1. High Fidelity
For me, any path to cinematic healing begins with Cameron Crowe. Unless you’re watching Elizabethtown, there’s almost no way to go wrong. I suggest you start with Almost Famous, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Singles or High Fidelity, the best movie he never made . If you watch this movie and don’t want to go out and be a better person, then I think your heart may have died.
2. Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion
Whether it’s Mean Girls, Clueless or Heathers, movies about high school always make you feel better about your own high school experience, because at least your boyfriend wasn’t poisoning all your friends. Romy and Michele is even better, because it’s about looking back and realizing you weren’t cool but you’re still awesome. It’s about having fun by doing your own thing.
3 – 4. Anchorman/Zoolander
You can probably already quote each of them by heart, but sometimes there’s nothing better than watching something you’ve seen a million times. Movies like Anchorman are just pure comfort food, like a glass of warm milk. Today, milk will be a great choice.
If the only black and white movie you’ve seen is The Artist, you can do better — and I suggest you start here, with one of the most wonderful movies ever made. There’s nothing like watching something that’s just perfect, a romance filled with characters you actually care about. I’ve seen it about 20 times, and I never leave with a dry eye. If you do, you’re a monster.
6. The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Okay, forget tearing up. Get ready to lose your goddamn mind with life-affirming emotion. When I saw Perks in the theatres, I started sobbing ten minutes into the movie and didn’t stop until it was over. I was that person. And on days when you just need a good cry, share those days with a movie that just makes you feel good to be alive — so good you’ll want to call everyone you know after and tell them how much you love them.
7. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Every Charlie Kaufman movie is a miracle, but this one is particularly special, a movie that means something to everyone who watches it. The feelings Eternal Sunshine evokes are so universal because they speak to what love is: that which is most inescapable and inevitable, quixotic and transcendent. It’s a puzzle that leads to the human heart. These are the pieces.
8. Little Miss Sunshine
Amongst film snobs, “crowd-pleaser” is close to a dirty word — code for “pandering bullshit.” However, Little Miss Sunshine is an audience-rousing joy in the best sense of the word, one that finds the redemption in dysfunction. The great ensemble works together to create characters you love and root for — because they are us. If you don’t find yourself somewhere in this movie, you aren’t looking.
9. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Who didn’t want to be Ferris Bueller in high school? And even as an adult, this movie is a reminder to take the day by storm and choose your own adventure when escape is needed. You don’t have to steal your best friend’s father’s car to get away. You can take the wheel every day. As Ferris reminds us, life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.
10. The Fantastic Mr. Fox
Wes Anderson’s foray into animation is one of the most wonderful and idiosyncratic children’s movies ever made, the type of movie you wish they had made when you were a kid. When I had my wisdom teeth out, I must have watched it six times on DVD, and I’d watch it again right now. With Wes Anderson, there’s no such thing as too much.
11. Silver Linings’ Playbook
One of the warmest movies ever made, Silver Linings’ Playbook is the perfect movie for those days where you feel like there’s no good in the world. David O. Russell’s quirky gem about family and mental illness might sound like treacle, but it’s a wise look at the loves we choose and the ones that choose us. Whatever love comes into your life, this is about learning how to let the good ones in.
12. Groundhog Day
Do you know anyone who doesn’t like Groundhog Day? No, because that person doesn’t exist. Like The Shawshank Redemption, there’s a reason it’s always playing on TV — because it’s the one movie you, your grandpa and Roger Ebert can all agree on loving. One critic called it the most philosophical movie ever made, and I don’t know about that, but I can see why they might say that. It’s a Great Movie that’s also chicken soup for the soul.
13. – 15. Sabrina/Roman Holiday/Breakfast at Tiffany’s
You can’t go wrong with Audrey Hepburn, and her entire catalogue is filled with movies you just want to reach out and hug. Whether she’s a carefree call girl or an idealistic student in love with a much, much older Humphrey Bogart, Audrey makes you wish your life were like a movie. You know it’s all a fantasy, but it’s one you can’t help but get swept up in. This is what love should be, like riding bicycles around Rome.
This is one of those movies that ends up deeper and lovelier than you ever expected it to be, at once a heartwarming coming-of-age story and an interesting commentary on race and class. Like stepping into your favorite TV show, Pleasantville is an entire world to discover, one that says a lot about your own. Don’t you dare change the channel.
17. Safety Not Guaranteed
Aubrey Plaza is turning into quite the little star (between this and The To-Do List) proving herself to be cinema’s smartest rom-com heroine. Safety Not Guaranteed works so well because it gives you exactly what you want, while continually surprising you. I wish that every movie had the courage to be this wonderfully weird, but that’s why movies like these are so special to us.
18. Thank You For Smoking
For a stinging satire of politics and entertainment, Thank You For Smoking is strangely sweet, a movie you’ll be surprised by how much you care about. Like Jason Reitman’s later Up in the Air, Smoking finds the redemption in the unexpected, the sweet in the bitter. You’ll laugh your ass off, but don’t be shocked if you find yourself falling in love. It’s hard to resist.
