You’ve had a bad day. You’ve had a bad week. You’ve had a bad year (hello, 2020!). And sometimes, you’re not in the mood to watch “the best” films. There’s nothing wrong with Citizen Kane, Vertigo, or 2001: A Space Odyssey, but if you’re feeling like garbage, it’s probably not the film you want to watch while you’re down in the dumps. You need feel good movies. You need uplifting movies. You want the best feel good movies.
With that in mind, we’ve humbly compiled a list of 25 of the best feel good movies to put you in a better mood. These aren’t just blithely cheerful, brain-dead pictures. They’re all terrific movies that carry an uplifting message that is earned, thoughtful, and will definitely leave you smiling as the credits roll.
Directors: Ron Clements, John Musker
Writers: Ron Clements, John Musker, 18 other credits…
Cast: Scott Weinger, Linda Larkin, Robin Williams, Jonathan Freeman, Frank Welker, Gilberg Gottfried, Douglas Seale, Charles Adler, Corey Burton, Jim Cummings
It’s hard to go wrong with a Disney film when you need a little emotional pick-me-up. This 1992 classic tale of sand, sorcery, and a street-rat’s rise to fame is hands down one of the best the studio has to offer. It’s got all the hallmarks of the Disney greats: a likable underdog for a protagonist who falls in love with a beautiful princess and, despite all odds, wins her hand; a bevy of supporting characters, from a flying carpet, a thieving monkey, and a hilarious genie, to tigers, a talking parrot, and sword-wielding palace guards; and a thrilling adventure story that perfectly blends magic and music together into an unforgettable tale. Do yourself a favor and revisit the Cave of Wonders and take a magic carpet ride to a whole new world with Aladdin and Jasmine; you’ll be glad you did. – Dave Trumbore
Director: Rob Reiner
Writer: William Goldman
Cast: Cary Elwes, Robin Wright, Mandy Patinkin, Chris Sarandon, and Christopher Guest
The framing device of this movie is literally an old man reading the story you’re about to see to his grandson in order to make that grandson feel better. I’ve never read William Goldman’s original novel, but I wouldn’t hesitate for a second to show this a kid who was feeling under the weather or to an adult for that matter. “Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles…” this is a movie that truly has it all, and even in it’s “darkest” moments, it’s still funny, warm, and a reprieve from your daily worries. And if “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya…” doesn’t put a smile on your face, I fear nothing will. – Matt Goldberg
Director: Don Bluth
Writers: Judy Freudberg, Tony Geiss, David Kirschner
Cast: Phillip Glasser, Amy Green, Erica Yohn, Nehemiah Persoff, Christopher Plummer, John Finnegan, Pat Musick, Neil Ross, Madeline Kahn, Dom DeLuise
You would be forgiven for thinking that this animated tale that starts with an anti-Semitic attack, a troubled ocean crossing, and the separation of a family of America-bound immigrants is not exactly “feel good.” But it’s in the first act of this under-appreciated classic that the dismal stakes are established so that the film’s ultimate conclusion is that much more rewarding.
The underdog in this case is actually a tiny, charming mouse of Russian Jewish heritage by the name of Fievel Mousekewitz. Rather than be stopped in his tracks by those who would choose to prey on him when he gets lost in the big city, Fievel makes a variety of friends from all classes, nationalities, and backgrounds throughout his travels. It’s through his quest to reunite with his family that he actually manages to bring about meaningful change in mouse society at large in the New World. That’s a lesson that’s every bit as uplifting today as it was 30 years ago. – Dave Trumbore
Director: Amy Heckerling
Writer: Amy Heckerling
Cast: Alicia Silverstone, Stacey Dash, Paul Rudd, and Brittany Murphy
Let’s face it: Clueless is the Jeff Goldblum of ‘90s movies. Easy to like and simply stuffed with charm, Clueless is a breezy comedy with some knowing bite thanks to sharp-toothed scripting from writer/director Amy Heckerling and such a pure-hearted center that it’s as impossible to dislike as its bubbly protagonist. Carried deftly by the preternaturally charming Alicia Silverstone in a star making role as the immaculate and perpetually optimistic Cher and flanked by similarly shiny-haired co-stars in Stacey Dash, Brittany Murphy (RIP!) and the baby-faced Paul Rudd, the film is a classic high school comedy of genius proportions. Making the most of its gleefully shallow setting in Beverly Hills, Heckerling never shortchanges the intellect or innate goodness of her less than deep protagonist, a foresight that ultimately helps to define it from similar films of its ilk. So go ahead, sit back, ignore that Cher’s love interest is her ex-stepbrother, and relax. Are you feeling those blues anymore? Ugh! As if! – Aubrey Page
Director: Richard Linklater
Writer: Mike White
Cast: Jack Black, Joan Cusack, Mike White, and Sarah Silverman
Often overlooked in favor of the blingier and prestigious stones in Linklater’s crown (lookin’ at you, Boyhood and Dazed and Confused), the real feel-good title of the director’s filmography is the blindingly optimistic and infectious School of Rock. Led by Jack Black at his most charmingly manic, the film follows a music-obsessive man child named Dewey who nabs a substitute teaching gig from his goody two-shoes best friend in the interest of making a quick buck. In an initially selfish attempt to spite his ex-band mates, Dewey enlists the students to form a new band of his own. The film is formulaic at its core – Dewey inevitably is charmed by the children, and the newly formed musical group goes on to blow the roof off of a concert hall at a local battle of the bands – but few family comedies are quite as charming, sharply written, or, simply put, musically perfect than the strange, beguiling melange that is School of Rock. Stuffed with catchy original songs and earnest through and through, School of Rock is one of the best unofficial musicals of its time, and a perfect cinematic salve to soothe your wounds. – Aubrey Page