Feel-Good Movies and TV on Netflix
Call the Midwife
If you’re all about binging pleasant British TV shows, you should definitely check out the long-running Call the Midwife. The series is based on the memoirs of Jennifer Worth, a nurse and midwife who worked in London’s impoverished East End during the 1950’s. Each episode strikes a balance between exploring the often grim reality of being pregnant and raising a family in post-WWII with a hopeful outlook that celebrates the power of the human spirit. Most episodes tend to have very happy endings. The various Christmas specials in particular are just the thing to cure your 2020 blues.
The Great British Baking Show
Reality TV shows don’t get more charming or heartwarming than this. The Great British Baking Show is the complete antithesis to cutthroat competition shows. The idyllic setting, the endlessly charming hosts and the low-stakes nature of the competition all combine to form a very pleasant cooking experience. This is the only reality TV show where the contestants are more apt to lend a helping hand than stab each other in the back. The only downside is that you may get some serious food cravings after watching an endless series of cakes, pastries and pies take shape.
Schitt’s Creek wrapped its final season on a high note with its heartfelt series finale back in April 2020, so there’s no better time to binge all six seasons of the odball Canadian comedy. Focused on the trials and tribulations of the formerly wealthy Rose family after they’re forced to move to the titular, backwoods town (which they bought as a joke) when they lose their fortune, the series flourishes as the Roses begin to put down roots and get to know the fascinating inhabitants of their new home. While the first season took a while to find its groove, Schitt’s Creek has established itself as one of the most good-hearted, witty, and quotable comedies in recent years, thanks in large part to Catherine O’Hara’s deranged, scene-stealing turn as matriarch Moira Rose.
The Indiana Jones Series
Netflix currently has all four Indiana Jones movies available to stream, which should come in mighty handy. This is a world we’re always happy to revisit. It’s a world that makes sense. You have your heroic archaeologist Dr. Henry “Indiana” Jones and the bad guys who don’t understand that ancient supernatural artifacts belong in a museum. With so much chaos unfolding across the globe, there’s something immensely comforting about watching Indy punch Nazis and right wrongs. Plus, we can live vicariously through him as Indy travels across the globe and visits all the exotic locations we’re all too scared to fly to right now.
Feel Good Movies and TV on Apple TV+
As we noted in our Ted Lasso Season 1 review, “the immensely likable Ted Lasso (both the show and character) hits all the right notes during this dire year. Whether you’re a fan of nice people trying their best, soccer, and/or Bill Lawrence comedies, Ted Lasso brings many things to the table for you to enjoy: good-hearted humor, a gripping underdog story, fantastic acting, and plenty of irresistible British curse words — to the extent that it’s hard to believe the series is based on a character created to publicize NBC Sports back in 2013. But inspiration springs from the most unusual of places (Ted Lasso himself would absolutely tell you that), and from those humble promotional materials comes the sort of feel-good comedy 2020 desperately needs. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more uplifting way to spend 5 hours.”
As we noted in our review of the first two episodes, “Central Park kicks off with a similar narrative and stylistic foundation as Bob’s Burgers, but it distinguishes itself with an enthusiastic musical format that’s packed with humor and catchy tunes. This is a beautiful and rewatchable setup, filled as much with heart as it is with scatological jokes. It’s also optimistic, and right now, that’s a welcome gift.”
Long Way Up
Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman reunite for their third cross-country motorcycle adventure, venturing across the stunning landscapes of South and Central America, battling the elements and technical difficulties, and connecting with people along the way. In the midst of the pandemic, this might be the closest to international travel we get, and it doesn’t disappoint.
Feel Good Movies and TV on Amazon Prime Video
Romantic comedies are always a surefire bet when you need some cinematic comfort food, and the genre doesn’t get much better than Moonstruck. Its three Academy Awards (including a well-deserved Best Actress win for Cher) are testament enough to that. Cher and Nicolas Cage might not be the most likely romantic pairing, but together they make cinematic magic.
Star Trek: The Next Generation
The Star Trek franchise has always been about celebrating what’s best in humanity. And with the entirety of Star Trek: The Next Generation available to stream on Amazon, we’re hard-pressed to think of a better way to spend the next few weeks. Why not settle in with old friends like Captain Picard, Data and Worf and explore the farthest reaches of the galaxy in the spirit of discovery? Besides, it can’t hurt to brush up on your Star Trek before diving into Picard: Season 1.
