Movies To Keep You Happy, Inspired And Optimistic, Part II

Another boring weekend approaches, so it’s time to finish this project.

Some further clarifications on this continuing list: it’s not a list of my favorite films by any means. The criteria is, as the title above would suggest, the emotions the film leaves you with, or that well up inside your earthly vessel during the film. One reader reacted to the first list by dissing “Rocky,” but here’s the point: when I first saw that film in a stuffed theater, and the movie reached the part in the climactic fight when, after seemingly being out-boxed and outclassed by the champion Apollo Creed, Rocky sees Creed lets his guard down for an instant and , dazed and bleeding, suddenly hits him with a series of the body blows we had seen him practicing on sides of beef . The crowd in a Philly bar goes bananas, and the audience in the theater went bananas too, only louder, cheering and applauding. I’ve seen a lot of movies, and I can count on the fingers of one hand the times I’ve witnessed that kind of spontaneous eruption of excitement and elation from an audience.

I also have to explain why what anyone here knows are my four  favorite comedies don’t appear. They just don’t fit the theme, that’s all. They make me laugh, pretty much every time, but they can’t be called inspiring by any normal definition of the word.

Here’s the second half of the list:

Sea Biscuit (2003)

I’m not a horse enthusiast,nor a fan of the sport of kings, but this is a wonderful story, and mostly true.

Star Wars (1977)

Oh, all right..

Sleepless in Seattle (1993)

And so much better than the stupid movie it evokes, “An Affair To Remember.”

Angels With Dirty Faces (1938)

The only movie ever where a guy’s walk to the electric chair makes you smile..

Spartacus (1960)

Maybe my favorite story out of history ever, plus Cory Booker’s favorite scene…

The Wizard of Oz (1939)


To Sir With Love (1967)

The list needs an inspirational teacher movie (and only one) so I pick this one. Lulu’s song scene makes the difference.

Bells Are Ringing (1960)

Probably the least seen or appreciated film on the list. But Judy Holiday radiates the joy of performing and the genius of a comic pro here like few others, and attention must be paid. Forget that it was her last movie…

As Good As It Gets

One of the best romantic comedies ever, and one of the strangest. Plus an incredibly cute dog…

Silver Linings Playbook

Because sometimes good things finally happen to good people…

Harold and Maude (1971)

Now THIS is the strangest romantic comedy of all time, and one that deserves its cult status.

Breaking Away (1978)

Another brilliant sports movie where you don’t have to care about the sport involved to love it.

The King’s Speech (2010)

An ordinary man thrust into an extraordinary  position who manages to come through.

Mary Poppins (1964)

I’ve probably seen this movie more than any other on the list because it was my son’s favorite when he was a toddler. It still gets me every time.

The Sound of Music (1965)

Anyone who doesn’t get a lump in their throat when the Captain hears his kids singing for the first time since their mother dies is an alien invader from outer space.

Finding Nemo (2003)

Everyone has their favorite Pixar movie. This one’s mine, the best father and son film I know.

Hoosiers (1986)

Best basketball movie ever, and based on a true sports miracle.

Cinderella Man (2005)

It you don’t know the amazing story of Jim Braddock, you should.

Back to the Future Trilogy (1985, 1989, 1990)

Three near perfect  movies making the most exhilarating trilogy ever.

Jerry Mcguire (1996)

“You had me at hello.”

Babe (1995)

Come for the sheep-herding pig, stay for the singing mice. And to think this masterpiece was dreamed up by the director of “The Road Warrior”!

Apollo 13 (1995)

“If they could get a washing machine to fly, my Jimmy could land it.”

Hugo (2011)

“Hugo”  makes me feel good about humanity in so many ways.

Hacksaw Ridge  (2016)

Of all the astounding  true stories in this list, this one wins the prize.

Up (2009)

I loved this so much that even the fact that it starred Ed Asner didn’t bother me.

The Great Escape(1963)

Maybe the perfect trapped at home movie…

The Princess Bride (1997)

“As you wish.”

26 thoughts on “Movies To Keep You Happy, Inspired And Optimistic, Part II

      • Thank you, Jack and Opal.

        In fact, on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving last year, my wife & I went to the local screening of the 20th anniversary celebration of GQ at a local cinema. Very enlightening and entertaining – particularly with fewer than 10 of us in the entire theater.

        The most interesting anecdote: the studio decided to change the (at the time) PG-13 version of GQ to a PG version a couple of months before its Thanksgiving 1999 release in order to compete with some other PG movies also scheduled for release at that time.

        The actors and crew discussed the challenges making the movie PG, but rose to the occasion. Except, they admitted, for a couple of scenes where the new dialogue didn’t quite match the video. Like this classic when Sigourney Weaver encounters the chompers.

        Read her lips at about 12 seconds into the clip. You can take the boy out of junior high, but…

  1. “Lulu’s song scene makes the difference.”

    I saw this on one of the little subchannels recently. It was running long, so they cut out the song.

