It’s been a distressing week. For many, Donald Trump winning the presidency is a clear cut example of hatred winning over love and society going back on progress. Marginalized groups have already seen a wave of discrimination and violence following the election and the legitimization of hateful views. People are afraid and upset, and they have every right to be. Many are reaching out for comforts and for me, those comforts can be as simple as a film that makes you feel better. Rather than just sharing my own “feel good” movies though, I thought it be better to get some other opinions in there. I asked some of my friends to share their own feel good movies and they move them so much. Together, we’ve put together this list. These movies won’t change our current problems, but they do provide comfort, and sometimes that’s necessary to keep on fighting. I encourage anyone who reads this to share their own feel good movies.
1. The Apartment
Billy Wilder’s The Apartment is my feel good movie, and it’s also a romantic comedy, but the film is no frivolous romp. The central romance occurs between two characters who experience a lot of loneliness, pain, and are riddled with their own insecurities. That might sound depressing, but there’s a warmth to the center. Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine are both intensely lovable characters that you can’t help but root for and the film’s dry wit really turns the film into an enjoyable experience. Most importantly, the catharsis of the film is not a foregone conclusion and that makes it all the more powerful. Happiness in The Apartment, like in real life, is not easy. It takes hard work and it comes with suffering, but it can be achieved, and it’s a beautiful thing when it is. Anyone who has ever felt love for someone else knows that it’s not always easy. Relationships cost, mistakes are made, and feelings inevitably involve some level of heartache. The Apartment is a film that reckons with this, but the overall impression is not despair. Rather, the film inspires a sense of joy and hope. For my part, The Apartment moves me every time I see it. I’m entertained, I’m enlightened, I laugh, shed a tear or two, and leave the film feeling a little bit better about the world.
2. The Boy and the Beast
Written by Angeli Pineda
My go-to movie for when I’m down has always actually been Lilo and Stitch. I’m not kidding when I say I watch it about once a month. But this year, on Thanksgiving weekend, I stumbled upon a movie on Netflix directed by one of my favourite Japanese auteurs; similar to Miyazaki but with a style all his own, Mamoru Hosoda, who has also directed Summer Wars, Wolf Children, Ame and Yuki, and The Girl Who Lept Through Time. In fact, for the first time, I enjoyed this movie enough to watch it three times in three days, it inspired that much feeling in me. The Boy and the Beast builds a fantastical world around a young boy who feels he has no place in the world. One day, he stumbles into a world full of beasts who reject him, asserting that humans carry a darkness in them that animals simply lack. Still, he stays in the world of the Beasts and trains with them. Part of, I think, what makes this such a good feel-good film is that it centres on a young man hoping to find some respite from reality, just as movies do.
The film carries us through a journey with the young boy, Kyuta, and it’s got an entertaining story, but I find that the best part of the film, the thing that gives it all of its re-watchability, is the way that they humanize Kyuta and his Bear-like master, and make them both so personable. Though a bit cheesy at times, I think that all aspects of the film contribute to the charm of their stubbornness and their constant bickering, which if done poorly could make the characters come off as annoying.
Admittedly, the characters are quite flat. But I think that a lot of feel-good movies center on characters who are just that. Like the story, they are indeed charming but above all, they aren’t complex (though the film does have its one fun little twist moment). And this is what makes the film not only so easily digestible but absolutely sweet and heartwarming.
3. Digimon: The Movie
Written by Jordan Dawson
My feel good movie has always been the CRIMINALLY underrated but deserving classic: Digimon: The Movie. Why? Well I have literally no idea why. Maybe it’s the amazing soundtrack, likeable characters, high octane plot, and general nostalgia? I was always one of those hipster kids that said Digimon was better than Pokemon mostly because I just watched Digimon more. I still contest to this day however, that this film is vastly superior to the film of its poke-counterpart, I mean it is good enough that Summer Wars basically ripped off the plot. The film has a hilarious and hard hitting commentary for us Dial-up internet kids (represent!) with Matt and T.K being on their grandma’s shitty old computer trying to stop a worldwide virus threat. Ultimately, you could summarize the entire plot in a sentence or two: a worldwide virus (Digimon) enters the web and begins getting nuclear launch codes for Armageddon (whoa heavy). However, when our loveable and favorite Digi destined heroes jump on the case it becomes apparent that their friendship…is more powerful than any thermonuclear device!
Honestly, the movie just smashes every nostalgia button like its playing Contra and I can’t get enough time and time again. It’s the kind of movie that not meant to be hard hitting, or to some even interesting. It’s not unique and most people would prefer Pokemon but that’s the best part! Everyone can hate on the movie all they like, in the end it’s reserved for those scarce few that really loved the poor man’s Pokemon: Digimon. If you get it, I am glad we can both feel good viewing this masterpiece and if you don’t well, here is a video of the Digirap from the movie. You’re welcome.
