Seven Uplifting Feel-Good Documentaries

TV CoupleDocumentary Film

I love many types of film, including feature films, short films, animations and documentaries, especially feel-good documentaries. Here are my all time favourite, good-feeling documentaries—I love them because they always leave me feeling good about life and humanity.


1.  Mad Hot Ballroom (2005)

I’ve seen this film at least six times since it came out and I have loved it every time. Whenever I decide to watch it again, I wonder if I’ll enjoy it as much as I did the last time. I watched it again recently in preparation for this post and I can honestly say that this film has never failed to delight me.


2.  Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey (2011)

I didn’t grow up watching much of the Muppets, I’ve never had a strong attraction to any of the Muppet productions and I never understood the “Elmo Craze”, so I when I first heard about this documentary, I wasn’t sure that I would enjoy it. But right from the start I knew I was in good hands. This compelling documentary is less about the Muppets and much more about creativity, passion and marching to the beat of your own drummer (even when others don’t really understand your attraction to your craft). Although I didn’t have an appreciation for Elmo before watching this film, I certainly left with one.


3.  A Man Named Pearl (2006)

Here’s a film about someone who accomplished something that “he shouldn’t have been able to do”. You never know how or when the artist within you will pour through, but follow your heart’s desire and watch what happens. That’s exactly what happened to a man named Pearl.


4.  Babies (2010)

Babies is a 2010 French documentary film by Thomas Balmès that follows four babies through their first year after birth. Two of the babies featured in the film are from rural areas: Ponijao from Opuwo, Namibia, and Bayar(jargal) from Bayanchandmani, Mongolia, and two are from urban areas: Mari from Tokyo, Japan, and Hattie from San Francisco, U.S.

~ Wikipedia

Beautifully filmed and edited. Surprisingly compelling. Simply fascinating. Don’t miss this amazing film.


5.  Spellbound (2002)

This refreshing documentary follows eight delightful children between the ages of 10 and 14 as each prepares to compete in the 1999 Scripps National Spelling Bee. These kids are smart and adorable nerdy types who will steal your heart. They come from very different cultural and social backgrounds and as the documentary progresses they all wiggle their way into your heart so that you find yourself hoping that each of them do their very best and win. Can a documentary about a national spelling bee capture your heart? You bet. Check it out for yourself.

Watch Trailer


6.  Animal Odd Couples (2012)

The first time I’d ever heard of cross-species relationships was when my partner’s parents came across a duck nest containing baby ducklings and a baby rabbit while on a hike in the wilds of Northern Alberta. I’d never heard of such a thing before but apparently it’s not as rare as one would think.

This engaging documentary about unusual cross-species companions aired as part of PBS’s Nature series. It tells the fascinating story of several unusual and unlikely friendships.


7.  Wordplay (2007)

I love it when people come together to share a passion for something that isn’t necessarily “cool” or mainstream (or, even better, downright nerdy). Wordplay is about the 28th annual American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, hosted every year in Stamford, Conn., by Will Shortz, the editor of the New York Times crossword puzzle. It’s almost like an adult off-shoot of the documentary Spellbound (perhaps some of the children who compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee end up at this tournament!). I’m not into crossword puzzles, but the nerd in me loved this film.



Illustration Credit:

TV Couple; CC by Frits Ahlefeldt-Laurvig via Flickr

20 thoughts on “Seven Uplifting Feel-Good Documentaries

  1. What a wonderful series of clips Jeannie… I truly enjoyed them all…Hope your having a great
    Easter weekend my friend :)

  2. The only film on this list I have seen is Wordplay and it was delightful. If the others are as good I will have to track them down. Thanks!

  3. Wow, Jeannie! This is great for my “movie-watching” list (I love documentaries, too). I haven’t seen ANY of these, so that’s great — gives me lots to look forward to. Have you ever seen “Gray Gardens” (I hope I spelled “Gray” correctly)? It’s a really good doc, too (but kind of sad, really). And I just watched “Mortified Nation,” about people who stand up and read from their adolescent diaries — pretty good (a tad raunchy in parts, not that I’m a prude). :)

    • Hello Debra. I think you would truly enjoy these documentaries—they’ll leave you feeling really good! I’ve never seen Grey Gardens or Mortified Nation, but I’ll look them up. Hope you and your wonderful furry family are having a lovely Easter weekend. Wishing you a happy week to come! :))

  4. Hello Jeannie!
    I’ve not heard of these films before, so thanks so much for introducing! I’ll look for more info on them over the weekend, because I enjoy documentaries very much, especially when they’re ‘feel good’ ones. Hope you’re having a great week :)))

  5. I love docs – and will bookmark this for my summer reading/viewing list this year – a few of them really look good to me. I saw one about a man’s grandma – I wish I could recall the name – But I think it was something like 101 on Sunday (not it, but something like that) and it was one of the coolest and moving docs – so I like how you gave a us a list of “moving” ones for you – take care

    • Thanks! I think you’ll enjoy the docs. And thanks for taking the time to mention the film that you found moving. I Googled it, and it sounds like you are talking about the film, “Grandma, A Thousand Times”, directed by award-winning filmmaker Mahmoud Kaabour. It looks fascinating and I shall definitely try to track it down. In my search, I noted that this director has also made another fabulous documentary, “Champ of the Camp”, about Dubai’s controversial labour camps. The film is told entirely through the voices of contestants who participate in a massive Bollywood singing competition which takes place each summer deep in the labor camps of Dubai. Thanks again for your comment. Wishing you a happy day and happy viewing of more great docs! ~ Jeannie :))

      • Jeannie -thanks so much for your nice reply – :) and the one you found looks awesome – but it is not it – in fact I had to smile because it is so opposite (yet looks very good). but the one I saw (years ago) had a mid-west old lady who did a shot of whiskey once in a while – and the title I think had 100 or 101 – and something with sunday. Now I am curious to find it! I will let you know if I do.

        and the other one you mention looks culture rich and sounds interesting – okay – hope you have a nice day too :)

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