18 Escapist Movies You Should Binge Right Now

Also: A drag project for Jill Soloway?

Pictured above: Diana Ross in Mahogany (1975).

A lot of us are working at home these days—or just staying there for safety—which might provide the perfect time to recommend cinema escapism that can make you forget woes for approximately two hours and under.

Here are my 18 most entertaining film distractions for right now. Some of them are wonderful, and others are so bad they’re thrilling. Enjoy.

  1. Beautiful Thing (1996)

    Two working-class Brit boys become involved, to the tune of a Mama Cass soundtrack, and the result is uplifting and full of delicious pride. Take me away, blokes.

  2. Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971)

    I love anything with Angela Lansbury and I adore animated films, and this gem happens to combine both genres. It mixes real actors with cartoon effects for a tale of a witch who (with three kids) aids the Brits in World War II. An underrated Disney delight.

  3. Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970)

    This flick has nothing to do with the trash classic Valley of the Dolls, though it does involve three female performers who step into some serious melodramatic shit. As written by Roger Ebert (yes, that Roger Ebert) and directed by Russ Meyer, it’s a hilarious, psychedelic romp full of wisecracks, fuckery, cute guys, great songs, and party scenes. The queer stuff is icky—the lead creep, Z-Man (John LaZar), is revealed to be a busty “Superwoman” while amping up the villainy, and there’s an offbeat lesbian subplot—but it’s all done in such a high-camp manner, you just have to sit back and grin.

  4. The Big Gay Musical (2009)

    All right, I’m in it! But once you get past my cameo, this musical fantasy—about two vastly differing gay guys, the theater, and the bible—is escapist fun, as written by Fred M. Caruso and directed by Casper Andreas and Caruso. And I’m actually not that bad.

  5. The Big Doll House (1971)

    Show me some ladies behind bars and I’m there with my gay popcorn. This one is a hoot, with its tacky low budget, cut-rate performances, and evil lady warden who dangles a cobra in your face if you don’t give her needed information. Blaxploitation legend Pam Grier is aboard as a gal who has developed lesbian desires while locked in the big house. Don’t you love it when that happens? Followed by The Big Bird Cage (1972).

  6. Bridesmaids (2011)

    A new friendship brings about poisonous jealousy in this female-led, semi-bonding comedy with Maya Rudolph, Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, and Rose Byrne. I found it unadulterated hilarity, including the famed diarrhea sequence (though, hopefully, that won’t make you think of the toilet paper crisis).

  7. Call Me by Your Name (2017)

    A coming-of-age romance for young Elio (Timothée Chalamet) and handsome Oliver (Armie Hammer) in lush Lombardy, Italy, makes for a dreamy experience with so few roadblocks you can sit comfortably, knowing that no one will get killed or destroyed.

  8. Dreamgirls (2006)

    The stage musical about a Motown-era girl group beset by conflicts became a successful film, with Beyoncé, Anika Noni Rose, and Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson scoring in their roles, along with Eddie Murphy as a frisky singer who gives them a break. For the most part, the movie works, and I am telling you I’m not going to stop watching it.

  9. The Fluffer (2001)

    A fairly mindless but enjoyable look into the gay porn world, this one has a starry-eyed fluffer who’s hot for Johnny Rebel, a gay-for-pay adult entertainment actor with a snarling girlfriend who says stuff like, “You think I like having your cock inside me after it’s been shoved up some faggot’s ass?” Speechless here—just check it out.

  10. The Gang’s All Here (1943)

    This Technicolor Busby Berkeley musical lifted spirits during World War II, and it’s such extravagant fluff that it still has the power to do so. The plot has something to do with a soldier on leave who romances showgirl Alice Faye and blah blah blah. Who cares? It’s all about the spectacular numbers, especially the ornately bedecked Brazilian firecracker Carmen Miranda singing “The Lady in the Tutti Frutti Hat.”