4. Donnie Darko
Written by Adam Mott
The film with which a viewing offers the most solace to myself is without question 2001’s Donnie Darko, directed by Richard Kelly. Perhaps it was the fairly pivotal point in my life in which I watched it that laid the groundwork for feelings like comfort and warmth but every return to the pocket universe which is presented in a stunningly multifaceted detail, satiates my need for said emotions. The fact that the film in question is a thriller which many consider to be “too frightening” to watch due to a plethora of reasons leaves little bearing on me and I honestly couldn’t quite tell you why. It’s safe, the narrative existing in generic small town America with all the trappings inherent in such a place serve to define the nest where the film lives in my mind. To me, Donnie Darko represents Fall, individuality, pain, poignancy, the need to be true to who you are, the want to belong and be loved, as well as the reality that sometimes it just isn’t meant to be. Yes, there is time travel and a giant man in a bunny suit but all around these things is an earnest and vibrant heart that asks the audience, “Who are you? What do you see?” and that question in part is what keeps me coming back. I find it kinda funny, I find it kinda sad.
5. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Written by Michael Dennos
There were honestly a number of films that came to mind for this, but upon narrowing it down based on the criteria I was given — a movie that leaves you feeling great every time and where the magic of the experience is never lost on you with each repeat viewing — my choice became obvious: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Anybody who knows me well enough also knows that I am a massive Harry Potter fan. I grew up reading the books and seeing the movies as both sets were released, with my age roughly mirroring that of Harry’s in each of the films as they progressed; I was 11 when they started and 20 when they finished. So, I feel very connected with the main trio in certain respects. And if I had to choose one film in the series that, to me, best exemplifies the magic and wonder of JK Rowling’s universe, it would be Azkaban. What I would label as the BEST Potter film would depend on my mindset at the time and what day of the week you asked me, but I now always flip-flop between Prisoner of Azkaban and Deathly Hallows: Part 1. Azkaban, though, holds the record for the most times I’ve seen a film in theaters: nine times. From the very first time I saw it, I fell in love with it. Like I said, it brilliantly represents everything I adore about the series: an imaginative world full of wonder, whimsy and sometimes danger, compelling and lovable characters whose sense of friendship and family feels fully fleshed out, and much, much more. Aesthetically and tonally, director Alfonso Cuaron succeeds brilliantly in capturing the tone of the books, to the point where it often feels like the filmmakers cast a spell that took the words on the page and transferred them to the screen in such a way that they formed the images on the screen, story omissions be damned. Prisoner of Azkaban is also the most fun of the franchise to me. The humor and such never gets old or stale. Plus, the film contains what may possibly be my favorite John Williams score ever. The Harry Potter universe is a world I would live in if I got the chance, and every time I watch Prisoner of Azkaban (which I’m sure is the Potter film I’ve seen the most), it feels like that’s exactly what I’m doing.
6. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
Written by Steven Griffin
When I was a child this film was the best and scariest thing I had ever seen, and watching it today I feel the exact same way if not for different reasons. The film, based on the Alan Moore’s graphic novel, follows a group of characters from famous literary works in 1899 as they globe trot around attempting to stop a terrorist for creating super soldiers and starting a world war. If nothing about that gets you somewhat excited, then you might want to check your pulse. In all honesty, the film is relatively hammy, especially with all the actors playing a caricature of literary icons like Tom Sawyer, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Captain Nemo, a vampire chemist Mina Harker, Dorian Gray and the Invisible Man. It is not all that well executed, the direction is poor, the sets laughable and the effects for Dr. Jekyll which used to scare me as a kid now scare me because of how horrible the VFX’s look. But when the film is on, it’s on. The car chase through Venice, Dorian revealing his motivation as well as his fight with Mina Harker, the Invisible Man and Alan Quartermain (Sean Connery) fighting M (who turns out to be Professor Moriarty from Sherlock) and how can forget the brilliance that is Alan Quartermain staring down a snow tiger in a blizzard. Extraordinarily terrible, but extraordinarily watchable.
Written by Sydney Urbanek
Of Mermaids, Roger Ebert once wrote that “the material is ‘funny’ instead of funny, and we don’t laugh so much as we squirm with recognition and sympathy.” Set in 1963, Charlotte (Winona Ryder) and her younger sister, Kate (Christina Ricci), have spent their entire lives moving from town to town with their mother, Mrs. Flax (Cher). When the film’s narrative begins, they’ve already moved eighteen times, seemingly whenever Mrs. Flax takes up and breaks up with another man. What’s considered normal to this family would be bizarre to any other, and this is partly why Mermaids is so much fun. Charlotte is a typical Winona Ryder role, by which I mean she’s quirky and doesn’t really fit in. This is somewhat due to her obsession with Catholicism – strange only because the Flax family is Jewish. In her voiceover, she frequently repents of what she thinks to be sinful thoughts about Joe (Michael Schoeffling), the local bus driver and caretaker of the convent up the hill. But the true bane of Charlotte’s high school existence is Mrs. Flax, who, despite being the most fun character in the film, is often stealing Charlotte’s thunder. Always wearing a signature polka-dot dress that she seems to own in multiple colours, she unintentionally (or maybe intentionally) derails parent-teacher night and is a major obstruction to Charlotte’s relationship with Joe. Mermaids is indeed a coming-of-age story and to a lesser extent, an awkward sexual awakening, but it’s also about love, family, and breaking old patterns. It’s technically a period piece too, and features some easy listening music from the 60s as well as one of the biggest historical events of the decade – JFK’s assassination. The film has its stressful bits, but it’s a feel-good watch for anyone who considers their family strange, has a younger sibling they’re obsessed with, or can barely think about certain years of their adolescence without cringing.
