55 Best Lighthearted Movies On Netflix

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.

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, Eddie Nestor, 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

, 2014

A popular chef loses his job and respect after a bad review. He ends up with a food truck and tries to show the world he still has his creative side, while at the same time trying to fix his broken family. Chef is a heartwarming feel-good movie, after you finish it you will want to cook, love your family, travel, and spread the love. One of my favorite movies, I see myself happily watching it again numerous times.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Aaron Franklin, Amy Sedaris, Bobby Cannavale, Charles Lao, Chris Nunez, Colombe Jacobsen-Derstine, Daniel Palacio, Dustin Hoffman, Emjay Anthony, Gary Clark Jr., Gary Teague, Gloria Sandoval, Jay Pennington, Jenna Saab, John Leguizamo, Jon Favreau, Jose C. Hernandez, Josh Gutiérrez, Julian Graham, Miguel Izaguirre, Mike Rylander, Minn Vo, Nili Fuller, Oliver Platt, Priyom Haider, Rachel Acuna, Rachel Faulkner, Rigo Obezo, Robert Downey Jr., Roy Choi, Russell Peters, Safi El Masri, Sam Stinson, Santos Caraballo, Scarlett Johansson, Sofia Vergara, Teebone Mitchell, Will Schutze

Director: Jon Favreau

Rating: R

You don’t need to know a lot about baseball to appreciate The Saint of Second Chances. It has enough going on to keep you hooked from start to end, beginning with Jeff Daniels’ inimitable voice as the narrator and Charlie Day’s inspired casting as the younger Veeck, all the way down to the Veecks’ fascinating ties with American sports history and Mike’s inspiring and heartwarming second-chance philosophy. It all gets a bit too much at times, as if the filmmakers themselves were overwhelmed with their abundant material and creative decisions, but it’s executed with so much care and love that it seems as if this is the only way it could’ve come out: a wonderful mess. 

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Agnes Albright, Bill Veeck, Charley Rossman, Charlie Day, Dan Barreiro, Darryl Strawberry, Don Wardlow, Gary Private, Howard M. Lockie, Ila Borders, Jeff Daniels, Joel Spence, Kalup Allen, Lamar Johnson, Lee Adams, Max Kassidy, Oscar Jordan, Stewart Skelton, Tom Billett, Tony LaRussa

Director: Jeff Malmberg, Morgan Neville

Rating: PG-13

Spike Lee burst onto the filmmaking scene with this, his groundbreaking debut feature. Low in budget but high in confidence, She’s Gotta Have It fizzes with unadulterated energy and style, from its kaleidoscopic opening montage of stills depicting life in Brooklyn (where the film is set) to the joyous direct addresses of its credits sequence.

The film helped to kick off the independent movie movement in the US, and it’s not hard to see why: Lee and his collaborators (including members of his own family) do so much with so little here. Along with its visual and formal inventiveness — including ample fourth wall breaks and cinematographer Ernest Dickerson’s momentary, audacious switch from black-and-white to vibrant color — She’s Gotta Have It also broke new ground with Nola (Tracy Camilla Johns), the young, Black, unapologetically polyamorous artist whom the film’s forthright exploration of sexuality and feminism is centered on. Lee has since expressed regret about one scene in the film — an ill-judged moment that unavoidably dilutes some of its brilliance — but this aside, She’s Gotta Have It stands overall as a radical, exuberant, and impressively assertive lightning bolt of an entry into the medium that Lee changed forever.

Genre: Comedy, Romance

Actor: Bill Lee, Cheryl Burr, Eric Payne, Erik Dellums, Ernest R. Dickerson, Fab 5 Freddy, John Canada Terrell, Joie Lee, Monty Ross, Raye Dowell, Reginald Hudlin, S. Epatha Merkerson, Spike Lee, Tiziano Cortini, Tommy Redmond Hicks, Tracy Camilla Johns

Director: Spike Lee

Rating: R

There’s a lot of good to be found in the charming, poignant, and endlessly quotable Marcel the Shell With Shoes On. It follows a documentarian named Dean, who has as his subject the one-inch talking shell that is Marcel. Marcel looks after an empty house along with his grandma Connie, and together they run a delightfully intricate system subsisting on electric mixers, tennis balls, and the occasional human hair.

