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Friday, December 1, 2023

Movies That Transport You To A Different World During Lockdown


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Sitting at home, stuck in a cycle of lockdown, shorter days and longer nights, you can still escape to another world – all you need is a screen.

Discussing 2001: A Space Odyssey, Roger Ebert once wrote, ‘Film can take us where we cannot go. It can also take our minds outside their shells… it challenges us to break out of the illusion that everyday mundane concerns are what must preoccupy us.’

Ennui seems potent in homes all across the country at the moment. While a pandemic doesn’t fall under the umbrella of ‘mundane’ concerns, movies are the key to transporting you away from the tedium, frustration and anxiety of real life. ‘Living there you’ll be free, if you truly wish to be.’

You have thousands of portals at your fingertips, whether it be via Netflix, Amazon Prime or Disney+. In no particular order, we’ve rounded up some of the best films to help you get away from it all.

Ready Player One

Ready Player OneWarner Bros.

Ernest Cline’s novel has been dubbed the ‘holy grail of pop culture’ by some people. Whether you dig his incessant listing of references to 80s games, movies and songs will play a huge role in how you feel about the movie, for better or worse.

Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster is a geek’s dream come true, following a teenage gamer in dystopia competing for control of the OASIS, a virtual world where nothing is impossible. While even more surface-level than the book, it’s a damn treat to watch, whether it be the DeLorean racing Kaneda’s bike or the Iron Giant towering above a battlefield.

Where to stream: Netflix

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

Jumanji: Welcome To The JungleSony Pictures Releasing

Once upon a time, Jumanji was primarily associated with Robin Williams and safari animals in an attic. Now, it’s the vehicle for body-swapping hijinks with The Rock, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan and Jack Black.

In 2017, the board game got a much-needed update with when four high schoolers get sucked into a video game of the same name. Immediately, they’re thrown into a treacherous jungle with giant snakes, irresistible, smouldering and dangerous cake for a rip-roaring adventure. Fun for the whole family (the sequel is available to watch on-demand too).

Where to stream: Amazon Prime



After mining the fears and moral quandaries of A.I. in Ex Machina, sci-fi maestro Alex Garland stretched his wings with Annihilation; a mysterious, mesmerising mind-bender about the human inevitability of ecological destruction, among other things I’ve likely yet to decipher.

It follows Natalie Portman’s Lena, a veteran-turned-biologist who enters the ‘Shimmer’, a strange, dangerous area of mutating plants and animals. Within, ferocious creature-feature horror couples with enigmatic storytelling, making for something deeper and more existential than the genre’s more typical alien outings.

Where to stream: Netflix

Space Jam

Space JamWarner Bros.

Everybody get up, it’s time to slam now! Give me a better pitch for a movie than Michael Jordan being abducted by Bugs Bunny and taken to a Looney Tunes world to play basketball against lanky, muscly aliens. You can’t, can you?

Realistically, it’s just one big marketing exercise. It’s pretty woefully written, direly acted and completely nonsensical. Oh, and it’s obviously amazing. Welcome to the Space Jam.

Where to stream: Netflix

Last Action Hero

Last Action HeroColumbia Pictures

Let me paint you a picture: me, a child obsessed with Arnold Schwarzenegger and going to the cinema, watches a movie about a child obsessed with Arnold Schwarzenegger and going to the cinema, where the child is sucked into a movie at the cinema starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.

It’s the most direct illustration of movies being an escape from everything going on around you, equipped with John McTiernan’s stupidly explosive carnage and hilarious one-liners. I’ll leave you with one example, with Arnie as Hamlet, ‘To be, or not to be. Not to be.’

Where to stream: Amazon Prime

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

Willy WonkaParamount Pictures

‘Come with me, and you’ll be in a world of pure imagination,’ Gene Wilder’s top-hatted chocolatier sings, guiding brats, gannets and kind souls into his prized factory of delectable, fizzing, flowing wonders. With a golden ticket, the audience joins Charlie Bucket and Grandpa Joe into a world of everlasting delights.

Sweet and sometimes frightening – ‘There’s no earthly way of knowing, which direction we are going…’ – with iconic performances and a life-affirming gobstopper to chew on, ‘If you want to view paradise, simply look around and view it. Anything you want to, do it. Want to change the world? There’s nothing to it.’

Where to stream: Netflix

Bridge to Terabithia

Bridge to TerabithiaDisney

This 2007 Disney adaptation of Katherine Paterson’s novel packs in all the major themes of a key school text; be nice to others, use your imagination, etc. Its fantasy land tends to fall on the wrong side of modern CGI, but it’s still rather enchanting.

However, the film’s priority is never striking visuals, it’s the friendship between Jesse and Leslie, treated with sincerity, maturity and heartbreaking grace. It’s an infamous tearjerker for all ages – say the title to someone and watch their cheeks blow out with traumatic caution.

Where to stream: Amazon Prime

The Martian

The Martian20th Century Studios

Saving Private RyanInterstellarThe Martian. These are three films with one common theme: Matt Damon needing rescue. Unlike his wartime antics and villainous ways through a wormhole, here he plays Mark Watney, a botanist left alone on Mars who has to ‘science the shit out of it’.

