154 Best Uplifting Movies to Watch (Page 4)

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.

This beautiful, realistic, and nostalgic anime movie about childhood is one that almost anyone can relate to. Set in the year of 1982, twenty-seven-year-old Taeko Okajima is traveling to the countryside by train. Along her journey, she gets flashbacks of her childhood: mostly in elementary school, stealing glances at a boy, and navigating puberty. The movie goes back and forth between past and present, easily making one long for sun-filled summers of yesteryear and silly jokes between playfriends. As well as telling a story about Taeko's past, Only Yesterday also tells a story about her present, and the combined realism of the plotline with the beautiful animation grips you and doesn’t let go. Only Yesterday truly feels like home.

Genre: Animation, Drama, Romance

Actor: Chie Kitagawa, Ichirō Nagai, Issey Takahashi, Masahiro Ito, Masahiro Itou, Mayumi Iizuka, Mayumi Izuka, Michie Terada, Miki Imai, Toshiro Yanagiba, Yoko Honna, Yorie Yamashita, Yoshimasa Kondô, Yuki Minowa, Yuuki Masuda

Director: Isao Takahata

Rating: PG

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.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Alfred Molina, Andrew Polk, Charlie Tahan, Cheyenne Jackson, Christian Coulson, Christina Kirk, Darren E. Burrows, Eric Tabach, Harriet Sansom Harris, John Cullum, John Lithgow, Manny Perez, Marisa Tomei, Olya Zueva, Sebastian La Cause, Tank Burt, Tatyana Zbirovskaya

Director: Ira Sachs

Rating: R

Doris Miller is an unassuming sixty-something office worker whose life takes an unusual turn after her mother passes away. We find out over the course of the film that Doris' life was put on hold early when she had to give up her dreams and ambitions to take care of her mother. Something is awakened in Doris though when she falls head over heels for John, a much younger co-worker, and Doris dives head first into the world of social media, electro-pop, and Brooklyn hipsterdom. Sally Field is an absolute delight here -- her Doris is sweet, lovable, and tragic in equal measures. And the chemistry between her and John is palpable; you can see why they eventually strike up a friendship. In many ways this is a late in life coming-of-age story, and while there are moments of uncomfortable humor, you will find yourself rooting for Doris to come out of her shell and embrace her new life to the fullest.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Abraham Lim, Amy Okuda, Anna Akana, Beth Behrs, Caroline Aaron, Catherine Kresge, Don Stark, Edmund Lupinski, Elizabeth Reaser, Emilie Germain, Eric Pumphrey, Guilherme Scarabelot, Isabella Acres, Jack Antonoff, Kale Clauson, Kate Comer, Kumail Nanjiani, Kyle Mooney, Lee Chen, Max Greenfield, Michael Terra, Natasha Lyonne, Nnamdi Asomugha, Norma Michaels, Peter Gallagher, Rebecca Wisocky, Rich Sommer, Roz Ryan, Sally Field, Sofia Hasmik, Stephen Root, Susan Ziegler, Tyne Daly, Wendi McLendon-Covey

Director: Michael Showalter

Rating: R

A sweet feel-good movie starring Nick Offerman as a dad who has to deal with his only daughter leaving for college and his record store struggling. The daughter is played by Kiersey Clemons who you might recognize from the show Easy. And Ted Danson has a great role too. This is a relatable and heartwarming movie, one of the best the so-called "indie" genre has known in a long time.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Family, Music

Actor: Alex Reznik, Andrea Morales, Blythe Danner, Harrison Chad, Jeff Tweedy, Kiersey Clemons, Kim Ramirez, Linda Lee McBride, Michael Abbott Jr., Nick Offerman, Quincy Dunn-Baker, Rafael Poueriet, Robert Reed Murphy, Sasha Lane, Ted Danson, Toni Collette, Will Rogers

Director: Brett Haley

Rating: PG-13

Although Descendant is built around the finding of the Clotilda—the last ship to bring African slaves to the United States—this documentary knows that there's so much more potent drama in the stories of the ordinary people of Africatown, Alabama. As this painful reminder of the roots of their community is salvaged from the water, their view of history itself begins to change. Now they face the responsibility of making sure that the Clotilda doesn't just become a tourist attraction, and that their call for reparations unites the Mobile region of Alabama more than anything else. Its a gripping, complex documentary that feels like reading a great novel.

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Director: Margaret Brown

Shia Laboeuf and Stellan Skarsgård star in this true story about one of the greatest tennis matches in history: the 1980 Wimbledon final. The movie dissects what drives both competitors (one played by Laboeuf and the other by Sverrir Gudnason). Their personalities, considered opposites, are studied through their paths and how they got into tennis. All this leads to that one match, in this beautiful story of dealing with competition and fear of failure. Don’t stop watching when the credits roll, read what they say!

Genre: Drama, History

Actor: Anders Berg, Bjorn Granath, Bob Boudreaux, Colin Stinton, Dag Malmberg, David Bamber, Ian Blackman, Iva Šindelková, Jackson Gann, James Sobol Kelly, Jamie Marshall, Jane Perry, Janis Ahern, Leo Borg, Marcus Mossberg, Mats Blomgren, Robert Emms, Roy McCrerey, Scott Arthur, Shia LaBeouf, Stellan Skarsgård, Sverrir Gudnason, Thomas Hedengran, Tuva Novotny, Wille Glyt, Zuzana Geislerová

Director: Janus Metz, Janus Metz Pedersen

Rating: R

You’ll recognize more than a few faces in Uncle Frank. There are no mega-stars but the caliber of acting in this 70s story is truly impressive.

