Illustrations by Elda Broglio.
I’m a woman of simple tastes. Give me soft pants, a salty snack and “When Harry Met Sally” on repeat, and I’ll be content for the next 72 hours. I will never, ever tire of watching Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal trade barbs, build a friendship and ultimately fall in love.
With coronavirus halting film and TV production and theaters closed, there are fewer and fewer opportunities to enjoy fresh entertainment, making it the perfect time to lean into old favorites.
We asked readers to share their comfort movies, the ones they continually seek out to be soothed, delighted or reminded of a different time. More than 100 people answered the call. Browse 25 reader submissions below and grab a blanket. You might be inspired to settle in for a good rewatch.
Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.
“It’s a totally quotable, candy-colored dream that manages to both celebrate the mid-90s aesthetic and still stand out as a timeless adaptation of Jane Austen’s ‘Emma.’ I love that it’s a story about Cher trying to be a better person and all the imperfect ways she goes about it. The scene where she fails her driving test is still one of my favorites.”
—Megan Quinn, 35, Washington, D.C.
“The story line is intense. It is about love during hard times and how such a love could rekindle, does rekindle, and yet does not sustain.”
—Janine Aronson, 67, Centennial, Colo.
“The soundtrack contains favorite songs from my early teens, and it always puts me in a great mood! How can you not smile at Chris Pratt dancing through a cave to ‘Come and Get Your Love’? Or Bradley Cooper voicing a foul-mouthed mutant raccoon? For those of us whose immediate relatives are no longer with us, it’s also a perfect reminder that friends can be just like family, especially in these times.”
—Jill Whitworth, 62, Columbus, Ohio
“It’s the movie that made me want to work in the movies. I was swept up in the story, the effects, the collectibles — everything. I took production classes, worked in film casting and am now a film archivist — all because I walked out of a film and said, ‘I want to do that.’ Also, I can’t begin to express what Carrie Fisher meant, as a young preteen, and what an impact she had.”
—Tara Kelley, 55, New York, N.Y.
“My loving grandmother passed away at the end of December 1996, when I was 30 years old. In no mood to go out and celebrate that New Year’s Eve, my boyfriend (and now husband) and I stayed in and watched ‘When Harry Met Sally,’ since the movie had a New Year’s theme. It became an annual New Year’s Eve tradition for us after that, as a way to remember my grandmother’s yahrzeit (for Jews, the anniversary of someone’s death) and as a way to avoid New Year’s Eve celebrations. It’s literally the only movie we own a copy of, and one year, at a fundraiser for a local nonprofit, we bid on and won a copy of the script signed by Billy Crystal, which was amazing. There’s so much to love about this rom-com, from the witty dialogue to the ‘I’ll have what she’s having’ scene, to the interspersed scenes of older married couples talking about how they met. It always brings us comfort and lots of laughter.”
—Julie Koppman, 54, New Orleans
Watch it on CBS All Access.
“It’s ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ for literate teens and fans of romantic realism. My wife and I will stop everything if it pops up as we scroll through TV listings and nothing else will matter.”
—Maureen Metcalfe, 71, Tucson
“Its visual aesthetic, the narration, story line, Amélie’s personality as quiet but disruptive. It makes me feel happy and brings memories of pushing boundaries in my conservative, evangelical household as a high schooler. I always feel comforted watching it and the soundtrack is beautiful.”
—Allie Birkle, 28, Fresno, Calif.
Why do you love the movie?
“Robin Williams is at his best in ‘The Fisher King’ — over the top, manic, living the part of this man who has been hurt so bestially. Jeff Bridges is the perfect brooder and the sense that his world has ended and he is living on autopilot is so authentic. Mercedes Ruehl is a dream as the long-suffering girlfriend, taking the pain of a slight as easily and as fully as she takes the upper hand when necessary. The story is stupid, really — we have to climb into a Park Avenue castle to get a grail? — but believable because of the acting, and because of how horribly Williams’ character has suffered.”
—Keri Culver, 51, Tunis, Tunisia
“I have been watching this movie regularly since the 1980s. I first saw it when my childhood best friend’s mom rented it from the video store, and we immediately became obsessed. We would recreate the film with our Barbies and even dress up and play the parts ourselves — we learned the final dance and would perform for anyone who would watch (she was smaller and played Baby, I was Johnny but both of us were in dresses for the dance). I have the movie memorized at this point. It’s not that it is a great movie (well it kind of is) but it is nostalgic. Not only is the film itself nostalgic, but for me personally it reminds me of the lightness and fun of my childhood and having something special you share with a friend — and we still laugh about it today!”
