There’s nothing quite like a well made, artfully done, depressing-as-hell film. It’s what I love. It’s what I long for when entering a darkened theater — my There Will be Bloods, my Sweet Hereafters, my classic noir, my psychological dramas, my human tragedies. I avoid musicals and romantic comedies like the plague…these being films most would claim as “feel good”. But there’s something special about a well done “nice film” that can brighten one’s spirits. And then there are those off-the-wall comedies that make you laugh over and over. After watching one of the most draining and harrowing films of recent memory, the artfully done but dehumanizingly humanist IRA-hunger-strike-in-prison drama, Hunger, I realized I needed a pick-me-up. So what movies make someone like me feel good?
Well, here’s the Schleicher Spin on Ten Feel Good Films that totally “get me”:
10. Ratatouille (2007) – Hats off to this rat and the best Pixar film ever. I frickin’ love this little French rat chef. It’s all about the story-arc and character development here.
9. Wet Hot American Summer (2001) – Really, how can you not feel good when a movie has these four words in the title: WET, HOT, AMERICAN, and SUMMER? Yeaaaaah! Summer camp and the 1980’s rocked, man! This is the movie that Hot Tub Time Machine wishes it could be.
8. Return to Me (2000). What an oddly appealing film: a high concept dramedy about a man who falls in love with the woman who received his dead wife’s heart starring two people I normally find annoying (David Duchovny and Minnie Driver) and directed by David Letterman’s soul mate, Bonnie Hunt. What we have here is a nice film about nice people directed by one of the nicest ladies on earth. Bonnie, will you please get back in the director’s chair!?
7. Ghost Town (2008). Here’s a film about a cold-hearted and sarcastic dentist (Ricky Gervais) who suddenly finds himself talking to some pushy ghosts after a near-death experience and falling in love with a ghost’s widow (Tea Leoni at her most charming). Directed by David Koepp (who never seems to get any credit), the film makes gorgeous use of its Manhattan setting and features clever writing and endearing characters. Unfairly overlooked when it was released, this is more than just The Sixth Sense of romantic comedies and features one of the best closing lines to any film of this kind in recent memory.
6. Used Cars (1980). Hot holy hell, I always forget that Robert Zemeckis directed this! Dare I say this is my favorite film of his! Kurt Russell and Jack Warden (as the hilariously named Roy L. Fuchs) are battling used car salesmen who get into all kinds of shenanigans (one involving strippers, many involving a dog) in this flick that is both totally ’80’s and totally timeless. I just start laughing every time I think of this staple from my college days. The extended sequence involving driver’s ed students racing against time in heaps from the junkyard to save the day is a comedy classic.
5. Monty Python’s The Life of Brian (1979) – I’ve always preferred this one over The Holy Grail (blasphemy!) and I think it’s mostly to do with the crucifixion sing-a-long at the end. There’s nothing quite like Eric Idle singing “Always look on the bright side of life” while hanging from a cross and Mormons are knocking on your door. Seriously, that happened to my roommates and I in college. We were watching this movie and blasting that song when Mormons came a-knocking. Ah, the look on their faces! Now that made me feel fantastic!
4. Almost Famous (2000). The nostalgia (hey, I wasn’t even alive during the era this film was set and I felt the nostalgia), the soundtrack, the coming-of-age, the rock-n-roll lifestyle, writer/director Cameron Crowe at his most Cameron Crowe-iest, the “Tiny Dancer” sing-a-long, Anna Paquin all grown-up as a smoking-hot groupie, Fairuza Balk, oh…and the ever appealing Penny Lane (Kate Hudson, when she was still young and almost famous). What the hell is there not to like about this? It just makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside every time I think about it. “Hold me closer…”
3. Atlantic City (1980) – This film about a city and its people gambling away their dreams and making that first (or last) big bet may seem like a downer to some. But there’s just something about that scene at the end where Susan Sarandon is driving down the White Horse Pike through the marshes racing away from the titular city and her windows are rolled down and the sun is setting (or is it rising?) and she has this look on her face that says, “I’m really doing it. I’m leaving this place for good!” And you feel so happy and so scared for her all at once. It’s a great ending that always makes me feel good, especially since I have cruised down the very same road through those very same marshes so many times both coming and going from Atlantic City.
