Movies that are not too serious with good characters
March 30, 2020 3:38 PM   Subscribe

My spouse and I are looking for diverting and not too serious movies with enjoyable characters to watch together in the evening. Neither of us are frequent movie watchers so we may have missed things that most other people have already seen. More details on things we've enjoyed and some restrictions inside.

Things we've enjoyed:
  • Chicken Run
  • The Boxtrolls
  • Mean Girls
  • Bend it like Beckham
  • Knives Out
  • Galaxy Quest (as we're both Star Trek fans)
  • Monsters, Inc.
Thing's we've enjoyed but are borderline too silly for this question:
  • The muppet movies (we've seen most of them and are looking for more novelty)
  • The Princess Bride
  • The Court Jester
Things we're less interested in for the purposes of this question:
  • Disney/Pixar (we've seen a fair amount and are looking for more novelty)
  • TV shows (normally we watch more TV shows than movies but in this case we're looking for things that can be enjoyed in a sitting or at most two (short miniseries might be okay))
  • Action movies (unless they are really focused on the interaction between the characters rather than saving the world and special effects)
posted by unus sum to Media & Arts (77 answers total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
I think the Forty Year Old Virgin would fit this category. Trailer. The characters aren't (too) mean, and everyone is rooting for Andy (rather than mocking him).
posted by hydra77 at 3:47 PM on March 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

I rewatched Groundhog Day recently and really liked it. I think it fits your criteria. What About Bob is another good Bill Murray movie.

I tried to watch Stripes recently, but I couldn’t stand the sexism.
posted by FencingGal at 3:50 PM on March 30, 2020 [5 favorites]

Always Be My Maybe
posted by obfuscation at 3:51 PM on March 30, 2020 [20 favorites]

Good Omens, if that's not too long (miniseries, 6 episodes, 1 hour each)
posted by airmail at 3:55 PM on March 30, 2020 [5 favorites]

Moonstruck, still charming after all these years.
posted by Glinn at 3:56 PM on March 30, 2020 [11 favorites]

Ice Age
Kiki's Delivery Service, or anything by Ghibli
Captain Fantastic
Watership Down (the original)
Black Beauty

Seconding Good Omens
posted by ananci at 3:56 PM on March 30, 2020

Easy A!
posted by phunniemee at 3:57 PM on March 30, 2020 [6 favorites]

Logan Lucky
posted by Jaymzifer at 3:57 PM on March 30, 2020 [4 favorites]

Jumanji (both the original and the remakes)
Strange Magic
The Book of Life
Ella Enchanted
A Monster in Paris
A Cat in Paris
The Secret of Kells
The Truman Show
Seconding anything Ghibli except Princess Mononoke (very good, but darker)
Seconding Good Omens
posted by brook horse at 4:01 PM on March 30, 2020 [4 favorites]

One fine day

A delightful 90s movie that will pull you back into a simpler time. You’ve might have already seen it but still!
posted by bigyellowtaxi at 4:04 PM on March 30, 2020

Stranger Than Fiction
posted by walkinginsunshine at 4:19 PM on March 30, 2020 [8 favorites]

My favorite "fun" movies that fit your criteria:
Only You (RDJ at his most charming)
Just Friends (Anna Farris a comedic genius)
Bedazzled (reviews be damned, I love this movie)
Catch Me If You Can
Miss Congeniality
Never Been Kissed
It Could Happen to You
Bridget Jones' Diary
Ocean's 11
The Italian Job
The Count of Monte Cristo (maybe a littttle more serious, but so fun)
posted by lovableiago at 4:21 PM on March 30, 2020 [3 favorites]

Knives Out is wonderful and fits your list
posted by waving at 4:26 PM on March 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

Secondhand Lions
Waking Ned Devine
Game Night
My Cousin Vinny

If you're open to musicals:
Moulin Rouge!
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 4:28 PM on March 30, 2020 [5 favorites]

Paddington and Paddington 2.
posted by xo at 4:36 PM on March 30, 2020 [3 favorites]

Lars and the Real Girl
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 4:41 PM on March 30, 2020 [5 favorites]

Married to the Mob! Something Wild! (sorry i'm on a bit of a jonathan demme binge)

also, moonstruck!

cast away! (too serious maybe)

i love this question and will think of more.
posted by capnsue at 4:53 PM on March 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

I have to second the Paddington movies. If you look at the trailers, they look awful. But they are so charming and warm that I can't recommend them highly enough.

