In a year where so many have been devastated with loss and grief, I have grown surprisingly limited in what I will tolerate on TV — and I suggest you try it too. Yes, documentaries and dramas alike have their place in cinema, many of them far loftier than the movies I’ll go on to list. But I’m concerned with one factor and one factor alone these days when I’m picking out an evening movie to drown out the noise: Will it make me smile? If the answer is yes, you’ll find it on this list of feel-good movies for those nights when one more piece of lukewarm news might make you explode.
This way of thinking has enabled me to shrug off suggestions for movies I “have to see” and watch When Harry Met Sally for the 47th time instead, and I’ve never been happier (relatively speaking). Living through a pandemic is hard, but watching Jerry Maguire isn’t. And your co-parenting nightmare might be never-ending, but at least One Fine Day will give you the happy ending (and George Clooney single dad) you deserve.
Another perk of refusing to watch anything without at least three big laughs built in? Most of these picks — Love Actually and Shakespeare in Love notwithstanding are family-friendly crowd-pleasers, if you’re not up for anything more than collapsing in front of the couch but the sound of Peppa the Pig is threatening your hold on sanity. Old classics like The Wizard of Oz and It’s a Wonderful Life have plenty to teach our little virtual learners, and they’re easier on the ears in the process.
The main message behind refusing to watch anything that might make you cry? It’s okay to go easy on yourself, especially now. Pull on a blanket and join us: we’ll be watching the same rom-coms we’ve loved since the ’80s and feeling great. Check out this list of feel-good movies to dive in.
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A version of this was originally published April 2020.