One reason anti-bullying movies tend to be so popular is probably because most of us love to root for the underdog—a position we've all held at one time or another. These inspiring movies are typically set in high school, an environment that is notorious for merciless bullying, but it's also interesting to see how former victims react when they are faced with bullies as adults in films like Never Been Kissed and You Again. Here are some of our favorites.
My Bodyguard: One of the first films to really explore schoolyard abuse is this 1980 dramedy that follows Clifford, who is subjected to a lot of harassment from bullies when he attends a new high school. He tries to hire Ricky, a big, intimidating student, to be his bodyguard. Although Ricky refuses to take his money, he does occasionally protect him, out of friendship. The most inspiring part of the film is when Clifford proves he can defend himself while Ricky coaches him through a fight with the worst bully around.
The Princess Diaries: This 2001 romantic comedy starring Anne Hathaway as shy high school misfit Mia Thermopolis, who finds out she's a princess, shows how success can be the best revenge. The bullies who picked on her quirky appearance and awkwardness suddenly want to be her friends when they find out she's royalty. Mia outshines the popular kids, not just due to her makeover or "princess lessons", but because she finally comes out of her shell and has new found self-esteem.
Precious: The worst bullies are sometimes at home, as this powerful 2009 drama shows. Gabourey Sidibe made her acting debut as a 16-year-old victim of physical, sexual and emotional abuse by her parents. With the help of a teacher (Paula Patton), a social worker (Mariah Carey), and a new friend (Lenny Kravitz), the underprivileged teen mom not only breaks free of her destructive home but gets her life on track and embarks on a hopeful future.
About a Boy: In this 2002 dramedy, preteen social outcast Marcus (Nicholas Hoult) finds an unlikely ally in cynical, self-serving, young bachelor Will (Hugh Grant). Will, who initially wants Marcus to pose as his son so he can attract women, teaches the boy how to be cool, but the two gradually become friends, and the mature, responsible Marcus has a huge impact on Will's life.
The Karate Kid: Possibly the most iconic anti-bullying film of all time is this 1984 franchise starter starring Ralph Macchio as Daniel, a bullied teen who learns self defense from a martial arts master (Pat Morita). While this inspiring coming-of-age tale follows the familiar premise of a mistreated new kid in school, it is a unique story; partly because through karate, Daniel is taught to harness what is in his heart and mind, rather than just focusing on his physical capabilities.
Never Been Kissed: This 1999 romantic comedy stars Drew Barrymore as Josie, a 25-year-old journalist whose memories of her awkward and painful teenage years are reawakened when she is forced to pose as a high school student for an undercover expose. This time, Josie manages to be accepted by the type of "in crowd" that once tormented her—but as gratifying as it is to fit in, she soon gets her priorities in order and heals some of her old scars by standing up for a new friend who is being bullied.
You Again: Offering a fresh spin on the anti-bullying theme is this 2010 comedy starring Kristen Bell as Marni, a young woman who must revisit an upsetting chapter of the past when her brother gets engaged to the girl who relentlessly bullied her in high school. She tries to prevent the marriage by exposing her nemesis, but in doing so, learns that it is possible for even the worst bullies to change. It's a positive movie that shifts the focus from revenge to the value of making peace with old enemies.
Mean Girls: This is among the most popular anti-bullying films to date and is as entertaining as it is inspiring. The 2004 comedy centers on "in crowd" girl Cady (Lindsay Lohan), who suffers the wrath of a group known as "The Plastics" after trying to infiltrate their group and accidentally falling for the "wrong" guy. The story explores the vicious side of high school social life in this film written by Tina Fey and based on Rosalind Wiseman's book Queen Bees and Wannabes.