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Ali Plumb's 21 best 21st century "feel-good" films

Sometimes you just want to watch a movie that'll put a smile on your face. Personally, just thinking about a scene from the likes Cool Runnings or Mrs. Doubtfire will see me grinning.

But those are 1990s throwbacks, what about something more recent? What over past two decades has the same instant-cheerfulness factor as, say, When Harry Met Sally?

Here are 21 of my favourite 21st century charmers that are nigh-on guaranteed to make you happy (and maybe a little bit sad along the way too, sure, but rough with the smooth).

A few caveats however, otherwise this list would have 210 entries and not 21, so...

No Pixar or Disney as they're the kings of this, so maybe check out my "Top five" Pixar list if you're curious.

No rom-coms if possible - sorry all you About Time fans, I know you are legion - as I've already put a list together of my recent favourites.

Actually while I think about it, let's not have too many teen movies here either - Booksmart and/or Lady Bird and/or Mean Girls might be on your list for example - as I'd love to you check out my recommendations in that department over thisaway.

And there's also The Hunt For The Wilderpeople, Taika Waititi's beautiful and funny odd couple comedy about stepfather and his newly adopted son getting lost in the New Zealand bush, but as that was a key part of my "Top 5 'Underseen' 21st Century Comedies" list, I thought I best not double up here as well.

But with all those asterisks and exceptions made up top, let's do this: Ali Plumb's 21 best 21st century "feel-good" films.

Smiles at the ready, folks.

Eddie The Eagle (2016)

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Taron Egerton is excellent as the legendary British ski jumper - as is Hugh Jackman as his grumpy trainer - in this uplifting (ho ho) sports biopic comedy-drama concoction. Very much in the Cool Runnings mould, but that's no bad thing at all.

The Lego Batman Movie (2017)

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The two "regular" Lego Movies also deserve to be on this list, but I wanted to give a particular shout-out to the thoroughly bonkers and truly brilliant Batman spin-off, with Will Arnett's plastic caped crusader butting heads with Zach Galifianakis's Joker in a 104-minute flurry of jokes, references and some truly ludicrous set-pieces.

Stardust (2007)

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Robert De Niro in a tutu? Michelle Pfeiffer as a wicked witch? Flying pirate ships? The most absurd castlist of all time, with everyone from Adam Buxton to Claire Danes to Sienna Miller to Henry Cavill to Ian McKellen and back again? All in a delightfully over-the-top romantic fantasy adventure film based on a Neil Gaiman novel? Capped off with an absurdly catchy theme song from Take That? Well... it all begs the question: what's not to like?

School Of Rock (2003)

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Bar perhaps High Fidelity, it's hard to think of a Jack Black performance that rivals his in the ever-loveable School Of Rock, a cult classic that's proved so popular there's now a West End stage musical version as well as a Nickelodeon TV show. Think about it: only a top-of-his-game Jack Black could truly convince a posh prep school he was indeed a substitute teacher called Ned Schneebly. That's real acting, that is.

Amélie (2001)

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With its gnomes, photobooths and accordion-heavy score, Amélie is undeniably very, very twee. And yes, its baguette-snappingly Frenchy Frenchness may not be for everyone, but round our way it's universally agreed that it's so darn charming you'd have to have a heart of stone not to fall under its spell. If you haven't rewatched it recently - hell, even if you have - press play on Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain as soon as you can to remind yourself why you fell in love with Audrey Tautou in the first place.

The Muppets (2011)

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Its follow-up Muppets Most Wanted (2014) may have only been so so, but the original big-screen Muppetational reboot was so so good, a delightful joy that balances a self-aware wryness with just the right amount of out and out positivity. This was also the movie that gave Bret McKenzie - AKA Bret from Flight Of The Conchords - an Oscar for writing the Best Original Song of that year, 'Man Or Muppet'.

