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Movies can do more than entertain us. They can stir our emotions. Sometimes, a movie can be a real tear jerker. Also, they can make us feel joy. Most often, the best movies are the ones that take us on a journey from one emotion to the other.
We experience catharsis as we live vicariously through character experiences. As they grow and learn the true source of happiness for themselves, they inspire us to apply the lessons learned to ourselves. They give us hope that we will, in turn, find our own happiness.
Therefore, here are the 11 best movies about happiness and finding life satisfaction.
What You Will Learn
- Our Criteria for Selecting the Best Movies About Happiness
- 1. Forrest Gump (1994)
- 2. Sister Act (1992)
- 3. The Sound of Music (1965)
- 4. Eat, Pray, Love (2010)
- 5. It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
- 6. Billy Elliot (2000)
- 7. Happy Feet (2006)
- 8. Good Will Hunting (1997)
- 9. Love Actually (2003)
- 10. Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
- 11. Despicable Me (2010)
- Final Thoughts on Movies About Happiness
Our Criteria for Selecting the Best Movies About Happiness
When selecting the best movies about happiness, we wanted to choose movies that did more than just present a picture of happiness. It had to be more than just a feel-good movie.
We wanted to pick movies that would inspire you to find your own happiness.
With that in mind, each movie was chosen because it fulfilled the following criteria:
With these criteria in mind, here are our choices.
If you want a movie about someone overcoming tragedies to find happiness, then Forrest Gump is the movie to watch. While overcoming physical disabilities and a low IQ, Forrest gains character traits that serve him throughout his life. These traits include valuing friendship, being content, and being open to possibilities.
Wherever his life takes him, and it takes him many places, Forrest looks for the good in every situation. As a result, he finds one success after another. Even when experiencing a loss, like the death of his mother, Forrest perseveres.
Ultimately, Forrest truly lives out his mother's words, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” By being mindful, Forrest gets happiness.
Whoopi Goldberg stars as Deloris Wilson, a Las Vegas lounge singer, placed in witness protection within a convent because she witnessed a murder. As “Sister Mary Clarence”, Deloris doesn't follow the rules. As punishment, the Mother Superior requires that Deloris join the convent's choir. Over time, Deloris leads the choir and brings about positive change to the dreary choir and convent.
Throughout her time in the convent, Deloris discovers the true meaning of friendship. Also, she realizes that her musical gift can bless others. Ultimately, Deloris finds happiness.
She discovers that her life as a lounge singer was the real disguise and her true self is a loving, caring, giving individual. Overall, Goldberg and the nuns provide a comedic view into a purpose-filled life.
The critically acclaimed musical drama won 5 Academy Awards. More importantly, it has won its way into the hearts of millions as a classic feel-good movie. Along with the memorable singing, including the talents of Julie Andrews, the power of the story remains timeless.
The movie centers around how Maria, a young novice nun, comes to love the Von Trapp family, including marrying the father, Captain Von Trapp. Von Trapp originally hires Maria as the children's governess. Through patience and love, Maria wins over the children, and this in time wins over the heart of Captain Von Trapp.
Eventually, Maria decides to follow her heart, leave the convent, and marry the Captain. Set in Austria during the Nazi rise to power, the Von Trapps and Maria find life satisfaction in music and escape to Switzerland. Ultimately, it's the love of music that binds them together and provides comfort no matter what they face.
Based on the best-seller memoir of Elizabeth Gilbert, the movie stars Julia Roberts as Gilbert. The movie tells the story of how Gilbert discovered herself and found her happiness through her travels. (Check out this post for more movies about self-discovery.)
After going through a divorce, Gilbert decides to travel around the world to explore different aspects of herself. In Italy, she indulges in her love of food. From there, she goes to India to practice devotion. Finally, she ends her travels and pursuits in Bali, where she learns balance and even the capability to love again.
Throughout the process, Gilbert learns valuable lessons about herself. Even though her plans don't work out the way she wants, she ends up learning what she needs. Moreover, the relationships with other women that she values throughout her journey really become a mirror for self-reflection. In the end, Liz learns to be happy with herself.