8. My Neighbor Totoro
Written by Brooke Spencer
My automatic go-to “feel good” movie would be My Neighbour Totoro (1988). My Neighbour Totoro is a Japanese animated film directed and written by the well-known Hayao Miyazaki. It tells the story of two young sisters (Satsuki and Mei) who run in to some friendly forest sprits and interact with them when they move to the country side in Japan. This my favourite “feel good” film because the movie never stops depicting joy and happiness. It shows the perspective and imagination of a child’s mind that is timeless, as well as precious to those who don’t have it anymore. This film depicts the relationship of two siblings perfectly and their bond/love for each other. Having a young sister of my own and watching her grow up, I feel as though I was responsible for her just like Satsuki felt for Mei and there is a definite unconditional love shown between the two girls. When I first watched this film, my initial thoughts were that I loved the animation, the memorable music and the adorable forests spirits. But as I got older, this movie also brought to my attention that there is so much more to this than looks and sounds (although they still hold up great). This movie to me has no flaws. It is an endless bundle of joy that keeps giving and brings back great nostalgic memories (especially of my sister and I). This film for me will never get old and I will continue to watch it when in need of a pick-me-up.
9. The Naked Gun
Written by Myles Brett (HT Schuyler)
When it comes to feel good movies nothing elevates my mood and puts a smile on my face faster than The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!. The 1988 Leslie Nielsen starring comedy classic has been a favourite in my family for as long as I can remember. The film fires jokes and gags at you from all cylinders and never stops to take a break, making it to this day one of the funniest and most entertaining films of all time. Unlike most comedies these days this movie’s strength lies in the fact that everyone is playing their characters completely straight. Leslie Nielsen is phenomenal as the stern, no nonsense Frank Drebin, with all the comedy coming from his serious demeanor, making the comedic situations that much funnier. Despite Airplane! (another feel good classic) Nielsen was mainly known for playing serious and dramatic roles, with this film really emphasizing his talents as an actor, making him a household name in comedy.
There have been times when I’ve been in a bad mood, miserable, upset, etc, and I’ll toss this movie or one of its hilarious sequels or even the original TV show Police Squad! on and by the time it’s over I’ll honestly feel better. I’ve seen this movie more times than any other movie, and it still makes me laugh. The jokes still feel fresh, the film is still entertaining and it holds up 100%. I will never get tired of this movie, and it will always make me feel better. Sure it won’t solve all my problems or fix everything, but after an hour and a half of constant laughs it will elevate my mood, and help me realize that at the end of the day the world didn’t come to an end.
Want to hear me talk about The Naked Gun films more? You can listen to a whole Podcast episode with Daniel and I talking the films at length. Guaranteed to elevate your mood!
10. Raiders of the Lost Ark
Written by Nate Peck
Raiders of the Lost Ark is the ideal choice for a comfort movie. Why? Action, adventure, comedy, romance, it manages to encompass all wants in a film, while being utterly brilliant the entire time. Steven Spielberg’s direction is pin point perfect, creating a sense of fun that holds up, 35 years later. Spielberg’s change of setting, whether it be classroom or some mysterious cave, make it as if you’re right there with Indiana Jones. Furthermore, the character of Indiana Jones is nothing but enjoyable. Jones oozes cool, his charisma constantly engages and demands viewership. His quest to find the Ark, and stop evil is simple, yet everyone can identify with the want to stop evil, and save history. Raiders of the Lost Ark is the perfect movie to sit back on a weekend, push popcorn in your face and follow along with Indy on his journey. It’s one worth going on every time.
Written by Alex Sundaresan
Among Pixar’s list of offerings, I found Ratatouille to be within the echelon of its greatest, having a palette of diverse colours and characters almost as scrumptious as the rendering on all of the food shown in the movie. There are several examples in Pixar’s filmography of movies that talk down to their audience, but Ratatouille is not among them. It’s themes of great things coming from small and humble beginnings is something that can easily resonate with everyone and I found it oddly touching that all of the characters, even the villainous ones, are united by a love and passion for food. The voice cast is excellent, especially Patton Oswalt as Remy and Peter O’Toole as Anton Ego. I found the latter in particular worth writing about because his review of Remy’s food, which concludes the movie, spoke to me as a writer and as a reviewer and critic. Even the romantic arc–which usually nauseates me in movies–I thought was done effectively and in a way that served both of the characters well.
Ultimately, I think Ratatouille is my top pick among feel good movies. I always feel inspired to create something whenever I finish watching it: And I think arts capacity to inspire creativity in its consumers is the highest argument for any art form, whether it’s in food, film or writing.
Ratatouille speaks to lovers of all three.