At the end of a long day we often turn on the TV to relax, lift our spirits, and forget life’s struggles for a few hours. This is increasingly difficult to do as the news is dominated by stories of woe, and as dark comedies and harrowingly realistic portrayals dominate the film industry.
Sometimes you just want to watch something that makes you feel-good. Luckily, tucked away on Netflix there are a few feel-good gems that will make you laugh, maybe cry a little, and restore your faith in humanity!
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Don’t let an aversion to reading subtitles stop you from watching this French classic by Jean-Pierre Jeunet. It is low on dialogue, but is visually stunning in its portrayal of contemporary Parisian life. The lead is played by the hugely charismatic Audrey Tautou, who decides to deal with her own challenges by helping the people around her. The film has won a raft of awards for a reason, and you will find yourself smiling throughout.
Billy Elliot (2000)
There are many movies out there of girls overcoming the odds to succeed in something considered the domain of men, but there a fewer that flip that on its head. Billy Elliot follows the struggles of its title character as he pursues his love of ballet in 1980s England despite the objections of his father. Watching a small boy pursue his dreams against the odds will leave you feeling inspired. And this is also the movie that introduced us to the talented actor Jamie Bell.
With an amazing ensemble cast led by the always excellent but often underrated Jon Favreau, this film follows a chef who, after an altercation with a powerful film critic, leaves his popular Los Angeles restaurant and opens a food truck with his young son. This movie is about remembering the passion that put you on your path, and realising what is really important in life. Watch out for a brief cameo from Robert Downey Jnr.
Coming to America (1988)
If you haven’t watched this movie since its release in the late 1980s, this John Landis film starring Eddie Murphy is well worth re-watching. While it might be considered a little culturally insensitive these days, the heart that drives the story means that much can be forgiven. Eddie Murphy plays the crown prince of a fictitious African country who has come to America to go incognito and look for love. The prince’s discovery of America and himself on his quest for love is simultaneously hilarious and moving.
This Hindi film follows the lives of a young girl Pari and her visually impaired brother Chotu living in a small Indian village. Every day before their long walk to school they toss a coin to decide whether they will tell a story about a Shah Rukh Khan film of a Salman Khan film, their favourite actors. When Pari sees that Shah Rukh Khan is promoting donations to help the visually impaired, Pari tries to contact him to help her brother. When her letters go unanswered, the two start a quest to meet the man in person.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
The oldest movie on this list, if you have never see the movie that launched Matthew Broderick into stardom, them you a missing a treat. While Broderick’s character Ferris Bueller does not have a serious bone in his body and is simply on a quest to create the ideal day, his easy going and fun-loving nature is balanced by his best friend Cameron Frye, who undergoes a personal transformation over the course of the film. You will wish that Bueller was your best friend in high school.
Forrest Gump (1994)
While it may seem a bit cliché now, can there be a feel-good movie without Forrest Gump on the list? Starring Tom Hanks, the king of feel-good films, it chronicles the incredible life of Forrest Gump, a slow but kind-hearted man from Alabama. Throughout the film Gump’s purity of spirit and altruistic outlook on life help the people around him stretch themselves to be better people. You may feel like doing the same by the end of this two-and-a-half-hour masterpiece.
Julie and Julia (2009)
Starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams in a dynamic pairing, this film contrasts the early life of famous chef Julie Childs with that of young food blogger Julie Powell, who sets herself the challenge of trying to cook all 524 of Child’s recipes over the course of a year. This is a film about dreaming big and not backing down when things get hard. Ladies in the audience will appreciate the talented female cast, especially the powerful performance from Streep.
Morris from America (2016)
This is the story of a thirteen-year-old American boy Morris, currently living in Germany, who dreams of becoming a rapper. Living in a foreign country, Morris struggles to find his place among his peers, or find the support he needs to pursue his dreams. Over the course of the film both father and son find the strength to make their way in a different world, and to reconnect to one another.
Pretty Woman (1990)
While the life lessons embodied in this film are morally questionable, there is a reason why Julia Roberts is one of the most likeable and watchable actresses of all time. Roberts plays a very clean and moral prostitute who catches the eye of a wealthy man played by Richard Gere. Gere’s character uses his wealth to show Roberts the time of her life, but over the course of the film he must learn that you cannot possess another person, regardless of their humble origins.
A feel-good Nazi film? Well not quite. Hitler sees the 1936 Olympics hosted in Germany as a chance to demonstrate the superiority of the Aryan race. This film follows African-American athlete Jesse Owens who won a record-breaking four gold medals at those same Olympic games. Starring Stephan James as Owens, and supposed by an outstanding cast including Jason Sudeikis, Jeremy Irons and William Hurt. In the film Owens must overcome his own doubts and struggles to succeed, only to in turn overcome the prejudice of others.
Based on a true story, in this film we see small-town football coach Harold Jones, played by Ed Harris, befriend a young mentally challenged man nicknamed Radio, played by Cuba Gooding Jr., after he is tormented by Jones’ own players. Jones supports Radio to build his life and find a place within the community, while teaching his students, and the community at large, to look beyond surface impression and see the true value that people offer.
Saving Mr Banks (2013)
The second Tom Hanks entry on this list, it is because he is so likable and easy to watch, even when playing a dubious character. Here he plays Walt Disney himself as the film chronicles on the development of the film Mary Poppins and Disney’s relationship with the story’s author P. L. Travers, played by Emma Thompson. The resulting story of owning your demons and letting go is deeply affecting and beautifully told.
Today’s Specials (2009)
The third food movie on the list, it is not called comfort food for nothing. In this film follows an Indian sous chef in an upscale New York restaurant, played by Aasif Mandvi, whose dreams of studying French cooking in France are shattered when his father becomes ill and he must take over the family’s Indian restaurant. Mandvi’s character neither knows about or is inspired by Indian cooking, but a chance encounter with taxi driver and Indian cook Akbar changes all of that for him. Mandvi’s character learns to appreciate his roots and his family.
The only animated film on the list, this Pixar-Disney release centres on a widower Carl Fredricksen and a young boy named Russell as they set out to travel the world in order to fulfil a promise that Carl made to his late wife. Far from conventional, they travel by means of tying thousands of balloons to their house – don’t try this at home. The result is an exciting, funny and poignant adventure perfectly crafted with the right balance of humour and sentimentality.