Ten Movies That Make Me Ridiculously Happy

The Young Girls of Rochefort

 

I rewatched Jacques Demy’s The Young Girls of Rochefort the other day and spent the entire thing with a stupid giddy grin on my face. It got me thinking about films that just plain and simple make me happy. So here are ten films that make me ridiculously happy, from the moment the credits start until the final fade-out. Initially, it was going to be the top ten that do, but I ended up with a shortlist of around twenty-five, and choosing which ones made it in ended up being kind of arbitrary (except for the top three or four). So it’s just ten.

Why they make me happy is kind of arbitrary, too – some of them are because I love them so much and know them so well that rewatching them is like coming home. Others are ones I grew up with and have a nostalgic association bolstering the quality of the actual film. There are a number of musicals, because I like them. However, films that I love and think are fantastic but don’t really make me HAPPY are not included – like, say, Mulholland Drive. Love it to pieces, but happy’s not really a word I’d use to describe my reaction to it. So it’s not here.

So what about you? What are those films that you come back to again and again, that never fail to pull you out of a bad mood, and that always put a smile on your face?

See my list after the cut.

10. Young Frankenstein

1974 USA. Director: Mel Brooks. Starring: Gene Wilder, Peter Boyle, Teri Garr, Marty Feldman, Cloris Leachman

Young-Frankenstein.jpgFrom the first time Wilder exasperatedly declares his name to be “FRANKENSHTEEN” (and impales himself with a fork) through the stupid joke on Frau Blücher’s name to the monster’s song & dance routine, there’s not a thing in this film I don’t love. It’s the epitome of what an homage/spoof film should be, and I go into full-on quote-all-the-lines mode as soon as it starts.

 

9. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

1953 USA. Director: Howard Hawks. Starring: Jane Russell, Marilyn Monroe, Charles Coburn

gentlemen-prefer-blondes.jpgI couldn’t begin to guess how many times my best friend and I watched this film when we were growing up. Certainly has to be in double-digits. Russell and Monroe are the perfect foils for each other – one tough-smart, the other not as dumb as she seems. The frothy story of “stolen” jewelry is perfectly sufficient to not distract from La Monroe in one of her finest hours, and the musical numbers range from enjoyably silly to iconic (“Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend”). And the moment when Russell impersonates Monroe? Priceless. Also, Howard Hawks proves once again that he can excel at any genre.

 

8. Raiders of the Lost Ark

1981 USA. Director: Steven Spielberg. Starring: Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, John Rhys-Davies

raiders-of-the-lost-ark.jpgOh, come on. Who doesn’t get a huge grin on their face as soon as the Raiders theme music comes up? It’s the perfect adventure film, with thrills, scares, humor, and romance, all combined for the maximum amount of enjoyment. My mood just improved while even thinking about this film.

 

7. O Brother Where Art Thou

2000 USA. Directors: Joel & Ethan Coen. Starring: George Clooney, Holly Hunter, John Turturro.

o-brother-where-art-thou.jpgO Brother and No Country battle it out frequently for the title of my favorite Coen Brothers film, but when it comes down to which one makes me happier, there’s no question. Their nearly absurdist homage to both Depression-era films and the Depression era itself (by the unlikely way of The Odyssey) is always just teetering on the edge of manic, but never loses itself. It’s darkly funny throughout, but I’m pretty much sublimely happy as soon as the washed out cinematography pops onscreen.

 

6. Rear Window

1954 USA. Director: Alfred Hitchcock. Starring: James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Raymond Burr, Thelma Ritter.

rear-window.jpgNow, this one may be more in the category of films that I’ve seen so many times that I know every beat by heart and still find new things to love about it every time – it’s not comedic or frothy or blatantly happy-making like most of the others on this list. But when the shot of the apartment courtyard comes up and the jazz score starts playing, I’m about as content as I could ever be. Even the tense parts don’t break my mood – I know them so well they’re more a master class in classic Hollywood narrative-building and pacing than actually suspenseful, and that sort of cinematic mastery also makes me giddy.

 

5. Swing Time

1936 USA. Director: George Stevens. Starring: Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Victor Moore, Helen Broderick.

swing-time.jpgHere’s a tip: If I’m ever in a bad mood and you need to get me out quickly, send me a YouTube clip of “Pick Yourself Up” from this film. Works every time. There are a few parts that get a bit shrill for me (depending on my mood), but the dancing in this is so sublime, and the Jerome Kern music is so lovely that I couldn’t not have it on the list. I fall in love with the 1930s and with Fred and Ginger again every time I see it.

 

4. Une femme est une femme

1961 France. Director: Jean-Luc Godard. Starring: Anna Karina, Claude Brassuer, Jean-Paul Belmondo.

une-femme-est-une-femme.jpgThere are many Godard films that are better than this slight comedy, and many I’d even say I like better. But for sheer, unadulterated absurd fun, this one can’t be beat. Anna wants a baby, her boyfriend Claude doesn’t, so she briefly considers an affair with Jean-Paul, their best friend who’s madly in love with her. They break out into random song more than in any of Godard’s other movies, a sure-fire way to gain my love, plus there’s this part where Karina and Brasseur have a fight using only the titles of books lying around their apartment that’s so utterly adorable I could hardly stand it.

