It’s been a tough year or so for pretty much the entire world, so any sort of pick-me-up will obviously be welcome. Not being able to go to the movies like we’ve been able to for all our lifetimes was certainly jarring, but fortunately, some older films can not only put a smile on our faces but give the good vibes and positive energy to reach higher personal and professional heights than ever before.
We guarantee that these movies will definitely celebrate the human spirit, and be a lot of fun to boot.
The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Yes, a movie that takes place in prison over many years and is based on a Stephen King story doesn’t seem that happy to start with, but you will be enchanted by Tim Robbins’ portrayal as a mild-mannered man who is found guilty of a crime he didn’t commit and is challenged to not lose his humanity while facing life behind bars.
It certainly helps that Morgan Freeman plays his incarcerated friend and that plenty of the prisoners are friendlier than most people in actual society (in fact, the prison guards and the warden are much more violent and scheming than the inmates). When faced with the possibility of never getting justice even as new evidence arises to clear his name, Robbins’ character is faced with the challenge of trying to escape, even if it means turning his back on a world he has grown accustomed to.
Arriving in the theatres the same year as Forest Gump and Pulp Fiction, it was initially overlooked by critics and filmgoers but has amassed a huge cult following on video and streaming (eventually making the kind of money that would impress a straight, gay or trans sugar baby). Without wanting to spoil anything, there are plenty of moments of sadness, but they are all drowned out by the ultimate triumph of what humanity can accomplish if we never give up.
It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)
The eventual success of this movie is just as inspiring as the positive message it holds. While right now it is rightfully seen as one of the greatest films of all time, this Frank Capra fantasy drama originally got middling reviews and low box office returns when it debuted.
In fact, while many people are familiar with the story, it still seems quite over the top when described: An angel helps a depressed, suicidal man by showing him how terrible life would be for his friends and family if he was never born. Having Jimmy Stewart play the lead role certainly helped, as watching a lovable American icon go from jumping off a bridge to jumping for joy that he’s alive is bound to put a smile on your face.
Because it takes place on Christmas Eve, it has become one of the quintessential holiday films, up there with A Christmas Carol, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas and Die Hard. While it is true that older black and white films don’t necessarily reach the younger generations (who are busy on their phones posting on social media or visiting a squirt gay site), it is good to see that because of repeated showings throughout the holiday season, this one breaks that mould.
Ocean’s Eleven (2001)
You really have to stress the ‘comedy’ in a heist comedy about a bunch of thieves robbing a Las Vegas casino, and it shows just how good Steven Soderbergh is at making a fun movie because it’s exciting and hilarious all at once.
It certainly helps that this ensemble cast is just oozing with charm (thanks to George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and many others playing the ‘bad guys’), and that quick quips and hilarious one-liners take precedence over any gritty lines of realism.
As soon as the team is introduced, there really isn’t any doubt that they will succeed, but you can’t help but watch all the way to the end because it is so darn fun. It helps that the ‘badder guy’ who owns the casino is a real jerk (kudos to Andy Garcia for playing that role so well), and that he’s stolen Clooney’s ex-girlfriend (played by Julia Roberts, because this cast truly is legendary).
The plot twists are fast and fun, the soundtrack is upbeat bossa-nova jazz, and the warm and fuzzy (and clever) ending nails it perfectly.
When it comes to a Group Fun ensemble comedy, this remake of a Frank Sinatra film from forty years earlier shouldn’t be missed.
In some ways, sports movies have it easy when it comes to telling a positive story. For some, what’s going to happen is so boringly obvious that you feel like you could predict every scene, let alone how it ends.
Despite this film checking all the boxes you can expect when it comes to a scrappy underdog just wanting to make his dream come true, Rudy is definitely a feel-good movie that manages to avoid being sappy in any way, largely in part because it is based on a true story.
In the 1960s Daniel ‘Rudy’ Ruettiger wanted to play football for Notre Dame, but a series of personal setbacks made this very difficult, in addition to the fact that he was seen as being too small to play for such an illustrious team. The film does a great job at not embellishing the story too much, and is seen as a ‘must watch’ for any aspiring football players to get into the mindset that hard work and determination can make a huge difference between success and failure. A fun fact is that legendary NFL quarterback Joe Montana was part of that Notre Dame team, and saw Rudy be carried off on the shoulders of other players at the end of the game.