The world is a crazy, scary place these days. We have a reality TV star as president and it’s starting to feel like everyone has lost their minds. That’s why we need the escape of entertainment more than ever. Music, TV, and especially movies are becoming essential forms of escapism in this tumultuous world. But not just any kind of escapism: the feel-good kind.
After dealing with the 24-hour news cycle fatigue, sometimes it just feels good to plop on the couch with a feel-good film. You know the type. Movies where there aren’t any superheroes, big dramatic plots, or stressful twists. Just good old-fashioned belly laughs, and maybe a few heartfelt tears. Sometimes you just need to spend two hours engrossed in a film that makes you feel better for having watched it.
17. Legally Blonde
Not only is Legally Blonde guaranteed to make you laugh, but it’s also one of the most inspiring movies of all time. Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) goes from blonde bimbo to Harvard Law School grad in record time and it’ll totally warm your heart. Watching Elle get over her pompous ex and surpass him in literally every way is the ultimate success story and will have you feeling totally empowered. Women can do anything a man can do — and better at that! And if that doesn’t make you feel great then nothing will.
Who says animated movies are just for kids? Shrek is the ultimate “accepting yourself for you are” film. Shrek isn’t the most handsome guy — okay, he’s a literal ogre — but he finds someone who accepts him for him and ends up matching him in every way. If you’re feeling #foreveralone, this flick will help you realize there is someone for everyone, and you may find them in the most unlikely of places. Plus, there’s Eddie Murphy as Donkey and if he doesn’t make you LOL during the entire movie, then you’re probably made of stone.
Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell have been Hollywood’s golden couple for decades now, and the chemistry they have in this movie will show you why. The movie focuses on a spoiled rich woman (played by Hawn) who falls off her yacht, loses her memories, and is taken in by a poor working man (played by Russell) who cons her into thinking she’s his wife and the mother of his kids. While the plot is a little questionable when you really analyze it, it’s also a great rumination on class and star-crossed lovers. The two end up together in the end despite their glaring lifestyle differences and the routes they take to get there will make you laugh and, at times, make you cry. Above all, it’ll make you wish you had a love like Russell and Hawn’s!
14. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
From high school to adulthood, you will always love this movie. The tale of Ferris (Matthew Broderick) and his day off of school with his BFF and girlfriend is ultimate wish-fulfillment. A day full of adventures dodging the man and trying not to get in trouble sounds kind of perfect. Watching Ferris and his pals have the day of their life while trying not to get caught playing hooky from school will provide endless laughs and a bit of thrill. …And maybe give you some inspiration for the next day you just really don’t want to go to work!
13. Mrs. Doubtfire
What a joy Robin Williams was. And this is one of his most joyous roles. In Mrs.Doutbfire, he plays a man so hellbent on seeing his children that he dresses as a woman to be their nanny and spend time with them. As implausible as it may seem, it works and warms your heart along the way. But let’s be honest, any Robin Williams movie is guaranteed to make you feel good and laugh a whole lot. Mrs. Doubtfire is a great place to start but if you really want to feel good, checking out William’s entire catalog will definitely do that for you!
12. 10 Things I Hate About You
This is one of the many great Heath Ledger roles. In 10 Things I Hate About You, he’s a bad boy hired to woo a stubborn girl just so her sister can date. It’s one of the more realistic on-screen depictions of high school and the cliques that dominate it. This film will definitely have you feeling all warm and nostalgic. Looking back on your high school years is so much better when you’re doing it in hindsight. And despite being happy your those years are over, it’s fun to watch a teen movie every now and then!
When a young kid wishes to be an adult, his wish is fulfilled by a magical carnival game and suddenly he’s Tom Hanks! This is a movie that will have you longing for your childhood again. Let’s be honest — being an adult kind of sucks. And Josh realizes that about halfway through his days in a real-life job and complicated relationship. Soon, he’s clamoring to go back to being a 12-year-old and honestly, same, dude. We may not actually be able to turn back the clock, but we can sure feel good watching this kid appreciate his younger years like we never did.
10. Under the Tuscan Sun
This is the ultimate story of rebuilding your life after the unthinkable happens. When Frances’s (Diane Lane) husband cheats on her, she not only divorces him but packs up and heads to Italy to find herself again. While there, she buys a Tuscan villa and restarts her life in the gorgeous Mediterranean. It’s one of those movies that’s going to make you completely rethink your life. Sometimes we all need change to grow. Plus, all those gorgeous Italian views will have you feeling major wanderlust at the end of the film!
