Looking for Really Good ESCAPISM Films in English
June 19, 2020 2:42 AM   Subscribe

Have to be smart and very well done all around. I'm open to everything except romance and comedy. Big on fantasy and drama with some sci-fi. What movies can you recommend to just escape for an hour or 2?
posted by watercarrier to Media & Arts (29 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
You want Jupiter Ascending. Completely ridiculous escapist fantastical nonsense, and an excellent way to spend two hours. (NB: I unironically love this movie.)
posted by Tamanna at 3:29 AM on June 19, 2020 [13 favorites]

Some of the Marvel movies are smart and well done. No, really. Hunger Games, too.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:40 AM on June 19, 2020 [2 favorites]

Guillermo del Toro movies - specifically Hellboy 1 & 2 as well as Pacific Rim.

Movies by the incredible Laika production company - Coraline, Kubo and the Two Strings, Paranorman

Notably I find that animated films can be the best escapism because of a few things: The level of abstraction helps with compartmentalizing the entertainment; the medium allows for incredible visuals; they are often marketed towards family audiences so there are multiple levels of intended meaning. Unfortunately many of the greatest animated movies aren't originally in English, but a lot of them do have passable dubbed versions these days. Dubs have come a pretty long way. Try the Triplets of Belleville (originally in French) or Princess Mononoke (originally in Japanese).
posted by Mizu at 4:59 AM on June 19, 2020 [5 favorites]

When I think Escapism, I think of these: The John Wick series, Doctor Strange, Matrix, Salt, Gamer. But I'm not good at judging "well done" cinema.
posted by forthright at 5:15 AM on June 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

I tend to not like the big award winners, but Parasite was smart and well done in my opinion. It is labeled as comedy, drama, thriller but I don't think of it as a comedy in the typical sense. It is more of a dark, smart funny, not the goofy, raunchy comedy you may not care for.
posted by maxg94 at 6:39 AM on June 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

The Mummy (1999) - it's a fun movie about a mummy who wants to resurrect his lost love and the people who want to stop him.

"Winston: So what has your little problem got to do with His Majesty's Royal Air Corps?
Rick O'Connell: Not a damn thing.
Winston: Is it dangerous?
Rick O'Connell: Well, you probably won't live through it.
Winston: [excitedly] By jove! Do you really think so?
Jonathan: Well, everybody else we've bumped into has died. Why not you?
Winston: What's the challenge, then?
Rick O'Connell: Rescue the damsel in distress; kill the bad guy; save the world."

Skip the sequels.
posted by Constance Mirabella at 6:48 AM on June 19, 2020 [7 favorites]

These are movies that really captured my attention and swept me away to a different place, in part because of captivating visuals and in part because of great storytelling, and then lingered afterwards in my mind:

The Talented Mr. Ripley, Barry Lyndon, 2001: A Space Odyssey, E.T., Rear Window, Crimes and Misdemeanors, The Lobster, The Piano, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
posted by sallybrown at 7:11 AM on June 19, 2020

I quite love Arrival and Europa Ascending -- really engrossing "first contact" films.

If you are open to TV shows, we're finding The Dragon Prince and Avatar the Last Airbender (the animated one) to be really engaging. Really consistently executed rules in fantasy worlds. Both with a lot of heart, and complex "villans."
posted by ellerhodes at 7:12 AM on June 19, 2020

the vast of night is really well done and engrossing
posted by askmehow at 7:19 AM on June 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

I would go for Miyazaki movies: Howl's Moving Castle, Kiki's Delivery Service, Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, Ponyo, and especially My Neighbor Totoro. They are so beautiful and detailed.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 7:40 AM on June 19, 2020 [9 favorites]

Time Bandits
posted by H21 at 7:54 AM on June 19, 2020 [7 favorites]

The Secret of Kells is an exquisitely animated movie about the Irish monks who created the Book of Kells, exuberating in Irish design and music.

Same producers made Song of the Sea, about selkies.
posted by Jesse the K at 8:13 AM on June 19, 2020 [9 favorites]

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World is pure well-done dramatic (historical) escapism. Use a large screen, watch it in the dark, and crank the volume. Must-see. MUST.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 8:40 AM on June 19, 2020 [5 favorites]

Sneakers is offbeat enough to take your mind off things, fantastic cast, the best throwaway lines ever.

2nd Time Bandits
and any movies by Terry Gilliam,
notably Brazil

Have you ever seen This Is Spinal Tap? It's really stupid and hilarious.