2. Manhattan (1979) – I know, this one is so full or neurosis and melancholy, but something about that Gershwin music and the black-and-white cinematography always makes me feel great. And then there’s that last line, where Mariel Hemingway says to Woody Allen, “You gotta learn to have a little faith in people.” Well, this is one of those films that always restores my faith in people to make great movies.
1. Frankie and Johnny (1990). No one would ever accuse Garry Marshall of being a good director, but he did a fine job here with his adaptation of the Terrence McNally play about a New York schlub fresh from prison (Al Pacino) who gets a job as a cook at a Greek-owned diner and falls in love with a broken-hearted waitress (Michelle Pfeiffer). Having worked at a Greek-owned diner as a kid (in Jersey, not NYC) I’ll always have a soft-spot in my heart for the characters in this film. It makes exquisite use of DeBussy’s “Clair de Lune”, but even more exquisite is Michelle Pfeiffer — there’s just something about her in that waitress uniform…
Written by David H. Schleicher
So what are your favorite feel good films? Speak out and speak up in the comment form.
A few of mine that I will always watch and enjoy and make me feel good, not necessarily in the happy go lucky way :
– My Dog Skip. It’s not Old Yeller, but it gets me every time. Maybe it’s just Harry Connick Jr’s narration, but man, I can’t NOT tear up at the ending for that god damn awesome dog.
– No Escape. What ? A bloody, so/so action movie ? Ray Liotta + Lance Henrickson + obnoxious bad guy leader on an island. This movie to me was a throw back to all the bad cheesy Beastmaster action movies I grew up watching and I love it. Not sure why I feel so good watching this, but I can’t turn it off and I love the kill scenes. Makes me laugh.
– GIJOE: 2009 movie. See above. Brought back all the childhood memories for the toy and the cartoon. In my mind, good job. That’s all I wanted from this movie and it managed to do what Bay’s Transformers could not.
– Clerks II It just made me laugh that much harder, even though overall, it probably wasn’t as good as the original. I think I’m just impressed with how offensive this movie is , combined with the real friendship stuff in there. This movie had me in tears with laughter in the theater and still held up on second viewing.
– Beautiful Girls . Well cast , and just a good movie that is basically a story about friendships and the bonds that stand the test of time. I love this movie because almost all of us have a friend you can relate to from this movie. And all the side plots, yup, I can relate to a friend too. Just simple story telling I enjoy watching everytime. Watching underage Natelie Portman is a bit freaky now.
– A League of Their Own – Just makes me love everything about baseball.
Well, I’ll be! Straight from the horse’s mouth! This is a pretty good list. –DHS
Uncle Buck- nothing like John Candy and John Hughes to chase away the blues!
Chances Are- It’s a cheesy love story, but I loved it as a kid!
A League of Their Own & The Sandlot- Nothing more feel good than baseball!
Inglourious Basterds-do I really need to have a reason?
Megan, I can’t believe I overlooked all the baseball flicks. I would also add The Natural to the list. And damn, QT’s IB is all kinds of feel good, ain’t it? –DHS
“Rocky”, of course, is my #1 feel-good film of all time, and not just because of the motivational soundtrack! Going the distance is a win in its own right, and that’s a theme that can help anyone through life, no matter what your own individual struggle might be. You don’t need a blue ribbon or a plastic trophy to know you’re a winner. To quote Rocky, “Going in one more round when you don’t think you can – that’s what makes all the difference in your life.”
My runner-up feel-good films include “It’s A Wonderful Life”, “The Neverending Story” (except for the part where the horse sinks in the Swamps of Sadness), and “City Slickers”.
Joanne, what about City Slickers 2: The Legend of Curly’s Gold? –DHS
Bonjour! D.H. Sch-lei-cher…
D.H. said, “Ratatouille (2007) – Hats off to this rat and the best Pixar film ever. I frickin’ love this little French rat chef. It’s all about the story-arc and character development here…”
LOL!!!! (Laughing Out loud!!!!) I have to agree with you, wholeheartedly, one of the best animations as far, as I ‘am concerned that have been released by Pixar/Disney@ film.
