197 Best Uplifting Movies to Watch (Page 11)

Staff & contributors

Nothing cures the blues like a feel-good movie. If you need a pick me up, the following list will be sure to turn that frown upside down. Here are the happiest movies and shows to stream now.

, 2023

Held back by awkward and uninspired musical numbers but otherwise a surprisingly funny and sweet animated comedy, Leo gets a lot of mileage out of being simply weirder than many of its direct-to-streaming contemporaries. As the titular lizard works through his cynicism by spending his last days helping others with their early years (a premise heartwarming enough to stand on its own), the film expresses itself through plenty of cutaway jokes and throwaway lines, excellent physical comedy, and a few particularly bizarre character designs. Everything is played in good fun though, and the movie's witty, easygoing personality allows it to overcome any limitations from its admittedly ordinary animation.

Genre: Animation, Comedy, Family, Music

Actor: Adam Sandler, Alex Quijano, Allison Strong, Andre Robinson, Andrew Morgado, Ashley Lambert, Ava Acres, Bill Burr, Blake Clark, Bryant Tardy, Cecily Strong, Chris Kattan, Chris Titone, David Wachtenheim, Heidi Gardner, Jackie Sandler, Janie Haddad Tompkins, Jason Alexander, Jason Griffith, Jo Koy, Joel Marsh Garland, John Farley, Jonathan Loughran, Kelly Stables, Nicholas Turturro, Nick Swardson, Nikki Castillo, Noah Robbins, Rob Schneider, Robert Marianetti, Robert Smigel, Rose Abdoo, Ryan Bartley, Ryun Yu, Sadie Sandler, Scott Menville, Sheila Carrasco, Shelby Young, Sonya Leslie, Stephanie Hsu, Sunny Sandler, Terence Mathews

Director: David Wachtenheim, Robert Marianetti, Robert Smigel

Rating: PG

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Bearing pretty much every trademark you've come to expect from a sports drama, Hoosiers might not bring as many surprises to the formula but it still makes all its moves with a surplus of heart. Elevating the already entertaining basketball footage is Gene Hackman's uncommonly hotheaded coach and (Oscar-nominated) Dennis Hopper's town drunk—both of whom deepen this film's story of hometown pride into one of midlife redemption. Hickory, Indiana comes to life as a character in itself, where local sports are treated with as much reverence as politics and religion, which makes every basket feel that much more like a victory lap.

Genre: Drama, Family

Actor: Barbara Hershey, Chelcie Ross, David Neidorf, Dennis Hopper, Fern Persons, Gene Hackman, Gloria Dorson, Michael O'Guinne, Michael Sassone, Robert Swan, Sheb Wooley

Director: David Anspaugh

Entergalactic, a vibrant animated romcom from the mind of musician Kid Cudi, follows new neighbors Jabari (Cudi) and Meadow (Jessica Williams) as they navigate their way through the ups and downs of modern love. They’re both established artists at the height of their careers, but when it comes to romance, they’re still scraping for lessons, which they mostly get from equally clueless but funny friends.

Featuring songs from Cudi’s latest record of the same name, Entergalactic doubles as a visual album that comes to life with every beat and movement. It also stars many familiar names, among them Timothée Chalamet, Vanessa Hudgens, Ty Dolla $ign, Jaden Smith, and Macaulay Culkin.

Genre: Animation, Comedy, Drama, Music, Romance

Actor: Arturo Castro, Christopher Abbott, Francesca Reale, Jaden Smith, Jessica Williams, Keith David, Kenya Barris, Kid Cudi, Laura Harrier, Luis Guzman, Macaulay Culkin, Meryl Streep, Montego Glover, Teyana Taylor, Timothée Chalamet, Ty Dolla Sign, Vanessa Hudgens

Director: Fletcher Moules

Rating: TV-MA

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This Swedish movie is the story of Astrid Lindgren, one of the most translated children book writers of all time. Her work of over 100 books includes Pippi Longstocking and The Brothers Lionheart.

Away from the quiet existence of the characters she would later create, Astrid had a turbulent life. Her troubles start when she falls for the editor of the paper she worked at when she was young, a man 30 years her senior. This results in an unwanted pregnancy and Astrid is pushed to immigrate.

