I don’t know about y’all but these days I am maximizing comfort any way I can. My couch has become my base of operations as I video game my way through lockdown; I’ve been stockpiling a comfort playlist, and surrounding myself with all-around comfort movies. Some movies you need to be in the mood for, others you can watch and instantly feel better no matter what. After much, MUCH deliberation, I realized there’s no way I can stick with the usual “top ten” and live with myself. Also if I don’t post this now, this list could go on forever. Without further ado, this is my cinema of comfort during these trying times. (Loosely ranked and subject to change, so bear with me.)
The Greatest Showman
I was late to this train, and I wouldn’t have been on board had it not been for my daughter’s insistence. Aside from La La Land, no other modern musical made my heart swell quite like this one. I was taken as soon as a young P.T. Barnum hit that rousing chorus in “A Million Dreams.” I’ve been kicking myself in the head ever since. (Also, Rebecca Ferguson is in this AND NO ONE TOLD ME.) “From Now On” always makes me cry, ALWAYS; and I’m not ashamed to admit that the Zac Efron and Zendaya duet, “Rewrite the Stars” makes me swoon like a hopeless middle schooler. Feel good movies don’t bop quite as feverishly as this one.
Ford v Ferrari
Perhaps it’s the dad in me including Ford v Ferrari on this list. I don’t know what to tell ya. I’m a dad and I loved seeing this movie in theaters. The roar of the engine blaring through the speakers, the wide profile of racecars duking it out on the big screen. Ford v Ferrari spews a ton of adrenaline with a whole lotta cast charm to spare. It’s a comfort to me because this is the type of movie that studios rarely bank on anymore. There used to be a time when studios hired A-list actors for things other than tentpole blockbusters. And that’s the joy of Ford v Ferrari: watching Christian Bale and Matt Damon – self-respected action stars in their own right – getting the chance to act opposite each other, no capes or long-running franchises needed.
Lethal Weapon 4
Lethal Weapon 4 is the talkiest of the series and the least “woke” as it features foreign villains with heavy stereotyping. (Although the plot benefits from a wowser of a Jet Li performance in his first American film role.) But the film remains a cherished memory among me and my siblings, one of the few movies of our upbringing that we religiously quote to this day. The character banter in this one is DYNAMITE. There’s a laughing gas scene that brings the house down, and an eager but no less hilarious Chris Rock thrown into the central buddy-cop dynamic that could’ve easily been the premise of the entire movie. The story of Lethal Weapon is very much intact and seen to a satisfying end— that of family. No, not the Fast & Furious lexicon of the word, but of a group of people who have no business being in a room together, but are stuck with each other ‘til the end of time.
Zootopia should be required viewing in elementary schools. Never have I seen a piece of entertainment so deftly tackle the nuance of bias and prejudice, and package that discussion neatly in a freakin’ kids movie. It’s practically a free education! I’m wowed every time. Judy Hopps and Nick Wilde are an animated duo to rival, dare I say, Buzz and Woody. Because their buddy pairing is so much more than a song and dance about friendship. Theirs is about recognizing, valuing someone’s soul regardless of race or their spot on the food chain. But I’m getting ahead of myself. I dare you not to smile at that sloth scene, or this epic homage to The Godfather. Feel better? Your welcome.
The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby
This little-known 2014 romance drama stars James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain (and a supporting Bill Hader like an It: Chapter Two trial run). They play two distraught souls attempting to navigate their lives in the wake of an unspeakable tragedy— one so profound that the details aren’t clear until 2/3 of the way in. Eleanor Rigby isn’t for everybody (some call the film forgettable, others call it boring). It’s a patient and ambitious feature fully realized in three different versions: Him, purely from the perspective of McAvoy’s character, Her, from Chastain’s, and Them, an amalgamation of the two. Some days I prefer either POV, other days I applaud Them. Their destination, nonetheless, remains the same. That despite their trauma, their unbecoming, and their determination to leave everything behind, by some cosmic miracle they find their way back to each other. “Where are we?” “Someplace good.” I cry every time.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
In a just world, Scott Pilgrim would be a beloved classic cherished by all. (Where do you think this blog’s namesake hails from?) But this is the only world we’ve got and I’ll have to make do with the film’s cult status. Scott Pilgrim exists in its own self-aware universe that’s as delightfully unique as it is gut-punchingly hilarious. There’s a wicked rhythm and energy to the whole thing where everyone speaks with such distinction and so full of personality all the way down to bystanders at a party, Wallace’s one-night stands, or this brief bit with a doorman. Every punchline is a certified screamer; the soundtrack slaps, and the visuals and fight choreography still dazzle ten years on. If you haven’t seen or stan this movie by now, we are NOT compatible.
Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis are left to wander the afterlife in the supernatural domain of their home, meaning this Tim Burton classic doubles as the PERFECT quarantine movie. Beetlejuice is all the more astonishing in that it isn’t based on a book or preexisting story. This macabre and wonderfully madcap vision is totally original and iconic in more ways than one. Many of you know the magic of this dinner dance scene, but too many of you have forgotten Michael Keaton’s ferocious comic energy. Also, nothing makes me feel better than Winona Ryder doing The Shake. To hell with comfort foods, Beetlejuice is a whole comfort SPREAD.
If you’d have told me Briony from Atonement would go on to become my high school spirit animal, I would’ve killed you and your whole fucking family. (Joke reference) Lady Bird is the best high school movie I’ve ever seen, and marks one hell of a trajectory for star Saoirse Ronan. (I never know if I’m spelling her name right.) Her dramatic range has never been a fluke, but her comedic timing and delivery makes her an even greater acting force to be reckoned with. Lady Bird is the movie I cuddle up with while eating ice cream. It helped me make sense of my own desperate search for identity in high school AND reconciled the love/hate relationship I had with my hometown. They say movies are an escape, but for me, Lady Bird is free therapy.
