Digital Polyphony

film, games, memories & random thoughts


"Those" Movies

Posted on February 12, 2014 at 2:45 AM

"Those" Movies

You know what I mean when you read that title. "Those" movies. The movies you can't help but watch again and again, or the movies that will make you stop flipping through channels when you see but a few frames of them. The movies that pull you and urge you to see them...and now you have succumbed to it. Probably for the fifteenth time. Hell, they may not even be very good movies. But you don't care because you have to watch it.

And so my idea for a new blog entry began and a quick and dirty list off the top of my head sprung forth. Kind of like listing your comfort foods.

While many of these would certainly be in my Top 50 or so favorite films, this is far from indicative of my favorite films. Some of these certainly wouldn't make that list, or even rank all that high. How many times I see these movies is kind of loose, you can check the notes below on that, but know that in all these cases of movies I watch reguarlary and way too many times that I eventually stopped counting.

Oh, and these are in no particular order, just a free-writing-mind-spree as one leads to another to another and so on. It's interesting to see what might just bind them all together.

Alien and Aliens - Starting with the movies that made me think of this list as I watched both back to back on gorgeous blu-ray a few weeks back. Alien is a masterpiece of tension and suspense. Aliens is fun and fantastic (and probably one I've seen more now that I think about), but Alien is just so taught and visually stunning.

As I watched Aliens, mouthed the one-liners and still found myself on the edge of my seat at its brilliant final 15 or so minutes, the idea of this blog came up as I said to myself "I've seen this movie probably 20 or so times over the past few decades and still, still, get sucked in to it.

Raiders of the Lost Ark - About as good as an adventure film can get. Memorable scenes, characters, the score, the action and the still incredibly well shot (seriously, it's flawless). While Temple of Doom and Last Crusade are up there as well on times I've seen them, just not as much (though I tend to watch all three, and yes even the fourth, at the same time these days)

Evil Dead 2 - All because of The Chin, Bruce Campbell. A tour-de-force by him and by director Sam Raimi who was doing visually inventive films in a time when everyone was just caring about how to kill people in horror flicks.

One thing I began to notice is that a lot of these movies I repeatedly watch have strong central characters leading them, many very memorable if not iconic. Perhaps the amount we re-watch something has to do with us wanting to re-vist old friends.

The Thing - I know every twist and turn and line of this thing, The Thing thingy. A lot of John Carpenter flicks are insanely rewatchable, but this one I watch a few times a year still whereas other awesome ones like They Live or Big Trouble in Little China...well I watch those reguarly too but not as much.

The Goonies - Really more telling about my generation than anything. But, unlike a lot of live-action "kids movies" today, this one is actually a well-crafted film. Probably why it's so timeless. Other than the Lauper song, it could have been made yesterday, but if it were you know the parent-activist groups would bitch and moan.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit? - Maybe not as much as I used to, but I still watch it on occasion. Though it's not my favorite Zemeckis movie, it's the one I've seen and still watch the most. My favorite Zemeckis movies would be…

The Silence of the Lambs - Though not my favorite De Palma movie (that would be Blow Out), I still find myself re-watching this movie and captivated by its performances and De Palma’s camera. It’s one of those movies I love to break down and analyzie (the recent movie, Prisoners, is probably going to be on this list at some point for the same reasons, less than a year old and I've already seen it five times)

Any Back to the Future movie  - I don’t care what it is, I have a tendency to watch all for different reasons, but like the Lord of the Rings movies, I try to watch all at once because they all tie in to each other. I’ve seen the first movie the most, but I have more affection towards the later two because I saw those in a theater when I was a kid.

Strangers on a Train - There’s a handful of Hitchcock films I watch regularly, the others Vertigo, North by Northwest and Notorious come to mind, but Strangers on a Train I’ve seen by far the most. I can’t say why, it’s not even by favorite film of his, but like a lot of these entries I think it boils down to great, memorable characters and its great sense of pace and tension.

In other cases, I just love to watch master filmmaking at work.

Dawn of the Dead - The Romero classic never gets old for me. Every time I watch it it’s as though I’m seeing it again for the first time.

Ghostbusters - Ditto for this, though after all these years when I re-watch it, I find myself having it more in the background. I do that a lot with James Bond movies too, movies I’ve seen repeatedly but kind of like it in the background as I do something else. That’s called “comfort watching.” You put it on, do something else but stop when it gets to certain parts. You don’t need to see other parts, you know the films by heart already, but know that one part is coming up and you’ll put your mop away for ten minutes. I watch Groundhog Day quite a lot too, now that I think about it.

Oh and those James Bond movies, yes I watch those a lot too but not enough for this list.

