The Best Comfort Movies to Stream

From classics like 'Roman Holiday' and 'Paper Moon' to '90s comedies like 'The Birdcage,' here's what to watch when you want something nice.

comfort movies to watch
Design by Maitane Romagosa for Thrillist
Design by Maitane Romagosa for Thrillist

A nice movie can do the soul good. Whether you need a pick-me-up, pleasant background noise, or something to watch with a friend, certain films make the world seem a bit brighter. Maybe they help us escape our own lives, or maybe they mirror experiences that scratch a particular nostalgic itch. Whatever the reason, Thrillist has compiled a list of comfort movies available on various streaming platforms.

the birdcage
MGM

The Birdcage (1996)

Whatever the season, whatever the time, it's never wrong to watch The Birdcage, Mike Nichols' brilliant adaptation of the French film La Cage Aux Folles. Robin Williams and Nathan Lane play the couple who own and headline, respectively, a South Beach nightclub. The son (Dan Futterman) of Williams' character from a one-time fling with a woman (Christine Baranski) returns home to announce that he's getting married to the daughter (Calista Flockhart) of a conservative senator (Gene Hackman). It's a culture-clash comedy that's both dated and still distressingly relevant, anchored by incredible performances, whether it's Lane shrieking, Williams doing a symphony of dance, or Hackman describing trees.
Where to watch: Hulu, HBO Max

breakfast club molly ringwald
Universal Pictures

The Breakfast Club (1985)

One of the greatest coming-of-age films of all time, John Hughes' iconic The Breakfast Club brings together a high school bad boy, jock, nerd, prep, and oddball who seemingly have nothing in common except for the fact that they’ve got to spend their Saturday together in detention. There, each one of them is made to write an essay about who they think they are, and in doing so, come together, learning more about themselves and others they assumed to know everything about. It’s a classic Brat Pack flick featuring a legendary young ensemble cast, and its screenplay stands the test of time.
Where to watch: Hulu

bridget jones renee zellweger
Miramax Films

Bridget Jones's Diary (2001)

One of the quintessential early-aughts rom-coms, and possibly the seminal modern romance based around a notebook (sorry, The Notebook!), Bridget Jones is a wickedly funny Pride and Prejudice spin that forces Renee Zellweger’s discombobulated anti-heroine to choose between two equally dashing Brits-with-Jane-Austen-acting-credits: Colin Firth’s prissy Mark Darcy and Hugh Grant’s womanizing Daniel Cleaver. It's the ultimate rom-com Sophie's choice.
Where to watch: HBO Max

clueless alicia silverstone
Paramount Pictures

Clueless (1995)

The seminal teen flick of the '90s, Clueless gave us countless gifts that we've carried into adulthood, courtesy of iconic Beverly Hills heroine Cher Horowitz, with her giant phone, unparalleled bubblegum-pulling skills, Valley Girl slang, and matching plaid. If you've never seen it before, you'll be surprised at how many one-liners still work two decades later, from "It does not say RSVP on the Statue of Liberty" to "You're a virgin who can't drive." And that's not the only thing that still works, including impeccable wardrobes, sharp social commentary, and Alicia Silverstone's all-time performance.
Where to watch: Amazon

dazed and confused senior boys
Gramercy Pictures

Dazed and Confused (1993)

You get older, but this last-day-of-school classic stays the same age. Richard Linklater's seminal '70s hangout movie (and a precursor to his 2016 college baseball period piece Everybody Wants Some!!) lets you party with the cool kids on the eve of summer vacation—who don't spare the poor freshmen from getting hazed. Most importantly, it introduced us to the mustachioed and prophetic Matthew McConaughey we know and love today.
Where to watch: Peacock

fantastic mr fox
20th Century Fox

Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

Wes Anderson adapted Roald Dahl’s beloved children’s novel for his first stop-motion feature film. Featuring a sly George Clooney as the voice of the titular character, who's been busy pissing off farmers for stealing their crop, the movie showcases a classic man-versus-woodland-critters conflict. It's exactly what you would want out of an animated Anderson film, starring his typical cast of characters (Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, plus Meryl Streep) as the voices of anthropomorphized creatures. It's also just plain cute.
Where to watch: Amazon, Disney+

cameron diaz in the holiday
Sony

The Holiday (2006)