9. She’s the Man
Remember when Amanda Bynes was a wholesome, hilarious movie star?! When Viola wants to play soccer at a new boarding school, she schemes to take her twin brothers place, posing as him while he studies abroad. Hilarious hijinks ensue! Not only does this movie star a young Bynes, but we also see a young Channing Tatum and – shocker – he was always hot. You’re going to walk away from this film sore from laughing and ready to start a Bynes-movie marathon!
This Pixar film is guaranteed to bring the tears, but it’s also guaranteed to warm your heart. When Carl (Ed Asner) loses his wife, he decides to follow through on her final wish of tying thousands of balloons to his house and flying to South America. As he sets for takeoff, he realizes he has a stowaway and the adventure of a lifetime begins. The lonely old man is trying to do right by his deceased wife Ellie, but he ends up finding something more along the way. His bond with the young kid strengthens and he finds himself feeling happy and fulfilled again for the first time since his wife passed. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and then probably cry some more. But by the end, it’ll be pure happy tears.
This one is a no-brainer. How can you not feel great after watching Grease?! The ’50s-set musical movie is full of old-fashioned set pieces and catchy songs. It’s impossible to feel sad when you’re watching a movie that you’re singing along with the entire time! There is also no greater movie chemistry than that between Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta. You’ll be rooting for this couple throughout the whole movie, right until they drive their car into the sky together!
The story of Valley girl Cher (Alicia Silverstone) will definitely leave you laughing from start to finish. Cher’s self-involved attitude and love of shopping can be a bit grating at first, but she quickly grows on you as the movie progresses. Her transformation from superficial to serious(ish) is pretty inspiring and lands her Paul Rudd! Who, we may add, looks exactly the same in this mid-’90s film as he does in Ant-Man. This is one of those movies that’s lighthearted all the way through, and mindless enough where you can just sit back and enjoy yourself.
5. The Parent Trap
Sometimes it takes two Lindsay Lohans to get the job done. Two twins (both played by Lohan) are separated at birth and find each other when their parents send them to the same summer camp. Ignoring the obvious craziness here (why would Annie’s British mother send her to camp in the states?! Would any parents in their right minds think that a good way to deal with divorce is to just split up the kids and pretend the other one doesn’t exist?!), it’s adorable to watch the two girls get to know each other. When they swap places in a ploy to get their parents back together, you can’t help but root for them. The film has some beautiful scenery (Napa, California anyone?) and the best lines. “I have class and you don’t” will forever be one of best remarks in movie history!
4. Remember the Titans
This is not only a feel-good movie, it’s chock-full of important lessons. The world of high school football faces desegregation at the helm of Denzel Washington and not everyone is on board. Race relations are faced head-on in the film as the players realize whether you’re black or white, you’re still human through and through. If you don’t cry watching this movie then you’re probably made of stone, just FYI. Despite the emotional bumps in the road throughout the film, you’ll end it feeling motivated and determined to unify the world around you. And we could all use a little bit of that right now!
3. Forrest Gump
This is one of those movies that has it all. Tom Hanks’s role as Gump is legendary. He’s comedic, tragic, and endlessly provoking all at once. The story of Gump’s life from childhood to the minute he ended up at the bus stop he’s telling this story at will keep you captivated all the way through. How can you not love his plucky optimism in the face of even the most terrifying scenarios? It’ll inspire you to be a little more positive because if Forrest can be after everything he’s been through, so can you!
2. The Princess Bride
This sweeping fairytale epic is unlike any other movie on this list. The story of the handsome stable hand saving the frightened princess is turned on its head. While the core of a “fairytale” adventure is there, the route between Wesley (Cary Elwes) and his true love is littered with crazy characters and even certain death! The film has equal parts thrills and laughs and, of course, a happy ending. It’s one of those movies that span generations, and you’ll find yourself loving it as a kid and as an adult. You can’t get more feel-good than that!
1. The School of Rock
The School of Rock looks like a kids’ movie on the surface but it’s so much more than that. Jack Black’s turn as a fake substitute teacher who uses his class to compete in the Battle of the Bands is basically his best role ever. (Close second in The Holiday.) The film is full of talented kids and silly one-liners that culminate in an incredibly empowering story. While Black’s character essentially kidnaps these kids to have them perform for him after lying for weeks, it all works out in the end as the kids find their voices and places in the world that they would never have found otherwise. You’ll want to go after your own dreams with a vengeance after the movie’s done!