By now we’ve learned that life is hard. It’s a good thing that coffee helps, and so does other indulgent treats. Still, there are times we need more insight, inspiration, and basically a reminder that we’re doing okay. Enter feel-good movies. Now these don’t need to be outright cheery. Some of the best feel-good movies rely on its ability to encourage while putting your worries to rest. If you’re looking to feel inspired and trust that things always work out for the best, we’ve compiled 20 of the best feel-good movies you can watch on Netflix right now.
The Little Prince (2015)
Director: Mark Osborne
Writers: Bob Persichetti, Irena Brignull
Cast: Jeff Bridges, Rachel McAdams, Paul Rudd, Marion Cotillard, Benicio del Toro, James Franco, Ricky Gervais, Paul Giamatti
Based on Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s novella of the same name, The Little Prince tells the story of a girl and her aviator neighbor as she’s introduced to a world where she can dream and let her imagination roam free. Her friendship with the aviator also helps her rediscovers the essence of her childhood.
That’s why The Little Prince can be your pick-me-up for today. It is filled with feel-good realizations about the importance of human connections. It will even inspire you to break free from the rat race elements of the modern world just so you can properly gaze at the stars.
Director: Danny DeVito
Writers: Nicholas Kazan, Robin Swicord
Cast: Danny DeVito, Rhea Perlman, Embeth Davidtz, Pam Ferris, Mara Wilson
Matilda is a young girl who pretty much takes care of herself with her family constantly neglecting her. A young genius with psychokinetic abilities, she uses her special skills to teach her family a lesson from time to time. She also uses her powers to deal with her school’s ruthless principal, who regularly terrorizes the students with her cruelty.
Based on Roald Dahl’s 1988 novel of the same name, Matilda is a delightful watch with its bizarre yet charming quality and the grownups being the ridiculous villains. The movie adaptation also succeeded in capturing the book’s allure.
The Incredible Jessica James (2017)
Director: James C. Strouse
Writer: James C. Strouse
Cast: Jessica Williams, Chris O’Dowd, Noël Wells, Lakeith Stanfield, Megan Ketch, Zabryna Guevara
Jessica is an aspiring playwright struggling to get over her ex. She then meets Boone, a recently divorced man who’s also struggling to move on from his ex-wife. Together, they help each other break away from their respective pasts and later fall in love, embarking on a relationship – until someone messes something up.
As the title conveys, Jessica Williams is amazing in this movie. In fact, there’s nothing new with The Incredible Jessica James except the vivacity of its lead star, turning this somewhat commonplace story into something that oozes brilliance.
Director: Jon Favreau
Writer: Jon Favreau
Cast: Jon Favreau, Sofía Vergara, John Leguizamo, Scarlett Johansson, Dustin Hoffman, Oliver Platt, Bobby Cannavale, Amy Sedaris, Emjay Anthony, Robert Downey Jr.
Chef follows Carl Casper, who, after losing his job as a chef, reinvents his career by running a food truck. Rediscovering his love for Cuban cuisine, he soon attracts attention and success in his venture. As an added, precious bonus, he also ends up establishing a deeper bond with his family. Filmmaker Jon Favreau does everyone a favor with Chef. From its direction to its writing to its performances, the movie truly captures the quintessence of a clever comedy and an engaging drama.
The Fundamentals of Caring (2016)
Director: Rob Burnett
Writer: Rob Burnett
Cast: Paul Rudd, Craig Roberts, Selena Gomez
After a personal tragedy strikes his family, a writer gives up his career and instead ventures into caregiving. So he gets a job and becomes a caregiver for a disabled teen. An impromptu road trip then leads to chance encounters, self-discoveries, and realizations that they’re strong and resilient more than they know.
While the movie’s characters deal with devastating challenges, The Fundamentals of Caring evokes positivity because of its message of friendship and hope. There’s also a dark comedy element at play here, but it didn’t compromise the movie’s sentimental touch.
Paddington 2 (2017)
Director: Paul King
Writers: Paul King, Simon Farnaby
Cast: Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Brendan Gleeson, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, Peter Capaldi, Hugh Grant, Ben Whishaw
A sequel to 2014’s Paddington, Paddington 2 follows the titular role as he tries to buy a present for his aunt’s birthday. However, the gift gets stolen and his attempts to retrieve it ends with him getting framed and arrested. Just like its predecessor, Paddington 2 proves to be a nice treat for audiences of all ages. It’s captivating, it’s hilarious, and it has its own dose of mystery and adventure that kids and grownups alike will find enjoyable.
