A new year is upon us and while there are no rules as to when we watch a movie either for the first time or for the hundredth time, there is also something to be said for attributing a time to watch a favorite film. And the start of a new year is the perfect time to watch those seasonal films, also known as films where the four seasons of the year play a significant part in the storytelling.
Unsurprisingly, many of these films have romantic and coming-of-age aspects with the seasons mirroring the changes and evolutions the characters go through. These are eleven of the best seasonal movies to start the year off with right. Some minor plot points are discussed, so spoiler warning.
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)
An effervescent and colorful musical from director Stanley Donen, this film spans a year (from spring to spring) and shows just how much our lives can change in that time period. Beautiful and kind Milly marries gruff backwoodsman Adam Pontipee after falling in love at first sight, but the honeymoon is soon over when she arrives at their home and finds six unruly brothers who know nothing about manners or cleanliness.
Soon, however, Milly helps her new brothers-in-law become gentlemen worthy of love themselves, while she and Adam must overcome the trials and tribulations of love and marriage.
Song & Dance Western
Lovely, upbeat, and fun, this film definitely has a great many old-fashioned sensibilities, but it's all in good fun and well-intended with wonderful songs and performances, including one of the most incredible dance sequences ever put to film, “The Barn Dance.” As the story flows so too do the seasons, each mirroring the stages of the development of the Milly and Adam, the Ponitpee brothers, and their eventual brides. It's a lively, fun-filled romp for those who love the golden age of musicals.
Available on DVD/Blu-Ray, and to Rent.
Bridget Jones' Diary (2001)
Thirty-something Bridget Jones is decidedly unhappy at the start of this romantic comedy starring Renée Zellweger, Hugh Grant, and Colin Firth, which is a very loose adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. So she begins her year with a brand new diary, determined to lose weight, drink less, improve her work, and stop going out with all the wrong types of men. Of course, Bridget doesn't always follow her own advice, especially when she gets involved with her cad of her boss Daniel Cleaver, and dismisses as pompous but ultimately good guy Mark Darcy.
But as each season passes, she learns more about herself, and what she deserves out of life, as hilarity and romance ensue. When it's once again approaching a new year, Bridget has gone through quite the transformation in her soul. What's lovely is that while spring will so often represent renewal and rebirth, for Bridget Jones it's during the winter when snow is falling that she is reborn with a new diary in hand and love in her life.
Available on DVD/Blu-Ray, to Rent, and to Stream on IMDB TV.
The Secret Garden (1993)
Based on the children's novel by Frances Hodgeson Burnett, the best adaptation of this story is an evocative, ethereal and poignant story of overcoming the impossible, family, and renewal of spirit. Young Mary Lennox is sent to live with her Uncle in England, who lives in Miselthwaite Manor, a large, cold estate filled with rooms of disarray and neglect and mysterious cries she hears echoing through the halls. Left alone to her own devices, she soon discovers the manor's secrets, including a garden that's been locked up and forgotten for many years.
The Best Secrets
A bit different than other entries on this list, The Secret Garden focuses on two seasons of the year (winter and spring), and the contrasts and growth of the characters through each for Mary, the friends she meets, and her lonely Uncle. In the winter, the cold and feelings are rigid but not impermeable or everlasting with beauty still to be found and the promise of new things to come; and in the spring, the world is reborn and filled with magic and love. The wonders of nature and their reflections in our lives make this a truly gorgeous film.
Available on DVD, and to rent.
The Devil Wears Prada (2006)
This beloved comedy from the early 2000s may seem like an unusual choice for a list about seasonal films, but truly this movie, follows the year in the life of aspiring journalist Andi Saks (Anne Hathaway) finding a job at fashion magazine Runway as the assistant to the boss from Hell, Miranda Priestley (Meryl Streep), with each passing season representing a new step in Andi's journey of self-discovery as she faces the high demands of her difficult job and boss, reinventing herself along the way.
Miranda's Way or the Highway
A film that has become iconic in so many ways, The Devil Wears Prada is light, breezy, and filled with incredible performances and fine messages about finding the balance between changes for the better, but remaining true to yourself. It's all about the choices we make along the way and how a year can truly transform us, with Andi entering a new job in the fall, adapting to it in a fierce way in the winter, blossoming in confidence in the spring, stumbling and feeling the heat and pressures of big changes in the summer, and finally finding her best self in the fall once more. Timeless and effervescent, you can watch The Devil Wears Prada any time of year, but it's a fine one to start with.