A movie about two women (Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet) who live across the world but decide to swap their equally gorgeous homes over Christmas—and happen to find love while on vacation? The Holiday could not be more indulgent, and yet because it leans into its too-good-to-be-true premise, the Nancy Meyers-helmed film is a gift wrapped up with a bow. Not only is there every stereotypical rom-com element you could wish for—including Jude Law as a hot, sensitive dad—there’s also a whole lot of house porn in Winslet’s character’s quaint English cottage opposite the contemporary LA mansion Diaz’s uptight Hollywood exec resides in. Your Airbnb holiday excursion experience may have looked a tad different than the photos and didn’t come with a whirlwind romance, but you can watch the extravagance of The Holiday and dream it did.
Where to watch: HBO Max

the iron giant
Warner Bros. Pictures

The Iron Giant (1999)

A young boy gets a lot more than a big pal when he discovers a giant robot chewing on an electrical station near his house. The amnesiac robot hides a secret—he's actually an alien war machine—but his true nature isn't concealed for long, as a trigger-happy military confronts the robot, to the boy's horror. Vin Diesel is perfect as the voice of the giant, and The Incredibles director Brad Bird, making his first feature film, guides the rest of the cast to spot-on performances as well. The film imagines that a boy's idealism could transform even the greatest destructive force on Earth; that itself is pretty incredible.
Where to watch: HBO Max

geena davis in a league of their own
Columbia Pictures

A League of Their Own (1992)

The Penny Marshall movie that famously taught us that there’s no crying in baseball follows a (fictional) season of the (real) Rockford Peaches, who played in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, founded during World War II when many of the best Major Leaguers were off in the service. With a roster of actresses including Geena Davis, Lori Petty, Madonna, and Rosie O’Donnell, the Peaches try to save their league, win a title, and in their most daunting challenge, turn around their alcoholic jerk of a manager (Tom Hanks). It will make you laugh. It will make you cry. It will make you debate whether Dottie dropped the ball on purpose.
Where to watch: Amazon, The Roku Channel

lord of the rings
New Line Cinema

The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001–2003) 

Ask any group of people what their favorite comfort movies are, and Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy is bound to come up. The improbably and singularly incredible adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien's genre-defining books have become a staple for many around the holiday season, for no other reason than that's when they happened to debut in theaters, and that's also the period where most of us have enough free time to watch all 9+ hours (extended editions, obviously). It's the highest of high fantasy, with effects-heavy battle scenes, instantly recognizable musical themes, and the sort of beautiful, meticulously designed sets and costumes you just don't see in movies much anymore, a feast for the senses whose main throughline is the power and comfort found in close friendships.
Where to watch: HBO Max

magic mike channing tatum
Warner Bros. Pictures

Magic Mike XXL (2015)

Magic Mike XXL improves upon its predecessor immeasurably, but not how you’d expect. Instead of replicating or even expanding upon the original, XXL, ahem, strips it down, excising extraneous plot to focus exclusively on pleasure. The result is a refreshing, even radical movie, and one that doesn’t care remotely for the obligations of convention with Channing Tatum and the rest of the six-packed crew setting out on the road for one last hurrah at a male stripper convention. It's one of the purest iterations of a "hanging out with your boys" movies—making your heart equally warm and taken with exquisite talent. Who knew convenience store strip teases could be both hot and the peak example of dude camaraderie?
Where to watch: HBO Max

kirsten dunst in marie antoinette
Sony

Marie Antoinette (2006)

Shot on location at the Palace of Versailles and tricked out with a post-punk soundtrack, Sofia Coppola's unconventional biopic about France's rebel princess is glamorous confection. The Lost in Translation writer-director chooses effervescent drama over expositional info-dumping, going all in on the irresistible glow of her Virgin Suicides star Kirsten Dunst. She runs mad around the palace, spends oodles of money on cakes and dresses, and occasionally bares it all, leaving her eyes to do the talking. Marie learns lessons, but those of us watching are just there for an 18th-century hipster ride.
Where to watch: Hulu, Pluto TV

moonstruck
MGM

Moonstruck (1987)

If you have not yet been initiated into the cult of Moonstruck, this is your order. Norman Jewison's classic rom-com about a widowed Italian-American woman who falls in love with her new fiancé's asshole brother has only grown its fan base over the years. Nothing, literally nothing, is more romantic than watching Cher and Nic Cage just screaming at each other—and few have ever looked as incredible in a performance as they do.
Where to watch: HBO Max, Hulu, The Roku Channel

my neighbor totoro tree branch
Toho

My Neighbor Totoro (1988)

Any of animation master Hayao Miyazaki's movies constitute comfort food, but there's something especially soothing about My Neighbor Totoro, which feels like childhood bottled into a note-perfect package. In rural 1950s Japan, the two girls at the film's center distract themselves from their beloved mother's illness by exploring their new house and the surrounding woods. There, they meet the rotund spirit cited in the title, as well as other creatures who guide them through the magic that surrounds their dwelling. It's a festive look at the fantasies kids concoct to make sense of the world.
Where to watch: HBO Max

paddington bear
StudioCanal

Paddington (2014)

