I know now may be hard times with finals encroaching, so I want to help you. With the high stress of finals, religious holidays you may or may not celebrate, being with your annoying family who is expecting grandkids soon, things can get tough. While you likely have your own coping mechanisms, I want to suggest some films that have helped me or I think could help many of you. Enjoy.
1. Inside Out
I feel like I don't need to say much here, because Pixar is pretty much instilled in all of us, but if you don't know Inside Out, here's your notice. In summation, a preteen girl moves to San Francisco and has to adapt to her surroundings while her internal emotions guide her journey. Joy and Sadness accidentally leave her central brain hub place thing and have to fight to get back in before it's too late. Animated movies, to me, have always been a nice blanket to wrap myself in to remind myself of my childhood, and Pixar was like an uncle to me. Their movies were always on in the background and made me happy. While I don't love this movie nearly as much as everyone else (personally, I'd choose Toy Story 2 or Ratatouille), but I chose this movie for 2 reasons specifically: it can be funny as hell at times and YOU WILL CRY. It resonates deeply with a lot of people and crying is often cathartic to a lot of people. While I feel future choices may affect you stronger (the next one quite possibly the biggest contender), this certainly isn't a bad choice and is quite a fun time while you're blinking through that sing caught in your eye.
2. La La Land
The famous not-winner of Best Picture at the Oscars. A beautiful love story for the ages, La La Land is my most recent go-to whenever I'm feeling down. Its combination of gorgeous costume and set design and wonderful music is easy to lose yourself in, along with the aforementioned comforting tears. Myself, I find musicals incredibly easy to watch and comforting (as you'll see later). The combination of the well-written music and at times over-the-top nature of it all is incomparable. While this is a film that eventually turns to its more serious, dramatic roots, it never loses steam and will have you transfixed until its final gaze.
3. Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure
I mean, come on! What's more fun than a time-traveling comedy centered around two stoners? While straight-forward "dumb" comedies have never been my forte, this has been the one exception. Bill and Ted are two high-schoolers who need to finish their history report or else they fail, so they utilize a magic phone booth to bring back all of history's greatest figures to help them. This movie has no reason to be as good as it is. Before I saw it for the first time, I figured it'd fun and disposable, but I laughed a lot. As someone who typically sticks to more serious films, something that won't be reflected in this list, this movie's fantastic comedy blindsided me. Mind you, it's nothing deep. However, when it comes to turning your brain off and having a good time, drugged up Keanu Reeves is the way to go.
This is probably my strangest choice, but hear me out. I have many arguments about why this film is fantastic (it's one of my 10 favorites ever), but I don't wish to lull you into boredom with all my arguments that I'm literally using to write my final with as we speak, nor do I wish to spoil the film's beauty, so I'll keep this to a minimum. While sometimes hilariously macabre in how it approaches its romance, the film manages to keep viewers pulled in with how genuine its leads show their love for each other and the wonderful use of color, not to mention its deeper significance to the story. While I understand the film being a bit hard to market to people unwilling to test their comfort levels, I highly suggest checking this out for seeing how deftly this film tackles a true modern romance and pushes the envelope to the point where the viewer learns more about themselves.
5. Pacific Rim
Now, this is what I was looking for. Forget romance! Robots fighting monsters! Crack open a sick pack, get plastered, and watch them punch each other relentlessly!!!!!!
In all seriousness, that's about as much as you can get out of this movie. It does have an engaging story and all the cast teeter on the edge of seriousness and camp, but that's not what we're here for. The action is fantastically directed, not to mention it looks great. Rarely, if ever, do you feel like what you're watching is a computer. Watching it myself, I was always sucked in. You could feel the weight of each punch and the violence never strays into the over-the-top nature some action films do. Find the biggest and highest quality screen possible, shut your brain off, and just have fun.
