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The 20 best movies to get you through winter

Netflix and literally chill?


Nico Lang


Posted on Jan 30, 2016   Updated on May 27, 2021, 7:16 am CDT

Everybody knows that Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, but the hangover is anything but. January and February can be cold and depressing—a time that’s less “Netflix and chill” and more “stay inside and avoid the fact that it gets dark at 5pm.”

If you’re feeling a bit of seasonal cabin fever from being trapped inside by a record blizzard or freezing temperatures, you may as well make the best of it. To help fight your Seasonal Affective Disorder, the Daily Dot compiled 20 comedies that will help brighten up your dreary winter.

Watch these picks—now streaming online—and bask in the warmth of summer, right in front of your TV screen. After all, who needs a light box when you’ve got Wet Hot American Summer?

1) 9 to 5 (Amazon Prime)

If you love Dolly Parton, you have 9 to 5 to thank. Parton’s only previous appearance was playing herself on an episode of Captain Kangaroo, and Colin Higgins’ 1980 megahit turned the country singer into a crossover superstar. The title track was Parton’s first No. 1 hit, while 9 to 5 grossed over $100 million (a flat-out amazing sum at the time).

Three-and-a-half decades after its release, this gay cult classic—about three women (Parton, Jane Fonda, and Lily Tomlin) who kidnap their sexist boss—remains just as diabolically delightful as ever.

2) Barbarella (Netflix)

Can a movie be both technically terrible and utterly delightful in every way? Barbarella is here to answer that question.

Directed by her then-husband Roger Vadim, and produced by Dino De Laurentiis, the film stars Jane Fonda as a barely clothed intergalactic vixen who has a habit of twirling in zero-gravity for your slow-motion titillation. (The opening credits, which are akin to a strip ballet funded by NASA, are worth the price of admission alone.) This 1968 T&A treasure is a camp miracle, featuring hot blind space angels and a villain named Dr. Durand Durand—yes, like the 1980s new wave band.

3) Bridget Jones’s Diary (Netflix)

This 2000 box-office hit doesn’t sound like it’s something you’ll like: Based on Helen Fielding’s novel, Bridget Jones’s Diary is about a chatty chainsmoker with a slight drinking problem who likes to complain to her journal about the men in her life. The log line is a bit like Pride and Prejudice as a Cathy cartoon.

But 15 years later, Sharon Maguire’s ode to thirtysomething singletons remains one of the most warm and wonderful romantic comedies ever made (despite a too-on-the-nose soundtrack). A never-better Renée Zellweger plays the title character, who is just as bumbling as she is completely adorable. She’s an appallingly bad public speaker and a terrible cook, but you can’t help but love her—just the way she is.

4) Clueless (Netflix)

As far as unlikely literary adaptations go, Clueless remains the gold standard of greatness. Writer/director Amy Heckerling also drew inspiration from Jane Austen, reimagining Emma as a Southern California-set comedy of manners about an airheaded do-gooder (Cher, played by Alicia Silverstone) with a Visa card and a great wardrobe (at least for the ‘90s).

Heckerling’s incredibly witty script—a reminder that comedies about stupid people don’t have to be stupid—only gets funnier and more incisive with the passage of time. In a personal favorite moment, Cher is penning a passage from Shakespeare as a love letter to help match-make two of her teachers (Wallace Shawn and Twink Caplan). Cher’s best friend, Dionne, asks if she wrote it, and Cher is appalled: “Duh, it’s like a favorite question.” “From where?” Dionne inquires. Her answer? “Cliff’s Notes.”

See also: Legally Blonde, now streaming on Netflix. 

5) Flirting With Disaster (Netflix)

David O. Russell has made a second career for himself chasing Oscar gold with studio prestige pics (The Fighter, American Hustle), but to paraphrase Woody Allen, I prefer his early, funny movies.

Flirting With Disaster comes from Russell’s late-’90s/early-2000s screwball era, a period that also brought us the underrated I Heart Huckabees. But this 1996 road comedy—about a soon-to-be-married man (Ben Stiller) searching for his adoptive parents with his wife (Patricia Arquette) and their caseworker (Tea Leoni)—remains his finest comedic achievement. For a director that’s dabbled in nearly every genre (from boxing movies to war epics), Flirting With Disaster proves David O. Russell is at his best when he’s channeling Preston Sturges.

