10 Best Feel-Good Movies on Max

10 Best Feel-Good Movies on Max

June 7, 2024

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Because HBO tends to be known for its adult-oriented programming and darker original series, people may forget that the network’s library is wide enough for it to still include feel-good entertainment. Thanks to their access to some older classics and premiere exports from other countries, HBO is just as viable an option for viewers in need of a pick-me-up or in need of options for casual group viewing. So we at agoodmovietowatch have put together a list of high-quality films available on the service that might not be your obvious choices, but that should still leave you satisfied and with a smile on your face.

1. Captain Fantastic (2016)

best

9.5

Country

United States of America

Director

Matt Ross

Actors

Alan Humphrey, Ann Dowd, Annalise Basso, Charlie Shotwell

Moods

Feel-Good, Inspiring, Thought-provoking

Former activists Ben Cash (Viggo Mortensen) and his wife Leslie drop out from modern consumerist society to raise their six children in the wilderness of the Pacific Northwest. They teach them how to raise and kill their own food, to survive in nature through boot-camp-like workouts, and homeschool them in literature, music, and left-wing philosophy. Instead of Christmas, they celebrate Noam Chomsky’s birthday. Then, one day, this unusual family life is shaken by a phone call and they are forced to leave their life of adventure to reintegrate into American life.

Directed by Matt Ross, who also brought you Good Night, and Good Luck, the film offers a poignant look at alternative living, the effects of modern technology, and the nature of good parenting. Viggo Mortensen is indeed fantastic as the grizzled father and was rightly nominated for a Golden Globe and the Academy Award for Best Actor. George MacKay and the entire cast of “children” also deliver terrific performances. As emotionally raw and thought-provoking as it is funny, Captain Fantastic will have the viewer decide if Ben Cash is the best father in the world or the worst.

2. Tampopo (1985)

best

9.0

Country

Japan

Director

Jūzō Itami

Actors

Akio Tanaka, Chōei Takahashi, Fukumi Kuroda, Gō Awazu

Moods

Easy, Feel-Good, Funny

While billed as a “ramen western”, Tampopo satirizes plenty of other American genres, including, but not limited to: 1) the inspirational sports film, with Tampopo’s diligent training, 2) the erotic, arthouse drama through its egg yolk kiss, 3) the witty, social comedy pointing out the absurd in dinnertime tables, and 4) the melodramatic mafia romance with its room-serviced hotel getaway. But the film doesn’t buckle under the weight of carrying all these genres– instead, the customer vignettes are all delicately plated to balance out the hearty journey of a store owner learning about ramen and the bemused, yet cohesive contemplation about food. Tampopo is one of a kind.

3. Eddie the Eagle (2016)

best

8.4

Country

Germany, UK, United Kingdom

Director

Dexter Fletcher

Actors

Ania Sowinski, Anthony Chisholm, Aria DeMaris, Christopher Walken

Moods

A-list actors, Feel-Good, Heart-warming

Michael “Eddie” Edwards (Taron Egerton) was a man with big glasses and even bigger dreams. As a physically disabled child-turned-oddly determined young adult, he tried his hands at all kinds of sports to earn himself a place in United Kingdom’s Team, only to be shunned and rejected more times than one can count. While his coming home a hero can easily be attributed to Great Britain’s lack of a ski jumper representative to the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics, the world has Eddie’s perseverance and never-say-die attitude to thank. A story about conquering greater heights and just taking flight, Eddie the Eagle shows the world how winning doesn’t always mean taking home the crown.

4. Whisper of the Heart (1995)

best

8.3

Country

Japan

Director

Yoshifumi Kondô, Yoshifumi Kondou

Actors

Issey Takahashi, Kazuo Takahashi, Keiju Kobayashi, Maiko Kayama

Moods

Feel-Good, Lighthearted, Romantic

Studio Ghibli has brought us moving, remarkable animated films such as Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, and Princess Mononoke. One of Studio Ghibli’s most overlooked movies is Yoshifumi Kondou’s Whisper of the Heart, which finds magic in the ordinary every day. Shizuku is a young girl with great aspirations to become a writer—the only thing stopping her is herself. When she comes across a curious antique shop, she befriends a mysterious boy and his grandfather, who are just the push she needs to look inward and discover her own artistic capabilities.

If you have ever wanted to create something bigger and better than yourself—a story, a song, a poem, a painting, a work of art—then Whisper of the Heart will excite you, will call to you, will remind you to answer your heart’s calling.

5. Mid90s (2018)

best

8.0

Country

United States of America

Director

Jonah Hill

Actors

Alexa Demie, Ama Elsesser, Aramis Hudson, Chad Muska

Moods

Feel-Good, Slice-of-Life, Slow

It wouldn’t be too far of a reach to evoke Kids (1995) while diving into Mid90s. But instead of taking on the HIV crisis, Mid90s is a much more tender, poignant reflection on coming of age in 90’s skate culture. Jonah Hill, writer and director, examines the complexities of trying to fit in and the difficult choices one has to embrace individualism. From an opening of physical abuse to scenes of drug usage and traumatic experiences, Mid90s is a meditation not only on culture, but also a subtle examination of what it means to be human, to reach emotional and physical limitations, and to seek acceptance. Filmed in a 4:3 aspect ratio, Mid90s doesn’t concern itself with grandiose filmography, but instead the aspect ratio almost reflects the tonal and metaphorical aspects played out on screen. With a smaller dynamic range of color and the familiar dust/scratches, the 16mm film compliments gritty and emotional moments of Mid90s. The emotional range of the film will take the audience from the depths of empathy to laughing out loud, but there is no compromise to the weight of each moment. Jonah Hill’s directorial debut is beautiful in every sense of the word.

