Coronavirus: wholesome movies to watch while self-isolating – and where to stream them

To take your mind off the fact that you’re running out of loo roll

As the news gets grimmer by the day it’s more important than ever to focus on the things that make you happy. Going to the cinema might not be an option at the moment, but you can still go to your happy place at home thanks to Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and the other movie-streaming channels.

If you’re stuck inside over the next few weeks, turn off the news, put your feet up and enjoy these wholesome movies that are guaranteed to take your mind off the fact that you’re running out of loo roll.

Warning: the following films contain no unhappy endings, no scenes of overcrowded hospitals, no zombie apocalypses, and no gratuitous hand-washing.

Fighting with My Family

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What’s it about? If you’re self-isolating with your own family, the name of this one might be enough to make you keep scrolling – but stick with it and you’ll find one of the best feel-good sports comedies of the last few years. The sort of true story of a Norwich girl turned WWE superstar, Florence Pugh stars as the British amateur wrestler who finds herself training in America with The Rock (played by The Rock) whilst her older brother (Jack Lowden) gets overlooked back home. Sweet, funny, and stupidly entertaining, it’s also a testament to just how good Pugh really is since she made it in the same year as Midsommar and Little Women.

Runtime: 1h48m

Where to stream: Netflix

Missing Link

What’s it about? Robbed at this year’s Oscars, Missing Link lost out to Toy Story 4 because… Disney. Made by Laika, the animation house that gave us Coraline, Paranorman, The Boxtrolls (also on Netflix) and Kubo And The Two Strings, their latest stop-motion adventure is less kooky and more ambitious than anything they’ve done before – following the travels of a Victorian explorer (Hugh Jackman) and a gentle, slightly anxiety-ridden Bigfoot (Zach Galifianakis) as they make their way from America to the Himalayas. Gorgeously rendered in clay models, it’s a really refined, unique take on the fish out of water story that already feels like a family classic.

Runtime: 1h35m

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Where to watch: Netflix

Groundhog Day

What’s it about? another potential nope for anyone who’s already bored of waking up to the same news, staring at the same walls and using the same roll of toilet paper, Harold Ramis’ 1993 classic is actually the perfect antidote to self-isolation – with a warm-hearted message about how best to use our time, even when every day looks exactly the same as the one before. It’s also probably one of the greatest, smartest, sharpest comedies ever made, seeing Bill Murray on top form as a cynical TV weatherman caught in a never-ending time loop until he starts trying to figure out how to be a better person.

Runtime: 1h41m

Where to watch: Netflix

Fantastic Mr Fox

What’s it about? The marriage of Roald Dahl and Wes Anderson was always going to be amazing, but there’s something about the animated adaptation of Fantastic Mr Fox that feels like a special kind of magic. Painstakingly handmade – every frame looks like a page from an autumn scrapbook – and voice-acted with vintage charm by the likes of George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Bill Murray and Owen Wilson, it’s Dahl’s storytelling and Anderson’s sense of whimsy that meet to make the film really glow.

Runtime: 1h28m

Where to watch: Amazon Prime

The Terminal

What’s it about? Another film about someone being stuck somewhere they really don’t want to be, Steven Spielberg’s gentlest of human comedies makes the very best of a bad situation – showing how an admin error can leave a man merrily living in an airport terminal for 18 years. “I wanted to do a movie that could make us laugh and cry and feel good about the world,” Spielberg said at the time. “This is a time when we need to smile more and Hollywood movies are supposed to do that for people in difficult times.” It also stars Tom Hanks, who always makes everything better.

Runtime: 2h8m

Where to watch: Netflix

The Pursuit Of Happyness

What’s it about? Not an easy one to recommend if you’re feeling fragile, The Pursuit Of Happyness will almost definitely make you cry (in a good way though). The true story of a homeless salesman (Will Smith) who does everything he can to provide for his five-year-old son (an adorable little Jaden Smith), prepare to have your heart strings played like a fiddle by Italian director Gabriele Muccino. The Smiths both do an amazing job but it all comes down to that ending. Get the tissues ready, if you have any left in the house.

Runtime: 1h57m

Where to watch: Netflix

Mistress America

What’s it about? If you liked Little Women or Marriage Story, you’ll love Mistress America – directed by Noah Baumbach and written by and starring Greta Gerwig, the film sees them leave behind the hipster chic of their earlier work and aim for something a bit sweeter. Pitched like a classic screwball-comedy, it’s a quick-witted coming-of-age story about a girl (Lola Kirke) who moves to New York and falls in with her kooky stepsister (Gerwig). Fresh, funny and snappily written, it makes you feel smarter just by watching it – all the while paying off like a warm hug on a crisp New York day.

Runtime: 1h26m

Where to watch: Netflix

Rango

What’s it about? Back when Johnny Depp was on top of the world with Pirates Of The Caribbean, and back when director Gore Verbinski was helping to put him there, the pair decided to do something really… different. An old-timey Western made entirely with animated desert animals, starring Depp as a pampered pet chameleon doing a weird Hunter S. Thompson impression, it’s hard to compare it to pretty much anything else. Great fun for kids, even more so for grown-ups, it feels like a Bank Holiday afternoon every time you watch it.

Runtime: 1h51m

Where to watch: Netflix

Paddington (and Paddington 2)

What’s it about? Is Paddington the best British kids film ever made? Probably. To be honest, it’s between that and Paddington 2, which is also streaming on Prime, so you can waste more than three happy hours in the company of Ben Whishaw’s marmalade munching bear over the next few weeks. A perfect mix of silly slapstick, family adventure and refined Wes Anderson-style art direction, Paddington always feels like it’s made for whatever mood you’re in – coming off like a favourite picture book that you keep picking up just to spot the things you missed the last time.

