Whether you want to learn more about people who’ve shaped the modern world or are just in need of a spark of inspiration to keep you plugging along in your studies, there are numerous biographies out there that will motivate, educate and show you what can be done with hard work and ingenuity. Here are 100 biographical videos to check out the next time you’re looking for a role model.
These business leaders will show you what it means to get to the top by hard work, great ideas and persistence.
- Andrew Carnegie: Carnegie began working at a textile mill as a child for only $1.25, but by the time he was in his golden years had amassed one of the largest fortunes in the United States at the time. You can learn more about his success and his generosity here.
- Chris Gardner: You may have seen the movie based on his life, The Pursuit of Happyness, but here you can hear from the real Chris Gardner about how he struggled until he found success.
- Walt Disney: While today Mickey Mouse is a household name, many don’t know that Walt Disney wasn’t always so successful in his endeavors. This two-part biography will fill in some of the details on his rise to fame.
- Warren Buffett: Warren Buffet is known as one of the most successful investors ever, but he had to start somewhere. You can learn more about his path to success in this video.
- Henry Ford: This video will give you the history behind the man who invented the assembly line and brought the automobile to the American public.
- Sam Walton: Watch this short biographical video to learn more about the man who turned a small store into a worldwide business.
- Bill Gates: Gates may have been a college dropout, but this video about his life shows that sometimes determination and a great idea go further than a degree.
- John D. Rockefeller: Rockefeller wasn’t just a self-made billionaire but one of the biggest philanthropists in history as well. Learn more about his life and work here.
- Steve Jobs: In this video you can find out more about the man who has helped bring the computer into the home and sparked an interest not only in the functionality but also the design of personal gadgets.
- Sheldon Adelson: Learn how this Las Vegas businessman made his billions and where he began in this video.
These videos are about individuals who have stood out as leaders, often making great strides in advancing freedom, breaking barriers and standing up for what their beliefs.
- Mahatma Gandhi: Through his leadership and nonviolence methods Gandhi helped India gain its independence and fought for human rights all over the world. Learn more about his life here.
- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: Perhaps the best known civil rights leader, this video will show you one of King’s great speeches and let you learn what made him such a powerful force in changing the face of a nation.
- Nelson Mandela: Despite spending years in prison, Nelson Mandela emerged as the leader of a renewed nation, winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 for his fight against apartheid. This video tells his story.
- Desmond Tutu: Deterred by apartheid era laws from becoming a physician, Tutu went on to become a man of the cloth, later becoming a key figure in dismantling the system that shaped his early years.
- Thomas Jefferson: Thomas Jefferson was a U.S. president, helped write the Declaration of Independence, architectural enthusiast and avid supporter of higher education which you can learn about in this short video.
- Abraham Lincoln: You can learn more about the life and work of one of the most beloved presidents of the United States in this video.
- Franklin D. Roosevelt: In light of the current economic downturn, many people will appreciate learning more about the president who helped bring the country out of one of the worst depressions it has ever seen.
- Aung San Suu Kyi: In this video you’ll learn about the efforts of this Nobel Peace Prize winner to restore democracy to Burma.
- Barack Obama: This video will show you the path that brought this man from humble beginnings to become the first non-white president of the United States.
- John Kennedy: While Kennedy’s life was cut tragically short, he is a figure that through his family and his term as president has become a source of curiosity and even reverence for people in the United States.
- Sitting Bull: In this video, Sitting Bull’s grandson recounts the many actions of the Native American leader as he attempted to defend the land of his people from the advancing U.S. Army.
Whether they made important discoveries in medicine or just improved the quality of medical care for patients around the world, these videos will teach you about some of the people who helped to shape modern medicine.
- Florence Nightingale: Nightingale formed the foundation for modern practices in nursing and is today remembered with National Nurses Day, celebrated on her birthday.
- Clara Barton: Perhaps best known for organizing the Red Cross, this nurse and teacher made sure that those in need got the care they required, as well as fighting for women’s suffrage and the abolition of slavery.
- Bill Wilson: Anyone who has struggled with addiction has this man to thank, as he developed the twelve step process used by Alcoholics Anonymous to fight his own problems with substance abuse. In this video you will hear his tale in his own words.
- Jonas Salk: Salk may have come from a poor, immigrant family, but he made them proud with his discovery of the polio vaccine, keeping millions of youngsters safe from the crippling disease.
