Sometimes with a world of cinematic options at your fingertips, you find yourself scrolling through movie options for what seems like the length of an entire feature film, watching snippets of trailers, and mulling over your choices only to abandon the array of choices to go do some other boredom-induced activity. I’ve definitely been there, and I’m sure you can relate too, Hollywooders.
I know the struggle of having too many movies or streaming services to choose between, only to forgo watching a movie altogether because you can’t pick one. It’s an annoying feeling. And that’s why I’ve crafted this list for you, specifically for moments like these! Save this article to refer back to the next time you’re so bored that you can’t even make a decision. Whether you’ve seen some of these films, or whether you’ve always wanted to watch them but never had the time, this is a tried and true list of movies that will keep you busy while expanding your movie knowledge. It’s an eclectic selection with something for everyone.
Good Movies To Watch When You’re Bored: La La Land
Big surprise, friends. I’m starting this list with a movie musical.
Whether you believe me or not, La La Land (2016) is a film that will always leave you feeling better than you did before pressing ‘play.’ Even after the opening musical number, you’ll feel your boredom dissipating as you fall captive to this story of a Los Angeles-based romance between jazz pianist Sebastian and aspiring actress Mia (memorably portrayed by Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone).
Directed by Damien Chazelle (Whiplash, First Man), with music by songwriting duo Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (Dear Evan Hansen, The Greatest Showman), La La Land delivers audiences into a timeless story of the right love at the wrong time. And in true LA fashion, the 2 main characters first meet in gridlock traffic, during an instance of road rage. Viewers watch as Sebastian and Mia meet again at a party where Sebastian is performing with a cover band. Their romance ignites as they soft shoe under street lamps, dance together at the Griffith Observatory, and try their best to each make it big in the City of Angels. La La Land also features EGOT winner John Legend, JK Simmons (Whiplash), and Rosemarie DeWitt (Rachel Getting Married) in supporting roles.
I don’t know many films that encapsulates the human experience like La La Land does… the ebb and flows of emotions with each obstacle or celebrations that you encounter. It really captures the feeling of love and the little orchestra that plays in your head.
— evhrvon (@kekehewron) September 10, 2021
Without giving too much away, Mia and Sebastian are forced to choose between their relationship and their respective careers. The film delivers the glamor and romance of an old-world Hollywood song and dance musical, paired with a modern-day plot and setting. Somehow, La La Land still feels timeless.
Audiences and critics apparently agreed, with the film earning a whopping $447 million at box offices worldwide, along with a total of 14 Academy Award nominations in 2017. La La Land earned 6 Oscars that year, including Best Original Song, Best Actress (Emma Stone), and Best Director (making Damien Chazelle, at 32, the youngest nominee to ever win the award). Fun fact: Emma Watson and Miles Teller (who starred in Damien’s Whiplash) were originally slated to play the characters of Mia and Sebastian, but lost out on their chance for being “too demanding.” (The more you know, right?)
Trust me, this movie will knock your socks off. The chemistry between Ryan and Emma is reason enough to spend the 128 minutes surrendering to sheer, dazzling entertainment.
Good Movies To Watch When You’re Bored: Magnolia
Okay. Usually, a 3-hour film is a bit of a commitment. But if you’re bored, that’s a great reason to commit to a feature film that’s double the length of an average movie. Such is the case with Paul Thomas Anderson’s 1999 epic psychological drama, Magnolia. If you’ve never seen it before, I highly recommend spending an afternoon watching it. Here’s why:
It’s one of those movies with an ensemble cast of characters, seemingly comprised of strangers, whose stories are all revealed to be interlinking. Starring Hollywood all-stars like Tom Cruise, William H. Macy, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, John C. Reilly, Alfred Molina, and Phillip Baker Hall, Magnolia is set in Los Angeles and presents a mosaic of compelling narratives. Throughout the film, the character’s stories are revealed to overlap, as each strives for happiness, forgiveness, and the quelling of their own personal demons. If you’re thinking this description sounds a bit vague, you’ll understand why when you watch the film.
Also, the music is worthy of a shout out here. The film’s soundtrack consists of original songs by singer-songwriter Aimee Mann, with a score by indie-soundtrack icon Jon Brion (Punch Drunk Love, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, I Heart Huckabees). Magnolia even includes a scene in the third act where every primary character sings along to Aimee Mann’s “Wise Up,” within their own respective environments. Through the end of the film, the weirdness is cranked up just high enough to be compelling without “jumping the shark,” so to speak.