Despite his small size, Marcel unwittingly makes big observations about life and the world around him, often moving Dean (and this writer) close to tears. It’s a simple film with a grand message, with lots to say about the importance of participating in life as opposed to merely observing it. But ultimately this is a movie with a precocious talking shell at the heart of it all, so really, what’s not to like?

Genre: Adventure, Animation, Comedy, Drama, Family, Fantasy, Kids

Actor: Andy Richter, Avan Jogia, Blake Hottle, Brian Williams, Conan O'Brien, Dean Fleischer-Camp, Isabella Rossellini, Jamie Leonhart, Jenny Slate, Jeremy Evans, Jessi Klein, Joe Gabler, Lesley Stahl, Nathan Fielder, Peter Bonerz, Rosa Salazar, Samuel Painter, Sarah Thyre, Scott Osterman, Shari Finkelstein, Thomas Mann, Victoria Justice

Director: Dean Fleischer-Camp

Rating: PG

John Carney, who directed the critically and commercially successful Once, may be the world’s best captor of charm. Begin Again tells the story of a broken-hearted singer who gets discovered by a failed showbiz executive. Their ideas and love for music are all they have to face their failures and bring their creativity to life. The original songs are charming and from Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo to Yasiin Bey (Mos Def), Adam Levine, and Cee-Lo Green, the cast generate sparkling chemistry and portray the story beautifully. Begin again is a sweet and effortless watch, yet far from being your classic rom-com.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Music, Romance

Actor: Adam Levine, Andrew Sellon, Aya Cash, Catherine Keener, Cee Lo Green, CeeLo Green, Danielle Brisebois, David Abeles, David Pendleton, Emily Yarbourgh, Eric Burton, Hailee Steinfeld, James Corden, Jen Jacob, Jennifer Li Jackson, Jimmy Palumbo, John Carney, Karen Pittman, Keen Ruffalo, Keira Knightley, Kena Onyenjekwe, Maddie Corman, Madison Love, Marco Assante, Mark Ruffalo, Mary Catherine Garrison, Mos Def, Paul Romero, Rob Morrow, Sama Fernands, Shannon Maree Walsh, Shannon Walsh, Simon Delaney, Stacey Maltin, Terry Lewis, Yasiin Bey

Director: John Carney

Rating: R

Annette Bening, Greta Gerwig, and many other big names star in this comedy-drama directed by Mike Mills (Beginners, Thumbsucker.) The story spans multiple generations but starts in 1979, where Dorothea Fields (Bening) is finding it increasingly difficult to raise her son alone. She enlists the help of two other women, one her son’s age and the other a New Yorker in her twenties who is very active in the punk scene. The three women, of three different generations and personalities as well as takes on the concept of “only a man can raise a man,” play different roles in this kid’s life. 20th Century Women is based on director Mike Mill’s own upbringing in Southern California.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Alex Wexo, Alia Shawkat, Alison Elliott, Annette Bening, Billy Crudup, Britt Sanborn, Cameron Gellman, Cameron Protzman, Christina Offley, Christopher Carroll, Curran Walters, Daniel Dorr, Darrell Britt-Gibson, Elle Fanning, Eric Wentz, Finn Roberts, Gareth Williams, Greta Gerwig, Ian Logan, J. Francisco Rodriguez, John Billingsley, Joshua Burge, Kai Lennox, Kirk Bovill, Laura Slade Wiggins, Lucas Jade Zumann, Matthew Cardarople, Matthew Foster, Mike Mills, Nathalie Love, Olivia Hone, Paul Messinger, Paul Tigue, Randy Ryan, Rick Gifford, Thea Gill, Toni Christopher, Victoria Bruno, Victoria Hoffman, Vitaly Andrew LeBeau, Waleed Zuaiter, Zoë Worth

Director: Mike Mills

Rating: R

, 2022

Stutz is Jonah Hill’s loving tribute to his therapist Phil Stutz, a smart and empathetic man who’s dedicated his entire life to helping people. The conversations between them, deeply personal and vulnerable, are meaningful in themselves, but Stutz also works as a helpful instruction on how to be your best self and as a metanarrative on telling honest stories on a medium as seemingly artificial as film (it is similar to Bo Burnham’s Inside in that way).

Stutz is at once experimental and comforting, a real gem especially for people with an interest in psychoanalysis and alternative psychiatry. It’s at its best when the two men deal with uncomfortable truths in the kindest of ways, and it's sure to be something people will return to often for advice and solace. Fun fact: the documentary was co-produced by Joaquin Phoenix and Rooney Mara.

