The 20 best feelgood movies on Netflix

Lift your mood with wild action comedies, brilliant romcoms, movie musicals and more

Image: courtesy Netflix
As we know pretty well by now, real life and current affairs can really get you down. For many of us, Netflix is the antidote and escapism we need from daily life. However, with so many titles to choose from, it can be hard to know which films will leave your spirits high.

Well, we’re here to help. From wild action comedies such as Charlie’s Angels and genre-reviving romcoms like To All the Boys I've Loved Before to Reese Witherspoon’s iconic turn as Elle Woods in Legally Blonde, movie musicals like La La Land and Burlesque and Netflix Originals such as Dumplin and Always Be My Maybe, here’s our guide to the 20 best feelgood movies streaming on Netflix right now that are guaranteed to cheer you up.

By Time Out Film
Roald Dahl's Matilda (1996)
Image: Sony Pictures

Roald Dahl's Matilda (1996)

Director: Danny DeVito
Cast: Mara Wilson, Danny DeVito, Pam Ferris

Danny DeVito's snappy, kinetic visual adaptation of this Roald Dahl classic fits the cartoon feel of the source material, and the cast is great. It’s a modern-day pantomime about childhood solidarity and self-empowerment: the real joy here is the view of generational war, the children’s assumption of zero tolerance for injustices inflicted by absurd adults, and the recognition that the big meanies should be punished, by fair means or foul.

When Harry Met Sally… (1989)
Image: courtesy Columbia Pictures

When Harry Met Sally… (1989)

Director: Rob Reiner
Cast: Meg Ryan, Billy Crystal

This is a film where everything works: Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan’s just-this-side-of-smug central couple, the gorgeous photography of New York through the changing seasons, even Harry Connick Jr’s jazz-lite soundtrack. And it’s all rooted in Nora Ephron's flawless script.

Set It Up (2018)
Image: courtesy Netflix

Set It Up (2018)

Director: Claire Scanlon
Cast: Zoey Deutch, Glen Powell, Taye Diggs, Lucy Liu

Director Claire Scanlon resurrects that tragically neglected genre, the romcom, with this amiable caper. The premise – two put-upon assistants (Glen Powell and Zoey Deutch) try to trick their bosses-from-hell as payback for their own stresses – is relatively well-trodden territory, but it’s executed deftly and boasts no little heart. There are even a few genuine laugh-out-loud moments sprinkled among the romantic fare, with Lucy Liu proving that when it comes to comedy she knows how to deliver.

To All the Boys I've Loved Before (2018)
Image: courtesy Netflix

To All the Boys I've Loved Before (2018)

Director: Susan Johnson
Cast: Lana Condor, Noah Centineo

To deal with her intense crushes, Lara Jean (Lana Condor) writes secret love letters to the boys she lusts after, which no one is ever meant to see. Of course, these letters end up being sent out and Lara Jean must deal with her feelings, and the implications of the letters, head on.

This Netflix Original movie, based on the book of the same name by Jenny Han, has been praised by all corners of the internet, especially for the performances of Lana Condor and Noah Centineo, who plays love interest Peter Kavinsky. It looks like the romcom is officially back.

Burlesque (2010)
Image: courtesy Sony Pictures Entertainment

Burlesque (2010)

Director: Steven Antin
Cast: Cher, Christina Aguilera, Stanley Tucci

Okay, so the plot of this Christina Aguilera and Cher vehicle makes little-to-no sense, but when you have the former belting out bangers and the latter bouncing off of Stanley Tucci, somehow magic happens. Indeed, Tucci and Cher’s chemistry is wonderful, even when the pop diva struggles to get the lines out without stumbling. Camp, clichéd and totally gluttonous, this one is so bad that it’s good.

Someone Great (2019)
Image: courtesy Netflix

Someone Great (2019)

Director: Jennifer Kaytin Robinson
Cast: Gina Rodriguez, Brittany Snow, DeWanda Wise

This romcom might not be the most original or groundbreaking addition to the genre, but sometimes if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Instead, focus on friendship and the chemistry that this film’s three female leads have in abundance. 

Falling Inn Love (2019)
Image: courtesy Netflix

Falling Inn Love (2019)

Director: Roger Kumble
Cast: Christina Milian, Adam Demos, Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman

The concept of this film is preposterous: an American woman loses everything but then happens to win a New Zealand inn (?!) which she attempts to renovate and flip with the help of her hunky contractor. Naturally, their relationship gets complicated. Essentially it’s a hit of sugar and who can complain about that? 

Legally Blonde (2001)
Image: courtesy MGM

Legally Blonde (2001)

Director: Robert Luketic
Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Luke Wilson, Selma Blair

Reese Witherspoon stars in this early ’00s classic about sorority girl Elle Woods and her mission to get her ex-boyfriend back, which involves, incredibly, getting into Harvard Law School and subsequently becoming a badass lawyer. Camp, romantic and inspirational (we still remember that you can’t wash your hair 48 hours after getting a perm), this film is funny and fabulous. 

La La Land (2016)
Image: courtesy Summit Entertainment

La La Land (2016)

Director: Damien Chazelle
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone

What could be more feelgood than a musical that pays homage to the classic movie musicals of Hollywood? While not completely free from fraught romance and moments of melancholy, it captures the go-getter spirit of LA and the wonder of those old-fashioned big musical numbers, while telling a story about going out and achieving your dream.