Legally Blond
13 Going on 30
About a Boy
While You Were Sleeping
Hunt for the Wilder People
School of Rock
posted by past unusual at 4:57 PM on March 30, 2020 [4 favorites]

Have you watched High School Musical? Yes, it’s Disney, and yes, it’s geared toward younger people, but I just watched it with my daughter and even outside of nostalgia I think it’s pretty cute and uplifting.
posted by Night_owl at 4:58 PM on March 30, 2020

If you're open to musicals:

Little Shop of Horrors (can't believe I didn't think of that for my earlier list!)
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 4:58 PM on March 30, 2020 [4 favorites]

It's sort of an action/spy buddy movie but you might like The Spy Who Dumped Me - it's really funny and has a lot of focus on the relationship between the two main characters (played by Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon). The body count is very high though! Much more so than I was expecting!

Or Spy (with Melissa McCarthy) for another silly spy movie (less violent, less action-y).
posted by mskyle at 4:59 PM on March 30, 2020 [4 favorites]

Sing Street!
posted by wsquared at 5:17 PM on March 30, 2020 [3 favorites]

Sleepless in Seattle is my forever favorite.
posted by E3 at 5:18 PM on March 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

Some movies that are probably less well known but i very much enjoyed:

Pride (2014)
The Big Sick
The African Doctor
A Simple Favor
What We Do in the Shadows
The Incredible Jessica James
Life As We Know It
Death At a Funeral (OG, not the US remake which isn't nearly as funny)
Sea Gypsies
In a World
Sorry to Bother You
Mr Right
posted by fshgrl at 5:19 PM on March 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

This list is...maybe more of a Movies I Like list rather than Movies For Your Criteria list, but they’re all good:

Guardians of the Galaxy

(When you do get back to Disney, watch The Emperor’s New Groove.)
posted by Huffy Puffy at 5:19 PM on March 30, 2020 [3 favorites]

The humor is DIRTY but I found My Name is Dolemite (on Netflix) to be ultimately an uplifting story of an underdog finding success.
posted by stowaway at 5:27 PM on March 30, 2020 [4 favorites]

If you are Star Trek fans and have Netflix watch the Black Mirror episode: U.S.S. Callister (episode 1 of season 4). I'm just recommending that one episode, it's much lighter than the rest of the series.
The Full Monty. I'm always surprised at how much I like it when I watch it again.
posted by BoscosMom at 5:50 PM on March 30, 2020

posted by under_petticoat_rule at 5:53 PM on March 30, 2020 [3 favorites]

The new iteration of Emma is rather delightful.
posted by gaspode at 5:57 PM on March 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

In and Out
Both probably dated, but very funny and sweet.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 6:09 PM on March 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

Oh, I'm bookmarking this list. Thanks. My contribution :
That Thing You Do
posted by CathyG at 6:26 PM on March 30, 2020 [2 favorites]

My Brilliant Career. Lovely Australian film set in turn of the 20th century Australia. One of my favorites.
posted by BoscosMom at 6:31 PM on March 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

About Time
The Dish
posted by freethefeet at 6:35 PM on March 30, 2020

Oh and Wallace and Gromit if you enjoyed Chicken Run.
A Grand Day Out, the Wrong Trousers and A close Shave are the shorter originals, with Curse of the Were-rabbit a feature length. A matter of loaf and death is the last one and imho not as good. A close shave is probably my favourite.
posted by freethefeet at 6:40 PM on March 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

seconding A Simple Favor!
Shrek, Bee Movie, and Hoodwinked, to round out the list of old animated movies that still slap
posted by gaybobbie at 6:51 PM on March 30, 2020

