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The best feelgood movies on Netflix

Brighten your spirits with some of the best feelgood films Netflix has to offer

Written by
Andy Kryza
Written by
Matthew Singer
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Movies can elicit a wide range of emotions, from fear to anger to confusion. Sometimes, though, all you want is to feel good. Luckily, the US Netflix is practically bursting with cinematic shots of sunshine. But the best feel good movies don’t have to be mindlessly cheerful. As you’ll find on the list below, selections range from romcoms to musicals, family films to whimsical fantasies. Whether you’re in the mood for a musical or a romantic comedy, these 30 movies will cure whatever’s ailing you.

Recommended: Not a Netflix fan? Here are the 30 best films streaming on Amazon Prime UK right now.

Best feelgood movies on Netflix

Matilda (1996)
  • Film
  • Family and kids

Director: Danny DeVito

Cast: Mara Wilson, Danny DeVito, Pam Ferris

Danny DeVito's snappy, kinetic visual adaptation of this Roald Dahl classic fits the cartoon feel of the source material, and the cast is great. It’s a modern-day pantomime about childhood solidarity and self-empowerment: the real joy here is the view of generational war, the children’s assumption of zero tolerance for injustices inflicted by absurd adults, and the recognition that the big meanies should be punished, by fair means or foul.

Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)
  • Film
  • Comedy

Director: John Hughes

Cast: Matthew Broderick, Alan Ruck, Mia Sara

Sure, it’s got a secondary arc about Alan Ruck learning to stand up for himself, but the real message of John Hughes’s good-natured teen comedy is that skipping school to screw around in your hometown once in a while can be more educational than anything you would have learned in class that day. An instant pick-me-up for geeks, sluts, bloods, wastoids, dweebies and dickheads of any generation – and a vicarious thrill for the goody-two-shoes with a perfect attendance record.

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The Iron Giant (1999)
  • Film

Director: Brad Bird

Voice cast: Eli Marienthal, Vin Diesel, Jennifer Aniston, Harry Connick Jr

Brad Bird’s pre-Invincibles breakthrough about a boy who befriends a metallic alien colossus in 1950s Maine can squeeze a tear from a piece of aluminum siding. But its melancholy tone ultimately serves an emotional antiwar message – the kind of uplift we could all use right now after being plastered to the news all day. 

Set It Up (2018)

Set It Up (2018)

Director: Claire Scanlon

Cast: Zoey Deutch, Glen Powell, Taye Diggs, Lucy Liu

Director Claire Scanlon resurrects that tragically neglected genre, the romcom, with this amiable caper. The premise – two put-upon assistants (Glen Powell and Zoey Deutch) try to trick their bosses-from-hell as payback for their own stresses – is relatively well-trodden territory, but it’s executed deftly and boasts no little heart. There are even a few genuine laugh-out-loud moments sprinkled among the romantic fare, with Lucy Liu proving that when it comes to comedy she knows how to deliver.

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  • Film
  • Drama

Director: Lulu Wang

Cast: Awkwafina, Shuzhen Zhao

On paper, Lulu Wang’s deeply personal The Farewell sounds like a heartbreaker: It centres on a Chinese-American girl (Awkwafina) traveling to China to say goodbye to her grandmother, who is blissfully unaware that she has terminal cancer. Under the guise of a fake wedding, the family gets together for one last celebration with their matriarch. It sounds grim, but what unfolds is a stirring and affirming story of family, one that finds vibrant life among its ensemble even as the spectre of death looms. This is a film about embracing individualism and celebrating life, and it’s a joy from beginning to end… especially when the mid-credits stinger pulls the rug out from under viewers in the best way imaginable. 

Pitch Perfect (2012)
  • Film
  • Comedy

Pitch Perfect (2012)

Director: Jason Moore

Cast: Anna Kendrick, Brittany Snow, Rebel Wilson, Elizabeth Banks

A send-up of contemporary musicals and the ‘competitive performing arts drama’ genre, Pitch Perfect caught audiences off-guard, becoming one of the 2010s’ truly leftfield hits. Anna Kendrick plays a college freshman recruited as a ringer in an a capella singing competition. It might not sound like your thing, but trust us: it’s very hard to resist. 

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  • Film
  • Fantasy

Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Cast: Audrey Tautou, Mathieu Kassovitz, Rufus

‘Feel good’ doesn’t begin to describe the pure dopamine rush of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s modern fairy tale. The incandescent Audrey Tautou could power every other film on this list with the pure joy she brings to the role of the titular Parisian waitress who wants to help the world, but has to first learn the importance of helping herself. 

