10 Most Uplifting Movies on Netflix Right Now

Updated January 2, 2022 • Staff

Sometimes, the world gets a little too much to handle. In such times, there’s nothing like putting real life on pause and getting sucked into a feel-good movie. From irreverent buddy films to inspirational tales where good trumps evil, a wholesome watch can be a great comfort in the moments we need it the most. Here are some of the best uplifting movies currently streaming on Netflix, all of which are sure to turn that frown upside down.

Read also:
10.

The African Doctor

In this French movie based on a true story, a med-school graduate from Congo is offered a job as the doctor to the president of Zaire. He refuses and chooses instead to move to a small town in France in hopes of getting French citizenship and securing a better future for his children.

The story, which starts in 1975, is set in a village where people had never seen a Black person. To that, Seyolo, the doctor, says: “so what? Now they will.”

The culture clash is both villagers-to-new-arrivals and the other way. Seyolo tells his family that he was hired in a village “north of Paris”, but all they hear is “Paris”, only to be shocked by the state of the rainy and muddy countryside village.

Genre: Comedy, Drama
Actor: Aissa Maiga, Bayron Lebli, Bwanga Pilipili, Emilie Rouhart, Jean Bediebe, Jonathan Lambert, Kamini Zantoko, Marc Zinga, Mata Gabin, Micheline Dieye, Narcisse Mame, Riton Liebman, Rufus, Stéphane Bissot, Stéphanie Crayencour, Tatiana Rojo, Vincent Lecuyer
Director: Julien Rambaldi
Go to Netflix
9.

The Grizzlies (2020)

This uplifting Canadian sports drama is based on a true story set in the remote Nunavut town of Kugluktuk. The small community has the highest teen suicide rate in North America, as it suffers from intergenerational trauma, and the resulting alcohol and drug abuse. A new young history teacher who is sent by the government is shocked by the state of the school and the lives of the teenagers. He realizes that he can't engage the kids with history, and turns to his passion for Lacrosse to try to ignite change.

The teacher and director of the movie are both white, which, added to the story, raise red flags about white savior tropes. But thanks to First Nation producers who made sure the kids had time to develop their characters, The Grizzlies narrowly misses disaster. Instead, it gives a voice to communities that are rarely heard from. 

Genre: Drama
Actor: Ben Schnetzer, Booboo Stewart, Eric Schweig, Fred Bailey, Jack Anawak, Seth Burke, Tantoo Cardinal, Will Sasso
Director: Miranda de Pencier
Rating: R
Go to Netflix
8.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (2019)

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, Felix Lemburo, Joseph Marcell, Latifa Tambala, Lemogang Tsipa, Lily Banda, Maxwell Simba, Noma Dumezweni, Philbert Falakeza
Director: Chiwetel Ejiofor
Rating: TV-PG
Go to Netflix
7.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)

This coming-of-age story based on the bestseller by the same name starts fun but veers towards darker territory. It's about a high-schooler who makes two older friends, played perfectly by Ezra Miller and Emma Watson. But as he gets closer to one of them, his anxieties and past trauma come to the surface. The impressive depth to which the makers of The Perks of Being a Wallflower were able to take it is what elevates it to greatness. It's the perfect mix between easy and challenging. If there is ever such a thing, it's this movie.

Genre: Comedy, Drama
Actor: Adam Hagenbuch, Chelsea Zhang, Dylan McDermott, Emma Watson, Erin Wilhelmi, Ezra Miller, Joan Cusack, Johnny Simmons, Julia Garner, Kate Walsh, Logan Lerman, Mae Whitman, Melanie Lynskey, Morgan Wolk, Nicholas Braun, Nina Dobrev, Patrick de Ledebur, Paul Rudd, Reece Thompson, Stacy Chbosky, Stephen Chbosky, Tom Savini, Zane Holtz
Director: Stephen Chbosky
Rating: PG-13
Go to Netflix
6.

Uppity: The Willy T. Ribbs Story (2020)

“They called me uppity. Uppity n*****. And I loved it”. That’s how this excellent documentary, about the first professional black racing driver Willy T. Ribbs, starts. It summarizes the strong personality of a champion who excelled in tracks that were filled with confederate flags.

The documentary explains the details of the difficulties that Ribbs went through in the 70s and 80s, but also the people who supported him and recognized his talent. It’s by no way a sad movie, on the contrary, even when Ribbs is talking about people spitting wherever he walks or about the death threats escalating, his unharmed determination is at the center of the story.

This is an inspiring documentary about a character who never got his worth in the history books. I was full of shivers by the first half-hour mark.

Genre: Documentary
Actor: Adam Carolla, Bernie Ecclestone, Chase Austin, Doug Boles, Ian Brown, Nate Adams, Paul Newman, Willy T. Ribbs
Director: Adam Carolla, Nate Adams
Rating: Not Rated
Go to Netflix
5.

The Forty-Year-Old Version (2020)

This fun comedy-drama is about a New York playwright called Radha who never hit big. When she turns 40, she decides to reinvent herself as RadhaMUSPrime, a rapper.

And it’s all a personal affair: Radha Blank plays the main character (named after herself) and is also the writer, director, and producer.

