Baker's Dozen: Comfort Movies 2021
A List of 13 Comfort Movies I Loved (Again) in 2021
I hope I'm not wearing out my welcome with all these "Baker's Dozen" lists this month, but the more I think about the things I've enjoyed this year, the more I decide, "yeah, that sounds like a fun one!" Since I've already covered my 2021 Spotify Wrapped list, my favorite podcasts and YouTube channels in 2021, and even covered my top 13 cannabis strains, I guess it should come as no surprise that I'd think to make a Baker's Dozen of my top 13 comfort movies in 2021.
What is a comfort movie? Well, as I understand it, it's a movie that someone watches and re-watches often. Particularly if the person has anxiety or is looking for something familiar to ground them or take their mind off of the things in life no one can control. The idea is, it's something they know the layout and end of, so they don't tend to stress out about a new plot. And man, do I prefer a re-watch over a new flick! It wasn't hard to find 13 movies for my list; the hard part was picking the ones that made the cut!
Admittedly, many are part of a franchise series, so do bear with me as I go over 2-3 from a franchise; they are my favorites for a reason! Furthermore, nostalgia runs deep, so pardon me my childhood favorites! Grab some popcorn and a comfy chair, and let me introduce my top 13 comfort movies of 2021!
1) Jurassic Park - 1993
While I was only about 2 years old when this film came out, I can say with no uncertainty that this film has long been one of my most watched favorites. While I racked up plenty of views of the movie in 2020 in particular, in 2021, there was rarely a week I didn't have it playing - sometimes multiple times!
It's even gotten to the point that my boyfriend seeks out "first reaction" videos of folks who have never seen the film before when we cuddle up on the couch to watch things together! Otherwise, it is a welcome background while I'm relaxing in my chair. Honestly, I'm surprised Aleu stays to sleep on her dog bed next to me every time it plays; I thought she'd be sick of the tyrannosaurus roars after two straight years of it!
While understanding the film's plot took a few watches in my childhood, even then it was a captivating watch! Before, the usual depictions of dinosaurs on television were those of Barney or other, simple animated kids shows. But with Jurassic Park, the combination of CGI and real-life animatronics created creatures that looked real! Furthermore, the animals are shown with behaviors that would be plausible; they act like actual, living things rather than purely antagonistic villains. And I appreciate that!
Folks like to poke holes in the logic of the film, though many supposed "plot holes" aren't that bad or could be explained with some context clues that can be missed in rare/first watches. These days, I admire the details (like the mud on Muldoon's boots when the tyrannosaur chases after the Jeep). Watching reaction videos is always a riot too; I've become so used to the film, I forget how suspenseful some scenes are, especially on a first watch! There was no way this film would be put in any other spot on this list!
2) The Lost World: Jurassic Park - 1997
Continuing on with the Jurassic Park franchise, The Lost World: Jurassic Park follows on the heels of its predecessor for second most-watched comfort film of 2020 and 2021! There were even days I played them back-to-back - a rarity for me!
There are a few things in this film that made it more difficult for me to understand what was going on when I was younger. Some television showings included cut scenes, which made it confusing for me when I expected a scene that wasn't there on the VHS version I had. There was also that early exposition that was harder for me to grasp as the 6-7 year old I was when it came out, as I watched the films alone and had no adult who could explain to me. And last, that sudden cut from the island to San Fransisco for the third act was a bit off-putting.
However, I always enjoyed the sarcasm and heavier themes and tone dealt with in this part of the franchise. As with the first film, after so many watches, I get what's going on plot-wise now and can enjoy the details without getting hung up on the "odd" parts. It's actually difficult for me to say which of the first two films is truly my favorite, as I enjoy both immensely! I will say, The Lost World: Jurassic Park does take a little more thinking, which is probably why the first film saw more overall views; sometimes, I just don't want to pay much attention!
3) Tremors - 1990
I wasn't even born when this film first came out, but one of my earliest memories is being over at my grandparents' when my grandpa was still alive and this film playing on television while the adults talked. Young me was so scared for the main protagonists as they ran ahead of this creature beneath the dirt - posts in the ground breaking behind them as the creature chased them! I could never remember the name of the movie and had to ask my dad repeatedly as I grew up about the film by describing the creatures - known as Graboids.