Runtime: 1h35m (3h32m)

Where to watch: Amazon Prime

Free Willy

What’s it about? You know who really understands what it’s like to be trapped inside for weeks? Willy. Putting all other rescued dolphin/seal/dog/monkey movies to shame, Free Willy came out in 1993 and ruined the ending for an entire generation by printing the final scene on the damned poster. It doesn’t really matter though. Of course Willy the whale gets free in the end, but it’s his journey that really warms the heart – from getting captured as a calf and befriending an ASBO kid, to his exciting final escape that looks even better than the still on the poster.

Runtime: 1h52

Where to watch: Netflix

The Kings Of Summer

What’s it about? Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts before he graduated to Kong: Skull Island and the upcoming Metal Gear Solid movie, The Kings Of Summer is the indie coming-of-ager that captured a moment back in 2013. A lazy, sun-dappled Sunday of a film, don’t expect much to happen besides watching a bunch of kids slowly start growing up – runaways who decide to live together in a tree house so they can get away from their parents for a bit. It tackles a few tough themes, so it’s not an entirely easy ride, but it still leaves you feeling like you’ve had a nice sleepy day in the sun.

Runtime: 1h36m

Where to watch: Amazon Prime

Eddie The Eagle

What’s it about? Actor turned director Dexter Fletcher has spent the last few years perfecting the feel-good formula – from gleeful Scottish musical Sunshine On Leith to last year’s singalong Rocketman – but it’s this little gem from 2015 that’s still the one to beat. An underdog sports movie to rival Cool Runnings, Eddie The Eagle is the true story of a plucky British plasterer (Taron Egerton) who decided to be an Olympic ski jumper despite not being able to ski. Egerton is terrific, the skiing scenes are hilarious, and it the ending actually makes you stand up and cheer, no matter how many times you watch it.

Runtime: 1h46m

Where to watch: Amazon Prime

Stan & Ollie

What’s it about? Even if you don’t know much about Laurel and Hardy, Jon S. Baird’s late life biopic is still a perfectly lovely story about two old friends coming to terms with the fact that they’re a bit past their prime. If you are a fan though (and you should be – check out a host of classic shorts available on Prime and YouTube if not), Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly’s spot-on performances are a particular treat. More upbeat than it probably sounds, it’s a film that feels like spending a nice afternoon in with your grandparents. Watch with tea and biscuits.

Runtime: 1h39m

Where to watch: Amazon prime

Captain Fantastic

What’s it about? If everyone lived like Ben Cash (Viggo Mortensen), we probably wouldn’t have to worry about the coronavirus. The definition of wholesome family entertainment, Captain Fantastic is about a family so wholesome that they decide to live on a school bus – educating themselves, living off the land, and playing by their own rules of being nice to each other. It’s not that simple, of course, and reality comes crashing in to ruin the never-ending road trip, but Mortensen’s single dad is flecked with enough good intentions to keep the wheels spinning. A lesson in living your best life that plays like the perfect antidote to visiting a supermarket at the moment.

Runtime: 1h58m

Where to watch: Netflix

Spirited Away

What’s it about? Last month saw Netflix gift us the second drop from their new Studio Ghibli back catalogue, with classic gems like My Neighbour Totoro, Princess Mononoke, Tales From Earthsea and Kiki’s Delivery Service all now available to stream. If you’re new to Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki you can start anywhere, but you might as well start with the best – 2001’s Oscar-winning fairytale that unfolds the story of a young girl who disappears into the spirit world when her parents move house. Part Wizard Of Oz, part Alice In Wonderland, Spirited Away is very much it’s own weird and wonderful slice of beautifully hand-drawn magic. And if you like this, there’s already enough Ghibli on Netflix to see you through whole days of binge-watching – with more expected to drop over the coming weeks.

Runtime: 2h5m

Where to watch: Netflix

Brooklyn

What’s it about? Shutting up everyone who moans that “they don’t make ’em like they used to”, John Crowley’s sweeping period romance swoons under the warmth of a dozen other classic Hollywood love stories. Saoirse Ronan soars as Ellis Fiorello, a young girl who immigrates to New York in the 1950s, eventually finding a man on both sides of the Atlantic. Will she go for Tony (Emory Cohen) or Jim (Domhnall Gleeson)? America or Ireland? Crowley’s old-fashioned weepie is a joy to spend a long afternoon with.

Runtime:1h57m

Where to watch: Amazon Prime

Jumanji

What’s it about? You can stick on almost any Robin Williams film and instantly feel better about the germy world going on outside your window (apart from One Hour Photo. And Insomnia. And Jakob The Liar…), but Jumanji might be the best of the best. We’re not talking about the new one with Dwyane Johnson in it either, we’re talking about the original, made in 1995 with some slightly dodgy CGI and a star turn from Williams as a man-boy trapped in a jungle-themed board game. The ultimate family adventure movie, the special effects might have dated a bit but the big-hearted spirit of the film hasn’t aged a day.

Runtime: 1h59m

Where to watch: Netflix

Toy Story

What’s it about? When Disney+ lands in the UK on March 24th, your living room will get a whole lot more wholesome. Deadly virus or not, an unlimited pick’n’mix of classic Disney animations, Marvel, Star Wars and Pixar is enough of a reason to stay in front of your TV for a few weeks anyway. When it comes to picking the best, the most feel-good, and the greatest cure for the self-isolation-blues, there’s only really one right answer. The original toy-box toon, the ultimate buddy movie, and the only sure-fire way to feel good when everything else is a bit rubbish – hang out with Woody and Buzz for the afternoon and everything will be just fine.

Runtime: 1h21m

Where to watch: Disney+ (From March 24)

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