It is not a secret that many people struggle to get through the holiday season. Seeing old friends and family can stir up emotional turmoil and memories that belong in the past. But when the tree comes down, the eggnog leaves the grocery store shelves, and the kids head back to school, you might be left with an emotional hangover the size of January that includes a pile of credit card debt and a flimsy New Years resolution to lose 25 pounds before summer.
Fret not! I have a list of non-holiday themed movies that will help you ride that emotional roller coaster towards a new perspective or, perhaps, back towards the old one you left in October. Plus, it is cheap entertainment while you allow your wallet to recuperate.
This list of movies is not in any particular order- I think they are all great. An eclectic mix, this list contains films that are meant to entertain you. Laugh or cry, the object is to sit back, relax, and let the stories inspire you to feel something even if your toes are about to fall off due to frostbite.
I hope you enjoy!
- Role Models (2008)
Sean William Scott and Paul Rudd star in this film about a hilarious series of unfortunate events that leave two work friends on the hook for 500-hundred hours of mandatory community service at a Boys and Girls Club-style program called Sturdy Wings. Dany (Rudd) has a very public meltdown when a power-tripping tow truck guy attempts to haul away their company pickup that he illegally parked in front of a school. The cast includes Elizabeth Banks, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Bobb’e J. Thompson, Jane Lynch, and Ken Jeong. The film is fast-paced and bounces from joke to joke, some obvious, some wry, and the chemistry between the actors guides the story along in a way that makes it okay to laugh at Danny’s misery while completely understanding where he is coming from.
2. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
It is hard not to be engaged when you watch a Christopher Nolan film. One of the darker films on this list, “The Dark Knight Rises” is the third installment of the Christopher Nolan/Christian Bale rendition of the DC Comic book character Batman. It is a black hole of a story in which we actually feel like we are the ones being thrown into the pit of despair, but from the chaos comes amazing redemption. Some consider the second installment in the series, “The Dark Knight,” to be the superior film of the trilogy, mostly due to Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker. I do not disagree that his performance was legendary- something I will remember forever- but Tom Hardy’s performance as Bane, as well as the fact that “The Dark Knight Rises” closes out an eight-year storyline, make this the film the one I want to watch on a cold, grey day. Anarchy takes over Gotham, and we actually get to see the heroes try and put it back together versus just patching it up. That aspect dramatically alters the dynamic between the heroes and the villains, and I for one find it fascinating.
3. The Mummy (1999)
I have a secret to tell you: This is one of my favorite movies of all time. It can be cheesy, a bit predictable, and overly romantic, but I absolutely love it. This film tells the tale of the unlikely partners Rick O’Connell (Brendan Frasier) and Evelyn Carnahan (Rachel Weisz) in an archeological adventure that goes awry when they accidentally wake a cursed mummy, Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo) from the depths of Hamanaptra, the City of the Dead. “The Mummy” is a good, healthy serving of old-fashioned action movie with a steaming side of love story. I wouldn’t dare call this a cinematic masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, but if you are looking to be entertained and take your mind off your troubles, this movie needs to appear on your TV, laptop, or whatever vessel on which you usher movies into your home immediately. Nine-year-old me fell in love with Brendan Fraiser the day I watched this movie, and 19 years later I still swoon as Rick O’Connell battles that 3,000-year-old mummy.
4. Overboard (1987)
Warning: Romantic Comedy coming your way.
Real life couple Kurt Russel and Goldie Hawn star in this story about the riches to rags transformation of the exceedingly spoiled Joanna Stayton. After a fall off of her yacht into the cold ocean water in the middle of the night, she develops amnesia and is adopted into a new family by carpenter Dean Proffitt. Her refusal to pay him after building a closet on her luxury yacht leaves Dean in a bind financially, and he jumps at the opportunity to get a little payback when he sees her on the local news station unable to remember who she is or where she came from. Despite its obvious plot flaws, the film is quite lovely, and it is really enjoyable to see Goldie Hawn transform on screen. This is a cute, lighthearted movie that is perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon.
