27 Relaxing Movies To Watch On A Plane, Because Flying Can Be Stressful Enough
One of the best parts of taking a long flight is the chance to have some uninterrupted "me" time, and that frequently includes taking in a feel-good film or two. Watching relaxing movies on planes not only helps the time pass (which, on international flights feels very necessary), but can also help relieve the anxiety you might be experiencing while flying which, according to FlyFright.com, happens to one in three adult Americans.
The ideal selection is entertaining without being too thrilling; heart-warming vs. heart-wrenching, unless you're a sucker for sad stories and don't mind sobbing in public. It allows you to feel at ease, alleviating the stress of travel, a welcome respite so far from reality as it exists back on the ground. Watching funny, feel-good offerings can lead to the kind of LOLing that helps release pleasure hormones to increase endorphins and soothe tension, per the Mayo Clinic, whereas scary or stressful films can heighten anxious feelings for some. (Others actually get great anxiety-reducing pleasure from horror films, though not necessarily on planes.) Laughing can help increase the oxygen-rich air reaching your heart and lungs, stimulating circulation and aiding in muscle relaxation, which the Mayo Clinic says can help reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress.
With all of that in mind, here are 27 relaxing movies to watch on your next trip through the hopefully turbulence-free, friendly skies.
1. 'A League of Their Own' (1992)
The late Penny Marshall directed this forever classic with an all-star cast and a hilarious take on real-life history. Watching A League of Their Own is always comforting because at the end of the movie, everyone's a winner, even if you're not a Rockford Peach.
2. 'Love & Basketball' (2000)
Gina Prince-Bythewood's love story isn't without its hiccups — but that's what makes it so enticing. When two basketball players find themselves trying to balance their relationship with their respective careers, Monica (Sanaa Lathan) and Quincy (Omar Epps) work hard off-the-court to figure out how to prioritize what really matters: each other.
3. 'Real Women Have Curves' (2002)
America Ferrera's big-screen debut as a Mexican-American teen ready to leaves her family home to dictate her own life for once is as hilarious as it is inspiring. While not an all-out comedy, Ferrera's character's ability to laugh off the world's insistence that she should be stuck in convention is pure joy.
4. 'Josie And The Pussycats' (2001)
Rachael Leigh Cook, Tara Reid, and Rosario Dawson are members of the hot new band in their tiny town, but when the major labels come calling, they have to reconcile what they're willing to trade in for fame. Friendships are tested, but ultimately, their love of playing music together prevails, and the early aughts pop rock soundtrack is better for it.
5. 'Now & Then' (1995)
Before Marlene King created Pretty Little Liars, she penned the script based on her life growing up in the Midwest. (She was a Roberta.) An iconic preteen film starring '90s It girls Gaby Hoffman, Thora Birch, Christina Ricci, and the late Ashleigh Aston Moore as well as Demi Moore, Melanie Griffith, Rosie O'Donnell, and Rita Wilson, Now & Then spoke to two generations of women who could identify with transitioning from girlhood to womanhood with the aid of your best friends.
6. 'Grandma' (2015)
The timeless Lily Tomlin plays the kind of grandmother you'll wish you had in this 2015 dramedy co-starring Julia Garner. Come for the star power, stay for the ass-kicking Tomlin delivers to Garner's on-screen boyfriend who refuses to pay for her abortion.
7. 'D.E.B.S.' (2004)
Angela Robinson's Sundance hit has Holland Taylor leading a team of school girls (played by Sara Foster, Meagan Good, and Devin Aoki) who happen to moonlight as special agents. Tensions rise when Foster's character, Amy, falls hard for their latest target: Jordana Brewster's Lucy Diamond.
8. 'Wild' (2014)
Nothing is more satisfying than watching Reese Witherspoon carry out Cheryl Strayed's famous trip up the Pacific Crest Trail. Watching this on a flight will have you feeling like you've already accomplished something by the time you touch ground.
9. 'Bachelorette' (2012)
Before helming Russian Doll with Natasha Lyonne, Leslye Headland's film about bad bachelorettes had viewers cringing at just how awful friends (frenemies?) can be, while simultaneously loving every second of it. Kirsten Dunst, Lizzy Caplan, Rebel Wilson, and Isla Fisher make even the worst of young women funny AF.
10. 'The Hot Flashes' (2013)
Brooke Shields, Daryl Hannah, Wanda Sykes, Virginia Madsen, and Camryn Manheim are ballers in this 2013 comedy about a women's basketball team going for the glory after age 40. Sykes' karaoke styling of Donna Summers' "Hot Stuff" is a highlight.
11. 'Four Rooms' (1995)
Allison Anders, Alexandre Rockwell, Robert Rodriguez, and Quentin Tarantino each took a turn at directing this comedy anthology that takes place over New Year's Eve. Madonna (as a witch!), Jennifer Beals, Antonio Banderas, Ione Skye, Lili Taylor, Alicia Witt, Marisa Tomei, Bruce Willis, Kathy Griffin, and Salma Hayek all make appearances in this comedic precursor to the likes of 200 Cigarettes.
12. 'Desperately Seeking Susan' (1985)
Speaking of Madonna, she plays the titular Susan sought out by Rosanna Arquette in the classic New York City comedy. The '80s fashion makes this superfun farce a time capsule worth reopening for nostalgia's sake alone.
13. 'Mamma Mia!' (2008)
Musical fans might find themselves dancing in the aisles if they're not too careful. ABBA's tunes, gorgeous Greek locales, and a highly-likable cast make for a feel-good romp that will continue to sing in your head long after you land.
