Top Ten Feelgood Movies of All Time

July 30, 2012

 

 

10. Groundhog Day {1993}

Bill Murray stars in this comedy feelgood film which is as funny as it is moving. Quirky and fascinating, this film hangs on a magic realism that sees our hero re-live the same day over and over until he gets it right. Murray plays Phil, a disillusioned and contemptuous TV weatherman whose ambition and attitude distances himself from those around him. Now Phil has the opportunity to re-live the same day, Groundhog Day, with hilarious consequences. Eventually, Phil realises that he can’t escape, and is forced to confront himself, his attitude and his negative outlook on life. As he falls in love with his producer, Rita, who dislikes him intensely, Phil undertakes a scrooge-like transformation in order to be the man that she could love. This film is a very funny, genuinely heart-warming and extremely well told fable for modern life which neatly avoids falling into the trap of being either overly moralistic or sentimental.

Feelgood 8/10

 

 

9. The Shawshank Redemption {1994}

Tim Robbins and Morgan freeman star in this epic tale of redemption set inside a prison. It is a deep tale of friendship with an iconic soundtrack and equally iconic acting. Andy (Robbins) is sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of his wife where he befriends fellow prisoner, Red (Freeman). What makes this film so memorable is its message: That even in the darkest places, the human spirit can flourish. The majority of the film follows the powerful relationship and the engaging dialogue of two fellow inmates as they deal with the ordeals of prison life including corrupt and vicious prison wardens. Andy’s positivity despite such bleakness and Red/Freeman’s integrity (and narration) throughout the film, keeps the viewer hanging on every twist in the story, a story which shows a deep strength and powerful humanity rarely seen in such a major Hollywood production. If you haven’t seen this film yet, treat yourself, clear a whole evening (the film is an epic at 142 minutes long!) and watch what will surely become one of your favourite films.

Feelgood 8/10

 

8. The Pursuit of Happyness {2006}

This film is full of all the hallmarks we’ve come to expect of a Will Smith movie: Engaging, cheeky and full of comedic charm. What’s unexpected is the incredible depth of emotion and sincere storytelling which characterises The Pursuit of Happyness. The story is simple; Will Smith plays a struggling salesman who decides to take charge of his own destiny while at the same time remain a good father during a difficult relationship breakup. Perhaps partly due to being based on a true story, partly due to the child-star of the film being Will Smith’s real-life son, and partly due to the simple but compelling soundtrack, this story of one man’s economic struggle against all odds, and amidst a family breakdown, earns it it’s place at number eight on the top ten feelgood films of all time.

Feelgood 8/10

7. I Heart Huckabees {2004}

How am I not myself? Quite possibly the quirkiest film ever made. The concept is simple, a young man, Albert, goes on a search for truth and seeks to find meaning in his life with the help of two existential detectives. This film is funny, deep and a real tearjerker with some very profound insights into the human condition. It also features some wonderful acting by Dustin Hoffman, Mark Wahlberg, Jude Law and Jason Schwartzman amongst others! I Heart Huckabees is total feelgood, from the twists and turns in the plot to the therapy-like transformation Albert goes through in his search… However, two things in particular make this film so blindingly fantastic. The first is the unique and magical film score written by musical genius Jon Brion – which perfectly matches every mood of the film, and the second is how larger than life all of the characters in this film are, and how easy it is to fall in love with them all. Having said all this, the film also deliberately poses some difficult questions and looks very deeply into the nature of human interaction. If you like your films to be shallow and full of cheap laughs then this film will disappoint. For those capable of looking a little deeper, this film is an absolute gem which can be enjoyed many times over.

Feelgood 8.5/10

 

 

 

6. The Fifth Element {1997}

The Fifth Element is one of the most unusual films to be made in the last 20 years. It is also the ultimate action feelgood film. It is a full-paced, rollicking action-romance-comedy-fantasy-drama-musical-futuristic-space-funk-opera adventure. Not only is it one of the best looking films ever made (costumes by Jean-Paul Gaultier), but it also has a score which perfectly accompanies every detail of the film and uses just about every genre of modern music, from reggae to opera. It has a very alternative feel but is as highly polished as any other Hollywood blockbuster without losing any of its uniqueness and charm. There are so many wonderful things about this film: Gary Oldman’s incredible acting as surreal villain Dr. Zorg, the constant comedic undercurrent, (both cinematic and in the dialogue), the live-action “comic-book” style action sequences, the impossibly beautiful opera scene, breathtaking CGI, editing which is endlessly imaginative, perfect casting… I could go on, but I still wouldn’t do it justice… It should be noted that for those looking for a complex plotline with high-brow cultural references… forget about it. This is a simple story, well told. Boy meets girl-alien, has an adventure, saves the world. But then it is not the plot which makes this film so orgasmic, but director Luc Besson’s eye for detail, some phenomenal and fun acting, and the overwhelming and undeniable feelgood sensation which the viewer is left with at the end of the film. The Fifth Element is a celebration of life and love, music, colour, playfulness and much, much more.