Also, Aaron Eckhart can get it. Forever.
19. – 20. Pitch Perfect/Bring It On
They’re basically the same movie — which is fine because they’re both fabulous. Both acerbic and perky, these movies are endlessly quotable and insanely watchable, the kind of movies that make you want to sing and dance. And you know what? Do it. Leave the blinds open and go nuts. You dance like nobody’s watching you.
21. Best in Show
This is one of those movies I think should be required viewing for all of my potential mates. If you haven’t been watching Best in Show, what else have you been doing? I don’t like those priorities. Christopher Guest’s most quotable movie is fucking brilliant from start to finish, a movie you want to force everyone you know to watch. Stay in bed. Make popcorn. Pull up the covers. Then prepare to laugh yourself silly. Just don’t drink fluids while watching it. You’ve been warned.
22. Bridget Jones’s Diary
Bridget Jones is one of cinema’s most oddly relatable characters, a person you either are or want to be your best friend. She’s a terrible dresser, always says the wrong thing and drinks way too much, but she’s also hilarious and kind of sexy — in her own perfect Bridget Jones way. It’s a movie about being loved just the way you are, which is something we all need to hear sometimes.
23. – 24. Sullivan’s Travels/The Philadelphia Story
Whether it’s Some Like It Hot, His Girl Friday, The General, Duck Soup or Arsenic and Old Lace, there’s nothing like a screwball comedy to cheer you up — one where they all talk so fast you need the subtitles to keep up. When they say they don’t make movies like they used to, this is what they are talking about, when great dialogue was all the special effects you needed.
25. – 26. Toy Story 3/Up
Almost any Pixar movie could go on this list (except for Cars 2, which had to be someone losing a bet), but I picked two of their best weepies. The first five minutes of Up might be the most emotionally devastating sequence I’ve seen in a movie, because it’s a brilliant tone poem of what it means to love and lose. Most people think it’s a downer, but that scene just makes me want to grow old with someone.
Sure, it’s the one foreign film everyone has seen, but there’s a reason it speaks to so many different people: It’s close to perfect. Amelie comes along at that right time in your life, when you need to be charmed by this strange little French girl and her lawn gnomes. Just don’t stop with Amelie. French cinema has a lot of great films, and if you want to see the world like Amelie, check them out. It’s not going to Paris, but it’s the next best thing.
28. – 29. Moulin Rouge/Singin’ in the Rain
Even if you’re one of those people who “doesn’t like musicals” (as if that were possible!), you need to watch these films. They couldn’t be more different — from old Hollywood to modern auteurism — but each is a shining example of why we go the movies. We want to be charmed, entertained and to feel the kinds of emotions you need to capitalize. Each isn’t just a movie. It’s a showcase of what it means to be alive, from its tragedy to its joy.
30. Legally Blonde
Is there any movie more ruthlessly buoyant than Legally Blonde? The movie is just as determined to be fun and spunky as its main character is to get into Harvard, and that energy is infectious. From it’s bubblegum soundtrack to ubiquitous pink, Legally Blonde is filled with color, humor and heart. You’d have to be a Grinch not to love it.
31. The Room
Sometimes when you’re feeling like shit, there’s nothing better than watching a movie that’s worse than your day will ever be. Although Troll 2 and Showgirls also fit the bill, I recommend The Room, the best-worst movie ever made. The acting is terrible, the green screen is laughable and the camera work is downright bizarre (like the random forays into HD), but there’s something hilarious and hypnotic about it. If you can, see it in the theatre. The Room is even better when shared with friends.
It’s a big time commitment (at an expansive three hours), but there’s a reason for the length. Every moment in the movie is an outpouring of emotion, a grand opera of melodrama, tragedy and healing, all set to a brilliant Aimee Mann soundtrack. You will feel literally everything, but the emotional effort is worth the catharsis.
33. Midnight in Paris
Woody Allen has a lot of great comedies (see: Annie Hall, Bullets Over Broadway, Love and Death), but few are as sweet and affecting as Midnight in Paris, a love letter to everything from fleeting romance to the French capital and 20th century literature. I saw it four times in the theatre, and each time I just wanted to go home and watch it again.
34. Grey Gardens
Grey Gardens is like going to a great vaudeville variety show or drag performance, a mesmerizing array of revolutionary costumes, impromptu song and dance numbers and bon mots. The Beales later became gay icons and you can see exactly why. For two wacky shut-ins, they make incredible company for two hours, women as weird as they are strangely inspiring.
35. Say Anything…
The last movie on the list is a trip back down Cameron Crowe lane, a film about having to grow up and make adult decisions you’re not quite ready for. As we watch Diane Court juggle school, family and the guy of her dreams, we can’t help but remember a time when everything was possible and everything still meant so much. This is a time when a song wasn’t just a song. It was a moment you would remember for the rest of your life.
Your turn, internet. What movies make you feel better about the world?