Magnolia might literally be the most entertaining 3 hour movie ever made. Paul Thomas Anderson casually be using good editing and raw emotion to make a masterpiece after his 2 films
— Productive? (@VitoTomasino) September 14, 2021
For the entire film, the ensemble cast delivers career-making performance after career-making performance, so much so that the idea of choosing a favorite character from this film stresses me out! Even Paul Thomas Anderson, who had previously written and directed Boogie Nights (1997) and would go on to create modern classics like Punch Drunk Love (2002), There Will Be Blood (2007), The Master (2012), and Phantom Thread (2017), said of the film, “I really feel is that Magnolia is, for better or worse, the best movie I’ll ever make.”
Honestly, PTA, I couldn’t agree more. Whether you’ve seen it a hundred times, or you’ve yet to have the viewing pleasure, Magnolia is a film that will undoubtedly eradicate any traces of boredom that you had before watching it.
Good Movies To Watch When You’re Bored: Forrest Gump
If you’ve never seen Forrest Gump before, please fix that immediately! Honestly, what have you been doing that’s so important that you haven’t found the opportunity in your 1 short life to watch this masterpiece of cinema starring Tom Hanks in, arguably, the most iconic role of his career?!?
Forrest Gump is a film as quintessentially American as apple pie and football on Sundays. If you’re feeling bored and don’t know what to put on, it’s an obvious no-brainer that you will pleasantly enjoy the next few hours watching this movie. Released in 1994, Forrest Gump is a film that spans multiple decades in the life of a benevolent and intellectually disabled man, from his childhood in rural Alabama through his adult life and fatherhood.
While sitting on a bench at a bus stop throughout the course of the movie, Forrest offers chocolates to strangers while dispensing stories from his life in the form of captivating flashback vignettes. From the battlefields of Vietnam to a table tennis match at the Olympic games to the heart of the Watergate scandal, Forrest takes viewers gently by the hand through his winding and historically-relevant-although-fictionalized journey. In doing so, audiences can’t help but fall in love with his kind-hearted, often humorous, interpretation of the world.
Forrest Gump also stars Sally Field as Mrs. Gump, Forrest’s mother, Robin Wright as his childhood neighbor and lifelong crush, Jenny, and Gary Sinise as the now-iconic Lieutenant Dan, Forrest’s superior in the army and longtime friend.
Of the film, famed film critic Roger Ebert had this to say:
“I’ve never met anyone like Forrest Gump in a movie before, and for that matter I’ve never seen a movie quite like Forrest Gump. Any attempt to describe him will risk making the movie seem more conventional than it is, but let me try. It’s a comedy, I guess. Or maybe a drama. Or a dream… [Hanks’s] performance is a breathtaking balancing act between comedy and sadness, in a story rich in big laughs and quiet truths… What a magical movie.”
Forrest Gump netted over $683 million in global box office sales and millions more in VHS sales. It won 6 Oscars in 1995, including Best Picture and Best Actor for Tom Hanks (he also won the previous year for Philadelphia!). The movie has gone on to be included on numerous lists of the most iconic films of the 20th century. And fun fact: Haley Joel Osment of Sixth Sense fame made his feature film debut in Forrest Gump at the age of 5 playing Forrest’s son.
Like I said, if you’ve never seen this movie, please rectify that fact immediately and do yourself the great favor. That way, the next time someone says “Life is like a box of chocolates…” and waits for you to respond, you won’t be the oddball in the room.
Good Movies To Watch When You’re Bored: The Lord of the Rings trilogy
If you’re really that bored, why not commit yourself to a 9-hour fantasy film marathon set in Middle Earth? (Or, if you’re ready to block off an entire day, you could watch the 11-hour extended version of the trilogy!)
Based on the novel by J.R.R. Tolkien, the series of films includes Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), The Two Towers (2002), and The Return of the King (2003). The trilogy follows friendly and courageous hobbit Frodo Baggins, played in the films by Elijah Wood, and his loyal friend and companion Sam (Sean Astin), as the 2 embark upon an epic quest (and I mean that in the most literal and non-cliche sense of the term) to destroy the One Ring and with it, assure the downfall of its malevolent creator, the Dark Lord Sauron.