6) Frances Ha (Hulu, Netflix)

Noah Baumbach is having an incredibly prolific late career—churning out Greenberg, The Squid and the Whale, Mistress America, Margot at the Wedding, and While We’re Young in an amazing decade-long stretch.

During that span, he also made Frances Ha, a riff on Annie Hall as seen through the lens of Godard, Truffaut, and the masters of the French New Wave. Instead of watching a couple slowly drift apart, Baumbach tracks the dissolution of a best friendship between Frances (Greta Gerwig, in her star-making role) and Sophie (Mickey Sumner). It’s not only a lovely Woody Allen homage but one of cinema’s best portraits of millennial disaffection to date.

See also: Kicking and Screaming, now streaming on Hulu. 

7) Hot Fuzz (Netflix)

Edgar Wright fans might debate which entry in the Cornetto trilogy was his best. The fan favorite remains the slacker zombie spoof Shaun of the Dead, but I vastly prefer Hot Fuzz, Wright’s second entry in the saga starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.

A deft send-up of Michael Bay movies and buddy-cop flicks, Hot Fuzz is at its best when it gets downright weird in its inspired third act. The British comedians—who, this time around, play mismatched police officers—go Rambo on a stuffy British village that may or may not be a front for a cult.

8) How to Marry a Millionaire (Amazon Prime)

Jean Negulesco’s How to Marry a Millionaire is as frothy as a champagne flute—and about as deep. This effervescent comedy stars Marilyn Monroe, Betty Grable, and Lauren Bacall as a trio of women who set out to marry for the money and accidentally find love on the way to the altar.

Cast in her usual straight-man part, Bacall is typically good—playing the impeccably named Schatze Page—but the film really belongs to Monroe, who makes the best use of her bubbly screen persona as Pola Debevoise, a severely near-sighted gold-digger. Because “men aren’t attentive to girls who wear glasses”—a paraphrased Dorothy Parker quote—Pola can barely see her own mark. It’s a literal sight gag that gets funnier every time I watch it.

See also: Charade, now streaming on Netflix. 

9) In a World… (Hulu)

The late Roger Ebert once wrote, “Until actors are matched to the right role, we can never quite see them clearly.” He was talking about Emma Stone’s breakout role in Easy A, but the same could be said for Lake Bell. The 36-year-old had a string of throwaway supporting roles in forgettable rom-coms like What Happens in Vegas, No Strings Attached, and Over Her Dead Body—aka that weird movie where Eva Longoria haunts Paul Rudd. Her parts could have been played by a desk lamp, and it would have barely changed the movie.

Bell finally got a chance to shine when she was allowed to write and direct her own movie: 2013’s In a World…, a sharply observed comedy about a voiceover artist trying to make her name in a male-dominated business. Film critics compared her to Carole Lombard, but her debut feature in the director’s chair proved that she has a distinctive voice all her own. I can’t wait to see what she does next.

10) Me and You and Everyone We Know (Netflix)

Miranda July isn’t to all tastes. Her sophomore feature, The Future, is partially narrated by a self-absorbed couple’s talking cat. Me and You and Everyone We Know heavily features a 6-year-old’s pre-sexual fetish involving an elaborate defecation ritual. “You poop into my butt hole and I poop into your butt hole… back and forth… forever,” he helpfully explains.

You can’t watch Me and You and Everyone We Know with your grandmother, but July’s weird and altogether wonderful directorial debut proves that she’s just as skilled a filmmaker as she is a writer and visual artist. (For the bibliophiles among us, check out her short story “The Shared Patio.”) For those willing to go on the journey with her, walking off the beaten path is well worth it. 

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11) Modern Times (Hulu)

When it comes to classic films, Hulu is a gift to humanity. The streaming service houses the entire Criterion Collection, which means you can screen Jacques Tati’s Mon Oncle and Jean Renoir’s The Rules of the Game literally any time you want. It’s truly amazing anyone ever gets anything done.

