Top 10 All Time Favourite ‘Feel Good’ Movies

Written by  //  October 17, 2010  //  Media & Popular Culture  //  39 Comments

It is often said that its not fair to compare movies of one genre with those of the other. A 2012 can perhaps be as good as a Jurassic Park but it can’t really be better or worse than a Revolutionary Road. But if one has to make a list of one’s favourite movies across the genres I guess the ‘feel good’ or ‘uplifting’ movies do end up on top more often than not. Since the festive season is on (or round the corner at least) here’s a list of my top ten all time favourite ‘feel good’ (for lack of a better word encompassing the genre) movies (not in any order of preference). These are not great love stories or mad cap comedies or inspirational sagas of human struggle but simple, amusing, pleasing, cheerful and entertaining movies.

1. Before Sunrise & Before Sunset

Richard Linklater creates what can only be described as magic along with actors Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke in these two movies. Before Sunset came nine years after Before Sunrise and as the actors grew older so did their characters. Considering they also wrote their own dialogues, both of them do become quite indistinguishable from the characters that they portray. What are the movies about? Two people walking around and talking. But as far as walking and talking goes it has never been this engrossing and the dialogues have rarely been better.

2. Big Fish

A man tells fantastic and unbelievable stories all the time so much so that his son becomes sick of him and his stories. Of course, he does not believe any of them. Who would in a witch with a magical glass eye and a man eating giant? Even when the father (played earnestly by Albert Finney) is on the deathbed the son wants to know what kind of person he really was. Of course slowly he learns that his father’s stories were not entirely false and that faith is the only thing separating fantasy from reality. Big Fish is amusing to a large extent because of Tim Burton’s visual imagery and some very likable actors. It’s a story that’s funny and sad, fantastic and realistic at the same time. Ideal for ending an irritating day (unless one has access to better utilities!).

3. Americano

An American student is at the threshold of starting corporate drudgery. Before that he backpacks on a holiday across Europe with a couple of friends. The movie catches up with them in Spain. It has quite minimalist dialogues but captivating and at times stunning visuals. Of course, as it tries to answer ‘the meaning of life’ question, too many dialogues would have made it cheesy or preachy. Thankfully, it’s subtle and enigmatic. Perfect for a dead afternoon.

4. Garden State

Zach Braff who stars along with Natalie Portman in this very underrated movie is also its writer and director. He plays a small time actor, part time waiter who is leading his life sedated, drugged or otherwise zonked out of the boredom of mundane existence. He returns to his small town home to attend his mother’s funeral and encounters an array of quirky but mostly likeable characters and of course the pretty girl. It’s a love story of sorts and also a ‘coming of age’ story but avoids the clichés of both. A beautiful soundtrack and peaceful visuals make for a perfect watch in the time between a couple of drinks and being sloshed.

5. Mumford

A psychologist called Mickey Mumford (played quite endearingly by Loren Dean) comes to the quaint little town of Mumford and sets up his shop. Soon he becomes the most successful shrink in the town due to his rather different methods. His patients are an interesting lot and the doc himself has a remarkable back story. A bit like Garden State what makes Mumford a relish is an array of small town characters with their simplicity and mild eccentricities!

6. Rushmore

This Wes Anderson flick is about a 15 year old school kid who is too mature for his age and a business tycoon (played superbly by Bill Murray) who is too immature for his age. Its actually a pretty funny reminder of the child in all of us and how we never really outgrow him. Not that its something bad though!

7. Groundhog Day

This Bill Murray and Andie McDowell starer is about a guy caught in a time warp who lives over the same day again and again. It is surprisingly witty and has a kind of endearing humour which grows on you every time you watch the movie. If you watch it enough number of times you’ll probably get the subtle message also; how to live your life!

8. Keeping the Faith

Edward Norton’s directorial debut stars him as a priest who has a rabbi (played by Ben Stiller) and a suave business woman (played by Jenna Elfman) for friends. The three were childhood friends before Jenna moved away. They bond again when she returns years later as a smart and successful corporate executive and as always happens, both guys fall in love with the pretty girl. What makes this a very pleasant movie is that it doesn’t try to be a comedy. Instead it comes across as a funny yet heart warming story about friends, love, religion, faith and…life.

9. Lost in Translation

Bill Murray (once again) playing an actor in his 50s and Scarlett Johansson playing a newly married twenty something meet during their stay in Japan. Surrounded by an alien culture and customs; frustrated of the boredom of an unknown language and people, they get closer. Its quite difficult to call it a love story but more difficult to call it anything else. Its about how two almost strangers can understand and communicate with each other better than they can with the people they’ve spent their lives with. Its also about how sometimes its better to ignore the bleak big picture and enjoy the interludes while they last. That and the deadpan humour of Bill Murray make sure that Lost in Translation leaves a pleasant aftertaste.

