ISO feel good, mushy, safe-feeling books and movies
December 19, 2019 11:55 AM   Subscribe

I am looking for happy, cozy books/movies/tv set in worlds that are Fundamentally O.K. Romance, Sci-fi, holiday themes, small towns, puppies, humor, altruism, goodwill towards man, stuff like that. It’s okay if some bad things happen in the book/movie as long as they are in a greater context of an essentially loving and safe world. More details inside.

Some stuff that I think essentially fits the bill: It’s A Wonderful Life, Anne of Green Gables, much old cheerful YA, the earlier Harry Potter books, a lot of Doctor Who, Northern Exposure, some rom-coms, some cozy mysteries, a lot of Cary Grant comedies.

Sappy and corny are OK. Non-Anglo-American is great. Old and new are both good.

Thank you guys!
posted by hungrytiger to Media & Arts (67 answers total) 131 users marked this as a favorite
Someone recommended this on metafilter not too long ago for another question, and I watched based on that, and I think it fits the bill here, too:
Samurai Gourmet

It's on Netflix. And it's delightful.
posted by Grither at 12:07 PM on December 19, 2019 [3 favorites]

I loooooooved Peanut Butter Falcon. Such a sweet, feel good movie.
posted by HeyAllie at 12:15 PM on December 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

Becky Chambers' Wayfarers series of awesome books are like a great big hug. And are feminist as heck
posted by Mistress at 12:17 PM on December 19, 2019 [15 favorites]

Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories. Available on Netflix. It’s gentle, soothing, comforting, funny, often touching. I love it.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:25 PM on December 19, 2019 [3 favorites]

Under the heading 'non-Anglo-American is great,' I recommend The Four Adventures of Reinette and Mirabelle, a movie that's pretty atypical for its (famous French New Wave) director Éric Rohmer in being wholly gentle, kind, and understanding of ways ordinary people can be difficult. If you have Amazon Prime, you can watch it by signing up for a free one week trial of Mubi. Just thinking along the same lines, Mubi also currently has Agnès Varda's documentary The Gleaners & I, and basically all her documentaries are safe, funny, and kind--usually highlighting some intersection between ordinary people (often underprivileged: in this case people who gather abandoned food) and the arts in a really gentle and understated way. If you have Kanopy, which may be free from your local library, they have her film Faces Places, which is similarly thoughtful, simple, and fun.
posted by Wobbuffet at 12:28 PM on December 19, 2019 [4 favorites]

Seconding Varda’s Faces/Places!

Book recommendation: Elinor Lipman’s The Family Man. Her other novels are good too, if you like that one.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:34 PM on December 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

Have you read the rest of L.M. Montgomery's novels? I find a lot of people know the Anne books, but not so many have read the Emily series, The Story Girl books, or (my favourite) The Blue Castle. (Montgomery is, of course, Anglo-Canadian rather than Anglo-American).
posted by jb at 12:37 PM on December 19, 2019 [5 favorites]

The movie, The Milagro Beanfield War is cozy. There are Anglos but they don’t drive the action - they react.
posted by rw at 12:46 PM on December 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

One of my favourite cozy romance series is Julia Quinn's Bridgerton novels. It's just nice. The family is loving and cheerful and low angst. Plus, Netflix is apparently working up a series or something based on the books, so having read them will prepare you for even more low key feel good stuff in the future.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:49 PM on December 19, 2019 [6 favorites]

I'd describe Detectorists as both funny and somehow cozy. And definitely small town!
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 12:50 PM on December 19, 2019 [12 favorites]

Secondhand Lions. Has one grumpy bad ass uncle; one logical uncle; one neglected boy; and an old story the has to be discovered. It's a sweet movie.
posted by annieb at 1:07 PM on December 19, 2019 [6 favorites]

I second both Becky Chambers' books, and The Detectorists! Also love The Summer Book by Tove Jansen.
posted by Zumbador at 1:14 PM on December 19, 2019 [4 favorites]

wine country
fun mom dinner

these are not generally my type of movie at all, but they are low stakes, and nothing made me cry in them, and they were fun to watch.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 1:14 PM on December 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

The documentary "How to Cook Your Life"
posted by Jahaza at 1:17 PM on December 19, 2019

The Redwall series is pretty damn cozy and fun if you can handle a medieval world of anthropomorphic mice and other woodland creatures.
posted by SaltySalticid at 1:20 PM on December 19, 2019 [5 favorites]

I always recommend Lars and the Real Girl.

