With the holiday season upon us we often think about the great movies that we can’t wait to see, the TV shows we can’t help but binge, and the excitement that comes with the turning over of a new year on the calendar and all the new releases that come with it. But the holidays are bigger than our collective love of movies and TV, and the most rewarding part of the holidays is often giving back to those less fortunate than us. So that’s why we on Screen Rant want to inspire you and tell you that Hollywood and the celebrities that are a part of it aren’t all self-obsessed scrooges; sometimes they use their influence – and the money they make off of pop culture obsessed fans like us – to create some serious good in the world and change lives for the better.
This holiday season we wanted to share with you the 10 Most Inspiring Stories of Celebrities that Helped Change the World, and perhaps inspire you to change the world in your own little way.
In the spirit of the season we’ve linked to the donation pages of every charity mentioned below; should you want to donate anything at all to the favorite charities of your celebrity heroes, feel free to click on the name of the bolded charity. As well, the author of this article has decided to donate all of his proceeds from this post to one of the charities below, so the more you share, the more we can all help together.
10. JM Barrie and the Peter Pan Copyright
JM Barrie – the author of Peter Pan – had no children of his own when he died in 1937. Always a philanthropist and supporter of children’s charities, Barrie decided to leave the rights to Peter Pan to the Great Ormond Street Hospital once he passed away. This donation has no doubt been an immeasurable help to the hospital for sick children, which is still running to this day. With every new Peter Pan TV adaptation, book, play, or film, the hospital has received royalties; though Barrie requested that the amount raised from Peter Pan never be revealed, and it never has been.
So if you feel bad that you – along with the rest of the world – never saw this year’s Pan film directed by Joe Wright, you can watch it now in good conscience knowing that your money is going to a worthy cause.
9. John Cena Grants Wishes
One of the world’s most famous charities, Make A Wish, has a supporter in one of the world’s most famous wrestlers, John Cena. While Cena has made his talent in the world outside of wrestling known through rap albums, TV shows, and recently his performance in this summer’s Trainwreck, he’s also equally gifted at charity. Cena currently holds the title for the most wishes granted by a single individual in the charity’s history, with over 500 wishes; that’s double what second place holder, Justin Bieber, has volunteered.
Not that charity is about winning, but if it was, John Cena would win every time he visits a child with a life-threatening illness and makes their dreams come true. When he’s not simply meeting his little fans and telling them his inspirational journey from bullied kid to WWE superstar, Cena has held tea parties with Make-A-Wish kids and used his stellar attitude to convince everyone to never give up and keep on fighting.
8. JJ Abrams and the Special Force Awakens Screening
When #ForceForDaniel started trending, Star Wars: The Force Awakens actors Mark Hamill and John Boyega joined in to spread the word. Soon nearly everyone knew about Daniel Fleetwood’s goal to see the new Star Wars film. Fleetwood was like any other Star Wars mega-fan in that he couldn’t wait to see the newest film in the saga, except the difference between him and everyone else is that time wouldn’t allow him to wait until December 18th. Fleetwood was terminally ill when he made his dreams known on social media, and eventually he got a call from J.J. Abrams.
Abrams – who had previously screened Star Trek: Into Darkness for another fan days before their death – set up a screening of the unfinished film for Fleetwood. Fleetwood reportedly loved it, and though he recently passed away, there’s no doubt that Abrams’ generosity made a huge impact on Fleetwood’s final days.
7. Harrison Ford: Rescue Pilot
Everyone knows Harrison Ford’s love for planes and how he’s a skilled pilot, but here’s something you may not know; he’s also a certified helicopter pilot. More than once Ford has embarked on rescue missions via helicopter; once finding a 13 year old boy that was lost in Yellowstone National Park. Ford landed near the boy – who had wandered off a trail the night before – and saved him.
This wasn’t the first rescue for Ford, as the year before Ford rescued a hiker who suffered from altitude sickness and dehydration. The hiker was reportedly so disoriented that she didn’t even recognize who he was. Later, upon her recovery, she said “I can’t believe I barfed in Harrison Ford’s helicopter!”
6. Tom Cruise’s Life Saving Skills
Cruise was sailing off the island of Capri on his 247 foot yacht when he noticed a sailboat on fire, with five people floating in a raft nearby. Cruise immediately sent his skiff over to the sailors – a family of three along with two crew members – and rescued them while their sailboat sank. Like Harrison Ford, that wasn’t Cruise’s first rescue, as he seems to be no stranger to life-saving stunts, having also saved a victim from a hit-and-run in Santa Monica.
After witnessing the accident, Cruise got someone to call an ambulance and then followed the woman to the hospital where she was treated for bruised ribs and a broken leg. After discovering that the woman had no insurance, he also paid her $7,000 emergency room bill.
If that wasn’t enough, in yet another superhuman feat, Cruise also saved a 7 and 13 year old who nearly got trampled in a 10,000 person mob in London for the British premiere of Mission: Impossible. Cruise saw the boys nearly get crushed by the mob and pulled them out to safety, thus confirming that Cruise needs to play a superhero in a movie, like, yesterday.
