As we head into 2020, we’re reflecting on the movies that brought us joy in 2019. In fact, looking back on the films that made us happy has scientific benefits: Laughter not only releases endorphins, it also strengthens your heart, according to a study by the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore.

We asked our Thrive community which movies made them happiest this year, and they told us about the documentaries that opened their eyes, the characters that reminded them of the power of kindness, and the stories that inspired them. Which of these films will you add to your holiday lineup?

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

“This movie was heartwarming, and it felt so hopeful. Tom Hanks perfectly portrayed the compassion and kindness of Mr. Rogers. What struck me most was his ability to deeply listen, be quiet, and reflect on the goodness of the person in front of him. It reminded me that neighbors are all around us: known and unknown. It’s a great lesson for this season.”

—Eileen McDargh, chief energy officer, The Resiliency Group, Dana Point, CA

Very Ralph

“I was blown away by HBO’s documentary on Ralph Lauren. Not only is he one of the most iconic figures in fashion, but he carries himself in such a respectable way. I had the privilege of meeting him and his family at the premiere in New York! As someone who eventually would love to produce engaging stories such as this, it was done unbelievably well and was a very inspiring story.”

—Dale Moss, NFL player and Special Olympics global ambassador, New York, NY


“From watching the entrancing trailers to reading about the standing ovation it received at the Cannes Film Festival, I was looking forward to seeing this movie — and it exceeded the hype. Delightful, gritty, and filled with moments of magical realism, this touching story showed the rise, struggles, and ultimate redemption of Elton John. I loved the lessons it taught about the importance of being true to yourself and rising above the mistakes we all make in life. Seeing it filled me with joy!”

—Shira Miller, chief communications officer, Atlanta, GA

The Peanut Butter Falcon 

“This movie brought me so much joy. It was refreshing, and it was the best movie I’ve seen in ages. I giggled throughout the movie, and at the end, I was inspired to keep chasing dreams. I can’t stop telling people about this one!”

—Nicole Koskovich, sales partner, Dallas, TX

The Beach Bum

“I know it sounds ridiculous, but my favorite movie this year was The Beach Bum with Matthew McConaughey. McConaughey is one of my favorites because he is just so real. He is a true example of someone having fun with their work and I personally believe that should be a goal for all of us. The movie is completely hilarious and it was super fun to watch. I laughed more in that movie than I’ve laughed all year, and sometimes you just need a solid laugh.”

—Paige Mycoskie, artist, fashion designer, and founder, Venice, CA

Marriage Story

“I loved this movie. It shows two people who love each other, and it equally shares each of their point of views. I love the simplicity. It’s both funny and sad. It makes you feel all of the feelings. It truly captivates what it takes to be in a marriage.”

—Molly Sims, actress and model, Beverly Hills, CA

A Star Is Born

“The award-winning film with Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper is by far my favorite movie this year. It inspired me because it’s a story about taking chances with your future and following your heart when it comes to true love. It’s truly a movie for the ages.”

—August Getty, fashion designer, philanthropist, and founder of fashion brand August Getty Atelier, Los Angeles, CA

Frozen 2

“This may be surprising, but I loved Frozen 2. I went to see it with my wife and our two young sons. It simply reminded me of going to the movies with my parents and sisters as a family a very long time ago. There was simply a sense of warmth and love on a Sunday afternoon.”

—John Whyte, physician, Washington, DC

The Many Lives of Nick Buoniconti

“This was such a powerful and inspiring story about dedication, loyalty, love, and giving back. It reminded me of the power of hope and family.”

—Rachel Finger, founder and co-president of Gryph & IvyRose, Miami Beach, FL

The Farewell 

“This film, written and directed by Lulu Wang, is a funny and uplifting movie about a Chinese family planning a fake wedding as an excuse to gather all their friends and relatives to say goodbye to a grandmother, without telling her that she has been diagnosed with cancer. I saw it over the summer, and was happily surprised by how entertaining and powerful it felt.”

—Marcio Delgado, global content producer and influencer marketing campaign manager, Vienna, Austria

Knives Out

Knives Out is a hoot. It has a great cast and creative script. There are lots of twists and turns, and a good ending. It was my favorite of the year!”

—Debra Reed, senior technical writer, Irvine, CA

The Art of Driving in the Rain

“Both The Art of Driving in the Rain and A Dog’s Purpose  brought me immense joy, but also brought me to tears. These movies touched my heart deeply, and brought up memories of the same bittersweet moments and joy. Both centered around an animal that I’ve had around my whole life. I was left reveling in the sweet memories of special dogs in my past and present.”

—Mary Jo Knueppel, director of sales, Janesville, WI

Avengers: Endgame

“My sons took me to see the new Avengers movie on opening weekend. I expected the excitement, but I was surprised to leave feeling inspired. It reminded me that heroic work matters to the world.”

—Elizabeth Sandler, workplace investor, New York, NY

Alita: Battle Angel 

“I saw this movie in January and it established the tone for the rest of my year. It occurred to me while watching that we often ask ourselves, ‘Who am I?’ but the better question is, ‘Who can I be?’ The human spirit is powerful. We have a strong sense that we can do more and be more. Watching Alita reminded me that love is a human superpower. We can heal broken hearts, infuse the world with hope, and do what God does — love everybody. We just need to tap into the power within us.”

—Kamryn Adams, screenwriter, New York, NY

Did you have a favorite movie of 2019 that made you happy? Share it with us in the comments!

Follow us here and subscribe here for all the latest news on how you can keep Thriving.

Stay up to date or catch-up on all our podcasts with Arianna Huffington here.


  • Marina Khidekel

    Chief Content Officer at Thrive

    Marina leads strategy, ideation and execution of Thrive's content company-wide, including cross-platform brand partnership and content marketing campaigns, curricula, and the voice of the Thrive platform. She's the author of Thrive's first book, Your Time to Thrive. In her role, Marina brings Thrive's audience actionable, science-backed tips for reducing stress and improving their physical and mental well-being, and shares those insights on panels and in national outlets like NBC's TODAY. Previously, Marina held senior editorial roles at Women's Health, Cosmopolitan, and Glamour, where she edited award-winning health and mental health features and spearheaded the campaigns and partnerships around them.