If something to listen to would work, the cast recording of Come From Away is perfect for this.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 1:23 PM on December 19, 2019 [3 favorites]

Call the Midwife. There's a lot of the reality of life and death in it but all the characters are so loveable and kind and their world is so charming and small - it's the only TV series I've ever seen that always has me going away wanting to be a better person.
posted by Brain Sturgeon at 1:33 PM on December 19, 2019 [9 favorites]

Feel-good, mushy, and safe is my preferred form of entertainment.

-Chef (Prime)
-Desk Set (Katharine Hepburn & Spencer Tracy, not a Christmas movie, but takes place around Christmas, so I watch it this time of year)
-You've Got Mail
-Gifted (I did cry, but I think it still meets your criteria)
-Princess Bride
-Harry Potter (as you said, they get darker as they go)
-Ladies in Black (Prime)
-Set It Up (Netflix)

-The Good Place
-Miss Fisher's Mysteries (the original series and the "modern mysteries" revival)
-Little Women (PBS version, available on Prime--sadly I haven't read the book so I don't have feelings about adaptations--YMMV)
-Father Brown (cozy mysteries)
-This time of year Hallmark channel has the feel-good light rom-com small town holiday puppy tv movie genre on lock. Sharpness of the cheese varies by movie.
-Friday Night Lights

-If you like romance, one of my favorite authors is Grace Burrowes. I prefer the ones set in regency period. Despite that, the women aren't all just damsels in distress and generally you get to see good reasons the leads actually like each other (more contemporary values/plots set in regency times). Steaminess varies. I've only read one of her contemporary books and didn't like it.
-Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld is a modern re-telling of Pride and Prejudice, which I liked
-Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
-For a long time my go-to low stakes, happy, cute, not particularly memorable light entertainment reading was Kristan Higgins. She has a lot--look for the slightly older ones with dogs on the cover if you want the puppy element (her more recent stuff has been more serious). I don't think the sex is ever too explicit, more rom-com than romance.
posted by kochenta at 1:48 PM on December 19, 2019 [6 favorites]

the betsy tacy books
posted by brujita at 1:52 PM on December 19, 2019 [6 favorites]

books by Laurie Colwin
Miyazaki films, particularly My Neighbor Totoro and Kiki's Delivery Service
Freckles, A Girl of the Limberlost and The Harvester by Gene Stratton-Porter
The Everlasting Story of Nory by Nicholson Baker
posted by Redstart at 1:56 PM on December 19, 2019 [7 favorites]

O hey, here are some of my personal list of cheerful books that I keep on a special shelf:

Travel Light, by Naomi Mitchison

The River Bank, a sequel to Wind In The Willows with female characters who actually have jobs, by Kij Johnson

Lark Rise To Candleford, by Flora Thompson

The Face In The Frost, by John Bellairs

The Dido Twite books by Joan Aiken - if you've read The Wolves of Willoughby Chase you'll find that these are very slightly more serious books in the same world. A few grim and eerie things happen, it's true, but in general they are light and weird.

I also highly recommend Bleak House, by Charles Dickens. There are a couple of sad plot arcs but as a broad generality things end happily and it's a very strange novel.

Changing Planes is a book of rather odd connected stories by Ursula Le Guin that I find intensely soothing.

Monday Begins On Saturday is a series of short stories about a magic research institute in the USSR by the Strugatsky Brothers. Unlike virtually everything else they wrote, it is silly and restful.

