The 10 Best Pajama-Pants Comfort Movies of 2016
We’ve run this list for around a decade now, although it’s gone under different headlines before — most rewatchable movies, best movies to watch at home, best comfort movies — and it’s always been one of the more popular year-end lists. In February, when people are seeking out movies on a Saturday date night or during a Sunday morning hangover, they’re often more inclined to want to watch the entertaining but less challenging films of the year, and these 10 films hit that sweet spot. They’re all great films, but they’re not necessarily “great” films. They’re great bumming around movies, films that we rewatch, films that are great on HBO or Netflix streaming. They’re excellent pieces of entertainment.
And here they are (a couple of comfort films are also in our Ten Best and Best Indie movies, which will be out later this week).
Moana — Moana is powered by so much incredible acumen that it should outshine the sun — directed by John Musker and Ron Clements (Aladdin, The Little Mermaid), screenplay by Jared Bush (Big Hero 6, Zootopia), songs by Lin-Manuel Miranda, music by Grammy award-winning Pacific Island musician Opetaia Foa’i, and Mark Mancina (who’s worked on what seems like every movie of the past 35 years), and with voice acting from the likes of Dwayne Johnson and Jemaine Clement. It’s like a how-to manual for successful animated pictures, and it takes all of that star power and creates something utterly wonderful, a charming, fantastically imaginative story about self-reliance, family, gods and monsters, the beauty within us all, and the wonders of exploration and discovery. Goddamn, this is a good movie.
Deadpool — This is the exact right way to make a Deadpool movie, and it just feels right. Does it have flaws? Sure it does. Does that really matter, or in any way, shape or form affect your enjoyment? Not in the least. Deadpool exists for those who like their antiheroes dark, their action fast and brutal, and their humor razor-sharp and occasionally toilet-flushably crude. It’s just straight-up fun, the most genuine fun I’ve had in the theater so far this year. There’s a breakneck, don’t-give-a-fuck joyousness to the film that perfectly encapsulates everything about the character, and is a welcome break from the dour seriousness of most of the Marvel and DC franchises. The world isn’t at stake here. The galaxy isn’t under attack. It’s just a boy and a girl, and a shitload of blood, guts, and dick jokes.
Zootopia — Sure to speak to kids and grown-ups alike, Zooptopia unfolds a poignant lesson about how prejudice can hurt people, but also how it can be overcome. And it does all this in a wonderfully fun film with big laughs, clever casting (did I mention Kristen Bell has a cameo as a sloth?), and delightful animation that boasts photo-real textures, telling physicality, and undeniable verve. And as a bonus: Zootopia sets up a charismatic critter partnership that could easily carry a thrilling and fun animated franchise I’d actually be happy to see.
Don’t Breathe — Don’t Breathe: Scary as shit even when you know exactly what’s going to happen. Director Fede Alvarez (the 2013 Evil Dead remake, also starring Jane Levy) has crafted a tight, relentless thriller that over the course of its 88-minute running time ratchets up tension to a squirm-inducing degree. There’s not an ounce of fat on this movie, which makes it a welcome change of pace from any number of overstuffed Hollywood blockbusters that have come out this summer. If the plot and characters are all fairly standard, the way they’re presented is remarkably effective. Stephen Lang, in particular, is exactly how Stephen Lang should be: virtually non-verbal and intent on murder. Levy’s a great horror heroine, mixing “what in the fuck did I just get into” terror with an instinctual determination to do whatever it takes to survive the night.
Pete’s Dragon — There’s nothing particularly original or surprising about Pete’s Dragon, except in the way it tugs at heartstrings. It’s potent, capable of reducing nearly anyone to sobs, not out of sadness, but out of appreciation for the extraordinary, enchanting friendship between a wide-eyed boy and the dragon who protects him. While Stranger Things has been able to recapture much of the Amblin magic and translate it into television, Pete’s Dragon is the closest thing to the old Steven Spielberg going on the big screen, The BFG included. You won’t find a sweeter movie in 2016.
