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The 25 best feelgood movies on Netflix

Lift your mood with some of the best feelgood films on Netflix right now

By Time Out Film
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As we know pretty well by now, real life and current affairs can really get you down. For many of us, Netflix is the antidote and escapism we need from daily life. However, with so many titles to choose from, it can be hard to know which films will leave your spirits high. 

Well, we’re here to help. From classic romcoms like ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’ to Reese Witherspoon’s iconic turn as Elle Woods in ‘Legally Blonde’, movie musicals like ‘La La Land’ and ‘Burlesque’ and Netflix Originals such as ‘Dumplin’ and ‘Always Be My Maybe’, here’s our guide to the 25 best feelgood movies streaming on Netflix UK right now that are guaranteed to cheer you up. (Updated 14 May 2020.)

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

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.

Set It Up
Set It Up

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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Captain Fantastic (2016)

Film Drama

Director Matt Ross

Cast Viggo Mortensen, George MacKay, Samantha Isler, Annalise Basso

Viggo Mortensen stars in this spry comedy-drama about a family living an alternative lifestyle off the grid in America’s Pacific northwest. Mum has gone, leaving dad (Mortensen) to convince his brood that swapping creature comforts for survivalist living and Noam Chomsky lessons is the way forward. A film about navigating norms and finding a path, it’s a thoughtful and big-hearted movie about family life and growing up that leaves a big impression.

To All the Boys I've Loved Before
To All the Boys I've Loved Before
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 – lands on Netflix in 2021. The romcom is officially back, baby.

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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.

The Martian

Film Action and adventure

Director: Ridley Scott

Cast: Matt Damon, Kristen Wiig, Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor

When it came out, this space adventure represented a major return to form for Ridley Scott – and it remains possibly his best movies since ‘Gladiator’. Again, it has a solitary hero doing things the hard way: this time an on-form Matt Damon's stranded astronaut turning Robinson Crusoe while NASA and others come up with a rescue plan. Thrilling, fun and winningly old-fashioned in its delivery, it ends on an optimistic note of international cooperation that will fill your sails.

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Labyrinth
Labyrinth
Photograph: Lucasfilm

Labyrinth (1986)

Film

Director: Jim Henson

Cast: Jennifer Connelly, David Bowie

Jim Henson’s finest Muppet-less hour – with apologies to the ‘Fraggle Rock’ diehards out there – this rollicking fairy tale adventure is almost impossible to resist. If you’re new to it, it has teenage Jennifer Connelly negotiating myriad dangers to reclaim her baby brother from the talons of the Goblin King (David Bowie). Bowie gyrates with puppet goblins. Baby is rescued. Everyone goes home happy. Trust us, it’s a joy – and the songs are underrated, too.

Burlesque (2010)

Film

Director: Steven Antin

Cast: Cher, Christina Aguilera, Stanley Tucci

Okay, so the plot of this Christina Aguilera and Cher vehicle makes little-to-no sense, but when you have the former belting out bangers and the latter bouncing off of Stanley Tucci, somehow magic happens. Indeed, Tucci and Cher’s chemistry is wonderful, even when the pop diva struggles to get the lines out without stumbling. Camp, clichéd and totally gluttonous, this one is so bad that it’s good.

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Someone Great
Someone Great
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
Falling Inn Love
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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라라랜드
라라랜드
Photograph: Dale Robinette

La La Land (2016)

Film Comedy

Director: Damien Chazelle

Cast: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone

What could be more feelgood than a musical that pays homage to the classic movie musicals of Hollywood? While not completely free from fraught romance and moments of melancholy, it captures the go-getter spirit of LA and the wonder of those old-fashioned big musical numbers, while telling a story about going out and achieving your dream. 

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.

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Ali Wong and Randall Park in Netflix’s Always Be My Maybe
Ali Wong and Randall Park in Netflix’s Always Be My Maybe
Photograph: Ed Araquel / Netflix

Always Be My Maybe (2019)

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. 

The Duff
The Duff
Photograph: Lionsgate/Entertainment One

The Duff (2015)

Film Comedy

Director Ari Sandel

Cast Mae Whitman, Bella Thorne

Mae Whitman has oodles of charm as the down-to-earth lead of this harmlessly predictable high school comedy. Realising she’s known as the ‘duff’, a Designated Ugly Fat Friend, guys talk to to get to their hotter mates, she sets about reinventing herself. But a message of acceptance wins out in the end.

