224 Best Uplifting Movies to Watch (Page 12)

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.

For better or worse, The Reason I Jump isn't a documentary made for autistic viewers but for a neurotypical audience that may not be very knowledgeable about autism. This means the film doesn't really offer anything new to the conversation, and it misses the opportunity to truly let its main characters express themselves in their own unique ways, uninterrupted. That said, The Reason I Jump still structures itself smartly (with stunning filmmaking to boot) by having each of its five characters introduce us to different aspects of the autism experience, from sense and memory to communication and community.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: David Mitchell, Donna Budway, Emma Budway, Jeremy Dear, Jordan O'Donegan

Director: Jerry Rothwell

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A quiet movie about an unpredictable convict who gets enrolled in a wild mustang taming program. These initiatives, common around the country, offer fascinating parallels: both the horses and the inmates are emprisoned, both innately fight against their condition but are actively being made to comply. The central performance by Matthias Schoenaerts is nothing short of a masterpiece. He doesn't speak much and you almost don't want him to: everything else he does communicates so much more than words. Watching this movie just for him is reason enough.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Bruce Dern, Connie Britton, Gideon Adlon, Heath Hensley, Jasmeet Baduwalia, Jason Mitchell, John Logsdon, Josh Stewart, Kelly Richardson, Kieth Johnson, Matthias Schoenaerts, Noel Gugliemi, Santina Muha, Thomas Smittle

Director: Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre

Rating: R

Through her irreverent, no-bullshit point of view, Chinese documentarian Christine Choy balances out The Exiles' painful reckoning with a traumatic event that shaped a generation of Chinese immigrants: the student-led protests and subsequent massacre of civilians in Tiananmen Square, Beijing in 1989. As Choy reconnects with the subjects of a documentary she stopped making 30 years ago, they help provide a fitting conclusion and new insights into the aftermath of the incident. And while the film eventually loses Choy's brash spirit and settles into a more conventional tone of storytelling, the testimonies and analyses of nation and home that we get to hear are still heartbreaking. After such a reprehensible violation of human rights, it becomes clear that the countries who refuse to condemn wrongdoing are just as guilty.

Genre: Documentary, History

Actor: Christine Choy

Director: Ben Klein, Violet Columbus

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For kids and kids-at-heart who find Jim Henson's technical mastery of puppets riveting, this documentary on the classic and still-contemporary Sesame Street provides a ton of behind-the-scenes footage that's endlessly fun to watch. Street Gang rebuts any arguments that could be made about children's TV being low-effort—showing just how much craft is needed in a show like this. But more importantly, the film's first act illustrates the risky process of building Sesame Street from the ground-up, specifically as programming for inner-city Black children who weren't getting the education they deserved. It's nothing short of an inspiration to see this ragtag group of creatives and communication experts—none of whom wanted to take sole credit—coming together like a superhero team to create one of the most iconic and enduring TV shows in American history.

Genre: Documentary, Family

Actor: Bob McGrath, Brian Henson, Caroll Spinney, Christopher Cerf, Dizzy Gillespie, Emilio Delgado, Fran Brill, Frank Oz, Fred Rogers, Holly Robinson Peete, James Earl Jones, Jesse Jackson, Jim Henson, Joan Ganz Cooney, Johnny Carson, Johnny Cash, Jon Stone, Lisa Henson, Loretta Long, Matt Robinson, Muhammad Ali, Norman Stiles, Orson Welles, Roscoe Orman, Sonia Manzano, Stevie Wonder, Will Lee

Director: Marilyn Agrelo

Though it paints in overly broad strokes and takes a while to get going, this tale of broken people finding each other eventually reaches an irresistibly feel-good conclusion. Like many good sports movies, Seabiscuit isn't really dependent on the final outcome of a matchup between underdog and high-profile contender. What becomes important, then, is the perseverance of a handful of individuals in doing something just to prove they can beat the odds. And while there aren't actually as many racing sequences in Seabiscuit as you might be led to believe, they're well worth the wait—punctuating the drama with sharp editing and beautiful, period-specific production design.

Genre: Drama, Family, History

Actor: Annie Corley, Cameron Bowen, Camillia Sanes, Chris Cooper, Dan Daily, Danny Strong, David Doty, David McCullough, Dyllan Christopher, Ed Lauter, Eddie Jones, Elizabeth Banks, Gary L. Stevens, Gary McGurk, Gary Ross, Gary Stevens, Gianni Russo, Hans Howes, James Keane, Jeff Bridges, John Walcutt, Ken Magee, Kevin Mangold, Kingston DuCoeur, Matt Miller, Michael Angarano, Michael B. Silver, Michael Ensign, Michael O'Neill, Michelle Arthur, Noah Luke, Pat Skipper, Paul Vincent O'Connor, Peter Jason, Richard Reeves, Robin Bissell, Royce D. Applegate, Sam Bottoms, Shay Duffin, Tobey Maguire, Valerie Mahaffey, William H. Macy

Director: Gary Ross

Rating: PG-13

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This is a revelation of a movie for its simplicity in handling a pretty serious and dark subject. It's the story of a generally immature and newly unemployed stand-up comic in New York and her unplanned pregnancy with a man that was supposed to be a fling, and it's surprisingly funny and yet rather touching. I can't think of many actresses who would've fit the bill quite like Jenny Slate. Not only is she hilarious, but her treatment of a generally sensitive issue from the honest, crass point of view of a down-on-life, New York-er leaves you drowning in empathy for her. I recommend this for anyone looking to cuddle up, have a few little clever laughs and feel all tingly in the chest-al area.

Genre: Comedy, Romance

Actor: Amy Novondo, Cindy Cheung, David Cross, Elise Widerker, Emily Tremaine, Ernest Mingione, Gabe Liedman, Gaby Hoffmann, Jake Lacy, Jennifer Kim, Jenny Slate, Justin Lerner, Karen Maine, Kitty Crystal, Mary DelMarco, Michael Bonfiglio, Nicholas Cirillo, Paul Briganti, Polly Draper, Richard Kind, Sarina Roma, Stacey Sargeant, Stephen Singer, Suzanne Lenz

Director: Gillian Robespierre

Rating: R

, 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, Carson Minniear, Cecily Strong, Chris Kattan, Chris Titone, David Wachtenheim, Heidi Gardner, Jackie Sandler, Janie Haddad Tompkins, Jaquita Ta'le, Jason Alexander, Jason Griffith, Jo Koy, Joel Marsh Garland, John Farley, Jonathan Loughran, Kelly Stables, Nicholas Turturro, Nick Swardson, Nikki Castillo, Noah Robbins, Paul Brittain, Rob Schneider, Robert Marianetti, Robert Smigel, Rose Abdoo, Ryan Bartley, Ryun Yu, Sadie Sandler, Scott Menville, Sheila Carrasco, Shelby Young, Sonya Leslie, Stephanie Hsu, Sunita Param, 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, Jordan Heron, Jorja Rae Inksetter Lardy, Karan Soni, Kathryn Greenwood, Kayla Njeri, Manny Magnus, Max Malas, Maya McNair, Neil Crone, Noah Lamanna, Piper Wallace, Punam Patel, Robyn Matuto, 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