Under the Tuscan Sun (2003)
Starring Diane Lane as an unhappy writer who uproots her life to renovate an old villa in Tuscany, this feel-good film is loosely based on the memoir of the same name by Frances Mayes. Romantic, set against a background of classic Italian architecture and the lyrical Italian countryside, Under the Tuscan Sun is the perfect movie getaway.
The Money Pit (1986)
If a deal is too good to be true, it probably is: a tough lesson that Tom Hanks's Walter Fielding is forced to learn in The Money Pit. Walter and Anna (Shelley Long) are elated to find a beautiful house for next to nothing in the suburbs of New York. It isn't long, however, before their dream home completely falls apart, becoming a danger to both the Fieldings' sanity and wallets. This comedy is a must-see if you're embarking on a home renovation quest of your own.
The Notebook (2004)
The only thing dreamier than Ryan Gosling as Noah Calhoun is the stunning plantation house he renovates throughout the movie. When Noah first meets Allie (Rachel McAdams), he falls hard. They date and fall in love, but are then separated by misunderstandings, socioeconomic barriers, and war. To win her back, Noah dedicates years of his life to building their dream home. Be prepared to fall in love with Noah and the "white house with blue shutters," and don't forget to bring tissues.
The Karate Kid (1984)
When Daniel (Ralph Macchio) finds himself the target of karate bullies at his new school, he enlists the help of a karate master working as a handyman (Pat Morita), whose now-famous teaching methods are not what Daniel expected. Mr. Miyagi has Daniel-san paint the house, sand floors, and of course, "wax on, wax off." The Karate Kid is a feel-good movie, perfect for family movie night—especially if you have a fence that needs some refinishing and a few idle kids around the house.
Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948)
Step into a more wholesome version of Mad Men with the home-renovation movie that started it all, Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House. Cary Grant is a New York ad executive, sick of the city and ready to relocate to an idyllic residence in the suburbs. But, as this movie demonstrates, renovations can quickly get out of hand. Old-school charm abounds in this funny take on what it means to build a dream house.
Dear John (2010)
The second Nicholas Sparks film to make it onto our list, Dear John stars Amanda Seyfried as Savannah, a college student on a Habitat for Humanity spring break trip. A hunky solider and town local, John (Channing Tatum), falls for Savannah immediately, and helps her and her friends with their construction. The star-crossed lovers exchange letters while he is deployed, but—as always—life gets in the way. Think The Notebook with a modern military twist.
Swiss Family Robinson (1960)
Disaster strikes the Swiss Family Robinson when they are shipwrecked on a remote tropical island en route to Papua New Guinea. Based somewhat on the Johann David Wyss novel of the same name, this Disney film recounts the family's attempt to not only survive on this deserted island, but to make it their home. Judging by their expert construction of a massive and mechanized treehouse, they're going to be just fine. Family-friendly Swiss Family Robinson is the perfect start to a treehouse-building weekend.
Life as a House (2001)
When a self-serving man, George Monroe (Kevin Kline), learns he has terminal cancer, he desires nothing more than to fix his relationship with his estranged son. Over the course of Monroe's last summer, he and Sam (Hayden Christensen) build his dream house by the seaside, all the while re-building a relationship.
Sometimes, it's hard to get everything done with just one pair of hands. Construction worker Doug Kinney (Michael Keaton) never has time to do the things he wants to do—that is, until a helpful scientist offers him the use of his cloning machine. Before he knows it, there are a total of four Dougs, each causing his own brand of accidental mayhem.
After Newton Davis's (Steve Martin's) girlfriend turns down his proposal and refuses his gift of a new house, a chance encounter with a charming con woman, Gwen (Goldie Hawn), turns his life even further upside down. Gwen deduces where the still-vacant house is, moves in, and pretends to be Davis's new wife around inquiring neighbors. Brokenhearted, he agrees to go along with the charade as he pines for his ex, and needless to say, with these two comic actors, hilarity ensues.
It's Complicated (2009)
Jane (Meryl Streep) must choose between exploring a new relationship with her architect (Steve Martin) or continuing an extramarital affair with her ex-husband, Jake (Alec Baldwin). Throw in a home renovation, and the situation becomes very—you guessed it!—complicated for these empty nesters.
Home Alone (1990)
Home Alone may not be your typical home renovation flick, but we can't deny that Kevin (Macauley Culkin) certainly "upgrades" the McCallister home to suit his needs. After being accidentally left behind during a family vacation to France for Christmas, Kevin gets to live his fantasy of having the whole house to himself! The glee is short-lived, however, as Kevin soon encounters a pair of burglars who are determined to ransack his home. How does he respond? With a little mischievous home improvement.
Honorable Mention: Home Improvement (1991-1999)
Although it's not a movie, Home Improvement is as close to the real thing as you can get. The series focuses on the family of Tim "the Tool Man" Taylor (Tim Allen), a father and handyman with a TV show, "Tool Time." On the air for eight years, the successful series is full of love, laughs, and even a few real home improvement tips. An added bonus: The role of Tim's nemesis is played by none other than our very own Bob Vila!
For a clip of Bob and Tim, click here.
If you're looking for more on movie-watching, consider:
For tech gifts to enthrall everyone who lives under your roof, check out Bob Vila's roundup of the best gizmos and gadgets for the holiday season!