10 Best Feel-Good Movies on Hulu

10 Best Feel-Good Movies on Hulu

April 11, 2024

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Hulu’s eclectic mix of more adult-oriented content from production outfits like FX, 20th Century Studios, and Searchlight doesn’t mean that the streaming service is lacking in the department of crowd pleasers and generally feel-good films. Their idea of what “feeling good” means might be on the quirkier, more alternative side, but these movies still provide more than enough proof that the current media landscape isn’t exclusively dominated by dark, depressing stories. Below, we’ve put together our list of little-known but highly-rated films whose goal is to leave you on a high.

1. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2019)

best

8.9

Country

China, United States of America

Director

Female director, Marielle Heller

Actors

Alex Pérez, Chris Cooper, Christine Lahti, Enrico Colantoni

Moods

A-list actors, Character-driven, Emotional

Journalist LLoyd Vogel (Matthey Rhys) scoffs at the prospect of a profile commission, or a “puff piece”, as he calls it. His self-respect and professional ruthlessness has driven people away and this assignment may well be a test from his editor. But it is serendipity that brings Lloyd to American TV host Mister Roger (Tom Hanks) and his child-oriented show, at a time when he, a new father, is confronted with his own paternal trauma. No heavy psychological lifting here, but A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood might be one of the most profound films about father-son relationships ever made. Notably, the film is directed by a woman, Marielle Heller (The Diary of a Teenage Girl). In her film as in his show, Mister Roger doesn’t have to do much: he listens, he speaks, he suggests, and while his kindness may seem frustrating at times, it is truly radical. Additionally, Lloyd’s character is based loosely on writer Tom Junod, whose encounter with Rogers ended up a profile in Esquire magazine.

2. Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011)

best

8.8

Country

Japan, United States of America

Director

David Gelb

Actors

Daisuke Nakazama, David Gelb, Hachiro Mizutani, Harutaki Takahashi

Moods

Feel-Good, Inspiring

This surprising documentary follows Jiro, an 85 year old Japanese chef, his Michelin-starred restaurant in the Tokyo underground, and his eager sons. While ostensibly about sushi – and believe me, you’ll learn about sushi and see absolutely gorgeous images of the raw-fish creations – the film’s dramatic impetus is carried by the weight of tradition, the beauty of a labor of love, obsession, and the relationship between father and son. Truly a must-watch.

3. Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) (2021)

best

8.6

Country

United States of America

Director

Questlove

Actors

Abbey Lincoln, B. B. King, Chris Rock, David Ruffin

Moods

Discussion-sparking, Easy, Feel-Good

Summer of Soul would already be remarkable if it was just a collection of some of the greatest live performances ever put to film. Boasting a roster that includes Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, Gladys Knight, and Sly and the Family Stone, the nearly-forgotten 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival featured in the documentary was an all-star catalog of some of the biggest names in popular music, all at pivotal moments in their careers. Seeing them at the height of their powers, in front of a Black audience that meant so much to them, makes for an unexpectedly emotional experience.

But Summer of Soul also expands beyond the actual concert, using the Harlem Cultural Festival to represent a turning point in Black culture and history, especially after the death of Martin Luther King Jr. Through the film’s pristine, electric editing and gorgeous archival restoration, music becomes a communal act of mourning, a rallying cry to face the uncertain future, and a celebration of a people and a heritage continuing to fight against erasure and persecution.

4. Good Luck to You, Leo Grande (2022)

best

8.5

Country

United Kingdom

Director

Female director, Sophie Hyde

Actors

Daryl McCormack, Emma Thompson, Isabella Laughland, Lennie Beare

Moods

A-list actors, Discussion-sparking, Dramatic

There are only two main characters in Good Luck to You, Leo Grande: Nancy, a retired teacher who was recently widowed, and Leo, an adept sex worker with a mysterious past. They’re almost always in one place and work on a single goal: pleasure. But despite the seeming monotony, the movie is crackling with wit and sensuality every step of the way. It doesn’t waste any time getting to the heart of the matter. Nancy and Leo go back and forth about their past, with Nancy divulging much about the stigma of aging and Leo about the stigma of sex work. They also dive into the shame attached to pleasure, ultimately revealing more than just their naked bodies to each other and to the audience.

5. St. Vincent (2014)

best

8.2

Country

United States of America

Director

Theodore Melfi

Actors

Alexandra Fong, Amber Clayton, Ann Dowd, Bill Murray

Moods

Easy, Feel-Good, Grown-up Comedy

In this comedy/drama, Bill Murray plays an aged, dispirited war veteran named Vincent who openly disdains most people and gives little attention to anything beyond alcohol and horse racing. Living a life of solitude in Brooklyn, everything takes a turn when a young single mother (Melissa McCarthy) and her son Oliver move in next door. Vincent eventually takes on the responsibility of watching over Oliver when Maggie is at work. Murray is perfectly unpleasant in his darkly comedic role, as his relationship with Oliver evolves despite his own misgivings, providing young Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher) with the fatherly/grandfatherly presence he desperately needs. Though somewhat formulaic, St. Vincent rises above expectations by way of great dialogue, favourable performances from all of the leads, and an unbelievably touching finale that will melt your heart. Much better than you probably expect—definitely check this one out.