Easily among the most entertaining comedies exclusive to Amazon, Troop Zero stars Viola Davis and Mckenna Grace in a story about a plucky Girl Scout troop’s quest to win a talent show. The movie tosses in plenty of heart alongside the humor, as it turns out Grace’s precocious heroine Christmas Flint just wants to have her voice recording included on the Voyager spacecraft, in hope of reaching her dead mother. How can you not root for these kids?
Pure escapism in its most charming form, this zippy action-comedy gave us five seasons of joy as it followed Chuck Bartowski (Zachary Levi), a computer geek turned CIA spy, and his lovable supporting cast of misfits, including Chuck’s secret agent handlers Sarah Walker (Yvonne Strahovski) and Major John Casey (Adam Baldwin) and nutty coworkers. With energetic action, plenty of twists, and a breezy sense of humor, you could do far worse than spending some time with the Nerd Herd.
Feel Good Movies and TV on Disney+
10 Things I Hate About You
We never get tired of re-watching this 1999 gem and returning to a time when rock music was still good and Heath Ledger was one of the brightest young actors in Hollywood. This teen comedy cleverly overhauls and modernizes Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, showing just how much of the Bard’s work is truly timeless. Once you’ve exhausted Disney Plus’ lineup of Marvel movies and animated classics, this one should definitely be on your to-watch list.
Everyone of a certain age has an intense nostalgia for the original DuckTales animated series. But whether you obsessively watched that series every afternoon or are a complete newcomer to Duckburg, you owe it to yourself to check out the 2017 reboot. This series is a fun, intelligent update that recaptures that classic DuckTales spirit while pushing in bold new directions. There’s a reason the first season has a perfect 100% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
The Imagineering Story
Disney has closed its theme parks for the remainder of March, something that’s only happened a handful of times over the decades. But though we can’t drown our sorrows by visiting Disneyland, we can at least have fun learning more about its history and development. Narrated by Angela Bassett, the series examines the history of Disney’s parks from their early years all the way up to the debuts of new attractions like Pandora: The World of Avatar and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
Lilo & Stitch
Honestly, it’s hard to go wrong with most of the content on Disney+. Pretty much any movie on the service will provide the sort of uplifting, feel-good comfort we all crave (though some of those Pixar movies might be a little too traumatizing right about now). That said, we can’t think of a better animated Disney movie to see us through these dark days than Lilo & Stitch. Between the timeless tale of two oddballs finding a family in each other and the liberal use of Elvis Presley music, it really hits the spot.
Feel Good Movies and TV on Hulu
As we note in our Palm Springs review, “Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti shine in the story of a woman stuck in a time loop with a man who’s been trapped for ages. Palm Springs, at a tight 90-minutes, evolves the time loop genre by focusing on the trap/curse/phenomenon as a shared experience – one that can create both deep emotional connections and also ugly wrenching rifts. It plays into the dystopian fantasy of being able to reinvent yourself in a lawless world, delivering a clever tale about what it takes for someone who’s not a part of existence to want to reengage with life.”
Olivia Wilde really bowled us over with her directorial debut, which stars Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever as two over-achieving high school seniors who decide to finally let it all out before graduation. That might sound like the recipe for a formulaic teen comedy, but Booksmart is too intelligent and witty to settle for the usual tropes. It’s easily one of the best examples of this genre in a very long time.
What We Do in the Shadows
Taika Waititi and Jermaine Clement’s wildly funny 2014 mockumentary has now become an equally funny TV series. The show shifts over to a new cast of characters, but the tone and premise are exactly the same. We get to revel in the struggles of a group of vampire roommates (and one overly loyal human familiar) as they navigate the treacherous waters of 21st Century life.
When Harry Met Sally
If Moonstruck alone isn’t enough to satisfy your craving for romantic comedies, why not hop over to Hulu for one of the most beloved examples of the genre? When Harry Met Sally fires on all cylinders, with a witty script from Nora Ephron and terrific chemistry between stars Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan. It’s the rare rom-com to explore the question of whether men and women can be “just friends.”
Feel Good Movies and TV on HBO Max
While the idea of transplanting Sherlock Holmes into a 21st Century setting isn’t exactly novel anymore, Miss Sherlock goes several steps further by basing itself in Tokyo and casting two women in the leads. The result is a fresh overhaul of a familiar formula. It’s always fun getting lost in Sherlock’s cases, regardless of time period or gender dynamics.