For those looking to dip their toes into the water, I suggest Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times, one of the actor-director’s many appearances as his iconic Little Tramp character. It’s not as wistfully romantic as City Lights or as defiantly angry as the Hitler satire The Great Dictator, but Chaplin’s pointed satire of industrial capitalism would prove arguably his most influential work. Not only did Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir name their literary magazine after the film, but I Love Lucy’s most famous sequence—in which Lucille Ball struggles to keep pace with a factory conveyor belt—pays tribute to Chaplin’s flawless knack for physical comedy.

12) Monkey Business (Netflix, Amazon Prime)

Should you be looking for a perfect black-and-white comedy double feature, I suggest pairing Modern Times with Monkey Business, the Marx Brothers’ first comedy written directly for the big screen. The 1931 comedy finds the Marx Brothers up to their usual hijinx—after the quartet stows away on a ship headed for New York.

In typical Marx Brothers fashion, there’s not much of a plot—and any pretense to an actual narrative is purely an accident, I’m sure. Their proper screen debut (like many of their later films) was really just a chance to show off the comedians’ trademark mix of lowbrow slapstick and absolutely killer wit. Groucho Marx became known for his clever turns of phrase, and this movie features some of his best one-liners. For my money, I’ll take this guy for my tombstone quote: “Oh, I know it’s a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.”

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13) Muriel’s Wedding (Netflix, Amazon Prime)

The late P.J. Hogan’s dramedy is one of the unlikeliest international hits ever, so much so that I’m nearly at a loss for words to describe it. Muriel’s Wedding is about a twentysomething ABBA-obsessed slacker who still lives at home with her parents and dreams of being accepted by the popular girls who rejected her in high school. She meets a free spirit, Rhonda (played by Six Feet Under’s Rachel Griffiths), who inspires her to explore life in the big city—after she steals her parents’ money and runs off.

However, Muriel’s Wedding might be the most feel-good movie ever made about a compulsive liar with self-esteem issues. Anchored by a then-unknown Toni Collette, it showcased her incredible knack for playing complex characters that are incredibly imperfect yet wonderfully relatable.

14) Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (Netflix)

If you need a movie to make you feel like a kid again, you’re never too old to re-watch Pee-wee’s Big Adventure. This was Tim Burton’s first full-length feature, following shorts like “Frankenweenie” and “Stalk of the Celery Monster,” and it has a sweetness and buoyancy to it that so many of Burton’s later, more mannered works lack (see: Alice in Wonderland).

Big Adventure reimagines Vittorio De Sica’s Italian neorealist classic Bicycle Thieves as a road comedy starring Pee-wee Herman, a goofy man-child popularized by Paul Reubens on his beloved early morning kids’ program. After his bike is stolen one morning, Herman goes on a journey across the country looking for it, meets Elvira, and finds nothing less than the soul of America along the way.

15) Radio Days (Amazon Prime, Hulu)

Of Woody Allen’s indisputably great movies, Radio Days is the most criminally unsung (although I’d also nominate Zelig, his only foray into mockumentary). Following a string of classics like Broadway Danny Rose, The Purple Rose of Cairo, and Hannah and Her Sisters—arguably his best-ever—that was bound to happen.

But the good news is that it means that Radio Days is currently streaming for audiences to rediscover. A nostalgic love letter to the golden days of radio, the film is also notable for a number of odd cameos—including Larry David, director Todd Field (In the Bedroom), William H. Macy, and a very, very young Seth Green. If the impeccable evocation of a lost period doesn’t grab you, Radio Days is a great drinking game waiting to happen.

16) Sabrina (Hulu, Amazon Prime)

You might think Breakfast at Tiffany’s is your favorite Audrey Hepburn movie. In fact, you’re pretty sure that it’s definitely absolutely your favorite. No offense intended to George Peppard, but there’s an entire world outside of Holly Golightly’s Manhattan studio (that doesn’t involve Mickey Rooney in yellowface).

