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50 movies that offer comfort in trying times

  • 50 movies that offer comfort in trying times

    In the midst of COVID-19, many people are looking for sources of reprieve and activity during these uncertain times. To combat self-isolation-induced boredom, some are looking to music while others seek out a new skill. However, not everyone has the motivation to be productive during a pandemic. As always, diving into a good film still has the power to bring about brief respite. What better way to momentarily step away from reality than by stepping into another, even for a short while?

    Thus, the spike in desire for "comfort films" has increased. Less obvious than one might think, the exact qualifications for a comfort film can be stretched far and wide. Not always rom-coms and family comedies, comfort watches can be anything from Akira Kurosawa-directed classics to concert films and scathing satires of Cold War fearmongering. Comfort films encompass a wide-spanning genre buffet—nostalgia watches, timeless comedies from every era, Busby Berkeley musicals, beautifully animated classics, charming Italian, French, Japanese, Indian, and Korean films, silent slapstick, historic concerts, mesmerizing documentaries, and more lighthearted, feel-good fare. When it comes to what has the ability to bring us solace in moments of doubt, almost any film is fair game.

    To determine some of the very best in comfort films, Stacker dug into film history and manually curated a list of movies that are bound to bring you comfort. IMDb and Metacritic data, collected on March 30, are provided for popular and critical context, and the films are organized by release year. From 1931 to 2018, here are the best comfort films to watch right now.

  • City Lights (1931)

    - Director: Charles Chaplin
    - Metascore: 99
    - IMDb user rating: 8.5
    - Runtime: 87 min

    Charlie Chaplin reprises his role as the Tramp in this classic, silent rom-com. The film follows the Tramp as he falls in love with a blind girl and tries and fails to turn her life around. A singularly uplifting tale, the sweet final scene was referred to in 1949 by critic James Agee as "the single greatest piece of acting ever committed to celluloid."

  • Duck Soup (1933)

    - Director: Leo McCarey
    - Metascore: 93
    - IMDb user rating: 7.8
    - Runtime: 69 min

    While anything from the legendary Marx Brothers is sure to cheer one up, "Duck Soup" is considered to be their finest work, though initially a box office disappointment. Set in the fictional nation of Freedonia, the film is a hilarious send-up of Mussolini-type leadership, and critic Daniel Giffin considered the political farce on par with Chaplin's "The Great Dictator" and Kubrick's "Dr. Strangelove."

  • Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933)

    - Director: Mervyn LeRoy
    - Metascore: data not available
    - IMDb user rating: 7.7
    - Runtime: 97 min

    Based on the Avery Hopwood play of the same name, this musical romp follows four showgirls struggling to find work during the Great Depression, when all Broadway shows have closed down. Perhaps, nothing more delightful or heartwarming than a story about a few broads scheming money out of wealthy men, the film also serves as a feel-good narrative during a similarly wide-spanning economic hardship.

  • His Girl Friday (1940)

    - Director: Howard Hawks
    - Metascore: data not available
    - IMDb user rating: 7.9
    - Runtime: 92 min

    Anchored by the winsome chemistry of Rosalind Russell and Cary Grant, Howard Hawks' charming romantic comedy surrounds newspaper editor Walter Burns (Grant). Burns is unable to come to terms with the fact that his journalist ex-wife Hildy Johnson (Russell) is getting remarried. Grant's unwavering charisma—as he hilariously frames Hildy's fiance for one absurd crime after the other—is matched by Russell's wit, together which serves as the perfect balm.

  • To Be or Not to Be (1942)

    - Director: Ernst Lubitsch
    - Metascore: 86
    - IMDb user rating: 8.3
    - Runtime: 99 min

    Showing that even the very worst of humanity can be lightened with comedy, this film, which satirizes the absurdity of Nazi ideology, was initially met with scorn. Released in a time of uncertainty post-Pearl Harbor, the film is another prime example of utilizing humor to add levity in times of darkness. It is heightened by Jack Benny's comedic timing and Carole Lombard's line delivery.

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  • Singin' in the Rain (1952)

    - Directors: Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly
    - Metascore: 99
    - IMDb user rating: 8.3
    - Runtime: 103 min

    It's simply impossible not to smile from ear to ear while watching Debbie Reynolds, Gene Kelly, and Donald O'Connor click their heels and carry a tune about how much fun it is to stay up all night. It's sweet, vibrant, and utterly timeless. 

  • Ikiru (1952)

    - Director: Akira Kurosawa
    - Metascore: data not available
    - IMDb user rating: 8.3
    - Runtime: 143 min

    Praised by Time Out magazine as "one of the triumphs of humanist cinema," this story of an unfulfilled bureaucrat searching for meaning before he nears the end of his life is a portrait of learning how to live even when all seems lost. The legendary Akira Kurosawa weaves an intimate tale of mortality with one of human kindness, urgent especially now.

  • Some Like It Hot (1959)

    - Director: Billy Wilder
    - Metascore: 98
    - IMDb user rating: 8.2
    - Runtime: 121 min

    In this famous Billy Wilder comedy starring Marilyn Monroe, two musicians disguise themselves as women and go on the run after witnessing a murder. The film is a joyous, funny, fast-paced delight, even with a warm message of inclusivity—shocking for the time period.

  • Dr. Strangelove (1964)

    - Director: Stanley Kubrick
    - Metascore: 97
    - IMDb user rating: 8.4
    - Runtime: 95 min

    As funny as it is politically biting, Stanley Kubrick's classic Cold War satire proves timely even 56 years later. While the film includes three—not one—of comic actor Peter Sellers' most enduring roles to date, its comfort can be derived from how it pokes fun at the absurdity of incompetent leadership and widespread panic.

  • A Hard Day's Night (1964)

    - Director: Richard Lester
    - Metascore: 96
    - IMDb user rating: 7.6
    - Runtime: 87 min

    Considered to be one of the most influential musical films of all time, this look at 36 hours with The Beatles at the height of their fame is a fun, comic delight. The Beatles themselves make for apt film subjects, capable of carrying the loose narrative with their charm as well as their music.

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