Life is too stressful to waste time watching sad movies. Here are eight suggestions we guarantee will make you smile.
After a year that was so stressful and chaotic that we didn’t even have time to worry about murder hornets, the last thing I want to do is snuggle up and watch a really depressing movie. Yet for some reason, it seems that’s what the Academy wants us to do this year, as the best film category is just a list of bummer after gut-wrenching bummer. Want to watch a family deal with the helpless agony of witnessing their father slowly succumb to dementia? No prob! Interested in seeing a sweet, hard-working Korean American family just get handed lemon after bitter, rotten lemon by life? Check! Even Nomadland, which stars indisputable national treasure Frances McDormand, had me weeping at the end. In the words of Queen Ari, I have no tears left to cry.
I’m not saying these movies aren’t amazing, I’m just saying that as we watch the world crumble around us, they might not be what we need right now. That is why I have decided to make the list of films that we deserve after this absolutely bonkers year. You have my personal guarantee that each film on this list will warm your heart like a delicious cup of hot cocoa on a cold day (drinking a delicious cup of hot cocoa while watching any of these films is highly encouraged). And the best part? They are all on Netflix. You’re welcome.
“Hunt for the Wilderpeople” (2016)
If anyone asks me for a movie recommendation, this is always the first film I suggest. It doesn’t matter their age, where they’re from, or even their general level of cynicism… everyone I know who has seen Hunt for the Wilderpeople has loved it. My only criticism of this cinematic masterpiece is that the title implies it’s some sort of fantasy monster flick, which it is most certainly not. In reality, the story follows a little boy named Ricky Baker, whose cheeks you will be tempted to squeeze through your TV, as he is taken in by a pair of older foster parents in a remote part of New Zealand. That’s all I want to tell you because you deserve to experience every surprise and delight that this movie has to offer with fresh eyes. Every time someone basks in the warm glow of Hunt for the Wilderpeople and then recommends it to someone else, I see it as an act of kindness.
“About Time” (2013)
Ok so I know I said earlier that I had no tears left to cry, but I’ve got to admit that even thinking of this one makes me a little misty-eyed. About Time stars lovable Irish ginger Domhnall Gleeson as Tim Lake, whose father (played by equally lovable English silver fox Bill Nighy) casually informs him on his 21st birthday that all of the men in his family are time travelers. Once he’s gotten over the initial shock of this revelation, Tim uses his power to do what any heterosexual red-blooded 21-year-old boy would do— find a girlfriend. And find a girlfriend he does, in the practically perfect Mary, played by Rachel McAdams. Despite the whole time travel thing, this movie is really a simple story about family, falling in love and what makes life worth living.
“The Half of It” (2020)
I love this movie for a lot of reasons, but one of the biggest is that it’s allowed me to use the term “Cyrano de Bergerac” as a verb. In a classic cinematic trope, a shy yet silver-tongued nerd Cyrano de Bergerac’s the heck out of Aster, the cutest girl in school, when a handsome, bumbling football player enlists our nerdy hero to ghostwrite love letters to her. So what makes this movie different from any other classic Cyrano tale? This time, our shy protagonist, who is also head over heels for Aster, is a young woman named Ellie. It’s a sweet, funny story about the passion, drama, and awkwardness of teen love. Ellie is an adorably insecure, brilliant, empathetic kid, and her blossoming sexuality is just one part of what makes her the magnificent young character she is.
“Set It Up” (2018)
When I first read the plot of this movie, I thought, “this sounds dumb.” Spoiler alert: It’s not dumb at all. It’s actually very funny and great! Set It Up follows two young, overworked assistants living in The Big City who hatch a wacky plan to make their work lives easier by setting up their mean bosses (played by Lucy Liu and Taye Diggs). Hilarity ensues, and I mean that completely genuinely! Lucy and Taye are as hot as ever, as are Zoey Deutch and Glenn Powell, who play the two assistants. This film gave birth to the concept of “over-dicking around”— when you have too much time before you have to be somewhere so you dick around, and then realize that you’re late. For that, I am forever grateful.