Robertson Davies's comic novel Tempest Tost is light and sunny.
posted by Frowner at 1:58 PM on December 19, 2019 [8 favorites]

I've been super stressed out and falling into KC Charles's books like they were the fluffiest of duvets. Period romance with queer found families.
posted by dinty_moore at 2:16 PM on December 19, 2019 [4 favorites]

tv set in worlds that are Fundamentally O.K. That is what attracted me to My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.
posted by SPrintF at 2:36 PM on December 19, 2019 [5 favorites]

Highly recommend Thornton Wilder's novel The Bridge of San Luis Rey.
posted by mark7570 at 2:41 PM on December 19, 2019

I have a secret weapon for this. An incredibly obscure one-season series called Baltic Coasts that's like catnip for frayed synapses. I don't watch often because I don't want to dilute the potent effect.

You'll need to search hard to find them (DM me for tips), as it was never released on DVD/BLU, but here are two, and you can just endlessly rewatch them, it will work fine (bigger screen is better): Here is "The Nordic South Seas", and here is "Castles and Myths".
posted by Quisp Lover at 2:58 PM on December 19, 2019 [4 favorites]

Tampopo. It is a cute story about a truck driver falling in love with a widow (and helping her save her restaurant) intercut with vignettes exploring all of the different ways that humans interact with food. It is at times hilariously uncomfortable (several scenes feature a couple exploring the eroticism of food), but I'd say it is overall poignant, funny, and heartwarming.

One content warning: this is a Japanese film and it does feature turtle and prawns killed on screen. The turtle, especially, is a little shocking if you aren't familiar with how the dish is traditionally prepared.
posted by forbiddencabinet at 3:02 PM on December 19, 2019

Brooklyn 99. Everyone is nice to each other, it's good on race and gender, nothing terribly bad happens in the crimes the cops are investigating... and even within these parameters, it's hilarious.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 3:34 PM on December 19, 2019 [10 favorites]

A Place Further Than The Universe is about a group of teenage girls who want to go to Antarctica. At the end of every episode I turned to my partner and exclaimed "that was so cute/sweet!". Also, there are penguins.
posted by burntflowers at 3:34 PM on December 19, 2019

I vote Kiki's Delivery Service.

I'm gonna personally disagree with the suggestion of Friday Night Lights upthread, as there's helpings of racism, child abuse, traumatic injury, and some involuntary manslaughter in there. Its world is fundamentally relatively optimistic but it's also pretty fraught.
posted by churl at 3:44 PM on December 19, 2019 [3 favorites]

Seconding My Neighbor Totoro and Kiki's Delivery Service.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 3:48 PM on December 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

The Bridge of San Luis Rey

... that seems a really odd choice?
posted by tavella at 3:53 PM on December 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

You will be delighted with the new Little Women movie. I saw a preview. It is all this and also excellent. Also read a bunch of Alcott while you're at it.
posted by shadygrove at 3:59 PM on December 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

The Bridgertons TV series has diverse casting, too!

Regarding romance novels:
- Bria Quinlan's Brew Ha Ha series centers around a coffee shop in Boston (it's never said on the page that it's Boston but it clearly is and she's said so in interviews). Her books are sweet and charming fun, and often start on the worst day of a character's life (but romcom-bad, not dystopia-bad) and feature things getting much better from there, which is part of what makes them so delightful. Features tropes such as "be my fake girlfriend for a few weeks?"
- "Pride, Prejudice and Other Flavors" by Sonali Dev (a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice in which the main characters are Indian-American, and the roles are genderflipped).
- I'd also recommend the Wedding Date series by Jasmine Guillory, which manages to address some of the issues that exist in our world without ever getting particularly dark; it is a warm hug of a series.
- Also literally anything by Jackie Lau. "Grumpy Fake Boyfriend" is one of her earlier ones and a great place to start.
- Sara Kuhn's "Heroine Complex" and follow-ups, about a world in which superpowers have suddenly become real, and a few superpowered women are trying to make the world (or at least San Francisco) right.
posted by rednikki at 4:25 PM on December 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt! (tbf I haven't seen the whole run so I apologize if it gets dark in the later seasons)
posted by bink at 4:31 PM on December 19, 2019

Comfort reading is my jam right now. So I'm seconding the rest of L.M. Montgomery's novels as they are delightful.

