23 Classic Movies To Watch When You Need A Break

by Kayleigh Hughes and Johnny Brayson
Originally Published: 
Paramount Pictures

People turn to all sorts of different comforts when they just need to totally zone out. My very favorite thing to do is watch food and cooking documentaries that feature a very strong focus on soothing music, rhythmic food sourcing and preparation, and beautiful plating. But another incredibly popular approach is to watch classic movies when you need a break from reality. For many of us, there's nothing better than turning on a movie from the 1940s or '50s and diving into an older, seemingly simpler world, where people may start dancing and singing for no reason.

Movies that are in black and white, or feature really fast, smart talking reporters, sometimes seem like they're harder to "get into," but that's exactly why they're so great for taking a break from your regular life. You have to really invest in these stories to follow them, and they give your imagination and emotions a workout.

My mom always turns to classic movies when she is sick or feeling sad, so I compiled this list based on some of her absolute favorites. These are the sweet, bouncy romantic comedies, zany slapstick comedies, and suspenseful film noirs that she and countless others reach for when they need some escapism.


'Singin' in the Rain'

Some argue that Singin' in the Rain is the best movie-musical of all time, and it is hard to disagree with them. Debbie Reynolds, Gene Kelly, and Donald O'Connor will make you "happy again."

Rent it from Amazon, iTunes, and others.


'Roman Holiday'

There is no better film to watch to escape from the drudgery and stresses of your daily life than Roman Holiday, which features an absolutely delightful Audrey Hepburn as a princess and the absurdly charming Gregory Peck as a journalist. The two spend the best day ever adventuring around Rome and falling in love.

Stream it on Amazon Prime, Tubi, Crackle, and STARZ.


'Double Indemnity'

Barbara Stanwyck in femme fatale mode will mesmerize you and bring you fully into her scheming in this film noir classic.

Stream it on STARZ.


'King Kong'

There's nothing better to help you zone out than a nice old-fashioned monster movie with some super, um, "classic" special effects.

Rent it from Amazon, iTunes, and others.


'The Philadelphia Story'

1940's The Philadelphia Story, starring Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant, is still one of the most enduring romantic comedies of all time.

Rent it from Amazon, iTunes, and others.


'Funny Girl'

It's basically impossible not to root for Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl, especially after that roller skate scene.

Stream it on Crackle, CBS All Access, and IMDb TV.



Casablanca isn't necessarily lighthearted fare, but it's so good at totally transporting you into its world.

Rent it from Amazon, iTunes, and others.


'The Wizard Of Oz'

It's possible you watched this movie a thousand times growing up, but that doesn't make it any less magical to watch as an adult. It's the perfect "comfort food" movie.

Rent it from Amazon, iTunes, and others.


'Bringing Up Baby'

This riot of a screwball flick features Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and a leopard named Baby. It is utterly goofy and totally lovable.

Rent it from Amazon, iTunes, and others.


'His Girl Friday'

Another Cary Grant film makes the list, and this time his leading lady is Rosalind Russell, playing a driven, clever reporter.

Stream it on Amazon Prime, EPIX, Tubi, and VUDU Free.


'The Seven Year Itch'

Yep, this is the one that has the infamous scene with Marilyn Monroe standing over the subway grate. It's a really smart, self-aware comedy, and Monroe is excellent as always.

Rent it from Amazon, iTunes, and others.


'The Day The Earth Stood Still'

Super old sci-fi movies are amazing for when you want to take a break from reality, and this one has the added bonus of featuring pacifist aliens and tons of not-remotely convincing special effects.

Rent it from Amazon, iTunes, and others.


'Duck Soup'

The slapstick comedy of the Marx Brothers will always be here for you when you just need to not right now with real life.

Rent it from Amazon, iTunes, and others.


'Some Like It Hot'

This cross-dressing comedy isn't nearly as cringeworthy as you'd think. Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, and, of course, Marilyn Monroe all put in stellar work as members of an all-female jazz band in this farce.

Stream it on Amazon Prime.


'It's A Wonderful Life'

This uplifting story starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed may be considered a Christmas movie, but it'll inspire you regardless of the season.

Stream it on Amazon Prime.


'Am American In Paris'

This Best Picture Oscar-winner features music by George Gershwin and a number of dance numbers by star Gene Kelly. Plus, it takes place in Paris, so there's that.

Rent it from Amazon, iTunes, and others.


'Breakfast At Tiffany's'

We could all use a little glamour when we need an escape, and few films are more glamorous than this iconic Audrey Hepburn vehicle.

Stream it on STARZ.


'North By Northwest'

If you need a break, then you should go on a thrilling adventure. Thankfully, director Alfred Hitchcock and star Cary Grant are here to lead you every step of the way.

Rent it from Amazon, iTunes, and others.


'Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid'

There aren't a lot of Western-buddy-comedies, and that's a shame because this movie is sure to cheer you up... even if "raindrops keep falling on your head."

Rent it from Amazon, iTunes, and others.


'The Sound Of Music'

One of the most-celebrated musicals of all-time will have you singing about a "few of your favorite things" by the time it's over.

Stream it on Disney+.


'Mary Poppins'

You just might believe in magic after watching this classic Disney fantasy about the world's greatest nanny, played by Julie Andrews.

Stream it on Disney+.


'The Apartment'

There's nothing quite like a good old fashioned rom-com, and Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine star in a great one here.

Stream it on Amazon Prime.


'Swiss Family Robinson'

With a shipwrecked family managing to build the world's most impressive treehouse while fending off invading pirates, Disney's retelling of this classic novel is as goofy as movies come. It's also loads of fun.

Stream it on Disney+.

There is a time for serious topical fare, and there is a time for indulging in the classics. These films will always be here for you during the latter.

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