These days, popular children's properties get adapted all of the time, but few have been as incredible and, frankly, cinematic-history-making as Paddington. Paul King's movie about the beloved bear created by Michael Bond and found in London's Paddington Station is best described as a whimsical children's movie with Wes Anderson-like sensibilities, from its colorful design to its quirky sense of humor. The bear (adorably voiced by Ben Whishaw) may get in many kerfuffles—he is new to London, after all—yet you can't help but love him more and more with each misstep, just like his darling adoptive family, the Browns. No matter how old you are, Paddington will warm your heart like a spot of tea and marmalade on biscuits. (And trust us: You'll want to hit play on the even better Paddington 2 after just one watch.)
Where to watch: Netflix

paper moon tatum o'neal
Paramount Pictures

Paper Moon (1973)

There’s a reason Tatum O'Neal remains the youngest Oscar winner in history: Her performance as a Depression-era orphan is one of the greatest child performances ever committed to film. But Paper Moon is no downer. A winsome but meaningful road romp about a con man (Ryan O'Neal, Tatum's real-life father) who teams up with a 9-year-old who may or may not be his daughter, the movie coasts on charm while still touching on resonant ideas about class.
Where to watch: Amazon, Paramount+

roman holiday
Paramount Pictures

Roman Holiday (1953)

Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck: It doesn't get more swoony than that. With its gorgeous setting, princess-looking-for-something-more narrative, and clever banter, Roman Holiday helped establish the template for the next 50 years of romantic comedies to follow. What do most of the imitators lack? Well, mostly actors as charming, playful, and committed as Hepburn and Peck, who make chemistry look easy. Trust us, this is a vacation you'll want to go on more than once. Even the bittersweet ending hits exactly right note.
Where to watch: Amazon, The Roku Channel

rachel leigh cook in she's all that
Miramax Films

She's All That (1999)

Yeah, the premise is super outdated—hot jock meets "not hot" art chick and gives her a popularity-inducing makeover to make his ex-girlfriend jealous. Hello, patriarchal standards! Despite that premise, there's a lot that has made She's All That hold up in many ways over the years. The chemistry between Rachel Leigh Cook and Freddie Prinze Jr. still crackles, Taylor Vaughn remains an all-time high school mean girl, and with funny supporting performances from Anna Paquin and Matthew Lillard, it's a throwback to a time when playing hacky sack was socially acceptable.
Where to watch: HBO Max

the sweetest thing
Sony

The Sweetest Thing (2002)

Of course many raunch comedies existed by the early aughts, but few were entirely fronted by women. Enter the wrongly maligned The Sweetest Thing, which cast Cameron Diaz, Christina Applegate, and Selma Blair as party girls who treat men like toys to play with—until the man-eater of them all, played by Diaz, finds herself taken by a single meet-cute, which sends the group on a wild trip to track him down. It's your typical rom-com—except spiked—full of ridiculous gags that groups of girlfriends find themselves cracking up over on a night out.
Where to watch: Netflix

waiting to exhale
20th Century Fox

Waiting to Exhale (1995)

A friendship movie that sometimes plays like a revenge epic, Waiting to Exhale has one of the 1990s' most thrilling casts. Whitney Houston, Angela Bassett, Loretta Devine, and Harlem Nights' Lela Rochon play close friends who have lost their faith in men, while Gregory Hines, Dennis Haysbert, Mykelti Williamson, Michael Beach, and Wesley Snipes portray some of those men. It's best known as the movie where Bassett blows up her husband's car. What more do you need to know?
Where to watch: HBO Max

when harry met sally
Columbia Pictures

When Harry Met Sally (1989)

There are many reasons why we remember this classic as one of the best rom-coms of all time (if not the best). We all know the big scenes in this movie: the "Can men and women be friends?" conversation in the car, the fake orgasm, the run through the streets of New York on New Year's Eve. But our favorite scene of this Nora Ephron-penned movie, just ahead of all the adorable old couples who tie for second, is a small one: Harry, upset because he saw his ex, picks a fight with Sally in their friends' apartment. Sally calls him on it, and midway through her recitation of how he's an asshole, you see his face change. He waits for her to finish, then says, "I'm sorry." A little scene that makes you care about and believe in these two people, and makes the final payoff, which When Harry Met Sally nurtures from beginning to end, all the more rewarding.
Where to watch: HBO Max, Netflix