Yes Man (2008)
Director: Peyton Reed
Writers: Nicholas Stoller, Jarrad Paul, Andrew Mogel
Cast: Jim Carrey, Zooey Deschanel, Bradley Cooper, John Michael Higgins, Terence Stamp
Yes Man is based on humorist Danny Wallace’s memoir. It tells the story of Carl, who, after his divorce, shuts out everyone. His morose attitude prompts an old colleague to suggest a motivational “Yes!” seminar. A dramatic turn of events leads him to believe in it, committing to say “yes” to everything, including flying a plane, learning Korean, and so much more fun stuff.
Starring Jim Carrey in the lead role, Yes Man is a great reminder that it’s up to us to explore further and encounter more possibilities if we just say yes. So for a much-needed comic relief while also aiming to inspire, Yes Man fits the bill.
The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)
Director: Gabriele Muccino
Writer: Steven Conrad
Cast: Will Smith, Thandie Newton, Jaden Smith
If you’re looking for a movie that highlights the power of perseverance, The Pursuit of Happyness is an easy choice hands down. It follows sales man Chris Gardner, who loses his entire life savings selling a product he also invested in. Taking an unpaid internship, he struggles to get by. As a result, his wife bails, leaving him and their son.
Will Smith’s genuine performance makes The Pursuit of Happyness so much more than just a typical melodrama. A success story in its core, it manages to be honest and poignant without being unpleasantly mawkish.
Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (2011)
Director: Zoya Akhtar
Writers: Zoya Akhtar, Reema Kagti, Farhan Akhtar
Cast: Hrithik Roshan, Abhay Deol, Farhan Akhtar, Katrina Kaif, Kalki Koechlin
In Bollywood’s Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, three childhood friends reunite and decide to go to Spain for a vacation before one of them gets married. It turns out to be exactly what they need to find love, resolve differences, conquer their worst fears, and further strengthen their friendship.
Stories about overcoming past hurts, mending fences, reviving emotional connections, and falling in love are always a good source of inspiration. It’s even better if there’s a road trip involved somewhere in Europe and with equally beguiling performances of the cast.
50 First Dates (2004)
Director: Peter Segal
Writer: George Wing
Cast: Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, Rob Schneider, Sean Astin, Dan Aykroyd
Henry is a womanizing vet who falls in love with Lucy, who suffers short-term memory loss. Despite her forgetting about him every day, he persists in pursuing her, hence the title. 50 First Dates, basically, is Hawaii, The Beach Boys, clever sea lions, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore’s undeniable chemistry. So what’s not to feel good about?
The Theory of Everything (2014)
Director: James Marsh
Writer: Anthony McCarten
Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Charlie Cox, Emily Watson, Simon McBurney, David Thewlis, Maxine Peake
The Thoery of Everything follows the life of theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, from his days at Cambridge, his amyotrophic lateral sclerosis diagnosis, his relationship with Jane Hawking, and his eventual success in physics.
Based on Jane Hawking’s memoir, Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen, Marsh’s big screen adaptation is remarkable with its cinematography, musical score, and the performances of Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones. Even with the world of science being heavily present in the film, it succeeds in exploring other sides of humanity that everybody can relate to, such as friendship, hope, and love in the face of adversity.
Up in the Air (2009)
Director: Jason Reitman
Writers: Jason Reitman, Walter Kirn, Sheldon Turner
Cast: George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick, Danny McBride
George Clooney plays Ryan Bingham, a corporate downsizing expert tasked on laying off employees. His job entails a lot of traveling. In one of his trips, he meets fellow frequent flyer, Alex. With an strong connection between them, they begin a casual relationship.
There’s something bittersweet about Up in the Air that makes it more real. It’s also the kind of movie that anyone will find engaging just by experiencing its humor and clever dialogues. George Clooney, Anna Kendrick, and Vera Farmiga also deliver memorable performances.
The Blind Side (2009)
Director: John Lee Hancock
Writer: John Lee Hancock
Cast: Quinton Aaron, Sandra Bullock, Tim McGraw, Kathy Bates
The Blind Side follows former NFL offensive lineman Michael Oher, from his impoverished childhood, his time at Wingate Christian School, meeting Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy, his eventual adoption by the couple, and his journey in football. The Blind Side is a feel-good movie because of the sense of humanity it evokes. We’re reminded of our innate goodness and the power of compassion, inspiring us to be just as good. Plus, Sandra Bullock delivers one of the best performances of her acting career.
The Bucket List (2007)
Director: Rob Reiner
Writer: Justin Zackham
Cast: Jack Nicholson, Morgan Freeman, Sean Hayes, Rob Morrow
Carter Chambers (Morgan Freeman), a blue-collar mechanic, meets Edward Cole (Jack Nicholson). At this point, they have nothing in common but their terminal illness – both have been diagnosed with lung cancer and only have less than a year to live. After warming up to each other, they decide to do the things they want to do before they kick the bucket.
