20 Throwback Movies To Watch When We Need a Break From Reality

Martha Sorren | Dec 4, 2019 Movies
20 Throwback Movies To Watch When We Need a Break From Reality
Image: Paramount Pictures/Getty Images

Alicia Silverstone in Clueless
Paramount Pictures/Getty Images

Life is hard, y'all. There are jobs to do, children to take care of, chores to finish, meals to prep, and so, so much more. Sometimes, we all could use (nay, need) a break, and fortunately that's part of why movies were invented. Sure, sometimes movies make us sad or are hard to watch because they portray scary or all too real scenarios. But, other times, films can help transport us out of the struggles of our everyday lives.

For two glorious hours, watching a movie can help us forget about the laundry we need to do and the errands we need to run. Or, if we're having a bad day, they can help lift us up, make us smile and laugh, and get us ready to tackle our next task with a renewed sense of energy. In short, movies are pretty magical.

Recently, List Challenges rounded up a bunch of movies that make for perfect watches when we're in a bad mood. The selections were made in part because of their Rotten Tomatoes scores, which is a site that compiles critic and audience reviews of films and ranks them accordingly. But the List Challenges movie selection can also be voted upon by viewers, so we can all rate whether or not we agree with a movie being a pick-me-up watch. 

The full list contains 50 films, but these 20 really hit home as far as their ability to transport us out of our reality and also cheer us up in a major way. There are '80s hits, '90s classics, 2000s throwbacks, and even a musical from the '60s. Check any one of them out to help make any day a little bit brighter the second the play button is hit. It's hard to be sad or frustrated or worried or stressed when one of these movies is on. They're just that good.

  • 'Legally Blonde'


    Rated: PG-13

    Watching Elle Woods triumph in court is enough to shake anyone out of the doldrums. Homegirl picked herself up by her bootstraps, got herself into Harvard, and then slayed as a lawyer. She's an inspiration to us all.

  • 'The Princess Bride'

    Cary Elwes and Robin Wright in The Princess Bride

    Rated: PG

    In the movie, the tale of the Princess Bride is told to a young, sick boy by his grandfather. It totally takes his mind off being stuck at home, and it will take viewers' minds off all their own issues as well. At least for its 98 minute run time.

  • 'The Parent Trap'


    Rated: PG

    This movie will really hit home for any viewer with divorced parents. Who among us hasn't attempted to -- or at least thought about -- Parent Trap-ing our separated mom and dad at some point? But this movie is about so much more than just getting a wayward couple back together. It's about poker, camp pranks, sisterhood, and secret handshakes. All the ingredients for a perfect film.

  • 'Mean Girls'


    Rated: PG-13

    This movie will take viewers right back to high school, but with the satisfaction of seeing the odd-one-out actually become queen of the school and the bully put in her place. It's the high school happy ending so many of us didn't get to have. Plus, it has so many quotable lines that will get stuck in viewers' heads and lift anyone out of a bad mood.

  • '13 Going on 30'


    Rated: PG-13

    Jennifer Garner channeling the high-energy spirit of a 13-year-old is infectious. Why don't we all have spontaneous dance performances, sleepovers, and wear fun colors to work? We're adults! We get to do whatever we want! (Within reason, of course.) This movie will remind us what a privilege that truly is, and how not to waste our true potential.

  • 'My Fair Lady'

    Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady
    CBS via Getty Images

    Rated: G

    This movie stars Audrey Hepburn as a working class girl determined to become a high society woman by speaking, acting, and dressing differently. In addition to it being a fun transformation film, it's also a musical, which makes it a great watch for any day that needs a bit of cheering up.

  • 'Back to the Future'

    Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future
    Universal/Getty Images

    Rated: PG

    This comedy follows what happens when a teenager travels back in time to meet his parents -- only his mother accidentally falls for the mysterious new stranger in town, not knowing that he's her son in her future life. Don't worry, he does everything he can to shut that down and make sure his parents end up together so that he can still exist on that future timeline. 

