29 of the Best ‘Hangout’ Movies to Help You Chill the Hell Out

29 of the Best ‘Hangout’ Movies to Help You Chill the Hell Out

When you need to destress, there’s not much better than putting on a movie populated by a cast of characters you just want to hang out with, either because they’re likable or just interesting. These are movies don’t need to be particularly plot-driven, nor even to have much in the way of “plot” at all. It’s very often better when they don’t. It’s not that nothing happens in them (although that’s nearly true in a couple of cases), but that’s it is the characters driving them forward, rather than story elements pulling them along—as though a filmmaker took a handful of interesting characters to a compelling location and left them to run wild. Sometimes the results are philosophical, sometimes poignant, and sometimes deeply wacky, but they always involve characters who enjoy hanging out together, and who we enjoy spending time with.

Lost in Translation (2003)

A declining American movie star in the midst of a midlife crisis and a young grad student facing a similarly uncertain future meet while staying at an upscale hotel in Tokyo. Things happen, but there’s not much more to the plot than the two of them exploring Tokyo, which acts as a sort of liminal space between their pasts and futures. After The Virgin Suicides, it’s the movie that cemented director Sofia Coppola’s spot in the filmmaker pantheon.

Soul Food (1997)

There’s drama, of course, but at the heart of Soul Food is the Black family that gathers together each Sunday, no matter what, to have dinner. One of the keys to the success of a great hang-out film is that we wind up enjoying the time spent with its characters. And who’d turn down an invitation to a dinner that includes Vanessa Williams, Vivica A. Fox, Nia Long, and Mekhi Phifer?

Before Sunrise (1995)

Much of Richard Linklater’s filmography could (and will) fit here, but the movies of the Sunrise trilogy are probably the purest example of his style—with no other main characters to speak of, they’re all just scenes of Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke chatting and developing their relationship. That’s not easy to pull off, and many movies with similar ambitions come across as pretentious and dull. Here, the sharp writing, strong performances, and collaborative nature of the production resulted in something deeply engrossing.

The Breakfast Club (1985)

Some of the most iconic faces of the ‘80s (aka the “Brat Pack”) get a largely unsupervised detention together on a Saturday. Each is there for a different reason, and each represents a different clique—it’s all a little on the nose, but the film does lean toward a kind of emotional honesty, and it’s hard not to be drawn into their insular world.

What We Do in the Shadows (2014)

The spin-off TV series is phenomenal, but the earlier Jemaine Clement/Taika Waititi film has hilarious pleasures of its own. Different house and different characters, but the essence of the joke is the same: a group of very old vampires live together in modern times; while they engage in traditionally horrific bloodsucking behavior, they’re unwilling and unable to adapt. For all of their dark powers, they’re mostly just a bunch of dorks who think they’re much cooler than they are.

Withnail & I (1987)

Richard E. Grant and Paul McGann play, respectively, Withail and Marwood (the title’s “I”) in this British period film—one that defies most of our expectations of that genre (it’s very much a cult classic). A rather dark comedy, it’s set in the late 1960s and involves a couple of down-on-their-luck friends: one’s perpetually anxious, the other hard-drinking and sarcastic. Bored with a life of aimlessly drifting around London, the two plan a visit to Withnail’s country uncle, quickly finding that the English countryside is neither as exciting, nor as restful, as they’d imagined.

Clerks (1994)

Kevin Smith has never topped his first feature, which he made by maxing out his credit cards and filming at the convenience store where he was working at the time. The movie’s blend of cinéma vérité style with blowjob jokes and Star Wars references was a thunderstroke for independent cinema, creating a brief and blissful window of time during which character-based, dialogue-heavy movies could be marketed outside the arthouse crowd.

Barbershop (2002)

Though there are a couple of not-strictly-necessary subplots, the core of Barbershop is the conversations that happen within the title establishment on what might turn out to be one of its final days (it’s been sold to a loan shark who plans to turn it into a strip club). Everything from sex, to relationships, to O.J. and civil rights is on the agenda, and the cast of lively and entertaining characters make it a fun place to spend time.

