Non-Cornball Uplifting Films

by karlee1981 | created - 28 Jul 2014 | updated - 3 months ago | Public

Most 'Feel-Good' movies feature an underdog protagonist overcoming non-typical external obstacles (prison, making the team, stuffy authority figures) and showing the world a thing or two about the power of perseverance and high hopes while the music swells. Yawn!

I think a good uplifting film has characters dealing with the realistic problems we all face (death, depression, fear, failure, apathy, negativity, hate, backward thinking, backward thinkers) the best way they know how. In so doing, they show us that these problems are universal and that they can be overcome. Movies showing humanity's good side (without completely ignoring the bad) and giving us hope for its future get bonus points.

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1. Harold and Maude (1971)

PG | 91 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance

62 Metascore

Young, rich, and obsessed with death, Harold finds himself changed forever when he meets lively septuagenarian Maude at a funeral.

Director: Hal Ashby | Stars: Ruth Gordon, Bud Cort, Vivian Pickles, Cyril Cusack

Votes: 65,575

My third favorite movie overall, I watch it every Birthday (it's a good Birthday movie).

2. Amélie (2001)

R | 122 min | Comedy, Romance

69 Metascore

Amélie is an innocent and naive girl in Paris with her own sense of justice. She decides to help those around her and, along the way, discovers love.

Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet | Stars: Audrey Tautou, Mathieu Kassovitz, Rufus, Lorella Cravotta

Votes: 655,770 | Gross: $33.23M

3. Casablanca (1942)

PG | 102 min | Drama, Romance, War

100 Metascore

A cynical American expatriate struggles to decide whether or not he should help his former lover and her fugitive husband escape French Morocco.

Director: Michael Curtiz | Stars: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains

Votes: 480,036 | Gross: $1.02M

4. Wings of Desire (1987)

PG-13 | 128 min | Drama, Fantasy, Romance

79 Metascore

An angel tires of overseeing human activity and wishes to become human when he falls in love with a mortal.

Director: Wim Wenders | Stars: Bruno Ganz, Solveig Dommartin, Otto Sander, Curt Bois

Votes: 58,261 | Gross: $3.21M

5. Mary and Max (2009)

Not Rated | 92 min | Animation, Comedy, Drama

A tale of friendship between two unlikely pen pals: Mary, a lonely, eight-year-old girl living in the suburbs of Melbourne, and Max, a forty-four-year old, severely obese man living in New York.

Director: Adam Elliot | Stars: Toni Collette, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Eric Bana, Barry Humphries

Votes: 151,726

6. Won't You Be My Neighbor? (2018)

PG-13 | 94 min | Documentary, Biography

85 Metascore

An exploration of the life, lessons, and legacy of iconic children's television host, Fred Rogers.

Director: Morgan Neville | Stars: Fred Rogers, Joanne Rogers, John Rogers, Jim Rogers

Votes: 17,178 | Gross: $22.61M

7. Three Colors: Red (1994)

R | 99 min | Drama, Mystery, Romance

100 Metascore

A model discovers her neighbor is keen on invading people's privacy.

Director: Krzysztof Kieslowski | Stars: Irène Jacob, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Frédérique Feder, Jean-Pierre Lorit

Votes: 80,786 | Gross: $4.04M

8. American Beauty (1999)

R | 122 min | Drama

86 Metascore

A sexually frustrated suburban father has a mid-life crisis after becoming infatuated with his daughter's best friend.

Director: Sam Mendes | Stars: Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening, Thora Birch, Wes Bentley

Votes: 995,374 | Gross: $130.10M

9. Wild Strawberries (1957)

Not Rated | 91 min | Drama, Romance

After living a life marked by coldness, an aging professor is forced to confront the emptiness of his existence.

Director: Ingmar Bergman | Stars: Victor Sjöström, Bibi Andersson, Ingrid Thulin, Gunnar Björnstrand

Votes: 84,885

Bergman wasn't usually big on happy endings.

10. The Lives of Others (2006)

R | 137 min | Drama, Thriller

89 Metascore

In 1984 East Berlin, an agent of the secret police, conducting surveillance on a writer and his lover, finds himself becoming increasingly absorbed by their lives.

Director: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck | Stars: Ulrich Mühe, Martina Gedeck, Sebastian Koch, Ulrich Tukur

Votes: 325,578 | Gross: $11.29M

11. The Night of the Iguana (1964)

Approved | 125 min | Drama

A defrocked Episcopal clergyman leads a bus-load of middle-aged Baptist women on a tour of the Mexican coast and comes to terms with the failure haunting his life.

Director: John Huston | Stars: Richard Burton, Ava Gardner, Deborah Kerr, Sue Lyon

Votes: 9,877

12. The Way (I) (2010)

PG-13 | 123 min | Adventure, Comedy, Drama

64 Metascore

A father heads overseas to recover the body of his estranged son who died while traveling the "El camino de Santiago," and decides to take the pilgrimage himself.