  • 'Pretty Woman'

    Richard Gere and Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman
    Buena Vista/Getty Images

    Rated: R

    "Big mistake, huge," has become an iconic comeback for anyone who does us wrong in life. We can thank Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman for that one. In the movie, she is treated to a life of luxury she never thought possible, and viewers are just along for the glamorous ride.

  • 'Mary Poppins'

    Julie Andrews in Mary Poppins
    Silver Screen Collection/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

    Rated: G

    This musical will take viewers out of this world -- literally, since nanny Mary Poppins and charges jump into a chalk drawing at one point. The songs and the story can cheer anyone up, and remind us all to have a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious day.

  • 'The Princess Diaries'


    Rated: G

    For many young girls, waking up one day and finding out that they're a princess is truly the dream, and Anne Hathaway's character, Mia Thermopolis, gets to live that dream out IRL. But, she's so relatable as an everyday girl that she'll make viewers laugh during her princess lessons, cry when her first kiss goes poorly, and cheer when she gets the right guy in the end. It's a classic film that resonates as much today as when it first came out.

  • 'Forrest Gump'

    Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump
    Sunset Boulevard/Getty Images

    Rated: PG-13

    Forrest Gump never lets anything get him down, and it's safe to say he's had a harder life than many. At the same time, he was present for some of America's most iconic and historic moments, and his journey through life is admirable to say the least. This movie, sad moments and all, will always get us out of our heads and thinking about how we, too, can shape our own trajectories like Forrest did.

  • 'The Breakfast Club'


    Rated: R

    Nothing is more heartwarming than watching a band of misfit high school kids come together. For one glorious day, cliques and social constructs didn't matter, and this group made some lasting memories as a unit. Plus, they got to stick it to the man (the teacher), which is always fun to watch. 

  • 'Big'

    Tom Hanks in Big
    20th Century-Fox/Getty Images

    Rated: PG

    Like 13 Going on 30, this Tom Hanks movie will remind adults watching to embrace their inner child. Maybe we can't all dance on a giant piano, but we can pledge to have a little more fun in our day-to-day lives.

  • '17 Again'


    Rated: PG-13

    Zac Efron gives a masterful performance in this comedy. He plays a dad and soon to be divorcé who accidentally gets turned back into a 17-year-old and has a chance to fix his life. Watching Efron pretend to be a 40-year-old in a 17-year-old's body is hilarious, but the movie's underlying message about family and love is totally heartwarming as well. 

  • 'The Hangover'


    Rated: R

    After partying too hard, a group of friends has to piece together their memories of the wild night before. There are random babies, tigers, and more for them to figure out, and it's totally hilarious. It's hard to think about any of our own problems while watching these men deal with their much larger ones. 

    At least we're not them!

  • 'New York Minute'


    Rated: R

    New York Minute was one of Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen's final movie roles, and it's a doozy. In it, they play twins who are polar opposites but who must team up to take down the bad guys and help each other in the process. It was a Ferris Bueller's Day Off for a new generation, and it still holds up today.

  • 'Bring It On'


    Rated: PG-13

    A cheerleader's one goal is to cheer people up, and this movie about a cheer team will do just that. Sure, there's some drama with a rival school and inter-squad squabbles, but ultimately this is an upbeat movie with catchy chants and dance moves that'll stay stuck in viewers' heads for years. Trust us, we know.

  • 'Clueless'

    Alicia Silverstone and Stacey Dash  in Clueless
    Paramount Pictures/Getty Images

    Rated: PG-13

    This movie will make anyone nostalgic for the '90s, and it'll totally transport viewers back to their own high school days. Ah, to be young and have problems like which boy to like, what to wear to school, and how to drive.

  • 'Billy Elliot'


    Rated: R

    Billy Elliot is a coal miner's son, and seems predestined to lead that same life himself. But his true calling is dance, and it slowly lifts him out of his circumstances and into a life he could only have dreamed of having. 

  • 'Elf'


    Rated: PG

    Sure, this is a Christmas movie, but it's also just such a pure, joyful watch that it'll lift anyone's spirits any time of the year. Will Ferrell plays Buddy the elf, who only just recently found out that he's a human. As he tracks down his real family, everyone he meets along the way will be changed for the better thanks to a newfound belief in the power of the Christmas spirit.

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