"Dad, what's that film with the underground monsters? The ones with the snake things for tongues? The, uh, uh... Graboids?"
Nowadays, this film still stands as a great production! The methods for creating the bizarre creatures are fantastic, and the end result sees creatures that look real. Where the odd beings were alien to me growing up, now I truly enjoy the designs - even if I'm being hunted by them in my sleep! Moreover, the comedy in the film is top-notch! Val (Kevin Bacon) and Earl (Fred Ward) make such a great duo as the main protagonists!
4) Tremors 2: Aftershocks - 1996
While it saddens me that Kevin Bacon didn't return as Val in this second installment of the Tremors franchise, the introduction of the character Grady Hooper created another iconic duo of protagonists as poor Earl gets roped into hunting Graboids with the new goofball sidekick! While Grady is no Val, this duo is equally comedic! This sequel also still used similar production methods to the first film, so the new form of the creatures also looks real - something the rest of the sequels began struggling with after budget cuts and a too-heavy reliance on CGI sadly. The rest of the franchise is all right, but nothing beats the first two films!
There was something terrifying about watching this film when I was younger. The tagline, "the worms have turned", does little to prepare viewers for the radical change of the giant worms into their secondary life stage! The new creatures also have a different skill-set to the subterranean beasts, which throws both the characters and audience into a new learning curve!
The biggest criticism I have for the film, personally, is one line of dialogue. In it, the character Kate states that these new creatures are hermaphrodites - possessing both male and female reproductive organs. In actuality, the new beasties are asexual; they reproduce without having sex. Most everything else "heavy" critics complain about for the film can again be chalked up to reason with context or some leeway. But that one line... safe to say, Kate may have misspoke, right?
Nevertheless, this is still one of my favorite movies ever! Which is why I frequently find myself being eaten by the creatures from the Tremors franchise in dreams. Which is also so fitting; in the first film and the series, two characters also named Megan both perish (the doctor's wife in the first film is never called by her name, but in the credits she is listed as Megan, and in the series, another Megan tries to protect the creatures - and then they eat her). Guess I wouldn't live through a real-life encounter!
5) Atlantis: The Lost Empire - 2001
While this film from Disney didn't go over as big as it could have, it does have a cult following - and I love this film! The main protagonist, Milo, seeks to find the lost city of Atlantis. He just needs to convince the board to fund his expedition to find the lost Sheppard's Journal, which should reveal the location of the sunken city. Unfortunately, he does not find any support from the board. However, an old friend of his late grandfather has a promise to see fulfilled, and soon Milo is helping a whole team search for the city. And what they find is very, very unexpected.
This was one film I actually wanted to see as a kid. However, I grew up in the habit of not asking to see movies, as I learned early on that my parents wouldn't take me. Dad wasn't interested in "kid films" - neither was mom, actually. And they could never justify the cost of taking my brother; he is blind and is thought to have the mental capacity of an 18 month old. Moreover, if my brother gets upset, he starts grabbing and pinching people. So we never saw movies and I had stopped asking by the time this film was showing.
Instead, I finally saw it a few years after it came out when it was shown on television (usually my experience with movies). I quickly related to Milo, and I loved the cast of other characters that gave the film humor and a wide assortment of characteristics. The young mechanic reminds me of home; my dad worked on cars as side projects as my brother and I grew up. And the conflict was a bit heavier than in other Disney films, dealing with seizing power and selling to the highest bidder, even at the cost of human lives; maybe that is why I fell in love with it. So much more than the typical romance-driven plots, though there is that too. I enjoy the film so much, that when we adopted our male ginger cat, we renamed him Milo, after the main character!
6) Dinosaur - 2000
I think I come back to this film so often because it is one of the few my sister took me to see in theaters. 13 years older than me, she moved out at 18 - when I was 5 - and we never did a lot together. Whether she was trying to get me out of the house or to bond - or just wanted to see the movie but wanted a kid along as an excuse why - I can't say.