Following the mundane adventures of an exceedingly chill marijuana dealer in the course of his visits to clients across New York, High Maintenance is a hilarious and oddly relatable slice-of-life comedy with a cavalcade of surprising guest stars. Often comfortingly low-stakes (though not always), the show’s self-contained episodic format, fascinatingly quirky characters, and dry humor make it a perfect show to dip into or binge whenever the mood strikes you.
Sometimes the news headlines are enough to make us want to retreat to the Land of Ooo and hang out with our stretchable canine companion. At least HBO Max gives us that option whenever we choose. This series perfectly captures that Calvin & Hobbes-esque sense of wonder and imagination, with each new episode introducing a bizarre new mission for Finn the Human and Jake the Dog. The series also rewards viewers over the long run, as the characters gradually age and their relationships evolve. HBO Max is also extending the series with a number of Distant Lands specials, which started off with BMO and will continue with Obsidian.
Very few sci-fi comedies can be taken seriously enough to qualify as a “space opera,” but that’s the genius of Galaxy Quest. The story of a group of actors famous for a sci-fi series not unlike Star Trek, who get confused for their characters and recruited to fight an interstellar war, is full of spot-on jokes about the sci-fi genre. But it’s also a smart adventure full of engaging characters, real consequences, and genuine emotions. In order to qualify as a satire, a story has to actually know the subject it’s making fun of. By that measure, Galaxy Quest is one of the great modern satires.
Feel Good Movies and TV on Peacock
Parks and Recreation
Parks and Rec hails from a time when NBC was still the undisputed king of TV comedy. Bolstered by an all-star cast that includes Amy Poehler, Rashida Jones, Nick Offerman, Aziz Ansari and Chris Pratt, Parks and Rec is the perfect combination of hilarious situations, whip-smart writing and lovable characters. And with how messy the political arena has become lately, there’s a lot to be said for a show about a dedicated public servant just trying to do right by a town full of overfed morons.
Field of Dreams
Field of Dreams gave us the most annoyingly overused line from any contemporary sports movie (with the possible exception of Jerry Maguire’s “Show me the money!”), “If you build it, they will come.” But that single grievance doesn’t harm its status as one of the best sports films of all time. The 1989 Kevin Costner movie tells the story of a man who becomes convinced that he’s supposed to build a baseball diamond in his cornfield.
Friday Night Lights
Friday Night Lights is the rare example of a TV show that became more popular and critically-acclaimed than the movie it spawned from. While the movie about high school football in Texas managed to make $62 million in theaters, the TV show lasted for five seasons and is regularly still viewed as one of the best dramas of the modern age. Centered around the Dillion Panthers (and later the East Dillon Lions) football team, its players, and its endlessly inspiring Coach Taylor (Kyle Chandler), the series is a finely-crafted and superbly acted small-town drama that emphasizes the importance of teamwork, family, and integrity – and like several other entries on our list, is liable to get you invested in the sport at its center even if you previously couldn’t have cared less about it. Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose!
You can binge all eight seasons (plus the movie!) of Gus and Shawn’s misadventures on Peacock. The quippy and light detective dramedy is, much like Chuck, a breezy breath of fresh air if you’re looking for low-stakes escapism with plenty of banter, anchored by the performances of irresistible dynamic duo James Roday and Dulé Hill.
Feel Good Movies to Rent or Purchase
Paddington & Paddington 2
Let’s not fool ourselves – clearly the best option when you need an immediate transfusion of feel-good escapism is the Paddington duology. It’s impossible to feel anything other than utter peace and serenity while watching the story of a kindly bear who loves marmalade.
Sadly, it’s surprisingly hard to stream these two movies. The original Paddington used to be on Netflix, but currently both it and its sequel can only be rented or purchased on services like iTunes, Vudu, Amazon, etc. But really, isn’t that a small price to pay to live in Paddington’s world for a couple hours?
The Princess Bride
The Princess Bride is another classic movie perfectly suited to our current predicament. It’s all about a grandfather helping out his sick grandson by telling a fantastical story and whisking him away to a world of adventure, romance and six-fingered assassins. Sadly, it’s not readily available on most streaming services, so you’ll either have to rent or purchase it a la carte or sign up for a Philo trial.
And for all the new shows and movies you won’t be seeing any time soon, here are the growing number of movie and TV projects being suspended.