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Actor: Jonah Hill

Director: Jonah Hill

Rating: R

Being an awkward comic is a very difficult trick to pull off; even self-deprecating humor and long, quiet beats in between jokes can't just be used over and over. But while Ralph Barbosa's incredibly chilled-out personality might not be for people who like their comedians loud and animated, his matter-of-fact punchlines and willingness to make himself sound like a bit of a wimp work like a charm. Cowabunga doesn't touch on any hot-button topics, but it doesn't have to. Throughout this hour-long special, Barbosa gives us a strong, frequently very funny view from the point of view of a guy who doesn't want any trouble, but feels no pressure just being himself—a relatable dude if ever there was one.

Genre: Comedy

Actor: Ralph Barbosa

Director: Eric Adams

Given a budget from Netflix to make a documentary on Korean film, some would have chosen instead to make one for big Korean filmmaking personalities like Academy Award winner Bong Joon-ho, who is featured here. However, director Lee Hyuk-rae instead creates Yellow Door, a love letter to the ‘90s film club that inspired a generation. The warm way each member tries to remember the club made decades ago, and the handy, almost cheeky, animations makes it feel like we’re there in the club with them, just listening to friends reminisce about the way they obsessed about film, even if it wasn’t the major they were studying in. It’s so nostalgic and sentimental, and in shifting its focus, it celebrates the lovely experience of finding a community of like-minded people that’s just obsessed with film as you are.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Ahn Nae-sang, Bong Joon-ho, Choi Jong-tae, Ju Sung-chul, Kim Hye-ja, Kim Hyung-oak, Lee Hyuk-rae, Woo Hyeon

Director: Lee Hyuk-rae

Rating: PG-13

We Are the World is a charity single created for African famine relief. It was a smash success– it inspired plenty of other charity singles and already has a TV documentary about it. But The Greatest Night in Pop reveals new behind-the-scenes footage with a home video flair, intercut with interviews from those who were in the booth on that fateful day. The anecdotes about that night might have already been said elsewhere, but director Bao Nguyen manages to capture the energy in the room, peeking into the emotions of the various personalities that helped shape the song. It’s an intriguing, if straightforward documentary, and it’s certainly a treat watching the decade’s best voices collaborate to make this one track.

Genre: Documentary, Music

Actor: Al Jarreau, Anita Pointer, Bette Midler, Billy Joel, Bob Dylan, Bob Geldof, Bonnie Pointer, Bruce Springsteen, Cyndi Lauper, Dan Aykroyd, Daryl Hall, Diana Ross, Dionne Warwick, Harry Belafonte, Huey Lewis, Jackie Jackson, James Ingram, Jeffrey Osborne, Jermaine Jackson, John Oates, Kenny Loggins, Kenny Rogers, Kim Carnes, La Toya Jackson, Lindsey Buckingham, Lionel Richie, Madonna, Marlon Jackson, Michael Jackson, Paul Simon, Prince, Quincy Jones, Randy Jackson, Ray Charles, Ruth Pointer, Sheila E., Smokey Robinson, Steve Perry, STEVEN IVORY, Stevie Wonder, Tina Turner, Tito Jackson, Tom Bähler, Tom Myers, Waylon Jennings, Wendy Garfield-Ferris Rees, Willie Nelson

