January 12, 2007

Comfort movies.

Do you have a comfort movie? This would be a movie you rewatch in times of stress, when you want to create a comfortable environment for yourself. My son John says he uses the "Back to the Future" movies to mellow out at exam time. He says a lot of people his age -- mid-20s -- have "The Princess Bride" as their comfort movie? So, what's yours?

When I was in college -- in the days before home video -- one campus cinema always showed Marx Brothers movies at exam time. It was understood that this was what you watched to escape the stress. I was trying to think of what I would have now that fits in this category. I was going to say "My Dinner with Andre," "Slacker," "Fast ,Cheap and Out of Control," and "Grey Gardens." But John is disqualifying these choices on the ground that these are actually movies that I consider great, not the sort of junk food that we're trying to talk about here. It's true that I don't have any not-actually-great movies that I like to rewatch for comfort's sake. He says that I use TV reality shows for this. He's right. You know, the other day I watched three episodes of an old season of "Survivor."

(Song that John is playing that is amusing me while I write this post: "Nuages"... by Django Reinhardt. I'm looking for a YouTube clip of that for you, but what I'm seeing is that everyone tries to play that song.)

HEY: This post has a vlog:

And John never found the clip.

OH: I thought of one -- look, we watched it the day I wrecked my car -- "Serial Mom."


Too Many Jims said...

Blazing Saddles

hdhouse said...

Babe. The original Babe....simply the best.

I was at the premiere screening. All those hard Hollywood types. All crying. All clapping.

Makes me happy and comfortable every time.

Hecla Ma said...

I've got two comfort movies, "The Philadelphia Story" with Kate Hepburn and Jimmy Stewart, and "Pride & Prejudice," the A&E version which is incredibly true to the book.

WhatsAPundit said...

Army of Darkness:

"I'll swallow your soul!"

"Come get some."

Just gives me a happy face....

Truly said...

In college, my friends and I used the Wallace and Gromit cartoons as study breaks. Great fun, only about 30 mins long, then back to work refreshed and happy. Highly recommended!

My comfort movie is The Fugitive--I used to have the VHS until it broke from too many viewings.

Anonymous said...

Space Balls.... ludicrous speed!!

Princess Bride....I don't think that word means what you think it means

Singing in the Rain...I can watch Gene Kelly "dancing and singing in the rain"

Beaches for when I want to cry and laugh. Otto Titsling inventor and kraut....

ntodd said...

Raiders of the Lost Ark, Casablanca, Fantasia, and believe it or not...Schindler's List.

vbspurs said...

Auntie Mame

Anonymous said...

Total Recall, Election, Predator, Beast Cops, and God of Cookery. Mostly Total Recall. All, however, cinematic greats.

Anonymous said...

"Idiocracy" -- Comfort movie of the future

Buried last year by its studio...one of the funniest and bawdiest movies I've ever seen.

alice said...

Kill Bill. It's like wrapping up in a big duvet with a mug of hot cocoa for me (maybe I'm a psycho).

the pooka said...

Revealing my age some here, but...

The Breakfast Club.

"Mo-Lay really pumps my nads."

Revenant said...

I usually watch one of the TV series I have on DVD, like "Dead Like Me" or "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", when I'm in the mood to veg out with some TV.

I always find myself rewatching "Fight Club" whenever I catch it on cable, but I wouldn't call that a "comfort movie".

Chris Althouse Cohen said...

I usually use stand-up comedy for this.

vbspurs said...


My iPod/iTunes has long featured it too.

As well as my profile listing Reinhardt in Music.


shake-and-bake said...

While preparing for the California bar exam, I had gone through several weeks of tedious, unbroken studying when, one day on the way to the library, I passed a theatre where "Trading Places" was about to start a showing. I went in, sat down, and enjoyed myself enormously. To this day I'm not if it's a really good comedy, or if it just became great by taking me completely and utterly away from the relentless bar prep grind. Anyway, it became my comfort movie.

American Liberal Elite said...

Ferris Bueller and The Big Lebowski

Anonymous said...

Casablanca, Band of Brothers, Silverado.

tcd said...

Breakfast At Tiffany's for the Givenchy clothes and Audrey Hepburn's beautiful face.

Anonymous said...

