When done well, the art of cinema can have quite the effect on an audience. It can take folks back to key moments in their own lives and touch them on an emotional level. When times are tough, a good movie can make one feel that everything will be alright, and if ever there was a time for some feel-good movies, it’s now. Here are the top films guaranteed to turn that frown upside down.
25. Sleepless In Seattle
When it comes to folks suffering from heartbreak or loss, Sleepless In Seattle might be the perfect film to brighten their day. The film starts off dim, with Sam Baldwin sulking over the loss of his beloved wife. Despite feeling like he’ll never be able to fall in love with someone again, his son Jonah calls up a self-help radio show on Christmas Eve and pleads for help for his father.
Among the thousands of listeners was Annie Reed. She goes out of her way to contact the mourning father, and eventually the pair meet and sparks fly. Despite its crushing start, this Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks-led most quintessentially ’90s of feel-good movies will have audiences smiling ear to ear by the time it’s over. It shows that second chances are in the realm of possibility and we all have a shot at them no matter how bad the situation.
24. Stand By Me
If one is in need of a smile, coming of age flicks can always be depended upon for a quick fix. They don’t only transport audiences back to a more innocent time in life, but they are usually full of moments and images evoking heaps of nostalgia, especially when they are period pieces like Stand By Me.
While many of us are probably in offices by day and with our families by night, Stand By Me will not fail in taking you back to when things were shiny and new, and you and your friends were going on your first adventures out into the world. While the movie definitely has a touch of darkness to it, one can bet that they’ll be walking away from the viewing experience of this feel-good movie classic feeling amazing.
23. It’s a Wonderful Life
Throughout most of It’s a Wonderful Life, George Bailey’s life may look like anything but wonderful. His dreams and big plans are constantly cancelled out due to his father’s struggling family business. When he eventually gets to the point of jumping off of a bridge, we suddenly see Bailey’s life from a different perspective.
As Bailey’s guardian angel shows him what life would be like in his small down without his struggle, he realizes that his hardships have made a ton of difference and he actually had a lot to be thankful for, especially his friends and family. When times get tough, the whole town pitches in to help Bailey, and we are treated to one of the happiest endings in film history.
Rocky is definitely in a league of its own in terms of its ability to raise morale. To begin with, the Rocky Balboa story is tough. The aging fighter is scraping the bottom of the barrel to survive the rugged streets of Philadelphia. He fights for small money and works at a meat packing factory for a while before getting laid off.
Then, by chance, Rocky’s name is picked to fight Apollo Creed, the world heavyweight champion. While the fight’s end is not what you might expect, the movie goes to show us that in a land of opportunity anything is possible. The Rocky series could arguably be the ultimate rags to riches tale on film.
21. Some Like It Hot
When it comes to feel-good movies, it’s hard to go wrong when you’re faced with the comedic pairing of Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis on screen. However, once you have Marilyn Monroe thrown into the mix, one knows they’re in for a movie that is guaranteed to leave them feeling great, if not downright transcendent.
Some Like It Hot is a screwball comedy of the sort that just doesn’t pop up in the cinemas these days. Watching Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis ditch the Mafia by pretending to be two ladies in a female jazz band is a barrel of laughs from beginning to end. There is no deep message or rise from a societal low, just a raucously good time.
20. Forrest Gump
Forrest Gump isn’t just another Hollywood movie, it’s an experience, an examination of modern American history. We travel with Gump through his youth in 1950s Alabama, to the Vietnam War, to the social unrest of the 1970s and the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s. This movie does a lot of things well, but it’s perhaps best skilled at tugging on our heartstrings.
The nostalgia-filled flick will make you laugh, make you cry, and ultimately leave you with a huge appreciation for the journey we call life. If one is in a dull mood or feeling a bit down, if they’re in the need for an emotional and mental recharge, watch Forrest Gump. Each time you re-watch it is like its own box of chocolates; “You never know what you’re gonna get.”
19. When Harry Met Sally…
While When Harry Met Sally… is a romantic comedy, it should be stressed that this movie is so much more. Penned by the masterful Nora Ephron and directed by the brilliance of Rob Reiner, we follow Harry and Sally through three phases in their life, and watching their paths intersect and diverge. We watch these characters mature through a decade and finally become real adults.
The most beautiful part about this movie is that we get to grow and learn right alongside them. Billy Crystal’s comedy is in top form, while Meg Ryan is irresistibly sweet, setting the stage for her to dominate the romantic comedy scene of the decade ahead. Not only will you be convinced anything could happen in this life, but you’ll truly believe that love is real. And, yes — we will have what she’s having.
18. The Breakfast Club
Without fail, nostalgia is something that will always make one feel that beautiful mix of happiness and sadness. With the passage of time, The Breakfast Club now packs a double dosage of nostalgia. Not only will one be taken back to the 1980s, but also a more simple time in their life.
The film follows five confused and tormented teens. These troublemakers, stuck in detention and forced to make acquaintances, are extremely different from one another. That means a rebel, a nerd, a jock, and even folks in the more conventional sphere will be able to relate. As the main characters come to terms with themselves and their peers, one can’t help but feel good.
