Your Seasonal Mood Lift Movie Watchlist

February is known as peak S.A.D. month, that time of year when travel sites see a flurry of searches as people hatch their winter escape plans. But not all of us can fly off to a tropical paradise to remind our brains what sunshine and balminess feel like. So we combed through the streamers to find the best movies and series to lift you out of a seasonal mood funk and take you away.

Disappear into Summer

The Young Girls of Rochefort

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A French musical that will take you back to the 60s and drop you into a colorful world of romance, culottes, the fair, and a murder mystery.  The story:  Twenty-something twin sisters (played by actual sisters Catherine Deneuve and Françoise Dorléac) live in an idyllic seaside town in France, teaching dance and playing music as they dream of moving to Paris and finding love (as you do). Filmed and set in 1967, it pays homage to classic Hollywood musicals, and then it weaves in a minor subplot about a murder, just to deliver an extra French twist.  A summer like no other:  Murder mystery subplot aside, The Young Girls of Rochefort’s pastel dreamscape full of singing and dancing can be the antidote to any dreary winter day. Best of all, Gene Kelly actually shows up, and he’s once again An American in Paris!  Extra bonus: He is not the murderer.  Where to stream it: Max, The Criterion Channel

The Way Way Back

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Searchlight Pictures

A nostalgic, seaside underdog story set in the 80s, this indie darling stars familiar favorites like Steve Carell, Alison Janney, Toni Collette, Sam Rockwell (in a rare turn as a good guy), and Nate Faxon, who also co-wrote the script based on his own childhood.  The story: At the perfectly awkward age of 14, introverted Duncan (Liam James) gets dragged along on a summer vacation to a quaint seaside town in Massachusetts with his mom (Colette) and her wealthy, egotistical boyfriend, Trent (Carell) – and his equally egotistical daughter. On the drive there, Trent tells Duncan he’s “a three.” As in out of ten. Ouch! That sends Duncan off on his own, where he stumbles upon a local water park and is taken under the wing of a park worker named Owen (Rockwell), who shows him the art of humor and how to stand up for himself.   The lasting mood boost:  The Way Way Back‘s colorful, Cape Cod-adjacent world, low-rent theme park hijinks, and summer camaraderie will inspire you to Google water parks and plan your own nostalgic teenage do-over vacation. And you will want to find the soundtrack after watching this one for some of the more rousing songs from the 80s — REO Speedwagon, Mr. Mister, Robert Palmer and INXS included!  Watch it on: Rent it for $3.99 on Apple, Amazon

The Summer I Turned Pretty

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Prime Video

An escapist breakout hit that has drawn in viewers across a few generations, this is the show that Taylor Swift picked to debut her song “This Love (Taylor’s Version)” via the soundtrack to the trailer.

The story: Based on the bestselling novel trilogy by Jenny Han, The Summer I Turned Pretty follows Belly, a high schooler who’s always been “the smart one” in the shadows, secretly harboring a crush on the son of her mom’s best friend. One summer, she suddenly finds herself the center of attention, and winds up in a love triangle she only could have dreamed of growing up.  Summer loving:  A gorgeous cast, yellow sand beaches, dances, and many a high school fantasy come to life make this one an irresistible binge watch. It’s well-written, warm and endearing, and the characters act like real teenagers, with decisions that can be downright questionable, of course. Worth noting: There are two seasons to disappear into, but stick to the first one for the lighter end of the drama. Where to Find it:  Prime Video

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Inspiration for your Next Vacation

Barb & Star Go to Vista del Mar (2021) 

The comedic masterminds behind Bridesmaids, Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo, co-wrote and star in this vacation farce that went largely unappreciated when it was released in theaters during a Covid peak.

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The story: Middle-aged besties Barb & Star leave Nebraska for the first time in their lives for a holiday in Vista Del Mar, Florida, where their world opens up as soon as they meet a mystic (Andy Garcia) and cross paths with an eccentric villain…who is plotting against the town where she was bullied as a kid. When her handsome henchman, Edgar, meets Barb and Star, they realize they have a shared mission.  Where it will actually take you: While Barb & Star’s jaunts are supposedly happening in the fictional Vista Del Mar, the backdrops are actually Cancun and Puerto Vallarta, so plot your vacations accordingly. But the best thing about this one is that it offers a complete escape from reality. Barb & Star’s absurdity feels like a Muppets movie if all the Muppets were played by humans. Jamie Dornan, who plays Edgar, finally gets to be funny, and he even delivers a musical number to rival “I’m Just Ken.” We’ve missed oddball comedies like this one, and pray to the film gods that movie studios start making them once again.  Where to stream it:  Apple, Fubo

Roman Holiday (1953)

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Paramount Pictures

The film that has inspired several generations to head to Rome and rent a Vespa, the appeal of Roman Holiday is more than the vicarious romantic adventure it represents; it’s a time capsule that will help you connect with the older generations in your life, as they will likely remember watching this classic.