Master and Commander: the Far Side of the World especially for the friendship between Captain Jack Aubrey and the Doctor (Stephen Maturin).

Another 'comfort' movie would be Blade Runner which I guess shows how twisted I really am

Dave said...

Wedding Crashers

Palladian said...

I didn't know other people had comfort movies! I have comfort movies and comfort tv shows.

All of them tend to have effective periods and fallow periods in their ability to provide comfort. Some no longer provide comfort, but were once very comforting indeed. An example of this kind of movie is the "Tales of the City" miniseries that aired on PBS in the early/mid '90s. That got me through some very difficult transitional years; I must have watched it a hundred times (or at least had it running while doing other things, which is what I usually do.

Other past comfort movies: Woody Allen's "Manhattan Murder Mystery" and "Four Weddings and a Funeral" (yes, yes, I know).

I also have had (and have) comfort TV shows. I have a dozen or so tapes of panel-type black-and-white game shows from the 50s and early 60s that are still quite effective comfort-providers. Something about Dorothy Kilgallen and Bennett Cerf is very comforting. Other television-based comfort shows include: "Are You Being Served?", "Mystery Science Theater 3000" and, at one time, "Northern Exposure".

J said...

"But John is disqualifying these choices on the ground that these are actually movies that I consider great, not the sort of junk food that we're trying to talk about here"

Are you sure there's a conflict there?

Mine: Elvis movies; Christopher Guest mockumentaries; Airplane

Ruth Anne Adams said...

When Harry Met Sally [she's the worst kind. She's high maintenance who thinks she's low maintenance.]

Pretty Woman
Runaway Bride
Officer and a Gentleman [O.K. So I like Richard Gere in chick flicks]

Too Many Jims: I didn't hear a harumph from you.

Working Girl [and maybe that's the Joan-Cusack-as-best-friend factor.]

The Sure Thing [another Cusack. And the third Rob Reiner film on the comments.]

Palladian said...

Oh, and the British television cooking show "Two Fat Ladies", which was able to provide comfort and the preparation of comfort food ("Clarissa, that's what I like to see, a whole jug of double cream!") at the same time. You can't watch a portly woman plunge her emerald-bedecked hands into a bacon-wrapped grouse without feeling quite comforted.

Anonymous said...

The last 30 minutes of John Woo's The Killer totally relaxes me...the soothing idea that all of life's stresses can be solved with volumes of automatic weapons fire....yes...calming.

Anonymous said...

Ann- I don't think a video of Nuages exists by Django.

Here's his son Babik playing it with a zingari kid who's like a ghost of Django:


If you want to see Django play, this is cool. THe Quintet of the Hot Club of France

MadisonMan said...

Singing in the Rain here as well. Ghostbusters. Groundhog Day. Star Wars. Indiana Jones movies 1 and 3 (but not 2 -- all that shrieking by Kate Capshaw!! Eeew).

Wickedpinto said...

Dust Bunny Queen beat me to "The Princess Bride" (yeah I'm a guy don't judge me!!!)

Full Metal Jacket (I don't know why either, but I can watch it at least 3 times a week)

and BaseKetBall. (I thought I would hate it, but I LOVE IT!!!)

Laura Reynolds said...


Animal House

Shawshank Redemption

Forensic Files on Court TV

Anonymous said...

Something about Dorothy Kilgallen and Bennett Cerf is very comforting.

I hear that. I used to TiVo What's My Line all the time, but they don't show it anymore. I loved when Steve Allen would guest on that show, with Arlene Francis. Very funny (and comforting).

Anonymous said...

"Groundhog Day," "Ed Wood," "Jackie Brown" and "Casino."

Actually, almost anything from the directors of the aforementioned films gives me that feeling: Harold Ramis, Tim Burton, Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorcese. "Mars Attacks!" and "Edward Scissorhands" are comforting, as is "The End of Innocence," and "GoodFellas." Even "Kill Bill" and "Pulp Fiction" are relaxing. And, of course, "Caddyshack."

I have a feeling that, in 25 years, "Groundhog Day" will be seen as the great movie of our times.

vbspurs said...

Another 'comfort' movie would be Blade Runner which I guess shows how twisted I really am

Well, if we're doing 'twisted comfort movies' put me down for Sid and Nancy.