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (2018)
Photograph: Masha Weisberg/Netflix

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (2018)

Director: Susan Johnson

Cast: Lana Condor, Noah Centineo

To deal with her intense crushes, Lara Jean (Lana Condor) writes secret love letters to the boys she lusts after, which no one is ever meant to see. Of course, these letters end up being sent out and Lara Jean must deal with her feelings, and the implications of the letters, head on. The sequel to the sequel –To All the Boys: Always and Forever – landed on Netflix earlier this year. The romcom is officially back, baby.

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Fantastic Mr Fox (2009)
  • Film
  • Animation

Director: Wes Anderson

Voice cast: Meryl Streep, George Clooney, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Willem Dafoe, Owen Wilson

In some circles, this adaptation of the Roald Dahl classic is considered one of Wes Anderson’s very best films – and those circles are right. It maintains an essential Wes Anderson-ness, but the stop motion puppetry makes the book you loved as a kid, about a mischievous fox defending his family from a trio of vengeful farmers, dance right off the page.

Paddington (2014)
  • Film
  • Family and kids

Director: Paul King

Cast: Sally Hawkins, Nicole Kidman, 

Paul King’s adaptation of the lovable Peruvian bear’s adventures as an immigrant in London has become internet shorthand for feelgood entertainment (even if some curmudgeonly critic recently took the sequel down a peg), but the films more than live up to their hype. The first Paddington, like its more vaunted sequel, is a silly, sincere tale of a curious critter whose dedication to kindness and decency are downright infectious, a film that is as bighearted as its hero and as sweet as a marmalade sandwich. Bring on the threequel!

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  • Film
  • Action and adventure

Director: Bong Joon-ho

Cast: Tilda Swinton, Paul Dano, Seo-hyun Ahn

Like his international breakthrough The Host, Bong Joon-ho’s precursor to Parasite is an allegory for capitalism’s globally destructive force, only with a much cuter giant beast at its center: a genetically modified pig the size of an elephant. When the docile animal is abducted by a multinational corporation that plans to sell its meat, a young South Korean girl (Ahn Seo-hyun) travels to America to save it. The movie is a bit of a jumble tonally, but it ultimately strikes a more hopeful note than many of Bong’s films.

  • Film
  • Comedy

Director: Richard Curtis

Cast: Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Bill Nighy, Colin Firth

Feel that in your toes? That’s right… Christmas is all around us, and that means the inevitability of watching Love Actually, Richard Curtis’s sprawling tale of big holiday feelings. And while some of the stories are decidedly less sunny than we like to remember – somebody please get Andrew Garfield to therapy, and Hugh Grant before an ethics committee – little Thomas Brodie-Sangster’s mad dash through the airport in the name of true love is enough to soften even the most cynical heart.

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Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
  • Film
  • Comedy

Directors: Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam

Cast: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle

It may lack the satire-with-a-purpose edge of Life of Brian, but Holy Grail is the sillier, funnier film, packed with goofy laughs rather than hey-I-get-that cleverness. It’s aged better too, less beholden to notions of revolutionary politics and more reliant on slapstick violence, sudden explosions, surrealist wordplay and scatological asides. You’d be an empty-headed animal food-trough-wiper not to tee it up asap.

Kiki's Delivery Service (1989)
  • Film
  • Animation

Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Cast: Kirsten Dunst, Phil Hartman (English dub)

Like My Neighbour Totoro, Hayao Miyazaki’s fleet, whimsical tale of a young witch coming of age in Scandinavia is a rare animated adventure almost completely void of conflict, peril or villainy: It is, in essence, a hangout movie about a young girl and her smartass talking cat making friends, exploring nature and getting into mischief. As such, it’s a pure delight. And lest that description make things sound slightly dull, there’s a climactic incident involving a runaway blimp that ranks among Studio Ghibli’s most exciting action set pieces, full stop.

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Mixtape (2021)
Photograph: Netflix

Mixtape (2021)

Director: Valerie Weiss

Cast: Gemma Brooke Allen, Julie Bowen, Audrey Hsieh

Depending on when you were born, ‘feel-old movie’ might be the more appropriate category for this late ’90s period piece about a tween girl learning about the parents she never knew through the music they shared with each other. On the plus side, it’s spunky and heartfelt and has a legit great soundtrack, so it might momentarily shock your creaky bones back to life.

Bad Trip (2020)
Photograph: Netflix

Bad Trip (2020)

Director: Kitao Sakura
Cast: Eric André, Lil Rel Howery, Tiffany Haddish

Bad Trip takes its cues from prank movies Bad Grandpa and Borat in telling the story of a lovestruck loser (Eric André) road-tripping across the American south in pursuit of true love. But something truly unexpected happens amid the gushes of blood and vomit André unleashes on unsuspecting bystanders who have no idea they’re in a movie: he finds genuine compassion. Unlike Sacha Baron Cohen, André doesn’t end up exposing the creeps lurking in America’s dark underbelly. He unearths kindness and helping hands in even the most ludicrous set-ups. That he does so while spraying bodily fluids everywhere is some kind of miracle that borders on genuinely moving. No film this gross should make you feel this good about humanity.