- Louis Pasteur: Today we take pasteurization of food, a process named for this influential scientist, for granted as well as the existence of those microscopic disease-causing germs. Inspired by the death of two of his children, Pasteur was driven, as this video shows, to find cures and causes for many illnesses.
- Alexander Fleming: A Scottish medic, pharmacologist and bacteriologist, this video details the path that brought Fleming to the discovery of the first antibiotics.
- Sigmund Freud: While many of Freud’s theories are dismissed today as false, there is no doubt that he made big impact on the beginnings of the field of psychology which you can learn more about in this series of biographical videos.
Religion and Philosophy
Watch these videos to find out about individuals who helped others, inspired through their faith and asked people to question their view of the world.
- Mother Teresa: Regarded by many as a saint in modern times, this Catholic nun gave away every penny to help those in need, and in this video you can find out more about her inspiring dedication to charity and kindness.
- Dalai Lama: The Dalai Lama is rarely seen without a smile on his face though he has faced many challenges in his attempts to free Tibet and lead its people. Learn more about the man and his mission to spread peace and happiness to people around the world in this video.
- Irmã Dulce: This Catholic nun has been nominated for sainthood because of her work with the poor of Salvador, Brazil. Check out this video to see more of her amazing and inspiring work creating one of the largest philanthropic organizations in Brazil.
- Pope John Paul II: After surviving WWII despite the extermination of many of his fellow countrymen, Pope John Paul II went on to become one of the most influential and best-loved popes, improving relations with other religious groups and influencing the politics of much of communist Europe during his time as Pope.
- Billy Graham: Whether you love him or hate him, it’s impossible to argue against the power and inspiration this spiritual leader has offered people around the world. Learn more about his story and his mission in this video.
- Ludwig Wittgenstein: If philosophy is more your sphere of interest, watch this video about the philosopher who changed the game when it came to the philosophy of language, logic, and even mathematics.
Writing and Literature
Learn more about the lives of some truly inspiring authors from these biographies.
- JK Rowling: This single mom was once on welfare to support her children, but as you’ll learn here, her Harry Potter series made her an overnight success.
- Jane Austen: Austen’s work came out of an era where few women were published authors or were allowed much independence at all, a fact she often comments on in her novels.
- Harriet Beecher Stowe: Watch this video to learn more about this woman who at 40 wrote a novel that brought to light many of the important issues related to slavery and the abolition movement.
- Mark Twain: This writer and humorist is one of the best known American authors and you can learn more about the string of events that set up his writing success in this video.
- Anne Frank: Frank never intended for her diaries to be published, but the intense story they tell offers an unprecedented look into the horrors of the Holocaust, and serves as a memorial to her life–the story of which is retold in this video.
- Elie Wiesel: Elie Wiesel’s story is inspiring both for his survival of several concentration camps as well as his work with humanitarian causes that garnered him a Nobel Peace Prize.
Art and Entertainment
In these videos you’ll get to hear about the moments that led these actors, entertainers and artists to their fame and success.
- Jim Henson: This creative puppeteer and writer created some of the best-known and loved characters from children’s and adult programming alike, including Sesame Street and the Muppets. While Henson died suddenly in 1990, he is highly regarded for his work that promoted tolerance and equality for all.
- Pablo Picasso: While perhaps not the greatest role model in his personal life, Picasso’s professional one is still a source of inspiration, rocketing him from a relative unknown to a household name who redefined art throughout the 20th century.
- Charlie Chaplin: Here you can see the story of Chaplin, a man who offered a nation comic relief during the tumultuous times of the Great Depression and the world wars.
- Oprah Winfrey: Watch this video to learn how Oprah rose from poverty and abuse to be one of the wealthiest and most well-known women in the world.
- Sidney Poitier: In this interview you’ll hear from this iconic actor who in 1963 became the first African-American to win an Oscar.
- Bruce Lee: Bruce Lee was one of the first to bring martial arts into the mainstream. Watch this video to see his story and learn more about his dedication to fitness, education and his art.
Whether they faced great odds or possessed great natural talent, these videos will give you a glimpse into the lives of some of the greatest athletes and moments in athletic history.
- Jesse Owens: Jesse Owens has many accomplishments to his name, as this video points out, though perhaps the most notable was his winning of four gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.
