Groundhog Day (1993), Nick Ahad
Anyone else recently set their alarm to play Sonny and Cher’s I Got You Babe in a bid to wake up with a smile? No? Just me and Phil Connors, the weatherman?
“Then put your little hand in mine,” sings Sonny and Connors wakes up, again, and again, and again in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.
Groundhog Day. Look, we can either fight against the very strange situation in which we find ourselves, or go with it. I can think of nothing that more ironically embraces life right now than the Bill Murray 1993 movie. Written, directed and featuring a Ghostbusters-referencing cameo by Harold Ramis, it is as though this film was made to be watched in a coronavirus lockdown.
Self-centred weather presenter Connors is dispatched to Punxsutawney to film the annual ceremony of the groundhog predicting how much longer winter will last. Waking up every day to discover it’s Groundhog Day, again, Connors’ only chance to break the chain is to do what we all need to do right now, and learn to be his best self. It’s perfect.
Some Like it Hot (1959), Chris Bond Sometimes a film comes along and the stars just fall into perfect alignment. And this is one of them. On paper, the individual talents of director Billy Wilder and stars Marilyn Monroe, Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis, not to mention screenwriter IAL Diamond, are impressive. But it’s their combined talents that make this a masterpiece that still dazzles and delights today.
This comedy caper, set in prohibition-era America, follows musicians Joe (Curtis) and Jerry (Lemmon) who accidentally witness the St Valentine’s Day Massacre and make a getaway by joining an all-girl jazz band bound for Florida.
What ensues is a timeless movie featuring one of cinema’s greatest double-acts – in drag. There are plenty of nods and winks along the way including Curtis’s irreverent (and hilarious) send-up of Cary Grant.
And if you ever questioned Marilyn Monroe’s acting prowess then watch this and think again. They really don’t make films like this any more.
School of Rock (2003), Sharon Dale
I’m at the age, 55, when I no longer care about being “cool” unless it’s helping me with a hot flush.
So when asked: “What’s your favourite film?” I reply truthfully and say that it is School of Rock.
It makes me laugh, it makes me sing, it makes me want to headbang and play air guitar and it appeals to the irreverent side of my nature.
The story centres on Dewey Finn, played by Jack Black, who has been kicked out of his rock band. Desperate for cash, he tricks his way into a position as a teacher at a prestigious private school.
After spotting that some of his students have musical talent, he teaches them the only thing he knows how and enters them for a Battle of the Bands, unbeknown to parents and the headteacher.
For those about to rock, after this recommendation, I salute you.
When Harry Met Sally (1989), Yvette Huddleston
The best romantic comedy ever made. No arguments. For feel-good entertainment, there is none better. And despite it now being 31 years since its release (how did that happen?) it never gets old.
The conundrum that Nora Ephron’s sublime script sets up – can men and women ever be friends without sex getting in the way? – is timeless. On their first meeting, Harry thinks not, Sally thinks otherwise and the rest of the film plays smartly with that premise.
Everything works perfectly – the sweet chemistry between Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal, the (almost, but not quite) scene-stealing performances from Carrie Fisher and Bruno Kirby as their respective best friends and the smooth soundtrack by Harry Connick Jr.
The dialogue is peppered with immaculate one-liners – “I’ll have what she’s having” is the one everyone remembers, but almost every line is a gem. Fresh, funny, heart-warming and profound, I love it more with each viewing.
Grease (1978), Laura Reid
There are some movies that can get even the most musical-averse of us foot-stomping, lip-syncing or belting along – and let’s face it, Grease is the word.
Since its release more than four decades ago, the rom-com has had thousands of us hopelessly devoted to the teenage romance between Aussie good-girl Sandy Olsson (Olivia Newton-John) and American “cool kid” Danny Zuko (John Travolta).
Life at Rydell High School for the pair and their friends draws parallels with a youth almost all of us have experienced. But what really makes this film special enough to have stood the test of time is its epic soundtrack and electrifying choreography.
Such classics as You’re The One That I Want, Summer Nights, Greased Lightning and We Go Together still unite dancefloors at clubs and parties up and down the country. Upbeat and uplifting, Grease is the perfect feel-good singalong to raise our spirits during a crisis.
Thelma and Louise (1991), Catherine Scott
Attempted rape, murder, domestic violence and armed robbery, to name but a few, may not sound like the basis for a feel-good film, but there is something about Thelma and Louise that just leaves me feeling uplifted – and it’s not just because of a young Brad Pitt in tight jeans, although that helps.
Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon play Thelma and Louise, two friends who together have planned a weekend getaway from the men in their lives. Things start to unravel after a stop off at a bar ends up with Thelma being sexually assaulted and Louise shooting the perpetrator dead. What ensues is a chase across southern America as the unlikely outlaws are pursued by a not unsympathetic police officer (Harvey Keitel).
At the time it was seen as controversial. But for me it is about empowerment as the two women take control of their own destiny. And don’t forget the fantastic one-liners – or Brad Pitt.
The Accidental Tourist (1988), Stephanie Smith
“While armchair travellers dream of going places, travelling armchairs dream of staying put.” Based on Anne Tyler’s Pulitzer Prize-nominated novel, The Accidental Tourist follows Macon Leary (William Hurt), a Baltimore writer of world travel guides aimed at the type of business person who would rather stay at home.
After the collapse of his marriage to Sarah (Kathleen Turner), Macon returns to his family home, still inhabited by his three eccentric siblings, and meets single mother Muriel Pritchett (Geena Davis), a dog trainer who seems determined to cajole and bully both Macon and his unruly pet out of their self-destructive patterns of behaviour.
It’s beautifully observed, poignant and funny, and with memorable performances from the entire cast.
The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992), Chris Burn
With ordinary life in a state of suspension, so too should be the rules about when to watch festive films. There is none better than the brilliant Muppets’ adaptation of The Christmas Carol, with Michael Caine playing the role of Scrooge entirely straight, describing his approach to the part as “like I’m working with the Royal Shakespeare Company”.
It works brilliantly, with a plot that deviates little from the Dickens text and the comedy elements that are introduced deepening the genuine emotion that builds throughout the film as Scrooge learns that caring for others makes life richer than any amount of money ever could. A message for our current times if ever there was one.