There’s only one Mummy movie and it stars Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz. Stephen Sommers’ 1999 riff on the iconic Universal Studios monster is essentially an Indiana Jones caper (or rip-off, however you choose to see it). But to me, this swashbuckling adventure is as classical as they come, with so much lust for danger and the great wide outdoors that it mitigates some of the stir-craziness of lockdown. The Mummy is self-aware without being obnoxious about it, scary and epic when it wants to be, action-heavy and all the better for it, while throwing in a charming bit of romance into the mix without giving a shit. There’s something in it for everyone, serving up the perfect wanderlust cocktail for our bedridden, atrophied souls.
Legend of the Drunken Master
Jackie Chan ruined me for action movies, and if there’s one movie that did it in particular, it’s this one. Drunken Master is a masterful showcase of his sheer physical discipline and super-human fortitude. I rarely wince watching today’s action movies because a great deal of stunts are cheated. When Jackie falls into a burning pit, they did that FOR REAL. Or when he’s facing an all-out assault of bad guys, Jackie and his stunt team are performing that insane carnage IN CAMERA. It’s a cinematic high that the Mission Impossible and John Wick films are admirably chasing. Movies don’t get any better than this, where you don’t need CGI or a massive budget to create “spectacle.” Sometimes, you just need committed performers.
There was always going to be at least one Keanu Reeves movie on this list. My pick is Speed, full-stop. My cousins and I were OBSESSED with this movie growing up, so much so that we often created mock buses in our living rooms and re-enacted the whole movie, much to our parents’ concern. (Others had Die Hard, we had Speed.) But aside from being a nostalgic thrill-ride actioner, what gets me every time is at the very end when Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock lock arms and lips, and that damn romantic score plays so unexpectedly. Because amidst the bombs, explosions, and the good guy trying to outsmart the bad, you realize you’ve also been watching a slick love story this whole time.
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
QT’s latest is fast becoming my favorite Tarantino flick of all time. It’s a gorgeous panoramic love letter to a bygone era, but what I love about the movie wholeheartedly are the quieter, more intimate moments. When Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth sit down to watch Rick’s F.B.I. episode, or when Sharon Tate sits unknown in the audience of her own movie… reader, my heart bleeds. The one thing I miss utmost during quarantine is the ritual of going to the movies. I’m grateful that technology keeps us connected and busy with archives of content, but no amount of Zoom chats or “virtual movie theaters” can replicate the real deal of being in a dank-ass theater together. Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time understands this pang most of all, that movies were never about fame, spotlight, let alone convenience. It was about finding where you belong.
Lord of the Rings
What is it about this hike to Mordor and back again that’s so damn therapeutic to me? Is it about characters overcoming the most impossible of feats? Stubbornly facing insurmountable odds? Perhaps it’s just as simple as watching disparate people finding their way through the darkness. LOTR gets darker each time I re-watch the trilogy, whether it’s Frodo encountering the Nazgul for the first time, the Battle of Helm’s Deep, or Faramir’s fateful charge to retake Osgiliath. The story’s ending, as a result, shines that much brighter. I don’t have a particular favorite here; when I watch one, I have to watch THE WHOLE THING. This Middle Earth pilgrimage is one I embark on every year for the sake of the 9-year-old in me whose daily diet of Power Rangers, Pokemon, and Dragon Ball Z was suddenly liberated by the awe of fantasy. The LOTR trilogy in particular has helped soothe that aching sense of adventure I’ve been missing during lockdown.
Back to the Future
My siblings and I watch Back to the Future every Thanksgiving. Whether it’s because the movie is always playing around that time of year or we’re too lazy to change the channel after eating too much turkey, I cannot say because it’s a quiet tradition I’d like to keep going. This is one of the few movies we’ll happily watch WITH commercial intrusion. It’s also one of the first films I ever saw as a kid, one that enchanted me with the wonder of time travel, of DeLoreans, flux capacitors, and lightning-stricken clocktowers— of movies as a thing that could literally transport you. It’s easy to be transported when you’ve got a delectable cast exuding charm and humor every step of the way, whether it’s Biff’s howling tree one-liner, Doc’s mad facial expressions, or Marty’s lovable anxiousness whenever he’s with his teenaged parents. I don’t know if my siblings and I will be able to see each other this coming holiday, but Back to the Future keeps me warm knowing the days we’ve had despite us being scattered across the country, and hopeful for the days ahead of us once this madness is all over.
Jurassic Park is the one movie I retreat to when I’m feeling down, hopeless, or just all around shitty. Because it’s THE movie that made me believe in the power of movies. You have no idea how pulverizing that shot of the Brontosaurus was to me as a kid, or THAT axis-tilting T-Rex reveal. Never have I been awed and terrified in the same scene; I damn near lost my mind. And how surreal it was to find out that Jurassic Park was literally shot around the back end of Maui WHERE I LIVE Y’ALL. It made 5-year-old me believe I was living amongst dinosaurs, and I begged my parents to get us the hell off this island. It’s that naivete I hold onto, that belief in the unbelievable that makes me such an unabashed fan of cinema. Jurassic Park holds the kind of nourishing power that I’ve been retreating to many times during lockdown. This is a time when media and film publications are suddenly vanishing – the very industry I’ve been trying to break into – and I’m left to wonder where my place is in this existential crisis. Steven Spielberg’s classic continues to inspire me, to keep writing about movies for my own personal love for the medium if nothing else.
How about it, reader? What are some of your go-to comfort movies? I am open to all suggestions as I mainline comfort in this time of Rona.