Top 10 All Time Favourite ‘Feel Good’ Movies
It is often said that its not fair to compare movies of one genre with those of the other. A 2012 can perhaps be as good as a Jurassic Park but it can’t really be better or worse than a Revolutionary Road. But if one has to make a list of one’s favourite movies across the genres I guess the ‘feel good’ or ‘uplifting’ movies do end up on top more often than not. Since the festive season is on (or round the corner at least) here’s a list of my top ten all time favourite ‘feel good’ (for lack of a better word encompassing the genre) movies (not in any order of preference). These are not great love stories or mad cap comedies or inspirational sagas of human struggle but simple, amusing, pleasing, cheerful and entertaining movies.
1. Before Sunrise & Before Sunset
Richard Linklater creates what can only be described as magic along with actors Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke in these two movies. Before Sunset came nine years after Before Sunrise and as the actors grew older so did their characters. Considering they also wrote their own dialogues, both of them do become quite indistinguishable from the characters that they portray. What are the movies about? Two people walking around and talking. But as far as walking and talking goes it has never been this engrossing and the dialogues have rarely been better.
2. Big Fish
A man tells fantastic and unbelievable stories all the time so much so that his son becomes sick of him and his stories. Of course, he does not believe any of them. Who would in a witch with a magical glass eye and a man eating giant? Even when the father (played earnestly by Albert Finney) is on the deathbed the son wants to know what kind of person he really was. Of course slowly he learns that his father’s stories were not entirely false and that faith is the only thing separating fantasy from reality. Big Fish is amusing to a large extent because of Tim Burton’s visual imagery and some very likable actors. It’s a story that’s funny and sad, fantastic and realistic at the same time. Ideal for ending an irritating day (unless one has access to better utilities!).
An American student is at the threshold of starting corporate drudgery. Before that he backpacks on a holiday across Europe with a couple of friends. The movie catches up with them in Spain. It has quite minimalist dialogues but captivating and at times stunning visuals. Of course, as it tries to answer ‘the meaning of life’ question, too many dialogues would have made it cheesy or preachy. Thankfully, it’s subtle and enigmatic. Perfect for a dead afternoon.
4. Garden State
Zach Braff who stars along with Natalie Portman in this very underrated movie is also its writer and director. He plays a small time actor, part time waiter who is leading his life sedated, drugged or otherwise zonked out of the boredom of mundane existence. He returns to his small town home to attend his mother’s funeral and encounters an array of quirky but mostly likeable characters and of course the pretty girl. It’s a love story of sorts and also a ‘coming of age’ story but avoids the clichés of both. A beautiful soundtrack and peaceful visuals make for a perfect watch in the time between a couple of drinks and being sloshed.
A psychologist called Mickey Mumford (played quite endearingly by Loren Dean) comes to the quaint little town of Mumford and sets up his shop. Soon he becomes the most successful shrink in the town due to his rather different methods. His patients are an interesting lot and the doc himself has a remarkable back story. A bit like Garden State what makes Mumford a relish is an array of small town characters with their simplicity and mild eccentricities!
This Wes Anderson flick is about a 15 year old school kid who is too mature for his age and a business tycoon (played superbly by Bill Murray) who is too immature for his age. Its actually a pretty funny reminder of the child in all of us and how we never really outgrow him. Not that its something bad though!
7. Groundhog Day
This Bill Murray and Andie McDowell starer is about a guy caught in a time warp who lives over the same day again and again. It is surprisingly witty and has a kind of endearing humour which grows on you every time you watch the movie. If you watch it enough number of times you’ll probably get the subtle message also; how to live your life!
8. Keeping the Faith
Edward Norton’s directorial debut stars him as a priest who has a rabbi (played by Ben Stiller) and a suave business woman (played by Jenna Elfman) for friends. The three were childhood friends before Jenna moved away. They bond again when she returns years later as a smart and successful corporate executive and as always happens, both guys fall in love with the pretty girl. What makes this a very pleasant movie is that it doesn’t try to be a comedy. Instead it comes across as a funny yet heart warming story about friends, love, religion, faith and…life.
9. Lost in Translation
Bill Murray (once again) playing an actor in his 50s and Scarlett Johansson playing a newly married twenty something meet during their stay in Japan. Surrounded by an alien culture and customs; frustrated of the boredom of an unknown language and people, they get closer. Its quite difficult to call it a love story but more difficult to call it anything else. Its about how two almost strangers can understand and communicate with each other better than they can with the people they’ve spent their lives with. Its also about how sometimes its better to ignore the bleak big picture and enjoy the interludes while they last. That and the deadpan humour of Bill Murray make sure that Lost in Translation leaves a pleasant aftertaste.
10. Ed Wood
This Tim Burton biopic stars Johnny Depp as Edward D Wood who acquired unexpected fame posthumously when he was voted as the worst director ever for his outlandish movies about monsters and alien terrors made on shoe string budgets in the 1950s. Ed Wood is obviously funny but it never makes fun of the actor/director/writer/editor/producer who had a fetish for cross dressing. Instead it pays a loving tribute to a guy who was passionate and sincere about making movies even if he was ill equipped for it and perhaps despite being aware of it.
And a few more..
I’ve already listed 11 movies instead of 10 so how does it matter if I list a few more. Should always take advantage of economies of scale.
11. Beautiful Girls
A deceptively ordinary name for a brilliant and funny movie with an ensemble cast, vaguely about men chasing illusions of women. This is a perfect example of a movie which is not trying to say anything but is still absolutely fascinating to watch not to mention hilarious, sensible and sweet. Its definitely not a ‘date movie’ even though the poster might say so, although on second thoughts I am not very sure what exactly is a ‘date movie’. A superb soundtrack, likeable (and competent) actors and soothing visuals. Seriously, what more?
12. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
One of the best films ever. There’s no point in me trying to explain what its about. Anyone who hasn’t yet, should watch it. And while you are at it check this out as well: http://www.lacunainc.com/
Its one of the most innovative romantic comedies in a long time. Make that a really long time. It’s a bright, cheerful and sparkling movie and is neither extra mushy nor a gross sex comedy. There aren’t too many movies that manage to stay out of both these extremes and still manage to be this funny and relatable.
And finally, honourable mentions: Vicky Christina Barcelona & Kicking and Screaming (not the one with Will Farrell)