Grab some popcorn, take a seat and get ready to grin until your cheeks hurt.
Little Miss Sunshine
Anyone who has taken a family road trip knows how quickly tensions rise. Rarely is conflict as funny or heartwarming as in this dysfunctional family quest set on the way to a beauty pageant. As the journey unfolds, the familial quirkiness becomes endearing and, ultimately, we’re reminded of the true meaning of family and the joy of living life on your own terms.
Although it takes place at Christmastime and has become a holiday favorite, Love Actually brings goodwill to man (and woman) year-round. Disguised as a romantic comedy, the film is, in fact, an exploration of the different types of love that connect us all. Starring a sprawling cast of favorite British actors falling in and out of various states of love, it is a reminder of how awkward, infuriating, funny and rewarding relationships can be.
Good Will Hunting
Who knew that a movie about a guy doing math problems could turn into such a beloved classic? This movie resonates for many reasons, from its stellar cast (Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Robin Williams) and snappy dialog to the unmistakable message about being true to yourself and following the path that’s right for you.
Watching this movie (again) makes life feel like a celebration, regardless of which underlying theme you choose to focus on: the value of love and friendship; the importance of letting your passions guide you; or the beauty of a good heart and good intentions. It’s a great reminder that we don’t have to “be” better to “do” better in life.
The battle of good vs. evil has been going on since the beginning of time, but rarely does it play out with such entertaining characters. This animated film plays it for laughs but still manages to send the very clear message that anyone—even a supervillain—can have a change of heart, and that we can find love in the most unpredictable ways at the most unexpected times. Plus, who doesn’t love a minion?
The Sound of Music
Even without all those great songs that will stick in your head for days, this musical is timeless. Featuring a glowing Julie Andrews at her peak, it reminds us of the different kinds of love we have in our lives (parental, romantic…) and reinforces the importance of family. It also admonishes us to follow our hearts and climb every mountain, regardless of how imposing they seem.
It’s a Wonderful Life
Another holiday classic that is worth watching at any time of the year, It’s a Wonderful Life never seems to get old. George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) takes us along for an eye-opening ride into the power of love and family, the importance of friendship and social support and, for added moral measure, how destructive greed can be.
9 to 5
Feeling bummed out at work? Boss got you down? All you need is a good dose of this movie (and maybe a day off). From the upbeat theme song that has become an anthem for the workweek blues to the implausible but empowering plotline, 9 to 5 can’t help but put a smile on your face. And hidden under it all are some great reminders about resilience, feminism and the power of dreams in action. The chemistry of friendship between seemingly mismatched stars—veteran actress Jane Fonda, comedian Lily Tomlin and country singer Dolly Parton—comes right through the screen.
All of us are guided by our emotions, but never has that been so clearly illustrated as in this charming animated movie. Although it’s disguised as a film for children, this Pixar project resonates with adults who get an unmistakable reminder that the loss and sadness we experience in our lives deepen our appreciation for the joy we will eventually feel again.
Read more: 10 Life-Changing Books That Will Stay With You Forever
Paula Felps is the science editor for Live Happy magazine.