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Certain movies are called “feel good” for a reason. Watching movies can actually improve your psychological health. Of course, it depends on the type of movie and how it resonates with you.

According to a 2021 study, cinema or video therapy exposes people to a character who might be going through similar experiences. When working with a therapist, the characters and experiences could facilitate processing difficult emotions or even as part of a functional exposure exercise.

A 2020 study found that some films can impact brain activity measured using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). In that study, researchers studied the “suspense effect” of Hitchcock’s thriller, Psycho. Definitely, not one we’d recommend for giving you hope or making you smile.

Here are some faves people have shared with us that can make them “feel good.” Please note that some movies like Forrest Gump have bittersweet messages of hope and the beauty of life. Others can make us laugh no matter how sad we are because they are absolutely silly and ridiculous. Take a look at our current list and see if any could make you laugh or lift your spirits.

To Watch with Kids or Younger Teens

Please note that we recommend that you always read parent guides (imdb, Common Sense Media, Does the Dog Die?) and screen movies for children

1. Inside Out (2015)

Rating: PG

Content Notes: Parent-Child Relationships, Emotion Regulation

2. Mary Poppins (Original – 1964)

Rating: G

Content Notes: Death of Parent, Overcoming Grief

3. Mary Poppins Returns (2018)

Rating: PG

Content Notes: Death of Parent, Overcoming Grief

4. Paddington 2 (2017)

Rating: PG

Content Notes: Some Frightening Scenes

5. Up (1999)

Rating: PG

Content Notes: Overcoming Grief, Animals Hurt and/or Killed, Trauma and Loss

6. Zootopia (2016)

Rating: PG

Content Notes: Animals Hurt

7. Puss & Boots (2011)

Rating: PG

Content Notes: Animals Hurt. Trauma and Loss

8. Sandlot (1993)

Rating: PG

Content Notes: This one may only be suitable for older teens. Profanity, Trauma and Loss, Frightening and Intense Scene, Smoking

For Grown-Ups

1.Forrest Gump (1994)

Rating: PG-13

Content Notes: Violence and Gore, Combat (Vietnam), Death, Grief, Chronic Illness. Alludes to Childhood Abuse (Physical and Sexual), Sexual Content

2. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)

Rating: PG

Content Notes: A few emotionally intense scenes

3. Hector and the Search for Happiness (2014)

Rating: R

Content Notes: Violence, Physical Assaults, Kidnapping, Animal Hurt and/or Killed, Sexual Content, Nudity, Infidelity

4. Love Actually (2003)

Rating: R

Content Notes: Sexual Content, Nudity, Extra on the Profanity, Substance Use, Infidelity, Grief and Loss

5. Thor Ragnarok (2017)

Rating: PG-13

Content Notes: Violence and Gore, Assaults, Sexual Content

6. Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

Rating: R

Content Notes: Substance Use, Suicide, Depression, Extra on the Profanity, Infidelity, Death of Partner

7. La La Land (2016)

Rating: PG-13

Content Notes: Sexual Content, Emotionally Intense

8, Bridget Jones Diary

Rating: R

Content Notes: Infidelity, Nudity, Sexual Content, Profanity, Substance Use

9. Pride and Prejudice (2005)

Rating: PG

Content Notes: Emotionally Intense

10. Birdcage (1996)

Rating: R

Content Notes: Emotionally Intense, Sexual, Gender-Biased, or Non-Gender Affirming Humor, Bullying

11. Amelie (2001)

Rating: PG

Content Notes: Sexual Content

12. Mean Girls (2004)

Rating: PG-13

Content Notes: Sexual Content, Sexual, Gender-Biased, or Non-Gender Affirming Humor, Bullying

13. Pursuit of Happyness (2006)

Rating: PG-13

Content Notes: Racism and Discrimination, Profanity, Poverty, Abuse

For Those Who Enjoy the Silly, Absurd, Profanity and/or Off-Color Joke Laden

1, Hot Fuzz (2007)

Rating: R

Content Notes: Extra, Extra on the Profanity and Violence and Gore, Sexual Content, Substance Use, Infidelity, Horror

2. The Wedding Singer

Rating: PG-13

Content Notes: Sexual, Gender-Biased, or Non-Gender Affirming Humor, Infidelity, Profanity

3. The Princess Bride (1987)

Rating: PG

Content Notes: Sexual and Gender-Biased Humor

4. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

Rating: PG

Content Notes: Sexual, Gender-Biased, or Non-Gender Affirming Humor, Violence and Gore (most is exaggerated and silly, but still), Profanity

5. Elf (2003)

Rating: PG

Content Notes: Sexual Content, Profanity

Please note that we are not recommending these movies as any form of mental health treatment. This information is provided solely as informational content. We always recommend that if you are struggling with depression, anxiety, trauma, or a severe mental health disorder you consult your mental health provider before watching any movies that could have difficult content. At this time, research has not proven cinema or video therapy as a safe, reliable, and valid treatment method.


As well as having extensive training in the treatment of anxiety and its related issues, our team of therapists also offers a wide variety of online therapy services in North Carolina and all PSYPACT states. We work with lawyers, entrepreneurs, students, parents, and teens who are dealing with stress and burnout, trauma and loss, ADHD, depression, and life transitions. Our goal is to help you find success both professionally and personally so you can gain Momentum to excel in a bright future.


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The information provided on this website and in this blog is for educational purposes only. The contents of this website and newsletter are provided solely for informational purposes and are not meant to provide professional medical or psychiatric advice, counseling, or services