Available on DVD/Blu-Ray, to rent, and stream on Amazon Prime with STARZ.
Little Women (1994)
This classic novel by Louisa May Alcott has been adapted from the screen many times, most notably in 1933, 1949, 1994, 2017, and 2019. Although I have yet to see the two latest adaptations, I suspect my favorite will still remain to be Gillian Armstrong's lovely and faithful interpretation starring Winona Ryder, Susan Sarandon, Kirsten Dunst, Claire Danes, and Christian Bale. Following the March Sisters in Civil War-era America, the spirited sisters face the trials and tribulations of growing up, life, death, ambition, and love in a time where women struggled to find a place in this world that was of their own choosing.
Heartfelt, well-acted with sublime direction, the beautiful story is matched by the stunning visuals as each season is on full display as the story spans multiple years in the March sister's lives, every one representing times of growth, loss, and birth, and above all love.
Available on DVD/Blu-Ray, to rent, and stream on Amazon Prime.
Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
One of the sweetest, most romantic, and truly greatest musicals of the golden age of Hollywood, this charmer directed by the great Vincente Minelli and starring the incomparable Judy Garland, as well as the adorable Margaret O'Brien, Lucille Bremer, Leon Ames, Mary Astor, and Tom Drake, is one of cinema's finest examples of a seasonal film. Following the Smith family in turn-of-century St. Louis, the story is essentially vignettes of their lives- misadventures of the youngest and often very mischievous siblings Tootie and Agnes, and the complicated and burgeoning love lives of the oldest siblings, most especially Esther who is hopelessly in love with the boy next door John Truett.
Under the Arch
As they all excitedly await the opening of the World's Fair in their hometown, the passage time is marked with title cards for each season of the year. Featuring charming songs, colorful costumes, and gentle and sweet-natured sensibilities, audiences will often watch this around Halloween or Christmas as both are featured prominently, but in truth, the film begins in the spring and ends in the summer, so every season is displayed and is the type of film that can be a marker for the beginning of the new year.
Available on DVD/Blu Ray, to rent, and stream on HBO Max.
P.S. I Love You (2007)
Another romantic film that is marked by the passing of the seasons, the lovely and bittersweet P.S. I Love You follows a year in the life of Holly Kennedy, a young widow, who grieves the loss of her husband with the help of family, friends, and the letters her husband sends her throughout the year, all written and with carefully scheduled deliveries before his death.
Beautifully and sensitively told, with moments of both humor and heartbreak, this love story told in reverse, is not only about the relationship between Holly and her husband Gerry (Hilary Swank and Gerard Butler in two of the finest roles), but the journey Holly goes through as a woman struggling not only with her grief but finding her place in the world as an individual.
Letters From the Dead
One of the finest examples of how the seasons can reflect a personal journey: the winter is her loss, in the spring she's slowly learned to cope, in summer she begins to let go and move forward, in the fall she finds a newfound goal and confidence in herself, and when its winter again, she's at a place where the past will no longer be painful, but a beautiful part of her life that she can grow and move on from, and maybe even fall in love again.
Featuring a wonderful supporting cast including Harry Connick Jr., Kathy Bates, Lisa Kudrow, James Marsters, Gina Gershon, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan, the beautiful in different ways locales of New York City and Ireland, and timeless themes of love and grief, we can always start the year off with this romantic drama. P.S. the romantics will love it.
Available on DVD/Blu-Ray, to rent.
One of Walt Disney Picture's finest achievements in animation is this gorgeous, sweet, and poignant story about a deer and his forest friends as they grow and learn the ways of life, be it funny, heartbreaking, fun-filled, frightening, or beautiful. One of Disney's finest films is also one of its most heartrending and affecting. As we see the seasons change so too do Bambi and his friends as the ways of nature are showcased in gorgeous ways. With very little plot, the beauty and brilliance of Bambi is in its simplicity as its themes are timeless.
Despite the story following animals its lessons about growing up, love and loss are relatable, and despite its story being slight, it remains forever engrossing. It takes a brilliant film for an effective villain to remain virtually unseen. In fact, the villain, which is the presence of “man,” is truly harrowing for the animals and the forest as we see the death and destruction man can cause, showcasing the importance of respect for nature and all it encompasses. And just like the changes of the seasons, it's a reminder of how the world keeps spinning, and there is always the hope of a bright and beautiful new day.