17. Remember The Titans
Taking its viewers back to the stormy South of the late 1960s, Remember The Titans brings viewers face to face with a time when the boat was really rocking. Tensions were high, segregation was at last falling, and a lot of folks were finding themselves in uncharted territory, especially kids in high school.
As a white football team and black football team merge together for the first time, we get to see these individuals raised on either side of the institutionalized racial divide grow to love and appreciate their differences and grow into better people. By the time this feel-good movie is over, you’ll walk away with higher hopes for our world.
16. The Wizard of Oz
The second that Judy Garland begins singing “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”, audiences know that they’re going to be in for one heck of a viewing experience. With great songs, vivid colors, and unforgettably quirky characters, this is a movie that can really push your imagination to the brink.
However, The Wizard of Oz isn’t without its disturbing moments. The flying monkeys can be quite horrifying, especially for younger viewers. That said, most of the movie will keep you locked comfortably in their colorful land of wonder. Try not to smile when Dorothy suddenly wakes up surrounded by family members that all resemble the friends she made in Oz.
15. The Karate Kid
If one wants to walk away from a movie feeling like a winner and like justice is something that can ultimately be served, they should invest a couple hours into watching The Karate Kid. This movie never fails to take a chunk of people down memory lane (as well as trying to catch flies with chopsticks).
Following the kung fu craze of the ’70s, kids throughout the ’80s and ’90s were flooding into karate classes. With that said, who couldn’t see a little bit of themselves in the character of Daniel LaRusso? However, unlike many of us, Daniel lived what many would call the high school dream. He moved to California, beat his bullies, and got the girl. What a hero!
14. Back To The Future
If one is looking for a rewarding watch, they should definitely push play on 1985’s Back To The Future. This movie will hit viewers with a wave of happiness from every possible angle. When people first delve into the series, they’re hit with laughs, nostalgia for bygone eras, and wondering about the possibilities for our future.
Beyond its over-the-top characters and delightfully absurd plot, another aspect of the film that will make someone smile is the soundtrack. Not only is one treated to the beautiful compositions of Alan Silvestri, but they also get a soundtrack that features hit songs by Huey Lewis and The News. And how can you keep from smiling when Marty busts out that Chuck Berry homage?
13. Home Alone
Despite the somewhat dark premise of its plot, Home Alone ends up being a solidly uplifting flick for people of all generations. It’s slapstick, it’s full of holiday cheer, and it has Macaulay Culkin taking on a wonderfully nasty Joe Pesci who was hot off his role from Goodfellas. The movie is also heavy on the nostalgia factor for people currently in their thirties.
It’s no wonder why kids found this flick uplifting back in the ’90s. Little genius Kevin was living every child’s dream. He was accidentally left home alone, had some money to spend, and had a house full of the coolest toys. Let’s not forget to mention the ice cream and cheese pizza.
12. Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope
If one wants to walk away from a movie feeling refreshed and happy, they should look no further than the film that started it all — Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. The movie starts off with Luke Skywalker, a simple farm boy in the desert who wants more out of his life. Who wouldn’t relate to that? Luke’s dream to get off of his home planet of Tatooine begins to unfold due to tragedy.
Luke ends up jumping on a star cruiser, dabbling in the mystical powers of The Force and the heroic Jedi order, and ends up joining the rebellion against the evil and oppressive Galactic Empire. Along the way he meets characters like wise Obi-Wan Kenobi, fearsome yet furry Chewbacca, swashbuckling Han Solo, and no-nonsense Princess Leia. This space epic won’t only uplift its viewers, but might just change their lives.
11. Sixteen Candles
Back in the day, the John Hughes classic Sixteen Candles painted a picture of high school that every kid dreamed of. One couldn’t help but feel good when they witnessed Molly Ringwald’s character Sam grow into herself and get the man of her dreams.
However, the real happiness comes through the comedic hijinks of characters like Long Duk Dong and Farmer Ted. Who didn’t feel like they were right at Ted’s side as he took to the streets in Jake’s car with the coolest girl in school in the passenger seat? To top this off, this all happened set to a killer soundtrack of ’80s hits.
10. City Slickers
When a movie has Billy Crystal signed onto the cast, it’s pretty much guaranteed to be a successful feel-good movie. City Slickers takes things a bit further by featuring Bruno Kirby and Daniel Stern, and even manages to get an adorable baby calf onto the billing.
The backdrop of this film isn’t set in New York as one might figure, but instead out West in some desert landscape. The guys decide to ditch city life and join a cattle drive. A lot of comedic antics ensue from there, as Crystal and the gang adapt to an outdoors lifestyle. This is a movie that is guaranteed to make you laugh until it hurts.
9. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
If Kevin from Home Alone was living every kid’s dream, Ferris Bueller was doing the same for teens. This movie follows the antics of Ferris and his friends as they ditch school and take off on a series of escapades splashed across the cityscape of Chicago. They cheer at a Cubs game, sing in a parade, and steal a car. How could life get any more dreamy?
