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Hangover movies
Photograph: Time Out

The 20 perfect movies to watch when you’re hungover

Drop these soothing and escapist cine-pills into your telly asap

Phil de Semlyen
Written by
Phil de Semlyen
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Picking a movie to help you deal with a Force 9 hangover is a tricky business. Too much plot and it will make your brain implode (sayonara, The Usual Suspects and Mulholland Drive), subtitles are asking a lot of eyeballs that may still be hosting yesterday’s dailies, and anything too moody and serious could spark a self-hate spiral. Plus, any films where booze plays a prominent role will only bring up the thorny question of whether last night’s twelfth martini was really necessary - which, ironically, make any of the actual Hangover movies a bad idea.

But if you nail the choice, a good movie is the perfect comfort blanket to see you through while that jabbing pain clears up and your nervous system restores itself to factory settings. To help select your Sunday morning viewing – though it could equally be Tuesday afternoon… no judgment – we’ve assembled a dozen such films. The selection process prioritises big spectacle over screeds of dialogue, laughs over provocation, and heartening vibes to pick you up as you come to terms with those embarrassing WhatsApp messages you wish you hadn’t sent.

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Best movies for a hangover

  • Film
  • Family and kids

Never mind paracetamol and fry-ups, because a Paddington movie is surely nature’s ultimate hangover cure. The first movie lacks for nothing in charm and rewatchability, but the sequel has Hugh Grant’s magnificently self-regarding thesp Phoenix Buchanan and he alone makes it our go-to pick for sore-headed moments. Forget the hair of the dog, it’s all about the fur of the bear.

Chef
  • Film
  • Comedy

Jon Favreau’s gentle yarn about a roly-poly man (Jon Favreau) seducing Scarlett Johansson via the power of pasta is not a film we’d recommend for every single occasion, but its restorative powers for a hungover morning are undeniable. Not only will its endless scenes of sizzling street food give you the munchies, its low-key message about following your dreams will inspire you to follow yours – even if it’s just to order some Deliveroo.

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  • Film

The title is certainly sympathetic to the plight of the regretfully post-drunk, even if the many crushed beer cans and the climatic keg party will likely be triggering. And, sure enough, Richard Linklater’s cult-classic slice of ’70s teenage life is hair of the dog for Gen X-ers who know every line by heart, as comforting as the denim jacket and ratty trucker hat you refuse to throw away. You get older, and the hangovers get worse, but the movie stays the same.

The Red Turtle
  • Film
  • Animation

Ambient bliss in animated form, The Red Turtle is everything you need to negotiate a hungover morning. The visuals – rendered with brush, charcoal and CGI – are to die for and the story is simplicity itself, as a shipwrecked man befriends a giant turtle that turns out to have mythic qualities. It’s a film of few words but endless wonder that works best when you let it wash over you. What could be better? 

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Barefoot in the Park
Photograph: British Film Institute

5. Barefoot in the Park

The film adaptation of Neil Simon’s romantic farce has a revitalising quality to settle any sour stomach and fill a throbbing head with euphoria. A lot of that has to do with Jane Fonda’s effervescent performance as a carefree newlywed who moves into a fifth-floor New York apartment with her buttoned-down husband (Robert Redford). Of course, it ends with Redford’s character loosening up a little too much and drunkenly ascending the roof of their flat, but that’ll only make you feel better about your own life choices.

The Court Jester
Photograph: Paramount

6. The Court Jester

If you’ve yet to discover this Danny Kaye musical-comedy, let this scratchy, painful morning be that moment. It’s one of the finest blend of silliness and old-fashioned showmanship Hollywood has ever turned out, with a Pythonesque scorn for taking the past remotely seriously, and it’s guaranteed to lift your mood by a good 120 percent. Kaye is a capering marvel as the jester who assumes multiple guises to infiltrate a usurping king’s castle and restore the rightful heir to his throne. Daft but delirious, it’s a dose of pure cine-tonin. 

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  • Film
  • Action and adventure

Sure, there’s a lot of yelling in David Gordon Green’s stoner action-comedy, primarily from Seth Rogen, who sounds like Fozzy Bear getting shocked with a cattle prod throughout most of the movie. But Pineapple Express fulfils the most basic obligations of a quality hungover viewing experience, offering big, dumb action and uncomplicated laughs in equal measure.

  • Film
  • Documentaries

You can’t take your brain out and put it in a jar but you can watch this narrative-free visual tour of America, and it will have a very similar effect. Soar over cities, glide through spectacular landscapes, marvel as commuters teeming like ants through Grand Central – all from the comfort of your couch. Director Godfrey Reggio probably didn’t have an audience of hungover souls in mind when he made his experimental slice-of-life doc but the movie sure works for it.

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  • Film
  • Action and adventure

Cut yourself a slab of chocolate cake – c’mon, it’s past 10am – and settle down to Edgar Wright’s fun-loving homage to the Hollywood action movie set in a very un-Hollywood corner of rural England. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are the bickering cops trying to get to the bottom of a spate of mysterious deaths, while a coterie of perfectly picked British character actors (Jim Broadbent! Timothy Dalton! Paddy Considine! Martin Freeman! Peter Jackson?!) provide LOLs and menace. Watch it, then watch it again. It will carry you through this day of woe. 