The story is about rap and theater, but being so connected to reality, it feels like it’s about Blank making the movie itself. Its very existence feels like a triumph against the pressure of age, the misunderstanding of others, and the weight of unreached goals.

Genre: Comedy, Drama
Actor: Antonio Ortiz, Ashlee Brian, Haskiri Velazquez, Imani Lewis, Jacob Ming-Trent, Oswin Benjamin, Peter Kim, Peter Y. Kim, Radha Blank, Reed Birney, Stacey Sargeant, T.J. Atoms, Welker White
Director: Radha Blank
Rating: R
Go to Netflix
4.

Undefeated (2011)

Undefeated won an Oscar but since it’s a documentary, few sadly paid attention to it. It tells the story of a football team in a poor area in Tennessee. Kids without a bright future, until the new coach arrives. Yes, that sounds like a very old, cliché tale. But keep in mind it is a documentary, and the story it tells is powerful, gripping, and any familiarity quickly becomes irrelevant. Even if you have no interest in American football, or in sports in general, you will love it and more than likely find yourself reaching for the Kleenex at least a few times before the credits roll.

Genre: Documentary
Actor: Bill Courtney, Chavis Daniels, Montrail 'Money' Brown, O.C. Brown
Director: Daniel Lindsay, T. J. Martin
Rating: PG-13
Go to Netflix
3.

Philomena (2013)

An inspired by true events tale about an elderly Irish woman trying to find the child she was forced to give up many years earlier. Steve Coogan co-wrote the script and, though the base story is a tragic one, his special brand of very subtle, wry wit is apparent in the dialogue throughout. Judi Dench plays the mother who had kept her “sinful” past a secret for fifty years and, being Judi Dench, I don’t need to bother going on about her exemplary talent, suffice to say she’s charming beyond measure in the role. Steven Frears directs, as usual, deftly, and keeps the story compelling scene after scene, intensifying the emotions inherent to each, whether they be heart-warming, comedic, or outright enraging. Whoever decided to let Steve Coogan have his way with the script, it was a brave and wise choice and together this cast and crew have produced a wonderful and important piece of cinema.

Genre: Drama
Actor: Anna Maxwell Martin, Barbara Jefford, Cathy Belton, Charles Edwards, Charlie Murphy, Elliot Levey, Frankie McCafferty, Judi Dench, Kate Fleetwood, Mare Winningham, Michelle Fairley, Nicholas Jones, Peter Hermann, Ruth McCabe, Sara Stewart, Sean Mahon, Simone Lahbib, Sophie Kennedy Clark, Steve Coogan, Wunmi Mosaku
Director: Stephen Frears
Rating: PG-13
Go to Netflix
2.

Klaus (2019)

Shot by Sergio Pablos, a weathered animation film creator, here's a future holiday classic to be reckoned with. Klaus is a beautifully old-school-looking, 90s Disney-style animation movie about the origin story of the world's most beloved toymaker, Santa Klaus. Dispatched to a bleak arctic town, because he really wasn't very good at his job at all, mailman Jesper stumbles upon the now-famous Klaus, making an acquaintance that will change the town forever, and, with it, the way Christmas is celebrated around the world. In addition to its homely warmth, funny moments, and nostalgic hand-drawn animation style, you will recognize many famous voice-overs in this festive family film, including the always amazing J.K. Simmons, Rashida Jones, and Jason Schwartzman, to name a few.

Genre: Animation
Actor: J.K. Simmons, Jason Schwartzman, Joan Cusack, Neda Margrethe Labba, Norm Macdonald, Rashida Jones, Sergio Pablos, Will Sasso
Director: Sergio Pablos
Rating: PG
Go to Netflix
1.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)

Directed by Taika Waititi, who also gave us Boy (2010) and co-produced What We Do in the Shadows (2014), Hunt for the Wilderpeople is the quirky and magical buddy movie you want if you’re in need of an antidote to a bad day or a steady diet of sad movies.

It tells the off-kilter adventure story of misfit, rap-loving city kid Ricky Baker and his crusty and cantankerous foster parent ‘Uncle’ Hec, played by Sam Neill. ‘Very bad egg’ Ricky has been bounced out of more foster families than he cares to remember and is given one last chance of living with a couple out on a farm in rural New Zealand. After tragedy strikes early in the film, the unlikely pair gets lost in the wilderness and becomes subject to a nationwide manhunt.

Full of dead-pan humor and warm-hearted mockery, this audience favorite fuses visual gags delivered by a charming cast with sweeping shots of spectacular scenery!

Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Drama
Actor: Cohen Holloway, Hamish Parkinson, Julian Dennison, Mike Minogue, Mike Minouge, Oscar Kightley, Rachel House, Rhys Darby, Rima Te Wiata, Sam Neill, Stan Walker, Taika Waititi, Tioreore Ngatai-Melbourne, Troy Kingi
Director: Taika Waititi
Rating: PG-13
Go to Netflix

More lists

That's all from us for the 10 Most Uplifting Movies on Netflix Right Now! For more, subscribe to the newsletter. It's ad-free, spam-free, and algorithm-free. You get two e-mails every week with the best of Netflix and Amazon Prime, and nothing else.