Unfortunately, I have not had the oppor-tu-nity to watch your number one thru nine selections yet,(With “yet” being the operative word…) but your recommended…Edvard Munch will probably makes my list…that is after I view the film.
However …These are my top ten picks…(Not in order, but of course!)
1…Gigi-Just a sheer delight…I’ am so sorry, but it is a musical. :p
2. Rear Window- A Great Summertime film…with a “shocking” ending.
Now the Film noir take over…
3…The Maltese Falcon-Great script, Great cast, Great male lead (Bogart), Great female lead (Astor),…In other words…It’s Great!
(Oops! I cannot forget the Dingus, The Falcon, The Black Bird, and The Bird… “The Maltese Falcon.” (By the way, The 3-Disc set is a winner!)
4. Strangers on a Train-See my reasons that I listed the The Falcon. (By the way, The Double-Disc set is a winner!)
5. Robert Wise’s Born To Kill-Just one name…Tierney.
6. Side Street-With Farley Granger, Cathy O’Donnell, and C.McGraw.
7. The Dark Corner-Lucille Ball, Mark Steven, and C.Webb.
8. The Ministry of Fear-Ray Milland, Marjorie Reynolds, and Dan Duryea.
9. Shutter Island-A neo-noir that demands several more viewing…I guess that it will have that Vertigo-“esque” appeal one day.
10. Chinatown-Very Atmospheric the film that set the standard for every neo-noir (post-film noir) that followed. (Methinks!)
There you have it…By the way, funny captions underneath your screenshots.
Merci de demander…
Merci, pour le partage!
DeeDee – wow, that is a bold statement about Shutter Island comparing it to Vertigo! I had no idea you liked it THAT much! Great film – I can’t wait to watch it again and digest some more of those Scorsese details. –DHS
D.H. Schleicher said,”I can’t believe I overlooked all the baseball flicks. I would also add The Natural to the list…”
D,H.,I just discovered this baseball film last year entitled… Fever Pitch (starring Drew Barrymore) What a pleasant little feel-good comedy.
Oops! I forgot to add the Incredibles, to my list…This is my second fave Pixar/Disney films.
Where would I be if I didn’t correct a typo…
…Strangers on a Train-See my reasons that I listed under the film The Maltese Falcon.
Definitely agree with A Ratatoille and League of Their Own, and I’d add for me A Knights Tale and Big, and how about some football films, We are Marshall and Remember the Titans. And to add some kids movies to the list since i watch so many with my daughter, Wall-e and Alladin.
Tony, Aladdin was a riot. –DHS
Bride and Prejudice
La Femme Nikita
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Star Trek (2009)
Gandhi — this one blew me away the first time I saw it.
A Hard Day’s Night
Bringing Up Baby
The Lord of the Rings trilogy
To Catch a Thief
I know there’s more, I just can’t think of them right now. Movies in general make me feel good. When I’m looking for something that will really lift my spirits, take me out of myself and connect me with the wider world out there, these do it for me.
Cinda, Gandhi was very inspirational — maybe that should be the next list! –DHS
Just had to put it out there that A Hard Day’s Night is a masterpiece in its own right. I have watched every one of the Beatles films and although I love them all, I mean who doesn’t want to be a Blue Meanie, A Hard Day’s Night is my favorite.
“I now declare this bridge open.”
Dazed and Confused
The “Back to the Future” trilogy
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure/Bogus Journey
Singin’ In The Rain (I know you’re not into musicals, but if you’ve never seen it, check it out—it’s got a lot of old Hollywood history in it and the tunes are infectious)
Chris, Dazed and Confused is a good one. Many of those early Linklater films were feel-good. I would include Before Sunrise, too. –DHS
A few of my “feel good” movies:
*Ferris Bueller’s Day Off — has to be one of my favorite “feel good” movies. Every time I watch the “Twist & Shout” scenes I want to get up and dance! And ever since that movie, I MUST watch the credits of every movie right up to the very end!
*A League of Their Own — I must have watched this movie at least a dozen times. Enjoyed it even more after my visit to Cooperstown!
*The Natural — Baseball and Robert Redford; what’s not to like?
*Continental Divide — John Belusi and Blair Brown; In my opinion John Belusi’s best performance!
