Top 10 Happy Films

Film is the great entertainer. Movies thrill, enthral, make us laugh, make us cry. Film can be the friend we turn to for happiness and escape. Here are ten movie experiences that can turn a frown upside down. This is our top 10 happy films.

Inside Out (Docter, 2015)

Disney Pixar, Inside OutYou watch a new Pixar film and think – they can’t ever top that. It happened with Finding Nemo, then Ratatouille, then Toy Story 3. Then came Inside Out. Finally, we can say without any doubt, Pixar has produced its finest work. The film, about a little girl’s personified emotions as they deal with the family’s move from Minnesota to San Francisco is another stroke of genius from Pixar. A lovable, adventurous, re-watchable slice of cinema; film at its most delightful and feel-good.

Saving Mr. Banks (Hancock, 2013)

When I wrote my review of John Lee Hancock’s wonderfully inspiring Saving Mr. Banks I titled the piece “Film Gives Us The Happy Endings Life Sometimes Cannot”. It’s fitting here and the reason why I include this relatively recent effort in my top 10 happy films. Hancock’s comedy-drama follows the exploits of Mary Poppins creator P.L. Travers as she comes to Hollywood to work with Walt Disney in adapting her magical character for the silver screen. It’s a funny, heartwarming film with two delightful performances from Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson.

The Shawshank Redemption (Darabont, 1994)

Morgan_Freeman_tim-robbins_shawshank-redemptionThe happy film that tops so many people’s “best of all time” lists, Frank Darabont’s sentimental prison drama has many moments of warmth, friendship and courage that underline its ability to lift the viewer’s spirits. It isn’t surprising, given its popularity, to see The Shawshank Redemption feature in so many lists on Top 10 Films including Best Picture Nominations That Didn’t Win, Morgan Freeman “Twosomes”, Weepies, Inspirational Movies and Stephen King Character Adaptations.

It’s A Wonderful Life (Capra, 1946)

It's A Wonderful Life, Christmas MoviesA happy film that beautifully illustrates the value of life and the importance of making the most of it. It’s A Wonderful Life is Hollywood’s antidote to low serotonin levels. James Stewart is wonderful, exhibiting that everyman charm and tender voice in a moving, life-affirming film.

Some Like It Hot (Wilder, 1959)

Some Like It Hot, Billy Wilder, Tony Curtis, Jack LemmonNot all happy films have to be funny. But it does help. Undoubtedly, Billy Wilder’s comedy Some Like It Hot is one of the funniest, its charming allure made even more satisfying given the film’s ageless qualities. While Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis win your heart, Marilyn Monroe steals it with that radiant screen presence. If ever a film lets you escape into its world for an hour or two, Some Like It Hot is that film. It’s also blessed with the funniest movie ending ever – a scene that will not fail to put a smile on your face.

See Also: Top 10 Comedy Films That Stand The Test Of Time

Let It Ride (Pytka, 1989)

Let It Ride, Film, comedy, Richard Dreyfuss/Joe PytkaI’m biased towards this film because it’s a personal favourite but there’s hardly a moment when a couple of hours with Richard Dreyfuss isn’t an attractive proposition. As happy, feel-good films go, Let It Ride ticks all the boxes as a down-on-his-luck nice guy wins one bet after another during a day at the races, each time putting all his winnings on the next bet. He goes from a penniless cab driver to a millionaire in one day whilst also winning back his wife.

Little Miss Sunshine (Dayton/Faris, 2006)

Little Miss SunshineRoad movies seem to be a great starting point for happy films. It’s the journey – both metaphorically and physically – that the audience and the characters take, discovering humanity and their own humanness along the way that is so appealing. Little Miss Sunshine is a vibrant, hopeful, and funny film.

Pretty Woman (Marshall, 1990)

A good Hollywood romance is sure to put a smile on people’s faces, especially when it features Richard Gere scaling an apartment block with flowers gripped between teeth in order to confirm his undying love for Julia Roberts.

Planes, Trains And Automobiles (Hughes, 1987)

Del Griffith, John Candy, Planes Trains and Automobiles, 1980s Comedy Film Characters - Top 10 FilmsBumbling, chaotic and bittersweet, John Hughes’ “happy” film is Planes, Trains and Automobiles. You’ll find it makes our top 10 1980s happy films list as well because of its wonderful ability to tickle the funny bone and pull at the heartstrings. The film also features John Candy at his all-time best.

Over to you: what are your happy films?

Written and Compiled by Dan Stephens

See Also: 25 Films To Make You Happy

Dan Stephens
About the Author
Dan Stephens is the founder and editor of Top 10 Films. He's usually pondering his next list, often inspired by his adoration for 1980s Hollywood, a time-travelling DeLorean and an adventurous archaeologist going by the name Indiana.

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  1. Callum Reply

    Great list. Definitely Planes Trains and Automobiles and Little Miss Sunshine for me.

    • Dan Reply

      Thanks Callum.

  2. Jordan Reply

    Nice list. Little Miss Sunshine stands out for me. My go to happy film is Airplane and sometimes Naked Gun.

    • Dan Reply

      Those Zucker-Zucker-Abrahams parodies are great fun. Good additions!

  3. Jason Reply

    Ghostbusters, Naked Gun and The Big Lebowski.

    • Dan Reply

      Love Ghostbusters! Good addition.

  4. CineGirl Reply

    Great list. If I was to add a few I’d say: Top Gun, The Mighty Ducks, Wizard Of Oz, The Sound Of Music, The 40 Year Old Virgin, Office Space and Meet The Parents.

    • Dan Reply

      Can’t beat some of those happy endings!

  5. Michael Scoates Reply

    Some of my favourites include Hot Fuzz, Tomorrowland, Erin Brockovich, Guardians of the Galaxy, Knight and Day and pretty much everything with Peter Sellers in it.

  6. Dan Reply

    Ah… the great Peter Sellers – agreed. And I’m a big fan of Erin Brockovich – perfect addition.

  7. Neal Damiano Reply

    Great list Dan
    So happy to see Trains, Planes, and Automobiles here. You could probably put most of Hughes filmography on here but you chose the one most wouldn’t have first come to mind. Rightfully so you can’t but smile while watching this film. It’s very nice to see It’s A Wonderful Life included too.

    I think a good cheese factor addition would be Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure .
    How could one watch that movie and not smile.

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