Heading into this particularly long-awaited weekend, I’ve decided to cue up a list of my favorite “Feel-Good” movies for you. Apologies in advance to fans of The Notebook and every Garry Marshall movie on the planet (God rest his kind soul), but I just. Couldn’t. Do it.
Categorical preferences aside, by now the appeal for something more joyously substantive might feel appropriate considering the crippling divisions of our post-political convention existence. As movie-lovers, we find a source of strength in the collective stories we tell. These stories connect us with other humans, subvert the false ideals of those in power, and offer us a vision of good health and virtue.
So without further delay, allow me to offer the following list for your consideration:
1. The Big Lebowski (1998)
Guaranteed a place at the top of nearly every movie list I can think up, let me just tell you this is the greatest comedy ever made. You don’t have to love (or quote) it as much as I do. But if you don’t at least watch it, you’re being very un-Dude.
2. Ikiru (1954)
My first exposure to Japanese master filmmaker, Akira Kurosawa. Such a vulnerable, inspiring performance by Kurosawa regular, Takashi Shimura. The birthday party scene was the moment I decided to make movies.
3. Waking Ned Devine (1998)
After their friend dies of a heart attack while simultaneously winning the lottery, two old Irish dudes scheme to collect the money on his behalf — eventually roping the whole town in on the ruse. You can’t lose with this one.
4. Dr. Strangelove: Or How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
During one of the most contentious election cycles in our history, here’s a fitting and masterful political satire — 0ne of Kubrick’s best and a brilliant largely improvisational performance by Peter Sellers. Remember, there’s no fighting in the war room.
5. Life is Beautiful (1997)
Because sometimes tears make you feel better. Also, I’m a sucker for father/son stories.
6. It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963)
One bored summer, my grandmother forced me to watch this. Her persistence paid off as she now takes credit for my comedic sensibility. This film features a cast of all-time comedy greats and a personal favorite, Jonathan Winters.
7. Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
Some of the best screenwriting on the planet. Great cast. So much goodness.
8. Galaxy Quest (1999)
David Mamet called it one of the most structurally perfect films he’d seen. I also call it one of the funniest. This one has more rewatch-ability than puppies on Youtube.
9. Joe Versus the Volcano (1990)
A technical mess, but this John Patrick Shanley written/directed film is a spiritual and philosophical gem.
10. Chef (2014)
The always likable Jon Favreau gives us some of his best work in this one. I wrote about it for grad school so it must be good.
Have some to add? Tell us some of your feel-good favorites.
*Cover photo: Cinema Paradiso (1988)