One of cinema’s penultimate strengths is the ability to transport audiences to a world separate from their own. A 90-minute reality crafted by countless talented individuals that provides a temporary, yet oftentimes, lasting form of escapism. A powerful film can not only transport audiences to another reality, but to someone else’s, beyond a mere superficial level, making us feel a myriad of varying emotions.
The films on this list possess that inherent strength, that strength in empathy, that strength in making us forget any troubles we might have in our lives, even momentarily, because at that point in time, we are undeniably lost, one way or another, into the brilliantly crafted worlds of the filmmakers. Without further ado, these are 10 movies to watch when you are feeling even just a little bit sad.
10. Sing Street
John Carney is a filmmaker that has over the years, built a considerable reputation as a director with an undeniable flair for uniquely and truthfully interpreting music on the silver screen. His latest film, Sing Street, follows a group of rebellious teens on their journey to relative success as a band at their local high school.
The overall positive atmosphere established by the filmmakers never relents and is one that certainly draws a lot of influence from the popular British punk scene of the 50s and 60s that Carney brilliantly replicates and reinterprets to cater to more modern audiences.
Though Sing Street isn’t exactly a film filled from start to finish with fun and laughter and does contain plenty of conflict throughout, everything seems to progress and naturally resolve itself in a cathartic, beautiful song-and-dance number that seems to resolve the entirety of the plot therapeutically.
Sing Street isn’t a perfect film. However, it’s certainly one that provides some palpable form of momentary joy through a wonderful on-screen rendition of the ubiquitous ecstasy that is retro-inspired music.
Paddington is essentially the epitome of quality filmmaking exacted on the medium of children’s cinema. Aside from bringing to life on screen a beloved childhood character in a wholesome way that perfectly embodies all the minute intricacies that come along with the character, this underrated 2014 film adopts a simplistic formula that doesn’t at all strive to be something it isn’t capable of being.
Paddington is certainly a film whose quality though only caters to a specific demographic, extends beyond your typical “shut off brain” popcorn flick that plagues that particular class of cinema. Beneath the superficial nature of the narrative, being inherently a film simple enough for children, this film is one that still manages to be structurally airtight with extremely little flaws. Everything seems to wrap itself together perfectly and simplistically.
The film’s visuals brilliantly blends strong vibrant aesthetics with the blissful playfulness that comes attached along with childhood wonder, delivering a wondrous film that is simple yet charming in presentation, with brilliantly composed shots that seem straight out of a Wes Anderson picture and creative utilizations of physical comedy that are unfortunately for the most part, lost in favors of cheap jokes in this genre of cinema.
Paddington is a film way too simple to appreciate, but it’s one that nevertheless succeeds at what it sets out to become – a film for kids, by kids. Kids who understand the medium inside and out and know precisely how to interpret it to the point where even if you don’t belong to that particular demographic, this is a film that would still undoubtedly bring out some form of inner child within.
8. The Lego Movie
For decades, Lego has long been at the forefront of childhood playthings – a quintessential representation for the boundless imaginations of children. Adapting such an iconic element of countless individuals’ childhoods in a way that’s both faithful to the essence of its source material as well as, more importantly, in a way that renders it able to stand on its own two feet as a film. Chris Miller and Phil Lord’s Lego Movie certainly hit those two criterions and so much more.
The Lego Movie brilliantly captures every facet of the sheer exhilaration that would evidently come with a child meeting an endless heap of Lego. The film marvelously takes audiences on an absolutely jaw-dropping journey through numerous vibrant and intricately designed worlds that couldn’t embody the playful yet meticulous fundamental concept of Lego any more perfectly. The narrative, though simple, as is other family film, is filled with countless moments of hilarious comedy as well as strong messages of individualism to take away.
As the song made popular from the film suggests, “Everything is Awesome” and it truly was with that wonderfully wholesome film that is The Lego Movie.
7. The Princess Bride
A timeless piece of cinema that transcends the very demographic it appears to target, delivering an experience that can and is appreciated by all. The Princess Bride belongs to one of those classes of cinema that seem to populate the zeitgeist that is the 80s, the kind of film that is, for all intents and purposes, structurally perfect, and even if they’re considerably weak in terms of provoking thought, they’re virtually untouchable works of perfection on a superficial level.
The Princess Bride offers a brilliant, self-reflexive re-imagining of a stock fairy tale. One that’s not only aware, but embraces the conventions, both the positive and the negative, that shape the genre of storytelling into what it is. There isn’t particularly much that can be said about The Princess Bride, it isn’t extremely remarkable but it certainly is a film so much more than the mediocre family film it so outwardly appears to be.
Though the aspects that constitute the film aren’t particularly strong, the way these parts are presented to the audience certainly gives imparts a strong sense of vision and self-awareness on the filmmakers’ parts, everything from the core love story, the personified narrator, the revenge subplots, as a sum of all its little parts, this film succeeds.
The Princess Bride is a film that instills that undeniable charm that defines 80s cinema, imparting that strong, elusive sense of nostalgia even decades after.
6. My Neighbor Totoro
Studio Ghibli, mainly Hayao Miyazaki, has been sort of a staple for the nearly the past 30-40 years when it comes to Japanese Animation, possessing the innate ability to tell extremely heartfelt and genuine human stories perpetuated by a strong fundamental root in Japanese culture. Stories that are told in, and more importantly, against beautifully crafted worlds filled with as much heart and passion as the stories have themselves.
My Neighbor Totoro, one of his earlier works, is a film that perfectly embodies everything right about Miyazaki’s uplifting style. As are the other films on this list, the story is extremely simplistic, some might even go as far as to call it non-existent, because that frankly isn’t of prime importance in the context of the film. What Miyazaki set out to create was instead, a beautifully poignant representation of childhood blissful ignorance personified by the cute, chubby and above all else, timeless icon that is Totoro.
Though the film is undeniably set against the backdrop of a war-torn, post WWII Japan and was meant by Studio Ghibli to be interpreted as a sort of companion piece to the infinitely more harrowing Grave of the Fireflies, My Neighbor Totoro never truly did even remotely touch on any of the issues that came together with that particular time in history, it instead, focused on replicating childlike wonder, even against all odds, essentially telling us to remember to have fun and forget the worries that plague reality every once in a while.