Scott Pilgrim vs the World
posted by meinvt at 6:51 PM on March 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

The Fantastic Mr Fox
posted by Sassyfras at 7:06 PM on March 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

posted by matildaben at 7:16 PM on March 30, 2020 [3 favorites]

Spy - great, silly comedy.
I second the vote above for The Incredible Jessica Janes. It’s sweet, she’s a great character and it’s just a real pleasure to watch. It’s on Netflix.
The Big Sick
Lady Bird
Young Adult (maybe too dark for your criteria here... but it has good characters and story telling).
20th Century Women
posted by areaperson at 7:23 PM on March 30, 2020

The Thin Man series.
Bringing Up Baby
The Lady Eve
Also, there are *days* of Red Dwarf, if you haven't seen it. It's similar in many ways to Galaxy Quest.
posted by eotvos at 7:25 PM on March 30, 2020 [3 favorites]

Some darker choices which are still, strangely, good-hearted movies:

Sexy Beast
In Bruges
posted by sjswitzer at 7:29 PM on March 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

Oh, I forgot Fantastic Mr. Fox! It’s incredible!

(Isle of Dogs is OK, but it’s no cussin’ Fantastic Mr. Fox.)
posted by Huffy Puffy at 7:29 PM on March 30, 2020

Tootsie is streaming on Netflix right now and it is a DELIGHT.
posted by egeanin at 8:20 PM on March 30, 2020

posted by vespabelle at 8:34 PM on March 30, 2020

10 Things I Hate About You
Miss Congeniality
posted by wellifyouinsist at 8:34 PM on March 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

dazed and confused
the fifth element
best in show
mary and max
robot and frank
time bandits (is maybe too silly)

seconding dope, captain fantastic
if you can stand a season of tv, the get down is great
posted by 20 year lurk at 8:59 PM on March 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

posted by Spathe Cadet at 9:07 PM on March 30, 2020

The Fugitive remake with Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones (keep an eye open for Jane Lynch) is an exciting, character driven action movie. I've watched it several times and it's never failed to pull me in.
posted by bonobothegreat at 9:14 PM on March 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

Begin Again.
posted by rpfields at 9:34 PM on March 30, 2020


"A man caught in the middle of two simultaneous robberies at the same bank desperately tries to protect the teller with whom he's secretly in love."

That description sounds kinda heavy, but it's very lighthearted, fun, and a little clever.

Ashley Judd - who has a really great role - and Patrick Dempsey (who's he? reminds me of a young Robert Hays - Striker, from 'Airplane!') have absolutely charming chemistry.

The supporting cast is incredible. The "professionals" get what they deserve, the "amateurs" also get some deserts too.

Super fun little movie with lots of really great characters. Tim Blake Nelson as 'Peanut' and Pruitt Taylor Vince as 'Jelly' are standout.
posted by porpoise at 9:41 PM on March 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

Ghostbusters (2016) aka "Lady Ghostbusters"
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Any Wes Anderson movie
Little Miss Sunshine
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 9:42 PM on March 30, 2020

My Favorite Year, if you can find it.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 10:28 PM on March 30, 2020

Babe and Babe Pig in the City
Home Alone and sequels
posted by Red Desk at 10:58 PM on March 30, 2020

A league of their own
posted by kitten magic at 2:10 AM on March 31, 2020 [1 favorite]

You haven't mentioned Edgar Wright. So, Hot Fuzz. Police officer Nicholas Angel is known to be the best across London. His seniors, who are jealous of his achievements, transfer him to a remote village where he encounters various challenges. Just look for it, don't read anything about it.

People seemed to like The Greatest Show on Earth. I mean, I stumbled into a screening right when the end credits were showing and you could feel the elation coming off the audience.

Have you seen Monty Python's Life of Brian? Brian was born at the same time as Jesus and accidentally acquired his own disciples. A young man, Brian, who was born one stable down and on the same night as Jesus, becomes intrigued by a young rebel, Judith. To try and impress her, Brian joins the independence movement against the Romans, the People's Front of Judea. An old film that got banned at the time.