- Michael Jordan: Widely regarded as the best basketball player of all time, this video will show you the path that led Jordan to the success he has today.
- Lance Armstrong: A little thing like cancer didn’t hold this cyclist back, and this video shows how he returned to win the Tour de France even after battling the disease.
- Tiger Woods: Woods was a golf phenom, being the youngest player to win the Grand Slam and to win 50 tournaments on tour. Here you can learn about his meteoric rise to success and the work it took to get there.
- Jim Valvano: Watch this video to hear the inspiring speech given by this former basketball coach as he received an ESPY Award just weeks before he passed away from cancer.
- Derek Redmond: Redmond had fought injuries for years in his pursuit of Olympic gold, but in this video you’ll see the inspiring moment he is best remembered for.
- Dick and Rick Hoyt: Athletes come in all shapes and sizes and sometimes the most inspiring aren’t professionals or Olympians at all, as this father and son story shows.
- Muhammad Ali: While today his body is shaken by Parkinson’s, Ali, as this video documents, was one of the best heavyweight fighters of all time.
- Pele: Edison Arantes do Nascimento, better known as Pele, was named the Athlete of the Century by the International Olympic Committee. He is a force to be reckoned with both on the field and in his work to improve the social conditions of the poor in Brazil.
Heroes and Icons
There are some people who stand out in history for the things they accomplished and these videos document the stories of just a few of those events.
- Amelia Earhart: Learn more about this famous female flyer, the first to fly solo across the Atlantic, in this biographical video.
- Jackie Robinson: Watch this video to hear the inspiring story of the man who broke the color barrier in baseball.
- Helen Keller: Blind and deaf from a young age, this inspiring woman went on to be an influential writer, activist and lecturer as you will learn from this video.
- Princess Diana: Princess Diana was loved by many around the world, a fact due largely in part to her dedication to humanitarian projects around the globe.
- Charles Lindbergh: In a time when flying was a relatively new technology, Lindbergh stretched it to it’s limits making the first solo flight across the Atlantic, later becoming an avid environmentalist, inventor and explorer.
- Edmund Hillary and Tenzig Norgay: In this video you’ll hear about two men who took the spirit of exploration to its limits, being the first known climbers to reach the summit of Mount Everest–a feat that makes the obstacles you may be facing seem small in comparison.
Give these videos a try to learn more about the people who fought for causes from equal rights to the protection of animals.
- Sojourner Truth: This amazing woman fought a prejudiced court system to free her son from slavery, fighting throughout her life for abolition and women’s rights.
- Susan B. Anthony: In this video you’ll learn how Anthony, spurred on by her exclusion from the temperance movement’s discussion because of her sex, became one of the biggest proponents for women’s suffrage.
- Eleanor Roosevelt: Watch this video to learn about the famous first lady who worked tirelessly for civil rights, women’s rights, education, and helped form the United Nations.
- Rosa Parks: Tired from a long day at work, the refusal of this woman to move to the back of the bus and he subsequent arrest helped shape the civil rights movement and inspired Parks to fight for equal rights for the rest of her life.
- Oskar Schindler: While his motivations may not always have been pure, there is no doubt that the actions taken by Schindler, detailed in this video, saved hundreds of lives.
- Betty Williams: This Nobel Peace Prize winner fought hard to end the conflicts in Northern Ireland, founding the Community of Peace People as well as working on a variety of other humanitarian and political issues around the globe.
- Harriet Tubman: Escaping from slavery as a teenager, this brave woman would go on to be a powerful force in the Civil War, abolition, the Underground Railroad and later in life women’s suffrage.
- W.E.B. DuBois: This intellectual man was the first African American to earn a PhD at Harvard, later using his knowledge to help fight against racism and social injustice.
- Harvey Milk: Learn more about this San Francisco leader who worked tirelessly to gain rights for homosexuals in his community and was the first openly gay public official.
- Dian Fossey: It was her fervent determination to help the gorillas with which she worked closely that led to this researcher’s untimely death. Learn more about her story from this video.
- Emmeline Pankhurst: America wasn’t the only place where women were struggling to gain independence and recognition as voters, and in this video you can hear about one of the major figures for suffrage in England.
