14 Best Lighthearted Movies On Hulu

Staff & contributors

Sometimes, you just need a good movie that poses neither an emotional rollercoaster nor an intellectual challenge. Here are the best lighthearted movies and shows to stream now for a carefree and uplifying watch, from the funny to the offbeat.

You don’t have to be a theater kid to enjoy this feel-good mockumentary set in a summer camp for junior thespians. While there are plenty of in-jokes here for those who might have spent a summer or two somewhere like AdirondACTS, Theater Camp also good-naturedly lampoons every instantly recognizable stereotype of theater kids and the classic failed-performer-turned-teacher. 

Amongst the note-perfect ensemble, particularly hilarious standouts include co-writer Ben Platt and co-director Molly Gordon as camp instructors and best friends Amos and Rebecca-Diane. Both are Juilliard rejects with codependency issues and a classic case of actorly self-indulgence — as encapsulated in the moment they accuse a young attendee of “doping” for using artificial tears during a performance (“Do you want to be the Lance Armstrong of theater?”). But even seasoned performers like Platt and Gordon can’t pull the spotlight away from the film’s absurdly talented young ensemble, who are just as game for poking fun at their passion: standouts include Luke Islam, Alexander Bello, and Minari’s Alan Kim as a pint-sized “aspiring agent” who skips dance class to make business calls. All this self-satirising never obscures the movie’s heart, though; what begins as a self-deprecating ribbing of theater-heads ultimately becomes a rousing love letter to those very same misfits.

Genre: Comedy, Music

Actor: Alan Kim, Alexander Bello, Amy Sedaris, Ayo Edebiri, Ben Platt, Caroline Aaron, David Rasche, Dean Scott Vazquez, Donovan Colan, Jimmy Tatro, Kyndra Sanchez, Luke Islam, Max Sheldon, Molly Gordon, Nathan Lee Graham, Noah Galvin, Olivia Puckett, Owen Thiele, Patti Harrison, Priscilla Lopez, Tyrone Mitchell Henderson

Director: Molly Gordon, Nick Lieberman

Rating: PG-13

In a global movie industry of children's entertainment that often feels like it isn't even trying, this little Peruvian bear coming to England is a wonderful reminder that films aimed at younger audiences aren't inherently limited. If anything, Paddington challenges itself to come up with a far more creative (and effective) way to talk about the lingering scars of colonialism manifesting as discrimination in everyday "civil" society. It sounds like heavy stuff, but Paddington approaches its fish-out-of-water story with the exact counterbalance of silliness, and a riotous cast that's far funnier than anyone would have expected them to be.

Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Family, Kids

Actor: Alexander Bracq, Alice Lowe, Ancuta Breaban, Asim Chaudhry, Ben Whishaw, Catherine Shepherd, Cleo Sylvestre, David McKail, Denis Khoroshko, Dominic Coleman, Faith Elizabeth, Geoffrey Palmer, George Newton, Gus Brown, Hamish McColl, Hugh Bonneville, Iain Mitchell, Imelda Staunton, James Bachman, Javier Marzan, Jim Broadbent, Jude Wright, Julie Vollono, Julie Walters, Justin Edwards, Kayvan Novak, Kenneth Hadley, Llewella Gideon, Lottie Steer, Madeleine Harris, Madeleine Worrall, Mary Roscoe, Matt King, Matt Lucas, Michael Bond, Michael Gambon, Nicole Kidman, Nigel Genis, Peter Capaldi, Ross Boatman, Rufus Jones, Sally Hawkins, Samuel Joslin, Simon Farnaby, Steve Edge, Steve Oram, Stuart Matthews, Tarik Blake, Theresa Watson, Tim Downie, Toby Williams, Tom Meeten, Vic Waghorn, Will Smith

Director: Paul King

Rating: PG

TV’s Alan Partridge — Steve Coogan’s brilliant skewering of small-time celebrity vanity — gets the big-screen treatment in this suitably parochial action thriller. The premise feels like the kind of ridiculous scenario the radio DJ would fantasize about in between songs: Pat (Colm Meaney), an ex-employee of North Norfolk Digital, returns to the station armed and takes his former colleagues hostage, refusing to negotiate with anyone but Alan. Those familiar with Coogan’s painfully self-absorbed character will foresee that going straight to his already delusions-of-grandeur-filled head, and it does; as one character puts it, he’s like a puffed-up robin.