The story: European princess Ann (Audrey Hepburn) is overwhelmed by her busy touring schedule, so she’s given a “sleepy drug” by her doctor. While exploring the city on her own, she falls asleep on a park bench, where she’s discovered by American reporter, Joe (Gregory Peck). Concerned about her safety, Joe takes her back to his apartment (it was the 50s, see, and men were “gentlemen”). When he realizes who she is, he sneaks off to bet his editor he can get a scoop for the paper: an interview with the mysterious princess! That kind of “gentlemen.”  When in Rome:  As he shows the lovely Ann around the Eternal City, our own vicarious tour of its many landmarks, Joe finds himself reconsidering his plot. Where to watch it: Apple TV 

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

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20th Century Studios

The film that turned Iceland and the Himalayas into bucket list destinations, Walter Mitty is also a must-watch for anyone who needs to be reminded that the doldroms of a job — or a long winter — can be just what our minds need to take flight.  The story:  As a production staffer at Life magazine just as its about to fold, Walter (Ben Stiller) spends his days developing photos for the magazine. To escape the monotony, he drifts into exciting, heroic daydreams and develops a crush on his colleague (Kristen Wiig), but feels unworthy of pursuing her. When the magazine’s new owners send him on a mission to capture the perfect photo for the final print issue, he finally gets his chance for a real adventure.  It’s the kind of story that reminds us that while we’re busy escaping reality, we might be prompting ourselves to create a new one.  Where to stream it:  Hulu

Ibiza: Love Drunk

season mood disorder movie curesComedy, debauchery, party island, and Richard Madden are the ingredients that make this one the pick for a wild night in.  The story:  Sick of her thankless PR job in New York, Harper (Gillian Jacobs) is sent to Barcelona to secure a new client, and her two buddies (Vanessa Bayer and Phoebe Robinson) insist on joining her. After a drunken encounter with a “star DJ” (Madden) in the big city, they reroute to party hot spot Ibiza so Harper can pursue her new love interest, and things go predictably and unpredictably off the rails. Watch it with:  Your friend who would make a good travel co-pilot, so you can plot your own version of this buddy-com. It’s a lightweight escape that’s surprisingly realistic for its premise and backdrops, and it comes with the imprimatur of Anchorman producers Will Ferrell and Adam McKay.  Where to stream it:  Netlix

A More Enchanting Version of Winter

The Grand Budapest Hotel

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Searchlight Pictures

If you’ve ever been entranced by those vintage European travel posters, this Oscar-winning Wes Anderson comedy drama brings their painted worlds to vivid, surreal life.  The story:  In the 1930s, a popular ski resort in a fictional European country is presided over by one Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes), a beloved concierge who delivers five-star service to all his guests, which includes sexual favors for the many well-heeled, mature female clientele. When the wealthiest of them all dies and bequeaths a Renaissance painting to Gustave, he ends up a murder suspect, and discovers that his loyal lobby boy, Zero Moustafa, is his closest friend. A winter like no other:  Against a storybook mountain backdrop in a lavish, majestic hotel, there are wild chases on skis and in sleds and an all-star ensemble of familiar faces that will make you feel at home in a world so very far from your current reality…or any reality.  Saoirse Ronan, Owen Wilson, Edward Norton, Jude Law, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, F. Murray Abraham all star, just to name a few.  Where to stream it:  Apple TV

Johnny Tsunami

The ultimate showdown between skiers and snowboarders — and the beach versus the mountains. This is also the film where we learn that skiers should be referred to as “Skies” and snowboarders should be referred to as “Urchins.”

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The story:  Johnny Kapahala is a teenage surfer living the life in Hawaii, and he’s not pleased when his father gets a job that uproots the family to Vermont. At his new private school, he learns that skiers are the hot shots, but he prefers the local public school kids who snowboard, which is a lot closer to surfing. Johnny has to battle class warfare and his dad while also adjusting to the slopes instead of the surf.  Snow love:  Filmed in Utah, Johnny Tsunami features stunning shots of the powdery slopes that might just inspire you to head to the mountains and pray for flurries. But if you’re still not loving the idea of snow after watching Johnny and his tsunamis, the story alternates with scenes set in Hawaii, delivering a beach interlude. If you’ve also been called out by skiers for running into them on your snowboard, like we may have once in Colorado, you’ll appreciate Johnny’s battles.   Where to watch it: Disney Plus

A Life with No Winter


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It takes you to this place: Italy’s Adriatic Riviera, to a vibrant village with indigo waves, zooming vespas, and dance parties on the beach.  It takes you to this time of life:  just before leaving home, the first tastes of freedom, the first loves.

The story: Five friends living in a seaside resort have big plans for after graduation. But they’ve got family obligations keeping them moored, and new romances that are making them question whether they ever want to leave.  Our lead is named Summer, so she gets to stay forever in the season. When she meets a rebellious charmer from Rome, the two must bridge their very different backgrounds, and the skepticism that the locals in a resort town share towards the visitors, who have been known to “turn up, break hearts and leave,” leaving the year-rounders abandoned.  The mood:  Summertime may be soapy and full of some awkward cliches, and the dubbed English can at times be cringe-y, but it still has the dreamy appeal of its riviera town, compelling leads, and a production aimed at stimulating all of your senses. You’ll especially love the Italian classics soundtrack and the rich-hued cinematography.   Where to stream Summertime: Netflix


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Set in the Sunshine State, here are just a few things that happen across the four seasons of Claws: A main character named Uncle Daddy turns out to be a honcho in the “Dixie Mafia.”  The lead character inherits a casino from her Haitian mafia crime boss. The cast breaks out into balletic musical numbers throughout.

The story: In the city of Palmetto, five manicurists run a salon while laundering money for the local Dixie Mafia. Desna (Niecy Nash, draped in fierce outfits that show off her curves) is the owner, and she’s determined to free herself and her crew from her crime bosses. The boss ladies get into all sorts of trouble, but they also bring the layers with their romances, their families, and their complicated feelings about the criminal enterprise they’ve helped funnel.

Sunshine quotient:  Despite being filmed in New Orleans, Claws is unapologetically Floridian. The characters always don vibrant prints as they flounce around coastal mansions. Neon-colored signs line the various mini-malls, including the one that houses their salon, which sits next to a Jews for Jesus meeting hall. It never seems to rain in Claws (water, that is), but things sure do get steamy.   Stream Claws on: Hulu

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