—Cathy Rodgers, 40, Orlando
“Lonely, under-esteemed women escape to an Italian villa to recharge and redefine themselves and in the process rejuvenate relationships and connections. Every woman I know can relate to the humorous and reifying film. Comfort food for the soul.”
—Brenda Moon, 69, Auburn. Ala.
Watch it on YouTube.
“I am fond of movies that contain courtroom scenes. It’s thrilling to see the proverbial underdog finally receive justice. I love any movie with Spencer Tracy.”
—Linda Foshee, 80, Hattiesburg, Miss.
“This film illustrates the enduring appeal of the Cinderella story. Also that it’s fun to see snotty salespeople get their comeuppance. That it’s okay to bend the rules slightly when it’s going to result in growth and love. And that an old-fashioned romance is never out of style.”
—Jill Drury, 61, Nashua, N.H.
“I have always liked this movie, but I have rewatched it a couple of times recently. It’s funny, dramatic, beautifully written and acted and family-oriented. It also makes me laugh when I think about what this family would be like if they all had to quarantine together. It’s just what I need to forget about all the bad things happening in the outside world for a couple of hours.”
—Terry Snyder, 64, Norwalk, Ohio
“All three films are beautiful to watch. In the eternal struggle of good vs. evil, good triumphs because different creatures are able to work together, overcome differences, care for each other and the greater good, and show bravery in many ways both large and small. And, of course, Viggo Mortensen.”
—Dee Ann Chandler, 62, San Bernardino, Calif.
“It describes love in all its forms and is funny, emotional and has great music! This one makes me laugh, cry and remember my own love memories.”
—Kathy Archambeau, 70, Gaylord, Mich.
“It’s a silly movie for sure, but in these times, I need to laugh and need to feel some hope. It does both!”
—Penny Smith, 50, Herndon, Va.
Watch it on Sling TV.
“As a student of the presidency, this movie reminds me that presidents can be, despite our current situation, involved in serious policy issues, have some coherent worldview and a vision of the greater good. It also reminds me that presidents can have a human side that is kind, concerned about the greater good of all, and is not malevolent.”
—Paula Matuskey, 72, Elk Grove, Calif.
“It’s about love and the possibility of love. It defies reason and is magical. I also love the reference to ‘A Love Affair to Remember.’ Parenting and grief are also touched on beautifully.”
—Molly Byock, 74, Harbor City, Calif.
Watch on Netflix.
“Quick, witty dialogue, engaging characters, excellent acting, perfect direction, fairy-tale gloss. It gets better with every viewing and works even better as a quote-along.”
—Susan Richmond Way, 60, Gig Harbor, Wash.
“Jane Austen, baby. It’s about simple lives and relationships and everything works out in the end.”
—Susan Lee, Takoma Park, Md.
“My takeaway from the movie is that there is hope for all of us. We can become better people if we really want to and make an effort to change, although it takes a long time and much learning. Perhaps this is a good lesson for America today.”
—Karla Forsythe, 70, Portland, Ore.
“Feel-good movie where wits win over idiocy, magic is real, good triumphs in a non-treacly way. It lets me feel good may eventually gain the upper hand. Has the added appeal of being first of seven movies, so I know I can have more.”
—Kristin Staroba, 58, Takoma Park, Md.
“Watching ‘You’ve Got Mail’ is the cinematic equivalent of wrapping yourself in a plush throw and snuggling up on the couch in front of a roaring fire. Was there ever as winning a combo as Nora Ephron, Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks? It’s the ultimate comfort movie: You follow a classic enemies-turned-lovers story through seasons (‘Don’t you just love New York in the fall?’). There’s a wealth of nostalgia: for the ’90s fashion, for online dating before it was ubiquitous, for the anticipation of the modem to finish dialing and the moment you hear ‘you’ve got mail!’ and for a time when charming independent bookstores lined the streets. The fact that this story, based on a Hungarian play called ‘Parfumerie,’ has been adapted so many other times (in the movie ‘The Shop Around the Corner’ and the musical ‘She Loves Me’), speaks to the simple, winning formula.”
—Cameron Booher, 30, Washington, D.C.
“The film shows me two struggling women who break out of a cycle of stagnation after taking one crazy risk. I took that risk eight years ago and am still searching for that serendipitous ‘You are here’ sign, so they give me hope — and gumption!”
—Margaret Pinard, 39, Portland, Ore.
“‘Roman Holiday’ is one of the most romantic movies ever made. It’s a love letter to Rome, and Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck are splendid.”
—Jennifer Covell, 56, Brooklyn