224 Best Uplifting Movies to Watch (Page 13)

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.

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

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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, History

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

Director: Chris Robinson

Rating: PG-13

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, Paulie Deo Jr., 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

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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

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

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An uplifting and inspiring movie with Felicity Jones and Armie Hammer. Jones stars as Supreme Court Justice Associate Ruth Bader Ginsburg in this biopic centered around her hallmark case against sex-based discrimination. While it doesn't feel like it truly conveys the power of Ginsburg's story, her determination, or all the odds that were stacked against her, it serves as a mellowed-down preview of her remarkable story. Watch this if you're in need of a good dose of inspiration.

Genre: Drama, History

Actor: Amanda MacDonald, Angela Galuppo, Armie Hammer, Arthur Holden, Ben Carlson, Cailee Spaeny, Callum Shoniker, Chris Mulkey, Dawn Ford, Felicity Jones, Francis X. McCarthy, Gabrielle Graham, Gary Werntz, Holly Gauthier-Frankel, Jack Reynor, Jeff Lillico, Joe Cobden, Justin Theroux, Karl Graboshas, Kathy Bates, Michael Dickson, Ronald Guttman, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sam Waterston, Stephen Root, Wendy Crewson

Director: Mimi Leder

Rating: PG-13

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, 2016

Lion is the award-sweeping movie based on the true story of a kid in India who gets lost in a train and suddenly finds himself thousands of kilometers away from home. 25 years later, after being adopted by an Australian couple, he embarks on a journey through his memory and across continents to reconnect with his lost family. Dev Patel plays Saroo, and Nicole Kidman plays his Australian adoptive mother. Two truly amazing performances that will transport you to the time and place of the events, as well as its emotions spanning tear-jerking moments and pure joy. An uplifting, meaningful, and beautiful movie.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Abhishek Bharate, Anna Samson, Arka Das, Benjamin Rigby, David Wenham, Deepti Naval, Dev Patel, Divian Ladwa, Eamon Farren, Emilie Cocquerel, Garth Davis, Keshav Jadhav, Khushi Solanki, Lucy Moir, Menik Gooneratne, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Nicole Kidman, Priyanka Bose, Riddhi Sen, Rooney Mara, Sachin Joab, Sunny Pawar, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Tegan Crowley

Director: Garth Davis

Rating: PG-13

This musical drama about a Mumbai street rapper was India’s official submission to the Oscars. It was also produced by U.S. artist Nas.

Murad, who grew up poor and with an abusive father, starts working as a part-time chauffeur, which exposes him to the substantial inequalities that exist in Mumbai.

He incorporates all of this into his lyrics, and hopes to make it as a rapper in a story that sits somewhere between a musical and an adventure movie.

Genre: Drama, Music

Actor: Alia Bhatt, Amruta Subhash, Chaitanya Sharma, Jasleen Kaur Royal, Jyoti Subhash, Kalki Koechlin, Krishna Kaul, Kubbra Sait, Mona Ghosh Shetty, R. Bhakti Klein, Rahul Piske, Raja Kumari, Ranveer Singh, Sheeba Chaddha, Siddhant Chaturvedi, Srishti Shrivastava, Sushant Singh, Svar Kamble, Vijay Maurya, Vijay Raaz, Vijay Varma

Director: Zoya Akhtar

To call Going to Mars a somewhat shapeless documentary isn't a criticism. If anything, its flexibility of structure feels entirely appropriate for the woman at its center, who doesn't necessarily defy categorization so much as she remains on the pulse of history as it continues to shift in unexpected ways. Nikki Giovanni is a person who knows who she is and knows that she stands for the essential dignity of Black people, and it's inspiring to see how she not only remains hopeful and articulate through every critical moment, but that she insists on being ambitious for what Black people deserve to achieve in the future. As her son tells her at a speaking engagement, Giovanni doesn't just dream of going to space; she feels that it is her people's imperative to be there.

