There’s nothing quite like a well made, artfully done, depressing-as-hell film. It’s what I love. It’s what I long for when entering a darkened theater — my There Will be Bloods, my Sweet Hereafters, my classic noir, my psychological dramas, my human tragedies. I avoid musicals and romantic comedies like the plague…these being films most would claim as “feel good”. But there’s something special about a well done “nice film” that can brighten one’s spirits. And then there are those off-the-wall comedies that make you laugh over and over. After watching one of the most draining and harrowing films of recent memory, the artfully done but dehumanizingly humanist IRA-hunger-strike-in-prison drama, Hunger, I realized I needed a pick-me-up. So what movies make someone like me feel good?
Well, here’s the Schleicher Spin on Ten Feel Good Films that totally “get me”:
10. Ratatouille (2007) – Hats off to this rat and the best Pixar film ever. I frickin’ love this little French rat chef. It’s all about the story-arc and character development here.
9. Wet Hot American Summer (2001) – Really, how can you not feel good when a movie has these four words in the title: WET, HOT, AMERICAN, and SUMMER? Yeaaaaah! Summer camp and the 1980’s rocked, man! This is the movie that Hot Tub Time Machine wishes it could be.
8. Return to Me (2000). What an oddly appealing film: a high concept dramedy about a man who falls in love with the woman who received his dead wife’s heart starring two people I normally find annoying (David Duchovny and Minnie Driver) and directed by David Letterman’s soul mate, Bonnie Hunt. What we have here is a nice film about nice people directed by one of the nicest ladies on earth. Bonnie, will you please get back in the director’s chair!?
7. Ghost Town (2008). Here’s a film about a cold-hearted and sarcastic dentist (Ricky Gervais) who suddenly finds himself talking to some pushy ghosts after a near-death experience and falling in love with a ghost’s widow (Tea Leoni at her most charming). Directed by David Koepp (who never seems to get any credit), the film makes gorgeous use of its Manhattan setting and features clever writing and endearing characters. Unfairly overlooked when it was released, this is more than just The Sixth Sense of romantic comedies and features one of the best closing lines to any film of this kind in recent memory.
6. Used Cars (1980). Hot holy hell, I always forget that Robert Zemeckis directed this! Dare I say this is my favorite film of his! Kurt Russell and Jack Warden (as the hilariously named Roy L. Fuchs) are battling used car salesmen who get into all kinds of shenanigans (one involving strippers, many involving a dog) in this flick that is both totally ’80’s and totally timeless. I just start laughing every time I think of this staple from my college days. The extended sequence involving driver’s ed students racing against time in heaps from the junkyard to save the day is a comedy classic.
5. Monty Python’s The Life of Brian (1979) – I’ve always preferred this one over The Holy Grail (blasphemy!) and I think it’s mostly to do with the crucifixion sing-a-long at the end. There’s nothing quite like Eric Idle singing “Always look on the bright side of life” while hanging from a cross and Mormons are knocking on your door. Seriously, that happened to my roommates and I in college. We were watching this movie and blasting that song when Mormons came a-knocking. Ah, the look on their faces! Now that made me feel fantastic!
4. Almost Famous (2000). The nostalgia (hey, I wasn’t even alive during the era this film was set and I felt the nostalgia), the soundtrack, the coming-of-age, the rock-n-roll lifestyle, writer/director Cameron Crowe at his most Cameron Crowe-iest, the “Tiny Dancer” sing-a-long, Anna Paquin all grown-up as a smoking-hot groupie, Fairuza Balk, oh…and the ever appealing Penny Lane (Kate Hudson, when she was still young and almost famous). What the hell is there not to like about this? It just makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside every time I think about it. “Hold me closer…”
3. Atlantic City (1980) – This film about a city and its people gambling away their dreams and making that first (or last) big bet may seem like a downer to some. But there’s just something about that scene at the end where Susan Sarandon is driving down the White Horse Pike through the marshes racing away from the titular city and her windows are rolled down and the sun is setting (or is it rising?) and she has this look on her face that says, “I’m really doing it. I’m leaving this place for good!” And you feel so happy and so scared for her all at once. It’s a great ending that always makes me feel good, especially since I have cruised down the very same road through those very same marshes so many times both coming and going from Atlantic City.
2. Manhattan (1979) – I know, this one is so full or neurosis and melancholy, but something about that Gershwin music and the black-and-white cinematography always makes me feel great. And then there’s that last line, where Mariel Hemingway says to Woody Allen, “You gotta learn to have a little faith in people.” Well, this is one of those films that always restores my faith in people to make great movies.
1. Frankie and Johnny (1990). No one would ever accuse Garry Marshall of being a good director, but he did a fine job here with his adaptation of the Terrence McNally play about a New York schlub fresh from prison (Al Pacino) who gets a job as a cook at a Greek-owned diner and falls in love with a broken-hearted waitress (Michelle Pfeiffer). Having worked at a Greek-owned diner as a kid (in Jersey, not NYC) I’ll always have a soft-spot in my heart for the characters in this film. It makes exquisite use of DeBussy’s “Clair de Lune”, but even more exquisite is Michelle Pfeiffer — there’s just something about her in that waitress uniform…
Written by David H. Schleicher
So what are your favorite feel good films? Speak out and speak up in the comment form.