characters in the Lord of the Rings trilogy don’t have the masculine bravado of those that populate the other movies on this list. But the films still have thumotic verve, and it’s actually no surprise that they do. The author of the books on which the movies are based, J.R.R. Tolkien, was a scholar of the classics and understood the importance of thumos in helping a man do great deeds. As his friend C.S. Lewis would put it, Tolkien understood that men need “chests” to live a flourishing life.

In this action-packed and beautifully filmed trilogy, the characters display examples of loyalty, duty, and bravery. The story’s main protagonist, Frodo Baggins, teaches us that we often don’t choose our calling in life; it chooses us. And when it does, you give it all you got. 

The Last of the Mohicans

The last of the mohicans movie poster, inspiring.

A Mohican father, his son, and his adopted son attempt to maintain neutrality during the French-Indian War in colonial America. But the men are pulled into the fray after rescuing two daughters of a British officer during a skirmish and escort them to their father’s fort. As the impending battle builds around them, the men remain devoted to the daughters, going to great lengths to preserve their lives. 

Nothing stirs a man’s blood like watching Daniel Day-Lewis running through the forest while “Promontory” plays in the background. 

“I will find you!”

Zorba the Greek

A thumos-inspiring poster for Zorba le Greece.

A film that perfectly captures man’s need to get in touch with his thumos is Zorba the Greek. Zorba is a man who lives life fully. He’s earthy and fiery. 

Zorba befriends Basil, a buttoned-up British gentleman who’s the Cretan peasant’s very opposite. Basil always says and does what’s proper and what’s expected of him. He’s lifeless, dull, and predictable.

Basil hires Zorba to oversee his lignite mine on Crete. During the film, Zorba teaches Basil how to unlock his thumos and live with a bit more passionate wildness. 

The iconic ending of this film will have you up and dancing like no one’s watching, except your less-inhibited ancient ancestors. 

Rocky II

An inspiring poster for Rocky II, showcasing the thumos of the movies.

While the original Rocky may get the most acclaim, Rocky II is the most thumos-inspiring (and the best overall installment!) of the Rocky canon. 

The main driver of the thumos engine in Rocky II is Rocky’s crusty trainer Mickey, who puts his protege through an epic training montage that includes chasing a chicken and offering encouragements like, “You’re gonna eat lightning and you’re gonna crap thunder!”

The viewer’s thumos really soars when the franchise’s iconic theme, “Gonna Fly Now,” starts playing. As soon as you hear those horns, the hairs on your skin stand up, and your heart starts beating faster. Just like Rocky, you’re ready to step into the ring and come out the victor.

The Last Samurai

An inspiring movie poster capturing the essence of thumos in "The Last Samurai".

Set in the 19th century, The Last Samurai follows Nathan Algren, a disillusioned and alcoholic American soldier who’s tasked with training the newly formed Imperial Army of Japan. When his army of peasants is routed by samurai, Algren is taken prisoner and taught the samurai’s ways. Immersed in their culture of honor and duty, Algren overcomes his alcoholism, and reignites his thumos. He fights alongside the samurai in a last stand battle against the industrial Japanese army. Your thumos will start burning red hot when you watch the final scene in which Algren presents his sword to the Japanese emperor, urging him to remember the noble history of the samurai. 

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

A Thumos-inspired poster for the movie mystery commander.

Captain Jack Aubrey commands the HMS Surprise during the Napoleonic Wars. Given a mission to intercept the French warship Acheron, Aubrey leads his crew through treacherous waters, fierce battles, and moral dilemmas. Master and Commander is a masterclass in leadership, camaraderie, and the relentless pursuit of victory against the odds. Aubrey’s thumos drive his actions and guide his decisions. After watching this movie, you’ll be ready to hoist your sails and set off to uncharted waters. 

The Last Dance

A Thumos-inspired poster to inspire the last dance, reminiscent of classic movies.

While not technically a film, this docuseries about the Chicago Bulls 1997-1998 season definitely deserves a place on this list. Michael Jordan’s tenacity and competitive drive, his ambition to become the best and always play his best, is incredibly inspiring. His level of performance rises to the almost magical, leaving you wanting to attain your own worthy, if less godlike, greatness. 

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