14. 'Fried Green Tomatoes' (1991)
This adaptation of Fannie Flagg's novel has its sad moments, but ultimately, it begs for fist pumps and belly laughs. Kathy Bates is empowered through her friendship with Jessica Tandy, and the chemistry between Mary Stuart Masterson and Mary-Louise Parker is more than palpable. Even if you've watched it 100 times before, you'll likely find something new in this Oscar-nominated film.
15. 'The Runaways' (2010)
Kristen Stewart nails her role as Joan Jett in Floria Sigismondi's film, but that's not the only appeal to this musical biopic. The history of The Runaways unfolds in a gorgeously shot, wildly dramatic whirlwind, accompanied by the all-girl band's best songs, and clears up some misconceptions about its members and infamously awful manager along the way. What's clear by the end, though, is that Jett, Cherie Curie, Sandy West, and Lita Ford changed the world with their love of music and willingness to deal with misogyny and homophobia as the first and most famous group of their kind.
16. 'Bend It Like Beckham' (2002)
Keira Knightley and Parminder Nagra star as young women so obsessed with soccer, they are willing to do whatever it takes to keep playing the game. But it's their friendship that makes this British film so special, with the two trading in any notion of a rivalry for a sweet team spirit.
17. 'Look Who's Talking' (1989)
Pre-Clueless, Amy Heckerling helmed this hilarious comedy starring Kirstie Alley as an unwitting mother to baby Mikey whose thoughts are voiced to the audience by Bruce Willis. The 1989 film was a rare mainstream comedy about an unwed mother (Alley) who was in a relationship with a married man, though she eventually partners up with a taxi driver played by John Travolta. Their meet-cute? She delivers baby Mikey in the backseat of his cab.
18. 'Me And You And Everyone We Know' (2005)
Miranda July's humor isn't for everyone, but those who get it really want to stay in her kooky world of eccentricities. July plays a version of herself as a performance and visual artist in this indie, falling for a shoe salesman/single father whose young boys have an obsession with the internet and, well, poop.
19. 'Appropriate Behavior' (2015)
Desiree Akhavan puts her life into her work, which clues you into her sardonic sense of humor. The bisexual Iranian writer/director is the protagonist of her debut feature, which follows her character, Shirin, after a difficult breakup shakes her world. But through working with kids at a Brooklyn school and trying out dates with all genders, Shirin finds less ire than irony, and viewers will laugh with her instead of at her.
20. 'For A Good Time Call' (2012)
Nothing could be funnier than total opposites moving in together and start their own phone sex business, especially when those women are Ari Graynor and Lauren Miller. It may sound NSFP — not same for planes — but seat mates will only see women making funny faces if they glance at your screen. It's all oral(ly delivered).
21. '9 to 5' (1980)
It's always a good time to watch 9 to 5. Patricia Resnick's 1980s riff on sexism in the workplace is unfortunately still so pertinent in 2019. But that's why it's so gratifying to see Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin, and Jane Fonda stick it to the man in this funny feminist film.
22. 'Bridget Jones's Diary' (2001)
At the height of her career, Renee Zellweger took on the role of fictional British broadcast journalist Bridget Jones, an independent woman whose inner-workings were shared with her diary, of course, as well as her audience. You might not agree with every decision she makes (Mark Darcy is a clear choice over Daniel Cleaver from the beginning!), but you'll have a good time watching her stumble to the same conclusions.
23. 'Under the Tuscan Sun' (2003)
Diane Lane is perfect in this movie as Frances, a writer who desperately needs to get out of town in an attempt to avoid her ex and his pregnant new wife. Frances' best friend Patti (the always welcome Sandra Oh) encourages her to take a trip to Tuscany, where she is reinvigorated by new customs and an affair with a local. Without spoiling anything, though, let's just say she doesn't find her happiness in a new husband.
24. 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding' (2002)
Nia Vardalos's character gets a glow-up that leads her to finding an ideal life partner in John Corbett's. The only problem is that he's not Greek, and her family is deeply entrenched in their culture. Luckily, they are more open to outsiders than assumed, and every single cousin gets on board when they see just how happy Toula becomes when she realizes she doesn't have to be stuck under their collective thumb.
25. 'Your Sister's Sister' (2012)
Mark Duplass and Emily Blunt are best friends whose relationship has the potential to turn romantic, until the latter's lesbian sister (Rosemarie DeWitt) pops up, looking to get pregnant. It's almost a comedy of errors except director Lynn Shelton requires each one of the characters takes responsibility for their their actions.
26. 'Obvious Child' (2014)
Jenny Slate slays in this critical darling of a dark comedy from Gillian Robespierre. Fresh off SNL, Slate plays an aspiring comic who gets pregnant and decides to have an abortion on Valentine's Day. Her attempts to tell the one-night-stand father (Jake Lacy) are initially thwarted, but eventually there is a reconciliation that allows for a fulfilling finale.
27. 'Whip It' (2009)
Drew Barrymore's directorial debut was a film about (what else?) roller derby, and she brought in Ellen Page to lead the pack. As Bliss Cavendar, Page navigates her want to participate in the dangerous sport that her traditional Texan mom (Marcia Gay Harden) just won't stand for. But Bliss knows what's good for her and she enjoys the time spent on the track with friends and foes alike. Her morphing into Babe Ruthless gives her a newfound purpose, and helps her to grow closer to her mother and herself.
As a sneaky bonus, almost every single one of these is written by and/or directed by women. Maybe that's why these perfect plane movies feel so damn good!