We've all used as a distraction. Maybe it helped to push off a project that eventually needed to get finished, or it delayed sleep until it was late enough to go to bed. Perhaps it also was a welcome form of entertainment when Saturday night plans changed, or even a way to make a Wednesday evening more exciting. But more than being a common distraction, Netflix offers the chance to escape. And that's especially true of feel-good movies, which manage to pass the time with transformative stories of love, friendship, and personal growth.
We gathered 12 feel-good movies on that encapsulate those three heartwarming themes and more for those moments when you just want to get away on the comfort of your couch. Some of the picks are romantic, like How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, some are dramas, like The King's Speech, and others are all-out comedies, like I Love You, Man. It may not be the most conventional list, but it will provide the distraction you may need to recharge. So ahead and delve into these feel-good flicks. By the end of one—or three, no judgement—you'll likely feel the calm that comes from feeling connected to an optimistic story.
Julie and Julia
There are plenty of reasons this movie is destined to make you feel good. For one, it's directed by the timelessly charming Nora Ephron. Secondly, it stars Amy Adams as Julie Powell, a woman who is committed to cooking the entirety of Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking in a year. As she does so, the movie flashes back in time to the making of the famed cookbook, with Meryl Streep playing Child. It's filled with beautiful shots of delectable food, stunning scenes of midcentury Paris, and an ongoing message of determination to meet two shared goals.
This is one of those under-the-radar romantic comedies that you'll be telling your friends about after you watch it. It stars Sanaa Lathan as a single, career-oriented woman who just bought her first home and is looking to landscape the overgrown backyard. At the same time, she reluctantly agrees to go out on a blind date, and when her date turns out to be a white man (played by Simon Baker), she's reluctant to get involved. It just so happens, though, that this same man is a landscape architect, and she agrees to hire him after seeing his work.
Other than the swoon-worthy aspects of this movie, it's also a story about strong friendships and family support.
The Princess Diaries
As far as modern fairytales go, this Disney movie is often seen as a standout choice—and that's not just because it's every teenage girl's fever dream. It stars Anne Hathaway in her breakout role as a gawky and awkward teen living in San Francisco who discovers that she's actually the heir to the throne of Genovia. Her grandma, played by Julie Andrews, is the current queen, and she's committed to teaching her granddaughter all she needs to know to follow in her footsteps. There's a montage makeover, of course, as well as smile-inducing hijinks when things don't go as planned.
The King's Speech
Based on the true story of Prince Albert's unlikely succession to the throne after his brother's tumultuous abdication, this period drama—which stars Colin Firth in an Oscar-winning role—explores how a sudden change in the making of history comes with its own private hurdles. Prince Albert has a speech impairment, and he and his wife Elizabeth know that public appearances and speeches are going to be a part of his future. So Elizabeth, played by Helena Bonham Carter, hires an Australian actor and speech therapist to help, and the friendship that forms between the two men culminates in one particularly moving oration.
If you're not into a period drama, perhaps you'd like to see Colin Firth in a decidedly different role. In this shamelessly happy film, he plays one of three men who could be the father of a young woman played by Amanda Seyfried. Her mother, who happens to be played by Meryl Streep, never told her who her father is, but did keep a diary of that time—which the daughter finds. She invites the prospects to her wedding, and with the help of catchy ABBA songs and silly dance moves, the idea doesn't end in disaster.
Watch this movie if you're looking for a feel-good escape, because other than the soundtrack, the entire film takes place on a Greek island.
The Truman Show
There's something to be said about a movie that not only happens to predict the rise of reality television but also shows the versatility of Jim Carrey at a time when he was mostly famous for being a wacky comedian. The film stars Carrey in the namesake role, where he is a lovable real person unknowingly surrounded by actors in a global 24-hour show. The actors, the crew, and the show's audience are invested in Truman because they've seen him grow up, so when he starts to suspect the strangeness of his existence, there's a moral struggle about the privacy a person deserves.
Given what we know now about reality TV culture, this movie is bound to strike a nerve.
I Love You, Man
After Paul Rudd and Rashida Jones's characters get engaged, she notices that he doesn't really have male friends—so she wisely encourages him to find some, if only to have a best man. He goes on a series of awkward meetups, and when he unexpectedly meets a laid-back guy played by Jason Segel, it feels promising. The two men hit it off, but it eventually causes a rift between the engaged couple and a problem at his job. There are plenty of hilarious scenes in this comedy, but the comfortable friendship between Segel and Rudd's characters is what gives it a feel-good quality.
Good Will Hunting
One of the prevailing qualities of a feel-good movie is watching a character transform into a better version of themselves, and Good Will Hunting makes that happen with a stellar cast and script. The lead character is played by Matt Damon, a young man who works as a janitor at MIT. When he solves an "impossible" math equation on a chalkboard in the hallway, a professor discovers he has a genius IQ and wants him to explore related opportunities. The professor introduces him to a therapist, expertly played by Robin Williams, who teaches him how to deal with previous traumas as he's simultaneously learning to embrace his intellect.
It's a film that questions first impressions and celebrates solid friendships as the lead character progresses.
Meet the Parents
Meeting a significant other's parents for the first time sounds like the makings of a horror film, we know. But since this movie stars Ben Stiller as the unfamiliar boyfriend and Robert De Niro as the overprotective father, it happens to make a comedy out of an otherwise stressful situation. Stiller wants to use this important weekend trip to propose to his girlfriend, but when De Niro's antics and Stiller's ongoing missteps cause a series of problems, that idyllic scenario seems more and more out of reach.
You'll cringe as you laugh, and that's why this movie can be so fun to watch.
How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days
Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey are at the peak of their charms in this movie, which stars her as a magazine columnist and him as an advertising executive. She is given an assignment to push a man away with stereotypical dating faux pas, and he is tasked with making a woman fall in love with him as part of an office bet—and neither knows what the other is up to as they meet and start dating. Sure, there are quite a few things to balk at about this storyline, and that's why those aforementioned charms need to be mentioned.
Because as the two actors get involved in different twists, you can't help but smile.
We know what you're thinking. Happy Gilmore? Isn't that a '90s Adam Sandler movie where he plays golf? Yep—and the reason we think this is a feel-good flick is because it's almost impossible not to find yourself smiling as you watch it. Sandler plays a character who wants to be a professional hockey player but unwittingly discovers that he's actually pretty good at golf. His rugged (read: profane-laced) turn on the PGA circuit introduces him to Shooter McGavin, a pro who is threatened by his talent.
The hilarious one-liners McGavin has should make you laugh out loud, and that's why it's worth a watch.
Friendship, hope, and determination are all present in this fantasy-fueled Disney movie, in which its eponymous character sets out to save the future of her Polynesian island community by leaving it behind on a dangerous sea voyage. In order to save her home, Moana must find the heart of the goddess Te Fiti and restore it to her. The only problem? She needs the help of a demigod named Maui, played by Dwayne Johnson, who once had the heart but lost it—and his magical fishhook—in the process. Watch this for the animation and the songs, but also for the lesson of perseverance.