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Chill out with the most calming movies of all time

Movies are designed to evoke emotions, but the most calming movies are designed to relax viewers with feel good stories.

Movies serve a wide variety of functions in our lives. Some movies make us sweat, have nightmares, or sob uncontrollably. Sometimes, though, the real world inspires enough emotion all by itself. When the real world has got you feeling a little overwhelmed, you may look to a more calming movie experience to ease you into or out of a stressful situation.

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Calming movies can come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. Since calming is not a genre distinction in and of itself, some of these movies are dramas, some are comedies, and others are kids’ movies. However, the relaxation they inspire in viewers unites them all.

15. Chef

There’s a reason Food Network is considered comforting to some people. Watching people cook is satisfying, and there’s plenty to go around in Jon Favreau’s dramedy Chef. After a high-profile chef loses his job at a popular LA restaurant and ruins his reputation, he opens a food truck to strengthen his relationship with his son. The film is very much a love letter to food and the bonds we form while cooking together, making it the perfect comfort movie.

14. Wall-E

Four words: Cute robot love story. Regarded as one of Pixar’s best works, Wall-E revolves around the titular robot who finds himself flying away from Earth, the only planet he knows, and going on an unintended adventure to get humanity back to Earth with him. The score from Thomas Newman alone will bring you relaxation, but the gorgeous visuals of space will have you wishing you were flying among the stars with Wall-E and EVE.

13. The Princess Bride

Writing this list without including the iconic Rob Reiner film would be inconceivable. The mighty tale of Princess Buttercup and her true love Wesley, The Princess Bride, is a unique take on everything you love about classic fairytales and adventure stories. With so many iconic quotes and scenes, it’s nothing but magic watching this film.

12. Fantastic Mr. Fox

Wes Anderson’s films are known for their atmospheric worlds and stylized directing approach, and no film shows this better than Fantastic Mr. Fox, his first foray into stop-motion filmmaking. Based on a Roald Dahl novel, the film focuses on Mr. Fox leading his community on a series of heists while avoiding capture by the three farmers they’re heisting from. The stop motion really makes this film feel like a children’s novel jumping off the page at you.

11. National Treasure

You may not consider a high-stakes action film like National Treasure calming, but when you remember how ridiculous the premise is, it becomes much funnier to watch than stressful. Nicholas Cage stars as Benjamin Franklin Gates (because, of course) as he hits the East Coast’s finest historical landmarks in a search for treasure that American revolutionaries have hidden for centuries. This is a perfect movie to watch when you just want to turn your brain off and go along for the ride, no matter how silly it gets.

10. The Big Sick

Romantic comedies are no longer in their prime, but The Big Sick is great because of all the ways it avoids the cliches of that genre. Most of the movie takes place after the couple at its center has broken up, and one has fallen into a coma. Based on the true story of Kumail Nanjiani’s relationship with his wife, Emily Gordon, the story is at least half about Kumail’s relationship with his future in-laws and the expectations placed on him to marry a Muslim woman. For all of its serious ideas, though, The Big Sick is a funny, happy movie with just enough drama to keep you invested.

9. The Shop Around the Corner

A prototypical rom-com made and remade several times, The Shop Around the Corner tells the story of two shop employees who develop a pen-pal correspondence that gradually becomes romantic, even as they despise one another while working together. The movie is sweet and joyful, and it’s exactly the kind of thing to which you might turn if all you want is to relax and enjoy two people falling in love.

8. Magic Mike XXL

The first Magic Mike movie is at least partially about people left behind during the Great Recession, but Magic Mike XXL, the second film, is a much more upbeat experience. Although Mike retired from the stripper game at the end of the first film, he rejoins the Kings of Tampa as they travel to Myrtle Beach for a performance. The ensuing film is lovely, delicate, and filled with almost intoxicating joy.

7. Ocean’s 11

Heist movies can be taxing on the brain, but Ocean’s 11 goes down so smoothly. The mechanics of the heist are relatively straightforward, but they’re also not really the point. The point is watching handsome men act smoothly and take control of every situation. Also, watching Brad Pitt eat something in every scene is a nice bonus. It’s a movie with a wonderful vibe, and it’s also got peak performances from everyone in its sprawling ensemble cast, including George Clooney, Matt Damon, and Don Cheadle.

6. Good Will Hunting

Good Will Hunting is a sadder movie than many of the films on this list, but its sadness is so gentle and ultimately affirming. The film follows Will Hunting, a genius living a relatively small life partly because of buried childhood traumas. Matt Damon is excellent in the lead role, and although it’s clear that Will has been through some things, watching him emerge on the other side triumphant is one of the most soothing experiences you’ll find in a movie.

5. Sleepless in Seattle

Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, and Nora Ephron teamed up twice, and the first time, Hanks and Ryan barely shared any screen time. Despite that strange quirk of the script, Sleepless in Seattle is nonetheless one of the best romcoms of its era. It’s a movie about destiny and connection, and it’s hard to imagine a story that starts in a sadder place only to wind up in one so quietly hopeful.

4. Kiki’s Delivery Service

Hayao Miyazaki’s films are pretty calming, but Kiki’s Delivery Service may be the most so, in part, because it’s almost entirely devoid of conflict. The film follows Kiki, a witch who travels to a new city and tries to serve the people there. She opens a delivery service and spends most of the film being kind to the people around her. A few minor issues do emerge, but ultimately, what makes the film work is the ways it proves thoroughly compelling and relatively plotless.

3. Lady Bird

A great movie about growing up, Lady Bird is a quietly profound story about what it means to love where you’ve come from. The film follows a senior in high school as she decides where to go to college, alienates her best friend, and ultimately realizes what’s important to her and what isn’t. The film has an unironic appreciation for Dave Matthews, and it may be the most feel-good movie ever nominated for Best Picture.

2. The Big Lebowski

Film noir is not a genre that is always calming, but The Big Lebowski makes this list because it manages to be relaxing despite its genre confines. There is a fairly intricate plot going on here, but you don’t watch Lebowski for the plot. You watch it because it has one of the best vibes of any movie ever made and because of its ultimate parting message to viewers: don’t take anything, including this movie, too seriously.

1. Paddington 2

The kindest movie ever made, Paddington 2, is about what it means to be open-hearted and warm even when the people around you don’t necessarily deserve that treatment. The film follows Paddington on a series of misadventures as he is sent to prison, escapes, and must ultimately prove his innocence in stealing a pop-up book from London. Paddington 2 is so warm and good-natured that it’s easy to forget that it’s also expertly crafted, and filled to the brim with wonderful actors, including a remarkably great Hugh Grant.

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Joe Allen
Joe Allen is a freelance writer based out of upstate New York who has been covering movies and TV for more than five years. Joe has been featured in The Washington Post, Paste Magazine, and The Charleston Post Courier, and has a Master's in journalism from Syracuse University
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Bethany Wade
Bethany is a freelance writer for We Got This Covered focusing on TikTok and viral trends. When not addicted to her phone, she enjoys checking out the latest theatrical releases and catching up on the newest music. Previous writing credits include Film Daily and Film School Rejects.