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Underrated Feel-Good Movies You Need To Watch

Life is a drag. Movies know this, so they try to relate to us by telling stories about conflict. There are countless superhero movies, where the world is about to end or action flicks, where people engage in life and death struggles. There are Very Serious Dramas, where characters reveal dark, hidden secrets, and struggle with the immense burden of being alive. Explosions, disasters, yelling and screaming, tears, and people at the very end of their rope are the lifeblood of cinema. But sometimes you just want a nice, comforting, feel-good watch. Sometimes you just want a chill hang and to escape the endless, multi-faceted conflicts of the human condition.

Whether it's a musical, breezy rom-com, coming-of-age story, or magical realist tale, we all have movies that just put us in a good mood. It's not that these movies don't have any conflict at all; it's just that they seem like they're operating within the stakes of the world we know, or connect us with a feeling that's recognizable and relatable. Sometimes it's nice to just watch people being kind to one another, instead of yelling "throw me the idol!" and fleeing in terror from a mummy's curse, or whatever. Any cinema fan has some standby heartwarming watches that they've seen so many times, they know every line. But there are plenty that aren't well-known cult classics or huge box office success stories, so here are some underrated feel-good movies to add to your list.

The History of Future Folk

A charmingly homespun tale about aliens that come to Earth, "The History of Future Folk" is a low-budget gem that's essentially an American answer to "The Flight of the Conchords." Off screen, actors and musicians Nils d'Aulaire and Jay Klaitz are members of a musical duo called Future Folk. On screen, they play a pair of extraterrestrials from the planet Hondo, who become so entranced by music when they arrive on Earth that they abandon their mission to release a deadly virus and eradicate the human population. Somehow, the movie successfully mines the high-stakes conflict of interplanetary destruction for legitimate pathos, as one of the aliens has been on Earth long enough to have a wife and child. But it does so without the grimness and dourness of something like "Man of Steel." It's charming enough to make you forget the low-budget production design and look past the costumes that could have been put together by high schoolers. "The History of Future Folk" is a low-key love letter to the indie music scene in Brooklyn, where the real-life Future Folk duo formed, as well as a paean to the power of music itself. 

Perhaps the highlight of the movie is when Klaitz's character is tied to a chair and subjected to hearing a banjo for the first time: At first he screams in terror, as he assumes he's being tortured, but he soon becomes delighted to the point of euphoria while d'Aulaire plays a medley of well-known classics (including the "Super Mario Bros" theme). There's nothing like a good melody to get you out of a bad mood, and the offbeat sci-fi bluegrass of Future Folk will get stuck in your head right away.

The Fall

"The Fall" — an overlooked classic from "The Cell" director Tarsem Singh — is a stunning visual achievement and an ode to the power of storytelling in the vein of "The Wizard of Oz." Lee Pace stars as a stuntman in the silent-movie era of Hollywood, who is laid up in the infirmary after a stunt slash grand romantic gesture goes horribly wrong. He starts to tell a tall tale to another patient, Alexandria, who is a Romanian immigrant child played by the previously unknown Catinca Untaru. The movie depicts the story in lavish, grandiose ways. Shot in 28 different countries, "The Fall" has impossibly beautiful shots that you'll want to rewatch again and again, especially once you realize that they've all been stunningly achieved without any CGI. It might easily be the most colorful, ornate film that has no significant digital enhancement. 

And despite some dark undertones to the tale, "The Fall" also offers one of the most satisfying and heartwarming stories about an unlikely friendship ever told on screen. Pace, Untaru, and multiple other actors play dual roles in both the framing story and the fairytale within it, and it all builds to a tear-inducing and cathartic finale. Part fairy tale, part travelogue, and all magic, "The Fall" should join your list of underrated favorites immediately.