HBO is offering some free stuff for Juneteenth, including Watchmen, sorry, I don't have the link handy. Last time HBO had free offerings, I could watch with Roku.
posted by theora55 at 9:08 AM on June 19, 2020 [3 favorites]

Have you seen "Secret of Kells"? It's animation but wonnnnnnderful and it sucked me right in.

posted by wenestvedt at 9:10 AM on June 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

Sense 8 on Netflix by the Wachowskis. (The Matrix, V for Vendetta) It's a series not a movie but they gave them a movie production budget. It's globe hoping action with great fight scenes and often feels like a celebration. Just a couple seasons so not too long either. It takes about 3 episodes to get going and then takes off like a rocket.
posted by Jungo at 9:19 AM on June 19, 2020 [4 favorites]

I would go for Miyazaki movies: Howl's Moving Castle, Kiki's Delivery Service, Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, Ponyo, and especially My Neighbor Totoro. They are so beautiful and detailed.

In that vein, Makoto Shinkai's Your Name, which is sweet and sometimes sad and beautifully animated. It's not quite as escapist as some Miyazaki movies- it's set in modern-day Japan- but I really can't recommend it enough.
posted by BungaDunga at 9:41 AM on June 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

Ocean's 11.
posted by praemunire at 9:42 AM on June 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

Die Hard. One of the most enjoyable action movies ever made - I remember watching in the theater and often finding myself gripping the armrests really tightly. We watched a 35mm theatrical version in graduate school as an exemplar of (then) contemporary classical Hollywood: near-perfectly crafted script; rich characters despite some stereotyping; taut direction - you always know where you are relative to the action. You must see Alan Rickman as one of the best movie bad guys ever ever ever.
posted by conscious matter at 9:54 AM on June 19, 2020 [4 favorites]

Welp, this is humor and fantasy. And fun, escapist stuff.
Tremors. All the Tremors.
Galaxy Quest.
Jumanji... and later Jumanji franchise. Anything with Jack Black or Dwayne Johnson is worth a look.
Godzilla (1998).
Young Frankenstein.
Ghostbusters. All the Ghostbusters.
The Cornetto trilogy -- Shawn of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and The World's End.
Seconding Time Bandits.
WALL-E, because if we are doing animated, this is lovely.
posted by TrishaU at 10:05 AM on June 19, 2020 [2 favorites]

Edge of Tomorrow
posted by Obscure Reference at 10:27 AM on June 19, 2020 [3 favorites]

Smart escapist SF/F films are my jam. So I'd definitely +1 to Miyazaki, The Matrix, The Secret of Kells, Arrival, anything by Laika, del Toro, and Marvel. To those, I'd add

The Fall (maybe not strictly SF/F but it scratches a similar itch)
Let the Right One In (the Swedish original)
Wonder Woman
Christopher Nolan's work
almost any Pixar (the sequel stuff is fifty-fifty)
About Time
Beasts of the Southern Wild
District 9
Edgar Wright's Cornetto trilogy
Jurassic Park
Mad Max: Fury Road
Minority Report
Robocop (1987)
Robot and Frank
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)
The Last Unicorn
The Rocketeer (more fun than smart)
The Thing (1982)
Rise of the Planet of the Apes (and sequels)
Wreck-It Ralph

These may not all be perfect fits, but I'm hoping some work for you.
posted by xenization at 10:59 AM on June 19, 2020 [3 favorites]

Okay, I love the Cornetto Trilogy, but I have to say I just re-watched Shaun of the Dead and it did not feel very escapist. Mass illness/death/undeath, massive police response at the end, gore etc. Hot Fuzz might be a better choice from that bunch.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 12:21 PM on June 19, 2020 [2 favorites]

None of you young'uns will remember this 1975 gem A Boy and His Dog: A Kinky Tale of Survival.

Screenplay by Harlan Ellison. 'nuff said.
posted by angiep at 1:42 PM on June 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

I just watched most of Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets again and think it's in the same camp as Jupiter Ascending with some Luc Besson sort of enjoyability.
posted by zengargoyle at 3:02 PM on June 19, 2020 [2 favorites]

Brotherhood of the Wolf. Here, my friend, in one package you have: historical costume drama, martial arts, political intrigue and a MONSTER. And it's all based on a true story! (No, really! The actual story is even weirder than what's in the film.)
posted by SPrintF at 4:03 PM on June 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

Die Hard has way too many cops to be escapist right now! I love it too but don't watch it if you want to take your mind off things; it will absolutely NOT take your mind off things.

Watch The Fifth Element. Ian Holm just died and he's great in it. It's like nothing else I've ever seen.
posted by potrzebie at 10:13 PM on June 19, 2020 [3 favorites]

The Blues Brothers? Singing! Dancing! Carrie Fisher! Humiliation of Nazis! Elevator vandalism! Country *and* Western! Ray Charles with a handgun and a keyboard solo! Nuns! Belushi's waggling eyebrows!

That movie has it all, *and* a toe-tapping beat.
posted by wenestvedt at 5:01 AM on June 22, 2020

If you haven't seen The Man Who Would Be king, fix that.
posted by theora55 at 8:32 PM on June 22, 2020

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