There’s no shame in enjoying a feel good movie every now and again. Yes, they might be painfully predictable, cheesy to the max, and ask you to accept some questionable plot points, but they make us happy dammit! Sometimes you want to see the guy get the girl (Sing Street), the hero save the day (Stardust), the bear find a family (Paddington)… especially when you’ve had a tough day at work or the world is just too depressing to deal with. Switch off for a couple of hours and enjoy one of these feel good movies. And if you really think you have to up your ‘serious film quota’ afterwards, here’s the most depressing movies ever, the movies you’ll only watch once, and the longest films of all time you’ll NEVER get through.
Psst... we've also made a playlist of our favourite songs from the best feel good movies, which you can listen to while you pick which film to watch. Just in case you need some extra happy feelings. You're welcome.
25. Paddington (2014)
What is it? A heartwarming story about a bear coming to London with only marmalade sandwiches and an open heart. Paddington is anything but grizzly, as he’s discovered - ready for this? - near the lost and found section of Paddington station by the Brown family. Stiff banker Mr Brown wants him out of the house as soon as possible, but obviously grows to love the furry talking mammal in a heart-warming character arc. It’s a good job he does, because the menacing Millicent Clyde is set on stuffing Paddington and adding him to her taxidermy collection...
Most feel good moment: When Paddington meets the Brown family for the first time, and you see the love and warmth in Mrs Brown’s eyes. Her devotion to the bear is complete in a split second as she becomes the embodiment of selflessness. Zoe Delahunty-Light
24. Rock of Ages (2012)
What is it? This movie remake of the stage musical Rock of Ages has an impressive cast, which includes the likes of Tom Cruise and Catherine Zeta-Jones, and is an ‘80s inspired spectacular. Set in LA at the height of the rock craze, it follows the story of Sherrie (Julianne Hough) and Drew (Diego Boneta) as they try to hit the big time. Throw in a young love story, ‘the man’ (Zeta-Jones) trying to kick the rockers out of town, and big stage-show covers of some of the best rock songs of the era, and you’ve got one hell of a feel good movie on your hands.
Most feel good moment: When Stacee Jaxx (Cruise) finally realises what a weasel his manager Paul Gill (Paul Giamatti) has been and literally pisses on him and then fires him. Lauren O’Callaghan
23. Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)
What is it? Taika Waititi’s ruthless road movie about a delinquent boy forced to go on the run with Sam Neill’s grizzled bushman. Why ruthless? Because it wastes no time in smashing your heart to pieces so it can gradually rebuild it. It’s a familiar story brought to life by wonderfully weird characters and charming performances. Newcomer Julian Dennison is perfect as the doughy, directionless Ricky Baker, and Rachel House’s portrayal of Paula, the obsessive child welfare officer who pursues him, recalls Tommy Lee Jones from The Fugitive, but armed with trail mix. A warm, wonderfully story, that finds humour in the smallest moments. Save it for a day when the world feels bleak.
Most feel good moment: “We didn’t choose the skux life… the skux life chose us!” The growing friendship between Ricky and Hec, complete with its ups and downs, is brilliant, but it’s the hopeful, satisfying conclusion that will stay with you. Majestical. Matt Elliott
22. Nanny McPhee (2005)
What is it? Like Mary Poppins meets Roald Dahl, Nanny McPhee is a fantastical fairy tale about the eponymous cronish old woman with magic powers (Emma Thompson), who helps wrangle a pack of unruly children while helping their father find love. There's a twist, though - the more this menagerie of brats ends up taking to her, the more beautiful she becomes. Like the best British family movies, everything's generally comically bleak, but love proves stronger than whatever twisted fate befalls our family during its 97 minute runtime.
Most feel good moment: The father, Cedric, finds his true love (and is able to keep receiving his monthly allowance from his aunt-in-law as a result), Nanny McPhee makes it snow, and everything turns out fine as McPhee quietly leaves to provide comic hijinks for another deserving family. David Roberts
21. Stardust (2007)
What is it? A fantasy adventure that's equal parts Chronicles of Narnia and Hocus Pocus, Stardust tells the tale of a Tristan, a young man who crosses a magical border and enters a world of magic, witches, kings, and sky pirates. Tristan is a young man of lowly status hopelessly in love with the beautiful Victoria. One night, he sees a shooting star and follows its trail, hoping to find and give it to her as a present. Instead of a rock from space though, he finds a girl. Unfortunately for Tristan, other forces desire the power of a star as well, leading to a high-stakes chase and a daring rescue when Tristan realises he actually loves Yvaine (the star) more than Victoria.