Other Suggestions:
Chronicles of a Radical Hag by Lorna Landvik.
Natalie Tan's Book of Luck and Fortune by Roselle Lim.
Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes.
The Phyrne Fisher Mystery Series by Kerry Greenwood.
The Veronica Speedwell Mystery series by Deanna Raybourn
I really, really adored Armistead Maupin's memoir Logical Family.
Rosie's Traveling Tea Shop by Rebecca Raisin.
The Lost Carousel of Provence by Juliet Blackwell.
posted by theBigRedKittyPurrs at 4:39 PM on December 19, 2019 [3 favorites]

“About Time” fits the bill (family that fundamentally likes each other, everyone acting with the best of intentions) and is charming to boot!
posted by punchtothehead at 4:47 PM on December 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

I'm surprised no one has mentioned Good Omens yet. Both the book and the show, but mainly the show, give me exactly this fix. It's not overly saccharine but in contrast to many of the other worlds of things I've seen, this world feels very warm and friendly. The big conflict is resolved in a pleasant manner, and the big overarching sense of it is that humans being human is ultimately a good thing. It's also very visually warm and pleasing.
posted by gloriouslyincandescent at 5:59 PM on December 19, 2019 [9 favorites]

"About Time" has a very sad death in it though, might be more of a bummer than you're looking for, hungrytiger. (Like, I went into it expecting time travel/rom-com hijinks, not Field of Dreams-level sadness)

For romance novels, I remember Julie Anne Long's "Hot in Hellcat Canyon" series being pretty cute.

For TV, Hart of Dixie was a fun variation on the Northern Exposure premise. Nobody dies (except the old doctor Wilkes who is dead from the start of the series), and there are no bad guys.
posted by oh yeah! at 6:09 PM on December 19, 2019

The Castle (Australian movie from 1997). It's the story of a quirky but loving family who band together in the face of a threat to their home.
posted by alex1965 at 6:16 PM on December 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

Oh, and Schitt's Creek - have you gotten on the Schitt's Creek bandwagon yet? You have to give it a few episodes to grow on you, the pilot has a lot of cringe-humor, and Chris Eliott being pretty repulsive, but, you kind of have to see all the characters at their worst to appreciate the way they develop as the series goes on, and it's so worth it.
posted by oh yeah! at 6:17 PM on December 19, 2019 [5 favorites]

'Always Coming Home' is a rather long utopian Sci-fi novel by Ursula Le Guin about a distant future tribal society that deals with various problems, but they are fundamentally okay, and they deal with their problems in a thoughtful and compassionate manner. It's immersive.
posted by ovvl at 6:22 PM on December 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

Oh, also, horrible things happen at the start of the calculating stars, but also it's about a lot of different people coming together to fix climate change.
posted by dinty_moore at 6:26 PM on December 19, 2019

Connie Willis's To Say Nothing of the Dog. And also maybe Blackout and All Clear, but there's more tension and danger in those.
posted by Redstart at 7:10 PM on December 19, 2019 [3 favorites]

My guiltiest of guilty pleasures is Xanadu, the cheesy Olivia Newton-John/Gene Kelly roller skating musical from 1980. It's Kelly's final performance, the music is delightful, and the plot so light and frothy it slides right down. It makes me feel good just to think about it.
posted by lhauser at 7:30 PM on December 19, 2019 [3 favorites]

I offered my best shot, above, recommending "Baltic Coasts" as tonic for frayed nerves. But I'd like to also throw out there a contrarian suggestion.

People in hot climates often eat spicy food. You'd think they'd prefer cool mild food to counteract the heat of the scorching sun. But it works the other way. Chili heat contextualizes everyday heat, making it more tolerable.

Similarly, when anxious and stressed I watch suspense movies and other intense entertainments to reset/contextualize my baseline. The slings and arrows of everyday life seem much less daunting after spending a few hours immersed in identification with people coping with really serious problems.