“Now and Then” (1995)
Do you believe in magic? I know I do, considering that in 1995, Demi Moore, Melanie Griffith, Rosie O’Donnell, Rita Wilson, Christina Ricci, Cloris Leachman, Janeane Garofalo, and a whole bunch of other queens of the silver screen teamed up to make what was basically Stand By Me with girls. The plot follows four adult women who get together for the first time in years to reminisce on a life-changing summer they shared as preteen best friends back in 1970. This movie hits absolutely everything the middle schooler in you wants in a movie: Seances! Stuffed bras! Friendship bracelets! Cute boys skinny dipping! A really cool treehouse! Is this technically a cinematic masterpiece? Absolutely not. This is an actual quote from the movie: “Hey beetle-brain, it’s common knowledge that if you tongue-kiss a boy, he automatically thinks you’ll do the deed with him.” Tongue-kissing fake news aside, it’s a nostalgic, escapist story about the unbreakable bonds of female friendship set against a bucolic backdrop in a time before kids had to worry about cellphones and internet bullying. That’s why we love it, beetle-brain.
“To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” (2018)
One night a few years ago when I was single and feeling very bitter, I decided I wanted to drink a bottle of wine, hate-watch a teen rom-com while screaming at my TV, and then cry myself to sleep. Unfortunately things did not go as planned… because I chose To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, which it turns out is A COMPLETE AND UTTER DELIGHT. Despite my best efforts, high school overachiever Lara Jean Covey melted my cold, bitter heart. Lara Jean has never told a boy she has a crush on him. Instead, she writes him a secret love letter that he’s never meant to read (and for some reason puts these letters in addressed envelopes in a box in her closet). Well, you guessed where this is going friends — the letters get mysteriously mailed, and one of them is sent to none other than Lara Jean’s sister’s boyfriend! I’m squealing! Naturally, the only recourse one has in this situation is to start a fake relationship with the cutest boy in school, Peter Kavinsky. But what if the fake feelings start to become real feelings? I’m positively giddy! Your heart will flutter in time with Lara Jean’s as her innermost fantasies start to become reality. (Important editor’s note: there are two sequels to TATB. They are unfortunately kinda terrible).
“Always Be My Maybe” (2019)
It takes a lot for me to laugh out loud when I watch a movie by myself, but there’s something about Keanu Reeves at a ridiculously pretentious restaurant asking the waiter if they have “any dishes that play with the concept of time” that makes me spit out my soup. Actors Randall Park and Ali Wong co-wrote and star in the film, and they absolutely sparkle. Wong plays a highly successful celebrity chef who reconnects with her high school sweetheart, played by Park, 15 years later. As Wong’s star continues to rise, Park is still half-heartedly pursuing a rap career while working for his dad’s HVAC company. They still have feelings for each other, but he can’t let go of his ego and appreciate her success and she’s embarrassed by his total lack of drive, yadda yadda yadda. The brilliance of this film lies in both the character development and the one-off jokes, which had me cackling like a happy witch.
“Little Monsters” (2019)
I told you a lie earlier, and I’m sorry — I said that all of the movies on this list were on Netflix. This one is actually on Hulu, but it’s so delightfully bizarre and quirky (did I mention it’s a zombie movie?) that I had to include it. The concept is this: Dave, an absolute jerk and aging man-child, meets his five-year-old nephew’s very hot kindergarten teacher (played by the always luminous Lupita N’yongo) and volunteers to help her chaperone their class field trip to the petting zoo. The only problem? The zoo is next to a US Army base (duh), where there’s just been a security breach, and zombies are breaking out and eating everything — and everyone — in sight. The brilliance in this movie lies in N’yongo’s portrayal of Miss Caroline, a teacher SO determined to keep her class not only safe from harm, but relatively untraumatized by the whole zombie apocalypse thing, that she goes to great lengths to make the kids think the whole thing is a game. (Important editor’s note: the first 15-ish minutes are really crass and off-putting. You’re going to wonder if you’re watching the right movie. You are. Just give it until Josh Gad shows up as children’s TV star Mr. Giggles… you’ll be glad you did).
Written by Emily Pinto