From star-making turns to classic road trips, here are our picks to keep you uplifted in uncertain times
1. The Big Lebowski
Sibling writing/directing team Joel and Ethan Cohen have since gone onto rack up Oscar gold for films like Fargo and No Country for Old Men, but this 1998 comedy caper, while received warmly by critics, was not a hit out of the gate. Starring Jeff Bridges as bowling-loving hero "The Dude", it has achieved cult status in the years since with its hilariously offbeat quirk and eccentricity. The supporting cast members—including John Goodman and Julianne Moore—each steal scenes as this story of mistaken identity (and a resulting ransom ploy) truly goes off the rails.
2. Pretty Woman
While she had already racked up an Oscar nom for Steel Magnolias, this 1990 rom-com is what truly introduced Julia Roberts to the world. And we all fell head over heels. Originally intended to be a gritty, depressing tale that ended with Edward literally shoving Vivian out of his limo and into the gutter, the film was instead molded by Disney execs into a star-making vehicle with a much more light-hearted air.
Snooty sales associates were never the same. "Big mistake. Huge!"
3. Top Gun
How the sequel measures up remains to be seen, but the legacy of this 1986 megahit stretches far beyond the adult-pop-radio staple that is "Take My Breath Away." Tom Cruise was already a star when he stepped into the role of "Maverick", and this truly cemented his Hollywood star status. Kelly McGillis, Val Kilmer, Anthony Edwards, Meg Ryan and more co-star in a naval action-adventure that... forgive us... soars.
Based on—of all things—Jane Austen's Emma, this 1995 comedy is hugely underrated for its smarts. Alicia Silverstone is beyond endearing, Amy Heckerling's direction is astute, Brittany Murphy is adorable (and sorely missed now of course), plus the world got to meet Paul Rudd. And the student body was entirely grateful.
5. When Harry Met Sally
Can (heterosexual) men and women ever be friends without romantic complications messing it up? That's the question posed here... in all sorts of smart ways. Besides brilliant performances by both Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan, keep an eye out for supporting turns by the late-great Carrie Fisher, the music of a fresh-faced Harry Connick Jr. and—of course—director Rob Reiner's mother, who delivers one of cinema's best one-liners ever.
6. Cool Runnings
Co-starring beloved Canuck John Candy in what would, sadly, become his final theatrical release, this uplifting flick sees the 1988 Olympics become a lofty goal for the most unexpected of teams: Jamaican bobsledders. But expectations are often defied, and hilariously so. The film, which shot large portions in Calgary, was loosely based on a true story and—deservedly—became a huge box office hit.
7. Billy Elliot
Playing a young boy who defies societal stereotypes—and his rough-and-tumble father—to pursue a dream of becoming a ballet dancer, Jamie Bell was heralded for his work in this 2000 comedy hit. Produced for a modest budget, it became a worldwide phenomenon, grossed well over $100 million and spawned a hugely successful musical on both sides of the Atlantic.
8. The Goonies
The cast of this comedy-adventure reads like a who's-who of 1980s teen stars: Sean Astin, Corey Feldman, Martha Plimpton and even a young Josh Brolin. A motley crew of Oregonian kids hunt down the treasure of a legendary pirate... and adventure ensues. Even the National Library of Congress in the United States agrees that this cult favourite holds water. In 2017, they deemed it "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" and entered it into the National Film Registry.
9. Thelma and Louise
Everyone from Jodie Foster to Goldie Hawn was considered, but Thelma and Louise eventually found its stars in Oscar winners Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis... and it was a match made in heaven. Turning the male-buddy-flick trope on its ear, this action-adventure won an Oscar for its first-time screenwriter Callie Khouri and created an entire career for Brad Pitt, after his... ahem... charismatic turn as J.D. Despite heavy material, the film ultimately showcases an uplifting spirit, anchored by fun, freedom and friendship. (During the roadhouse scene, Sarandon—it's rumoured—even demanded real tequila on set for her and Davis, so the two get extra cred there!)
10. The First Wives Club
Don't get mad. Get everything.
A brilliantly loony Goldie Hawn, an endearingly anxious Diane Keaton and Bette Midler at the absolute top of her comic-timing game led a #metoo charge long before the topic started trending. Together, the women choose not to get revenge, but to think bigger... and do good. All the while, enjoying cocktails.
11. Romy and Michele's High School Reunion
The script is certainly light on heady thoughts... and that's absolutely perfect. Who can't relate to astute observations like, "Ugh. I hate throwing up in public."
Based on characters originally developed for a stage play and then a TV pilot, the film follows the comic tale of two less-than-successful high school graduates. At 28, they dream up a creative past as the inventors of Post-Its in order to impress their reuniting classmates, including a perfectly acerbic Heather (Janeane Garofalo). The chemistry—and banter—between Mira Sorvino (Romy) and Lisa Kudrow (Michele) is undeniably impressive, and a soundtrack of 1980s favourites only adds to the fun.
Fans can prepare for a live Romy and Michele experience, as a musical adaption previewed in Seattle in 2017 and hopes to hit Broadway soon.
12. Mrs. Doubtfire
We all remember that famous Jerry Maguire line, "You had me at hello."
Well, Robin Williams had us at "Hellooooo!"
This 1993 comedy took home the Golden Globe for Best Musical or Comedy for good reason. Williams' trademark zany spirit brought to life the fictitious Euphegenia Doubtfire so whole-heartedly that audience members almost hoped she'd actually be found baking in their own kitchens upon returning home from screenings. Sally Field, Pierce Brosnan and Harvey Fierstein co-star.
13. The Devil Wears Prada
No one delivers a line like Meryl Streep. She has proven it time and time again... and so very often in this hilarious send-up of the fashion industry, its devotees and their standards. From "No, no. That wasn't a question." to "Did she die or something?", Streep steals every moment on screen as unforgiving magazine magnate Miranda Priestly.
But then there is Emily Blunt. In her breakout role as Emily Charlton, she quite handily holds her own, offering up quips that are cynical, snarky and downright desperate. "I refuse to get sick. I'm wearing Valentino, for crying out loud" anyone?
As Miranda would say, "That's all."