Best heartfelt comedy movies to watch, ranked
Everyone needs a good laugh once in a while, especially when you’re feeling blue. This explains why comedy is ranked fourth in the list of the highest-grossing genres in terms of box office sales from 1995 to 2022 (according to The Numbers). While a bit of comedy is always welcome, an exceptional comedy film can simultaneously take the viewer on an emotional journey, while also providing laughs. After all, Mary Poppins said it best: “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.” The same can be said for heartfelt comedy. Humor helps the viewer digest the underlying message.
We’ve curated a list of our favorite comedies that not only amuse us with humorous antics but also deliver a powerful message. Whether this message is about overcoming the death of a child, surviving a divorce, or the intricacies of living with mental illness, these comedies have one thing in common, not only do they provide humor, but they also provide a mood of well-being that we all crave when we feel depressed. While this list is by no means exhaustive, here is a sampling of some of the best heartfelt comedy movies to watch, ranked.
11/11 Revenge of a Blonde
Revenge of a Blonde is a fun film about the power of being true to yourself. While on the surface it looks like Elle Woods is the poster child of the problematic “dumb blonde” stereotype, that misconception is quickly shattered. At the end of the film, Elle quickly proves that she has what it takes to be the best law student Harvard has ever seen.
10/11 sister act
Whoopi Goldberg stars in sister act as Deloris Van Cartier, a former lounge singer turned nun, who is hidden away in a convent by witness protection after witnessing her mafia boyfriend murder someone. Although she feels like a fish out of water, Deloris quickly warms up to the sisters, creates wide attention for her contributions to the church choir, and recognizes where she truly belongs. The film was one of the most successful comedies of the early 90s and will soon be a franchise. The following Sister Act 2: back to normal was released in 1993, and a third sister act The film is currently in production with Disney.
September 11th Pellet
Pellet is based on Julie Murphy’s book of the same name. It’s an uplifting story of one girl’s struggle against archaic notions of beauty. In protest, a tall teenage girl joins her local beauty pageant of which her mother is a former contestant and winner. As other young girls follow suit, Willowdean Dumplin’ Dixon finds herself revolutionizing her hometown and city dwellers’ attitudes towards beauty.
8/11 wait to expire
wait to expire is a heartwarming drama that marks the feature directorial debut of Forrest Whitaker. The subject was adapted from a 1992 novel by Terry McMillan. The film follows the love lives of four Arizona women anxious about the day they can feel comfortable in a committed relationship. The movie title wait to expire is explained in the film as the titular characters state that they are “holding their breath” until they find this illusionary “perfect” relationship.
7/11 About a boy
About a boy is a British comedy-drama that follows a womanizing single Londoner who hasn’t quite grown up himself. When Will (Hugh Grant) strikes up an unlikely friendship with 12-year-old Marcus, Marcus ends up helping him see the value in meaningful adult relationships. About a boy is as full of laughs as it is sentimental moments, making it a great choice for movie night.
6/11 As good as it gets
As good as it gets features Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt in Oscar-winning performances. Nicholson stars as Melvin Udall, who suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder and struggles to maintain personal relationships as a result. When Melvin volunteers to watch his neighbor Simon’s dog during his hospitalization, he unwittingly becomes attached to the dog, leading him to yearn for more attachments in his otherwise empty life. Nicholson and Hunt share incredible chemistry in this feel-good comedy.
5/11 Billy Elliot
Billy Elliot is the impressive story of a young man who overcomes all obstacles to achieve his dream of becoming a ballet dancer. Initially troubled by the young man’s desire to dance, even his relentless father ends up supporting Billy’s aspirations. The heartwarming 2000 film even inspired a Broadway musical.
4/11 Mrs. Doubtfire
Mrs. Doubtfire stars Robin Williams in one of his most memorable roles as a doting father who will do anything to maintain a relationship with his children after he and his wife divorce. Mrs. Doubtfire not only teaches kids about new family dynamics and helps them deal with divorce, but it also sends a pretty strong message to adults about co-parenting. Actress Lisa Jakub, who played eldest daughter Lydia, told Vulture Magazine that she still has fans who come to see her and accuse her character of being a brat, even to this day.
3/11 Upside down
Upside down is an animated film that deals with the complexity of human emotions and brain development. It was conceived by director and co-writer Pete Docter, who came up with the idea after witnessing the personality change his daughter experienced as she got older. The film took five and a half years to make, and the production team consulted neuroscientists and psychologists to accurately describe the human mind. The film reminds us all that not only are all emotions healthy, but that a wide range of emotions are necessary for natural brain development. There is currently a sequel in the works, which will be released in 2024.
2/11 The big sick
In one of the best cute dating moments in years, Kumail confronts a heckler after his comedy show. Rowdy Emily, however, ends up charming Kumail by insisting that she was only enthusiastically supporting her. The couple then ends up having a naughty debate about what constitutes heckling. The big sick is one of the best heartfelt comedies to watch as it details the tragic yet hopeful real-life circumstances of how Kumail Najiani met his wife and co-writer, Emily Gordon. According to The Washington Post, Emily fell into a medically induced coma shortly after the couple met, and it was this experience that inspired them to co-write the popular comedy.
1/11 Steel Magnolias
Steel Magnolias is a definitive example of heartfelt comedy. The story revolves around a tight-knit group of Louisiana women who face life and loss together. The film’s tagline says it all “The funniest movie that ever made you cry”. Additionally, the film features a phenomenal cast of actresses including Olympia Dukakis, Sally Field, Daryl Hannah, Shirley MacLaine, Dolly Parton, and Julia Roberts.