Director: Bao Nguyen

Rating: PG-13

Before he was Jim Morrison, Iceman, or Batman, Val Kilmer made his big screen debut as Nick Rivers, the doltish American rock 'n' roll idol who is unwittingly embroiled in an East German underground resistance plot in Top Secret!. Skewering everything from WWII romances and Cold War spy thrillers to ‘60s popstar musicals, this delightfully silly spoof from the team behind Airplane! is jampacked with sight gags, double entendres, and multi-layered setpieces delivered at such a manic pace that you’ll need several rewatches to exhaust all of its comedy. Its lowbrow style means that some jokes are undoubtedly dated, but there’s a lot of timeless wit on display here, including zinging one-liners, tongue-in-cheek lampooning of cinematic clichés, and slapstick gags in the vein of masters of the form like Jacques Tati and Buster Keaton. Top Secret! is blessedly under no illusions as to what we want from a movie like this, so the fact that there’s no comprehensible plot in sight only adds to the enjoyment here.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Andrew Hawkins, Billy J. Mitchell, Billy Mitchell, Burton Zucker, Charlotte Zucker, Chas Bryer, Christopher Villiers, Dimitri Andreas, Eddie Powell, Eddie Tagoe, Gertan Klauber, Harry Ditson, Ian McNeice, Janos Kurucz, Jeremy Kemp, Jim Carter, John J. Carney, John Sharp, Lee Sheward, Louise Yaffe, Lucy Gutteridge, Mac McDonald, Marcus Powell, Michael Gough, Nancy Abrahams, Nicola Wright, Omar Sharif, Orla Pederson, Peter Cushing, Richard Bonehill, Richard Mayes, Steve Ubels, Susan Breslau, Sydney Arnold, Tristram Jellinek, Val Kilmer, Warren Clarke

Director: David Zucker, Jerry Zucker, Jim Abrahams

Rating: PG

Watching Love at First Sight, there are times you catch it almost falling into eye-rolling clichés, like when Hadley loses Oliver’s number or when their first kiss is interrupted by someone suddenly opening the door. But the film’s self-assured and self-aware charm subverts conventions and saves it from being just another cheesy rom-com you’d sooner skip on Netflix. The statistic-heavy narration by Jameela Jamil manages to be both amusing and romantic, and casting Jamil as an omnipresent chameleon who is fate-personified is an inspired move that helps the film move along smoothly. Though they lack sensual chemistry, Richardson and Hardy are individually, abundantly charming. It’s hard not to be moved by their stories, as common as they may be in movies like this. Love at First Sight is fluffy and familiar, but it is also the sort of heartwarming fare you’ll want to watch again and again, especially at Christmastime, when the movie is set.  

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Andromeda Godfrey, Anthony Warren, Ben Hardy, Dexter Fletcher, Doña Croll, Haley Lu Richardson, Ibinabo Jack, Jameela Jamil, Jessica Ransom, Katrina Nare, Kerry Howard, Philip Bird, Rob Delaney, Sally Phillips, Sam Booth, Tom Taylor, Tracy Wiles

Director: Vanessa Caswill

Rating: PG-13

Nowadays, more people might know the cartoon character Yogi Bear or the saying “It ain’t over ‘till its over,” more than they know Yogi Berra, the larger-than-life baseball player who originated the character and the phrase. But in his prime, Berra was one of the most recognizable faces of major league baseball. He was so beloved that he appeared in countless commercials and effortlessly won the hearts of Americans. It Ain’t Over, however, makes a case about Berra being more than just a public figure and how he was one of the best players of all time. The documentary, which is equal parts stats, archival footage, and anecdotes, is convincing without ever being forceful or desperate about its arguments. Berra’s innate warmth and charm carry over in this biography, regardless of whether he’s telling the stories himself or his friends and family regale us with tales of the icon. You don’t have to know much about baseball to enjoy Berra’s life story unfold; having a basic appreciation of storytelling and kindhearted people will suffice. 

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Billy Crystal, Bob Costas, Derek Jeter, Don Mattingly, Hank Aaron, Jackie Robinson, Johnny Bench, Lindsay Berra, Mariano Rivera, Ron Guidry, Sandy Koufax, Vin Scully, Willie Mays, Willie Randolph, Yogi Berra

Director: Sean Mullin

Rating: PG

Friday Night Plan resembles many a classic teen film (most notably, Ferris Bueller's Day Off and Booksmart), but it also doubles as a thoughtful inquiry into the delicate bond between siblings who could not be more different from one another. Sid and his younger brother Adi (Amrith Jayan) have different ideas of what matters most in life, ideas that get tested when their mother’s car gets towed away during their night of fun. Sid thinks it’s only right to come clean and retrieve the car no matter what, but Adi believes this can all wait until tomorrow morning: tonight is Sid’s night to celebrate and finally connect with peers he’s shut off all his life. This tension comes as a surprise in what otherwise looks like an ordinary teen movie, but it’s also a welcome addition that helps Friday Night Plan stand out from the rest. 

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Family

Actor: Aadhya Anand, Amrith Jayan, Babil Khan, Juhi Chawla, Juhi Chawla Mehta, Ninad Kamat

Director: Vatsal Neelakantan

Rating: TV-14