Accompanying Frodo and Sam on their journey are a merry band of characters (the fellowship of the ring) a la The Canterbury Tales, played by Hollywood A-list actors ranging from Orlando Bloom as Legolas to Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn, Sean Bean as Boromir (Ned Stark, decades before we’d ever hear of Westeros), and Dominic Monaghan (Lost). The trilogy also features Liv Tyler as Arwen, Sir Ian McKellen as Gandalf the Grey, and Christopher Lee as his villainous arch-nemesis, Saruman.
While the movies are set in Middle Earth, they were filmed on-location in New Zealand (which is, apparently, the closest equivalent to Middle Earth that you can actually find on this planet). At least, that’s what the films’ writer/producer/director, Peter Jackson, thought when conceiving of the larger-than-life fantasy adventure series, which cost a reported $281 million. If that price tag makes your heart flutter, consider that the trilogy earned over $2.9 billion (with a B!) in box offices worldwide. In 2003, The Return of the King earned $1.1 billion alone, making it only the second movie at the time to ever earn over $1 billion in ticket sales. (Titanic was the first film to do so in 1997).
The Lord of the Rings trilogy has rightfully earned its place in cinematic history and is the perfect escape-plan from the real world. It’s certainly worth spending a weekend revisiting this franchise and remembering why it is so beloved in the first place.
Good Movies To Watch When You’re Bored: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Growing up, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was my absolute favorite film to watch when I’d stay home from school (or fake sick) precisely because it’s a film based on truancy and I had a teenage crush on the title character, played by Matthew Broderick. (If I’m being honest, a part of me still does…)
Set in suburban Chicago in the late 1980s, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) documents a day in the life of all-American teenage slacker/heartthrob/impresario of adolescent charisma, Ferris. But it’s not just any day, mind you. Hardly!
This John Hughes classic tells the tale of a meticulously-implemented plan by Ferris to fake sick and spend the day gallivanting around the city in a red Ferrari GT 250 California Spyder with his best friend Cameron (Alan Ruck of recent HBO Succession fame), and his supercool girlfriend, Sloane Peterson (Mia Sara). The 3 embark on a day that is so picture perfect that it seems almost too good to be true. (Spoiler alert: It is. Kind of…)
From dining at a 5-star restaurant under a fake name to catching the winning ball at the Cubs game to lip-synching on a float in the middle of a parade through downtown Chicago, Ferris lives his ultimate school-ditching, sick-day dreams, all while the school principal, the relentless and ever-fumbling Mr. Rooney (Jeffrey Jones), takes great lengths to prove that Ferris’s absence is a cunning ruse.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off also stars Jennifer Grey (Dirty Dancing) as Ferris’s sister, Jeanie, Charlie Sheen in one of his earliest (and dreamiest) roles, and the notoriously-deadpan Ben Stein in a career-making role. “Bueller….? Anyone? Bueller?”
Ben Stein, who eventually gained secondary fame as an academic and political commentator declared Ferris Bueller’s Day Off to be, “The most life-affirming movie possibly of the entire post-war period.” He continued in the DVD’s bonus features by saying, “This is to comedies what Gone with the Wind is to epics.”
I doubt I could give a more rousing testimonial to this ‘80s teen cult classic than that. I’ll let Ben Stein’s words speak for themselves and let Ferris Bueller’s Day Off do the rest of the talking.
Okay, now that we’ve come to the end of our list, I must assure you that these are but a drop in the bucket of movies that have the power to cure boredom! I could go on and on (and on!) but it’s time I let you venture into boredom combat territory on your own. If you need a few more weapons in your boredom-bashing arsenal, here are a few more great movies to watch when you’re bored: Boyhood, Fight Club, Anchorman, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Showgirls, and Drumline. (These last 2 are real “movies I love to hate but mostly love.”)
Note: While none of these movies are “clinically proven” to cure boredom, I can personally attest to the effectiveness of each 1. Sure, you could watch any old movie when you’re bored, but why not make it 1 that you’ll enjoy?
Hollywood.com is EVERYONE’S ticket to Hollywood. We focus on the GOOD in Hollywood, spotlighting the feel-good stories that matter about your favorite celebs plus new movies in theaters. Later this year, we’re helping you get back to the movie theaters with the FREE and NEW Hollywood.com Movie Tickets App that lets you compare movie showtimes, see movie theaters near you, and reserve your favorite movie theater seats in seconds! Follow us on Instagram for early access.