Singin' in the Rain
I just rewatched this the other day and was struck again by how pervasive the sense of glee is. Every single song and dance number is done with such a deliberate sense of "I'm throwing all my cares away to sing because it FEELS GOOD, guys," that you can't help but be sucked into it. I've written many times about the genius of the "Moses" dance number, which has zero point in the movie, plotwise, but it is the absolute epitome of that goofy sense of play that runs throughout the entire movie. I can't watch any of the musical numbers in this without smiling.
I promise not all the ones on my list are going to be musicals, but one of the most effective ways of making me happy is to give me a big song and dance number. Hairspray's all about kids who just love to dance and love being themselves, and the music is infectiously cheerful and energetic. Most of the time I literally cannot keep still during that last number - I have to be tapping my feet or swaying a little bit. They were right - you can't stop the beat.
Ferris Bueller's Day Off
The freedom in this movie is incredibly joyous. Pure escapism at its best - there's no way Ferris should be able to get away with any of this, but he does, purely by virtue of being himself and being awesome. And yet along the way it manages to make an interesting point or two about having to actually face reality, since every day can't actually be a party. It's one of those movies that just makes me smile whenever I see it.
Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure
I think the best part of this movie for me is that there are clearly no actual bad guys and no actual consequences. Not even when a bunch of historical figures get loose and go crazy inside a mall is there a sense that something could actually go wrong. Now, usually, when the stakes aren't high enough or believable enough, it weakens a movie, but I think it's the strength of this one. It's ridiculous, it's hilarious, and Bill and Ted themselves are so happy-go-lucky about the whole thing that all you can do is enjoy the journey.
The Court Jester
There's a heavy dose of nostalgia mixed in with my love for this one. I grew up on this movie, and it is, to date, my favorite of all the Danny Kaye movies I've seen. It's got a fast-paced, complicated plot, with hilarious twists and turns, but Kaye's lead character is so likable and easy to root for that you can't help smiling at all the bizarre situations he finds himself in. It mixes adventure and comedy beautifully. And, really, how can you not enjoy a movie that includes a character desperately trying to remember the phrase, "The pellet with the poison's in the vessel with the pestle, the chalice from the palace has the brew that is true"?
(Honorable mentions: Moulin Rouge!, The Truman Show, and Midnight in Paris. All had some incredibly happy moments, but as a whole those movie are a bit more touch-and-go. Not in terms of quality, just in terms of happiness.)
All right, everybody. How about you? What are your favorite feel-good movies?