6. Theater Camp (2023)

best

8.1

Country

United States of America

Director

Female director, Molly Gordon

Actors

Alan Kim, Alexander Bello, Amy Sedaris, Ayo Edebiri

Moods

Character-driven, Easy, Emotional

You don’t have to be a theater kid to enjoy this feel-good mockumentary set in a summer camp for junior thespians. While there are plenty of in-jokes here for those who might have spent a summer or two somewhere like AdirondACTS, Theater Camp also good-naturedly lampoons every instantly recognizable stereotype of theater kids and the classic failed-performer-turned-teacher. 

Amongst the note-perfect ensemble, particularly hilarious standouts include co-writer Ben Platt and co-director Molly Gordon as camp instructors and best friends Amos and Rebecca-Diane. Both are Juilliard rejects with codependency issues and a classic case of actorly self-indulgence — as encapsulated in the moment they accuse a young attendee of “doping” for using artificial tears during a performance (“Do you want to be the Lance Armstrong of theater?”). But even seasoned performers like Platt and Gordon can’t pull the spotlight away from the film’s absurdly talented young ensemble, who are just as game for poking fun at their passion: standouts include Luke Islam, Alexander Bello, and Minari’s Alan Kim as a pint-sized “aspiring agent” who skips dance class to make business calls. All this self-satirising never obscures the movie’s heart, though; what begins as a self-deprecating ribbing of theater-heads ultimately becomes a rousing love letter to those very same misfits.

7. Love is Strange (2014)

best

8.0

Country

Brazil, France, Greece

Director

Ira Sachs

Actors

Alfred Molina, Andrew Polk, Charlie Tahan, Cheyenne Jackson

Moods

Feel-Good, Heart-warming, Lovely

Love is Strange is an even-handed drama about a Ben and George (John Lithgow and Alfred Molina), a loving couple who marry after 39 years of companionship, only to face a series of unexpected consequences of their decision. George is fired from his position as a music teacher, they’re forced to sell their home, and they find themselves living separately with various friends and relatives. The story revolves largely around their time apart, as they struggle in their separation while creating unintended commotion in the lives of their hosts. It’s a warm, wryly amusing and ultimately very touching film about the bonds of love and dedication. It may seem slow at times, but to watch it through to the end will lead you to realize how truly special it is.

8. Palm Springs (2020)

7.9

Country

United States Hong Kong, United States of America

Director

Max Barbakow

Actors

Andy Samberg, Brian Duffy, Camila Mendes, Chris Pang

Moods

Easy, Feel-Good, Funny

Andy Samberg, Cristin Milioti (Modern Love, Black Mirror), and J.K. Simmons star in this easy but original rom-com that takes place in a wedding time loop. Nyles (Samberg) finds himself living the same day over and over again, so he gives in to the monotony and the fact that there is no way to escape it. 

When he is about to hook up with one of the guests, Sarah (Milioti), he is attacked by a mysterious character. The routine of his time-loop is broken. 

Palm Springs is often surreal and philosophical, which are not adjectives usually used to describe rom-coms. It offers just enough twists to be original without jeopardizing the things that make it a good rom-com.

9. Frank (2014)

7.8

Country

Ireland, UK, United Kingdom

Director

Lenny Abrahamson

Actors

Abe Martell, Alex Knight, Bruce McIntosh, Carla Azar

Moods

Easy, Feel-Good, Funny

A really weird and also heartwarming movie about Frank, the leader and singer/songwriter of a crazy band. He really grows on you with his big head. If you like movies with that funky edge (like Scott Pilgrim) this is especially something for you! Either way and regardless of your preferences, you’ll find Frank to be a sweet, sincere, likable and clever comedy.

10. Science Fair (2018)

7.7

Country

United States of America

Director

Cristina Costantini, Darren Foster

Moods

Easy, Feel-Good, Heart-warming

Science Fair is simultaneously a feel-good documentary and a feel-bad one: while inspiring and reassuring for all the brilliant young minds it spotlights, it also has the potential to make your own life accomplishments look paltry in comparison. The former effect is the strongest, though — because you can’t watch high schoolers as young as 14 present pioneering, disease-curing research and inventions and not feel like the future is in good hands.

Science Fair is light on the actual science, which makes it an accessible watch and prevents the film’s focus from mimicking the cutthroat nature of ISEF, the international competition it follows. With a grand prize of $75k and lots of college application-boosting medals up for grabs, the competition amongst the kids is fierce, but Science Fair instead takes an empathetic, celebratory approach so that all of the kids feel like deserved winners. That’s especially true of the more disadvantaged teens: though the competition itself might not take into account all the hurdles they’ve had to overcome even just to get in the room, this compassionate doc definitely does. Even if the science is all Greek to you, it’s impossible not to appreciate and be moved by the determination and resilience of these kids.

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