There’s no denying that home renovations can be fraught with drama and frustration. For instance, unexpected expenses can trigger money troubles. History hidden behind your home’s walls can stir excitement and intrigue. Problems like black mold or a pest infestation can bring the whole enterprise to a grinding halt. When they happen to you, issues like these can be extraordinarily hard to handle, but they do make fine fodder for plot twists and humor on the silver screen.
Is it time to take a much-needed break from renovating, remodeling, or repairing your home?
Grab some Goobers, butter up a big bowl of popcorn, pour yourself a soda, and sit right back to enjoy one of our top picks for fictional home improvement flicks. Who knows? They may offer you some transformation inspiration—or a cautionary tale.
1. Under the Tuscan Sun (2003)
Diane Lane stars as an unhappy writer who uproots her life in San Francisco to renovate an old villa in Tuscany in this feel-good film 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” provides the perfect movie getaway.
Get “Under the Tuscan Sun” at Amazon
2. The Money Pit (1986)
If a deal is too good to be true, it probably is: a tough lesson that Walter Fielding, played by Tom Hanks, 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, endangering the Fieldings’ sanity as well as their wallets. This comedy is a must-see if you’re embarking on a home renovation of your own.
Get “The Money Pit” at Amazon
3. 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.
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4. 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 Hamilton (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.
Get “The Notebook” at Amazon
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5. The Karate Kid (1984)
When Daniel LaRusso (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 heartwarming movie that’s ideal for family movie night—especially if you have a fence that needs some refinishing and a few idle kids around the house.
Get “The Karate Kid” at Amazon
6. 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 the string of little nightmares that line the road to many a dream house.
Get “Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House” at Amazon
7. Dear John (2010)
The second Nicholas Sparks film to make it onto our list, “Dear John” stars Amanda Seyfried as Savannah Curtis, a college student on a Habitat for Humanity spring break trip. A hunky soldier and town local, John Tyree (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,” but with a modern military twist.
Get “Dear John” at Amazon
8. Swiss Family Robinson (1960)
Disaster strikes the Robinson family when they become 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” would be an inspirational start for a weekend of treehouse-building.
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9. Housesitter (1992)
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. Needless to say, with these two comic actors, hilarity ensues.
Get “Housesitter” at Amazon
9. Multiplicity (1996)
Chronically overburdened 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. The first clone takes on Doug’s work responsibilities, and soon a second clone is helping out at home, where his wife, Laura (Andie MacDowell), is increasingly frustrated by his inattention and erratic behavior. Before he knows it, there are a total of four Dougs, each causing his own brand of accidental mayhem. The quartet combines forces to complete long-delayed renovations on Doug’s house, bringing order—and his estranged wife—back to his life.
Get “Multiplicity” at Amazon
10. 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 rebuilding a relationship.
Get “Life as a House” at Amazon
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11. Girl on the Third Floor (2019)
According to writer and director Travis Stevens, the premise of “Girl on the Third Floor” is firmly rooted in truth and its plot points are “only slightly embellished,” which makes its impact all the more powerful. The film draws on standard horror conventions, including the “fixer-upper-becomes-a-house-of-terror” motif, and then switches it up. Fun fact: The movie was filmed in a home that was actually being renovated. After pressing it into service for the set, Stevens had planned to use it to house the headquarters of his production company, Snowfort.
Get “Girl on the Third Floor” at Amazon
12. Home Alone (1990)
“Home Alone” may not be, strictly speaking, a home renovation flick, but we can’t deny that Kevin (Macauley Culkin) certainly “upgrades” the McCallister home to suit his needs. Left behind in his family’s hectic scramble to get to the airport for a flight to Paris for Christmas vacation, Kevin revels in having the whole house to himself! His 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.
Get “Home Alone” at Amazon
13. All of My Heart (2015)
Being bequeathed a property, be it a dilapidated inn or a creepy old Victorian, is a common setup in many movies, from playful rom-coms to the goriest thrillers. The 2015 flick “All of My Heart” adds a twist to this trope, pairing a creative caterer and a would-be wolf of Wall Street as co-inheritors of a country home. Are their differences too great to overcome, or can this contentious couple learn to live in harmony as they work to renovate their shared home?
Get “All of My Heart” at Amazon
14. The Fixer Upper Mysteries (2017–2018)
Singer, songwriter, poet, and “Masked Singer” winner Jewel joins Colin Ferguson for a trio of Hallmark movies: “Deadly Deed,” “Concrete Evidence,” and “Framed for Murder.” All three center on Shannon Hughes, owner of a construction company that specializes in Victorian-era houses, and investigative reporter Mac Sullivan. While working on restoration projects together, the two invariably stumble upon unsolved murders and, as you might expect, eventually crack the cases. Fans of “Murder, She Wrote” will enjoy cozying up for these appealing flicks.
Get “The Fixer Upper Mysteries” at Amazon
15. Falling Inn Love (2019)
Christina Milian stars as Gabriela Diaz, a slick San Francisco exec who gives up her high-powered lifestyle after winning a New Zealand inn. Predictably, the property is rundown to the point of being dangerous, so there’s only one thing the disappointed Gabriela can do: Hire a handsome-but-heartbroken, recently widowed handyman to help her fix the place up, with an eye toward flipping it.
16. Are We Done Yet? (2007)
Straight Outta…Oregon? This flick stars actor and former N.W.A. gangsta rapper Ice Cube as a would-be handyman who moves his family to the ‘burbs of Portland in search of the age-old American dream: homeownership. A remake of 1948’s “Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House,” this slapstick comedy is a variation on the classic man vs. power tools theme in which Ice Cube’s Nick Persons exhibits far more misguided self-confidence than skill.
Get “Are We Done Yet?” at Amazon
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17. mother! (2017)
When a movie’s title begins with a lowercase letter and ends with an exclamation point, you know that “mother!” is no ordinary Hollywood blockbuster—despite an all-star cast that includes Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, and Michelle Pfeiffer. This thought-provoking psychological thriller is set in a remote house that mother (Jennifer Lawrence) busily renovates after a devastating fire. The home soon takes on a life of its own, becoming a veritable character—and a bloody one, to boot.
Get “mother!” at Amazon
18. They’re Watching (2016)
Can’t get enough of home renovation reality shows? Take a break from all the promising blueprints, last-minute complications, and jaw-dropping reveals to check out a fictionalized version of reality programming. “They’re Watching” chronicles what happens when an American home-improvement TV show goes on location in Eastern Europe. Unbeknownst to cast and crew alike, their presence reawakens a centuries-old conflict, and soon filming is interrupted by religious, superstitious, and vengeful villagers.
Get “They’re Watching” at Amazon
19. Herself (2020)
Inspired by true events, “Herself” is an Irish export that debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in 2020. It tells the story of Sandra, a single mother, who struggles to find a home for herself and her two young daughters after leaving an abusive marriage. When the local housing council can’t help, Sandra decides to build her own house—and in so doing, discovers the depths of her courage and resiliency.
Get “Herself” at Amazon
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.” The successful series, which was on the air for 8 years, 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!
Get “Home Improvement” at Amazon