Frances Ha

"Frances Ha" is the perfect combination of director Noah Baumbach and star Greta Gerwig's talents both on and off-screen, as they also co-wrote the screenplay together. They created a coming-of-adulthood story that softens Baumbach's normally misanthropic lens into something empathetic, and sharpens Gerwig's natural zaniness into something more grounded in recognizable insecurity. Gerwig plays the titular Frances Halladay, a dancer in New York, who's starting to realize that she's not in any way guaranteed to "make it" in the arts, at least not in the spotlight. Her best friend from college is drifting away into her own newly responsible life, and Frances spends the majority of the film flailing in ways recognizable to almost anyone that's had to deal with the ennui of being in their late 20s.

Sure, Frances's specific problems as a privileged, white Millennial living in Brooklyn might not be the most relatable, but "Frances Ha" has enough fun at the character's expense to give you the sense that it's aware of that. In the most memorable sequence — set to a killer soundtrack of Hot Chocolate's "Every 1's a Winner" — Frances impulsively puts a brief visit to Paris on a credit card but then accidentally sleeps through most the trip because of jet lag. By the time the film winds up at its conclusion, you realize "Frances Ha" is never going to drop some monumental shoe on its heroine that a more conflict-driven movie would. Instead, she hits some bumps, compromises on certain dreams but not others, and stumbles awkwardly in the direction of balance, like we all hopefully do as we get older.

Sing Street

An unabashedly sweet and sentimental ode to music and the creative process, "Sing Street" is from John Carney, the writer and director of "Once." But where "Once" is about adult musicians with mildly complicated backstories, "Sing Street" is about the teenage experience of starting a band to impress a girl, and learning to process your emotions through the music that you love. The movie is entertaining, charming, and efficient, as its hero transfers schools, meets a girl, recruits a band, and sets about writing songs. The band — also called "Sing Street," in a wordplay on the Synge Street school where the movie is set — wears their musical influences directly on their sleeves: Each of their songs is directly inspired by Duran Duran, The Cure, Hall & Oates, and other bands they discover along the way. 

Yes, there's a love triangle, subtext about the recession in Ireland in the '80s, and some drama around the main character's parents' divorce, but "Sing Street" never strays far away from the music, or the filming of several hilariously low-budget music videos at a time when the art form was brand new. "Sing Street" goes by quickly, and you'll probably seek out the soundtrack when it's over.

The Station Agent

Surprisingly, it wasn't the medieval theatrics of "Game of Thrones" that first introduced the world to Peter Dinklage's star power. Rather, it was 2003's modest indie, "The Station Agent," that made many aware of this exciting actor's presence. A quiet, contemplative movie, "The Station Agent" is a rare feel-good movie that knows the value of loneliness. Dinklage plays a withdrawn, taciturn man, who retreats to an abandoned train depot to be by himself. Inexorably, the world has a way of drawing you into relationships when you most want to be alone, and his character is soon enmeshed with Bobby Canavale's talkative hot dog vendor and Patricia Clakson's troubled artist. 

Despite a bit of staginess and a little melodrama, "The Station Agent" is refreshing in that it's just a small movie about friendship, and how it may not solve everything. But still, having friends around can make all the difference. There are cathartic, showy moments for all three lead actors, but the real electricity are the scenes when they make small talk and just keep one another company. A good friend is someone that washed ashore with you in time, someone you feel like you've already known, even when you first meet. "The Station Agent" has characters that feel real enough that you've met them before.

Wristcutters: A Love Story

"Wristcutters" is a peculiar film, as it's a lot more congenial and warm-hearted than the title would lead you to believe, which is probably why they added "A Love Story" to it. It's certainly an intense premise: Based on a short story by Etgar Keret – an author known for whimsical magical realism — "Wristcutters" proposes a grimy, dim netherworld of sorts, which is filled with people who committed suicide. It's a lot like this world, but everything is just a little bit worse: No one has the ability to smile, the stars are never visible, and all things are just sort of dim and gross. 

