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M O V I E S TO M A K E Y O U F E E L G O O D
There are movies that make you feel good and there are feelgood movies. The latter is a stupid word (like 'chickflick' or 'rom- com') that has become a vague, dubious genre of films specifically and cynically designed to fill the shallowest hole in your soul - your need for mild, 'heartwarming' entertainment. They often star Meg Ryan or Hugh Grant, and they are as fleetingly satisfying as cheap burgers. But you can always go back to something better, the movies that you can, as Quentin Tarantino put it, "hang out with". They will always pick you up, never let you down, and whether in jest or seriousness, they only tell you what you want or need to hear. Here is a list of 50 that might work. You're welcome to disagree, if it makes you feel good. 50. O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000) Right from the get-go of the Coen brothers' rambunctious, bluesy, southern-fried reworking of Homer's Odyssey, Ulysses Everett McGill (George Clooney), is exasperated by the defeatist attitude of fellow escaped convicts Pete (John Turturro) and Delmar (Tim Blake Nelson). "Consider the
lilies of the goddamn field," he suggests, with twitchy good cheer. 49. Braveheart (1995) Mel Gibson's short-arsed rebel gizzard- slitter William Wallace cries "Freedom!" even as his guts are pulled out, thus ending three gruesome, tearful, rousing hours of cod- historical romance and particularly for Scots with an angrily vague memory of oppression - cathartic images of Englishmen being hacked into quivering chunks. 48. Shakespeare In Love (1998) Even Harold Bloom, the critic who ranks Shakespeare above God in the cosmos, concedes that this rigorously witty imagining of the Bard's London love affair is "an enjoyable travesty". 47. Jean De Florette/Manon Des Sources (1986) Over the course of two movies and four generations, Claude Berri's morality tale about a hunchback tax collector (Gerard Depardieu), and the neighbours who covet the water from his well drops into the dark reaches of human nature, but pulls itself back up into the sunshine with a sublime sense of patience and justice.
46. Evil Dead 2 (1987) "Who's laughing now?" shrieks Ash (Bill Campbell), as he taunts his own left hand, which he has just chopped off because it was possessed by demons. The most violent, delirious and hilarious slapstick comedy ever made. 45. Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure (1988) Two timetravelling fools (Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves) with a passion for Van Halen guitar solos, but no aptitude for book-learning, kidnap famous historical figures to help them with their school project. Abraham Lincoln articulates the spirit of the film with his final address: "Be excellent to each other. And party on, dudes." 44. True Romance (1993) "What you did was so romantic," says Patricia Arquette to her new husband Christian Slater after he kills her vicious pimp. And in a sick, sweet way, she's right. Writer Quentin Tarantino originally had an unhappy ending in mind, but director Tony Scott liked these kids, and wanted them to get away. He was right, too. 43. Les Parapluies De Cherbourg (1964) Catherine Deneuve's pink, glowing teenager falls in love with Nino Castelnuovo's garage mechanic, who gets her pregnant
before being called away to war. Every word between them is sung, in French, but that's okay, because they sound true and beautiful. 42. Cinema Paradiso (1989) Incurable movie-lovers tend to romanticise the whole experience of going to the pictures and Giuseppe Tornatore's story about an old village projectionist (Philippe Noiret) and his persistent young assistant (Salvatore Cascio) tugs agreeably at those memories of the cinema, and their place in your life. 41. Field of Dreams (1989) Kevin Costner builds a baseball pitch for ghosts, plays catch with his dead father, and essentially creates an outlet for the unshed tears of men with bottled-up paternal issues. 40. Trading Places (1983) Yappy conman Eddie Murphy and insufferable stockbroker Dan Aykroyd have their fortunes reversed in this cheerfully crude Regan-era satire, but its enduring assets are the supporting characters - Jamie Lee Curtis's admirable, forthright hooker, Denholm Elliott's delightful butler and Paul Gleason's ludicrously hostile corporate fixer.