Hepburn had a long, varied career to explore—from Charade and The Children’s Hour to Wait Until Dark, a personal favorite—and I would start with Sabrina. The 1954 film, about a love triangle between the daughter of a chauffeur (Hepburn), a millionaire playboy (William Holden), and his business partner (Humphrey Bogart), is one of Billy Wilder’s absolute finest screen comedies. It’s stylish, romantic, and incredibly charming, the kind of movie it’s absolutely impossible not to like. Holly Golightly might run away with your pearls, but it’s Sabrina Fairchild who will steal your heart.

17) This Is Spinal Tap (Amazon Prime)

In the years since its release, Rob Reiner’s 1984 cult magnum opus has become universally beloved, recently topping Time Out London’s list of the funniest movies ever made. Filmmakers had toyed with weaving documentary and fiction since H.G. Wells’ infamous War of the Worlds broadcast and Luis Buñuel’s 1933 Land Without Bread. Spike Jonze’s Adaptation credited Fellini’s I Clowns—a 1970 TV movie—as the first proper mockumentary—but This Is Spinal Tap realized the nascent genre’s full satiric potential.

This Is Spinal Tap absolutely skewers the airheaded pomposity of 1980s heavy metal bands (the scene of the titular group getting lost backstage is still priceless), and apparently, it was even more accurate than we imagine. When Glenn Danzig of the Misfits got around to watching the film, he was reported as saying: “When I first saw Spinal Tap, I was like, ‘Hey, this is my old band.’”

The movie also gets points for introducing the world to Christopher Guest, who co-wrote the film. He would go onto direct Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, and A Mighty Wind using the format Spinal Tap popularized.

18) Top Five (Hulu)

Who knew Chris Rock would prove to be such a great director? Top Five was the standup comic’s third stint behind the camera, after Head of State and I Think I Love My Wife. The latter, a sometimes successful adaptation of Eric Rohmer’s Love in the Afternoon, showed that Rock had unexpected art house sensibilities.

But instead of the French New Wave, Rock found his muse in Richard Linklater. Top Five is a masterful riff on Linklater’s Before series, in which a couple discusses life and love while wandering through the cityscapes of Vienna or Paris. Top Five trades Europe for the streets of New York. It’s both one of cinema’s best modern romantic comedies and a pretty good thinkpiece on being a black entertainer in Hollywood. Rock (who plays a version of himself) struggles with balancing an unexpected connection (a New York Times reported played by Rosario Dawson) with the pressures of celebrity.

19) Walking and Talking (Netflix)

Nicole Holofcener is one of the great, underrated directors working today. From Lovely and Amazing to Enough Said, featuring James Gandolfini’s last film performance, Holofcener makes movies I feel deeply at home in. Critics refer to them as “white people problems” movies, but they’re at once incisive satires of upper-middle-class lives and deeply affectionate portraits of their own targets. They’re both brittle and warm, scathing and incredibly human.

Cited by Entertainment Weekly as one of the greatest cult movies ever made, Walking and Talking is the movie that made Catherine Keener a star. It’s about, more or less, what all of Holofcener’s movies are about: how change tests the bonds between people. In Walking and Talking, Keener plays Amelia, whose best friend (Anne Heche) decides to get married. Imagine a very low-key, indie version of Bridesmaids—with a much better soundtrack (courtesy of Billy Bragg and Guyville-era Liz Phair).

20) Wet Hot American Summer (Netflix)

David Wain’s meta-comedy was critically reviled when it came out. The Washington Post’s Stephen Hunter wrote that watching Wet Hot American Summer was “so depressing I almost started to cry,” while Salon’s Charles Taylor called it a “thoroughly inept piece of moviemaking.”

That’s because some movies take time and a certain amount of patience to find their audience, and Wet Hot American Summer is the definition of a grower, a movie that only becomes funnier the more you think about it. Previously known for creating the TV cult comedy The State, Wain’s debut is a surreal send-up of ’80s camp comedies—tinged with a Hal Hartman deconstructionist sensibility. In a personal favorite scene, a group of campers wander into town, and through an escalating series of events, get addicted to heroin within a span of minutes.

If you’re a fan of the non-sequitur humor of Anchorman and Zoolander, do yourself a favor and check this out.

Screengrab via Top Five Movie/YouTube 

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*First Published: Jan 30, 2016, 11:00 am CST