Feel-Good Movies That Aren’t About Love

Matilda

Feel-good movies should put a smile on anyone's face, even after the worst day. As good as a thrilling action flick or hard-hitting drama can be, sometimes fan films want to cuddle up after a long day at work with something lighter.

Relieve any anxiety and hide away from the world with feel-good movies that don't center on romance. While all the world seems love-obsessed, some feel-good movies understand life doesn’t just revolve around romance. Avoid remembering that break-up with an uplifting film about overcoming the odds, achieving goals, and bonding with family members.

Little Miss Sunshine

little miss sunshine
Image Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Little Miss Sunshine follows Olive (Abigail Breslin) and her family as they cross the country to attend a pageant. The characters' journey of self-discovery depicts the tragedy and humor of real life, concentrating more on family dynamics than romantic love. 

A feel-good movie about feeling bad, Little Miss Sunshine handles serious topics like mental health, suicide, depression, and body image with relatability. This whole movie encourages audiences to accept the lessons failures bring. Despite the sad topics, Little Miss Sunshine is ultimately an uplifting film about life's obstacles and how to overcome them.

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (2016)
Image Credit: Glen Wilson/Universal Pictures.

The Lonely Island actors send up the Justin Biebers and One Directions of this world with this hilarious spoof popumentary. Andy Samberg stars as Conner4Real, a pop phenomenon who outgrew his original boyband. The film follows his album launch and the realization that his lack of talent and bad decisions could tank his career.

A delight for fans of celebrity gossip, this uncomplicated comedy satires the banality of the modern musical landscape. Unlike many of its peers, Never Stop Stopping never gets weighed down with romantic subplots and attempts to deliver a message.

Hunt For The Wilderpeople

Hunt for the Wilderpeople Movie (2016)
Image Credit: Madman Films.

Taika Waititi’s Hunt For The Wilderpeople acts as a road movie and a feel-good, coming-of-age comedy. Troubled teenager Ricky (Julian Dennison) is shipped around foster homes until he lands on Bella and Hec (Sam Neill).

When Ricky runs away from his home, Hec hunts him down, and the pair evade his officer, Paula (Rachel House), together. Waititi’s 2016 film never judges its leading characters and plays the realities of the situation straight. Hunt For The Wilderpeople skips past shmaltzy adoption feel-good movies to show a mutual understanding between a misunderstood teen and a curmudgeon father figure.

Fighting With My Family

Fighting With My Family Florence Pugh
Image Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Fighting With My Family tells the real-life story of British wrestler Saraya-Jade Bevis (Florence Pugh). She went from wrestling in local venues to winning the WWE Divas title under the ring name Paige. Even people unaware of Paige's story will find this feel-good movie heartwarming and hilarious.

This Stephen Merchant-directed film balances oddball British humor with thrilling wrestling scenes and real heart. Called the wrestling version of Billy Elliott, Fighting With My Family celebrates the highs and lows of success in a family. The film isn't all about success; it also realistically showcases the jealousy that comes when one person reaches another dream. Ultimately, the quirky comedy and happy ending will leave viewers feeling good. 

Robot & Frank

Robot & Frank Movie (2012)
Image Credit: Samuel Goldwyn Films/Stage 6 Films.

Robot & Frank offers a rare feel-good look into the future of technology. David (James Marsden) gives his father (Frank Langella) a robot to cook, garden, and clean up. Voiced by Peter Sarasgaard, they convince the robot to join in the older gentlemen’s favorite hobby of larceny.

Frank defies the sweet old man stereotype as the former convict still outwitting security systems and lifting jewels from the rich. When he discovers his robot sidekick can crack safes and pick locks, the pair create a real bond. The robot also breaks stereotypes, his attitude warmer and funnier than most sentient machines depicted in cinema. 

Babe

Babe Movie (1995)
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

A pig raised by sheepdogs learns to herd sheep with a little help from a farmer (James Cromwell) in this touching adaptation. Directed by Chris Noonan, this charming family movie has the feel-good message of never underestimating something just because it’s not acting in the expected way.

This wholesome movie features lovable characters, quaint locations, and an adorable talking pig. Babe ultimately tells a story about people born into certain roles, even if they don't suit their skills. 

The Peanut Butter Falcon

The Peanut Butter Falcon (2019)
Image Credit: Roadside Attractions.

The Peanut Butter Falcon is a feel-good movie that celebrates diversity without feeling tokenistic. An unabashed retelling of Mark Twain’s classic Adventures of Huckleberry Finn novel, the 2019 film follows a young wrestling fan Zak (Zack Gottsagen), with Down syndrome, who escapes his nursing home. On the road, Zak pairs up with Tyler (Shia LeBeouf) to meet his wrestling hero, The Salt Water Redneck (Thomas Haden Church), and evade capture.

The Peanut Butter Falcon never shies away from Zak’s disabilities or how the world treats him because of them. Written for Gottsagen by Michael Schwartz and Tyler Nilson, this feel-good road movie never panders despite embracing the nuances of his disabilities.

My Neighbor Totoro

My Neighbor Totoro
Image Credit: Toho.

My Neighbor Totoro is a feel-good movie about death, grief, and kindness. This vibrant Studio Ghibli film appeals equally to younger and older audiences, with an uplifting message and a cute array of cuddly Totoros. It's a rewatchable film, many go back to on a rainy day.