While Ferris is having the best vacation day of his life, his principal is in hot pursuit of him, but fails hilariously at every turn. This comedic milestone won’t only have you laughing, but it is a bona fide feel-good movie guaranteed to inspire a longing for freedom and adventure.
Feel-good is perhaps the only way to describe Big. It has New York, a very young Tom Hanks, and an amazing ’80s soundtrack. The 1988 movie gave kids a look at the freedoms they’d have by the time adulthood rolled around. When he was magically transported into the body of his older self, Josh Baskin, the lead character, did not hold back.
Not only did he have an apartment that featured a pinball machine, a Coke machine, and a trampoline, but he also worked in the toy industry and had a girlfriend. Josh Baskin was living every child’s adult dream. Not one Big fan felt content when Josh decided to return to his 13-year-old New Jersey life at the end of the film. However, we all felt pretty amazing afterwards.
On paper, Grease is definitely one of the most unforgettable feel-good movies out there, musicals or otherwise. Sandy and Danny have their summer romance in Australia and unexpectedly reunite when Sandy just happens to enroll in his high school in America. Despite some differences in their cliques, they eventually work things out, all with a backdrop of irresistibly catchy songs and retro fashion.
Sure, the messaging of the film is more than a little bit tone deaf, but how can you help but be swept away by those gaudy dance numbers and larger than life characters? Admit it: no matter how many times you’ve seen it, it’s nearly impossible to watch Grease and not have a great time, whether or not you can properly hand jive.
If your childhood was framed by the 1990s, chances are you watched Sandlot. Back then, his movie was seemingly always playing on television on any given Sunday afternoon. If you didn’t catch it there, no matter; this movie was also constantly shown in classrooms across the United States. It should shock nobody that this movie was playing so much, as it is an unmistakable feel-good movie masterpiece.
Here we have a talented cast of suburban kids getting into trouble and playing baseball in what was a well-portrayed version of 1950s Americana. This lifestyle was something that anyone who lived in the pre-Internet age can relate to. It’s a picture guaranteed to cause nostalgia and longing smiles for simpler times.
5. Sing Street
2016’s Sing Street takes audiences into 1980s Dublin. In a time of turmoil and hopelessness, one boy reaches out for his dreams of ’80s New Wave rock stardom. Taking influences from bands like Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet, Conor turns his nerdy teen life into something that few can only dream of, as he puts together a solid band.
With a kicking soundtrack blending ’80s hits and original numbers, and heaping huge amounts of nostalgia for a bygone era, Sing Street will have almost anyone getting up from their sofa in a state of happiness. This is a major plus if one likes a good musical.
4. Mary Poppins
Few films can fit the claim of being more uplifting than Mary Poppins. When the Disney classic was first released in 1964, it took viewers into a magically vivid world of fantasy previously unseen. Poppins rode the English winds on an umbrella, came to life on the silver screen, and became an instant classic.
Most of the appeal certainly has to do with Julie Andrews’ incomparably gorgeous singing voice, and how she brings the movie’s soundtrack to life, at times whimsical, at times heartfelt. The movie is also one of the few to mix the world of animation with real life, as we see Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke dance amid penguins and cartoon birds.
3. An American In Paris
Arguably, Gene Kelly is the king of Hollywood Golden Age musicals, especially in the 1950s. While most would say that his magnum opus is Singing In The Rain, one could easily argue that An American In Paris is better. When it comes to cheerful songs, burning romance and those melancholy yet achingly beautiful post-World War II Paris vibes, this movie does it well.
The combination of the catchy tunes and Kelly’s dance moves will have any viewer’s eyes glued to the screen. One song that will definitely concoct some beautiful emotions is the hit song “Our Love Is Here To Stay”. When one gets up from watching An American In Paris, they’ll definitely feel touched.
2. The Sound of Music
No list of uplifting films would be complete without the inclusion of The Sound of Music. Taking place in Austria during the German annexation and the prelude to World War II, the movie’s main focus is on Maria Von Trapp, as she takes an austere widowed naval officer’s children and shows them the beauty of music.
Seeing the cast dance and sing around the breathtaking mountainous scenery of western Austria will fill any viewer full of wonder. With a soundtrack stuffed with classics, songs like “My Favorite Things”, “Do-Re-Mi”, and “So Long, Farewell” will never fail at making one smile. One can always depend on Julie Andrews to come through with a cheerful and uplifting film.
1. Midnight In Paris
Led by the beloved Owen Wilson, Woody Allen’s Midnight In Paris introduces us to Gil Pender. Life didn’t seem like it was on the best track for Gil. He was about to marry a woman who clearly didn’t appreciate him, and her parents clearly thought he was horrible. However, through the sheer magic of Paris, Gil ends up getting transported back to the city the way it looked in the 1920s.
Suddenly, he gets to meet all his literary heroes, as well as other big-named South Bank artists of the time. Through them, he realizes the flaws in his ways and decides to take some decisions impacting his happiness in the future. By the end of the film, we can safely assume he’s found true love. Midnight In Paris is a magical film that will definitely uplift and dazzle viewers.
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