39. Say Anything (1989) More people know and love Cameron Crowe's later chocolate-hearted smash-hit Jerry Maguire, but this attraction of opposites between honourable underachiever John Cusack and beautiful academic Ione Skye provides lasting delight - sharply observed, nervously plausible and brilliantly played. Young men who watch this will go on to secretly imagine themselves as a Cusack figure in all subsequent relationships. 38. Dazed and Confused (1994) The music, clothes and accents are specific to suburban Texas in the midSeventies, but Richard Linklater's loose, woozy movie recalls the emotional tangle of nostalgia, relief and sunbeaming possibility that you probably felt on your own last day of school. 37. Avanti! (1972) Jack Lemmon, wound up tight as ever, goes to Italy to collect his father's body, and finds that the old man was known locally as a poetic and magnificent lover. Funny that this smart, heartfelt work by Billy Wilder remains so unsung, since it makes you want to bellow like a fat tenor.
36. Jamon, Jamon (1992) The love triangle between the heir to an underwear empire (Jordi Molla), the daughter of the town whore (Penelope Cruz), and a well-hung ham-factory worker (Javier Bardem) is played out with ecstatic, spectacular carnality. Not to sound crude, but this movie could give even the most kosher viewer both a literal and metaphorical hunger for hot pork. 35. The Princess Bride (1987) The Cliffs of Insanity, The Rodents of Unusual Size, Wallace Shawn's pathetic evil genius, and Inigo Montoya, the ridiculously determined revenger - there is much to enjoy, and absolutely nothing to dislike, about Rob Reiner's swift, sweet fairytale pastiche. 34. Smoke/Blue in the Face (1995) Wayne Wang and novelist Paul Auster made a great movie about the invisible, mostly positive connections between cigarstore customers in Brooklyn, then hung around to improvise another collection of scenes blending the characters with real locals, in itself a graffiti-coloured shout out to the joys of city life. 33. Die Hard (1988) Bruce Willis, left, shoots a bunch of high- tech international thieves who are basically trying
to steal Christmas, saves his marriage in the process, and makes it back home to the kids through a snowstorm of broken glass and singed paperwork. Charles Dickens would most assuredly have loved it. 32. The Straight Story (1999) Most of David Lynch's movies are like the kind of nightmares you have after eating too much cheese, but this semi-true story about an old guy riding cross-country on a lawnmower has the slow, awesome power of a Johnny Cash song and wise things to say about age, time and brotherly love. 31. Midnight Run (1988) "If you say another word, I will bury this telephone in your head." Forming between the lines of such wonderfully terse and abusive dialogue, the reluctant, underplayed friendship between Robert De Niro's tetchy bounty hunter and Charles Grodin's whitecollar prisoner makes Martin Brest's road movie a lost, dusty treasure. 30. Local Hero (1983) Part-magical, part-realistic story of the bonny Scottish village that sells out to Burt Lancaster's oil company. The oil men aren't all bad, the villagers aren't exactly martyrs for local heritage, and
there are a hundred good jokes and revelatory details half-hidden in the story and performances. 29. The Fisher King (1991) Terry Gilliam's bizarrely affecting modern knight's quest, as guilt-ravaged radio presenter Jeff Bridges and grief-deranged schizo Robin Williams redeem themselves by stealing a delusory holy grail from a New York billionaire's mansion. At one breathtaking point, everybody in Grand Central Station begins to waltz. 28. The Big Lebowski (1997) The Dude (Jeff Bridges) is only mildly fazed by a series of phantasmagorical encounters with the nihilists and pornographers of the Los Angeles underworld. He is, in his own languid way, the most subversive role model in recent cinema, tacitly suggesting an ideal existence spent bowling, drinking milky cocktails, smoking powerful cannabis and watching The Big Lebowski. 27. Central do Brasil (1998) Gruff old cynic Fernanda Montenegro helps Vinicius de Oliveira's cute little orphan boy find his father, and the experience profoundly changes both of them. In synopsis, it sounds obvious
and revolting. In the telling, it builds awesome power through observation and restraint. 26. Gregory's Girl (1981) The horizontal dancing, the kid in the penguin suit, "bums, tits, fannies, the lot" - every scene in Bill Forsyth's movie is memorable and likeable, the cumulative effect a kind of midsummer magic, catching all the flailing pathos of teenage years spent in Cumbernauld or anywhere else. 25. When We Were Kings (1996) Mohammed Ali captured on Leon Gast's camera, like a hummingbird in mid flap, at his most glorious moment - The Rumble in the Jungle, aka the world heavyweight championship, Zaire, 1974. Ali spars, dares and goads you into becoming a more interesting person. 24. The Jungle Book (1967) Disney's most exuberant cartoon, in which Baloo the Bear (voiced by Phil Harris) becomes so enraptured by the beat of King Louie (Louis Prima) and the singing orangutans that he is compelled to dance, shaking loose his coconut-shell monkey disguise and getting our heroes in big trouble.