I'm old, and have been through stuff, and can assure you it's more effective to reset perspective re: perturbations than to lock more tightly into the fraughtness by seeking solace and tonic. When you finally look up from rainbow candy world, your problems will still be there. But if you contextualize your problems via an intense reminder of what serious problems feel like, that's much more enduring comfort, in my experience.
posted by Quisp Lover at 7:31 PM on December 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

Definitely funny Connie Willis. Her collection A Lot Like Christmas is awesome and timely. I love Bellwether, Uncharted Territory, and All Seated on the Ground (this one is included in A Lot Like Christmas as well). If you’re going to read To Say Nothing of the Dog (which is a delight!), read Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome first. So, so funny.

Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi is light, sweet, funny sci fi about first encounters with an alien race.

PG Woodhouse? Love Among the Chickens literally made me laugh out loud, though the Jeeves stuff is great too (and the Jeeves and Wooster show with Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie is completely delightful).
posted by bananacabana at 7:34 PM on December 19, 2019 [3 favorites]

Some TV:

Gilmore Girls, and the showrunner’s current The Marvelous Mrs Maisel. Shows about quirky people doing quirky things at low stakes. Both Lovely.

Jane the Virgin goes to the same place, but there is a villain lurking in the show. Although, it’s a telanovela, so you know it’s all going to turn out fine. The core of the show is three generations of women who love and look out for each other.

I can see Schitt’s Creek scratching that same itch. It’s a silly place, and inconvenient, but no one doubts its fundamental goodness.
posted by thenormshow at 7:46 PM on December 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

Oh- the movie Amélie is great.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 8:26 PM on December 19, 2019 [4 favorites]

Mozart in the Jungle on Amazon Prime had that quality for me. I was disappointed they didn’t renew it after four seasons even though it was getting increasingly preposterous.
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 2:09 AM on December 20, 2019

The movie "Julie and Julia" is utterly charming, and you get not just one, but two loving couples.

Wodehouse and Kate Atkinson's Jackson Brodie novels, and seconding "Three Men In A Boat" and "To Say Nothing of the Dog".
posted by Agave at 3:04 AM on December 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

Friends at work say that the Hallmark Channel's Christmas movies are a 24/7 version of this, and this year they might even have a couple of movies that aren't 100% white people.
posted by clawsoon at 3:50 AM on December 20, 2019

Queer Eye is fluffy fun on Netflix.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:37 AM on December 20, 2019 [4 favorites]

James Herriot is my fix. Small town animal vet stories with many fictionalized written memoirs and a series.
posted by Gor-ella at 10:11 AM on December 20, 2019 [7 favorites]

In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan is my go-to for fuzzy warm cozy feels, and is literally all about the triumph of diplomacy and cross-cultural understanding over stabbing things.

+1million to Becky Chambers.

Steven Universe & the new run of She-Ra might also work, although She-Ra is definitely getting more intense as time goes on.

The Flora Segunda series (available on Kindle though sadly out of print) is a teenage adventure coming-of-age story set in a magic-inflected San Francisco, and it is wonderful. Sunshine by Robin McKinley has a coffeeshop baker discover her magic powers and fight vampires and is another cozy go-to.

The Good Place and Parks & Rec are also reliably cozy viewing.

Riskier Recommendation:
I read The Expanse books (and watch the show) because they are all about a group of people that comes from different factions but that are fundamentally good and kind and trying to help other people out/save people, but there is a lot of Bad Stuff that happens and Very Bad People in the world(s) so this may not work for you.
posted by athenasbanquet at 10:36 AM on December 20, 2019 [2 favorites]

I still want mark7570 to come back and explain The Bridge of San Luis Rey! I'll grant you maybe not as bleak as could be for a book where everyone dies, but I would never apply the words "happy" and "cozy" to it.
posted by tavella at 11:27 AM on December 20, 2019 [2 favorites]

I get this feeling from Life in Pieces and Nailed It and Bob's Burgers. I watch all three on Netflix Canada.
posted by cCranium at 12:17 PM on December 20, 2019

