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Eight films that raise us up: From ‘Princess Bride’ to ‘Life Is Beautiful,’ these big-screen movies lift the human spirit

UPDATED: Fri., Jan. 22, 2021

By Paul Sell The Spokesman-Review

Movies are all about emotions. Positive ones, negative ones and everything in between. We’re entertained and enthralled by movies because we’re so emotionally invested in these stories and characters.

And given everything going on in the world right now, we could all use some of those positive emotions that only movies can provide in mass quantities. Here are eight of the most uplifting movies of all time:

“It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946 – streaming on Prime Video and YouTube): We start with not only one of the greatest Christmas movies, but also the greatest ending to any film. It is impossible for me to watch this film and not be reduced to a blubbering mess when Harry Bailey toasts his brother George and declares him the richest man in town. From George joyously proclaiming his love for life to the selflessness of the entire community coming to his aid, we can’t help but match their excitement for life.

“Life Is Beautiful” (1997 – streaming on HBO Max and Hulu): On the opposite end of the “It’s a Wonderful Life” spectrum, we have the bittersweetness of Roberto Benigni’s “Life Is Beautiful,” and yet surprisingly the film has as much love for life as the Frank Capra classic. An Italian film about an eccentric yet zealous man (Benigni) trying his best to save his young son from the atrocities of World War II, the film is a testament to the courage it takes to laugh while facing the gallows.

“The Martian” (2015 – streaming on Apple TV+ and YouTube): Of all the films about someone overcoming insurmountable odds and a personal display of triumph, you can’t do much better than Ridley Scott’s most emotionally charged film to date. It is personal and epic in its size as we watch every difficulty of Matt Damon’s struggles on Mars while also seeing the lengths and hardships everyone back on Earth is making just to save a man who has never been farther from home. Of all the great sci-fi in the last few years, none has been as emotional as “The Martian.”

“My Neighbor Totoro” (1988 – streaming on HBO Max and Disney+): If there’s one movie that perfectly captures the feeling of being a wide-eyed child in awe of the adventures the world has to offer, “My Neighbor Totoro” captures that adventurous feeling perfectly. The beauty of Hayao Miyazaki’s “Totoro” comes in its quieter moments. The small curiosities and moments of play throughout will be intimately familiar to anyone who ever got to experience what it was like to be a kid.

“Paddington 2” (2017 – streaming on YouTube and Prime Video): I recently watched this film for the first time, and it alone was my inspiration for writing this story. Paul King’s “Paddington 2” is the perfect family movie with not only tons of laughs and emotional moments, but a shining testament to the power of kindness in a bleak world. Imagine if “The Martian” was about a marmalade-loving bear and set in prison instead of on Mars, and you’ll fall in love with this movie like everyone else has.

“The Princess Bride” (1987 – streaming on Disney+ and Hulu): I’ve yet to meet someone who doesn’t adore Rob Reiner’s “The Princess Bride.” And there are a lot of reasons to love it. Nearly every line in the film is quotable, every character is lovingly crafted, and the sense of adventure and lust for life have never been higher. But what really makes this one so memorable is the addition of the grandfather telling this story to his grandson, a tale that transcends generations and is just as good no matter how old you are.

“Singin’ in the Rain” (1951 – streaming on HBO Max and YouTube): You can’t make a list of the most uplifting movies and not include at least one musical. And what better choice than the greatest musical of all time? Stanley Donen’s “Singin’ in the Rain” doesn’t just have some of the most elaborate musical numbers, but is also one of the funniest, most charming movies you’ll ever see, musical-or-otherwise. It’s even triumphant at times with its whimsical look at the transitional period in Hollywood going from silent films to “talkies.”

“Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” (2018 – streaming on Prime Video and YouTube): Morgan Neville’s documentary isn’t just living proof of how loving Fred Rogers was, but it’s a reminder that there are people in the world who see the best in all of us. This film is like a warm hug after a difficult day. Watching the film, you begin to form a picture of a man who made it his mission to treat everyone as if all of their feelings, even the negative ones, mattered. And it is this shared empathy that will always resonate to astonishing effect.

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