And I too love Airplane!, especially for this.

Wonder if Borat will ever be someone's comfort movie, one day...


paul a'barge said...


Magnificent Seven.

And most recently, "The world's fastest Indian", with Anthony Hopkins.

michael farris said...

I dont have comfort movies, I have a comfort genre, rented cheap horror movies (that I've never seen before and never will see again).

The whole genre is based on 'what's the worst that could happen ....


They make many of life's petty concerns seem so ... petty.

Ricardo said...

Ferris Bueller
Grosse Pointe Black
Lake Placid
Streets of Fire
Deep Rising
Don Juan De Marco
Pure Country
Shadows in the Sun

In addition to many of the ones already mentioned above. Great escapism.

Meade said...

Woodstock the movie because, as I watch it, I take comfort knowing that, notwithstanding the groovy bohemian dress, behavior, and attitude I was sporting in August of 1969 when I was fifteen, I was nevertheless not sitting in the mud for three days with dysentery, too far from the stage to see or hear the (mostly) poor performances of many of my favorite (at the time) artists while tripping (badly) on the brown acid and run over (fatally) in my sleeping bag by a tractor.


Anonymous said...

Interesting. I used to watch Indiana Jones a lot (PhD in archeology here) but for the past several years I've rather grown bored by them just from watching them too much.

I still pull out Casablanca when I'm feeling kinda nostalgic for my undergrad days, which is when I first discovered it (and, um, because I saw it with a young woman of my then-acquaintance). Also for when I'm feeling early-80s is Looker, which is nicely emblematic for those times. Captures the 80s glitz, the technology, in a neat little techno-thriller. And the first time I discovered Vivaldi.

Bladerunner also. Same era, same sort of 1980s future-feel to it. And it's a classic.

The late 1990s is also sort of a comfort-time for me -- we all have certain times in our lives, I think, when things were just right with us, and it's not always the early 20s years -- and for that I put in DVDs of The X-Files or Millennium. Those for me really captured a lot of what the 90s was.

Better throw in Conan the Barbarian for the early-80s comfort, too.

amba said...

"Tom Jones," and I can prove it.

The first semester of my freshman year in college, JFK was assassinated. The second semester, I saw "Tom Jones" nine times.

Case closed.

AllenS said...

Laurel and Hardy, in March of the Wooden Soldiers. As a matter of fact, it was so good, that it was also called Babes in Toyland. Name another classic, that was so good, that it had two names.

Smilin' Jack said...

Just about any B-movie with Kevin Bacon, but especially "Tremors," "Hollow Man," and "Wild Things." There's just something very soothing about him, even when he's the villain.

ShadyCharacter said...

Groundhog Day. (Best movie EVER made).

I tend to go through phases when I need a comfort movie/tv show distraction.

During prep for the bar exam it was episodes of Poirot with David Suchet.
Captain Hastings: [referring to marriage]: You ever thought about it?
Hercule Poirot: In my experience, I know of five cases of wives being murdered by their devoted husbands.
Captain Hastings: Oh?
Hercule Poirot: And twenty-two husbands being murdered by their devoted wives. So thank you, no. Marriage, it is not for me.

During law school exam week, it was Jeeves and Wooster. What ho!

Anonymous said...

For me, it's The Remains of the Day with Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson.

Anonymous said...

Rudy. I've been working hard to graduate from college and prepare for law school. I find its message inspiring: reach for your dreams, dig deep, and good things can happen.

Anonymous said...

After a bad day at work I like to watch the Matrix - starting just before the lobby scene.

I may have to put that movie on my iPod.

KCFleming said...

I watch and rewatch To Kll A Mockingbird for comfort, but usually skip the trial scene.

The southern narrator and the kids' conversations are to me indescribably beautiful-sad, like something long past, yet reassuring in its basic goodness.

Palladian said...

Speaking of comfort, where's the podcast?

Susan said...

Yeah, what is it about Groundhog Day that you can watch it over and over and over and over.....

Ruth Anne Adams said...

Amba: It's not unusual.

Oligonicella said...

Galaxy Quest and Eyes of Fire

Anonymous said...

Mine have all been mentioned

Singing in the Rain

Kirby Olson said...

Only Two Can Play, Peter Sellers.

Serendipity, John Cusack.