Beth is an 18-year-old in rural South Carolina who grew up admiring the family member she could relate to the most: her uncle, a college professor living in New York.

When she finishes high-school, she makes the move to the city her beloved uncle told her so much about. Once there, she discovers that he has been living a double life which he kept a secret from the family.

This is the perfect holiday movie for those looking for a story that’s not about the actual holidays. It’s sweet, often funny, and packs a heartfelt and genuine story without being too predictable.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Banks Repeta, Britt Rentschler, Burgess Jenkins, Caity Brewer, Christopher Speed, Cole Doman, Colton Ryan, Hannah Black, Jane McNeill, Judy Greer, Lois Smith, Margo Martindale, Michael Banks Repeta, Paul Bettany, Peter Macdissi, Sophia Lillis, Stephen Root, Steve Zahn

Director: Alan Ball

Rating: R

In his last film, American Serb film historian Peter Bogdanovich celebrates silver screen legend Buster Keaton. The subject alone is compelling to watch. It would be easy to pull clips from Keaton’s works, dig through the headlines, pull in some celebrity interviews, and call it a day. However, in Bogdanovich’s hands, this documentary handles Keaton with respect. Instead of focusing on the scandals, Bogdanovich focuses on Keaton’s brilliant work. Instead of reciting facts, Bogdanovich highlights how his bits influenced film today. Excellent editing - cuts, structure, and scoring - helps us glide through Keaton’s work. The film truly understands Keaton’s life and exactly why he’s brilliant. Comprehensive yet very focused, this documentary honestly feels better than film school.

Genre: Comedy, Documentary, Drama

Actor: Bill Hader, Bill Irwin, Buster Keaton, Carl Reiner, Cybill Shepherd, Dick Van Dyke, Eleanor Keaton, French Stewart, James Karen, Johnny Knoxville, Jon Watts, Mel Brooks, Nick Kroll, Norman Lloyd, Orson Welles, Paul Dooley, Peter Bogdanovich, Quentin Tarantino, Richard Lewis, Tom Holland, Werner Herzog

Director: Peter Bogdanovich

Rating: Not Rated

This movie’s energy is completely intoxicating.

It’s the directorial debut of renown British/Nigerian actor Chiwetel Ejiofor, but it feels like the work of a veteran.

In a true story told in English and Chichewa (a language from Malawi), a young boy is expelled from school because his parents couldn’t afford tuition. At the same time, his village is struck by a variety of natural circumstances that bring them the threat of drought and famine.

The young boy sneaks into the library in the hopes of making a windmill and saving his village, and you can guess what follows from the title.

The triumph of engineering and a boy with a dream; mix in an incredibly interesting culture, full of unique family dynamics and a thought-provoking intersection between religion, tradition, and technology. The result is a delicate but uplifting movie, not to be missed.

Genre: Drama, Family, History

Actor: Aissa Maiga, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Edwin Chonde, Felix Lemburo, Fredrick Lukhere, Joseph Marcell, Kelvin Chimpokoser, Khalani Makunje, Latifa Tambala, Lemogang Tsipa, Lily Banda, Maxwell Simba, Noma Dumezweni, Philbert Falakeza, Raymond Ofula

Director: Chiwetel Ejiofor

Rating: TV-PG

This animated movie is absolutely wonderful. It’s an Irish production, and the drawings/graphics are so beautiful and different from what you usually see in this genre. This alone, along with the music, would be good reasons to watch this.

But what really makes this worth your time is the story – it’s about a boy dealing with the loss of his mother. He embarks on an adventure into a parallel world of feelings to save his sister.

I found it to be refreshingly original, sometimes quite intense (I cried, but I easily cry), and heartwarming. The details are great. And I love the way the story was interwoven with Irish mythology, making it magical.

Genre: Animation, Family, Fantasy

Actor: Brendan Gleeson, Colm ÓSnodaigh, Colm O'Snodaigh, David Rawle, Fionnula Flanagan, Jon Kenny, Kevin Swierszcz, Liam Hourican, Lisa Hannigan, Lucy O'Connell, Pat Shortt, Paul Young, Tomm Moore, Will Collins

Director: Tomm Moore

Rating: PG

I love when a misunderstood woman reclaims her narrative with her own words, and that’s exactly what Pamela: A Love Story is too, a tell-all documentary told by Pamela Anderson herself.

The documentary bares it all—the scandalous sex tape, Anderson’s troubled past, the disgusting misogyny that continues to tarnish her career. She even touches on the Hulu miniseries made about her demise (which Netflix must feel so smug about). But this isn’t a pity party. Just the opposite, the documentary is a testament to resilience. “My life is not a woe-is-me story,” Anderson says at one point, and truly, this is an inspiring and humanizing story about a woman taking charge of her own life. An absolute must-see.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Brandon Thomas Lee, David Hasselhoff, David Hogan, David Letterman, Douglas Schwartz, Jimmy Kimmel, Julian Assange, Kelly Slater, Michael Berk, Pamela Anderson, Ruby Wax, Tommy Lee, Tony Curtis, Vivienne Westwood

Director: Ryan White

Rating: TV-MA