- Rachel Carson: Today we take it for granted that many chemicals are toxic and harmful to the flora and fauna living in the wild, but this biographical video shows how Carson was one of the first to bring this crisis to light and continued to fight for environmental causes throughout her life.
Learn about some of the biggest figures in the progress of scientific discovery in these videos.
- Stephen Hawking: Though today almost completely paralyzed, Hawking has and continues to make contributions to the field of cosmology and theoretical physics.
- Albert Einstein: Learn more about the man whose name has become synonymous with brilliance in this video.
- James Watson and Francis Crick: Where would we be today with a model of DNA? In this video you’ll learn about the scientists who discovered its structure and layout.
- Sir Isaac Newton: Most people know Newton from his gravitational theory, but this video will illuminate his many other contributions to science and math as well.
- Marie Curie: Though poisoned by her work, Marie Curie was the first to win two Nobel Prizes for her work with radioactivity, discovering some of the first effective treatments for cancer.
- Edwin Hubble: It wasn’t so long ago that the Milky Way was the only known galaxy out there, and this video will help you learn more about the man who expanded out understanding of the universe and how it works.
- Linus Pauling: Anyone studying chemistry today can look to Pauling as a model for emulation, as he is often regarded as one of the most influential men in the history of the field, winning multiple Nobel Prizes for his work, even when it was in opposition to popular opinion.
Technology and Invention
The people included in this list invented many of the things we use on a daily basis today and helped shape the modern world.
- Tim Berners-Lee: The Internet has become an omnipresent part of everyday life, and in this video you’ll hear from the man who helped create it.
- Alexander Graham Bell: It’s hard to imagine a world without phones, and we have this innovative man to thank for their invention. Of course, as this video shows, he invented many other things as well.
- George Eastman: Watch this video to learn about the man who helped make photography mainstream by introducing the first film rolls for his company, Kodak.
- George Washington Carver: The discoveries of this man helped revolutionize southern farming and you’ll learn a lot about his life and work in this video.
- Orville and Wilbur Wright: Travel by air makes global communication, trade and travel easier and more efficient. Watch this video to learn about the brothers who are credited with creating the first flying machines.
- Thomas Edison: The inventions of this man are inspiring and include the phonograph, the motion picture camera, and a long-lasting, practical electric light bulb.
- Benjamin Franklin: Few individuals in history have been so prolific and successful in their endeavors as Ben Franklin, becoming a prominent statesman, philosopher, writer and, as you’ll see in this video, inventor.
- Philo Farnsworth: While TV may be blamed for many of the evils of society it’s hard to imagine life before it. In this video you’ll learn about Farnsworth’s invention of the first working television tubes.
- Robert Goddard: The innovations of this man, as you’ll see in the video, helped get space exploration off the ground.
You don’t have to be a scholar, a performer or a leader to have a biography that is truly inspiring. These videos show that anyone can be a role model and source of inspiration, no matter who they are.
- Nick Vujicic: If you’re feeling weighed down by the challenges in your life, watch this inspiring video about Nick, a man born with no limbs who has never let it hold him back.
- Patrick Henry Hughes: Being born disabled and blind didn’t stop this young man from becoming an accomplished pianist, and as you’ll see here, even playing in a marching band.
- Dr. Randy Pausch: Many people are familiar with the inspirational speech given by Dr. Pausch, showing him maintaining a great attitude and giving spirit even as he was dying of cancer.
- Robert Pio Hajjar: In this video you’ll see how a young man born with Down Syndrome learned to embrace his disability, give motivational speeches and work with an organization that helps others with this same disability.
- W Mitchell: Watch this biographical video to learn how one man overcame the challenges life put before him.
- Paul Potts: Even a man working selling cell phones has something to share with the world, as this video of the unassuming singer demonstrates.
- Jason McElwain: He may not always get to play, but in this game a young autistic man was the hero, as this video shows.
- Dustin Carter: In this video you’ll see a bio that proves that no dream is too big if you’re as determined as wrestler Dustin Carter.
- Carly Zalenski: She may be just one young girl, but this video shows how this student used her time to help others halfway around the world.
- Jean Stallings: He may have been born with Down Syndrome, but this boy’s family never let it stand in his way. Learn more about him and his inspiring family from this video.
- Charlie Plumb: What would you do if you were a prisoner of war? Here you’ll hear the story about one man who stood out and became a leader even in the hardest of times.