5. Forget Sad Keanu, He’s Actually Amazing Keanu
Keanu Reeves is known to have repeatedly taken massive pay-cuts in favor of the artistic integrity of the films he’s worked on – such as to hire Gene Hackman and Al Pacino in The Replacements and The Devil’s Advocate, respectively – but there’s more to Keanu than artistic integrity. Reeves is often cited as one of the most generous stars in Hollywood, reportedly having given big portions of his fee to crew and behind-the-scenes personnel working on films such as The Matrix trilogy. Some accounts have these donations as high as a staggering $80 million dollars, and while that number may be off, the one thing that no one is debating is that Reeves is an incredibly generous person.
Like many charitable people, Reeves would prefer not to talk about his charity work, having set up charities without attaching his name, as well as supporting various other charities such as the SickKids Foundation and Stand Up To Cancer.
But as much money as he’s given, nothing demonstrates Reeves’ generosity and kindness of spirit more than his delaying filming of a role and cancelling of his band’s tour to care for his sister Kim after her leukemia diagnosis. He also sold his house and bought another one – with an equestrian center – just to make Kim, a horse trainer, happy. So let’s stop talking about Sad Keanu and talk more about Amazing Keanu.
4. Robin Williams: True Hero
Robin Williams’ legacy as a comedian and actor will have to forever compete with his legacy as a philanthropist. Lending his money, fame, and time to over 50 charities and causes, Williams was perhaps most well-known for his work with Comic Relief, his 12 years of tours with the USO, and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Always showing up whenever and wherever he felt to lend a hand and spread good cheer, after Williams’ 2014 death, countless stories popped up online of people that came in contact with Robin Williams, and how he changed their lives with something as simple as a smile or a joke. One such story was told by Steven Spielberg, who recounted the times that Williams would call while Spielberg was on the set of Schindler’s List. Knowing what darkness Spielberg was going through to direct his epic Holocaust story, Robin Williams was always on the phone with a joke and his undying friendship in order to guide Spielberg through the completion of the film.
With a career spanning nearly five decades and filled with some of the most memorable characters ever put to film, Robin Williams was perhaps more like his character Patch Adams than anyone would ever admit. While that film remains one of his most maligned movies, the message of the movie and the relentless cheer that the title character provided in troubled times best fits with the Robin Williams that millions of people around the world know as a hero.
3. Sam Simon and His $100 Million Cause
After walking away from The Simpsons in 1993 after just four seasons, Sam Simon continued earning tens of millions of dollars annually off the show. He was contributing most of his time to charity ever since, and then in 2012 he was diagnosed with colon cancer and told he had three to six months to live. He spent the time he had left surrounded by the animals he loved and contributing his generosity wherever he could.
After Sam Simon’s death in March of 2015 – years longer than he was expected to live – he dedicated his $100 million fortune to charitable causes, specifically the one he started, the Sam Simon Foundation, which provides veterans with PTSD service dogs, among many other services. While Simon’s name is on every one of the nearly 600 Simpsons episodes to date, there’s no doubt that his most important legacy will live on in the charitable endeavors he contributed so much of his life to.
2. Tom Shadyac Quit Hollywood for Good
Whether you’ve heard of him or not, Tom Shadyac was an A-list movie director until fairly recently. With films such as Ace Ventura, Liar Liar, Bruce Almighty, and the previously mentioned Patch Adams, Shadyac could’ve had anything he wanted in Hollywood, but he decided he wanted nothing. Not happy with his life of private jets, mansions, and fast cars, Shadyac gave up his materialistic Hollywood lifestyle and started giving back to the world. First, he donated the bulk of his money to various charities. Then, he stopped flying on private jets or in first class. Finally, he sold his Beverly Hills mansion and moved to a trailer park in Malibu, deciding that the simpler his life was the happier he’d be.
Having since made a documentary called I Am – focusing on how material items don’t lead to happiness – Shadyac has spent his post-Hollywood time trying to fix the world and getting people to embrace his lifestyle. Shadyac’s philosophy can be summed up by this quote of his, where he explained that “no one really owns anything… and we find that out when we die. The only things we really own are our choices, our decisions, and who we are.”
1. Marvel’s Mightiest Heroes
Earlier this year Robert Downey Jr. went viral after a video showed him presenting seven-year-old Alex, who was born with a partially developed arm, with an Iron Man-esque bionic arm. Partnering with Limbitless Solutions, Downey Jr. showed his true superhero colors by encouraging Alex to keep working to improve the efficiency of his new arm and to never give up.
Meanwhile, in other corners of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, legends Chris Evans and Chris Pratt made a Super Bowl bet earlier this year. The bet entailed that whoever’s team loses would put on their respective costumes and visit a charity of the other’s choice. So while Chris Evans won the bet, both heroes ended up appearing at Christopher’s Haven in Boston to visit with their young fans and show what real superheroes look like.
As it turns out, real superheroes look like the kind of people who don’t just stop at one good deed, but rather go on to Seattle Children’s Hospital – Chris Pratt’s charity of choice – as well, thus concluding their world-bettering bet in style. And while we don’t know when Star Lord and Captain America will team-up on screen, according to the happy children at Christopher’s Haven and Seattle Children’s Hospital, much good for the universe was done on the day when the Boy Scout with the Shield and the Goggle-Donning Outlaw showed up together.
Which of the good deeds above fill you with a warm and fuzzy feeling? Do you know any stories of Hollywood giving back? How about stories of your own encounters with charity? Let us know in the comments!