The Paddingtons (2014, 2017)

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Whenever I'm asked for a cheer-me-up family-friendly movie, my first follow-up question is almost always "Have you seen either of the Paddingtons before?" Seriously though, they really are your first port of call. Beautifully put together by the amazingly talented Paul King (The Mighty Boosh, Bunny and the Bull), this is Britain's answer to Amelie in the "make the capital city of your country look like a fairy tale" stakes, only instead of a shy barista it's a very polite bear. Us Brits are odd. In a good way.

How to Train Your Dragon (2010)

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Yes, there's Shrek and Kung Fu Panda and Trolls and the Madagascar gang, but the real jewel in Dreamworks' crown is the How To Train Your Dragon series, a stunning coming of age fantasy family adventure with one of the most adorable characters seen on screen: the loveable nightfury dragon known as Toothless. I have a thousand compliments for this movie, but if I were to pick only one it would be the score, with John Powell's score a regular favourite of mine for when I'm writing. It's on in the background now, as it happens!

Pitch Perfect (2012)

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Bridesmaids gets a lot of attention, much like Mean Girls before it, but my favourite feel-good girl gang comedy movie of recent years is Pitch Perfect, combining as it does a cappella battle raps and some occasional gross-out humour. The tone, the music, the casting... it's all very well put together. I have a particular soft spot for John Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks (who went on to direct the sequel, by the by) for their roles as the commentators at the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella finals, as they always make me laugh, but this is Anna Kendrick's movie, let's be honest.

Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011)

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I'm breaking my own rules here, sneaking in a rom-com, but after I banged the drum for Easy A before I felt bad for not reminding you all of Crazy, Stupid, Love and its crazy, stupid loveliness. If the Six Degrees Of Kevin Bacon-helping castlist weren't enough of a reason to watch it - why hello Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore, Emma Stone, Marisa Tomei and, um, Kevin Bacon - make sure you see this film if only for Carell's thunderclap slap on Gosling's beautiful Baby Goose face right at the end.

Pride (2014)

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Criminally underseen, Pride is an uplifting British historical comedy-drama that may make you think of Billy Elliott, Brassed Off, Full Monty and more recently Military Wives - another big recommendation from me, by the way - telling the story of a group of lesbian and gay activists who raised money to help families affected by the British miners' strike in 1984. I remember loving this film on release, and thinking about it again now may make it my pick for this evening's viewing, pushed across the line by double checking the castlist, boasting as it does almost all of your favourites, including Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton, Dominic West, Paddy Considine, Andrew Scott and George MacKay.

Sing Street (2016)

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A big round of applause to John Carney, who directed Once once (ahem), and nearly a decade later co-wriote, co-produced and directed Sing Street, another music-themed film set in Ireland. It's the 1980s, and a boy (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo as Cosmo) is trying to impress a girl (Lucy Boynton as Raphina) by starting a band. An old story we've all heard before perhaps, but Sing Street is different, a true pleasure to watch with a bittersweet core running through it. Jack Reynor as Cosmo's brother Brendan really hits home with me, making me well up just a little bit every time I watch it. But again, I promise you this is a feel-good film. Kinda. Sorta. Mostly.

The Dish (2000)

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There's a decent chance you've never heard of The Dish, an Australian comedy-drama that tells the story of the Parkes Observatory - a radio telescope observatory with the massive dish mentioned in the title - and how it helped relay the live television transmission of the 1969 lunar landings. Sounds dry written out like that, but with Sam Neill at the helm and a fascinating story to tell, this 96%-on-Rotten-Tomatoes beauty is well worth seeking out.

The Peanut Butter Falcon (2019)

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Shown in what felt like three cinemas in the UK on its release, The Peanut Butter Falcon had a whole new lease of life once it hit streaming. A proper crowdpleasing indie, TPBF (as I like to call it) centres around a young man with Down syndrome (Zack Gottsagen) who wants to leave his assisted living facility and become a wrestler. As you do. Helped on his quest by a similarly on the run thief-cum-fisherman Tyler (Shia LaBeouf), the unlikely duo travel cross country to find their local grand master of wrestling, "The Salt Water Redneck" (Thomas Haden Church). Empowering, enlightening, wonderful, The Peanut Butter Falcon was one of my favourite films of last year, casually earning comparisons to such adored films as Kings Of Summer and Little Miss Sunshine - and I'd love for you to watch it.

