The 10 Best Feel-Good Films (Because We Need Them Right Now)
What with what we're going to very broadly call 'one thing and another', we could all do with a bit of a lift right now, and film is probably the most copper-bottomed medium for spirit-rousing.
Feel-good films that actually succeed in making you feel good are rarely straightforwardly happy, stress-free experiences though. Sure, they exist – the most worrisome thing that happens in Local Hero is when an unfortunate rabbit is turned into a casserole – but generally you need a bit of grist in there to make the redemptive high of the end carry some wallop. Even Paddington 2 has that bit where Paddington very nearly drowns. All we're saying is: be prepared.
Local Hero (1983)
When Texas energy company Knox Oil and Gas decides it wants to buy up a vast wedge of unspoilt Scottish coastline to turn into an oil refinery, it sends its most Scottish employee—Mac, who's actually very slightly Irish—to lead negotiations with the townspeople of Ferness. Far from being horrified by the idea, they're absolutely delighted and can't wait to spend their millions. But the wonder of the landscape and the gentle, welcoming nature of the people give him second thoughts about helping destroy it all, and reconsider if his life in the city is the one he wants. If you're into Local Hero, get on Bill Forsyth's other masterpiece, Gregory's Girl.
Paddington 2 (2018)
Sing Street (2016)
The only thing more uplifting than a coming-of-age story is a coming-of-age story with mid-Eighties synth-pop bangers retrofitted to it. Set in 1985 Dublin, Sing Street follows 'Cosmo' Lawlor and his gang of misfits as they try to escape boredom and the souring influence of the Christian Brothers who teach them at school via their band, whose 'Drive It Like You Stole It' is the greatest single Hall & Oates never wrote.
The story of the unlikely allies who backed each other in the face of brutal treatment by Margaret Thatcher's government during the miners' strike of 1984 is fresh, funny and uplifting in spite of the darkness of the time, which it doesn't shy away from. It's about the founding of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners, a fundraising group led by LGBT activists who found common cause with the striking miners of Onllwyn in south Wales, and the broader struggle to get anyone in mainstream politics to take gay rights seriously.
Say Anything... (1989)
The image of Lloyd Dobler turning up at his crush Diane's house blasting Peter Gabriel from a boombox is one of the definitive images of Eighties the teen movie boom, but Say Anything... is a thoroughly different prospect to most of them. John Cusack's Lloyd is a high school underachiever, but one who's helping raise his single sister's child and who has to fight against snobbish adults who don't think he's worthy of dating a valedictorian. And, in the end, he decides to put his hang-ups aside to support Diane. "The world is full of guys," Lloyd's friend Corey tells him. "Be a man. Don't be a guy." Sage advice.
Mamma Mia! (2008)
No, it doesn't make any sense. But really, if you're not battered into a kind of joyous submission by its sheer exuberance, fully committed performances and Christine Baranski doing the watusi across a beach while singing 'Does Your Mother Know?', you might be medically dead. Mamma Mia! might be the most intensely concentrated shot of joy ever committed to film.
Love, Simon (2018)
Teenager Simon's trying to work out which of his classmates he's fallen for online—he goes by the name 'Blue'—while trying to stop a blackmailer from outing him to the rest of his school and family after an email-based snafu. It's smart, sweet and sensitive in equal measure, and Bleachers' Jack Antonoff provides a storming soundtrack too.
Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
It's A Wonderful Life (1946)
No, it doesn't matter that it's not Christmas. You know the story: Jimmy Stewart's George Bailey has a moment of crisis when it looks like his building society's about to close, but just as he's about to kill himself his guardian angel, Clarence, shows him how much worse his town would be without him. The first two thirds are pretty unremittingly bleak, but the revelation of how many lives a single person can touch is incredibly profound. Plus, Clarence's final message that "no man is a failure who has friends" is one to bear in mind when you start getting bummed out about having not touched that stack of Tolstoy you were going to get through.
My Neighbour Totoro (1988)
When sisters Satsuki and Mei move into a big old house with their dad to be nearer to their mum while she's in hospital, they discover a world of woodland spirits which coexist happily with the modern world. As you'd expect of Studio Ghibli, every frame is beautiful, and ripples with optimism and warmth. That's just as well: when it was originally released it was part of a double-bill with the unbearably bleak Tokyo firebombing story Grave of the Fireflies.
This story originally appeared on Esquire.co.uk.
* Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.