Stand By Me (1986)

A top-tier Stephen king adaptation from director Rob Reiner, Stand By Me eschews the paranormal horrors of King’s other works in favor of a darkly tinted coming-of-age drama about a bunch of young guys who go on a search for a rumored dead body in 1959. The movie deals with both the joys and trials of growing up, taking neither an excessively rosy view nor an overly cynical one. The movie’s best moments are also its quietest, with its talented ensemble cast just hanging out and enjoying a taste of freedom.

Licorice Pizza (2021)

When I think of Paul Thomas Anderson, chill hangout vibes aren’t what generally comes to mind. More like the cocaine-tinged tragic-comic edginess of porno drama Boogie Nights, or the surreal operatic swells of the capitalism-as-apocalypse period piece There Will Be Blood. But way back in 2021, the director gave us what we (possibly) needed most of all: a laid-back period comedy-drama without a single superhero, and nary an explosion in sight.

Girls Trip (2017)

The vibe here isn’t entirely chill, as the film’s Flossy Posse gets up to some fairly wild shenanigans during a trip to the Essence Music Festival in New Orleans. Having grown apart, the now middle-aged friends all manage to reconnect with their wild sides. The movie’s biggest pleasures all involve the camaraderie between the core four friends, played by Regina Hall, Tiffany Haddish, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Queen Latifah. A huge critical and box-office success (also just a lot of fun), this was one of those movies that should have served as reminder that centering black women can be a path to success—yet executives went right back to making Ant-Man movies.

Slacker (1991)

Back to Richard Linklater, who broke through with this indie hit that follows a large ensemble of 20-somethings on one day in the hipster haven of Austin (before it was Austin). Linklater lets the conversations wander by following one group of people until they run into another, and then proceeding to see what they’re up to for a while. It’s a simple, clever way to bring in a multiple stories and bits of local color without troubling with a minor detail like a “plot.” The vibe here isn’t so much one set of characters that you want to hang with all day; it’s more that you’re hanging with the cameraperson interacting with a bunch of interesting people.

American Graffiti (1973)

It’s fun to imagine an alternate timeline in which George Lucas’ career hadn’t been swallowed by Star Wars sequels—one in which American Graffiti had been the template, rather than the more lucrative space operas. Here, he brings an understated energy to the story of a bunch car-loving high school grads on the cusp of adulthood, enjoying a night of freedom in 1962. Paul Thomas Anderson cited this one as a chief inspiration for Licorice Pizza, and that totally tracks, as the movie has served as a template for plenty of coming-of-age flashbacks.

Harold and Maude (1971)

Harold and Maude is a cross-generational romance of an entirely different kind. Depressed, apathetic teenager Harold meets and befriends a free-spirited, gives-no-fucks septuagenarian named Maude. The two go off on low-key adventures (if you can call them that—they meet while separately crashing the funeral of someone neither of them knows, and most of the stuff they do together is on that level: uprooting a tree from a park to replant it in a forest; stealing a car only to take it for a joyride) and eventually get physically romantic. The message of the movie is about appreciating every day for the weirdness it has to offer you; if Maude is sort of a Manic Pixie Dream Grandma, you can easily excuse it.

Friday (1995)

After getting fired on a Friday, Craig Jones (Ice Cube) and his best friend Smokey (Chris Tucker) get high on weed that they were meant to sell, setting them off on a series of usually funny, usually low-stakes adventures in the movie that gave us “Bye, Felicia.”

Dazed and Confused (1993)

Last Richard Linklater movie, I promise. Though I could certainly include Waking Life and Everybody Wants Some.

Drinking Buddies (2013)

Mumblecore auteur Joe Swanberg made a move into something a bit more like the mainstream with Drinking Buddies, starring Olivia Wilde and Jake Johnson as co-workers at a low-stress craft brewery. There’s some relationship drama, but, it’s also a movie about how, for the two leads and their friends (including Anna Kendrick, Ron Livingstone, and Jason Sudeikis), being drinking buddies is a perfectly reasonable place for a relationship to land.

Tangerine (2015)

There’s a bit more of a plot here than in some of the other hangout movies under discussion, but Alexandra (Mya Taylor) and her bestie Sin-Dee Rella (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) are very nearly forces of nature: it wouldn’t take a particularly elaborate set-up to set them entertainingly in motion. Here, it’s the revelation that trans sex worker Sin-Dee’s boyfriend and pimp has been cheating on her, sending the two off for a series of minor adventures during the holiday season in L.A.