One of the lovingly hand-crafted works of Hayao Miyazaki, the movie tells the story of two young sisters dealing with their mother’s illness. While the subject is difficult, My Neighbour Totoro celebrates the love of a family unit and finding peace in a chaotic world. 

The Intouchables

The Intouchables (2011)
Image Credit: Thierry Valletoux/Gaumont.

2011’s The Intouchables tells the tale of a wealthy, white disabled man (Francois Cluzet) and the troubled black youth who becomes his caretaker (Omar Sy). The pair create an unlikely friendship that crosses economic situation and race.

Based on a true story, The Intouchables American remake, The Upside with Kevin Hart and Bryan Cranston, never quite matched the uplifting themes of the original. The film hits familiar beats without every feeling oversentimental or saccharine, something the remake couldn’t get to grips with.

School Of Rock

School of Rock (2003)
Image Credit: Andrew Schwartz/Paramount Pictures.

Richard Linklater’s feel-good musical comedy has no shortage of likable characters, quotable lines, and catchy songs. School of Rock follows man-child Dewey (Jack Black), who steals his housemate’s identity to nab a substitute teacher role at an upmarket school. 

The stakes for School of Rock aren’t high, but it’s a joy to watch the children change slacker Dewey for the better, and Dewey helps unleash an unashamed joy in the middle-class kids. Jack Black is the perfect fit for the role, exuberantly bringing his big kid spirit and joy for life to the comedy.

Ratatouille

Ratatouille
Image Credit: tzohr/Disney Enterprises & Pixar Animation Studios.

Set in Paris, Ratatouille follows a young rat, Remy (Patton Oswalt), who dreams of becoming a chef at Auguste Gusteau's (Brad Garrett) restaurant. Written and directed by Brad Bird, Ratatouille aims slightly higher than many animated Pixar movies. Unlike many high-stakes animations that involve wild adventures, mystical beings, and epic love stories, Ratatouille is simply about a chef getting a positive review.

The ultimate message of Ratatouille is small but significant. Food critic Anton Egon realizes that anyone can cook. While not everyone can make art, everyone should try, and good art can come from anywhere. Unlike weepy Pixar films like Up and Toy Story, Ratatouille is a charming feel feel-good movie about chasing dreams (even if you're a rat!)

Billy Elliott

Fell Good British movie Billy Elliott
Image Credit: United International Pictures.

Billy Elliot battles the stereotypes associated with masculinity and poverty to deliver the ultimate British feel-good movie. The movie tells the story of an 11-year-old from a Northern coal-mining town who wants to ballet dance, despite his father's wishes.

The Stephen Daldry-directed film depicts Billy’s (Jamie Bell) newfound love for ballet, his own gender expectations, and his relationship with his dance teacher Mrs.Wilkinson (Julie Walters). This 2000 movie has the hallmark of all feel-good movies, showing a downtrodden protagonist achieving a dream they previously thought impossible.

Pride

Pride ,Movie (2014)
Image Credit: Pathé Distribution.

Despite being a movie advocating for people's rights to love who they want freely, Pride avoids the predictable LBGTQ love stories. This 2014 movie portrays what happens when two unlikely social groups team up to defeat their common enemy.

In Pride, a group of lesbian and gay activists raise money for the families of striking miners. Steeped in 1980s nostalgia and a catchy soundtrack, this rare feel-movie movie portrays a haunting decade in LBGTQ+ culture with an uplifting lightness. While it never shies away from talking about the AIDS crisis and the intolerance of the era, it concentrates on the joy of people living through the decade rather than the misery.

Matilda

Matilda (1996) Mara Wilson
Image Credit: Sony Pictures Releasing.

Based on the Roald Dahl book of the same name, it centers on a young girl called Matilda (Mara Wilson) whose family doesn’t appreciate her intelligence. Matilda’s TV-obsessed grifter parents, Harry and Zinnia Wormwood's narcissism can't dampen her joy for books and learning.

Matilda never panders to the younger audience and never sentimentalizes Matilda’s happy ending with Miss Honey. Despite having one of the most terrifying villains in film history (Pam Ferris as Miss Trunchbull), Matilda never gets too dark. This Danny DeVito-directed gem celebrates the weird kids at school who always had their heads in a book.

Paddington

Paddington Movie (2014)
Image Credit: StudioCanal.

Paddington and its sequel deliver the ultimate in comfort cinema. The Brown family adopts a speaking Peruvian bear (Ben Whishaw) who teaches all of London to act just a little bit kinder. Every second of the two films depicts a delightfully whimsical London, guaranteed to make audiences feel fuzzy on even the worst day.

It seems the world has forgotten Paddington's lessons about being polite, kind, and remembering manners in recent years. These two films feel like visiting an alternative universe, where everything is a little bit brighter, and people act a little bit more gently. Although it preaches a lesson of understanding, it still manages to make a subtle dig at England’s immigration issues and intolerance.

Author: Amelia Harvey

Bio:

Amelia Harvey is an English film and TV critic. Her great loves include quiet dramas, noisy reality TV, and ridiculous blockbusters. Amelia has been a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic since 2019 but has been writing lifestyle and entertainment articles since 2012. Her bylines include Why Now, Signal Horizon, Screen Queens, That Hashtag Show, Digital Spy and Screen Rant. An English literature graduate and former tutor, Amelia is passionate about female stories and LBGTQ+ voices.