Paddy O said...

Rivers and Tides. My parched soul is soothed watching the leaves float down the river, and the understated bursts of frustration by Andy Goldsworthy when nature doesn't quite cooperate.

Tibore said...

No, no, everyone: Junk food. That's the professor's criterion. Some of the ones you all are listing are actually good movies. For example, "Princess Bride" was deliberately corny, so in a nudge-wink way, it's actually good.

Here's a non-nutritional choice: Top Gun. Always a sucker for a movie about summer in "school" falling in love with a teacher. Really, the sleek jets have nothing to do with it. ;)

Another: Predator. It's comforting to know that somewhere, there's a bunch of muscled badasses with huge guns keeping the alien hunters at bay.

And a non-action one: Only You, the Marisa Tomei - Robert Downey Jr. travelogue/love story. Silly, superficial, and to be honest, slightly creepy (the guy stalks the girl in Italy, and that's romantic?? The guy sets up a fake date with some fake suitor to fake a molestation and make her fall in love with him instead of the suitor, and that's a sign of his love?? I mean... if I pulled the stuff Downey's character did, I wouldn't end up with a girlfriend, I'd end up with a restraining order!). But dammit, I'm a sucker for about anything with Marisa Tomei, and I think she was gorgeous in that film.

Speaking of Marisa Tomei, I would normally put down Untamed Heart as one of my comfort movies, because I do watch that "in times of stress, when (I) want to create a comfortable environment for (my)self". So it sort of fits the bill. But, again, not junk food; it's actually a good movie. In fact, I think that's a vastly underrated movie with surprisingly good acting jobs by Ms. Tomei, Christian Slater and Rosie Perez. So in a way it qualifies, but in a way, it's disqualified.

TV?? How's 'bout the old "Battlestar Galactica" series from the 70's? During the winter of the absolute worst flu I ever had - one where I passed out in my bathroom and ended up talking to paramedics, one where the doctor said to me "Why didn't you call the ambulance sooner!!??" - I laid up on the couch during a Sci-Fi channel marathon of that old series. Forgot how simultaneously corny and compelling it could be. And corny. And also, corny. Oh, by the way, did I mention corny? (Yeah, the special effects aren't up to today's snuff, and there were some pretty lame storylines. Outer space western quick-draw episode, anyone??). But dammit, if there was ever one show that's the epitome of empty calories, it's this one.

I'd mention Buffy too, but dammit, I maintain season's 1 through 4 were when they were actually great shows, and season 5 was when it was still a good one. Seasons 6 on? Eh... okay, they were junk food then. No question in my mind.

ShadyCharacter said...

Ann, what a great topic to post about right before a three day weekend!

Reading through the comments I've flagged 4 great movies I need to see again.

Finn Alexander Kristiansen said...

Mystic Pizza, You've Got Mail, Christmas in Connecticut (the original with Barbara Stanwyck).

And like others, I always end up watching Groundhog Day when it comes on tv... it's magnetic somehow.

Anonymous said...

Serpentine Shelley! Serpentine!

Michael J. Totten said...

When Harry Met Sally
Lord of the Rings
Lost in Translation

An odd mix, perhaps, but there it is.

Meade said...

King Kong

Christy said...

Ann, "Serial Mom" was shot in my neighborhood. I came home from work one day to find all the trucks pulling away and my neighbors telling me Kathleen Turner had spent the day sitting in front of my house chatting with everyone.

Tibore, but the final season had "Once More with Feeling!"

Wicked Pinto, I've been trying for months to convince my 10 year old nephews that "Princess Bride" is not a chick flick. No luck.

Junk food - "Labyrinth," "A Knight's Tale" and "American Dreamer"

Non-Junk - Firefly/Serenity, Farscape, O Brother How Art Thou?
Moulin Rouge, The Thin Man series, ....

Anonymous said...

I have a few movies that keep me confortable in this Southern California cold (Global warming -- HA!):

1) The Usual Suspects -- Chazz Palmentari's face at the end is worth the wait.

2) The Big Lebowski -- The movie that came with my move to L.A. The Coen brothers (genius moviemakers) get it right.

3) Serenity -- What the Star Wars prequals could have been and Star Trek was not.

Jeff said...

