The Endorphins in Your DVD Library

The Endorphins in Your DVD Library, or Why Marty’s Still Pretty McFly For An Eighties Guy

I’ve seen grown men cry in public, en masse, twice:

1. During a Sigur Ros concert at the Ryman.
2. During a packed-house screening of The Passion of the Christ.

With cinema, ten bucks buys you a ticket to another world, makes you question your deeper motivations, and sometimes, transforms your way of thinking. (With another $80, you get a small popcorn for the trip.) With that in mind, I came up with this list of endorphin-producing happy flicks. Think puppies. Unicorns. Bobcat Goldthwait.

If you agree, disagree, or want to add your own selections, WordPress has an awesome-sauce comment box just for you.

Top Ten Feelgood Flicks

10. Rudy

Rudy falls into the “Beaumance” category, meaning it’s a Chick Flick for guys. Beaumances are emotional, sometimes-father-and-son films (boy-and-dog films, man-and-the-sport-he-digs-more-than-chicks films) during which grown male viewers are formally allowed to turn on the waterworks. In Rudy, Samwise Gamgee loses his bestie, motivating him to hit No. 1 on his bucket list: play football for the Fighting Irish. Trouble is, he plays football like your mom. (Cue the triumph-over-self sniffles.) If you aren’t standing on your futon shouting “Rudy! Ruuudy! Ruuudy!” in the final minutes of this movie, you have no soul.

9. Dumb and Dumber

If you’re the guy who, yes, would like to hear the most annoying sound in the world, this is your flick. Viewing after viewing, Dumb and Dumber is idiotic, side-splitting nonsense at it’s finest, tailor-made for people who love silliness and jokes about bodily functions. (And y’all get that if Mary tied the knot with Lloyd, her name would be Mary Christmas, right?) If you can’t afford the DVD, sell your dead parakeet to a blind kid.

8. Marilyn Hotchkiss’ Ballroom Dancing and Charm School

“In 1962… the gum in baseball cards still tasted good. McDonalds only had a million served. I was twelve-years-old and I hated girls more than liver.” You’ve never heard of it, but Hotchkiss delivers a charming dose of Sixties Americana in the sad, hilarious way The Wonder Years did in the 80s. A terrible highway accident unites two men in a life-and-death experience. To get through it, Steve Mills (John Goodman) tells Frank Keane (Robert Carlyle) what it was like to be 12 years old in the Sixties. Throw in Donnie Wahlberg, Marisa Tomei, Danny DeVito, and Mary Steenburgen as a weird dance instructor, and it’s pure magic. Hotchkiss was a short that was later extended into a full-length film. This means we get a double dose of underrated actor Elden Henson, who stars both as a child and as a grownup.

7. Bruce Almighty

I’d heard of stuff being so funny that the audience “rolled in the aisles.” My initial theater viewing of Bruce Almighty marked the first time I actually saw people fall out of their chairs with laughter.

Church folks were nervous at first about Bruce, but writer Steve Oedekerk handled his subject with brilliance: He allowed the viewer to look at human suffering and imperfect love through a God-shaped lens. Morgan Freeman plays a witty, likable, and caring God who answers Bruce’s complaints with “You think you can do better, son, here’s your chance.” It isn’t for the easily offended, but it certainly makes you think. And pee your pants. (Particularly during that one newscast with Steve Carell.)

6. Ferris Beuller’s Day Off

I’d describe it, but you’ve already seen it. Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.

5. The Neverending Story

In 1982, Wolfgang Petersen–who didn’t speak a word of English–directed American actors in the adaptation of a certain children’s book that “was not safe.” This film goes out of it’s way to melt the walls around every child viewer, transport him to another world, and bring out the dreamer inside. I’m still struck by the ways Petersen gently addressed grief, depression, optimism, and self esteem with little children–using every unique character from the Rock Biter to the terrifying Gmork.

To this day, I dream that the Ivory Tower is still standing.

4. E.T.

Before E.T., most filmmakers treated space aliens as unholy terrors. Think about it. War of the Worlds. Invasion of the Body Snatchers. That horrendous, grodie facehugger thing that impregnates men.


