January can be a brutal month for anyone living in a cold climate. The days are short, the weather is cold, and the roads are covered with a nice layer of ice and snow making any sort of travel undesirable. Currently 1/3 of the country is snowed in following a massive blizzard and much of the rest of the country is experiencing bitter cold temperatures. It’s the type of weather that keeps you indoors under several layers of blankets hoping that the end will come. It’s time to cheer up and get rid of that S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder) face and put in one of these movies that are all but guaranteed to take the Winter blues away.
10) Clue (1985)
Based on the bored game ad archetypal storyline of a dinner party turned murder mystery, Jonathan Lynn’s Clue is wonderfully self-aware. The film fully embraces its own campy-ness that is played up by the seasoned cast of funny folk including Christopher Lloyd, Eileen Brennan, Tim Curry, Madeline Kahn, Michael McKean, Martin Mull and more. The film parodies the bizarre and unrealistic connections that are present in so many murder mysteries and the script creates delicious character stereotypes for the comedians to sink their teeth into. If the endless fits of laughter aren’t enough to break your outer layer of ice, the twisting and purposely nonsensical plot will definitely inspire a warm reception.
9) AmÃ©lie (2001)
Jean-Pierre Jeunet infuses his films with such an infectious sense of imagination that it is nearly impossible not to be swept up. His film AmÃ©lie is particularly appropriate for a winter day stuck inside because its main character is caught in similar (although not weather manufactured) circumstances and uses her imagination to see the world outside. The quick editing and whimsical, almost dream-like pacing is enough to wake anybody from their winter slumber and send them on adventures that are warm and sunny.
8) Hercules (1997)
You could substitute just about Disney animated musical from their 2nd Golden Age in the 1990s, but for snowed in days I find it best to escape reality as much as possible. That is why this mythical fairytale set in a very warm climate is a perfect escape. Equipped with some of the best songs that Alan Menken has written and one of my personal favorite Disney heroines in the sassy Megora, Hercules is simple, funny, and a great time. After the rousing “Go the Distance” who wouldn’t be persuaded to put on the galoshes and face the winter?
7) Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
If you really want to embrace the laziness of a snow day without feeling too depressed this calmly paced British comedy is exactly what you need. There are few in cinematic history who have a smarter or more hilarious style of absurd wit than the Python gang. The actors in their legendary troupe master the art of appearing believably stupid and deliver each well-scripted line with pitch perfect timing. Even if you have seen the film dozens of times there is always new comedy to discover in this infectiously quotable film.
6) Young Frankenstein (1974)
While the Python gang was busy creating one of the most memorable comedies of all-time, across the Atlantic there was another director up to similar shenanigans – Mel Brooks. Any of Brooks’ comedies make for joyful viewings on a gloomy day, but I especially recommend Young Frankenstein because in it he parodies the very idea of gloom itself and how ever-present it seemed in 1930s horror films. Gene Wilder packs every scene with an undeniable sense of hilarious energy and Terri Garr is a treat for the eyes on a cold winter’s night.
5) Once (2007)
There must not be blood flowing through your veins if your heart does not get warmed by this touching minimalist musical romantic comedy. Some of the best songs to appear in movies in the past decade are featured in this amazing soundtrack that tells a simple story about an unlikely romance. The characters are incredibly likable, the music is excellent and fun, and the film never once takes itself too seriously. It’s a brilliant exercise in subtlety, but not so much so to put you to sleep on a winter’s day. It’s a great film start to finish and there is no better time to discover or re-discover it.
4) The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001-03)
When I was an RA in college I got stuck with the dreaded Thanksgiving shift meaning I had to stay around the dorms while almost every other student headed home for the Holiday. The one benefit was that I had the giant flat screen in the main lounge all to myself for a few days, so I decided to take advantage of it and watch all three extended editions of The Lord of the Rings and most of the appendices. I quickly forgot that I was alone for miles and that the weather out the door was in the 20s – it was me, Frodo, Gandalf, and the gang and it was an excellent time.
3) Toy Story (1995)
Just as with Hercules, you could easily replace Toy Story with just about any Pixar movie. I chose Toy Story because it has one of the brightest color palettes and is predominately set during summer which can help cure the Winter Blues. If the color palette doesn’t do it for you, it will definitely have to be Pixar’s warm and funny characters and touching story that can move and thrill adults and children alike. All of the Toy Story films have a strong theme of the importance of community and they are so convincing it will convince just about anybody to bundle up and head outside to help a fellow person.
2) The Princess Bride (1987)
This late 80s family classic opens with a kid home sick from school who has his grandpa come over and read him a story. It was a very self-aware decision by writer William Goldman to begin a film that is perfect for a sick/stuck inside day this way. With its very classic story structure and characters that move beyond likable into the lovable territory, The Princess Bride comes to lustrous life on the screen thanks to its brilliant cast on one of Rob Reiner’s best directing efforst (during his heyday). The film is so iconic that Cary Elwes can not seem to escape the heroic Wesley and infuses every character he plays with a touch of that charm. Add in the great Mandy Patinkin and the hilarious duo of Andre the Giant and Wallace Shawn plus the many supporting roles and the movie is pure gold.
1) Top Hat (1935)
Regular readers of this site no that I take every opportunity I can find to express my adoration for the great Fred Astaire. Despite the fact that his films tend to recycle plots and featured generally uninspired direction the simple presence of Astaire makes all of his films easily watchable and lovable. His collaborations with Ginger Rogers showed him in top form and my personal favorite of all of those is Top Hat. Not only does it contain two of Fred’s best dance routines (“Puttin’ on My Top Hat” and “Cheek to Cheek”), but it features Fred at his most inventive and choreographer Hermes Pan in top form. No other film makes me want to get up and dance than this depression-era gem and it is the perfect medicine for a gloomy day.
What are the movies that warm you up on a cold Winter day?