THIS EDITION of Think Movies is, by necessity, a slightly different one. The cinemas are closed temporarily and I’m staying in so there are no new releases about which I’m able to offer you an opinion.
I sincerely hope the situation changes soon but I suspect we might be here for a while – so let’s all get comfy and revel in the excuse not to get our beach bodies ready.
However, because I also suspect we all need a bit of a boost and because cinema is the single best way to tap right into those positive emotions, I thought I’d bring you five movies that I think are very much worth your time in these trying circumstances. I’ve also suggested where you can stream them from but, should those links not be available, they’re all available very cheaply on easily accessible platforms like YouTube.
Before we get stuck in, I’d like to point out that these are not exactly what I think the “best movies ever” are – although some would be on that list too. Eagle-eyed readers will note the absence of Goodfellas (erstwhile reviewed here) and other movies such as Alien, Full Metal Jacket, Psycho, and A Clockwork Orange that would undoubtably feature on a hypothetical top five at some point but are not suitable for this list.
Therefore, to be clear, we’re talking strictly about those mood-lifting pictures that will leave you feeling better if you’re by yourself or otherwise lacking in your usual level of social contact.
Also, I have a number of honourable mentions that all, at one time or another, spent time on this list but didn’t quite make the illustrious top five. They are: Aladdin, Clueless, Mamma Mia, Finding Nemo, Matilda, and South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut. If none of the films below tickle your fancy, then any one of them might do the job.
So, without further ado… let’s get stuck in!
Love, Simon (2018) (Sky Cinema)
Based on the excellent 2015 young adult novel, Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, Love Simon is a delightfully warm and reassuring hug of a film with a positive message and a lovely, optimistic outlook. It follows 16-year-old Simon Spier, a gay and closeted teenager, who meets and develops a relationship with another boy at his school. The twist? Neither he, nor the elusive ‘Blue’ knows who the other is as they’ve only ever communicated via email.
Love, Simon is the perfect ray of sunshine that we all need right now. It’s sweet, effective, compelling, has its moral compass pointed directly towards tolerance and acceptance, and has a conclusion that provides as close to a ‘punch the air’ moment as any romantic comedy every made.
Nick Robinson is wonderfully goofy and sympathetic as Simon and his supporting cast, including Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel as his parents and Katherine Langford as best pal Leah, are all well-rounded, likable, and feel like they are part of a universe that we would want to live in.
If you’re looking for positivity and many a feel-good moment, check out Love, Simon.
Mean Girls (2004) (Sky Cinema)
I have a bit of a personal story with Mean Girls, the 2004 story of Lindsay Lohan’s new girl Cady getting caught up in the vicious world of teenage politics, that quite possibly skewers my view on it.
When I first saw it, I dismissed it as just another American teen movie and not a particularly good one at that. As time has gone on, however, I’ve come to appreciate how nuanced, clever, powerful, and insightful it is. Tina Fey’s ‘out of nowhere’ classic remains the only film that I admit to having been completely, utterly, and thankfully wrong about to this day.
There is, of course, lots about Mean Girls that makes it ideal for watching while stuck at home. It’s got a great cast, Lohan and Rachel McAdams who plays the villainous queen bee Regina George, are both particularly excellent. It’s also got a brilliant soundtrack and doesn’t outstay its welcome, but the main reason to immerse yourself in this low-stakes masterpiece is its writing.
Tina Fey’s writing in Mean Girls is among the funniest in the history of cinema but where it really comes into its own is in its quotability. I guarantee you, if you treat yourself to Mean Girls while social distancing then you’ll be calling things “fetch”, referring to things that ruin your life as “scum sucking road whores”, and grabbing your chest while guessing what the weather is like outside before too long. It’s just fab, go watch it!
The Wizard of Oz (1939) (Netflix)
If you’re reading a movie column then I’m not sure there’s much use in telling you why The Wizard of Oz is great, is there?
I mean, you know why! However, just in case, the performances are mould-setting, the score is mesmerising, every shot has become iconic, and the film has become so burned into our collective consciousness that its brilliance continues to shine through each successive generation lucky enough to see it afresh.
It has Six Oscars including Best Picture, a top-25 place in the National Film Registry, is one of the British Film Institute’s “films to be seen by age 14”, and is also one of the only movies to earn a prestigious slot in UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register. It’s not just a great movie, arguably, it’s the greatest single motion picture ever.
Those accolades aside, there two real reasons that The Wizard of Oz makes this particular list of movies to watch during more isolated circumstances than usual.
The first is that its message, that no matter where you find yourself, there are people who care, will help you, and will lend you their brains, hearts, and courage to win the day, is more important than it has been in some time.
Secondly, and more personally, The Wizard of Oz is, in my subjective experience, the film that has the biggest emotional thump of any film I’ve every seen. The haunting rendition of Somewhere Over the Rainbow gets me choked up every time, Follow the Yellow Brick Road lifts my spirits whenever I hear it, and the Wicked Witch of the West’s cackle sends a shiver down my spine without fail.
Personally, I don’t watch this movie, I feel it, and, when isolated, feeling is fundamentally important.
Ghostbusters (1984) (Sky Cinema)
What do you get when you combine the biggest stars of one of the best decades for film with a whip-smart comedic sensibility, the focus of the entire world, some insanely good celebrity cameos, and jam it all into a property that would go on to become a beloved entertainment phenomenon? Well, if the title of this section didn’t give it away, you get 1984’s Ghostbusters!
While Ghostbusters is undeniably fun and still entirely memorable, that’s not the main reason it makes this list. It’s all about what the movie is ‘about’ and how that pertains to our present situation.
The real story of Ghostbusters is about how human beings, or at least when we’re at our best, respond to a threat that we don’t quite understand. With bravery, science, technology, ingenuity, and straight-up toughness we stand up to it and declare that it, be it ancient Sumerian God or vile little virus, has gone this far and will go no further. Or, as Murray’s Dr Peter Venkmen, the leader of the Ghostbusters puts it during the film’s climax, “let’s show this prehistoric bitch how we do things downtown!”
In my view, that’s what great about popping Ghostbusters on right now. It reinforces the belief that, in our case, we can show this microscopic bitch how WE do things downtown!
Back to the Future (1985) (Sky Cinema)
Do me a favour? Think of any franchise, any at all, that has managed to maintain a high quality over three instalments – an original and two sequels. While I would happily be corrected, until that happens, I remain convinced that the Back to the Future series is the only example of such a set of films. The reason for this is simple, the first one is just so damn good and the other two build on it.
While this wacky story of eccentric scientists, gaudy American cars, flux capacitors, incestual near misses, and the best dog in cinema history (that’s right, I said it! Einstein is the best good boy in any film and I will fight you over it… once we’re out of lockdown obviously) is always worth your time, what makes it even more recommended than normal is the fact that it’s a story, essentially, about overcoming a bully and that, in my view, is a great way to look at the virus we’re up against.
So, load up Back to the Future for the kick-ass soundtrack, great performances, and wonderfully simple story told brilliantly and stay to see a plucky youngster beat the snot out of a horrible bully and use that message to fuel the bravery I’m sure a lot of us could use just a pinch more of right now… plus, that Johnny Be Goode number is just magical.
Well, there you have it folks, those are my top five films you should consider watching when you’ve got a bit more time on your couch over the coming weeks and months. I hope you have as much fun with them as I have and please remember that you’re not alone and there are people out there standing in solidarity with you. I’m very much one of them and you can find me @alangrantuk on Twitter – feel free to say hi!
Above all, please follow the official advice and look after yourselves and one another.
All the love,
[What about The Great Escape? Ed (showing my age)]