Then Steven Spielberg turned convention on it’s huge green head by saying, “If we’re ever invaded by squashy alien men, let’s remember the wonder of childhood. Let’s put down our shotguns as they put down their cavity probes, and try to understand the meaning in their weird speech patterns and their lightbulb fingers.” Spielberg’s tenderness with the subject shows in a character with minimal screen time, known to the audience–until the end–as a relentless alien chaser with keys on his belt. *Spoiler alert*

Keys: Elliot, that machine, what does it do?
Elliot: [in a sickly voice] The communicator? Is it still working?
Keys: It’s doing something… what?
Elliot: I really shouldn’t tell. He came to me, he came to me.
Keys: Elliot, he came to me too. I’ve been wishing for this since I was 10 years old, I don’t want him to die. What can we do that we’re not already doing?
Elliot: He needs to go home; he’s calling his people. And I don’t know where they are, but he needs to go home.
Keys: Elliot, I don’t think he was left here intentionally, but his being here is a miracle, Elliot. It’s a miracle and you did the best that anybody could do. I’m glad he met you first.

And now I need a tissue.

3. The Karate Kid

Before it was creepy for a lonely old man to befriend a teenage boy, Robert Mark Kamen wrote a teen film that was the stuff of underdog miracles: Ralph Macchio moves to Cali and repeatedly gets the stuffing kicked out of him by the Cobra Kai, a bad-haired bunch of teenagers who failed to take their morning dose of Ritalin. To solve the problem, Daniel consults *gasp* an adult and engages in a mentorship that makes him stronger and wiser on every level. The remake was good, but it will never hold a candle to the bully-pounding, sky-is-the-limit, good-guy-wins-in-the-end original. Hit after agonizing hit, Daniel just keeps getting back up to face his aggressors, transforming from a mere good guy into a real hero.

Take that, gossipy postmodern teen movie with Autotuned songs from a wannabe rock star.

Miyagi was right: Man who catch fly with chopstick accomplish anything.

2. Back to the Future

If you read Dude, Where’s My DeLorean, you’re not surprised that this made the list. Bob Zemeckis got my entire allowance in the summer of 1985, because I saw this movie in the theater nine times. Message to Hollywood: Please, you can never, EVER, EVER remake this film. Not ever. It’s perfect.

1. The Goonies

Pretty much any child of the 80s lists this as an all-time favorite. Whether you saw it in a theater in Pittsburgh or a backwoods Tennessee drive-in, Goonies was the big-screen childhood fantasy we experienced together… and everyone has a favorite moment (usually involving Chunk.) Goonies (80s children drop the “The”) hand-delivered real adventure to ordinary American kids— from the ones on the screen to the ones in the theater. It told a glorious, full-color tale in ways we couldn’t touch with play time and recess stories. We didn’t need busy CGI to get butterflies in our stomachs. Goonies was a simple, terrific story that squeaked around in hi-top sneakers, mesmerized us, and made us laugh.

I keep praying that Hollywood will never remake it either.

Alternates/runners-up: The Rocky series, It’s a Wonderful Life, Fried Green Tomatoes, Field of Dreams, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Life is Beautiful

Did I leave any out? What is your favorite feelgood flick?



10 thoughts on “The Endorphins in Your DVD Library

  1. Jimmy says:

    1. Field of Dreams
    2. Rad
    3. Thrashin’

    There’s also my favorite of the Corey movies, ‘Dream a Little Dream,’ mostly because of a passive quote written on a chalkboard, ‘She gave him a smile with a future in it.”

  2. Kat says:

    Love this list… it makes me want to raid my DVD shelf right now and have a Feel-Good-Films Marathon! The film I always watch when I need cheering up is ‘Mamma Mia,’ though I guess it probably has a tad too much Abba for some people’s taste 😛

  3. Ryan says:

    Fun/feel good films in my library: Super Troopers, Airplane!, Beerfest, Hot Fuzz, and though it isn’t a movie, the entire Spaced TV series of the early 90’s. Always a good time!

  4. thechurchinthemirror says:

    Great list, although heavy on the 80s. Newer happy-inducing movies for me have been the Judd Apatow comedies like Knocked Up, I Love You man and Forgetting Sarah Marshall. I also turn to the original Star Wars trilogy and some favorites like Pulp Fiction and Dead Poet’s Society.

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