5. Jurassic Park (1993)
What is the recipe for the perfect action movie, you ask? Simply combine equal parts Stephen Speilberg, Michael Crighton, a pack of Velociraptors, a giant, man-eating T-Rex, and a sprinkle of really good acting, and voila! You have an instant classic that can entertain even the most rigid moviegoer. The film adaptation of Chrighton’s novel stars Sam Neill as the paleontologist Alan Grant, Laura Dern as paleobotanist Ellie Sattler, Jeff Goldblum as the eccentric Ian Malcolm, and Richard Attenborough as the bio-curious billionaire John Hammond. Action packed and entertaining as hell, watching scientists flee for their lives in a tropical jungle will surely warm you up on a cold January night.
6. The Man in the Iron Mask (1998)
The true identity of the real Man in the Iron Mask has evaded historians for centuries. He was imprisoned in France from approximately 1670 to 1703, and when he died, no one but his jailers knew who he was. The film “The Man in the Iron Mask” is based loosely on the fictional work by Alexandre Dumas and features his original Musketeers: Aramis, Athos, Porthos, and D’Artagnan. The film was written and directed by Randall Wallace, who also wrote the screenplay for “Braveheart,” and he explores the theory that the prisoner was actually the twin brother of Louis XIV. Leonardo DiCaprio performs the role of both Louis XIV and his twin brother, Phillip (man in the mask), which is an impressive feat considering he plays two personalities on opposite ends of the spectrum of good and evil and totally pulls it off. Films of this type are definitely an acquired taste as historical fiction is not everyone’s cup of tea, but the richness of the performances coupled with the visually stimulating set and costumes will leave you awestruck by this portrayal of life and royalty in seventeenth-century France.
7. Barefoot in the Park (1967)
Jane Fonda and Robert Redford are like yin and yang in this lighthearted film about the struggles that come along with being a newlywed in New York in 1967. Fonda plays Corie, a high spirited, shoot first ask questions later kind of gal who marries the intensely rational and reserved Paul Bratter. They navigate the pitfalls of marriage as they each learn who their partner truly is, and it ultimately comes down to whether or not they want to be together in spite of those differences. A cute film starring two veteran actors at the height of their careers, it will surely distract you from the dreary days of winter.
8. The Harry Potter Series (2001-2011)
This hardly needs any explanation for why it is on this list, but I’ll go ahead and give you one anyway. The Harry Potter series is a complex labyrinth of magical storytelling that allows parents to finally be entertained by something their kids are watching. To be perfectly honest with you, I’m watching “The Deathly Hallows: Part 2” as I am typing this, and I don’t even have kids. Based on the young adult book series by J. K. Rowling, the eight-film series features an enormous star-studded cast that includes Daniel Radcliff, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Alan Rickman, and Ralph Fiennes, just to name a few. The films had several different directors and the tone of the series become noticeably darker toward the end as the story reaches its climax. It has become painfully obvious that my love for this series (both book and film) has rolled over into my adult life and I just cannot let it go, but that does not make the story any less compelling or entertaining. If you haven’t had a chance to enjoy this story, I highly suggest you swallow your pride about watching young adult entertainment as an adult (if you happen to be harboring any) and watch these films immediately. Oh, and forewarning, if you are planning on watching all 8 films in a row, it will take you 19.5 hours.
9. The Hunger Games Series (2012-2015)
The second young adult selection on this list, Suzanne Collins’s dystopian-themed trilogy was adapted into a four-part film series between 2012 and 2015. Set in a post-apocalyptic world that has twelve districts ruled by a greedy capital authority run by President Snow (Donald Sutherland), the series takes us on a journey beginning with a horrific gladiator-style sacrificial ceremony and eventually culminates in a revolution. This film series catapulted Jennifer Lawrence into a megastardom, and rightfully so because she is fantastic as the braid-headed Katniss Everdeen. Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci, Lenny Kravitz- the list goes on, but you get the point- they all bring their A-game and add equal value to the story. Critical praise aside, the dark themes of this series make it one of my favorites on this list.
10. Tombstone (1993)
Last but certainly not least, “Tombstone,” tells a story about the ugly side of taming the wild American West. This film stars Kurt Russell as Wyatt Earp, and Val Kilmer as Doc Holiday, who fight the infamous outlaw gang the Cowboys at the O. K. Corral. This is a classic Western tale of the lawman versus the lawless, and it is pure magic. Val Kilmer’s performance is one for the history books, and if you disagree, I only have one thing to say to you:
“I’m your huckleberry.”