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Someone Great (2019)
Netflix/Sarah Shatz

Someone Great (2019)

Director: Jennifer Kaytin Robinson

Cast: Gina Rodriguez, Brittany Snow, DeWanda Wise

This romcom might not be the most original or groundbreaking addition to the genre, but sometimes if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Instead, focus on friendship and the chemistry that this film’s three female leads have in abundance. 

Falling Inn Love (2019)
Nicola Dove / Netflix

Falling Inn Love (2019)

Director: Roger Kumble

Cast: Christina Milian, Adam Demos, Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman

The concept of this film is preposterous: an American woman loses everything but then happens to win a New Zealand inn (?!) which she attempts to renovate and flip with the help of her hunky contractor. Naturally, their relationship gets complicated. Essentially it’s a hit of sugar and who can complain about that? 

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The Little Prince (2015)
  • Film
  • Animation

Director Mark Osborne

Cast Rachel McAdams, Jeff Bridges, Mackenzie Foy (voices)

This sweet, faithful adaptation of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s much-loved book skipped the cinema and landed straight on Netflix. It’s a charming mix of computer animation and stop-motion, as it follows a young girl who is told the familiar tale by the book’s now elderly pilot, who recalls crashing in the desert where he meets the titular alien.

  • Film

Director: Nahnatchka Khan

Cast: Ali Wong, Randall Park

Netflix continues its romcom reign with this touching and funny film about childhood friends Sasha and Marcus (played by Ali Wong and Randall Park) who have a falling out and don’t speak for 15 years. Brought back together when Sasha, now a celebrity chef, returns to her hometown of San Francisco to open a new restaurant, she finds her former friend to be a happily complacent musician still living at home and working for his dad. Naturally, things become complicated... especially when an unexpected actor makes one of the best cameos of the 21st century.

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  • Film
  • Comedy

Director: Will Gluck

Cast: Emma Stone, Penn Badley, Stanley Tuccci

Will Gluck’s twenty-first-century take on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter is a film that brings the spunk back to the teen comedy. Stone plays Olive, a straight-A student who taps into her school’s rumour mill for social clout and financial gain. If you like your teen comedies with real jokes and skewed morals, this one is for you.  

  • Film
  • Comedy

Director: David Dobkin

Cast: Will Ferrell, Rachel McAdams, Dan Stevens

This is one of those films that on paper really should not work. And, depending on your taste, you might feel that Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga is, in fact, a disaster. If you’re able to take it at face value, though, then this very sweet musical about two aspiring musicians from Iceland whose life-long dream is to represent their country at the Eurovision Song Contest is a real delight. It features cameos from previous Eurovision contestants, and the songs are genuinely good. Don’t believe us? Play ‘Jaja Ding Dong’!

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  • Film
  • Fantasy

Director: Steven Spielberg

Cast: Dustin Hoffman, Robin Williams, Julia Roberts

While not critically adored at the time of release, this rejigged tale about an all-grown-up Peter Pan and his ongoing feud with Captain Hook has become a cult classic. Robin Williams is great, as is a campy Dustin Hoffman, and we challenge you not to want to run away with the Lost Boys. Yes it’s sweet and sentimental, but it’s also a lot of fun. 

  • Film
  • Comedy

Director: Richard Linklater

Cast: Jack Black, Joan Cusack, Mike White

Jack Black stars in this musical comedy that’s proved so popular that it's been adapted for the stage and spawned a TV reboot. Black plays Dewey Finn, a washed up musician who gets kicked out of his band only to be informed by his roommate that if he can’t pay the rent he’s out. Desperate, he impersonates said roommate and takes on a job as a substitute teacher, only to recruit a class of school kids to compete against his former band in the local Battle of the Bands contest. Think Sister Act 2, but with added guitars.

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Enola Holmes (2020)
Photograph: ROBERT VIGLASKI /LEGENDARY ©2020

Enola Holmes (2020)

Director Harry Bradbeer

Cast Millie Bobby Brown, Henry Cavill, Helena Bonham Carter

Do we need another film set in the world of Sherlock Holmes? Is it weird for Sherlock to take a back seat in it? Is Millie Bobby Brown a movie star? This light-footed caper answers all those questions – yes, no and hell yes – over two hours of giddying, female-led crime-solving. It’s an action-packed, super-sleuthing rush.

The best films on Netflix UK

The 30 best movies on Netflix UK
  • Film

Feeling overwhelmed or uninspired by the choice on Netflix UK? We’ve all been there. If you can’t decide what to watch, try one of these solid gold winners – and take your pick from hilarious comedy movies, reach-for- the-tissues heartwarmers and Oscar-winning nail-biting dramas.

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