15 Surprising Feel-Good Movies to Watch Instead of 'Friends' on Repeat


We've all been there: When faced with all the options on Netflix/your streaming service of choice, the temptation to watch something you know you like (Friends on repeat) is pretty high. But there's so much out there that's wonderful eye and ear candy to bolster your mood. I can put on every single one of these feel-good movies after a long day and let it soothe my soul. There are a few classics in here, but I'm gonna assume you already know about well-known happy movies like The Devil Wears Prada, Love Actually, Mamma Mia!, and The Princess Bride. These picks will help you add to this collection of happy movies and might even give you a new rewatchable favorite or two.

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1 'When Harry Met Sally'

Okay, but have you watched it lately? Aside from the lack of cell phones and terrible fashion, much of the movie is still timeless. Nora Ephron was the best screenwriter of her time (and all time, TBH), and listening to Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal deliver the perfect line readings while their characters fall in love is like sipping a cup of warm tea. I could, and probably have, fallen asleep to this movie—it's poetry.

2 'Clueless'

No need to fix perfection ("As if!" Sorry, had to). Itself a remake of Emma (see below), this is the role that made Alicia Silverstone a household name. Matching her with the ageless Paul Rudd with just a hint of his future sense of humor, this is the most perfect example of a "two people who hate and also love each other" plot, partly because it fits perfectly into the OTT '90s setting. Also, those styles are back—proving yet again that Cher, one of my fave characters ever, was totally ahead of her time.

3 'The Birdcage'

If you don't know this film (or only know vaguely of the musical), you're in for a treat. This farcical case of bait-and-switch is so silly and sweet, it's bound to lift your mood. When Robin Williams plays the straight man—pun intended—against Nathan Lane and Gene Hackman, you know the movie's bonkers in the best way. The portrayals were especially nuanced at the time for being forward-thinking and compassionate about gay relationships. And it's still funny, without being cruel.

4 'Emma'

If you like Austen films like Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, this throwback love story is your perfect match. Gwyneth Paltrow is sweetly mischievous, even if her English accent is a bit fuzzy. The film's packed with stars: among others, a young Toni Collette, the gorgeous Jeremy Northam, and Ewan McGregor in a spectacularly bad wig. Here's hoping the 2020 remake has an ounce of this adorability.

5 'Good Will Hunting'

As a Bostonian, I can tell you that the film gets a lot right about the city and its inhabitants. As a movie fan, I've always known that Robin Williams is the beating heart of this movie—every time he's on screen, you breathe a sigh of relief. He's like the therapist for the viewers as well as Matt Damon's troubled genius Will. It's a little sadder now, knowing we lost Williams, but the film honors his memory in the best way.

6 'The Big Lebowski'

TBH, this movie might have taken a few viewings before I really got it. At first it seems like the height of randomness. Nothing really happens to The Dude, aside from his car getting destroyed and his rug getting peed on ("It really tied the room together!"). But that's its brilliance. Jeff Bridges is totally unflappable, just abiding with the ridiculousness around him. Maybe have a glass of wine before you watch it for the first time and just go with it.

7 'Amelie'

Granted, you have to really like quirkiness to be into this film. But! The film contains 80 gorgeous Parisian locales, and is a love letter to the city as much as its characters. Audrey Tautou keeps the story of the withdrawn but romantic Amelie from descending into parody, but she's still sweet as pie. As a nerdy, introverted kiddo, this movie really spoke to me, and it still does.

8 'The 40-Year-Old Virgin'

A lot of Judd Apatow movies could go on this list, but The 40-Year-Old Virgin beats out some of his other films, for me, because it's sweet to its core. (Bridesmaids felt like a loooot of yelling and crying, for me.) Here, the men—including Paul Rudd, looking the same as he did in Clueless—have a goofy, ridiculous rapport. The secret genius of the movie is that NONE of them know how to date or talk to girls, but we love them anyways.

9 'The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement'

Ok I know. No, really, I know. The first movie is so cute and lovely and beloved by so many. But the second one has a really young and darling Chris Pine, and an Anne Hathaway who's really grown into the role. Their romance is really cute...and then actually, kind of hot. Considering that we might get a third movie, this one would also be perfect prep for that glorious day in which we peek into the lives of the hopefully still married royal couple.

10 '27 Dresses'

I know Katherine Heigl gets a bad rap, but there's also a reason she was so popular back in the day. This was at the height of her rom-com popularity, and it's the perfect vehicle for her. Anyone who's even been in ONE wedding can empathize with this poor woman who's had to plan 27 "special days" for her friends and acquaintances. Added bonus: A young James Marsden, looking cute and acting snarky, to ground the film from becoming too saccharine.

11 'How to Train Your Dragon'

The second and third movies are okay, but the original one has something totally special. Not only do the misunderstood dragons basically act like oversized, fire-breathing cats, but the journey of love between Hiccup and his animal soul mate Toothless is as good as any BFF relationship on film. The film's really a lesson in not going with the crowd or accepting an often-repeated stereotype as true—which resonates every time I watch it.

12 'Inside Out'

Obviously the major caveat of any Pixar movie is that it will make you cry, a lot. And this one, about the inner emotions inside a one vulnerable girl, is no exception. Bing Bong! (Watch the movie and you'll know what I'm talking about.) But something about Amy Poehler's voice is just so soothing to me, and the voice cast—Bill Hader, Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling, to name a few—is perfect for the characters. The film's core is about coming to grips with and facing your feelings, which should be a calming experience for just about everybody. It's therapy, in film form.

13 'The Man From U.N.C.L.E.'

This is the perfect eye candy. It's a 1960s throwback with a modern twist—classic spy tale, with a knowing wink at the audience. The main leads are really, really, ridiculously good-looking (put Armie Hammer in everything!), and you don't have to worry than any of them are going to come to any real harm, despite the fact that they're battling literal Nazis. They totally got this, with a fabulous drink in hand and great shoes.

14 'The Martian'

This one might be a bit intense if you're just looking to turn your brain totally off. But the story about the will of a human to survive in a planet that's actively trying to kill him is actually incredibly uplifting in the end (kind of spoiler alert). Add a hefty dose of Matt Damon charm and humor, and it's riveting—without being traumatizing, as you might think with a story like this.

15 'Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle'

Who knew that a remake that's geared for kids would be so good, and actually kind of tender? The best way I can describe this is it's like The Breakfast Club, inside an old video game, in the middle of the jungle, with a bunch of comedians. The Rock and Kevin Hart, in particular, constantly riff like BFFs and it's just a plain delight. There's a reason why this got a sequel, and it's because this movie formula is absolutely perfect.

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