While It's a Wonderful Life is a quintessential Christmas movie, you can enjoy its message any time of the year. The movie revolves around George Bailey. Bailey has experienced his share of life woes and contemplates ending his life on Christmas Eve. Fortunately, Bailey's guardian angel, Clarence, intervenes in time.
Then, Clarence shows Bailey what life would be like for his town if he had never existed. Eventually, George comes to realize that his life has been filled with good things. More importantly, he realizes that his existence has brought good things into the lives of those around him.
In the end, George accepts his life as it is.
Billy Elliot is a coming-of-age story about a boy that discovers his passion for ballet. Billy's father objects to Billy's desire to dance because of his negative stereotypes concerning male dancers. Instead of dancing, Billy's dad makes him take up boxing.
Billy defies his father and secretly takes up ballet and proves to be a gifted dancer. His father finally sees Billy dancing and supports his son's dream. He even sells his late wife's jewelry to help pay the audition costs.
The movie ends with Billy performing with a ballet company with his father and brother in the audience. Throughout this journey, Billy learns that life satisfaction is found in following his dreams.
Happy Feet presents another character that finds happiness through following his passions like Billy Elliot did. Also, like Billy, Mumble loves to dance.
Even with these similarities, the movie couldn't be any further from Billy Elliot. This is because Mumble is an emperor penguin starring in an animated movie.
In the movie, all the male emperor penguins sing to find a mate. Unfortunately, Mumble was born unable to sing. Instead, he's gifted at dancing. At first, Mumble's dancing isolates him from his colony. In the end, it's Mumble's dancing that saves the colony.
Through dancing, Mumble finds happiness, love, and acceptance.
In this movie, an Oscar-winning screenplay written by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck , Matt Damon plays Will Hunting. Will is a 20-year-old, self-taught math genius. Will works as a janitor at MIT and hangs out with his rough Southie friends.
An MIT professor finds out about Will's intelligence and helps him evade jail time if he agrees to study math with the professor and seek counseling. Will finds a kindred spirit in his therapist, who happens to be a Southie like Will.
Through his therapy sessions, Will finally accepts his intelligence. Also, he finds healing from his abusive past and is able to move forward in his life. Ultimately, Will leaves Boston to move to California for the young woman he loves.
In the end, Will's happiness stems from accepting himself as he is.
This British romantic comedy portrays several couples finding love and acceptance. While it does focus primarily on romantic love, the movie also addresses other types of love, as well. In the midst of the hustle surrounding the Christmas holidays, people find love in the most surprising of places.
With a star-studded cast, including Alan Rickman, Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Colin Firth, and Liam Neeson among others, each storyline portrays people finding their happiness in relationships with others.
In this feel-good movie, the Hoover family goes to great lengths to get Olive to a beauty pageant in California in two days. Tensions rise as the family suffers setbacks, including vehicle problems. After finally getting Olive registered for the pageant, they soon realize that Olive has stiff competition.
While everyone tries to persuade her not to perform her scandalous dance, her mom chides everyone to let Olive be herself. Once on stage, Olive shocks the crowd with a dance that appears to be burlesque. In the midst of crowd outcries, the family joins her on stage to provide support and encouragement.
Even though the family is forced to agree that Olive will never enter another pageant, they happily create a ruckus as they start their journey home. In the end, the family finds happiness by helping Olive pursue her dream of being in a beauty pageant.
Here's another animated movie that is entertaining and thoughtful at the same time. It stars Gru, a villain that wants to pull off the biggest caper of all time by stealing the moon. His plans get wrecked when he becomes the guardian of three precious little girls.
In the end, Gru finds happiness through adopting the girls. He learns that happiness can be found in doing good instead of doing bad.
Final Thoughts on Movies About Happiness
When it comes to movies about happiness, there's no one-size-fits-all formula. They come in many genres and have varied plots. Movies about happiness can even be animated.
Despite these differences, what unites these movies are characters that find happiness and life satisfaction as they pursue their dreams, do good, and experience loving relationships.
As you can see, movies can provide more than just entertainment… they can teach life lessons and inspire you! For more movies that will challenge your thinking, check out our 17 Best Philosophical Movies of All Time and 11 Best Movies That Talk About Social Issues.
Finally, if you want to take your goal-setting efforts to the next level, check out this FREE printable worksheet and a step-by-step process that will help you set effective SMART goals.