Genre: Drama, History

Actor: Alba August, Björn Gustafsson, Henrik Rafaelsen, Magnus Krepper, Maria Alm Norell, Maria Bonnevie, Maria Fahl-Vikander, Sofia Karemyr, Trine Dyrholm

Director: Pernille Fischer Christensen

Rating: 12

Much sweeter and much more bittersweet than one might expect, World's Best does some deceptively clever things with its major themes of math and rap. Somehow, this pre-teen coming-of-age story finds a way to play with preconceived notions of equations always resulting in certain answers, and of modern hip hop being all about swagger and status. Unsurprisingly (or maybe disappointingly for some), the film ultimately touches on grief and loss, which an increasing number of Disney films have been doing as of late. But World's Best keeps itself fresh through its sincere, energetic tone, colorful production design, and spirited performances by Utkarsh Ambudkar and the young Manny Magnus. So even when the rapping gets corny (which it does more often than it should), the spirit behind it is so endearing that it's hard to be mad.

Genre: Comedy, Family, Music

Actor: Chris River, Christopher Jackson, Dorian Giordano, Doug E. Fresh, Jake Choi, Karan Soni, Kathryn Greenwood, Manny Magnus, Max Malas, Neil Crone, Noah Lamanna, Punam Patel, Sathya Sridharan, Tricia Black, Utkarsh Ambudkar

Director: Roshan Sethi

Rating: PG

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Wadjda is a smart, spirited 10-year-old girl who wants nothing more than to own her own bike, something that is frowned upon in the Saudi Arabian suburb where she lives. While it’s not technically illegal for women to own bikes, it is thought of as something that is “dangerous to a girl’s virtue,” and it’s worth noting that this is a society where women are also not allowed to drive their own cars. Wadjda devises numerous schemes to earn enough money to buy a bike (selling bracelets, making mixes of Western pop songs, delivering clandestine messages between men and women), before getting caught by the headmistress at her school. It is then that Wadjda hits on the ultimate money-making scheme: there is to be a Koran-reciting contest at her school with a hefty cash prize, and she’s determined to win. There is a subplot involving a growing rift between Wadjda’s parents; while there is clearly a lot of love between both parties, it becomes increasingly clear that her father may be leaving her mother for another woman who could potentially bear him a son (a common practice). This subplot is handled with respect and little judgement though, as it is simply the way things work in this culture. Yet, as Wadjda is coming-of-age and learning about the limitations placed on her as a girl, she is obviously negotiating ingenious ways of pushing back against those limitations. The film is subtle and humane in how it handles the slowly changing cultural and gender dynamics in a traditionally conservative, patriarchal society. It wouldn’t work without a strong central performance from first-time actor Waad Mohammed though -- she is never less than believable as a clever, determined and joyful 10-year-old, and her journey towards adulthood is both heartbreaking and inspiring.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Abdullrahman Al Gohani, Ahd, Alanoud Sajini, Dana Abdullilah, Haifaa Al-Mansour, Rafa Al Sanea, Reem Abdullah, Sultan Al Assaf, Waad Mohammed

Director: Haifaa al-Mansour

Rating: PG

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Based on the novel of the same name, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is as comforting as the title suggests. It's a pleasure to meet the society—getting to know each character feels like getting to know some welcoming neighbors. Despite their trauma from the German occupation of the British island, these club members remain their bookish albeit secretive selves. Lily James is just doe-eyed and charming enough to make us care about the book club, the same way her character Juliet does. The streamlined plot still keeps the intrigue and comfort of the original novel. And while its romance doesn’t quite take off, the real gem of the film is the earnest assertion that family can be best found in terrible times.

Genre: Drama, History, Romance

Actor: Alexa Povah, Andy Gathergood, Bernice Stegers, Bronagh Gallagher, Clive Merrison, Dilyana Bouklieva, Florence Keen, Glen Powell, Gregory Mann, Jack Morris, Jessica Brown Findlay, Joanna Hole, Katherine Parkinson, Kit Connor, Lily James, Marek Oravec, Matthew Goode, Michiel Huisman, Mike Newell, Nicolo Pasetti, Penelope Wilton, Richard Derrington, Tom Courtenay, Tom Owen

Director: Mike Newell

Rating: TV-14

A funny, feel-good French movie about a man who joins a synchronized swim team to get over his depression. Comprised only of other middle-aged men, they decide they want to compete for the world championship. Sounds like an unlikely story? It's actually based on a real-life documentary from Sweden called Men Who Swim. If you get French humor, this will make you laugh (a lot), and if not, you'll surely enjoy the easygoing tone of Sink or Swim.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Alban Ivanov, Alexandre Courtes, Anderz Eide, Audrey Quoturi, Benoît Poelvoorde, Benoît Poelvoorde, Caroline Grant, Charlotte Levy, Christian Gazio, Claire Nadeau, Élodie Hesme, Erika Sainte, Félix Moati, Felix Moati, Fiorella Campanella, Guillaume Canet, Guillaume Cloud-Roussel, Ibrahim Koma, Jean-Hugues Anglade, Jonathan Zaccaï, Karim Adda, Leïla Bekhti, Leila Bekhti, Marina Foïs, Marina Fois, Mathieu Amalric, Mathieu Torloting, Maximilien Poullein, Mélanie Doutey, Michèle Clément, Noée Abita, Philippe Katerine, Pierre Pirol, Sam Chemoul, Stéphane Rouabah, Vincent Darmuzey, Virgile Bramly, Virginie Efira, Xavier Alcan