Much of the hilarity comes from the way Alan’s obvious glee at the heroic position he’s found himself in distracts him from actually saving the day, but there is equally sharply drawn satire in the supporting characters, too. Favorites from the TV series, like Alan’s put-upon assistant Lynn (Felicity Montagu) — herself a brilliant feat of perceptive comedy — make welcome returns here, but, like Alan, their eccentricities are made accessible enough that Partridge virgins won’t feel their ignorance. With all the original writers back onboard (including Armando Iannucci, the comedy genius behind The Death of Stalin and Veep), Alpha Papa is another reliably hilarious entry in the Partridge canon. Back of the net.

Genre: Comedy

Actor: Alan Rothwell, Anna Maxwell Martin, Anna Stockton, Colm Meaney, Dan Mersh, Darren Boyd, Diane Morgan, Dustin Demri-Burns, Eleanor Matsuura, Elizabeth Berrington, Felicity Montagu, Jayne Secker, Jessica Knappett, John Boyd, Karl Theobald, Kieran Hodgson, Lucy Briers, Martin Glyn Murray, Monica Dolan, Nigel Lindsay, Peter Singh, Phil Cornwell, Rita Davies, Robert Whitelock, Sean Pertwee, Simon Delaney, Simon Greenall, Simon Kunz, Steve Coogan, Tim Key

Director: Declan Lowney

Rating: PG-13

The '80s saw an influx of coming-of-age dramas, with John Hughes’ “Brat Pack” films reigning supreme. For better or worse, their most iconic scenes are embedded in pop culture, like students dancing in detention in The Breakfast Club or Sixteen Candles’ belated birthday cake. Perhaps the most iconic '80s movie moment comes not from Hughes, but from Cameron Crowe’s Say Anything…: Lloyd Dobler (John Cusak) in a trenchcoat, blue Malibu parked behind him, boombox raised over his head in defiant loyalty.

On their last day of high school, Lloyd Dobler resolves to ask out the class valedictorian Diane Court (Ione Skye). Their summer-long relationship is awkward, intense, tender—and familiar to anyone who has ever opened themselves up to falling in love. Say Anything… emotionally outclasses its contemporaries, as Crowe’s writing lends itself to two authentic characters fleshed out beyond caricatures. And as Lloyd crushes hard on Diane, it’s hard not to feel like you’re falling in love with each of them, too.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Amy Brooks, Bebe Neuwirth, Bill Stevenson, Chynna Phillips, Dan Castellaneta, Don Wilson, Eric Stoltz, Glenn Walker Harris Jr., Gloria Cromwell, Gregory Sporleder, Ione Skye, Jason Gould, Jeremy Piven, Jerry Ziesmer, Jim Ladd, Joan Cusack, Joanna Frank, John Cusack, John Hillner, John Mahoney, Johnny Green, Jonathan Chapin, Judy Prescott, Kim Walker, Lili Taylor, Lisanne Falk, Lois Chiles, Loren Dean, Montrose Hagins, Pamela Adlon, Patrick O'Neill, Philip Baker Hall, Polly Platt, Richard Portnow, Stephen Shortridge, Stone Gossard

Director: Cameron Crowe

Plenty of films have been made about the grueling climb to rock-and-roll fame, but few carry the effortless charm that That Thing You Do! has. Written and directed by Tom Hanks, the film is as cookie-cutter as it gets, dodging the dark depths that typically haunt rock biopics. But that isn’t to say That Thing You Do! is boring—just the opposite, its simplicity and nostalgia make it wholly enjoyable. It’s a confection of a film that goes down easy, and it will have you smiling and bopping your head from start to end.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Music, Romance