Roadhouse - Patrick Swayze
Hudson Hawk - Bruce Willis
Army of Darkness - Bruce Campbell

Titus said...

A couple of my favorite "comfort" movies are:
Cat on A Hot Tin Roof-Liz Taylor and Paul Newman dripped sexuality.
Streetcar Named Desire-I am a sucker for Tennessee Williams-and Vivian Leigh was amazing.

and my favorite was Suddenly Last Summer with Liz Taylor and Montgomery Clift. Very sad but a fantastic movie.

Ricardo said...

Ann: I don't know how serious you were about changing your birthday, but here are some possibilities. If you go with your half-birthday (July 12) that puts you in company with Julius Caesar, Henry David Thoreau, Bill Cosby, Amadeo Modigliani, Cesar Chavez, George Eastman (he might knock you for having a Sony), Oscar Hammerstein II, Andrew Wyeth, Van Cliburn, Milton Berle, Josiah Wedgewood (do you eat off his stuff?), and Richard Simmons the fitness guy.

Another possibility is to go with your conception day. April 12 doesn't look that promising, but if we could stipulate April 15 it would put you in company with Leonardo da Vinci, Henry James, Bessie Smith, Claudia Cardinale, Sir Neville Marriner, Sir George Cadbury (yum, chocolate), Al Bloomingdale (shopping!), Elizabeth Montgomery of Bewitched, Roy Clark, and even Kim Il Sung for some axis of evil appeal. It would also make you "a tax day baby".

So, take your pick. You fall into great company on either day. Although now that you've opened your gifts today, you're probably stuck with January 12 for another year. Happy birthday!

Doug said...

Quigley Down Under - I really liked Crazy Cora.

True Grit - Also a good movie, and like Quigley, there's something I find comforting about Westerns.

Tank Girl - Silly and fun.

Unknown said...

Ha – any of Sergio Leone's trilogy of spaghetti westerns with Clint Eastwood - “the Man with No Name” - in "A Fistful of Dollars,” “For a Few Dollars More,” and last, but certainly not least, “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.” These rule.

Unknown said...

This is silly. Who the hell watches the same movie twice? And the Price Bride????? One of the most boring movies ever.

LoafingOaf said...

I plop in movies by the Coen brothers (especially The Big Lebowski) and David Mamet (especially The Spanish Prisoner and The Edge) when I'm feeling stressed. Coen brother movies because they're so rewatchable. Not sure why Mamet. Because it comforts me in stressful times to see characters getting conned or feeling screwed?

Some others I've gone back to in such times:

After Hours
Die Hard
The Hidden
Planes, Trains & Automobiles
Dawn of the Dead
Killing Zoe
Another Day In Paradise
Bad Influence
The Best of Triumph the Insult Comic Dog
Reality TV - But only Survivor, Am. Idol, Apprentice, and crappy MTV shows (like Rob & Big!)

Middle Browser said...

Different films over the years - some great, some just guilty pleasures. The list includes "Groundhog Day", "When Harry Met Sally", "My Cousin Vinny", "When Fools Rush In" and "Topsy Turvy".

Anonymous said...

Late last night/early this morning, I was struggling with insomnia, and HBO thankfully served up another long-forgotten comfort movie: "Cadillac Man." Robin Williams, Tim Robbins, and very young Fran Drescher and Annabelle Sciorra. Could be Robin Williams' best movie.

Anonymous said...

How about Sgt. Bilko, with Steve Martin at his not-so-best? It definitely qualifies as cinematic junk food, but the "hovertank" demonstration scene is a hoot.

Anonymous said...

'Les Enfants du Paradis', but most of all I would like to make love with you watching Grigori Kozintsev's 'Hamlet'. Hope that makes sense.

Patrick Wahl said...

Groundhog Day and October Sky are two I can alway watch that leave me in a good mood. The Miracle Worker somehow works too.

julie said...

My absolute favorite comfort flick is That Thing You Do.

Just watched it last night, in fact.

Sarah Bissey said...

Judd Apatow's movies (Superbad, Knocked Up, 40 Year Old Virgin) have excellent replay value and I always end up catching something new every time I watch them. They're funny and heart warming sans the cheesiness and they're definitely my comfort movies when I'm sick, anxious or sad. I even use them when I need something to fall asleep to.