Weekend (2011)

A Friday night hookup turns, unexpectedly, into a weekend hang that grows more interesting as the conversation gets deeper. The vibe is a bit Before Sunrise, though this one is all about what comes after the sex.

Rushmore (1998)

Wes Anderson’s Rushmore is the movie the gifted us the later-career Bill Murray we’ve been enjoying ever since: funny and chill, but slightly sad in a way that gives those other attributes an emotional resonance. Here, he plays Herman Blume, a disillusioned parent who hates his own kids, but develops a friendship with Jason Schwartzman’s Max Fischer.

Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)

The Amy Heckerling-directed, Cameron Crowe-written coming-of-age film sometimes gets lumped in with other teen comedies of the 1908s, but there’s a unique artistry in the movie’s steadfast refusal to have a traditional plot. In its story of teenage life as a series of vignettes, it’s got a timeless quality—even if its mall-centric setting increasingly feels dated.

Empire Records (1995)

There are moments that fall flat, but time has been relatively kind to Empire Records—its cast includes a virtual who’s who of up-and-coming stars of the mid-’90s (some of whom went on to bigger things, others not so much) running a failing record store during the course of a single day. The soundtrack, including Gin Blossoms, Cranberries, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Better Than Ezra, and others hitmakers of the era, helps to make the movie a fun time capsule.

Marie Antoinette (2006)

Sofia Coppola cleverly transposed the tropes of the hang-out movie to 18th century France, eschewing the typical high-stakes melodrama of the period film genre in favor of the story of a teenager trying to carve out a place for herself in the only life she’s ever known, not realizing (until it’s too late) that the larger world is closing in.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011)

Look, middle-age+ people can hang too (looking at you, Golden Girls). Here, a great cast including Judi Dench, Celia Imrie, Bill Nighy, Ronald Pickup, Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson and Penelope Wilton all play British pensioners who head off to live in sunny Jaipur, India as a means of maximizing their retirement savings. They find that the accommodations at the hotel (run by Dev Patel) they were sold on aren’t exactly what was promised, but the gang have enough relatively low-stakes adventures to last them through this movie, and a similarly charming sequel.

The Innkeepers (2011)

Writer/director Ti West (X, Pearl, MaXXXine) might not be your first stop when looking to chill out with a movie, but horror fans are a different breed, and his 2011 film The Innkeepers skips the gore in favor of a ghost story set at an old hotel during its closing weekend. Sara Paxton and Pat Healy play the hotel’s only on-duty staff, lazily catering to just a couple of guests while drinking beer, telling stories, and doing some half-assed ghost hunting. Naturally, things do get more dramatic (and spookier) in final act, but the goofy, low-stakes rapport between the two is a huge part of the movie’s charm.

Y tu mamá también (2001)

Alfonso Cuarón’s seminal coming-of-age movie finds a couple of teenagers (Diego Luna and Gael García Bernal) taking a road trip with an older woman (Maribel Verdú), facing a major upheaval in her own life. Jealousy and expectation threaten the relationship among the three as they head to a paradisiacal and isolated beach, but the stakes here are emotional, not melodramatic.

Wayne’s World (1992)

A relatively rare success among SNL spinoff movies, the movie sees Mike Myers and Dana Carvey reprising their roles as wildly goofy rock fans Wayne and Garth, hosting a late-night cable access talk show. Offered a shot at the big time, the two come to realize that all they ever really wanted to do was chill and hang out.

The Big Lebowski (1998)

The Coen brothers gave us film’s all-time great berobed slacker character in Jeff Bridges’ Dude. A case of mistaken identity complicates his life, but nothing’s really going to change his essential nature.

My Dinner With André (1981)

What better hangout movie to end on than one that is literally nothing more than hanging out with two friends as they have dinner and talk—about theater, life, about philosophy? This 1981 movie sounds like an arthouse chore, but it is endlessly fascinating—Wallace Shawn, André Gregory, and director Louis Malle keep you wishing for just one more course.

The Cheapest NBN 50 Plans

Here are the cheapest plans available for Australia’s most popular NBN speed tier.

At Lifehacker, we independently select and write about stuff we love and think you'll like too. We have affiliate and advertising partnerships, which means we may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. BTW – prices are accurate and items in stock at the time of posting.


Leave a Reply