The word schadenfreude literally translates to “harm-joy.” That not-so-tiny German word encompasses the very human part of ourselves that likes watching other people fail. But why? Maybe, just maybe, it has more to do with feeling better about ourselves than actually taking pleasure in other people’s pain.
Everybody likes a good hero. But what about your garden-variety everyday screw-up? Or even characters we just get really bad second-hand embarrassment from? Now, we may not necessarily like these characters, but they are pretty entertaining to watch in a slightly schadenfreude kind of way.
Nobody is perfect, but if nothing else, these characters make us feel better about our own personal pitfalls — if only for a little while. And on that note, check out these 11 movies that will make you feel better about your life choices.
Trainwreck — FX/Fox/DirecTV Now
In the only proper romantic comedy on this list, Amy Schumer plays a journalist who is a bit adrift in her life. And she’s happy that way. Unapologetic, and yes — happy. Schumer and Bill Hader are super adorable here.
Some Like It Hot — Amazon Prime
It’s the original Catfish, except it’s got Jack Lemmon, Marilyn Monroe, and Tony Curtis. This is just one of the earliest of many films in which characters take on assumed identities (of the opposite sex) for one reason or another. (Also see: Mrs. Doubtfire, Ladybugs, Just One of the Guys, Tootsie.)
Girl on the Train — Showtime
Rachel (Emily Blunt) is not the only character here that makes questionable choices, but she is probably the most cringeworthy of them all. Despite this, you will truly end up rooting for her. Plus most viewers would find the ending deeply satisfying.
American Beauty — Starz/Epix/DirecTV Now
The irony of calling this movie American Beauty is that at their core, many of these characters are truly ugly inside. Or maybe they’re just misunderstood? Either way, it never really gets less uncomfortable to watch Lester’s fascination with his teenage daughter’s best friend.
As Good As It Gets — Starz/DirecTV Now
Jack Nicholson plays probably one of the most selfish characters ever to grace the big screen, yet he ends up surrounded by friends and love. I mean, if he can do it, so can we right?
Sideways — HBO/Cinemax
In Alexander Payne’s 2004 black comedy Sideways, Thomas Hayden-Church and Paul Giamatti play best buddies on a road trip to the California wine country.
Young Adult — Amazon Prime/Hulu/Epix
Some people just have a hard time growing up, and sometimes they just regress. That is never more true than it is for Charlize Theron’s character in Young Adult, written by Diablo Cody (who also wrote Juno.) Here, we see Mavis (Theron) make some of the most cringe-inducing decisions of any on this list.
Rachel Getting Married — Rent or buy from $2.99 and up.
This 2008 low budget film by famed director Jonathan Demme is one of the tougher films on this list. It’s about the pain of letting down your family when they need you the most.
Drinking Buddies — Netflix
Drinking Buddies is great because what it’s really about is acceptance. As hard as it is at times, it is possible to accept ourselves and the other people in our lives no matter how messed up we become. Because in the end, bad decisions are not all that we are.
Days of Wine and Roses — Warner Instant
I don’t think it’s an accident that Jack Lemmon ended up on this list twice, as he seemed to be attracted to similar types of roles throughout his career. Not a light and airy classic, this film deals with addiction in a way that is not often found in movies from this era.
Go — Starz
Directed by Doug Liman, and starring Taye Diggs, Katie Holmes, Sarah Polley, and Timothy Olyphant, Go is about one wild night in the lives of a handful of intersecting characters.