New Zealand film (quirky as anything), Housebound. A would-be thief (Morgana O'Reilly) is remanded to the custody of her estranged mother (Rima Te Wiata), who turns out to be correct in her assertion that evil spirits are afoot in their family domicile. Great humour and proper sympathy for the underdog.

Dean Spanley, a British comedy drama film, with fantastic elements. Gentle, intriguing and unexpected with a lovely performance from Sam Neill.
posted by glasseyes at 2:36 AM on March 31, 2020

What do you think about subtitles? I just remembered a French film, A Hairdressers Husband. It's funny and quirky, also tragic and a little bit spicy. Since his childhood, Antoine has wished to wed a hairdresser. He falls in love profoundly with the beautiful Mathilde the moment he enters her salon. Hardly three weeks later, they get hitched. The trailers for this are terrible! Here's another extract from a review: An honest, slyly funny, aching gem of a film with characters one imagines it would be great fun to get drunk with -high praise indeed.

Birdcage, from a French original La Cage aux Folles. The trailers for this are ok. Some of the jokes don't land that well nowadays (depends if you take it as drag or not) but I think it is good hearted. Armand and Albert have built the perfect life for themselves tending to their gaudy Miami nightclub. But their pastel harmony is shaken when Armand's son decides to marry Senator Keele's daughter.

Three Men and a Baby. And if you're ok with subtitles the French version is better, Trois Hommes et un Couffin.

Aah! Napoleon Dynamite, great film. Napoleon, a socially awkward teenager, gets caught up in his dysfunctional family's misadventures while trying to help a friend win the class presidency.
posted by glasseyes at 2:58 AM on March 31, 2020

Good Omens didn't work for me at all and it felt like a slog to get through the series.

Instead I'd suggest:
Married To The Mob
Extra Ordinary (Irish horror comedy currently on Netflix UK)
A Fish Called Wanda
Pride (2014)
Paddington 2
Some Like It Hot
Spider-Man: Into The Spiderverse (seriously. I am NOT a superhero person but I loved this so hard)
Ferris Bueller's Day Off
My Neighbour Totoro
Down With Love
School of Rock
posted by kariebookish at 4:09 AM on March 31, 2020 [1 favorite]

So many great suggestions. A VERY comforting film for me: The Holiday, with Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz and Jude Law and Jack Black being remarkably restrained.
posted by wellred at 4:39 AM on March 31, 2020 [1 favorite]

I'mma go old school here and suggest the 1930s film The Thin Man. It's about a mystery-solving couple, Nick and Nora - Nick used to be a crack detective, but retired when he married Nora because she was a wealthy heiress and so now they've just been suave jet-setters. But a family friend has been killed and Nick decides to come out of retirement to check things out (and Nora has always wanted to see him in action and maybe even help).

The mystery itself is engrossing, but the couple themselves are delightful to watch as well - witty, smart, flirtatious.

(One caveat is that they do drink a lot, and some of the running gags deal with things like one stealing the other's cocktail or Nick reacting to Nora throwing down an entire shot in one go. It's not the only jokes they tell - there is more "witty flirty banter" humor - but there was enough for me to notice "huh, they do have a lot of cocktails." This didn't bother me, though.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:49 AM on March 31, 2020 [2 favorites]


Hunt for the Wilderpeople.
posted by freethefeet at 5:15 AM on March 31, 2020 [2 favorites]

Bring It On
posted by litera scripta manet at 5:16 AM on March 31, 2020 [1 favorite]

...just noticed that Wes Anderson's Rushmore isn't here.
posted by bonobothegreat at 6:01 AM on March 31, 2020

The Grand Budapest Hotel
Force Majeure
Jojo Rabbit
Le Havre
Lucky Number Slevin
Nói Albínói
Real Genius
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie
The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki
The Lobster
The Man Without a Past
The Martian
Thor: Ragnarök
Withnail and I