23. Down By Law (1986) Jack the DJ (Tom Waits) and Zack the pimp (Rod Lurie), both too laid-back to avoid being framed for crimes they didn't commit, are thrown in the slammer with Italian optimist Roberto Benigni, who doesn't speak English too good but knows an escape route. Scruffy but uplifting, like a barfly with a tremendous singing voice. 22. Modern Times (1932) Charlie Chaplin's last silent movie, the last dance of The Tramp, doesn't seem quite so funny any more, but it's still the purest display of his genius - one man's grace and humour used as a weapon against machinery, clockworks, dayjobs and boredom itself. 21. Ikiru (1952) Sad can feel good. Akira Kurosawa's overwhelming tale of a dying businessman (Takashi Shimura) who compensates for an unfulfilled life of conformity by building a kid's playground is one of the few films that might actually inspire you to change for the better. 20. Big Night (1996) Brothers Primo (Tony Shalhoub) and Secondo (Stanley Tucci) cook a monumental last-chance supper out of love and desperation for their failing
restaurant. The film itself is a whole- hearted effort, passionate about food and compassionate about people. 19. Toy Story (1995) Mass-produced plastic toys have their own lives, neuroses and social structure - Pixar Studios digital- animation classic works because you want it to be true, and the characters make you believe it. Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) is the spirit of Don Quixote trapped inside a new-fangled Action Man. 18. Anand (1970) Cancer patient Rajesh Khanna spends his last few months laughing at death and everything else. "Zindagi badi honi chahiye, lambi nahin," he says (life should be grand, rather than long) and this Bollywood classic expresses itself with more vigorous conviction than the many Hollywood movies that say pretty much the same thing. 17. Shaolin Soccer (2001) Stephen Chow's joyously goofy Hong Kong blockbuster is a serious recent contender for the most pure-fun movie of all time, as Fung (Ng Man Tat) trains his amateur football team using the power of Shaolin Kung Fu. The Cup Final against Team Evil is a billion times more exciting than any real match - the ball
kicked so hard it releases atomic shockwaves and fiery demons. 16. It's A Wonderful Life (1946) Frank Capra came home from World War Two and made his "special picture" - this strong, simple, infinitely watchable parable about the cosmic importance of one person's life and dreams, as Jimmy Stewart has his darkening worldview adjusted by an angel called Clarence (Henry Travers). 15. Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986) A resounding wake-up call from the Eighties - "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." Heed Ferris. Phone in sick, open the curtains, play Sigue Sigue Sputnik loud, and make alternative arrangements for the day. 14. Roman Holiday (1953) Princess Audrey Hepburn and journalist Gregory Peck, left, riding on a scooter in a romantically portrayed Eternal City. It really is ever so dreamy. 13. Amelie (2001) Jean-Pierre Jeunet's giddy vision of a Paris suburb in a parallel universe ruled by whimsy, where a cute, fantastical mooncalf (Audrey Tatou,
above) makes sure everybody gets who and what they secretly want with omnipotent, benevolent cunning. The whole film runs on the same kind of wishful thinking that keeps fairies in the air. 12. Together (2000) Swedish writer-director Lukas Moodysson loves every one of his characters - the befuddled, outdated founders of a socialist commune, and their estranged, embarrassed disco-generation kids - and his second film radiates with a warm orange aura of human comedy and empathy. 11. Tokyo Story (1953) Watching Yasujiro Ozu's smiling, sighing, painful and truthful generation-gap drama is like spending a few weeks at high altitude - it hurts quite a bit at first, but it does you the power of good. 10. The Philadelphia Story (1940) George Cukor's masterful adaptation of Philip Barry's rapid-fire theatrical farce zings with just as many wisecracks as comparably perfect entertainments His Girl Friday and Bringing Up Baby, but this one's got the combination of Cary Grant's twinkling ex-husband, Jimmy Stewart's dignified writer, and a mighty Katharine Hepburn, announced by the