Waking Ned Devine
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 4:55 PM on December 20, 2019 [2 favorites]

Parks and Recreation fits this bill. I feel the most wonderful warmth with the world when I watch it, as though I can still remind myself there are good people in the world.
posted by chronic sublime at 3:19 AM on December 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

@tavella, no I suppose it's not cozy - but it does have a kind of happiness in its message, to hungrytiger's point - "It’s okay if some bad things happen in the book/movie as long as they are in a greater context of an essentially loving and safe world."
posted by mark7570 at 1:56 PM on December 21, 2019

If you are up for older Christmas, then give Christmas in Connecticut a try.
Also, Meet Me in St. Louis has a Christmas component.
Bells Are Ringing is just fun, and a musical that does not get on people's radar the way the more famous ones like Singing in the Rain do.
The Hallmark movies can get kind of paint by numbers. With that said, here are a few from recent years worth a watch: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year, Love at the Christmas Table, Trading Christmas. Also check out On the 2nd Day of Christmas (Lifetime) and Snowglobe (ABC Family movie.)
I always find Enchanted to be a great cozy movie.
The Matchmaker (spoiler alert: one sad death of a side character, but otherwise works)
The Truth About Cats & Dogs
Local Hero
Doc Hollywood
French Kiss
Kate & Leopold
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe
The Tapestry of Love by Rosy Thornton
posted by gudrun at 4:26 PM on December 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

Ever After is my foremost "comfort movie." The mother character played by Angelica Houston is really nasty but all works out in the end. I also like Under The Tuscan Sun and Tea With Mousilini. There are facists and people having to leave their homes in the later but no killing, and the kindness and resilance of the characters is uplifting and comforting. I also enjoy Emma Thompson's version of Sense and Sensibility. Of course all of the Muppet Movies are fun (my favorite is Muppet Treasure Island).
posted by WalkerWestridge at 4:33 PM on December 21, 2019

The cozy novels I like recently are all by Maeve Binchy. She’s an Irish novelist and most of the books take place in Dublin. They are slice of life sort of books with shifting character perspectives. Lots of cooking and scenic walks (country and urban). She’s great on describing human nature with a funny/light but insightful eye. However the story lines usually have a “woman learns to believe in herself and dump pretty okay but perhaps adulterous man” storyline so if that bothers you I’d skip them. My favourites are Tara Road (family life in a big Victorian house; husband no good; wife starts new life; there’s an eventful house swap in the end), Circle of Friends (small town girls go to university and figure out what it really means to dream big), and Scarlet Feather (catering company overcomes the odds). She also has a collection of Christmas short stories, This Year It Will Be Different, that would be a great way to test the waters.
posted by Concordia at 5:44 AM on December 22, 2019 [2 favorites]

Oh, forgot Galavant. I highly recommend it! Light, silly, funny, ferociously well written. If it doesn't make you feel good, nothing can.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 8:58 PM on December 22, 2019

Seconding PG Wodehouse and the Jeeves books.
posted by storybored at 9:31 PM on December 22, 2019

And one that's not so well known - The Bartholemew Bandy series by Donald Jack. Well written novels of a big-hearted but clumsy WWI pilot, and how he prevails despite ....himself.

That's Me In the Middle is the second in the series and typifies the somewhat madcap hijinx.
posted by storybored at 9:38 PM on December 22, 2019

The No1 Ladies' Detective Agency is a great, warm, uplifting movie / series based on a wonderful set of books.

The Intouchables is a great French movie with intelligent dialogue, wry humor and music that makes you want to dance along. When I saw it first, it literally made me cry with joy at the end.

I assume you have seen Black panther, but Black panther makes me feel the same way except it's not really cosy but more energizing.
posted by M. at 4:25 AM on December 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

I highly recommend Mapp and Lucia, Steve Pemberton's 3-part adaptation of E F Benson's novel series.
posted by EXISTENZ IS PAUSED at 5:14 PM on December 27, 2019

« Older Our 4.5 year old wants to see the Statue of...   |   Recommend my Organizational Development reading... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.