6. Point Break
Diving (already, with the puns) back into the mindless action, we have Point Break, one of the quintessential 90s action films. Starring Keanu Reeves as FBI Agent Johnny Utah, he must infiltrate a group of surfers who also rob banks wearing the masks of ex-Presidents; and yes, it's just as crazy as you can imagine. Keanu is at his hammed up best here, never giving a convincing line reading. However, the main villain, played by the timeless Patrick Swayze, is actually pretty good. I'm not gonna argue he's intimidating or anything, but his presence really works here. But like Pacific Rim, that's not what we're here for. This is just really stupid and crazy, but just the right amount. You never feel like this movie is horrible. It always manages to keep a fun tone and the occasional terribly memorable line keeps you pushing forward. If you want to see it, I highly recommend it. It's some dumb fun on a smaller scale that doesn't need to use massive special effects to make you laugh.
7. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
If you couldn't tell, this movie is just fucking awesome. It's the quintessential comic book film, as in it looks and feels like a comic book. Scott Pilgrim is your average Canadian boy who's dating a Japanese schoolgirl, but falls in love with an Amazon delivery girl from America who can travel through people's minds as. He must defeat her 7 evil exes to win her heart. On top of that insane premise, the film has action straight out of anime and dialogue to fit. Every frame has something interesting going on in the background and the director, Edgar Wright, manages to pack subtle details in every piece of the film. I don't want to spoil too much, but Pilgrim beats up Captain America and Superman and dated Captain Marvel. Even after all the action, you still have a quirky love story to fall back on and the entire cast gives 110% in their performances. I have 0 issues with this movie and it is in my all-time top 10. This type of movie comes few and far between, so take whatever chance you can to see it.
8. Sing Street
Once again, back in the comfort of musicals, we have the embodiment of the 80s. Conor is your average teen with a shitty home life. He transfers to a Catholic boarding school where things aren't much better. That is, until he meets Raphina, a young model. To win her heart, he creates a band. The simplicity of the plot gives way to strangely powerful emotional moments and fantastic songs. Yes, even better than La La Land. It's extremely relatable and had a real sense of heart. The movie is a love letter, not only to the 80s but to brothers. Even to an only child with no heart like me, that means something.
9. Mr. Smith Goes To Washington
This is probably the strangest choice on this list, but hear me out. This classic from 1939 is about an all-American Boy Scout leader who gets elected to Senate and works to prevent gerrymandering and keep America an honest and proud nation. To keep this as politically neutral as possible, this film is incredibly inspiring to those who are unhappy with whatever current state of government they watch it in. The lengths Jefferson Smith goes to make his hometown and the children who look up to him happy is massively motivating. Every second on the Senate floor is powerful to those who feel like they have none. The sense of pride I achieved finishing this movie has rarely been matched before or since. I highly recommend it to those of you who can enjoy older films or want something different.
Another movie dedicated to brothers, this tells the story of two who enter MMA following a rough divorce and who enter a world championship later in life. A small confession, I hate sports movies. They're so hard to sit through. Boxing and similar sports are the few exceptions, and this film was one of the first that made me actually start giving other sports movies a chance. The story is filled with gut punches (pun intended) and the performances from Tom Hardy (left) and Joel Edgerton (right) are both magnificent. ONe of the reasons this and other boxing films work is because they focus on character drama rather than the sport itself, It allows the characters to develop independently from the action of the sport. However, their upbringings are reflected in their fighting styles, which also strangely build up the dramatic blowouts at several moments in the film. Yeah, you might cry, but from what other people have told me about the film, that's not what they got from it. It deeply resounds in them, makes them want to call their siblings and remind them that they'll always love them, no matter how hard it may be at times. This discusses familial love in a buff and violent cloak and for that, I think it's a must watch.
HONORABLE MENTION: The Room
Now, I have a caveat here. Don't watch this alone. This is the type of film you put on with your friends and laugh at. Watching this alone won't be as fun. That being said, this is the worst movie ever made. None of the dialogue is realistic, the acting is horrible, the green screen is obvious, and the line dubbing is the worst I've ever seen. And you HAVE to see it for yourself. The plot doesn't matter, the characters don't matter. Just laugh and have fun. Also, you can prepare yourself for The Disaster Artist this weekend, another friendly outing where you can go to the theater and laugh. With this, I ask you to tighten the bonds that may be strained during these high stressed times. Just, have fun. We don't need any more anxiety than we already do.