10. Ed Wood

This Tim Burton biopic stars Johnny Depp as Edward D Wood who acquired unexpected fame posthumously when he was voted as the worst director ever for his outlandish movies about monsters and alien terrors made on shoe string budgets in the 1950s. Ed Wood is obviously funny but it never makes fun of the actor/director/writer/editor/producer who had a fetish for cross dressing. Instead it pays a loving tribute to a guy who was passionate and sincere about making movies even if he was ill equipped for it and perhaps despite being aware of it.

And a few more..

I’ve already listed 11 movies instead of 10 so how does it matter if I list a few more. Should always take advantage of economies of scale.

11. Beautiful Girls

A deceptively ordinary name for a brilliant and funny movie with an ensemble cast, vaguely about men chasing illusions of women. This is a perfect example of a movie which is not trying to say anything but is still absolutely fascinating to watch not to mention hilarious, sensible and sweet. Its definitely not a ‘date movie’ even though the poster might say so, although on second thoughts I am not very sure what exactly is a ‘date movie’. A superb soundtrack, likeable (and competent) actors and soothing visuals. Seriously, what more?

12. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

One of the best films ever. There’s no point in me trying to explain what its about. Anyone who hasn’t yet, should watch it. And while you are at it check this out as well:

13. (500) Days of Summer

Its one of the most innovative romantic comedies in a long time. Make that a really long time. It’s a bright, cheerful and sparkling movie and is neither extra mushy nor a gross sex comedy. There aren’t too many movies that manage to stay out of both these extremes and still manage to be this funny and relatable.

And finally, honourable mentions: Vicky Christina Barcelona & Kicking and Screaming (not the one with Will Farrell)

About the Author

Grew up in Jaipur, graduated from National Law School, Bangalore. Works with a corporate law firm to pay for books and movie tickets. Idolises Tony Stark and emulates Dogbert. Till he conquers the world, he blogs here (also):

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39 Comments on "Top 10 All Time Favourite ‘Feel Good’ Movies"

  1. Anisha October 18, 2010 at 8:34 am ·

    Hey, really enjoyed reading this. Incredibly difficult list to make, though. I’d definitely put ‘Sideways’ on mine. Good wine, sunshine and an immensely like-able lead character. And I’d throw in ‘Jerry Maguire’ too. Just for being arguably the best rom-com of the last two decades.

  2. Arghya October 18, 2010 at 5:33 pm ·

    I’d definitely have Notting Hill in mine. One to go back to on any bad day! And Jerry Maguire, feel-good at its very very best!

  3. Suhrith October 19, 2010 at 4:26 am ·

    Beautifully compiled. I would add Love Actually to the list.

  4. Harsh October 19, 2010 at 6:49 pm ·

    I am glad ‘Into the Wild’ did not make it here, keeping the festive season in mind.
    500 days of summer is a great new entry. Great list.
    I ll add Back to the Future to this list, its a feel good time capsule.

  5. Tirthankar October 21, 2010 at 1:49 pm ·

    Excellent post. Has most of the movies which I would put on my list. Suhrith, I second – Love Actually! Also Four Weddings and a Funeral would make my top ten. On a separate note, I think a similar post on sit-coms or other TV series would be a good idea. Don’t know if it is a function of our tighter schedules or our decreasing attention spans, movies seem slightly tiresome to watch (unless I am watching it in the theatre with a bunch of friends) and the 30 or 40 minute episode of a TV sitcom is a much more convenient watch.

  6. Sumeet October 21, 2010 at 2:49 pm ·

    This is a niiice list! Thanks for compiling! Good reference point to pick up a movie from this list whenever one gets bored :)

  7. Mukul October 30, 2010 at 7:42 am ·

    Thanks Anisha! Yeah, I clearly missed out Sideways. Jerry Maguire, somehow I never liked too much. Probably it was just that the idea of Tom ‘MI’ Cruise as an underdog didn’t look too believable.

  8. Mukul October 30, 2010 at 7:44 am ·

    Its Hugh Grant, admit it! :)

  9. Mukul October 30, 2010 at 7:47 am ·

    Thanks Suhrith! Love Actually, is a good mood lifter, although I wanted to keep away ‘out and out’ romances and comedies out of this list and just keep movies which fell somewhere in between.

  10. Mukul October 30, 2010 at 7:51 am ·

    Yep. ‘Into the Wild’ makes for difficult re-watching also because I think his whole journey is somehow forced by his disgust for his parents and the society and in the last shot he seems to be regretting, saying soemthing like, you need to share the beauty of the world with someone.

    500 Days of Summer, of course is a clear rom com in the list but it just didn’t feel right to keep it out!

  11. Mukul October 30, 2010 at 8:23 am ·

    Thanks! Actually I wanted to make sure that the list is not filled with clear cut comedies and romances which I why I stayed away from ‘Hugh Grant’, ‘Julia Roberts’ and ‘ John Cusack’. Although if I had to put on Hugh Grant movie here, I’d put, ‘The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain’.

  12. Mukul October 30, 2010 at 8:24 am ·

    Thanks Sumeet!

  13. Ashutosh October 30, 2010 at 3:53 pm ·

    Nice list and even nicer to see “Beautiful Girls” on it. It’s wonderful and heartwarming without being too sentimental, one of my top favorites which many people don’t seem to have heard about. There’s just something about this film.

