When you're blue
1 Airplane! (1980, Paramount, PG)
The first five minutes have enough gags to brighten the bleakest of moods. Fortunately, filmmakers Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker and stars Robert Hays, Julie Hagerty, and Leslie Nielsen sustain the chaotic merriment all the way to the end.
2 The Elephant Man (1980, Paramount, PG)
You think you have problems? John Merrick's tormented life as a sensitive soul trapped in a monstrous body shames a mildly battered psyche back to health. As directed by a restrained David Lynch (and produced by an even more restrained Mel Brooks), this (true) story is quite life-affirming.
3 Imitation of Life (1959, MCA/Universal, unrated)
For a good cathartic cry, check out Douglas Sirk's supreme weepie. Lana Turner and Sandra Dee are the stars, but it's Susan Kohner and Juanita Moore, as a confused young woman and her devoted mother, who touch the heart. The film's ending is a veritable river of tears.
4 Mary Poppins (1964, Disney, G)
Sometimes sunny works better than funny, and what could be sunnier than Julie Andrews flying around via her umbrella and singing such chin-up songs as ''Chim Chim Cheree'' and ''Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious''? Just humming them makes you feel better.
5 Earthquake (1974, MCA/Universal, PG)
A perfect metaphor when your life is falling apart. See Los Angeles collapse! See Ava Gardner and Charlton Heston sucked into a sewer! This movie's death and destruction will either snap you out of your funk or give you a perverse taste for more. If the latter, rent The Towering Inferno.
By Jason Cochran, Steve Daly, Glenn Kenny, Lois Alter Mark, Chris Nashawaty, Tim Purtell, Michael Sauter, and J.R. Taylor