Directors Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson tell her (still ongoing) life story in a strikingly impressionistic way—cleverly playing with archival footage, but more importantly having Giovanni's candid words blending seamlessly into her poetry. This is a credit to how connected to the milieu Giovanni's work actually is, of course, but the film does a very good job defining her as someone who can bring beauty and grace out of every experience.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Kai Giovanni, Nikki Giovanni, Novella Nelson, Taraji P. Henson, Thomas Giovanni, Touré Neblett, Virginia Fowler

Director: Joe Brewster, Michèle Stephenson

Dream is a sports dramedy that is susceptible to a lot of the genre’s cliches. Yes, we follow Hong-dae’s journey from being an egomaniac lone wolf to an empathetic team player. Of course, we get to witness all the heartwrenching backstories of the homeless football members. And sure, we even see get to see ourselves in Lee So-min (IU), the hardworking filmmaker who puts her all into this documentary in the hopes that it could somehow pay off her student loan debt. These are plotlines you’ve heard of before, and there are holes in a lot of them (like how it criticizes documentaries for exploiting sob stories while doing the same in the film, for instance). But at the end of the day, Dream only wants to be an uplifting feel-good movie and in that regard, it succeeds immensely. Say what you want about Seo-joon and his exaggerated yell-all way of acting, but the man knows how to draw out a chuckle from even the most reserved viewer. And paired with IU, who brings with her a plucky charm, the two can command an audience any which way they want. If you’re looking for a serious deep dive into the world of sports, the deceit of documentaries, and the complex reality of homelessness, Dream touches on a bit of that but don’t expect it to fully deliver. However, if you’re looking for an easy watch filled with delightful performances and feel-good moments, then Dream is your film.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Baek Ji-won, Han Jun-woo, Heo Joon-seok, Hong Wan-pyo, IU, Jeong Soon-won, Jeong Sun-won, Jun Suk-ho, Jung Seung-kil, Kang Ha-neul, Kim Jong-soo, Ko Chang-seok, Lee Eun-jae, Lee Hae-woon, Lee Hyun-woo, Lee Ji-hyeon, Lee Yu-bi, Nam Min-woo, Park Hyeong-su, Park Hyoung-soo, Park Moon-sung, Park Myung-hoon, Park Seo-jun, Park Seong-jun, Song Yeong-sik, Yang Hyun-min, Yoon Ji-on, Yun Ji-on

Director: Lee Byeong-heon

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, 2021

CODA has all the trappings of a predictable, feel-good family drama. You’ll recognize immediately the talented teen, the family pulling her back, the cute love interest, the do-gooder mentor, and the swirl of coincidences that blend them all together in one sweet story. But CODA is so irresistibly heartfelt, well-acted, and vital (all the deaf characters are actually played by deaf actors), that you can’t help but be won by its charms. 

Aside from its big heart, the film’s decision to express itself mostly through ASL and music is an impressive technical feat as well. Altogether, these elements make for a refreshing, enjoyable, and simply heartwarming watch. 

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Music, Romance

Actor: Amy Forsyth, Armen Garo, Ayana Brown, Bryan Sabbag, Courtland Jones, Daniel Durant, David Newsom, Dominic Andersen, Dominic Cannarella-Andersen, Emilia Faucher, Emilia Jones, Erica McDermott, Eugenio Derbez, Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Gary Galone, Jason Pugatch, John Fiore, Jose Guns Alves, Kayla Caulfield, Kevin Chapman, Kiara Pichardo, Kyana Fanene, Lance Norris, Lonnie Farmer, Marilyn Busch, Mark Pettograsso, Marlee Matlin, Mary Ann Schaub, Melissa McMeekin, Molly Beth Thomas, Owen Burke, Pamela Jayne Morgan, Rebecca Gibel, Rena Maliszewski, Sarah Clarke, Stone Martin, TJ Ciarametaro, Tony Viveiros, Troy Kotsur

Director: Sian Heder

Rating: R-16