When I was a boy, A Clockwork Orange made me vomit.
I was in the ninth grade. I was just starting to get heavily into movies, and one day I got sick at school. The nurse said I should go home, so my mom picked me up and we decided to stop at the video store so I’d have something to watch while I rested. For some reason, I decided that was the day I was going to finally watch Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. Several minutes after popping in the VHS, I realized pairing Kubrick’s rumination on violence and free will wasn’t the best movie to watch with a fever and sour stomach. I proceed to puke my guts out.
Last week, I found myself sick again and was reminded of that story. I remembered how a few years later, when I finally finished watching the movie, I realized it was a masterpiece, but definitely not good to watch while sick. So I got to thinking, is there a type of movie you can watch while you’re sick? The answer, of course, is completely subjective.
What follows isn’t meant to be all-encompassing; it’s merely my attempt at curating a subset of movies that you can (hypothetically) safely, and gladly, watch while sick. Movies that will keep you occupied, but aren’t particularly demanding (sorry to all the obviously amazing, but slightly too heady sci-fi films out there). Movies you can fall asleep watching and not be too confused by what’s going on when you wake back up. Movies that, ultimately, will make you feel good. Here’s what I’ve come up with.
Flight of the Navigator is the movie that made me think of writing this list in the first place. It’s the story of a young boy who mysteriously disappears only to reappear several years later without having aged. Where was he? Traveling through space.
The film is completely harmless and utterly sweet. It has humor and lots of heart, but it also stretches on for a bit where things happen that aren’t necessarily that crucial to the plot. You basically just need to see the first 20 minutes and the last 30 minutes to “get” it. And then, in the end, the story leaves you smiling ear to ear. Plus, it’s also got that intense ‘80s nostalgia factor if you’re a little older. Flight of the Navigator simply has it all. It’s the perfect sci-fi movie to watch when you’re sick.
Like Flight of the Navigator, The Last Starfighter is perfect for this list. It’s about a young man who lives in a trailer park who gets a high score on an arcade game—and then finds out the arcade game isn’t just a game, it’s also a test sent across the universe. Before he even realizes what’s happening, he’s recruited to go into space and actually perform the missions from the game to save the galaxy.
The plot is entertaining without being confusing. There’s a whole bunch of awesome action, wish fulfillment, and an incredibly rousing score. In the end, you just want to watch it again and again.
This is the obvious one, right? We all know E.T. It’s Steven Spielberg’s classic about a young boy who befriends a lost alien and must battle against the odds to get the alien home. It’s one of the most famous movies of all time, and is basically the cinematic equivalent of comfort food—which makes it a very good movie to watch while you’re sick.
Okay, it does have one kind of gross scene when E.T. is all white and icky but if you’ve seen this movie before, you can sort of check out there. Hell, even if you fall asleep watching, John Williams’ magical music is the perfect soundtrack for a much-needed nap. Odds are, though, the film will suck you right back in with its emotion and nostalgia, and work its magic as it always does.
In Attack the Block, aliens invade London and a group of street-smart kids decide to fight back. It’s a film very much in the mold of the others on this list in that it’s centered on young people and aliens. But Attack the Block ups the ante with a more energetic, youthful tone...probably because it came out decades after those ‘80s movies. It feels like it was made by the people in it as opposed to having the adult touch the older films have. But it’s got all of the mindless good times you are looking for, with gleeful set pieces, a fun cast, and a triumphant ending. It checks all the boxes.
Of all the Studio Ghibli movies I could have chosen, why Kiki’s Delivery Service? Well, it’s not the best one, nor is it the worst one. It’s not the most complicated, nor is it the least complicated. It’s the perfect medium-temperature Ghibli, which means if you’re sick, it’s got everything you need and more. The story of a young witch who forms her own delivery service is a great coming of age tale with gorgeous visuals and a plot that ebbs and flows. But, ultimately, Kiki and her cat Jiji are so absolutely lovable you melt with their every move, and it’s a joy to watch them save the day in the end.
A young boy finds out he’s a famous wizard with a dangerous destiny in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, the first in an eight-film Potter saga and by far the easiest/best one to watch while you’re sick. As the series went on and the kids grew older, everything got a lot darker and more ominous. But in this first movie, everything feels so innocent. It’s bright, bubbly, and filled with wonder and discovery in a way the rest of the films only partially achieve. It’s easy, breezy, and perfect to watch and or listen to while you don’t feel well.
Armageddon is about a huge meteor that’s about to hit the Earth and the oil drillers NASA hires to go into space and stop it. Which, when you put it that way, sounds almost more ridiculous than it actually is. But thanks to director Michael Bay’s complete disdain for manageable runtimes, Armageddon has layers and layers of mindless action, suspense, and emotion, wrapped around narrative dumps and needless asides that make watching it with one eye opened very easy and almost more enjoyable. Let’s be clear here, though: Armageddon freaking rules even if it’s messy and weird.
Guardians of the Galaxy was Marvel Studios’ first full cosmic adventure. It centers around a group of five unlikely heroes, including a talking raccoon and tree, who come together to save the universe. Now, you’re probably thinking “Wait, by your standards, can’t any Marvel movie be on this list? They’re all pretty similar in tone.” To which the answer is: “No.” Unlike most of the other Marvel movies, Guardians is almost completely standalone. You don’t need to see the others to enjoy it for what it is. It also has a level of irreverence most others don’t, plus lots of drama, emotion, action, humor, and great music, mostly without all the complicated shared universe stuff. It has it all. It’s the best.
Unlike most Marvel movies, I believe almost any movies in the Muppets franchise would, indeed, be good to watch while sick. They’re all steeped in nostalgia, incredibly funny, heartfelt, easily digestible, and of overall high quality. In this specific instance though, I’m talking about the 2011 Muppets, with Jason Segel and Amy Adams, because it’s one of my personal favorites. I love how it uses the reverence for all those other movies to drive the plot. I love its meta touches. I love its music. The whole thing is just so smart and wholesome and epic in a way some of the other Muppet movies aren’t. That’s why, while any Muppet movie will do, this would be my go-to.
Aquaman is James Wan’s mega DC action film about an underwater prince forced to go back to his kingdom and save his people. It’s big, brash, and absolutely mindless. I love it. In the mold of Armageddon, this is a movie that you just put on and either pay careful attention to or close your eyes and open them every few minutes to see something new and wild. The whole film is gorgeous, the set pieces are dynamic, and there’s even some heart in there, though it’s not nearly as touching as most of the other films on this list. Nevertheless, Aquaman is here more because it’s just so wholly entertaining and vivid you can’t help but be pleased by it.
What films do you wind up turning on when you’re sick and need a little comfort? Let us know in the comments.
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