Director: Emilio Estevez | Stars: Martin Sheen, Emilio Estevez, Deborah Kara Unger, Yorick van Wageningen

Votes: 27,975 | Gross: $4.43M

It is a little bit religious-ey, but I forgive it.

13. The Phantom Carriage (1921)

Not Rated | 100 min | Drama, Fantasy, Horror

On New Year's Eve, the driver of a ghostly carriage forces a drunken man to reflect on his selfish, wasted life.

Director: Victor Sjöström | Stars: Victor Sjöström, Hilda Borgström, Tore Svennberg, Astrid Holm

Votes: 8,994

Another one with a tiny (tolerable) amount of religion.

14. Pleasantville (1998)

PG-13 | 124 min | Comedy, Drama, Fantasy

71 Metascore

Two 1990s teenage siblings find themselves in a 1950s sitcom, where their influence begins to profoundly change that complacent world.

Director: Gary Ross | Stars: Tobey Maguire, Jeff Daniels, Joan Allen, Reese Witherspoon

Votes: 114,954 | Gross: $40.57M

15. The Straight Story (1999)

G | 112 min | Biography, Drama

86 Metascore

An old man makes a long journey by lawnmower to mend his relationship with an ill brother.

Director: David Lynch | Stars: Richard Farnsworth, Sissy Spacek, Jane Galloway Heitz, Joseph A. Carpenter

Votes: 74,951 | Gross: $6.20M

16. Nebraska (2013)

R | 115 min | Adventure, Comedy, Drama

86 Metascore

An aging, booze-addled father makes the trip from Montana to Nebraska with his estranged son in order to claim a million-dollar Mega Sweepstakes Marketing prize.

Director: Alexander Payne | Stars: Bruce Dern, Will Forte, June Squibb, Bob Odenkirk

Votes: 105,627 | Gross: $17.65M

17. Get Low (2009)

PG-13 | 103 min | Drama, Mystery

77 Metascore

A movie spun out of equal parts folk tale, fable and real-life legend about the mysterious, 1930s Tennessee hermit who famously threw his own rollicking funeral party... while he was still alive.

Director: Aaron Schneider | Stars: Robert Duvall, Bill Murray, Sissy Spacek, Lucas Black

Votes: 21,228 | Gross: $9.18M

18. Trust (1990)

R | 107 min | Comedy, Drama

67 Metascore

After being thrown out of her house, Maria encounters a married woman who complains of not having children. Maria ends up in an abandoned house, where she meets Matthew. When a baby is kidnapped Maria sets out to find the woman.

Director: Hal Hartley | Stars: Adrienne Shelly, Martin Donovan, Rebecca Nelson, John MacKay

Votes: 8,519 | Gross: $0.36M

19. Life Is Beautiful (1997)

PG-13 | 116 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance

59 Metascore

When an open-minded Jewish librarian and his son become victims of the Holocaust, he uses a perfect mixture of will, humor, and imagination to protect his son from the dangers around their camp.

Director: Roberto Benigni | Stars: Roberto Benigni, Nicoletta Braschi, Giorgio Cantarini, Giustino Durano

Votes: 558,010 | Gross: $57.60M

20. Inherit the Wind (1960)

Passed | 128 min | Biography, Drama, History

Based on a real-life case in 1925, two great lawyers argue the case for and against a science teacher accused of the crime of teaching evolution.

Director: Stanley Kramer | Stars: Spencer Tracy, Fredric March, Gene Kelly, Dick York

Votes: 24,779

21. Adaptation. (2002)

R | 115 min | Comedy, Drama

83 Metascore

A lovelorn screenwriter becomes desperate as he tries and fails to adapt 'The Orchid Thief' by Susan Orlean for the screen.

Director: Spike Jonze | Stars: Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep, Chris Cooper, Tilda Swinton

Votes: 165,724 | Gross: $22.25M

22. Being There (1979)

PG | 130 min | Comedy, Drama

84 Metascore

A simpleminded, sheltered gardener becomes an unlikely trusted advisor to a powerful businessman and an insider in Washington politics.

Director: Hal Ashby | Stars: Peter Sellers, Shirley MacLaine, Melvyn Douglas, Jack Warden

Votes: 60,678 | Gross: $30.18M

23. The Big Kahuna (1999)

R | 90 min | Drama, Comedy

56 Metascore

Two veteran salesmen dissect a sales pitch to a particular client, through their young protégé.

Director: John Swanbeck | Stars: Kevin Spacey, Danny DeVito, Peter Facinelli, Paul Dawson

Votes: 13,341 | Gross: $3.15M

24. Joyeux Noel (2005)

PG-13 | 116 min | Drama, History, Music

70 Metascore

In December 1914, an unofficial Christmas truce on the Western Front allows soldiers from opposing sides of the First World War to gain insight into each other's way of life.

Director: Christian Carion | Stars: Diane Kruger, Benno Fürmann, Guillaume Canet, Natalie Dessay

Votes: 25,705 | Gross: $1.05M

25. Lincoln (2012)

PG-13 | 150 min | Biography, Drama, History

86 Metascore

As the American Civil War continues to rage, America's president struggles with continuing carnage on the battlefield as he fights with many inside his own cabinet on the decision to emancipate the slaves.