It quickly becomes a road movie, as our hapless main character hears that the ex-girlfriend he ended his life over has followed suit and is now somewhere in the same place. A languidly-paced journey involving a black hole underneath a car seat, Will Arnett as a cult leader, and Tom Waits as an eccentric commune leader of boring miracles ensues. "Wristcutters" is a low-key yet daring examination of the insoluble problem of living, a fable about the things we think are important, and the connections we never expect.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

The Way, Way Back

A welcome, thoughtful addition to the "one crazy summer" genre of coming-of-age stories, "The Way, Way Back" stars Liam James as a shy, introverted 14-year-old named Duncan. Steve Carell plays against type as Duncan's mother's obnoxious boyfriend, and Sam Rockwell plays a total Sam Rockwell type as an insouciant, freewheeling manager at a water park, who takes Duncan under his wing. Rockwell dances, crackles with wise guy energy, and channels Bill Murray at his absolute chaotic finest.

Other than Carell's rather cartoonish villain, the characters in "The Way, Way Back" all feel well realized and specific. The film almost feels like three random episodes of a sitcom that you're comfort watching for the zillionth time. It's written and directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, longtime comedic character actors, who also play two small parts in the film. It's basically like a thoughtful, empathetic version of "Porky's" without all the raunchiness, which hasn't aged all that well anyway.

What If?

So many romances — even romantic comedies — get so concerned with creating the obstacles separating their two lovers that they forget to add any chemistry for us to root for. They're all smoldering looks and dramatic pauses, when in real life, romance is primarily composed of conversation. "What If?" (also released as "The F Word" in other countries) is a wonderful and sweet rom-com that explores how a friendship based in conversational chemistry can grow like an ember into something more.

Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan have a believable, actually funny rapport as two new friends in Toronto, who are dealing with a recent breakup and a long-distance relationship, respectively. There's some standard rom-com zaniness afoot, naturally, but "What If?" stays grounded in the relatable, awkward reality of having a friendship with fuzzy boundaries. When the two main characters are pranked by their friends while camping and have to spend a night together naked, it's humiliating (rather than sexy), and they justifiably explode with anger when they finally get their clothes back. "What If?" earns any schmaltz by staying grounded, and it will make you feel like love is something not just found in movies.


Directly after being launched to tabloid superstardom thanks to her work in "Twilight," Kristen Stewart co-starred in the low-key indie "Adventureland" to remind everyone she's a natural talent that's so much more than Bella Swan. Paired with Jesse Eisenberg for the first of three times to date, they have a halting, anxious chemistry, as they navigate a summertime romance without terribly high stakes. "Adventureland" is charmingly modest in its scope: Basically, one summer at the titular amusement park, time passes and a couple of relationships bloom, but not much else happens.

Directed by Greg Mottola — best known for "Superbad" — "Adventureland" is a movie for anyone whose college years were more full of awkward pauses and missed opportunities than keg stands and wild nights. It's an expertly cast ensemble comedy that includes the likes of Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Martin Starr, and Ryan Reynolds playing an unlikable douchebag as only he can. When you navigate the disorienting gap between young adulthood and adulthood, it can be anxious and existential but still a lot of fun, and "Adventureland" captures that ennui perfectly.

The Brothers Bloom

Long before he polarized an entire fanbase with "Star Wars: The Last Jedi," Rian Johnson made a madcap Wes Anderson-esque ode to con artists called "The Brothers Bloom." This was his second movie (and first with a significant budget), and Johnson creates a dreamlike world of needlessly elaborate scams by the titular brothers, who plot to scam a rich heiress out of her fortune by posing as smugglers and offering her a life of adventure. The cast is perfect: Mark Ruffalo is the master schemer, Adrien Brody is the morose brother sick of living a lie, and Rachel Weisz is the sheltered but exuberant heiress.