*Titanic — yes I know it’s James Cameron; but what a love story! And I love the music score.
*Dances With Wolves — One of Kevin Costner’s best!
*And at Christmas — The original “The Bishop’s Wife”; Cary Grant was truly an angel!
Ferris!!!! But of course! I never even heard of that Belushi one??? –DHS
Every John Belushi fan should see “Continental Divide” (1981 – Directed by Michael Apted). Belushi plays a hard nosed (and popular with his readers!) Chicago reporter who gets a little to close to the mob. For his own safety (but much to Belushi’s dismay), his Editor sends him to the remote mountains of Colorado to do a story on a naturalist (Blair Brown) who is doing research on Eagles. It’s a romantic comedy with absolutely gorgeous scenery and a performance by Belushi that showed the real depth of his talent.
And I must add a few more “feel good” movies to my list — how could I forget —
*ET – you can’t tell me there was a single person (adult or child) in the audience who wasn’t cheering for that wrinkled up little alien to get back HOME safely!
*Close Encounters – again, an out of this world movie. I still watch in wonder and awe when we first encounter the gentle, delicate visitors.
*Benny & Joon – Johnny Depp and Mary Stuart Masterson – don’t miss Depp’s tribute to Charlie Chaplin.
*One Fine Day – Michelle Pfeiffer and George Clooney – need I say more?
*It could happen to You – Nicholas Cage, Bridget Fonda and Rosie Perez – what would you do with a winning lottery ticket?
*And of course Steve Martin and Mary Steenbergen in “Parenthood” and Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt in “Cheaper by the Dozen”.
I definitely agree with Close Encounters. –DHS
I love ATLANTIC CITY quite a bit, but for me it’s not a “feel good” movie, as there is too much sordid activity, murder and darker themes at play here. It just doesn’t fit that heading, but still I can see the elements that caused you to label it as such. I feel that WALL-E is the greatest Pixar movie, but I can’t blame you for going with the Rat either. THE WIZARD OF OZ is really the winner here, but I’ll save the ten for contemporary features to give it more focus.
1 Once (John Carney)
2. Anne of Green Gables (Kevin Sullivan)
3. Fried Green Tomatoes (Jon Avnet)
4. Beautiful Thing (Haettie McDonals)
5. Driving Miss Daisy (Bruce Beresford)
6. Wall-E (Andrew Stanton)
7. Spellbound (documentary)
8 Ressurection (Daniel Petrie)
9 Winged Migration (documentary)
10.Chariots of Fire (Hugh Hudson)
10.Fiddler on the Roof (Norman Jewison)
Sam, your inclusion of some great documentaries brought to mind Man on Wire – which I found very inspiring and cathartic. –DHS
David, my #1 feel good movie is MANHATTAN MURDER MYSTERY, a neurotic THIN MAN that always sooths my weary bones.
Some others are
HOLD THAT GHOST
ALL OF ME
and just about any LITTE RASCALS (OUR GANG short)
John, I love MANHATTAN MURDER MYSTERY and OUR GANG, too! –DHS
You rate Ratatouille the highest of the Pixar films? Interesting. Despite the fact that I really enjoy the film, I always seem to forget it exists. It just didn’t make a lasting impression with me.
I’m totally on board with Life of Brian though. It is better than Holy Grail. It just is.
One of my go-to feel-good films is Benny and Joon. It’s just such a sweet story, and it’s so innocent. You can’t help but smile.
Katie, Ratatouille is the only Pixar film that doesn’t slip my mind — all the others have been enjoyable but forgettable to me (though I did really like Up, but that was so recent I’m not sure I’ll remember it so well after the next one). I think a few others are there with you on Benny & Joon. –DHS
Peter Pan (2003)
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Ferris Buillers Day Off
(500) Days of Summer
& The Royal Tenenbaums.
Dory, Oscar is an inspired pic! That’s a bit of a cult classic – so over-the-top old-style screwball and with Stallone and Tomei – it’s really unique. –DHS
Oh man I know, I discovered Oscar in my Dads movie collection when I was little and it has never died down in re-watchability for me.
I know my list sort of when from top 10 feels goods, to top ten in general. haha