Chef (2014)

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When he's not remaking The Lion King or The Jungle Book, helping out in the Marvel Cinematic Universe or creating the first ever live-action Star Wars series - that's The Mandalorian, by the way - writer-director-actor Jon Favreau sometimes likes to make a film for himself. Chef is one of those films, a labour of love about family, food and what really matters in this world. Cinema has had its fair share of disastrous food-focussed films, such as Bradley Cooper's 2014 misfire Burnt, but Chef really hits the spot.

Fighting With My Family (2019)

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Florence Pugh (Midsommar, Little Women, the upcoming Black Widow movie) is so hot right now. But if you're a true fan you'll be well aware of Fighting With My Family, a biographical comedy-drama about WWE veteran Paige's journey from Norfolk to America's Titan Towers. Directed and written by Stephen Merchant, produced by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson (who also cameos) and featuring winning turns from Lena Headey, Nick Frost, Jack Lowden, Vince Vaughn and of course Pugh herself, this is a slick but sweet story of sporting success, and even if you can't get past the feeling it's distractingly flattering to the WWE itself, the script, characters and performances see it through.

Sunshine On Leith (2013)

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When it comes to 21st century top-tapping, people-pleasing musicals, there are a few to choose from - e.g. Mamma Mia, Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again and the The Greatest Showman - but I'd like to shine a light on the underseen Proclaimers musical romance Sunshine On Leith. Yes, it's got all the songs you'd expect, and even a cameo from Craig and Charlie themselves, but also a humongous heart. Described best as a "big sloppy kiss of a film", this is a bold, sappy delight from director Dexter Fletcher, who also gave us Eddie The Eagle earlier on this list, as well as helping get Bohemian Rhapsody over the line last year.

Hitch (2004)

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Oh look! Another sneaky rom-com, what's wrong with you Ali? Well, it's Will Smith and Eva Mendes, an absurdly catchy soundtrack and a pleasingly preposterious "date doctor" set-up, and I just can't resist. And yes, half-way through the film it goes on plot autopilot, but there's something about that when it comes to rom-coms that really pleases me: I know what I'm getting and I am very happy to get it.

The Way Way Back (2013)

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Not to be confused with The Way Back (a Ben Affleck basketball drama release this year) or the other The Way Back (a prisoner of war drama by Peter Wier from 2010), The Way, Way Back is the directorial debut of Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, who previously won the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for The Descendants. The premise of The Way, Way Back is simple enough: a shy 14-year-old called Duncan finds solace at a local water park whilst on holiday with his mother (Toni Collette) and her terrible, terrible boyfriend (Steve Carell). There is some darker stuff here, but it pays off in the end, delivering a sweet, charming coming-of-age story with an impressive cast and witty tone.

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

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What is there to say about the forever-watchable, meticulously crafted Wes Anderson gem that is The Grand Budapest Hotel? Beautiful, charming, intricate, delicately observed, wonderfully contsructed and stuffed full of all your Anderson favourites - Murray, Dafoe, Schwartzman etc - it's one of those films I am always in the mood for, whatever the weather.

Shaun Of The Dead (2004) / Hot Fuzz (2007)

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As the old joke goes, "Switch on ITV2 any time of day and chances are you're only an hour away from Shaun Of The Dead or Hot Fuzz" and there's some truth to that, sure, they are both "always on" and there's a reason why: we love them. They are, simply put, funny, clever, exciting, uniquely British and incredibly rewatchable. Find someone who doesn't love at least one of these movies and you've got yourself some sort of zombie, honestly.