Available on DVD/Blu-Ray, to rent, and stream on Disney Plus.
You've Got Mail (1998)
One of the brightest, most witty, and well written rom coms of all time, this modern remake of The Shop Around the Corner from writer/director Nora Ephron and starring the iconic pairing of Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan is also one of the best examples of a seasonal film, with the story moving with the different seasons of the year. Kathleen Kelly and Joe Fox are rivals in business; it is her small children's bookstore The Shop Around the Corner versus his large chain book store Fox Books, and when they meet sparks fly, but not the good kind.
But online, their feelings are much warmer towards each other as they communicate anonymously through emails that reveal so much about themselves, except the truth of who they are. Though made in the 90s with a very different kind of internet, the concept of communicating online is still relevant, as are the experiences of people trying to balance their professional and personal lives, and the feelings of loneliness and the desire to connect with someone on a profound level. As Kathleen says, talking about nothing instead of something can sometimes mean so much more and that is a deeply relatable truth.
You've Got Books
In a meaningful way, the seasons represent the evolution of the relationship between Joe and Kathleen in a beautiful love letter to New York City where loving New York in the fall, the winter or spring means not only dreaming about bouquets of sharpened pencils, street fairs, freshly cut trees, and handmade ornaments, the friendliest flower, daisies, and a romantic rendezvous in Central Park but a way to connect with another kindred spirit. With You've Got Mail, you've got a timeless and lovely tale.
Available on DVD/Blu Ray, to rent, and stream on HBO Max.
When Harry Met Sally (1989)
Why yes, it's another iconic Meg Ryan rom-com on this list and there is more to this film than that one scene (you know that one I speak of), hilarious and memorable as it is. Sharp writing and a stellar cast including Ryan, Billy Crystal, Carrie Fisher, and Bruno Kirby, this story spans many years in the lives of Harry and Sally, who meet during the summer after college when Sally gives Harry, who is dating one of her friends, a ride into New York, talking and arguing over the hours-long car ride ultimately disagreeing on whether men and woman can be friends. Harry believes sex always gets in the way and Sally believes some men and women only feel platonic affection for each other.
Throughout the years they keep randomly meeting each other until eventually, they become best friends. We see their various conversations about their favorite things, the mundane, their lives, their relationships, all in different seasons of the year reflecting the changing in their dynamic from acquaintances to best friends to lovers, with everything from pecan pie and karaoke versions of “The Surrey with the Fringe of the Top,” to inadvertently bringing their friends together, and mutual movie watching phone calls.
Classic Rom Com
What's funny and undeniably true about Harry and Sally's beliefs is that they are both right. Of course, men and women can be friends. But there is also the case where a friendship can blossom into a beautiful, everlasting love, especially when it's built on a foundation of friendship that includes trust and knowledge of one's best and worst qualities. Just like the seasons, love is ever-changing and yet steadfast, unpredictable but reliable.
In the end, we see with When Harry Met Sally, “when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with someone, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”
Available on DVD/Blu Ray, to rent, and stream on HBO Max.
La La Land (2016)
Love and life can be magical and wondrous and as the seasons change so too can our lives in remarkable and unexpected ways. Writer/director Damien Chazelle's glorious love letter to classic musicals as well as Los Angeles, starring the amazing pairing of Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, La La Land tells us to always reach for the stars, and that falling in love is always worth it. Mia is an aspiring actress, struggling to find her big break in a sea of auditions and rejection; Sebastian is a talented musician who wants to open up his own club and bring the wonders of jazz to the world.
What's lovely about the seasonal aspect of this film is that after establishing Mia and Sebastian as individuals, their dreams and desires clear, and after a few less than favorable brief encounters, the seasonal framework storytelling begins in the spring as the two properly meets at a party. And what begins as a waste of a lovely night blossoms like the flowers in the spring into an undeniable attraction. As so the seasons progress, mirroring their relationship. Summer is warm and flourishing, autumn is a time for changes and reflection, and wintertime is the beautiful end.
Musical Love Letter
Because the seasons in Los Angeles do not change in the most visually traditional sense, this framework is not only brilliant in its natural reflection of Mia and Sebastian's stories, but in Chazelle's use of color and music. And it's a masterful wonder. This enchanting musical is for those who never give up on their dreams, foolish as they may seem. And above all else, La La Land shows that those we love will always stay with us, even when our happy endings are often not what we expect them to be.
Available on DVD/Blu Ray, to rent, and stream on Hulu.
This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.