They’re called “feel-good” movies for a reason. Watching movies could distract you from reality and lift your spirits.

Medication and therapy are the main treatment options for depression, but activities that spark joy could also be helpful.

When you’re feeling down, movies are a good way to lift your mood. A good movie could take you through an emotional journey — all within the span of a couple of hours.

You could be laughing one moment and crying the next, or transported into outer space where you battle other beings for world domination.

If you’re looking for an enjoyable way to lift your spirits, consider popping some popcorn and sitting down to your favorite movie.

Medication and therapy are effective treatments for depression, but they’re not the only ways to lift your mood.

Doing things you enjoy could also improve your mental health and overall well-being, according to a 2016 study. Whether your hobbies include listening to music, riding your bike, or watching movies, these leisurely activities could have a positive effect on your mood and mental health.

Cinema and video therapy — therapy involving watching commercial films or videos — became popular after the invention of video home system (VHS) players.

According to a 2021 study, cinema and video therapy typically involve using films or videos to expose a person to a character who might be going through a similar physical or emotional experience. The characters and scenarios on the screen could spark conversation about you and what you’re feeling.

A 2020 study found that particular films could impact your brain’s activity. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure brain activity, researchers found that movies could exert control over the brain to some extent.

This was based, however, on the movie content and style of editing and directing.

We’ve all watched a movie we could relate to or felt inspired by. Watching movies when you’re sad or depressed is no different — it could give you something to relate to.

But the type of movie that will uplift you will depend on you and your preferences. Not all movies will work for every person.

Movies of any genre could be a helpful distraction or source of inspiration during a depressive episode.


The most obvious genre of film to watch when you’re sad is comedy. A 2016 study found that laughter could have therapeutic benefits. Humor can have a positive effect on mental health and the immune system.

When you laugh, levels of the stress hormone cortisol are reduced, which helps to reduce stress. Laughter also alters serotonin and dopamine activity and releases the feel-good hormone endorphins — all of which can help ease feelings of depression.

Dramas or tragedies

Even dramatic or tragic movies could spark an emotional response. Similar to laughter, crying could activate the release of endorphins, according to a 2016 study.

Dramatic movies could increase feelings of gratitude and reduce feelings of isolation.

They could also act as a reminder that everyone experiences struggles of their own and invite viewers to reflect on their own problems.

Sad or tragic movies, while not a mood booster, remind us that we’re not alone.


Documentaries could be an engaging choice. These movies are based on true events, which could be inspiring or eye-opening.

They might not distract from reality but could highlight it.

Documentaries that emphasize amazing or thought-provoking events that have happened or are currently happening in the world could be a humbling and grounding realization.

Romantic comedies (aka Rom-Coms)

Romantic comedies, aka rom-coms, could make you feel better about your situation or inspire you to look at your current situation from a different perspective.

Depending on the storyline, a romantic comedy could be just the distraction and source of lighthearted humor you need.

Horror and suspense

Many of us love to be scared — whether that’s through watching scary movies or reading suspenseful books.

The tension, buildup, and conflict that’s often seen in horror and suspenseful movies drive our enjoyment and arouse us emotionally and cognitively, according to a 2019 review. Researchers note, however, that the studies reviewed were small and many were based on self-reports.

A 2021 study conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic found that watching horror and pandemic films allowed people to practice coping strategies that could be helpful in a real-world situation. It’s important to note that this study was also small and more research is needed.

No matter the type of movie you prefer, there are many movies you could watch when you’re feeling sad or depressed.

Here’s a breakdown by streaming service. You might also find a movie on other platforms such as YouTube TV and Frndly TV, which houses the cable TV stations Hallmark and Lifetime — well-known for their vast selection of made-for-TV rom-com movies.


  • “About Time” (2013)
  • “A Knight’s Tale” (2001)
  • “Annie” (1982)
  • “As Good As It Gets” (1997)
  • “Get On Up” (2014)
  • “Good Burger” (1997)
  • “Greater” (2016)
  • “Hugo” (2011)
  • “Les Misérables” (2012)
  • “My Dog Skip” (2000)
  • “Rain Man” (1988)
  • “Silver Linings Playbook” (2012)
  • “Soul Surfer” (2011)
  • “Stand By Me” (1986)
  • “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind” (2019)
  • “The Fundamentals of Caring” (2016)
  • “The Holiday” (2006)
  • “The Karate Kid” (1984)


  • “Adventureland” (2009)
  • “Bend It Like Beckham” (2002)
  • “Bridget Jones’s Diary” (2001)
  • “Dirty Dancing” (1987)
  • “Eat Pray Love” (2010)
  • “Fun with Dick and Jane” (2005)
  • “Hearts Beat Loud” (2018)
  • “Hidden Figures” (2016)
  • “How Stella Got Her Groove Back” (1998)
  • “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” (2016)
  • “Interstellar” (2014)
  • “La La Land” (2016)
  • “Mamma Mia!” (2008)
  • “Mrs. Doubtfire” (1993)
  • “Skate Kitchen” (2018)
  • “The Help” (2011)
  • “The Martian” (2015)
  • “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” (2012)


  • “10 Things I Hate About You” (1999)
  • “Cool Runnings” (1993)
  • “Encanto” (2021)
  • “Finding Dory” (2016)
  • “Inside Out” (2015)
  • “Mulan” (1998)
  • “Splash” (1984)
  • “Togo” (2019)
  • “Toy Story” (1995)
  • “Up” (2009)
  • “We Bought a Zoo” (2011)
  • “Zootopia” (2016)


  • “13 Going on 30” (2004)
  • “27 Dresses” (2008)
  • “42” (2013)
  • “Crazy, Stupid, Love” (2011)
  • “Life of Pi” (2012)
  • “Pride & Prejudice” (2005)
  • “The Goonies” (1985)
  • “The Shawshank Redemption” (1994)
  • “The Truman Show” (1998)
  • “When Harry Met Sally” (1989)
  • “Where The Wild Things Are” (2009)
  • “Yes Man” (2008)

Amazon Prime

  • “(500) Days of Summer” (2009)
  • “Back to the Future” (1985)
  • “Brittany Runs a Marathon” (2019)
  • “Forrest Gump” (1994)
  • “Grease” (1978)
  • “Green Book” (2018)
  • “It’s A Wonderful Life” (1946)
  • “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” (2010)
  • “Synecdoche; New York” (2008)
  • “The Blind Side” (2009)
  • “The Butler” (2013)
  • “The Farewell” (2019)
  • “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” (2013)
  • “Troop Zero” (2019)


  • “Definitely Mabye” (2008)
  • “Grown Ups” (2010)
  • “Hitch” (2005)
  • “Meet the Patels” (2015)
  • “Miss Congeniality” (2000)
  • “The Breakfast Club” (1985)
  • “Uncle Buck” (1989)

Movies offer a temporary escape from reality. Even when a movie has ended, you might still feel an emotional high and spend time reflecting on it with friends and loved ones.

Movies can make you feel happy, inspired, and give you a sense of community.

When you need a quick pick-me-up, what better way to do that than sitting down to watch your favorite movie.

But movies aren’t a treatment for depression. If your depression symptoms are affecting your day-to-day life, consider reaching out to a mental health professional for help.