  11. Ghost (1990)

    Dead Patrick Swayze tries to send a message to his living sculptor girlfriend Demi Moore, and manages to do so with the help of wacky medium Whoopi Goldberg. This movie has everything—romance, mysticism, comedy…and sculpting.

  12. Jack and Jill (2011)

    Obnoxious Jill visits her twin brother Jack for Thanksgiving, then just kind of moves in, and all hell breaks loose. The fact that both characters are played by Adam Sandler makes it even funnier. I should mention that parts of this high-maintenance comedy are so bad it won a record 10 Golden Razzie Awards, but I love a good/bad film, and besides, some parts are downright inspired, I swear. And when you think the whole thing is too hammy for its own good, they throw in Al Pacino. PS: David Spade plays Monica!

  13. Mahogany (1975)

    Diana Ross is Tracy Chambers, a rising model/designer who gives it all up for her politician boyfriend Billy Dee Williams. Anthony Perkins is a crazed photographer who tries to control Tracy, though he can’t make proper love to her because he’s obviously a closeted homosexual. “Do you know where you’re going to?” Yes, any place where Mahogany is showing.

  14. Mary Poppins Returns (2018)

    Is it as good as the original Mary Poppins (1964)? No, nothing is. But this is a lovely return, and in trying to recreate all the key moments, at least they came up with some new songs. Emily Blunt is very good as the titular nanny who flies in on her umbrella, and the kids are as delightful as the original film’s Dick Van Dyke, who returns to dance on a desktop in a cute cameo. And Angela Lansbury plays Balloon Lady!

  15. Norman…Is That You? (1976)

    A flop Broadway comedy became a flop movie, but I have a soft spot for the plot, in which a crabby dad (Redd Foxx) has to gradually come around to his son’s gayness, despite all the anxieties and evasions along the way. Pearl Bailey and Madam the Puppet (with puppet master Wayland Flowers) are also along for the ride, and disco diva Thelma Houston sings the theme song.

  16. Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967)

    Way before the Broadway version, this was a jazzy, 1920s flapper musical starring Julie Andrews, Mary Tyler Moore, Carol Channing (in her Oscar-nominated role as flamboyant socialite Muzzy Van Hossmere), Beatrice Lillie, hunky John Gavin, and dashing James Fox. “Raspberries!” to anyone who doesn’t find this a delicious bowl of tap-tap-tapioca.

  17. Weekend (2011)

    This British film could easily be a companion piece to Beautiful Thing (1996). A gay bar hookup leads to a weekend of intimacy and questioning. The flashy, somewhat disjointed approach to the material makes the result all the more of a mind game worth submitting to.

  18. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

    Ever fantasize about breaking all the rules and being a total sleaze who lives the high life, beds everything in sight, and outsmarts the stock trading system to the tune of pure excess? Well, sit back and enjoy Leonardo DiCaprio doing just that as the real-life Jordan Belfort in this Scorsese romp which provides a long journey into escapism that’s ripped from the headlines while seeming entirely unreal.

Legs Together, Lips Apart

Paul Archuleta/WireImage
Jill Soloway.

But wait a minute! Television can be comfortingly escapist, too. And I hear that the surreally funny, lipstick-askew, malapropic drag mess-terpiece Dina Martina has attracted the interest of Jill Soloway (Transparent), who is apparently planning to drum up a TV special starring Dina.

This will be done in coordination with Club Cumming Productions, run by promoter Daniel Nardicio and Alan Cumming, and they’re also interested in doing a documentary about Cumming’s new career twist—modern dance! Next year, the versatile actor/singer/author will perform at NYC’s Joyce Theater in a modern dance piece based on Scottish poet Robert Burns’ work.

And Nardicio has even more on his pesky plate. The Walton family, who own Walmart, has tapped him to help them eventually open a gay bar called Dorothy’s in Bentonville, Arkansas. Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore!

Michael Musto is the long running, award-winning entertainment journalist and TV commentator.
@mikeymusto