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Eat Pray Love
Eat Pray Love
Photograph: Columbia Pictures

Eat Pray Love (2010)

Film

Director: Ryan Murphy

Cast: Julia Roberts, Javier Bardem, James Franco, Viola Davis

Julia Roberts stars in this soul-searching bildungsroman that follows an unhappy Manhattanite on her journey of self-discovery, spirituality, food and love. It’s cheesy at times, emotional at others, and filled with some fabulous shots of pasta. It’ll make you want to take an extended gap year. 

Easy A
Easy A
Photograph: Sony Pictures

Easy A (2010)

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.  

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Dumplin
Dumplin
Bob Mahoney / Netflix

Dumplin’ (2018)

Film Comedy

Director: Anne Fletcher

Cast: Danielle Macdonald, Jennifer Aniston

This entertaining and feelgood coming-of-age dramedy sees Jennifer Aniston excel as a former pageant queen whose plus-size, teenage daughter enters a pageant as a protest. Even better: it’s all soundtracked by Dolly Parton.

Chalet Girl
Chalet Girl
Photograph: Momentum Pictures

Chalet Girl (2011)

Film Comedy

Director Phil Traill

Cast Felicity Jones, Ed Westwick

Rogue One’ star Felicity Jones is at the heart of this fluffy, fun British romcom. She plays Kim, a working-class skateboard champion who becomes a chalet girl after her mum’s death – and ends up falling for a wealthy (and taken) client. 

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20 Feet from Stardom (2014)

Film Documentaries

Director Morgan Neville

Unsung singers finally reach the spotlight in this Oscar-winning doc about the vocalists who lent their larynxes to some of the biggest hits in pop and soul music history. You probably haven’t heard of women like Darlene Love, Judith Hill and Merry Clayton, but director Morgan Neville puts that right with thrilling studio footage of their contributions to all-time bangers like ‘Gimme Shelter’. A rousing reminder that greatness and fame don’t always travel hand in hand.

Hook
Hook
Photograph: TriStar Pictures

Hook (1991)

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. 

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Ponyo (2008)

Film Family and kids

Director Hayao Miyazaki

Voice cast Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon, Liam Neeson

There’s uplift pretty much on tap among Netflix’s catalogue of Studio Ghibli movies. For giddy wonderment and a hymn to the ocean’s majesty, try this cuddly riff on Hans Christian Andersen’s ‘The Little Mermaid’, the story of a magical ham-loving fish called Ponyo who just wants to be a little girl. The undersea world is a joy to behold – full of bioluminescence and wondrous critters – and the friendship between that Ponyo and an adorable poppet called Sosuke is a soul-filling delight.

ENOLA HOLMES
ENOLA HOLMES
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.

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Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005)

Film Action and adventure

Director Steve Box, Nick Park

Cast (voices) Peter Sallis, Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter

You know what to expect from an Aardman movie: meticulously crafted stop-motion animation, loveable characters, top puns and probably a giant vegetable or two. All are present and correct in the Bristol studio’s finest film to date. It’s an homage to classic Universal horror movies in which unsung hero Peter Sallis voices the cheese-loving, contraption-building Wallis, Ralph Fiennes channels his inner Tory cabinet minister as aristocratic rotter Lord Victor Quartermaine and Gromit saves the day. Again. 

The Karate Kid
The Karate Kid
Photograph: Columbia Pictures

The Karate Kid (1984)

Director John G Avildsen

Cast Ralph Macchio, Pat Morita, William Zabka

If you’re bingeing Netflix’s karate-tastic ‘Cobra Kai’ and you haven’t seen ‘The Karate Kid’ yet, you need to remedy that asap. The well from which ‘Cobra Kai’ draws is a none-more-’80s combination of coming-of-age classic, uplifting sports movie, underdog tale, training montage masterclass and fence-painting zen-ness. All set to the superpowered chords of Bill Conti. You will love it. 

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Crocodile Dundee
Crocodile Dundee
Photograph: Rimfire Films

Crocodile Dundee (1986)

Director Peter Faiman

Cast Paul Hogan, Linda Kozlowski, David Gulpilil

Thanks to Paul Hogan’s hunky outdoorsman Michael J ‘Crocodile’ Dundee, 1986 was the year Hollywood discovered Australia. If you haven’t already discovered this comedy and its you-beaut Aussie landscapes, it’s a croc-out-of-water tale in which Dundee charms the Big Apple, somehow taking a colossal knife with him. Laughs, romance and the ultimate tribute ensue: a parody in ‘The Simpsons’ (‘I see you’ve played knifey-spoony before!’). Take the plunge, mate. 

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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