7 escapism films to watch over winter break
Stop doom-scrolling for a little over an hour with these easy and enthralling films
While so much of life now revolves around technology, it’s hard to find moments of escape from news alerts and social media scrolling, and it’s even harder to maintain our jagged and anxious attention. Film began as an imaginative outlook where the camera transformed our world, let us look at ourselves differently and took us to new places. All the time, and all at once, Americans have looked to film as a way to feel better in brief, collective moments, apart from their anxieties, fears and anger. Here are some great films that can help you escape, if only for an hour and then some.
Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) - Available on Disney+
Directed by artistically inclined director Wes Anderson, “Fantastic Mr. Fox” is a perfect, fall escapism film because it’s crafted to draw you in. The animals are cute, witty and motivated. The film is composed along symmetrical lines — Wes Anderson loves his vertical centers — with neat trees, buildings and color blocking. The precision is the exact opposite of the world around us, and it’s a pleasing relief. The film’s plot follows a family of foxes and their rodent neighbors, whose homes are suddenly attacked by neighboring produce corporations. Like the Robin Hood fairytale, Mr. Fox (George Clooney) decides to steal from the rich and save his home and friends. The plot is softly political, so conscious viewers will be eager to root for Mr. Fox and his cohorts, but it’s not jarring enough to keep your mind reeling with the reality of politics occurring outside of Anderson’s claymation creation.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016) - Available on Netflix and Hulu
A grumpy, old man named Hec (Sam Neill) and a young, quirky kid named Ricky (Julian Dennison) adventure together through the New Zealand bush, on the run from child protective services and police. The pair come across unexpected, yet sympathetic characters - like a rural father-daughter duo and a man who goes by the nickname “Psycho” Sam (Rhys Darby). The film is sprinkled with emotionally sincere moments between the mostly comedic and ironic narrative orchestrated by director Taika Waititi. Waititi’s quick-hit comedy lines and the main characters’ unexplainable quirks are engaging and endearing, bringing any viewer along for an easy-paced film that ends with a touching realization of personal flaws and working together.
Ocean’s 8 (2018) - Available on HBO Max and Hulu (with certain subscriptions)
Beautiful, many famous, women commit crimes together — that’s the plot. Like any other “Ocean’s” film, this Sandra Bullock-led reboot has a simple mission made complicated by clever planning, sleuthing, lying and cheating to rob the glorious Met Gala in New York City. “Ocean’s 8” delivers intensity, comedy and teamwork through a wide-range of character types and fan-favorite actresses. Rihanna, who plays Nine Ball, subverts the nerdy hacker trope to one of cool mystery. Sarah Paulson makes the underestimated mother type an independent agent. Celebrity cameos give the film a hint of realism that makes it more fun to watch. “Ocean’s 8” is a good escape through its familiar plot but entertaining maze of planning that has a million-dollar payoff.
Catch Me If You Can (2002) - Available on Netflix and Hulu (with certain subscriptions)
Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio are always one-step in the wrong direction throughout this 2002 film, which is based on a true story. Hanks delivers his usual good-guy performance as an FBI agent named Carl Hanratty, but he’s unrelenting in his pursuit of the most successful young robber and forger in American history. Hanks is a great liaison for the viewer, especially as DiCaprio’s character, Frank Abagnale Jr., seems to trick the untrickable and evade capture at every turn through complex schemes. Abagnale is able to disguise himself in plain sight as a pilot, doctor and prosecutor, all before he turns 19-years-old. But he has to be caught eventually, or else we’d never have this wonderful film. The joy of the chase is a great escape from the daily Zoom routines.
Dolemite Is My Name (2019) - Available on Netflix
This underrated movie about movies dives into the overlooked history of Black American filmmakers in the 1970s. Eddie Murphy plays the struggling entertainer Rudy Ray Moore, the man behind the cult-classic “Dolemite” films. Dolemite becomes Moore’s on-stage comedic persona and then eventually an on-screen karate-fighting, suit-wearing hero. “Dolemite is My Name” is a remarkable story about Black success and creativity in an industry in which they are often shunned. It’s also a fun yet sentimental return to the screen for Murphy, who hasn’t been in a film since 2016. “Dolemite Is My Name” is joyful, which is definitely needed these days. The outrageous camp costuming and funky music is a wonderful escape.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) - Available to rent on Amazon Prime for $3.99
“The Rocky Horror Picture Show” is a cult-classic, musical, science fiction (“double feature”) starring the unforgettable Tim Curry. This low-budget film barely made waves in box offices when it was released in 1975, but over the decades it’s grown to prominence in small-town art-deco theaters. When white-bread characters Janet (Susan Sarandon) and Brad (Barry Bostwick) stumble upon a castle in the woods, they meet mysterious and unpredictable characters with hidden secrets. This is a perfect escapism film because the plot is hardly existent, but the music and acting is so up-tempo and melodramatic that you’ll enjoy yourself, while also wondering what is happening on screen. Songs like “The Time Warp” and “Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch Me” are incredibly fun scenes, making subtle commentary on sexuality and conservative social norms of the ‘70s. The film features romance, infidelity, murder and aliens, so it’s a catch-all for any time you want some great, ‘70s rock songs with a dash of plot.
What a Girl Wants (2003) - Available on Netflix
When was the last time you thought about Amanda Bynes? It was probably 2003, when this teenage romantic-comedy was released. Bynes plays Daphne Reynolds, the tomboy teen who embarks on her independent journey to reconnect with her estranged father, Henry Dashwood (Colin Firth), a candidate for Britain’s prime minister. Bynes reminds her father of his younger rock-n-roll lifestyle while she faces public scrutiny from the media and her father’s fiancée for not fitting into the right mold. “What a Girl Wants” has typical 2000s montages, complete with the archetypal fitting room scene and a motorcycle ride around London, and cringeworthy moments that make the film funny and easy. With a familiar message of being yourself and reuniting with loved ones, “What a Girl Wants” is a great throwback to simpler times.