Freeman and Nicholson starring in a movie that centers on friendship and death is refreshingly sweet. With the film’s focus and direction, viewers can gain a newfound perspective about how it is to really live. And because The Bucket List puts an optimistic twist to the inevitability of death, it’s truly an inspiring movie.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Director: Marielle Heller
Writers: Micah Fitzerman-Blue, Noah Harpster
Cast: Tom Hanks, Matthew Rhys, Susan Kelechi Watson, Chris Cooper
A cynical journalist, Lloyd Vogel, meets a warm-hearted television presenter, Fred Rogers, to do a profile on him. Initially believing Rogers’ friendly persona as an act, he eventually finds his encounters with the TV icon enlightening. Ultimately, the time he spends with Rogers gives him the courage to confront his fears and release his deep-seated resentment.
Tom Hanks, in one of his most amazing performances, delights viewers with his effortless guile on the screen. Watching A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood also inspires compassion, fosters goodness, and thus, will make you feel good.
The Truman Show (1998)
Director: Peter Weir
Writer: Andrew Niccol
Cast: Jim Carrey, Laura Linney, Noah Emmerich, Natascha, McElhone, Holland Taylor, Ed Harris
Revolting at times because of the lies and the manipulation, The Truman Show impressively goes above the bad to concentrate on the good. It follows Truman Burbank, an insurance salesman whose entire life is nothing but a TV show.
Unaware and unsuspecting, everything that happens around him is fake and the people he sees everyday are just actors. He then becomes adamant to escape after learning the truth. Acclaimed upon its release, The Truman Show provokes your inner thoughts about existence. And a movie’s ability to give rise to such feeling only means it’s nothing short of excellent.
The Polar Express (2004)
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Writers: Robert Zemeckis, William Broyles Jr.
Cast: Tom Hanks, Daryl Sabara, Josh Hutcherson, Eddie Deezen
On Christmas Eve, a boy aboards a mysterious train bound for North Pole. He goes with other children upon its conductor’s invitation, excited at the prospect of meeting Santa Claus while getting ready for Christmas. The journey proves to be eventful as he meets astonishing people that makes his spontaneous adventure even more special.
Unlike the typical Christmas-themed features, The Polar Express’ strength and appeal lie in its magical yet haunting tone that’s just interesting to unravel. Overall, its visual display of greatness makes for a positive cinematic experience.
Director: Sergio Pablos
Writers: Sergio Pablos, Jim Mahoney, Zach Lewis
Cast: Jason Schwartzman, J. K. Simmons, Rashida Jones, Will Sasso, Sergio Pablos, Joan Cusack
Another Christmas movie coming your way. It’s only timely considering the holidays are just around the corner. So here goes. Jesper, the Royal Postmaster General’s son, is as lazy as he can be. Proving to be the worst postman in the academy (which he also did deliberately out of laziness), his father sends him to a distant town where he needs to post post 6,000 letters in a year. Failure to do so means he’ll be cut off from his family’s wealth.
Klaus stands out amongst many Christmas films because it’s funny, it’s endearing, and most importantly, it’s very moving. Proving its impressive distinction, it even tackles social divide and in a very subtle manner, without losing the story’s cheery and festive spirits.
Scent of a Woman (1992)
Director: Martin Brest
Writer: Bo Goldman
Cast: Al Pacino, Chris O’Donnell, James Rebhorn, Gabrielle Anwar, Philip Seymour Hoffman
In need of money to buy a plane ticket to return home for Christmas, student Charlie Simms takes up a job as an assistant to a blind, retired, and cranky retired Army officer, Frank Slade. He’s supposed to just keep him company over the Thanksgiving weekend while his family is away, but Frank has a plan of his own.
Scent of a Woman – the title gives off the impression of being placid and tender but the movie is really, really intense, and in a good way. Delivering the performance of a lifetime, Al Pacino stands his ground and owns every scene he’s in. His authority as a performer alone is good enough reasonto give this one a try. It’ll be a wise spend of your time, you’ll see.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)
Director: Tim Burton
Writer: John August
Cast: Johnny Depp, Freddie Highmore, David Kelly, Helena, Bonham Carter, Noah Taylor, Missi Pyle, Christopher Lee
Based on Roald Dahl’s novel of the same name, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory follows Charlie, a poor boy who wins a tour of the marvelous chocolate factory owned by the quirky Willy Wonka. Embarking on the tour with four other children, he comes across a great deal of suprises along the way.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a welcome treat for viewers of all ages. With Tim Burton’s adaptation of the beloved story, it doesn’t matter how old you are, or what emotional phase in life you’re in right now, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory will reignite the child in you. The colors, the music, the succulent visuals, the idiosyncrasies of the characters – all blending in together to deliver a simple message about the importance of love and family.
From riveting coming-of-age dramas to family comedies to inspiring animated films, Netflix has everything you might like if you’re looking for a memorable feel-good movie.