Sometime, probably not too far in the future, we’ll set foot on the Red Planet. For now, Wadi Rum in Jordan makes for a seamless, punishing substitute. Compelling, intelligent sci-fi, with humour, pathos and a Sorkinian energy between the two worlds (partly due to Jeff Daniels).

Where to stream: Netflix


InceptionWarner Bros.

Inception is the ultimate mainstream ‘confusing movie’ for people who don’t watch confusing movies. However, the fact Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi thriller is actually relatively straightforward takes absolutely nothing away from how top-to-bottom brilliant it is.

While its stakes are ultra-real world (it’s basically corporate espionage), the thrills unfold on a plane of metaphysical existence we’re all familiar with, but can never truly trace: dreams. Ten years later, the sight of Paris folding into the sky is still jaw-dropping.

Where to stream: Netflix, Amazon Prime

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Spider-Man Spider-Verse JumpSony Pictures Releasing

Prior to 2018, Peter Parker held the spotlight. Miles Morales was a fairly unknown iteration of our friendly neighbourhood wall-crawler. Then, coming down the waterspout, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse arrived – arguably the hero’s best movie.

With kaleidoscopic, SMASH! BOOM! POW! comic panel animation, the likes of which we’d never seen before, dazzling action and loveable energy, it’s a love letter to everything Spidey stands for. ‘It’s a leap of faith.’

Where to stream: Netflix

First Man

First ManUniversal Pictures

‘One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.’ Everyone knows Apollo 11, everyone knows we set foot on the moon, but what about the toll of flying through the stars, what about the sacrifices of going where nobody had ever been?

First Man, from Whiplash and La La Land director Damien Chazelle, peeks behind the tragic curtain of the world’s first lunar-walker, Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling). Poignant and intimate, laced with majesty. Get ready to play The Landing on loop.

Where to stream: Netflix


GravityWarner Bros.

It’s a place most of us will never experience. The endless dark, the deepest realm of all existence, the twinkly cosmos; in space, life is impossible, but there is some allure. As George Clooney’s astronaut says, ‘You can just shut down all the systems, turn out all the lights, and just close your eyes and tune out everyone.’

Alfonso Cuarón’s 91-minute heart attack is still as awesome seven years later. Its visual effects almost defy belief, with Sandra Bullock plunged into the most perilous situation a human could possibly imagine – alone in the void. ‘Don’t let go.’

Where to stream: Amazon Prime

Atlantis: The Lost Empire

Atlantis Lost EmpireDisney

Disney’s animated classic roster often embodies the ‘transportive’ criteria: FantasiaPeter PanDinosaurTreasure Planet, to name a few. One that sticks out above the rest is Atlantis, a swashbuckling escapade under the sea.

Michael J. Fox’s explorer, a nerdy blend of Indiana Jones and Nathan Drake, joins a ragtag group in a bid to discover the famous ‘lost empire’. Ditching the musical cues for action, it’s an underrated, distinctly grown-up effort ahead of the House of Mouse’s slump.

Where to stream: Disney+

The Hobbit Trilogy

The HobbitWarner Bros.

‘All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.’ Peter Jackson took us on a mission through Middle-Earth with his Academy Award-winning Lord of the Rings trilogy. Nearly 10 years later, he returned with The Hobbit movies.

The Shire and Hobbiton are arguably the cosiest, most comforting locations on-screen. For that, An Unexpected Journey delivers, before diving into a world of action and lore. As a whole, the three-part series is inferior compared to its historic predecessor – but then again, there’s never a bad time to go on an adventure.

Where to stream: Amazon Prime

Mad Max: Fury Road

Mad Max Fury Road Furiosa SandWarner Bros. Pictures

Welcome to a ‘world of fire and blood’. In Fury Road, once prosperous and fruitful terrain has been reduced to sand, water is weaponised by the barons of the wasteland, life is brutal. It’s a post-apocalypse; yet, in its blistering colour and pyrophoria, it’s breathtaking too.

Our road warrior says, ‘As the world fell, each of us in our own way was broken.’ From the throes of real life, George Miller’s heady spectacle provides a much-needed thunderbolt of adrenaline, with enough beauty and scale to move one to tears.

Where to stream: Amazon Prime

Spirited Away

Spirited AwayToho

It’s perhaps Hayao Miyazaki’s most well-known animation, thanks in part to its starry dubbed voice cast. However, silence the ‘basic’ cries, as one cannot counter the indelible, overflowing aura of magic in the seams of Spirited Away.

Being away from home, not knowing oneself, is sown into its fabric. The Wonderland-esque fairy tale that soon surrounds Chihiro – intricate, vibrant, occasionally grotesque – is home to an affecting lesson, ‘We should all treasure everything because spirits might exist there, and we should treasure everything because there is a kind of life to everything.’

Where to stream: Netflix

The Marvel Cinematic Universe

EndgameMarvel Studios

It started with an idea, ‘to bring together a group of remarkable people’. From an Afghan cave of flames, the MCU dawned in Iron Man, leading to the assembling of Earth’s mightiest heroes: the Avengers.

There’s a lot of worlds out there, and not everywhere has Captain America, Thor, Black Widow et al. Through 12 years of trend-setting, groundbreaking, record-shattering storytelling, we’ve travelled across the globe and galaxies, united in fighting the bad guys. Endgame was never the end.


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