Yojimbo - I watch a lot of Kurosawa, actually, but none have I seen more than Yojimbo. I estimate at least 20 times since I first was introduced to foreign film, and Akira Kurosawa, in college. The first movie I bought on the Criterion collection…well that was the Third Man…then it was Seven Samurai…but Yojimbo was the third. Oh…wait a minute...

The Third Man - That reminds me, the movie that got me in to “foreign” films, though I use it lightly here considering it’s hard to call British cinema “foreign.” I suppose I automatically think of “foreign” as “any language other than English.” The Third Man is my favorite film noir movie because it has some of my favorite actors in it and is directed by one of my favorite British directors.

Dr. Strangelove - I don’t know what it is, but I still find something new and interesting every time I rematch Kubrick’s satirical masterpiece. It’s amazing how still-releavant the material is. There’s some Kubrick movies I’ve only seen once (Barry Lyndon) and some I’ve seen way too many to count. This one is the top of the list, though.

Tremors - Ok, I’ll be honest I haven’t seen this in a while, but back in the 90s…boy was this on TV a lot and boy did I watch it a lot. Hell, I may not have seen it in a few years, but I remember damn near every scene and good chuck of the dialogue (like when TNT would edit out Bacon’s marvels “Fuuuuuuckkkk you!” and “Fooorrrrggeeeeetttt You!”…bleh). This was one of those movies on cable you couldn’t avoid. It’s also not a particularly good movie, but there’s just something bout it...

Then you have the "guilty pleasure" factor, like your Commando or Point Break. Though I have my share of guilty pleasures, for some reason Tremors is the one I've seen by far the most for me. Oh, and Guilty Pleasure blog incoming soon...

The Good the Bad and the Ugly - This is Leone’s masterpiece and one of my favorite spaghetti westerns, but it’s also a master-class of cinema (as is the next one). Just watching the way the scenes are shot and framed and put out for your eyeballs to suck in. It’s all here.

Fight Club and Seven - Two of David Fincher’s best films and both really came out at the right time for me as I was just getting in to film. Seven I’ve seen…shit…maybe more than any other movie on this list now that I think about it (except Ghostbusters and Raiders). Fight Club came out when I was in college. I watched it a dozen times in one semester. I wrote a report about it for film class. Read the book a few times as well….yeah I think I like that movie.

The Shawshank Redemption - Ok. Here you go. There’s nothing to say other than I think it’s one of the darkest yet most inspiring movies you could ask to see. There’s something about the last ten minutes that get me a bit emotional.

Ratatouille - Wow, I just realized this is the only animated film on this list. I mean, I've seen a ton of animated movies, a lot of them numerous times, but this is it as far as "so many times I lost count." I mean let me think. Iron Giant? Five times. Ummm... The Lion King. Probably ten and not in a long while. Older Disney...most only a couple times, some only once...Up? No, five or six times there too. Wall E is around three. How to Train your Dragon is up there, probably around six or seven too, and I still watch it, but I can still count yeah. Ghibli stuff? I love it, but not really seen them a dozen times or so. Ratatouille, I remember watching that three or four times alone the year it came out alone and I've been itching to rewatch it again sometime this month.

The Fifth Element - I can’t stop watching no matter where I see it or when I see it. Hell, I’ve seen this more than I’ve seen Die Hard and I’ve seen Die Hard a shitton…dammit…this list is getting out of hand.

Die Hard - It’s fucking Die Hard.

Total Recall - Like your Robocop and whatnot, sometimes the unabashed "craziness" of something is hard to not love, plus this was one of the first R-rated movies I remember seeing.

In other cases, nostalgia has to do a lot with it too. I grew up with Die Hard and Total Recall, re-watching them again and again is like re-living those days.

Chinatown - Somehow, as I watch Chinatown, I get that sense of absolute control. As though every line and every angle and every cut or edit was checked and re-checked again by some obsessive filmmaker who refined it to perfection. Probably because that’s exactly how it was made. Kind of like….

The Exorcist - Newsflash: the 1970s was the greatest decade of filmmaking. Just FYI. No, don’t get up, it’s ok. Just let that settle in for a moment. The Exorcist, like Chinatown, is one I love because it’s so well-made, but more importantly I re-watch because it’s made so well that I sometimes forget what it’s really about (not a possessed girl but a Priest losing his faith). It’s a masterpiece. I don’t re-watch it just because of that, there’s a lot of masterpieces I’ve only seen once, but it’s one I can’t tire of and I can’t quite explain why.

Almost Famous - Like Fight Club, this one came out at just the right time as I was studying and learning about film, but also finding my “fandom” gene which Almost Famous is kind of about. I will admit, I haven't seen it in a while...but I think about seeing it quite a lot.