A dinosaur fan, I was excited to see the film. The way it was animated is a little different than other Disney films, but I think it makes it stand out and is part of the appeal. This film too touches on some heavier themes; the main antagonist drives the herd as fast as they can without any regard to those struggling, and is so controlling that he refuses to let anyone try to lead the herd differently. There are also themes of family being more than just blood and looks and that we should all be kinder to one another in order for everyone to advance. Nice reminders after seeing all the hate spewed about online, on television, and, well, everywhere....
7) The Emperor's New Groove - 2000
In this flamboyant piece, a young emperor gets a reality check when his recently-fired employee decides she's going to have him poisoned! Instead, he is turned into a llama, and must return to his kingdom with the help of the man he just informed was going to be removed from his family's home so the emperor could build his birthday present to himself on the spot! Along the way, his companion teaches him about humility and self-sacrifice.
This movie is really fun! The characters are humorous in various ways, from the clueless cook Kronk, to the slapstick, to the cartoon physics. It's a great pick-me-up on a rough day, and a welcome reminder that anyone can turn from being a llama to a good person!
8) Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs - 2009
The Ice Age franchise has a dear spot in my heart. That said, my two favorite entries are Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs and Ice Age: Continental Drift. Manny the mammoth reminds me a lot of my dad, Sid the sloth reminds me a lot of a late family friend, and I admittedly take to Diego the saber-tooth cat as my own doppelgänger within the franchise. And with this third installment comes my other favorite character; the crazy weasel named Buck.
This film has baby drama, deals with failing friendships, and also deals with trying to fit everything together/making time for everyone. It also has dinosaurs! While definitely a wacky ride, it's made enjoyable for that. Those serious themes about having children or raising children with parents who have no other common interests are softened by the crazy antics of the characters. It also covers that trope that family is more than just blood relations and looks. A lot of wholesome themes, interspersed with crackpot humor!
9) Ice Age: Continental Drift - 2012
While another of my favorites in the Ice Age franchise, I do admit I have a terrible moment of cringe to face off with early in this film. Teenager mammoth Peaches seeks to make an impression on her crush, and the resulting disaster is just... so much cringe! But once that is out of the way, I really adore the rest of this film!
Taking on an Ice Age equivalent of "The Odyssey", this film sees Manny, Sid, and Diego separated from the rest, and subject to the whims of a crazy ape named Captain Gutt who first captures, then chases them as they navigate their way home. Gutt seeks revenge on Manny for destroying his ship, and vows to destroy the thing Manny loves most; his family. The typical humor of the franchise serves to ease the strain of Manny's family divided and Sid being buckled with one of his family members the rest of his relations tossed aside. As in all Ice Age films, the theme of "family is more than blood and looks" is a constant.
With characters who remind me of people in my own life, the films serve as a great reminder to me about just was family is - particularly after the last few years.
10) Hercules -1997
One of my all-time favorite Disney films! The mythology might be off, but the true mythology wouldn't be great for kids, right?
I always felt for Hercules - the nice kid who couldn't control his strength and was deemed a freak for it that no one would really tolerate, and then finds out he's the son of Zeus. "Go the Distance" is still one of my favorite Disney songs, and serves as an uplifting piece on a cruddy day. Hades has all the charming sleaze of a used car salesman, and I love his portrayal - he even keeps his promise in a deal! And, of course, how could I not mention the fur wedgie!? This film is both heartfelt and funny!
I enjoy watching it now to remind myself that it doesn't matter where - or what - I come from. With supportive allies, determination, and goals, all things seem possible. It's a bit optimistic for my liking, usually, as I myself lack most of these things, but I do appreciate all that this film brings forth. Themes in film and books can be excellent teachers in the absence of real-life role models!
11) Tangled - 2010
Tangled hits close to home; the scenes after the teenager, Repunzel, finally ventures out from the tower she's been terrified into confinement in by her "mother" pretty much describes the back-and-forth I have had since I started living with my boyfriend years ago. Some days I enjoy doing my own thing - and then I wind up doing a 180 and wondering if I'm even a good daughter, feeling like I abandoned my family despite usually always helping out whenever. So there's that connection....
