There are many films that can make you feel good, and I just can’t get enough of these. Musicals, rom-coms, action packed box office hits. However, there are also some films that promote an enormous sense of wellbeing, on a less immediately noticeable and longer-lasting scale. Films that leave you with a message of hopefulness, that make you believe that everything is going to be okay. That the world is a GOOD place. And there’s nothing greater than leaving the cinema/turning the lights back up in your living room feeling that way.
I’m NOT talking about zombie slasher films – although these do also make me feel pretty great. I’m talking about the following:-
The beautiful little over-saturated French movie about an oddball girl who lives in Paris in a whirlwind of daydreams and ideas for how to make the little things count. Not only does Audrey Tautou bring a quiet, chic optimism to proceedings, but the film is a study of the world as a compendium of things you might miss while you’re busy going about your everyday, monotonous life.
Skimming stones, garden gnomes and the little quirks that make us who we are (Amelie’s mother taking pleasure in organising the contents of her handbag, for example) all feature, and the film practically hits you in the face with the idea that monotony and all of life’s little evils (a bullying shopkeeper, the loneliness that drives you to become a bitter old stalker with a tape recorder, loneliness in general) can be overcome and everything will work out okay as long as we find these little things to grasp hold of and focus on.
It may be an obvious choice for this list, but in terms of making you feel good, there’s no way it doesn’t. Go on, I dare you not to feel the wellbeing spreading through your body as you watch it. A little like being drunk, except without the comedown. I can’t get enough of Amelie. It inspired me to learn to skim stones, and now I’m a master at it.
Okay, so on the surface this looks like your typical 90s teen chick flick, but look again! In a sea of similar films that came out around the same time that were based around the premise that high school was hard and teenagers were really mean to each other, particularly the cool kids, Clueless (based on Jane Austen’s Emma) featured an over-privileged, popular girl with shiny hair who cared about her parents, wanted to make life better for her friends and donated her skis to the homeless in order to make the world a better place to live in.
And while it wasn’t always easy (a chubby Brittany Murphy told her she was ‘a virgin who can’t drive‘ in one of the most scathing verbal attacks film history has ever seen, and she fell for a guy who was blatantly gay), in the end she managed to derive a tremendous sense of tingly, feel good wellbeing from making everyone around her smile just because she could.
The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
This film wasn’t an immediate hit when it came out but it gained a following in the years after its release once people watched it and spread the word about the incredible amount of hope it made them feel. A guy goes to prison for life for a murder he didn’t commit, but rather than succumbing to a lifetime of gritty prison encounters with rapists and using cigarettes as currency, he cultivated friendships, opened a prison library and inspired the people around him to believe that they were better than just criminals who were pushed around by the prison guards and made to feel like nothing.
He made them feel they could be better people and achieve something good amidst the emptiness and monotony they were living in. He never gave up hope and he never let himself get beaten into submission. The Shawshank Redemption is the ultimate hope story and it’s my favourite ever film for this reason.
Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
A dysfunctional family who all dislike and resent each other at the start of the story bind together and go on a really bizarre road trip. During this road trip, they learn to put their individual problems aside and work together so that the youngest and most innocent member of the family can realise her greatest dream, no matter how unlikely it is that she’ll come out on top.
In fact, she does come out on top, but only because a failing businessman father, a heroin addict grandfather, a depressed uncle, a neurotic mother and a tortured teen brother manage to get over themselves enough to support her. One of the best road movies ever made and directed by the team that made the Smashing Pumpkins’ 1979 video (a song for good wellbeing if ever there was one), it’s drenched in bright sunshine and good music and situations that seem hopeless but are all overcome by silly dancing and laughing in the face of everything the world tries to throw at you, including uptight admin staff and a minivan that seems intent on breaking down in the most annoying of ways.
It leaves you feeling like you can do anything. And it’ll make you want to call up your family and tell them they irritate you but you love them just the same.
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Because – come ON. Really obvious, and if you’ve never seen it then you’re living under a rock. Also, my mum was insistent I put this on the list and it’s Mothers Day this week so who am I to argue?
There are more of course. Hundreds more, and the great thing about this topic is that everyone is different and therefore will find wellbeing and hope and peacefulness and all these good things in different films (and if you find it within a zombie slasher movie then…well, good for you), so please leave a comment and add to this list, or start your own.
Then have a wellbeing film night. Like a feel good film night, except hopefully the feel good will stay with you and have a really positive impact on your state of mind. Because sometimes what you need most is a little dose of escapism that changes the way you think about things when you come back to reality with a bump.
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