Actor: Alex Rocco, Barry Sobel, Benjamin John Parrillo, Bill Cobbs, Brittney Powell, Bryan Cranston, Charlize Theron, Chris Ellis, Chris Isaak, Claudia Stedelin, Clint Howard, Clive Rosengren, Colin Hanks, Dawn Maxey, Elizabeth Hanks, Erika Greene, Ethan Embry, Gedde Watanabe, Gina Aponte, Giovanni Ribisi, Heather Hewitt, Holmes Osborne, Johnathon Schaech, Jonathan Demme, Kathleen Kinmont, Keith Neubert, Kevin Pollak, Lee Everett, Liv Tyler, Marc McClure, Mars Callahan, Michael P. Byrne, Obba Babatundé, Paul Feig, Paulie DiCocco, Peter Scolari, Renée Lippin, Rita Wilson, Robert Ridgely, Robert Torti, Robert Wisdom, Sarah Koskoff, Sean Whalen, Steve Zahn, Tom Everett Scott, Tom Hanks, Tracy Reiner, Warren Berlinger

Director: Tom Hanks

Rating: PG

At 80 minutes, Smoking Causes Coughing is another slice of perfectly paced absurdist fun from Quentin Dupieux, the zany mind behind Rubber (in which a car tire turns serial killer) and Deerskin, the tale of a motorcycle jacket that wants to rule the world. This time around, the protagonists aren’t inanimate objects: they’re Tobacco Force, a Power Rangers-style band of lightly idiotic superheroes who harness the toxic power of cigarettes to defeat Earth’s enemies, and are each named after one of their harmful components (Benzene, Nicotine, Mercury, Ammonia, and Methanol). They’re led by Chief Didier, a rat who inexplicably dribbles green goo — and, even more inexplicably, casts an intense erotic spell over Tobacco Force’s female members.

Smoking Causes Coughing leans deliriously, hilariously far into its absurdist premise. Citing a lack of “group cohesion,” Chief Didier sends the Force to the woods on a team-building retreat. While they swap “scary” stories over a campfire, however, a reptilian galactic supervillain plots to put Earth “out of its misery” because it’s a “sick planet” (can’t really argue with that). Full of insane plot twists and without a tired trope in sight, Smoking Causes Coughing never approaches the realm of predictability — no small achievement in this era of superhero fatigue.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Fantasy

Actor: Adèle Exarchopoulos, Alain Chabat, Anaïs Demoustier, Anthony Sonigo, Benoît Poelvoorde, Blanche Gardin, Charlotte Laemmel, David Marsais, Doria Tillier, Elodie Mareau, Frédéric Bonpart, Gilles Lellouche, Grégoire Ludig, Jean-Pascal Zadi, Jérôme Niel, José Da Silva, Jules Dhios Francisco, Julia Faure, Marie Bunel, Olivier Afonso, Oulaya Amamra, Raphaël Quenard, Sava Lolov, Vincent Lacoste

Director: Quentin Dupieux

, 2021

Gunda offers an empathetic look at the lives of farm animals with its minimalist approach to the nature doc. Director Victor Kossakosvsky films without a sentimental score or voice-over narration, and shoots in a sparse yet striking black and white. This decision gives the film an intimacy often missing from more traditional modes. 

We watch a sow named Gunda, her piglets, and a few other animals through their daily routines. Long natural sequences allow the viewer to sink into the zen of the animals’ natural rhythms. The result is an astounding and bittersweet film that hints at the brutalities of factory farming without ever stepping foot in a slaughterhouse.