 

Feelgood 9/10

5. Forrest Gump {1994}

Tom Hanks quite rightly won a number of awards including an Oscar for his part in this fascinating and unconventional film. Forrest Gump follows the life and adventures of a truly noble and well-intentioned American man (Forrest/Hanks) struggling with a far lower than average IQ. The audience is never allowed to get bored for a second watching his adventures, war hero, rugby star, nincompoop of the highest order… This film shouldn’t be as believable or easy to swallow as it is, however, due to Tom Hanks’ shining charisma we are happy to suspend our disbelief time and time again. Funny, sad, and intensely watchable, Forrest Gump’s warm-hearted approach to life will leave you smiling long after you’ve finish watching. Feelgood 9/10

 

4. Batteries Not Included {1987}

I saw this Steven Spielberg film in the cinema as a child and was crying so loudly at one point that the man in front of me deigned it appropriate to turn round and proclaim “Oi kid! I’ve seen this film… it gets better I promise…”. This film still has me crying from about 10 minutes in and keeps me crying on and off until the end… not because the film is sad (although there are many sad moments) but because it is overwhelmingly beautiful. Essentially a family film, and despite being about flying robots, the story shows an understanding of human emotion, (good and bad), far beyond any movie for “adults” that I’ve ever seen.

The story follows the residents of an apartment block scheduled for destruction as contractors try more and more underhand tactics to remove them from their homes. Just when it all seems hopeless, the residents receive some supernatural assistance in the form of miniature flying friends. What makes this film one of the best feelgood films of all time is its wonderful acting. Jessica Tandy’s portrayal of a big-hearted old woman battling dementia is wickedly hilarious and deeply moving. In conjunction with a motley but perfectly chosen cast of relative unknowns, this story becomes a modern fairy tale which not only testifies to the depth and courage of the human spirit but also how “heart” is more important than “progress”. Undeniably Spielberg’s best and most overlooked film. Feelgood 9/10

3. La Vita è Bella – “Life Is Beautiful”  {1997}

How can a wartime film, part-set in a concentration camp, be a feelgood film? Director and star Roberto Benigni took a risk in creating this film, which touches the very darkest and brightest aspects of human nature. Be warned, this is a sad film. However, it is also one of the most soulful and beautiful films ever made. The contrast of beauty and horror, ecstasy and despair, create such a brilliant spectrum of emotion within the viewer that by the end of the film you are ready to hug everyone you know and even some you don’t. Life is Beautiful celebrates family, love, spontaneity, hope and protection of childhood innocence, but also confronts the viewer with the reality of our most gruesome of human histories in a way that is neither contrived nor dismissive of the seriousness of war and genocide. Unique and profoundly memorable with more laugh-out-loud and tearjerker moments than you could rightly expect from just one film.

It could be argued that a story as “sad” as this could not be a feelgood film. However, I challenge anyone to watch this film through and not to feel exhilarated, challenged and deeply and soulfully uplifted. Feelgood 9.5/10

 

2. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind {2004}

If you could totally erase an ex-partner from your mind and memory… would you do it? This film follows a couple who undertake an experimental procedure to forget their relationship woes. What they don’t realise is that there are some cherished memories that are worth keeping.

   Eternal Sunshine is undeniably a romance film, but also has supernatural or sci-fi elements, is quite psychological, is packed full of comedy and drama and has a positive and uplifting thread which runs throughout the film until it’s powerful climax.

Although this film stars Jim Carrey, it is not a “Jim Carrey” film. And it is undoubtedly his best film. His acting, along with Kate Winslet’s, is phenomenal and each scene contains an unprecedented depth of feeling, with Carrey’s usual cartoon antics overshadowed by his portrayal of a shy and sensitive hero. Of course it is also surreal… as surreal a film as you would expect from one involving Spike Jonze, but the emotional drama is undeniably grounded in reality.

Original, witty, deep and memorable, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is one to be enjoyed again and again, and is a testament to the proverb:

“It is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all.”

Feelgood 9.5/10

 

 

1. Amelie

If by this point in your life you have somehow missed watching Amelie, do yourself a favour. Stop reading this and go and watch it. Straight away. Buy it, stream it, borrow it… Just do it! Go on…

This story of shy French girl Amelie Poulain so perfectly captures the nuances of the human experience on film that it is hard to imagine how a better film could be made. Stunningly and creatively edited, orgasmically colourful and engaging, beautifully written and seamlessly wound together, watching this film is like being taken on a journey into the womb of life and back. And that’s before you measure in the soundtrack, which is an engaging delight, a wonder in its own right.

Amelie is a love story, it is about the little moments in life… and it is about breaking out of comfort zones. It is effortlessly funny and sad at the same time with a visual elegance and charm that I have yet to experience from a film of equal calibre and depth. Amelie is sensitive, surprising and bold, and leaves you feeling refreshed and happy to be alive. I found myself smiling from ear to ear within minutes and didn’t stop until at least an hour after watching it. Amelie is great from start to finish, quite simply, a perfect film.

Feelgood 10/10

 

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