  14. Danish December 1, 2010 at 12:00 pm ·

    eerie. this is almost exactly the list i’d make – except for the bit where i haven’t seen Mumford or Americano, and which are now obviously on top of my to-see list. Oh and i’d chop off a digit from Eternal Sunshine and put it right on top.

    Great list. :)

  15. Sourya Das December 13, 2010 at 5:41 am ·

    hey good compilation, but i think many great ones which others would also love to see on that list like
    1.Shawshank Redemption(determination and will power)
    2.Sweet Home Alabama(the simplest but most important teachings of the oldest trade-love))
    3.Gladiator(dedication and revenge)
    …… missing.
    when we are talking about “feel good” movies, these can lift you up on any bad day.3 different genres of movies and 3 different inspiring ways……..

  16. Vatsala February 15, 2011 at 2:12 pm ·

    When Harry Met Sally and Annie Hall! Back to the Future as well. :)

  17. Anja April 14, 2011 at 4:00 pm ·

    “The ultimate gift” ~ great movie!!!! A must see movie…
    This movie really had a big impact on me sitting back looking at life and thinking at how greatful I can be and count all my blessings, including work, family, real friends and all the wonderful things life can teach and has to offer for every living being!

  18. Christelle July 27, 2011 at 11:59 pm ·

    Thanks for the list, I took some notes.
    A movie that would definitively be on top of my Feel good list would be “Dan in Real Life”. I have seen it so many times but I laugh and feel good every time. Funny and sweet, really well written and acted, it’s a crowd pleaser. I’m surprised not that many people know about it. Steve Carrell, Juliette Binoche, etc… Oh, and I forgot… the music! Excellent!!
    I will also add: Sideways, Seven year itch (Marylin Monroe –to watch on a hot summer night!), Kinky Boots, and Seducing Doctor Lewis.

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  20. terry December 8, 2011 at 4:22 pm ·

    cant believe good will hunting not in it and persuit of happiness not there two of the best

  21. Akshat December 9, 2011 at 10:45 am ·

    Great List .. so have seen most of these, but other ones are on my watchlist..
    and since the economies of scale prevail — Why not “Almost famous” to this list.. Most heartwarming , feel good movie about growing up , and maybe “Four weddings and a funeral”…

  22. Andypandy January 10, 2012 at 4:02 pm ·

    Great list! This might sound like a weird one, but How to Train Your Dragon would be up there for me. The innocence of an animated film about forbidden friendship with an all star cast and an amazing oscar nominated sound track! Seen it about 20 times and it never gets old.

  23. varaprasad February 19, 2012 at 7:27 am ·

    “It’s a Wonderful Life” is a biggest miss in a list like this. And if I prepared this list, I would have put that movie in the top 3 and also “Singing in the Rain”.
    Without “IWL”, no ‘feel-good’ list is complete.

    Anyways its a good attempt.

  24. Michael April 20, 2012 at 1:05 am ·

    I have to admit….there wasn’t one movie on this list that I wouldn’t say makes me feel good. Big ups to the author…Maybe thow in a Hooshiers or a Rudy for the sportman’s touch…but all in all, great list!!

  25. michel r. May 1, 2012 at 10:27 am ·

    your list sucks big time .

  26. Jackie February 9, 2013 at 9:22 am ·

    I’d like to add Little Miss Sunshine and Le Huitieme (8th) Jour

  27. Eleni Nicodemou July 10, 2013 at 11:36 am ·

    Some not mentioned in the list or comment section that i would add would be The Terminal, The Holiday, The Help can’t think of anymore right now…

  28. Meera January 15, 2014 at 11:00 am ·

    Great list. One film I wish could have been included – Just go with it. :)

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  32. Julie June 2, 2014 at 2:35 pm ·

    Two movies I absolutely love for their beauty, humor, and unfailing ability to lift my spirits are: 1) View from the Top, and 2) The Hudsucker Proxy. There are very few movies I’ve seen more than once, but I’ve watched these two at least a dozen times each. For fun movies along the lines of Back to the Future, I like 1) Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, and 2) Wayne’s World. Another must see feel good movie with Bill Murray is “What About Bob?”

  33. Sofiya February 14, 2015 at 1:59 am ·

    JERRY MAGUIRE, THE FAMILY MAN!, Shawshank redemption, two much, good will hunting, pursuit of happiness, over the top, overboard, bird on a wire, Mrs. Doubtfire, my big fat Greek wedding, liar liar

  34. Sofiya February 14, 2015 at 2:03 am ·

    JERRY MAGUIRE, THE FAMILY MAN!, pretty woman, Shawshank redemption, two much, good will hunting, pursuit of happiness, over the top, overboard, bird on a wire, Mrs. Doubtfire, my big fat Greek wedding, liar liar

  35. Faye February 26, 2015 at 5:01 am ·

    I think your list and your writing are brilliant – well done. What Dreams May Come might be a good choice here as well.

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