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Director: Viktor Kossakovsky

Rye Lane knows it’s treading familiar ground by having its charming leads fall in love as they walk and talk their way through a beautiful city. So instead of experimenting on a tried-and-tested setup, it smartly focuses on specificity. It hones in on the characters’ Gen Z woes and cranks up the British references, giving itself character and charm for days. It also finds other ways to be inventive as it trades plot twists for bold editing and camerawork. Rye Lane is a refreshing entry into romcom cinema, but it is also obviously a big fan of it as it holds plenty of homages and subversions of the genre. This one is made for and by romcom fans, and it's always nice to see a modern love story set during our times.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Alice Hewkin, Benjamin Sarpong-Broni, Cain Aiden, Charlotte Melia, Colin Firth, David Jonsson, Delroy Brown, Esme Molly, Gary Beadle, George Taylor, Karene Peter, Levi Roots, Llewella Gideon, Malcolm Atobrah, Marva Alexander, Michael Dapaah, Munya Chawawa, Omari Douglas, Poppy Allen-Quarmby, Raine Allen-Miller, Sandra Daley, Simon Manyonda, Vivian Oparah, Yasmin Al-Khudhairi

Director: Raine Allen-Miller

Rating: R

Romantically pairing up AI with humans is hardly new, and I'm Your Man is aware of that. Instead of spending way too much time explaining the advanced tech that makes the perfect mate possible, the movie zeroes in on its charismatic leads Tom the robot (Dan Stevens) and Alma the indifferent academic (Maren Eggert). Tom is the curious, humanoid automaton who is designed to worship Alma, and Alma is the disillusioned human who is conflicted with the authenticity of her growing feelings for Tom. I'm Your Man is smart and empathetic enough to stay afloat amidst its swirling genres and ethical dilemmas, but it is mostly the chemistry between Tom and Alma that anchors it to the love story that it actually is. 

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance, Science Fiction

Actor: Annika Meier, Christoph Glaubacker, Dan Stevens, Falilou Seck, Hans Löw, Henriette Richter-Röhl, Inga Busch, Jürgen Tarrach, Karolin Oesterling, Maren Eggert, Mignon Remé, Monika Oschek, Sandra Hüller, Sebastian Schwarz, Victor Pape-Thies, Wolfgang Hübsch

Director: Maria Schrader

Rating: R

Despite what its title suggests, the real thrill of this documentary isn’t the mysterious 1998 robbery of a royal Austrian jewel, but the many other criminal escapades of Gerald Blanchard’s that are chronicled here. Blanchard, who appears on camera for much of the doc, remains cagey (for legal reasons) about how exactly he orchestrated the titular crime, but even if he divulged his secrets, the jewel theft pales in comparison to his earlier exploits: his ballsy teenage shoplifting, slippery escapes from police custody, and subsequent spree of audacious bank heists.

The Jewel Thief benefits from a wealth of remarkable footage thanks to Blanchard's penchant for videotaping his criminal antics. This exhibitionist tendency is corroborated by testimonies from the many other interviewees featured here, including the two policemen who received taunting photos of Blanchard’s loot during their years-long cat-and-mouse chase. As indicated by the opening titles — “This is a true story… Mostly” — Blanchard also has a tendency to embellish his stories, which makes the fact-checking provided by these other participants a wise inclusion by the filmmakers. Ultimately, though, having such an unreliable subject isn’t a handicap — it’s a blessing, giving the documentary a winkingly ludicrous edge that helps it stand out in an overstuffed genre.

Genre: Crime, Documentary

Director: Landon Van Soest

Rating: R

Two months after its premiere in TIFF, Quiz Lady arrived on streaming this November. The comedy film has a sort-of buddy cop dynamic, with an anxiety-ridden, tightly-wound Awkwafina as Anne, and a chaotic Sandra Oh that lets loose with free-spirited Jenny. The film does take its time to get to the good part, and in certain scenes, it feels like it’s torn between the heartfelt and the humorous, but the leads’ acting smooths over some of the awkward writing. Quiz Lady still leads up to a fun watch, though better pacing and writing could have made this charming comedy a classic.