My definition of 'serious' often doesn't align with others', so depending on your preferences you may or may not be interested in:
Mad Max: Fury Road
Dark City
Dr Strangelove
Cairo Time
Gosford Park
Only Lovers Left Alive
The Fall
Murder on the Orient Express

Heartily seconding/thirding/etc:
Lars and the Real Girl
Cornetto Trilogy (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, The World's End)
Fantastic Mr Fox
Hunt for the Wilderpeople
What We Do in the Shadows
posted by myotahapea at 6:14 AM on March 31, 2020 [1 favorite]

A couple of Paul Newman movies:
Mr. & Mrs. Bridge
Nobody's Fool
posted by SemiSalt at 7:17 AM on March 31, 2020

What's Up, Doc
posted by Moxx of Balhoon at 7:47 AM on March 31, 2020 [1 favorite]

When Harry Met Sally (one of the best romantic comedies; all the characters are well developed; a classic NYC tale)
Big Fish (I haven't seen this in a while but I remember loving it, quirky and fantastical but heartwarming too)
Almost Famous (Super fun movie about an almost famous rock band)
posted by CiaoMela at 10:43 AM on March 31, 2020

General fun:
A Knight's Tale
Ghostbusters (2016)
Legally Blonde
Magic Mike XXL (emphatically not the first one, but the sequel is basically about some dudes going on a fun road trip together and treating women well, plus dancing)
Ocean's 8
The Fifth Element

Queer lady romcoms, which is a genre that makes me so happy that I realize I have no sense of perspective on if they're actually any good or not:
Imagine Me & You
Saving Face
posted by Vibrissa at 11:14 AM on March 31, 2020

Response by poster: Wow, thanks everybody. A lot of great suggestions we haven't seen here (and we will keep checking back for more).
posted by unus sum at 12:15 PM on March 31, 2020

have you seen Ghost Dog? I'm not really sure about recommending it but it is more dreamlike and absurd than you might think from the trailers.
posted by glasseyes at 1:26 PM on March 31, 2020 [2 favorites]

Mrs. mathtime! recommends "Empire Records" for complex (but not serious) lives of teenagers, whole plot in 24 hours, excellent 90's soundtrack.

We both also 2nd "Catch Me If You Can" because /everyone/ likes a movie about a charming con-man!
posted by mathtime! at 6:47 PM on March 31, 2020 [1 favorite]

Few I forgot:
Murder Mystery
The Nice Guys
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
Always Be My Maybe
posted by fshgrl at 10:07 PM on March 31, 2020

The Gods Must Be Crazy (1 & 2)
In Search of Honor
Shall We Dance? (Japanese version, with subtitles)
Out of Africa
Brother Where Art Thou?
The Orville (a TV series, Star Trek wannabee that's surprisingly funny)
Person of Interest (the first three seasons; after that it gets too dark)
Firefly, the series, or the movie. (Okay, AND the movie.)
Clear and Present Danger (another Harrison Ford effort)
Quigly Down Under
posted by mule98J at 8:10 AM on April 1, 2020

Hunt for the Wilderpeople is funny, heartwearming, and real. Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok, and What We Do in the Shadows)
posted by FirstMateKate at 1:40 PM on April 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

Oh, and sorry to double post, but Sing Street is SO good that I just couldn't not include it.
posted by FirstMateKate at 1:41 PM on April 1, 2020

Your parameters suggest that you will like Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, with Michael Caine and Steve Martin at their most delightful.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 1:14 PM on April 2, 2020 [1 favorite]

It's a play, not a movie, but right now, until April 9, you can watch the National Theatre's 2011 production of One Man, Two Guvnors on Youtube as part of a fundraiser and awareness campaign. It is EXTREMELY funny, and I highly recommend it!
posted by kristi at 4:35 PM on April 4, 2020

Am I too late? If you like a whodunnit (a la Knives Out), the film 'Clue' with Tim Curry (and a star studded cast) is great!
posted by ihaveyourfoot at 2:16 PM on December 21, 2020

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