  • Film
  • Comedy

Nicolas Cage flashes his bizarro charisma in the relatively understated role of Ronny Cammareri, a rageful baker in love with his brother’s fiancee, played by Cher. Norman Jewison’s immortally charming romantic dramedy offers penetrating insight into Italian-American families, relationships and human nature, but when you’re only in the mood to really absorb the oddball romance on its face, it goes down warm and easy. It’s a minestrone for the soul.

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The Straight Story
  • Film
  • Comedy

Great as they almost all are, David Lynch’s films are maybe a bit, well, much with a really sore head (although Eraserhead awaits the truly daring). Enter The Straight Story and its ageing hero, Alvin Straight (Richard Farnsworth), whose unlikely lawnmower drive across the Midwest won’t fail to ring a smile from the most rinsed-out of faces. Earnest and heartfelt, with an uplifting Angelo Badalamenti score and plenty of sweeping panoramas, it plays like a visit from an old friend.

  • Film
  • Drama

A two-and-a-half-hour meditation on the meaning of existence might not seem like the sort of movie to throw on when you’re questioning your own life choices. So just leave the big themes of Terrence Malick’s Best Picture nominee for a more clear-headed day and bathe in the classical score, gauzy cinematography and near-wordless performances from Brad Pitt, Sean Penn and Jessica Chastain. Chuck in those dinosaurs, and it’s basically a David Attenborough nature doc.

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Can’t Hardly Wait
Photograph: Columbia Pictures

13. Can’t Hardly Wait

For millennials who came of age at the end of the ‘90s rather than the beginning, Can’t Hardly Wait is a sacred text akin to Dazed and Confused – a teen comedy that expertly captures a moment in time. But even if you grew up in another decade altogether, it’s comfort-viewing that’s both generationally hyper-specific and has timeless appeal – and it always seems to be on cable when you need it most.

  • Film
  • Drama

This one flies in the face of our ‘no moody films’ rule, because Oscar Isaac’s put-upon folk musician Llewyn Davis is nothing if not a bit down in the dumps. But there’s something about Coen brothers’ movies that plugs perfectly into a skewy, hungover worldview (and The Big Lebowski is too obvious). Wry, dry and very funny, it’ll also help put things in perspective: things may not be feeling entirely hunky dory right now, but at least you haven’t lost your friends’ cat. 

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Commando
  • Film
  • Action and adventure

He’s lost his daughter, you’ve come home without one of your shoes: John Matrix’s predicament may be more relatable than usual this morning, though (hopefully) his solution involves more rocket-grenades. This magnificently over-the-top Schwarzenegger actioner is as narratively undemanding as the genre gets – seriously, it makes Predator look like Inception – and is thus the ideal balm for a troubled brow. All you need to know is that it’s Arnie reducing an army of mercenaries to a small handful of mercenaries who are glad that they were off that day. Just keep the sound down low on this one.

  • Film
  • Action and adventure

A matinee movie for all occasions, Steven Spielberg’s adventure classic will put a spring back into the most jaded of steps. Harrison Ford’s archeologist, Indiana Jones, is our conduit into a world of deadly Nazis, treacherous sidekicks, mystical artefacts and derring-do. The opening vodka-off in Marion Ravenwood’s bar might be a bit triggering, but once you’re past that, there’s even a handy map to keep track of where it’s all happening.

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  • Film
  • Comedy

Settle in for a timeless conman caper that showcases the comedy chops of Steve Martin and Michael Caine, is full of sunny French Riviera glamour, and has a plot that’s the right side of tricksy. No matter how cranky you’re feeling going in, the Ruprecht scenes alone (‘Not mother?’) will restore your bonhomie. If you’re still not feeling anything by the time the credits roll, it might be time to call for Dr Emil Schaffhausen. 

The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters
  • Film

This cult 2007 doc puts an easygoing sheen on the bitter clash between arcade gamers Billy Mitchell and Steve Wiebe, a low-stakes rivalry for the ages that centres on their ambitions to break the world record Donkey Kong score. Wiebe is the unassuming underdog in this cutthroat barrel-lobbing world; Mitchell is… well, a bit of a monster, stopping at nothing to come out on top. There’s just enough story to keep a befuddled viewer transfixed, but not too much to lose them in the tall grass of kill screens and arcade gaming politics. 

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The Lord of the Rings trilogy
Photograph: New Line Cinema[

19. The Lord of the Rings trilogy

The older you get, the more debilitating hangovers become. Pass 40 and three Merlots leads to an all-day recovery. In those instances, the only cure is a voyage to Middle-earth. It takes 11 hours to get through all three of Peter Jackson’s world-dominating blockbusters, giving you a perfect excuse not to move from the couch until it becomes one with your body. You’ll certainly drift off here and there, but keep the volume high and you’ll at least wake up for the big battle scenes.

  • Film
  • Science fiction

This Jean-Claude Van Damme sci-fi is about as deep into the genre as you’ll be wanting to delve just now – besides, it’s basically Interstellar, just with more punching and someone doing the splits. JCVD defies physics and conventional acting norms to play a future-cop charged with policing time itself. A hissable Ron Silver turns up as the corrupt senator he’s sent to investigate. Mia Sara is the dead wife whose memory still haunts him. And… that’s really all you need to know. Just sit back and let the Muscles from Brussels bring your head back from the dead. 

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