Genre: Comedy

Actor: Al Bayan, Alan Heitz, Ammie Masterson, Amy Tolsky, Angela Trimbur, Annie Boon Karstens, Atul Singh, Awkwafina, Betsy Holt, Camrus Johnson, Charles Green, Charlie Talbert, Choppy Guillotte, Christine Lin, Davina Reid, Derek Roberts, Eddy Lee, Holland Taylor, Jane Yubin Kim, Jason Schwartzman, Joe Chrest, Jonathan Park, Jophielle Love, Justiin A. Davis, Larry Weissman, Maria Bamford, Martin Yu, Matt Cordova, Ned Yousef, Nicole Marie Appleby, Paul Reubens, Phil LaMarr, Sandra Oh, Shirley Chen, Summer Selby, Tawny Newsome, Tony Hale, Will Ferrell

Director: Jessica Yu

Rating: R

There are a lot of laughs to be had in Prom Dates, most of them coming from the funny and actualized characterization of Hannah, the lead’s queer best friend. But everything else about this coming-of-age film feels too familiar and forced to be memorable. Despite leading the film, Jess feels like a hollow copy-paste version of all the delusional, ambitious leads in teen films like Booksmart, Superbad, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, except there’s nothing particularly insightful or likable about her. She comes across as the annoying classmate you know too much about, against your own will. Events unfold in more or less predictable ways, though it’s not hard to imagine that the film could be elevated by a more robust cast. As it is, Prom Dates is a fleeting, forgettable entry in an already stacked genre.

Genre: Comedy

Actor: Adam Herschman, Antonia Gentry, Arianna Rivas, Audrey Trullinger, Chelsea Handler, Emery Kelly, John Michael Higgins, Jordan Buhat, JT Neal, Julia Lester, Kenny Ridwan, Kiel Kennedy, Leonardo Cecchi, Patty Guggenheim, Shea Buckner, Terry Hu, Zión Moreno

Director: Kim O. Nguyen

Dropping on DVD and digital download in America at the end of summer 2023, Mavka: the Forest Song made its Hulu debut this November. Taking the plot of the 1912 poetic play and rewriting the tragic deaths into lighthearted, fantastical adventures, the film is precisely the sort of generic, child-friendly fairy tale that we’ve come to expect from Disney, albeit with a Ukrainian twist. The plot is predictable, and the humor is rife with cliche, but it’s still a fairly entertaining watch for young audiences.

Genre: Adventure, Animation, Family, Fantasy

Actor: Andrii Mostrenko, Artem Pyvovarov, Julia Sanina, Kateryna Kukhar, Mykhailo Khoma, Nataliia Denysenko, Nataliia Sumska, Nazar Zadniprovskyi, Oleh Mykhailiuta, Oleh Skrypka, Olena Kravets, Serhii Prytula

Director: Oleg Malamuzh, Oleksandra Ruban

Rating: PG

What a waste of a premise, and what a waste of Woodley’s talents. Based on the short story “The Robot Who Looked Like Me” by Robert Sheckley, Robots has some clever things to say about the state of advanced tech and its role in society, but its clumsy, heavyhanded approach fumbles the execution. There’s an awkward and unfinished feel to Robots that doesn’t make anything about it believable—not the technology, not the convoluted story, and certainly not the romance. And except for Woodley, none of the characters seem likable. The male-dominated cast makes constant jokes about fatness and femininity, presumably for the sake of satire, but they end up participating in the very things they’re supposedly calling out. It’s not nearly as smart nor as charming as it thinks it is, and if you’re looking for an alternative, I would recommend the far superior German film I’m Your Man, which accomplishes everything Robots tries to be and more. 

Genre: Comedy, Fantasy, Romance, Science Fiction

Actor: Barney Burman, Case Matthews, Casey Messer, Charles Grisham, Chelsea Edmundson, David Grant Wright, Emanuela Postacchini, Hank Rogerson, Jack Whitehall, Jackamoe Buzzell, Keith Campbell, Kevin Foster, Leslie Fleming-Mitchell, Nick Rutherford, Paul Jurewicz, Paul Rust, Richard Lippert, Samantha Ashley, Samantha Gonzalez, Shailene Woodley, Tiffany Adams

Director: Anthony Hines, Casper Christensen

Rating: R