We've all been there: It's Friday night, the pizza's on its way, and you're ready to collapse in front of the TV. You're in the mood for something fun, so you click over to Netflix and start browsing. Unfortunately, the zillions of options aren't making your decision any easier; they're just blurring together into endless streams of color. And, of course, nothing from your own list is jumping out at you. But not to worry: there are plenty of feel-good movies on Netflix that will make you ridiculously happy.
You're not always ready to plunge into binge-watching the new show everyone's talking about, and you can't instantly summon the mental energy for a serious Oscar-winning film. Sometimes you just need that tried-and-true formula for a great movie: the kind with a winning lead who has to experience her share of ups and downs before getting a well-deserved happy ending. It's just a matter of knowing which ones to look for.
So take your pick from this list of animated classics, romantic comedies, peppy musicals, docudramas, action flicks, or combinations of all the above. And plenty of them are family-friendly, so you won't even have to wait until the kids are tucked in.
Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
You don't have to be a die-hard Wes Anderson fan to enjoy this gem. It's quirky, but in a storybook sort of way: It tells the Romeo-and-Juliet tale of a couple of kids who fall in love and want to run away together, but without having a clue what any of that even means. Parents and other authority figures intervene and generally make a mess of things. But then a serious storm arrives and puts everything in perspective.
Cool Runnings (1993)
This being Olympics season and the 30th anniversary of the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, it's the perfect time to relive the true story of the Jamaican bobsled team's journey to that competition. With absolutely no idea what the sport entails, or what cold winter weather feels like, four erstwhile runners manage to find a coach who is down-and-out enough to take them seriously and help them get Olympics-ready. Of course they make it there, but do they win the gold?
Trading Places (1983)
This classic comedy answers the question, "What would happen if Eddie Murphy were suddenly transformed into a commodities broker?" Murphy, who plays a homeless man, and Dan Aykroyd, who plays a rich broker, are made to trade places as they become pawns in a bet between two wealthy brothers. Naturally, hilarity and hijinks ensue before the movie culminates in a truly gratifying scene on a desert island.
Apollo 13 (1995)
It's got Tom Hanks, astronauts on an epic mission, and true story, life-and-death stakes. If that's not a recipe for a feel-good movie, what is?
Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory (1971)
Based on Roald Dahl's 1964 novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, this musical adaptation is equal parts weird and wonderful. Gene Wilder's Willy Wonka is a curious combination of creepy and caring, and keeps you guessing at his motives the whole time. You may or may not want to have some chocolate bars on hand as you drool over the opening shots of the chocolate factory interior, but you will definitely be singing along about golden tickets and worlds of pure imagination.
Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993)
Shadow, Chance, and Sassy are two dogs and a cat who are not about to be left behind when their owners have to move away to the big city. Instead of resigning themselves to their new home on a ranch, they set off to follow their real family, encountering danger and disaster along the way.
You and your kids will enjoy these anthropomorphic zoo animals as they navigate their way through their colorful metropolis. The main character, Judy Hopps, initially faces prejudice as she seeks to achieve her career dream of becoming a police officer (she's a rabbit, and everyone knows rabbits are better suited to be farmers). But Judy jumps at the chance to prove herself and solve a case... which turns out to be much bigger than anyone had anticipated.
Newsies: The Broadway Musical (2017)
It's turn-of-the-century New York, and life is rough for struggling newspaper sellers. What's there to do but sing about it? This version may not star a young Christian Bale, but it does have the energy of a live audience and stage performance. Come for the papes, stay for the fine life.
Hot Fuzz (2007)
Action plus comedy is one of the best movie combinations, especially when it takes place in a peaceful English village. Of course, this hamlet is not quite what it seems, as Police Constable Nicholas Angel is soon to find out. Think: Agatha Christie meets The Great British Bake-Off, with some Jason Bourne antics thrown in.
This animated film, set in Alaska in the early 20th century, is based on a true story. In 1925, a Siberian husky named Balto led a team of sled dogs to Nome, Alaska, to deliver diphtheria antitoxin and save the town from a potentially deadly outbreak of the disease. After surviving a blizzard and temperatures well below zero, Balto became an international celebrity. He even has his own statue in Central Park, which the film references. It's a heartwarming story, perfect for the middle of winter.
The Land Before Time (1988)
No doubt you have that early tear-jerking scene burned into your brain, but that's what made it such a good movie — the stakes were so high! Littlefoot, Cera, Spike, Ducky, and Petrie, the best dinosaur team ever, have to learn how to trust each other and work together in order to escape the dangers of their old world and make it to the Great Valley.
The Truman Show (1998)
It's hard to believe that this sci-fi satire was made before reality TV really hit its stride. Truman, played by Jim Carrey, has been raised from birth as the unwitting star of a full-time reality TV show. He doesn't know that he lives in a literal giant bubble and that everyone he's ever met is in on the joke. So it's a great moment when, after finally figuring out what's going on, he makes his escape and forces his "captors" out of business.
Bridget Jones's Diary (2001)
Single, clumsy, and worried about her weight — who hasn't been there? That's what makes Bridget Jones's Diary such a diamond in the rom-com rough. The heroine isn't a glossy, airbrushed picture of perfection; she's someone we can all relate to. That's also why it's all the more satisfying when she finally gets the guy.
Love Actually (2003)
It doesn't have to be Christmas for you to enjoy this classic and its star-strewn cast. With its many interweaving mini-plots, you'll get multiple happy-ending highs in the space of about two hours.
Meet The Parents (2000)
Greg wants to propose to Pam, which sounds simple enough, except this is a movie and of course it's not simple. First they have to go on an unexpected trip to meet her parents, one of whom is an overly enthusiastic ex-CIA operative. The hapless Greg is going to either sink or swim...
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.