    Sound of Music: biggest applause I ever heard in a theatre was when the nuns pull their little trick on the Nazis. The movie was about 15 years old then.

  2. I loved “Apollo 13.” Ron Howard is a fantastic director and I think James Horner did the music – an absolute winning combination. Of course, everything Howard directs is pretty good. We just watched one of Howard’s first movies earlier this week – “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father” – a young Shirley Jones was fantastic

    “The Princess Bride” – another favorite of mine, and one of the more quotable movies ever made. Mark Knopfler’s a musical genius.
    “The Sound of Music” – I actually thought the scene with Andrews and Plummer dancing in the courtyard was the most touching, but that movie is full of them.
    “The Great Escape” – just recorded that one – again – two weeks ago.

    A good list. I’m curious…does anyone think “Napolean Dynamite” is somewhat inspiring? Funny story about that movie…our son made me watch it one Saturday night, telling me it was such a great, funny movie. I watched it and thought, “This is the dumbest movie I’ve ever seen!” The following Wednesday…3:15pm…I was sitting at desk my working and suddenly I busted out laughing. People looked at me and I said, “I just realized how hysterical that movie is!” It’s now a favorite. Anyways…

    A great list, Jack! Thanks for sharing.

  3. Jack said: “I’ve seen a lot of movies, and I can count on the fingers of one hand the times I’ve witnessed that kind of spontaneous eruption of excitement and elation from an audience.”

    We are on lockdown now. We opted to rent Onward one afternoon this week. We were going to see it one weekend, but the lockdown intervened.

    So, we watched Onward and , as various climaxes approached, my 7-year old daughter gasped and cheered and fretted and worried about whether the heroes would succeed.

    It was refreshing. I knew the outcome, even though I had never seen the film. She was so invested in the outcome that she could hardly contain her excitement. It was wonderful to see the film I had never seen through the eyes of a child.

    Next up: Fight Club.


  4. I would suggest adding “The Martian” to this list.

    Also, “As Good as it Gets” is one weird movie for me. One, because it is a weird movie, and two, because that is what I saw on my last date with a girl and we were pretty much aware it was the last date (and we’re still friends, so the weirdness is still there).

    “The perfect trapped at home movie”. That made me laugh out loud.

  5. The Milan miracle celebrated in ‘Hoosiers’ is a great David v. Goliath story. That true story kept the Indiana boys Hoosier Hysteria state basketball tournament as a one class tournament regardless of a high school’s enrollment for over 4 decades. A former neighbor played on the South Bend Central team that lost to Milan. He seemed somewhat less enamored with the movie.

  6. One of my personal favorites is “The Straight Story”. It’s about an older guy, who has lost his driver’s license, and has to use two canes to walk. He lives in Iowa and finds out that his brother who lives in Wisconsin is not doing well. He decides to drive to Wisconsin on his lawn mower. As odd as that setup seems to you before you see it, you will love it. I guarantee it.

  7. “Up” is probably our favorite movie. Let our 2 year old watch his first movie ahead of schedule because of quarantine and this was it. Of course he loves it.

  8. Waking Ned Devine is a beautiful film I’ve watched dozens of times but not in the past decade. Need to watch it again.

  9. A great list of movies and great suggestions. I will definitely be watching some of the ones I haven’t yet seen. My suggestions are, “The Trouble with Harry” with the gorgeous Shirley MacLaine appearing in her first film and Shirley again in “The Apartment.” OK, I’m a sucker for romantic comedy and the young Shirley. A Mel Brooks’ film I don’t often see mentioned which I think is one of his best is “The Twelve Chairs.” In these trying times I leave you with the sage advice of Miracle Max, “Mostly dead is slightly alive.”

    • I owe it to Mel to watch “The Twelve Chairs” again. It was his follow-up to “The Producers,” and a critical and box-office flop; I saw it in a theater as a teen, and was disappointed. Way too much Dom Deluise, whose charms almost completely escaped me. He was funny as Burt Reynolds’ crazy friend trying to help Burt kill himself in “The End.”

  10. The 1933 King Kong. Still one of the absolute greatest movies ever made.

    Stand By Me, a moving meditation of friendship.

    If you want pyrotechnics, the only “great” comic book movie is the criminally over-looked The Rocketeer.

    • 1. Agree on KK, but remember, this isn’t a list of the greatest movies, just inspiring and upbeat ones. All of the King Kong films are sad.

      2. Stand by Me is in Part I.

      3. I liked the Rocketeer, and was surprised when it flopped. I’d guess the reasons were…

      a. The direction was slack, I thought. Imagine what Spielberg might have done with it.
      b. Bill Campbell just wasn’t enough of a screen presence to hold down the center.
      c. Young viewers didn’t pick up on all the references, which were many and fu. (“It really does fly!”)
      d. A rocket pack is a pretty weak supuer-power,
      e. Jennifer Connelly was so va-va-voom that she lulled focus and rendered heterosexual males unable to take in the story. She would make Bo Derek look like a boy.

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