 

3. Kill Bill Vol. 1

2003 USA. Director: Quentin Tarantino. Starring: Uma Thurman, Lucy Liu, John Carradine, Daryl Hannah

kill-bill-vol-1.jpgBlood, carnage, mayhem, and non-stop violence has never been so much fun – add in Tarantino’s gleeful homage to spaghetti westerns, samurai films, anime, Hong Kong action, and revenge-sploitation, and I’m pretty much set. I appreciate Vol. 2 as well, and like its addition of film noir and kung fu to the cinematic hodgepodge, but for pure adrenaline-pumping, grin-inducing fun, Vol. 1 has it hands down.

 

2. Singin’ in the Rain

1952 USA. Directors: Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly. Starring: Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, Donald O’Connor, Jean Hagen.

singin-in-the-rain.jpgI’ve already admitted to being a sucker for musicals, and this is probably the best of the best. Everything about this movie makes me happy, from the vintage Arthur Freed songs evoking early Hollywood to Gene Kelly hamming it up as a hammy silent actor to the brilliant story satirizing Hollywood’s attempts to move into the sound era to the pitch-perfect supporting cast (yes, I used the term “pitch-perfect” on purpose) to the never-beaten dance numbers from Kelly, O’Connor, and Cyd Charisse.

 

1. The Young Girls of Rochefort

1967 France. Director: Jacques Demy. Starring: Catherine Deneuve, Françoise Dorléac, Gene Kelly, George Chakiris.

The Young Girls of RochefortI started this post thinking about The Young Girls of Rochefort, so it only makes sense to end with it. Jacques Demy’s sunny musical follows a traveling fair, two sisters dreaming of Paris, an idealistic painter, and other characters populating the southern French town of Rochefort. With Michel Legrand’s music behind a predictable but satisfying plot, this film has me grinning so hard it hurts from start to finish. I can’t imagine being in a bad mood if Rochefort is on screen. Sorry about the aspect ratio in the clip. Sometime I’ll rip my own and get some better versions out there.

 

(honorable mentions: Top Hat, Bringing Up Baby, The Woman (1939), The Lady Eve, Oklahoma!, Some Like It Hot, Charade, Band of Outsiders, That’s Entertainment!, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Star Wars, The Princess Bride, Bring It On, The Incredibles, Bride and Prejudice [standing in for all Bollywood, really], Hot Fuzz)

Jandy Hardesty
the recovering academic

27 Comments

  1. I really liked reading your list! Singin' in the Rain would be at the top of mine- it's one of the films I'll always turn to when I'm in a bad mood. Fred and Ginger have a similarly smile-worthy effect. I've never seen The Young Girls of Rochefort, but I'll be sure to check it out now!

    Reply
  2. Alex, Singin' in the Rain might've been top of my list if I didn't have so recent a rewatch of Rochefort. Rochefort is great, especially if you like musicals. It's just pure joy.

    Rusty, those are great choices. Can't believe I didn't think of Die Hard. Back to the Future is one that would probably be higher on my list if I'd grown up watching it; I didn't see it until a few years ago, though, so I don't have a great attachment to it. And you mean Jackson's King Kong, right? Yeah, that's what I thought. :)

    Reply
  3. Terrific topic for a post…I would also absolutely include Young Girls on my list of what makes me ridiculously happy. Uh, the ones from Rochefort that is…B-)

    "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" doesn't quite do it for me, but everything else on your list does. Particularly "O Brother Where Art Thou" – just the music alone is enough.

    Reply
  4. Andrew, the Tim Burton Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? Interesting, if so. Most people I know hate that one, but I put it in the unjustly maligned category myself. OMG, Cinema Paradiso YES. I love that movie. But it also makes me cry. And I almost included Once, but decided it gives me more of a bittersweet feeling than happiness. It's definitely a contented feeling, though. People keep talking about Kung Fu Hustle. I guess I should watch it. And yes, I consciously tried to pick a variety of genres and time periods, though I did tend more toward musicals than I even intended.

    Bob, there's probably some nostalgia in my choice of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, but I do also love it. I'm glad to find some more people in you and Eric who appreciate Young Girls of Rochefort. In the conversation surrounding this post on FriendFeed, I don't think anyone had seen it or the Godard film. That didn't surprise me too much – they are less well-known than the others. Still, Rochefort is, I think, one of the most accessible New Wave-ish films (at least for people who like musicals), and I plug it every chance I get.

    Reply
  5. Mike, Meet Me in St. Louis was on an early draft, but I'm not a fan of the Halloween scene, which was enough to knock it off the list for me. Sullivan's Travels crossed my mind, too, but it has enough of a bittersweet quality that I elevated The Lady Eve over it (which made the honorable mentions). Chungking Express was on a draft, too – ooh, somehow I missed putting in the honorable mentions. It should be there. Beautiful, beautiful movie.

    And, uh, "me" – I have seen Fantastic Mr. Fox, and enjoyed it quite a lot, but it doesn't have the mileage yet to know how I'm going to feel about it over time.

    Reply
  6. Awesome list Jandy. Kudos to Andrew for bringing up ONCE which, though a little sad leaves me feeling refreshed and ready to take on anything. The other film that always leaves me with a smile is MY FAIR LADY.

    Reply
  7. It doesn't get much better than this:

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    Reply
  8. "Umbrellas of Cherbourg" would be a good add to this list, though the ending is a little sad so I don't know how happy it would make you.

    Reply
  9. Clue: The Movie.

    ("I. Am. YourSingingTelegram!" (pause) BANG!)

    8 Women, which certainly riffs on Umbrellas of Cherbourg (and also, Clue The Movie) always makes me smile. So Pretty.

    Reply
  10. Dear Andrew James

    Please blog again.

    And I don't want´╗┐ to say he looks strung out, but… well, you know.

    Lots of love

    Darragh

    Reply

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