Director: Gilles Lellouche

Rating: N/A

Shooting Stars may be based on LeBron James’ account of his teenage years, but this adaption by Chris Robinson is more than just a vanity project. In fact, James is hardly the lead here—every one of his friends gets a chance to shine in this coming-of-age story about brotherhood and friendship. It’s closer to films like Boyz N the Hood and Stand By Me in that way, but that’s not to say it’s a letdown in the sports department. The games are choreographed beautifully; the actors display wonderful athleticism and the filmmakers employ various camera techniques that never fail to surprise. There are times, though, that these techniques distract more than excite, and there is a sense that the film could’ve benefited from a more pared-down style. But this ultimately doesn’t take away from the film’s tender and thrilling story.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Algee Smith, Caleb McLaughlin, Chad L. Coleman, Dermot Mulroney, Joe Fishel, Khalil Everage, Mookie Cook, Natalie Paul, Scoot Henderson, Wood Harris

Director: Chris Robinson

Rating: PG-13

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This movie is a complete no-brainer.

It follows two assistants in busy New York City, both of them overworked and underpaid. They come up with a plan to set up their bosses (Set it Up) so that when their bosses finally take some personal time together, they could too. In a lot of ways, it’s the perfect argument to anyone who says that the rom-com genre is dead. It’s light, it’s easy, and it’s entertaining.

At the same time, there is a heartwarming vibe that’s not too cliché, and a couple of well-known actors — Lucy Liu and Taye Diggs — that help carry the plot. Don’t expect to be mind-blown but this film will leave you feeling content.

Genre: Comedy, Romance

Actor: Aaron Costa Ganis, Anna Suzuki, Annie Pisapia, Ching Hoh-Wai, Cody Calafiore, Doris McCarthy, Emilia Clarke, Evan Parke, Fabrizio Brienza, Glen Powell, Jaboukie Young-White, Jacqueline Honulik, Jake Robinson, Jeff Hiller, Joan Smalls, Jon Rudnitsky, Kate Middleton, Leonard Ouzts, Lucy Liu, Meredith Hagner, Noah Robbins, Pete Davidson, Ralph Byers, Shana Solomon, Shyrley Rodriguez, Stacey Alyse Cohen, Stephanie Hsu, Taye Diggs, Tituss Burgess, Wai Ching Ho, Zoey Deutch

Director: Claire Scanlon

Rating: TV-14

A light and simple feel-good movie with great performances from an impressive cast. Ewan McGregor plays the country's best fisheries expert who is approached by a consultant (Emily Blunt) to help bring the sport of fly-fishing to a desert in the Middle-East, a place at the peak of tensions. The Prime Minister's office, with the help of the media, try to then bring this story to the public as a show of something good happening in the region. It's a quirky movie with a beautiful love story and a few interesting ideas on the current state of journalism. Both leads are absolutely charming together.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Amr Waked, Catherine Steadman, Conleth Hill, Emily Blunt, Ewan McGregor, Hugh Simon, Jill Baker, Kristin Scott Thomas, Peter Wight, Rachael Stirling, Tom Beard, Tom Mison

Director: Lasse Hallström

Rating: PG-13

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If there are parts to Rookie's story that seem too easily resolved—for the sake of making this more of a feel-good movie—these shortcuts still serve a genuinely romantic central relationship that develops in the most organic way possible. Besides the school's stifling conservatism, there's nothing that really stands in the way of Ace and Jana's blossoming connection. By immediately advancing its depiction of queer love beyond the self-acceptance stage (where so many other films get stuck), Rookie is allowed to show us two girls in love and supporting each other, as the normal and beautiful thing it should be. It doesn't hurt either that the movie is pretty entertaining as a sports film, with just enough flash in its editing and sound design to sell the frantic energy of a game wherein you want to impress the person you have a crush on.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Agot Isidro, Aya Fernandez, Che Ramos, Mikoy Morales, Pat Tingjuy, Simon Ibarra

Director: Samantha Lee