7 Great Movies about the Nature of Happiness and Love.

I love making lists, and here’s a list of seven of my favorite movies about happiness. They don’t necessarily make me feel light-hearted, but they’ve all inspired me to think deeply about the nature of happiness and love.

As I look at my choices, I see to my surprise that as a group, they’re a bit strange. And also quite R-rated.

Happiness and…the porn industry? Happiness and…strangers beating each other up? And yet I think that each of these movies is very transcendent, in its own way.

  1. Junebug — a haunting movie about the deep mysteries of family; what we know about each other; how we show love and respect for each other
  2. Saturday Night Fever –– the disco music is better than I remembered, and the movie is also about sharing a passion with another person, and the bonds that can create
  3. All That Jazz — I talk about my crazy love for this movie in episode 57 of the podcast
  4. Boogie Nights — true, this movie takes place in the porn industry, but it’s also a movie that makes me think about friendship, work, and how we find out path in the world
  5. Terms of Endearment — funny, sad, thought-provoking. I’ll never forget the scene where the mother demands pain medication for her daughter.
  6. Fight Club — the novel is also brilliant. Strange, yes. Deeply strange, yes. But brilliant.
  7. Husbands and Wives — I’ve seen this movie five times, and I see new things every time. A fascinating picture of a place (New York City), a time of life, several kinds of romantic relationships.

What movies would you remove – and more interesting, what movies would you add? I’d love to get a long list of movies about happiness.

  • Kim Turner McCulley

    My Big Fat Greek Wedding. I love watching her blossom as she decides to take charge of her own happiness.

  • Tammy B

    The Blindside. Yes, it’s a sports movie but it’s more about relationships and how doing things for others adds happiness to your own life as well as theirs.

  • ameliateca

    Happy-Go-Lucky, directed by Mike Leigh and starring Sally Hawkins. Poppies have become a symbol of quiet, deep happiness for me and my daughter in honor of the main character.

  • llcall

    Shirley MacLaine is absolutely unforgettable in that scene you mentioned! Sometimes I have cried just remembering it.

  • Sarah E Friesen

    Chances Are……. a wonderful story about being connected to the people most important to us

    • gretchenrubin

      Adding to my list!

  • HEHink

    First, thank you for the list. For a variety of reasons – including that for the past 20 years we have lived at least 300 miles from the nearest movie theater, and our kids have only in the past couple years emerged from the animated movie phase – I’ve not seen many movies on this list. It’s nice to get some recommendations to Netflix sometimes.
    Second, I would add Awakenings. Not necessarily a lighthearted choice, either, but no matter what’s going on in my life when I watch it, I always feel way more grateful afterward. And it, too, is the kind of movie where different aspects catch my attention each time I watch it. Watching it as a mother gave it a whole new dimension from when I watched it as a college student.

    • gretchenrubin

      Adding to my list! I read the book, but a long time ago.

  • Eva Reed

    As it is in heaven – a Swedish movie nominated at the Cannes movie festival

  • Enchanted, where an animated Disney princess comes to life in New York. It shows that sometimes happiness is something different than you thought it was. And it’s G-rated.

    • gretchenrubin

      Amy Adams is also in Junebug. Very different character! But so good in both.

    • I love Enchanted.

  • Abby Hatch

    What an intriguing question!

    I’d add “A Five-Star Life”, a movie that explores the relationship between having a dream job and having a dream life.

  • DrPeppie

    “Italian for Beginners”! Talk about taking up a new hobby that ends up transforming everything…!

  • VeggieNextDoor

    You must add “About Time” – one of my all time favorite movies and SO touching!

    • Jamie VV

      Agree. I watched ths movie, not knowing anything about it, and fell in love!

    • gretchenrubin

      Another one for the list!

  • JennyO

    Enchanted April!!!

    • gretchenrubin

      I haven’t seen the movie but I LOVE that book. Also Elizabeth and Her German Garden. I was just recommending to my mother yesterday.

  • Terricka Tyndell

    Happy go lucky. Jesus’ Son. Walking and talking.

  • “Neverending Story.” Do not forget it. It may be a movie for children apparently – but just like the book, it is much more than that. Also, I am a hardcore Star Trek fan, so I would recommend “Star Trek” (2009, J.J. Abrams) – if you want to remember that despite all hardships, good always wins <3 And we SHOULD add "Stalker" by Tarkovsky, because it is simply the best movie EVER made (I have watched it 127 times and i believe I may watch it again today)

    • gretchenrubin

      Gosh, how have a missed that movie? I haven’t seen Neverending Story, but loved the book.

  • Jake Kuyser

    Hector and the Search for Happiness

    A great British feel good movie. The notes he makes in the film are a lot like Gretchen’s secrets of adulthood.

  • Mimi Gregor

    I squeed when I saw that you had Fight Club on your list! My favorite movie ever, if only for the quotes!

    I would add Amelie to the list, as she stumbles upon a way (albeit a rather convoluted way) to find happiness. A charming movie, and Audrey Tautou is a joy to watch.

    • gretchenrubin

      I’ve never seen Amelie – I need to watch it! Many people have recommended it.

      • gametime2210

        YES! I came here to suggest it, only to see I’ve been beaten to the punch. You should watch it; I’ll bet Eliza would like it too.

  • Grainne McAdam

    Amelie, just brilliant! Seasonal I know but It’s a wonderful life. Life is Beautiful. As good as it gets

  • Grainne McAdam

    Pay it forward

  • Linda Johnson

    Marvin’s a Room!

  • Maurice

    Baby day out since

  • Kathy Naylor Barenbrugge

    The Color Purple and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty both come to mind. Thanks for the list. I need to check out some of yours too.

    • HEHink

      I was pleasantly surprised by The Secret Life of Walter Mitty! May need to watch it again.

      • Kathy Naylor Barenbrugge

        I was too. I’ve watched it a few times. Every time I watch it I get something new out of it. Great story, cinematography, and soundtrack. I probably should read the book that it is based upon.

  • Cat

    The movie Grand Canyon

  • Jessica Graham

    So, it’s a little on the nose but what about the documentary Happy? It’s insightful (and happy).

  • Lib

    Enchanted April surprised me. I walked out of the theater feeling happy. I now own a copy and watch it when I need a dose of happiness.

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