I also, before this film came out, used to joke about using a frying pan to defend myself - something that is done multiple times in this movie! So to see it in film never ceases to amuse. My former best friend and I would each take a shot whenever someone was hit with the frying pan while watching it together (when we were old enough to drink anyway).
It's an adorable film with lovable characters, and full of both things I can relate to and fond memories! Truly easy to get tangled in emotions!
12) Jurassic Park 3 - 2001
Thought I was done with the Jurassic Park franchise? Think again! Of the initial three movies, the third is my least watched - but still one of the films I watched most this year! My first watch at about 10-11 years was full of distractions; my dad and uncle got into a huge argument downstairs that night as they were laying new tile in our kitchen. As such, the impact of that first watch was muted, as I was listening and worrying if things would get too crazy. I always was a worrywart.
This film tends to be deemed "lesser" than others in the franchise by fans. The plot is sometimes considered laughable. The idea that a 12-13 year old boy could survive alone on an island of dinosaurs for 8 weeks is a stretch for some. Or that the protagonists would be so easily convinced to fly over the island, especially after making a big deal about never wanting to go to the island.
And then there are two scenes in particular that get a really bad rap.
The first being that the main protagonist - Dr. Alan Grant in his return to the franchise - has a dream that features raptors that he's never seen. Basically, he dreams of the design that is shown later in the film, but that he would never have seen before. I would argue some leeway; he has continued studying raptor fossils since the first tour of the initial park, and it is conceivable that he was dreaming of a design he'd seen evidence of in fossils. At least that's how I reason it, but there was also a lot going on with the scripting and filming of this movie, so maybe it was just a simple oversight.
The second is the Spinosaurus vs Tyrannosaurus fight. A lot of fans were not happy with the result. Either their dino didn't win, or they thought the fight should have at least been longer. While the rex appears to be full-grown, there were charts released that indicate the rex may not have been an adult. However, it is pretty well-known that the animatronic used for the rex was the repainted buck rex of The Lost World: Jurassic Park, which was a full-grown adult. So the charts may have been edited to appease upset fans as to why the fight went the way it did.
I like the film in its own right, though I also see it as a bit of a weak point in the films. But they can't all be top-notch; some need to fall short for improvements, especially in series. I don't have the same issues with the film as other fans, and it has seen its views in 2021.
13: Antz - 1998
To close out this Baker's Dozen, we have Antz!
While not one of my favorites when I was young (I think a lot of the plot went over my head and I very rarely saw it then), I gained an appreciation for this film in the last few years. Z is an ant who is discontent with his lot in life: his purpose was decided at birth, his work is uninspiring, and his days are spent in a general state of, "nobody cares about Z". Sounds a lot like adulthood, in all the worst ways. He dares to dream of something better for himself.
This film takes on some pretty heavy themes too, reminiscent of the usual, "these sort are better than this sort" crap that dominates our history books. Betrayal from within the colony leads to the mass murder of the queen's most loyal soldiers and an attempt to, "rid the colony of the weak". Because some blockhead general got it in his head that he knew what was best for the colony - except he was really just trying to make his version of the perfect colony. No wonder some of this didn't sink in as a kid! But it's certainly got a lot to offer!
And Z's decision to seek out a new therapist when his old one isn't helping him thrive is an inspiring thing to me. He comes out a much better ant. Not my most watched film this year, but it had a fair share of views!
Thank you for checking out my list of comfort movies in 2021! It's been quite fun to think back on the things I've watched and take a look at why they get those re-watches! There's been a lot of wholesome content, a lot of heavy themes, and quite a few "theme-park monsters" as one Dr. Alan Grant would say! I like to think they keep me grounded and remind me how to work through problems in life - or at least give me someone I can relate to! At the very least, they bring me comfort.
While I am a little worried that these lists are already getting old, I am thoroughly enjoying myself, and I think there will be at least one more Baker's Dozen list in 2021 - my 13 top comfort shows of 2021! If you are part of the Vocal.media community, please consider subscribing to get my future works in your feed, and be among the first to check it out! Thank you for your time!
About the author
A Colorado native and secondary caregiver to her younger brother with special needs, Megan enjoys her adventures in World of Warcraft, various types of documentaries, and making homemade items for the critters and people in her life!