Always Be My Maybe (2019)
Image: courtesy Netflix

Always Be My Maybe (2019)

Director: Nahnatchka Khan
Cast: Ali Wong, Randall Park

Netflix continues its romcom reign with this touching and funny film about childhood friends Sasha and Marcus (played by Ali Wong and Randall Park) who have a falling out and don’t speak for 15 years. Brought back together when Sasha, now a celebrity chef, returns to her hometown of San Francisco to open a new restaurant, she finds her former friend to be a happily complacent musician still living at home and working for his dad. Naturally, things become complicated. 

The Duff (2015)
Image: courtesy Entertainment One

The Duff (2015)

Director: Ari Sandel
Cast: Mae Whitman, Bella Thorne

Mae Whitman has oodles of charm as the down-to-earth lead of this harmlessly predictable high school comedy. Realising she’s known as the 'duff', a Designated Ugly Fat Friend, guys talk to to get to their hotter mates, she sets about reinventing herself. But a message of acceptance wins out in the end.

Eat Pray Love (2010)
Image: Columbia Pictures

Eat Pray Love (2010)

Director: Ryan Murphy
Cast: Julia Roberts, Javier Bardem, James Franco, Viola Davis

Julia Roberts stars in this soul-searching bildungsroman that follows an unhappy Manhattanite on her journey of self-discovery, spirituality, food and love. It’s cheesy at times, emotional at others, and filled with some fabulous shots of pasta. It’ll make you want to take an extended gap year. 

Julie & Julia (2009)
Image: courtesy Columbia Pictures

Julie & Julia (2009)

Director: Nora Ephron
Cast: Meryl Streep, Amy Adams

The last feature film from writer, director and producer Nora Ephron, this comedy-drama about a famous chef Julia Childs (played by an eccentric Meryl Streep) and home cook Julie Powell, who attempts to cook all 524 recipes in one of Child's recipe books in 365 days, is a throwback to the films of old, where dreams become reality. 

Easy A (2010)
Image: courtesy Sony Pictures Releasing

Easy A (2010)

Director: Will Gluck
Cast: Emma Stone, Penn Badley, Stanley Tuccci

Will Gluck’s twenty-first-century take on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter is a film that brings the spunk back to the teen comedy. Stone plays Olive, a straight-A student who taps into her school’s rumour mill for social clout and financial gain. If you like your teen comedies with real jokes and skewed morals, this one is for you.  

Hook (1991)
Image: TriStar Pictures

Hook (1991)

Director: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Dustin Hoffman, Robin Williams, Julia Roberts

While not critically adored at the time of release, this rejigged tale about an all-grown-up Peter Pan and his ongoing feud with Captain Hook has become a cult classic. Robin Williams is great, as is a campy Dustin Hoffman, and we challenge you not to want to run away with the Lost Boys. Yes it’s sweet and sentimental, but it’s also a lot of fun.

Sex and the City (2008)
Image: courtesy HBO

Sex and the City (2008)

Director: Michael Patrick King
Cast: Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon

Unlike the highly problematic sequel, the first Sex and the City movie is a total romp. Just like a two-hour episode of the beloved HBO dramedy, the film tells the story of Carrie Bradshaw and her cabal of friends as she navigates love and life in New York City. This time, however, the budget is higher, the clothes even more glamorous and the sex slightly less in your face. 

Chalet Girl (2011)
Image: courtesy Momentum Pictures

Chalet Girl (2011)

Director: Phil Traill
Cast: Felicity Jones, Ed Westwick

Rogue One star Felicity Jones is at the heart of this fluffy, fun British romcom. She plays Kim, a working-class skateboard champion who becomes a chalet girl after her mum’s death – and ends up falling for a wealthy (and taken) client. 

Friends with Benefits (2011)
Image: courtesy Sony Pictures Releasing

Friends with Benefits (2011)

Director: Will Gluck
Cast: Mila Kunis, Justin Timberlake

Normally we’d say avoid any films starring pop stars pivoting to acting (aside from Cher). However, former boybander Justin Timberlake is surprisingly convincing as a metrosexual man embroiled in a no-strings sex pact with Mila Kunis that, obviously, finds itself strung up with complications. Kunis is the real star here, though, as she solidifies her stance as a brilliant comedic actor, and there are some wonderfully dated references to flashmobs that aren’t to be missed. 

Dumplin’ (2018)
Image: courtesy Netflix

Dumplin’ (2018)

Director: Anne Fletcher
Cast: Danielle Macdonald, Jennifer Aniston

This entertaining and feelgood coming-of-age dramedy sees Jennifer Aniston excel as a former pageant queen whose plus-size, teenage daughter enters a pageant as a protest. Even better: it’s all soundtracked by Dolly Parton.

Charlie’s Angels Full Throttle (2003)
Image: courtesy Columbia Pictures

Charlie’s Angels Full Throttle (2003)

Director: McG
Cast: Lucy Liu, Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore

Very much a product of its time, this sequel to the early ’00s reboot of Charlie’s Angels is weird, wild and wonderful. From the generous liberties taken with earthly physics to the brilliant chemistry between the film’s three leads, there’s just so much to love (and laugh about).

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