Plots within plots are layered to an almost absurd point as "The Brothers Bloom" goes on. Where other crime stories depend on precision and a sort of deadpan commitment to logistics, "The Brothers Bloom" opts instead for a chaotic, fuzzy commitment to double crosses and disorienting confusion. Just like Adrien Brody's character, you won't be sure what's real and will get caught up in the mood instead of the details.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

For many, it is a rare and unique privilege to travel the world. The realities of circumstance, time, and inertia often lead people to stay close to home, even if they have a natural wanderlust inside. "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" tells the story of a character who regrets never exploring far beyond where he grew up, and we get to vicariously go with him as he does just that. 

Ben Stiller plays the main character in this adaptation of a famous James Thurber story about a man with a vivid imagination. Unlike the story though, the film is less about Walter daydreaming than it is about finally pushing him on a journey that actually takes him from New York to Greenland to the Himalayas. "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" is a straightforward adventure story that's beautifully made and transporting to watch.

Sleeping With Other People

Most romantic comedies are relatively chaste when it comes to discussing sex, and movies that discuss sex are often cynical and dour in their worldview. "Sleeping With Other People" — an overlooked rom-com starring Alison Brie and Jason Sudeikis — is the rare movie that's both adult and frank in its depiction of sex, and earnest and sweet in the way it goes about telling a love story. As we all know from reality, there's a whole world of the gray area in the overlap between getting laid and falling in love.

Even the plot makes the movie sound more gimmicky than it is: Brie and Sudeikis play former college friends, who meet at a sex addicts anonymous meeting years after losing their virginity to one another. It's a patient, thoughtful story about the conventions of monogamy, and the ways we sabotage ourselves when it would be easy to be happy. As a bonus, its cast is stacked with comedy ringers like Adam Scott, Jason Manzoukas, and Natasha Lyonne.


"Stardust" is a great movie to watch when you've worn out your copy of "The Princess Bride." Based on Neil Gaiman's novel of the same name, "Stardust" is more adult in tone than some other fantasy flicks. As a result, it's a little less silly and a little more compelling as an action movie. It's also got a star-studded cast, all of whom seem to be enjoying themselves immensely: Michelle Pfeiffer vamps it up as an evil witch, Robert DeNiro toys with his own tough-guy persona as a cross-dressing pirate, and Claire Danes (literally) shines as a haughty fallen star. Charlie Cox (not yet known as Daredevil) plays our plucky young hero with just the right amount of believable foolhardiness.

Essentially three separate road movies that eventually converge into one, "Stardust" can sometimes feel weirdly paced and overstuffed. But it's got a dreamlike, pleasant cheer that keeps you rolling along with it until the predictably happy ending. Like the best fairytales, it feels timeless and above reproach.

In a World...

A wonderful movie that imagines an entire subculture centered around movie trailer voiceovers, "In a World..." is a showcase for the many talents of its writer, director, and star, Lake Bell. Bell plays Carol, a woman who's known as a talented comedian and voice actress. Carol is the daughter of a renowned "voice over king," and she's looking to break new ground for female voices in the industry. Ultimately, she ends up competing with her father and another male rival for the chance to be the voice of a new, "Hunger Games"-like franchise.

"In a World..." also features an impossibly fun list of scene-stealing supporting cast members like Demetri Martin, Nick Offerman, Fred Melamed, Ken Marino, and Tig Notaro. However, Bell shines the most in what's clearly a passion project that's based on real career frustrations. In the end, what seems like a breezy and light film also manages to make a complicated and trenchant point about representation, without being preachy or overbearing. 

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

If you found the gut-wrenching hysteria of "Don't Look Up" exhausting, then "Seeking a Friend for the End of the World" is the doomsday movie for you. In this film, there are three weeks left until an asteroid ends life on Earth and there's no hope of stopping it. Steve Carell and Keira Knightley play neighbors who end up stumbling through the end of the world together on a chaotic road trip through a completely unhinged America.

In these times that can feel like the end but somehow just keep going, you can't help but wonder what you'd do if there were less than a month to go. "Seeking a Friend for the End of the World" settles into a strange road trip vibe, with occasionally wacky takes on how people would act, but in the end, it finds real heart in the connection between its two leads. It's humane and surprisingly warm, given the circumstances.