Most feel good moment: At one point Tristan and Yvaine meet the intimidating and scary Captain Shakespeare (Robert De Niro) who’s actually secretly a flamboyant, occasionally cross-dressing softie. When his crew finds out, he’s devastated until it turns out that they A) already knew, and B) love and support him anyway. Pirates can be so open-minded. Sam Prell
20. The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
What is it? Superficially, it’s a genteel comedy about a concierge and his young protegee. Underneath that, however, is a deeper story about powerful memories, and how the human spirit can endure through war and savagery. There’s an argument that it’s actually one of Wes Anderson’s saddest movies, and there are certainly some bleak moments, but you still come away with an overwhelming sense of hope. The liberally-perfumed M. Gustave proves it’s possible to remain decent in the face of absolute barbarism, and is one of Anderson’s greatest characters. A reassuring, if sometimes heart-wrenching, fable.
Most feel good moment: The Order of the Cross Keys revelation, during which concierges of the world unite to assist Zero and Gustave, stands out but the heart of the film is in the small moments. Gustave’s hopeful assertion “there are still faint glimmers of civilization left in this barbaric slaughterhouse that was once known as humanity” is an ode to civility in a world gone mad. Matt Elliott
19. Office Space (1999)
What is it? The definitive '90s counter-cultural "fuck you" to work-a-day bureaucracy. Main character Peter Gibbons' life is going nowhere in a hurry, but an interrupted hypnotherapy session changes everything. Suddenly, Peter is completely unable to give a shit about his mindless work or any of the other dumb crap in his life. Naturally, this earns him a promotion while his two buddies are set to be laid off. The trio hatch a plan to steal fractions of revenue from the company as a subtle form of revenge and it inevitably goes pear-shaped, but everything still works out in the end.
Most feel good moment: When Peter and his buds finally have enough of a malfunctioning printer, they haul it out into a field and smash it to pieces as Geto Boys' Still pounds in the background. For anyone who has ever worked with temperamental machinery, its feel good nature goes without saying. Connor Sheridan
18. Legally Blonde (2001)
What is it? You know when the love of your life dumps you so you have to go to law school to prove you’re the woman he should be with? No? That’s exactly what happens to Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) in Legally Blonde. Treated like a bimbo all her life for her appearance Elle is dumped by her boyfriend Warner (Matthew Davis) for being “too blonde” so goes to Harvard to prove she’s “serious”. Needless to say, she discovers her true passion, wins the respect of those who underestimated her, and kicks ass the Elle Woods way. If you’ve ever been stereotyped (see: all of us) this is the feel good movie for you.
Most feel good moment: When Elle wins her first law trial by combining her savvy legal knowledge with some seriously scientific haircare expertise. Lauren O’Callaghan
17. National Lampoon's Vacation (1983)
What is it? This movie pairs up two of the greatest comedy geniuses behind the camera: Harold Ramis directing and John Hughes writing. The road trip is an American institution, and their treatment of the familiar topic is comedy gold. Clark (Chevy Chase) gets behind the wheel of the Wagon Queen Family Truckster, hell-bent on going to the Walley World amusement park with his family. Things naturally go haywire along the way, and the sense of humour is equal parts hilarious and shocking.
Most feel good moment: With so many memorable quotes and zingers to choose from, the intro credits is still one of the best moments. Thanks to the twangy tunes and the cheesy postcards, it’s the perfect set-up for the movie to come. Anna Washenko
16. Babe (1995)
What is it? Probably everyone’s first test of their meat-eating ways growing up, Babe is the tale of a little pig on a farm who ends up being brought up by sheepdogs and learns to herd sheep in his own very special way. Despite a rather depressing ‘some animals are food and some are useful’ message, Babe manages to deliver enough singing mice, talking horses, and comedy ducks to sneak into your heart and stay there.
Most feel good moment: When gruff farmer Arthur Hoggett - played with peak grump by James Cromwell - attempts to nurse a sick Babe back to health and ends up singing to the little pig. He starts off quietly before suddenly launching into an anthemic performance, complete with dance moves. Louise Blain