Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Whatever your opinion of superhero movies, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse offers a euphoric deconstruction of the genre, celebrating the hope that anyone can become a hero. The animated triumph introduces Miles Morales to the world of everyone’s favorite neighborhood webslinger and opens up his universe as other Spider-Men/women/things come from other dimensions. Bold animation and infectious, fun voice work (starring stars include Nicolas Cage and John Mulaney) will get your heart pumping.
Rent for £3.49, Prime Video
There is comfort in familiarity and unequivocal happiness under the Greek sun. Mama Mia! writes a love letter to the best of Abba’s discography in a glorious musical telling the story of Sophie (a luminous Amanda Seyfried) as she prepares for her wedding and invites the three men who could be her father – Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgård – to meet them well. The songs are delightful, the storyline heartfelt, the backdrop quiet. A tonic.
The gallery of broken hearts
Grief and grief can often be necessary to appreciate the very things that teach us to appreciate the good times. Writer-director Natalie Krinsky leans into that – focusing on the loss of romantic love – to create an instant classic of a rom-com directed by Geraldine Viswanathan and Strange things starring Dacre Montgomery. Clever observations on modern dating and a celebration of female friendships give that depth to stand the test of time.
Buy for £7.99, Prime Video
school of rock
Jack Black masters impromptu humor like no one else, and his role as Dewey Finn in Richard Linklater’s inimitable high school comedy gets better with every new watch. There’s something endearing about the way these posh kids hate Finn (posing as substitute teacher Ned Schneebly) before getting to grips with his odd ways, with each student wanting to be the best rock band member possible. The joy comes from the legendary dialogues (“You’re corny and I hate you”) as much as the small details. It’s flawed and so are they – that’s what makes it so good.
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
It’s not a mean satire on the uncoolest night of the year – Will Ferrell takes his role as Icelandic musician Lars Eriksson seriously, alongside Rachel McAdams as his professional partner and best friend Sigrit Eriksdóttir. Together they form the band Fire Saga, and their journey to Eurovision glory is kitschy, goofy, yet charming. The musical delights come from both the original songs (“Volcano Man” is outstanding) and the ambitious mash-up “Song-Along.” Impossible to keep a straight face.
A time capsule, a history lesson and a euphoric party, soul summer brings back to life the 1969 event that history forgot, the Harlem Cultural Festival. It happened at the same time as Woodstock, when some of the greatest black musicians of all time gave miraculous performances. The documentary restores archival footage, while addressing a number of key voices in understanding why this process of remembering and celebrating is so important. A film to remind you why you love music – and movies.
Two best friends and straight college students realize on the last day of term that they could have had more fun, so get ready to have the best night of their lives before it’s too late. Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut is endless fun, a new buddy comedy directed by Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever about stepping out of your comfort zone.
Rent for £3.49, Prime Video
Food heals like nothing else. Jon Favreau takes that wisdom on the road with his comedy about a chef who finds his calling when he loses his job, sets up a food truck, and reconnects with the simple pleasures of life. Chef also has a terrific soundtrack, including Hot 8 Brass Band’s cover of Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing.” Chicken soup for the soul.
Sing in the rain
A musical about musicals, Sing in the rain presents some of the best choreography of all time. This is Gene Kelly at his best, alongside Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds as artists making the transition to Hollywood “talkies” from silent films.
There’s something soothing about Ben Whishaw’s voice as the Peruvian bear finds his feet with a new family in London. There’s joy for moviegoers of all ages as Hugh Grant delivers a delightful camp performance as villainous Phoenix Buchanan, and Paddington learns just how deep love is when it comes to family. It’s a classic movie Valentine’s Day and a subversion of cheesy kid-friendly fare in favor of a sweet family portrait for everyone.
Stop making sense
On the surface, Stop making sense is little more than a filmed concert of the Talking Heads – but it was not just any concert. Director Jonathan Demme surprised David Byrne’s band at the height of their fame, and the show, which begins with just Byrne, a guitar and a loop pedal on stage, turns into something epic as it’s joined by a dozen collaborators. The set list is euphoric, and a mid-run costume change is both bizarre and brilliant.
Broadcast on BFI PlaYesthrough Prime Video
A satire on the worst musical ever made might not sound uplifting, but Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder are hugely entertaining as a theater producer and his accountant working on a Hitler-inspired scam (!). The producers raised eyebrows in 1967, but has only gotten funnier over the years, as Mostel and Wilder deliver some of the decade’s wackiest performances in a silly but sharp buddy comedy.
Rental for £3.49, YouTube
Tom Hanks has an innate ability to make his fans feel good, and the very simple trick of making an adult behave like a child is a guaranteed way to find a laugh – so the fantasy comedy of Penny Marshall having Hanks do just that is a pick-me-up from the start. Playful and thoughtful, it’s a celebration of big kids and unassuming ambition.
Everyone wants it!!
Chill films invite audiences on a journey without intense commitment – and Richard Linklater’s 80s college film Everyone wants it!! is the best example. We join a college baseball team in Texas as they settle into their new home, go out dancing, warm up for the season, fall in love, and make mistakes. The disco-inspired jukebox soundtrack is spot on, the whole thing is so charming – a guaranteed good time.
Rental for £3.49, YouTube
You can almost feel the sweat running down the walls in rock lovers, Steve McQueen’s seductive slice of life. An immersive romance immersing us in the warmth and heart of an 80s West London house party, it’s about the feeling of dancing skin to skin with another, the bliss of a perfect needle drop (the “Silly Games” scene is transcendent) and the dizzying rush of trying to remember everything as you race home in the morning. Lightning in a bottle, a jaw-dropping snapshot of the best parts of life.