Hmmm...not sure how that works.

LA Confidential - Again, I love noir and this is a masterpiece. Like Chinatown, it comes down to my absolutely admiration and appreciation of the craft.

Goodfellas - I watch a lot of Scorsese, just as I do with Hitchcock, everyone once in a while I get an urge to watch a Taxi Driver or a Raging Bull or Casino or even a Hugo or Bringing Out the Dead (an underrated movie by the way). Goodfellas is the film you first think of when someone says “Scorsese.” Its energy is undeniable.

Shaun of the Dead - There’s something about an Edgar Wright film that, while I’m watching, it’s as though I’m watching it again for the first time. Shaun is the most, though I actually think Hot Fuzz might be my favorite film from Mr. Wright and company.

The Big Lebowski and Fargo - This is the one-two punch of Coen Brothers goodness that will make me stop and watch all their movies as a result if I'm not careful (one leads to the other which leads to a Barton Fink or No Country...). O Brother Where Art Thou? is approaching this tier of re-watching for me as well, but I’ve only seen that movie maybe six times, not quite enough to qualify.

Then other times, it's not only characters that appeal to you...but maybe characters that are reflective of you in some way.


  • You’re asking “what is ‘enough’ to qualify? I would say any of the above movies I not only still watch regularly but I have to have seen upwards of at least a dozen times. Not to put a number on it, but that’s about when I get that “feeling” that I’ve seen a movie way too much. Some I’ve seen right around there, some like Raiders I’ve seen probably twice or three times that. I suppose when I stop counting is when I say “I’ve seen that way too many times.”

Think of it this way: If I can still count how many times I’ve seen the movie (and yes, i have a weird recall for this) then it’s not on the list. If it’s at the point where I no longer remember how many times I’ve seen it and I still watch it regularly, then it’s on.

  • One thing I noticed putting this together…not a ton of comedies. Perhaps because comedies can generally be less funny upon re watching. So it comes down to story and characters after that. Even some of my favorite comedies like Young Frankenstein, Spinal Tap, A Shot in the Dark, Some Like it Hot or Monty Python and the Holy Grail I’ve only seen maybe five or six times a piece. That’s not enough for my list.
  • Of course, there are others that I’m likely forgetting, these are just off the top of my head. I watch movies on a regular basis and many repeatedly. Hell, I watched The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Cast Away for the third and fourth times this past weekend. Why? Because that’s what movie lovers do. It’s an addiction. Sometimes you’re in the “mood” for something and the only thing that can scratch that itch is a certain “feeling” you get when looking at your DVD and Blu Ray collection or scrolling through Netflix.
  • Coming and Going: One of the qualifiers is that I still have to watch it regularly, so there’s some movies I’ve seen a ton of times but really haven’t watched again in recent years (at least 5). I bring this up because I was thinking of Terminator 2. I’ve seen that movie so many times I know it by heart, but I also haven’t seen it since I got the extended hard-box Special Edition DVD about six or seven years ago. Same for something like Jurassic Park.

I think that means that everything has a threshold. Sometimes you reach a limit and “burn  yourself out” like I did. Something like those two movies or Highlander or even friggin Wizard of Oz I’ve seen probably more than most of the movies on the actual list yet I haven’t seen in full in many years because I’ve seen them way too many times. (I went through a Highlander phase in the 90s where I watched it five or six times a year along with the TV series)

This also brings up another obvious ommission: The Star Wars films. I grew up watching those but watched them way too much. As much as I love them, especially The Empire Strikes Back which is a Top-5 film for me, I also haven't really watched them in probably a decade. Of course, not having the actual theatrical versions have a little to do with that. I may not keep count, but Empire is the movie I can say with near-certainty I've seen the most because all through Junior High I watched it every week.

  • Surprised there’s no Tarantino? So am I. His films are notoriously re-watchable by most and I'm no excetion. I’ve seen his movies a ton, but thinking back, again not enough to qualify for this list. The closest would probably be Pulp Fiction, but I also haven’t seen that movie in years despite having seen it so many times, like your Star Wars or Terminator 2. But Tarantino is different because he's so unique and there's nothing like quite like him.
  • Not as many classics as I thought. Again, this is off the top of my head, but when I tried to think of a Citizen Kane or a Casablanca or Cape Fear (the original) or Lawrence of Arabia and Bridge on the River Kwai, I could still count how many times I'd seen them. But at the same time...
  • Lastly, counter-balancing that is the fact that there's really nothing there from the past few years. As many times as I've seen, say, The Prestige or Captain America or Moon, and still do, I can't predict where they'll land in a few years. I might just stop watching them altogether....nah....

Next week, Movies I should watch more…and movies I never want to see again even though I know they’re great.


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