Director: Steven Spielberg | Stars: Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, David Strathairn, Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Votes: 229,598 | Gross: $182.21M

26. Sullivan's Travels (1941)

Not Rated | 90 min | Adventure, Comedy, Drama

A director of escapist films goes on the road as a hobo to learn about life, which gives him a rude awakening.

Director: Preston Sturges | Stars: Joel McCrea, Veronica Lake, Robert Warwick, William Demarest

Votes: 21,810

27. The Man from Earth (2007)

Not Rated | 87 min | Drama, Fantasy, Sci-Fi

An impromptu goodbye party for Professor John Oldman becomes a mysterious interrogation after the retiring scholar reveals to his colleagues he has a longer and stranger past than they can imagine.

Director: Richard Schenkman | Stars: David Lee Smith, Tony Todd, John Billingsley, Ellen Crawford

Votes: 161,083

28. The Martian (2015)

PG-13 | 144 min | Adventure, Drama, Sci-Fi

80 Metascore

An astronaut becomes stranded on Mars after his team assume him dead, and must rely on his ingenuity to find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive.

Director: Ridley Scott | Stars: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Kate Mara

Votes: 685,785 | Gross: $228.43M

There are plenty of movies out there about the indomitable human spirit and instinct for survival. What earns The Martian a place in this list is its showing humans consistently cooperating and solving problems through logic and hard work, instead of the typical Hollywood magic or violence.

29. The Muppet Movie (1979)

G | 95 min | Adventure, Comedy, Family

74 Metascore

Kermit and his newfound friends trek across America to find success in Hollywood, but a frog legs merchant is after Kermit.

Director: James Frawley | Stars: Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson, Richard Hunt

Votes: 29,613 | Gross: $76.66M

30. 7 Faces of Dr. Lao (1964)

Passed | 100 min | Fantasy, Mystery, Western

A mysterious circus comes to a western town bearing wonders and characters that entertain the inhabitants and teach valuable lessons.

Director: George Pal | Stars: Tony Randall, Barbara Eden, Arthur O'Connell, John Ericson

Votes: 4,107

31. The Hobbit (1977 TV Movie)

TV-PG | 90 min | Animation, Adventure, Family

A homebody hobbit in Middle Earth gets talked into joining a quest with a group of dwarves to recover their treasure from a dragon.

Directors: Jules Bass, Arthur Rankin Jr. | Stars: Orson Bean, John Huston, Brother Theodore, Cyril Ritchard

Votes: 11,607

32. Harvie Krumpet (2003)

TV-14 | 23 min | Animation, Comedy, Short

The odd biography of a man who has Tourette's Syndrome, chronic bad luck, menial jobs, nudist tendencies, and a book of "fakts" hung around his neck.

Director: Adam Elliot | Stars: Geoffrey Rush, Kamahl, John Flaus, Julie Forsyth

Votes: 7,829

33. South Park (1997– )
Episode: Raisins (2003)

TV-MA | 22 min | Animation, Comedy

Stan becomes inconsolable after Wendy breaks up with him, and Butters has a crush on a sexy waitress at a local restaurant.

Director: Trey Parker | Stars: Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Nico Agnone, Jennifer Howell

Votes: 1,817

34. The Simpsons (1989– )
Episode: Lisa's Substitute (1991)

TV-PG | 30 min | Animation, Comedy

Lisa has a crush on her substitute teacher; Bart decides to run for class president.

Director: Rich Moore | Stars: Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith

Votes: 2,475

35. People Watching (2017– )

Animation

People Watching is a ten part mini series that explores concepts such as depression, self loathing, societal stereotypes, preconceived opinions, and especially nostalgia. The characters ... See full summary »

Stars: Andrew Knobbs, Phil Moorhead, Hannan Younis, Bracken Burns

Votes: 117

Series of shorts on Cracked.com

36. The Dark Knight (2008)

PG-13 | 152 min | Action, Crime, Drama

84 Metascore

When the menace known as The Joker emerges from his mysterious past, he wreaks havoc and chaos on the people of Gotham. The Dark Knight must accept one of the greatest psychological and physical tests of his ability to fight injustice.

Director: Christopher Nolan | Stars: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Michael Caine

Votes: 2,080,635 | Gross: $534.86M

The boat sequence.

37. Sleeper (1973)

PG | 89 min | Comedy, Sci-Fi

77 Metascore

A nerdish store owner is revived out of cryostasis into a future world to fight an oppressive government.

Director: Woody Allen | Stars: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, John Beck, Mary Gregory

Votes: 37,835

Luna Schlosser: Oh, I see. You don't believe in science, and you also don't believe that political systems work, and you don't believe in God, huh?

Miles Monroe: Right.

Luna Schlosser: So then, what do you believe in?

Miles Monroe: Sex and death - two things that come once in a lifetime... but at least after death, you're not nauseous.



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