10 Cloverfield Lane — 10 Cloverfield Lane is the strangest of movies because it tells an exceptionally original story. Most stories aren’t particularly original, even when they’re profoundly good. Movies like Star Wars or Fury Road are great films, but their structure makes sense in retrospect, their plots have a particular familiarity. That’s not a criticism: a perfectly made steak is not any less delicious because it’s familiar. But when so-called fusion food works, I mean really works, it blows your mouth buds away, because two great tastes somehow got transformed into something unique from the sum of the parts. And I’m not just talking peanut butter and chocolate. 10 Cloverfield Lane is Room mixed with an alien invasion story, which makes absolutely no conceivable sense on paper. But it’s wonderful.
Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising — It’s beautiful. This movie is beautiful. It tackles period stigma, sex shaming (“When a boy gets laid, that’s awesome. When a girl gets laid, that’s bad”), and society’s tendency to pit women against one another all without being preachy. It’s positive and affirmational without being schmaltzy. Though it’s not a perfect film (the ending, in particular, fizzles something major), it does—and I pause before writing this, because I realize it’s a major thing to say, but I stand by it—deserve a spot on your DVD shelf alongside Clueless.
Bridget Jones’s Baby — While the film is more than a bit uneven, with some completely unnecessary entire scenes (and whole plotlines), and some messages they can’t seem to trust we’ve gotten without knocking us out with them over multiple scenes or conversations, it is engaging till the very end. It’s all too common for comedies to be frontloaded, with weak third act trail-offs. Bridget Jones’s Baby only gets stronger as its runtime goes on. Bridget Jones’s Baby may not transcend its genre in the way that the original— an honest classic— did. But if you’ve already been looking forward to a date or a boozy fun ladies’ night with this movie, it won’t disappoint. And if you’re being dragged along to one of those events, you can breathe easier. Because this is not the thing you expected to have to suffer through. It won’t be your new favorite movie, but it’s fun, smart, and Colin Firth has a LOT of screentime.
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping — Lonely Island’s Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is Justin Bieber’s Never Say Never documentary by way of Rob Reiner’s This Is Spinal Tap mockumentary. It is a sharp, often hysterical send-up of vapid popstars complete with infectious earworms, insane lyrics, and beats you can donkey-roll to. It’s essentially a series of Digital Shorts loosely held together by a formulaic structure — boy band strikes it big, boy-band lead singer goes out on his own, lead singer enters manufactured relationship, singer is corrupted by fame, and eventually finds his way back to his boy-band roots — but the thinly plotted film is littered with comedic landmines that often go off without warning.
Everybody Wants Some — Everybody Wants Some is widely being described as a “spiritual sequel” to Dazed and Confused, because it’s dialogue-heavy and about a bunch of young adults and, honestly, nothing happens in it. Like, nothing. Pretty much the whole movie is just … watching them do shit, like drink and shoot the shit and drink and go to parties and drink and talk about baseball and drink and smoke pot and drink and go to practice. Everybody Wants Some is a really fun watch; you get the sense that it’s a palate cleanser for Linklater after finally getting through the 12-year ordeal that was Boyhood. It takes skill, both in terms of writing and performances, to take a large ensemble cast and make all the characters distinct and memorable.
The Jungle Book — It’s not for little ones, because the action sequences are too intense, but that’s exactly what makes it so thrilling for adults. It is a phenomenal film that hews closely to the Rudyard Kipling source material, but brings in a few surprises to differentiate it and yet never veers far away from the spirit of the book. It’s engaging from the first frame to the last, and breaks up the intensity with enough humor to keep us from dwelling too much on the terrors of the jungle. I was blown away by The Jungle Book, and while the reviews for the film have been nearly unanimous in their praise, the film still managed to exceed my expectations. Favreau and screenwriter Justin Marks have created a near perfect adventure film that deftly blends humor and action, character and heart.