6. In the Heights (2021)

7.9

Country

United States of America

Director

Jon M. Chu

Actors

Anthony Ramos, Ariana Greenblatt, Christopher Jackson, Corey Hawkins

Moods

Dramatic, Emotional, Feel-Good

Even if you aren’t familiar with the original, Tony Award-winning Broadway production from Lin-Manuel Miranda, this adaptation of In the Heights is still infused with the same infectious energy and loaded with many of the same eclectic songs. This is musical theater at its most fundamental (cheesy, us-against-the-world romance; unstoppable optimism) and also at some of its most unique—with old-school Broadway numbers mixing seamlessly with hip hop, Latin dance, and cheery 2000s pop. But beyond its music, In the Heights offers a gorgeous tapestry of stories about life in a proud immigrant community and the challenges of staying rooted to home while reaching for the stars.

7. Albert Brooks: Defending My Life (2023)

7.9

Country

United States of America

Director

Rob Reiner

Actors

Alana Haim, Albert Brooks, Anthony Jeselnik, Ben Stiller

Moods

Easy, Feel-Good, Funny

This charming documentary about one of the most brilliant, groundbreaking comedians alive strikes a delicate balance between accessible and deeply appreciative, making it both a great gateway for those yet to be uninitiated into the Albert Brooks fan club and a satisfying retrospective for us confirmed devotees. It’s directed and fronted by Rob Reiner, celebrated director himself and one of Albert Brooks’ oldest friends, and the choice is perfect: his rapport with Brooks is warm and easy, extracting real sincerity from the famously deadpan comedian-writer-actor-director.

Defending My Life features plenty of talking heads gushing about Brooks’ dazzling multi-hyphenate talents (among them Steven Spielberg and Sharon Stone), a standard convention for documentaries of this kind. But what elevates this into a portrait worthy of its subject are the scenes from a dinner shared by Brooks and Reiner, during which the former opens up about his childhood, reflects on his career, and divulges the autobiographical elements that informed his work. Their tete-a-tete flows with all the unforced rhythm of conversation between good friends; Reiner’s presence coaxes illuminating insight from Brooks, which makes watching the documentary feel as close to pulling up a seat at their table as you’d hope for. The 90 minutes just fly by.

8. My Neighbors the Yamadas (1999)

7.5

Country

Japan

Director

Isao Takahata

Actors

Akiko Yano, Chôchô Miyako, Hayato Isohata, Masako Araki

Moods

Easy, Feel-Good, Lighthearted

One of Studio Ghibli’s overlooked gems, My Neighbors the Yamadas is a charming anthology film about a modern-day Japanese family. The film sets itself apart from other Ghibli films through its unique doodle-like watercolor animation and its short piano themes. While the vignettes may just depict regular family conflicts, the scenes still feel compelling due to the Yamadas’ imagination of the metaphors that they use. Exaggerating the metaphors keeps the audience breathless in certain strategic moments – most notably in the wedding day speech of the mother of the bride. While not as fantastical as Ghibli’s other offerings, the completely digital My Neighbors the Yamadas finds humor in and celebrates the mundane.

9. You Were My First Boyfriend (2023)

7.4

Country

United States of America

Director

Cecilia Aldarondo, Female director

Actors

Cecilia Aldarondo, Gabriel Kristal, Laura Gallegos, Melissa Baker

Moods

Easy, Feel-Good, Grown-up Comedy

“Imagine a nightmare when you had to relive your adolescence,” says Cecilia Aldarondo at the beginning of her third film, You Were My First Boyfriend. Indeed, the scene recalls a teen prom that could easily be yours (if you were one of the unpopular girls): neon lights, prettier dresses that are never yours, disapproving looks, and the impression that everyone around you is having the time of their lives, while you sit awkwardly in a corner. This image sets the tone for a self-exploration in documentary form that relies on a simple, yet imaginative premise, what if you could re-enact the formative events from back then, but do so today, by directing actors to step in for your past selves. Aldarondo approaches the topic sincerely and with curiosity. Not a pang of nostalgia there, but the heartfelt doc manages to reflect on the pasts that shape us in a witty way to promote self-acceptance and, ultimately, healing.

10. Up in the Air (2009)

6.9

Country

United States of America

Director

Jason Reitman

Actors

Adam Rose, Adhir Kalyan, Adrienne Lamping, Amy Morton

Moods

Feel-Good, Funny, Smart

Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) is a corporate axman, he comes in a fires people when the managers are too afraid to do it themselves. The nature of his work requires a lot of flying, short lived meetings in transit zones and he absolutely loves it, and he has a certain goal in mind. When the company tries a new approach to corporate downsizing he has to change his way and view of life. It’s full of cynicism and warmth. If you are familiar with Jason Reitman’s previous work, you’ll feel right at home, if you don’t : Get to it!

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