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11 Best Movie Happy Endings Ever

There's nothing like a bona fide feel-good ending to lift your spirits. Get ready to cry tears of joy with this classic collection of happily ever afters.

1 / 11
via IMDB.com

‘Inside Out’ (2015)

Inside Out may be an animated film marketed to kids, but it’s actually a sophisticated primer on how to be happy even when the outook is bleak. The story involves characters representing key emotions (Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Anger, and Fear) who hang out together in little Riley’s brain. By the end, they learn how to work together effectively instead of fighting for domination. Ultimately, Joy and Sadness work together to help Riley adjust to the realities of her new life after a family move across the country.

2 / 11
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‘True Romance’ (1993)

Based on a script by Quentin Tarantino, this crime-thriller stars Patricia Arquette and Christian Slater as unlikely criminals on the lam. During the finale shoot-out between cops and mobsters, Slater takes a hit and Arquette weeps over her slain love. Not to fear, he’s alive! They make their escape with a suitcase full of money. Cut to the couple frolicking on a sunny beach with a kid in tow. True love wins!

3 / 11
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‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ (1946)

There’s no more iconic happy ending than the one Jimmy Stewart gets to enjoy at the close of this Christmas classic. After seeing the alternate timeline that would have happened had he never been born, Stewart’s character is allowed to return to his family—and see the solution to the financial trouble that got him all distraught in the first place. Things are set right on Earth and in heaven. As his daughter famously explains, an angel just got some wings.

4 / 11
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‘Rent’ (2005)

This Broadway musical turned movie, about a gang of bohemian friends with hard-knock lives, ends with the group gathering over the body of their pal, Mimi. She’s succumbed to addiction and the elements. The group weeps, forlorn. Then Mimi’s fingers begin to move. She recovers. Not only that, but she had a vision of another passed friend, Angel. The group joins in song, reprising the classic tune “No Day but Today.”

5 / 11
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‘Erin Brockovich’ (2000)

Julia Roberts as Erin Brockovich wins a big settlement for the victims of a big corportation’s environmental crime. But a bigger thrill comes when she gets her bonus check from boss lawyer Albert Finney. This struggling single mom is speechless when she sees the amount: $2 million.

6 / 11
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‘Pursuit of Happyness’ (2006)

In this true story, Will Smith plays a down-on-his-luck salesman, with a kid in tow, who can’t seem to catch a break or a job, and he and his son end up homeless. But that doesn’t stop Smith’s character from pursuing success through setback after setback (which is admittedly a little hard to watch—unless you know there’s a light at the end of the tunnel). Finally, after taking a big risk on an unpaid training program, he gets a coveted broker position at a top agency. The epilogue lets us know that his efforts pay off, as he ends up owning a multi-million dollar firm. Next, check out some more of our feel-good movie picks.

7 / 11
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‘Grease’ (1978)

We would probably be happy enough to see Danny and Sandy get back together singing and dancing to “You’re the One that I Want” in the funhouse at the end of this beloved musical. But we get to see the high school come together for a rousing “We’ll Always Be Together.” Even Rizzo and Kenickie reconcile, and Frenchy ditches beauty school to graduate from Rydell High with the gang. And in case all that isn’t enough, Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta actually ascend into the sky in a flying car waving good-bye to everyone below. Go, Greased Lightening!

8 / 11
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‘Notting Hill’ (1999)

Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant star in this romantic comedy about a famous actress and bookseller whose lives are just too different to make it work. When Roberts offers her famous “I’m just a girl standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her” speech, Grant basically says “no thanks.” But all is not lost! He tracks her down and declares his love. The best part is the scene with the two of them relaxing on a park bench—the camera pans to reveal Robert’s character’s pregnant belly. All is well! Check out these other romantic movies to make your heart melt a little.

9 / 11
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‘The Impossible’ (2004)

This disaster film, based on the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, stars Naomi Watts and Ewen McGregor as the parents of three boys. The family gets separated when the massive wave hits and Watts is badly injured. We watch as the family of five desperately search for each other in the tragic aftermath. You’ll cry your eyes out during the scene when the dad reunites with his three sons, somehow all alive. Then they find out their mom is still alive too. Based on the experience of a real family, the ending provides hope in the face of nearly impossible odds.

10 / 11
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‘Rudy’ (1993)

Sean Astin, as the famous real life “Rudy,” wants nothing more than to attend college at Notre Dame and play football for the Fighting Irish. He has everything going against him, but he won’t give up. Against unbelievable odds, Rudy finally gets a chance to take the field in the ending scene. Somehow, he sacks the quarterback and ends up on his teammate’s shoulders as the spectators chant his name and the audience sheds happy tears. Rudy is also one of the best football movies of all time.

11 / 11
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‘An Officer and a Gentlemen’ (1982)

At the end of this drama about how hard it is to become an aviation officer, Richard Gere sports his new white uniform and marches through a dismal paper mill factory. That’s where Debra Winger (Paula) works. They’ve already broken up, and the romance is over—or so you think. But then he takes her in his arms, plants a passionate kiss on her lips, and actually carries her out!

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest

Molly Pennington, PhD
Molly is a writer and collage artist with a PhD in film and cultural studies from the University of Pittsburgh. Her professional astrology services and artwork are available at Baroque Moon Astrology. She covers the zodiac, books, movies, TV and culture for Reader’s Digest, and loves to talk about all the ways we make meaning.