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In defense of comfort movies (and why reviews aren’t everything)

Graphic by Neve ’22

When I think back to the days of elementary school, I don’t necessarily think back to the spelling quizzes I took or the field trips I went on. Instead, my mind always circles back to the rainy days when all my classmates and I had to sit inside to eat our lunches because it was too wet to play outside. The teacher would turn on the smartboard or roll out an old TV and start playing “The Magic School Bus,” “The Incredibles” or some other movie that could keep energized second graders focused for forty minutes. I didn’t know what to call those movies then; the movies that simply could be an escape from real life. But I do now: comfort movies. And the world (or at least Tik Tok) seems to have a recent appreciation for these types of movies too.

When browsing through Tik Tok late at night as one does, I stumbled upon quite a few videos that different people made sharing their favorite comfort movies. I’ve seen some similarities across a lot of them, (“LadyBird” and “La La Land” are popular choices), but I have also seen a wide variety of differences. Some people stick to critically acclaimed films as their comfort movies, whereas others completely disregard whether or not the movie had high reviews and focus more on their individual relationship with it. The endless hours of scrolling through people’s lists left me wondering one thing: what constitutes a comfort movie?

I think to put it simply, a comfort movie is a form of therapy. When I created my own list, I realized that all of my movies provide pure entertainment. I don’t have to analyze any of them like an essay, but I also won’t fall asleep watching them. Yes, “Free Solo” has a little more of a fear factor to it than “Barbie: a Fashion Fairytale,” but both of these movies have me captivated and immersed in them for their full duration. Comfort movies allow any troubles in my life to slip away, and these types of movies not only have a secure place in the world of film, but they are necessary as well. Comfort movies are essential because they fill a spot in my heart that other movies which require more thought from the viewer cannot. For example: if I am stressed out of my mind during finals week, I will always end up taking a two hour break in my studying to watch a movie. The “One Direction: This Is Us” documentary proves far more beneficial to me and my mental health during study breaks than any support an Academy Award-winning film could provide (not to say that I don’t consider “This Is Us” to be worthy of that title).

To conclude my most recent “In Defense Of” column, which I have realized has become exclusively dedicated to music and movies thus far (I guess I’m making it pretty obvious what I’ve been doing in quarantine), I truly think comfort movies are a vital part of the film world. I sometimes find myself jumping to conclusions when I hear about people’s favorite movies. If someone’s favorite movie is a five-star film from the 60s, I’ll feel intimidated by their dedication to film and sophistication of choice. And if someone’s favorite movie is a mediocre Disney movie from two years ago, I’ll wonder why they chose that movie as their favorite when there are so many other choices. But what I’ve learned, and have attempted to defend, is that a movie, no matter its rating, can feel like an Academy Award-winning film to someone who truly loves it. That’s what I think comfort movies are all about. They feel like a personal message telling me to stop worrying about myself and my problems, at least for a little while, and just focus on the movie. As I finish one of my comfort movies, I can’t help but smile as the credits start to roll, whether the movie was bashed by critics or received a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. My comfort movies are there for me when I need them to be, bringing me an insurmountable feeling of happiness that no other films can.