posters as "The Snooty Society Beauty Who Slipped And Fell - IN LOVE." 9. Singin' In The Rain (1952) Playful, fluid, splashy, fizzy, romantic jubilation in Technicolour - the only musical that works properly, in that you don't want to smack the characters when they break out into the big production numbers. Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen took the duff old studio showtunes they were given, shined them up in a hurry, set them to eye-popping, off-the-cuff choreography, and turned out the greatest work of pop art. 8. Rocky (1976) All sports movies run on the ever-ready inspirational dynamic of unknown underdogs surmounting insurmountable odds to go the distance in a million-to-one shot, but none surmount with quite the same winning idiocy as Sylvester Stallone's meatheaded skid row boxer. If only real life contained such exhilarating training sequences and a constant, triumphant theme tune like Bill Conti's Gonna Fly. 7. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) Harrison Ford's battered, charismatic, grouchy and resolute archaeologist Dr Indiana Jones faces down the entire Third Reich in his
determination to secure the remains of the Ten Commandments for his local museum, but wisely shuts his eyes before the wrath of God. If only real life contained such exhilarating chase sequences and a constant, triumphant theme tune like John Williams's Raiders' March. 6. Spirited Away (2001) Hayao Miyazaki's wonderful, colourful and compassionate vision of the spirit world, which works in the same deep, weird way as the best dreams, banging a gong, in a pagoda, in a garden, somewhere inside your head. 5. Raising Arizona (1987) The Coen brothers' breakneck, big- hearted, baby-snatching comedy screwballs even wilder and faster than the Hollywood classics it bounces off, pitting Nicolas Cage's dazed robber and his zerononsense cop wife Holly Hunter against hell's own angel (Randall Tex Cobb) in a hysterical good vs. evil battle for a child of their own. "There's what's right and what's right, and never the twain shall meet," explains Cage.
4. The Shawshank Redemption (1994) For all the prisonmovie cliches and bible-parable martyrdom, Frank Darabont's adaptation of Stephen King's novella - Tim Robbins suffers, suffers, and escapes the hell of wrongful incarceration - transmits a powerfully pure and simple belief in hope and transcendence. 3. Groundhog Day (1993) Bill Murray's crabby, egocentric weatherman finds a new path to enlightenment - live the same dull day, in the same dull place, over and over again until your cynicism becomes so boring that it gives way to joie de vivre. The rest of us may be waiting a long time for that shift, but Groundhog Day provides a taste of it. 2. The Ladykillers (1955) Wilfully nasty but ultimately moral, as true comedy always is - Ealing Studios' masterpiece about the malevolent, ineffectual gang of crooks (including Alec Guinness at his finest and Peter Sellers at his most gracious) unwittingly outmanoeuvred by one little old woman (Katie Johnson) appeals endlessly to your faith in goodness by showing you, with meticulous hilarity, how good can succeed without even trying.
1. Some Like It Hot (1959) Nothing feels as good as sex. Sex, in theory, and hopefully in practice, never gets boring. And since Billy Wilder's great, great comedy focuses all its combined craft and genius on nothing other than sex - the gangster stuff is just window dressing - Some Like It Hot will never get boring, or stop feeling good. Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe, all of them wearing women's clothes (but only Monroe looking like "a whole different sex"), exchange one-liners so definitive they might have been written in fire, and create genuine delight through relentlessly elegant vulgarity. This movie is the next best thing to "the fuzzy end of the lollipop".
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