There are some films that, for one reason or another, have an extremely high ‘rewatchability quotient’ (as I like to call it).
You know, one of those movies that you happen to come across one night on TV when you have nothing better to do, and you end up watching till the end (even when there’s something else on that you haven’t seen before) – and you still found it enjoyable and not a waste of time.
Or if you have it on DVD, you might whip it out every now and then and put it on for whatever reason, and then find yourself sitting there two hours later, still captivated despite having seen it 10 times already. The freakiest thing is that some of these movies actually get better the more times you watch it.
Following an agonising culling process, I have finally come up with my top 20 most rewatchable movies of all time.
Let’s count them down.
(click on ‘more…’ to continue)
20. The Sound of Music (1965)
Be fair. The Sound of Music is a rewatchable classic, and it’s pretty much on all the time.
You know all the songs. You sing along. Admit it.
19. The ‘Burbs (1989)
I am not kidding here. The ‘Burbs is one heck of a comedy about life in the suburbs, complete with nosy neighbours, crazy characters, and maybe even serial killers.
It has Tom Hanks, before his head got too big. Bruce Dern in his prime. Rick Ducommun (a poor man’s Dan Akroyd) at his best. Carrie Fisher, before she was too far removed from Princess Leia. Corey Feldman, when he was allowed out of rehab on occasion. Eighties comedy at its best. What more could you ask for?
18. Reservoir Dogs (1992)
Quentin Tarantino makes rewatchable movies, and Reservoir Dogs is highly rewatchable. Fragmented, but in a stylish way, with a cast of super actors belting out classic dialogue.
The whole film is like a collection of memorable quotes on everything from tipping etiquette to Madonna’s ‘Like a Virgin’ (“How many dicks is that?”). After a couple of viewings you’ll be talking like Mr Blue or Mr Blonde (or my favourite, Mr Pink). I believe this is one of those quality cult films that get better each time you watch it.
17. White Fang (1991)
My favourite ‘boy and pet’ movie has to be White Fang, adapted from the classic Jack London novel of the same name. I must have watched this movie at least half a dozen times, though it was primarily because my sister had an Ethan Hawke infatuation at the time.
That said, it is a genuinely great movie. Beautifully filmed, and the bond between Jack (Hawke) and White Fang (a half-wolf half-dog hybrid) is truly heartwarming in the way that only Disney films can be. All kids should watch this.
16. Big Trouble in Little China (1986)
One of those outrageous, silly and crazy 80s action flicks with a wacky storyline and hilarious one-liners. Directed by John Carpenter, Big Trouble in Little China makes no excuses for its Chinese stereotyping, but that is part of what makes it so funny.
I think this could have been Kurt Russell’s best role ever. A perfect combination of bravado, utter stupidity and dumb luck, Russell’s Jack Burton has made the film a cult classic.
15. 12 Monkeys (1995)
One of the most underrated sci-fi classics of all time. I was a bit on the young side when I first saw 12 Monkeys (the film, that is; I was much younger when I first saw 12 monkeys at the zoo), so I didn’t ‘get’ all of it – but the amazing thing is that it still blew my mind.
The film had it all – a post-apocalyptic Earth, terrific envisioning of the future without going overboard with the technology, quirky characters (including a loony Brad Pitt), sweet dialogue, and of course, Bruce Willis trying to save the world. And that whole circular time-travel, cause-and-effect business that I just thought was so clever at the time.
Repeated viewings have not dampened my enthusiasm for 12 Monkeys. Actually understanding everything that happens in it has made it even more enjoyable.
14. The Rock (1996)
Controversial choice here. I had to put one Nicholas Cage action classic in here, and I went with The Rock over Con Air and Face/Off, even though I think Con Air is the best film of the three. The difference must be the presence of old Sean Connery. The man is just too awesome. Oh, and Ed Harris as the bad-good bad guy, and David Morse as the good-bad bad guy added an extra dimension to the film.
All very exciting stuff – road chases, Alcatraz setting, hostages, rockets with deadly gases, a geek and an old man against a whole army of bad-asses. Extraordinarily over the top and about as cheesy as you can get, but highly rewatchable and fun.
13. Meet the Parents (2000)
First saw this on DVD with very low expectations and laughed so hard I almost fell off the chair. This was Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro at their comedic peaks (I know, Zoolander, but not for me), and the jokes were very ‘rewatcher friendly’. Classic lines usually are.
I have since watched Meet the Parents several times, and each time it still brings out the laughter. “The animal doesn’t even have thumbs, Focker!”
I was disappointed with the sequel, Meet the Fockers, which went too far below the belt for my liking. Hopefully the third film in the series, set to come out in 2010, will be better.
12. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
I think this was one of the first films I watched more than once at the cinema, and actually wanted to watch it again after that.
When it came out, Terminator 2: Judgment Day was a landmark in filmmaking. Arnie was at the peak of his powers and Edward Furlong came out of nowhere to be the next big thing. And who could forget skinny Robert Patrick as the unstoppable liquid metal T-1000? You had unbelievable special effects, insane action (including that truck vs motorbike road chase), and memorable lines and scenes that have withstood the test of time. A true classic in every sense.
11. Minority Report (2002)
I am a big fan of Dick (Philip K Dick, that is) adaptations, and Minority Report is right up there as one of his best.
As sci-fi films go, Minority Report has one of the coolest and slickest visions of the future thanks to Steven Speilberg. The morally confusing premise, the cool gadgets, the intriguing storyline, the cool colour scheme; precogs (I love that word), rolling eyeballs, amazing futuristic transport, and a ripper of an ending – Minority Report is one of those films I always continue watching when I am lucky enough to stumble across it.
10. Total Recall (1990)
Another Dick adaptation and another classic movie capable of multiple viewings. From the Martian landscape, Arnie’s bulging eyeballs, and Sharon’s Stone’s bitch fight, to the lady with the three breasts, Total Recall had plenty of lasting images. In my opinion Paul Verhoeven’s best film.
A true measure of the film’s classic status is that it is still debated to this day – was it real or was it all in his head?
9. Happy Gilmore (1996)
Hear me out. Happy Gilmore is Adam Sandler’s best film as his old self (the new ‘dramatic’ Sandler doesn’t count). Better than Billy Madison, better than The Waterboy, and better than all his later crap.
The main reason is that Happy Gilmore is actually funny. Still a bit hit-and-miss at times, but it definitely has the highest hit ratio of any of Sandler’s early films. Many of the laughs come from Christopher McDonald’s Shooter McGavin, one of the best villains in history (“I eat pieces of shit like you for breakfast”), as well as Carl “Apollo Creed” Weathers as Happy’s golf coach. The best scene, of course, was the Bob Barker fist fight.
I really wish they would make a sequel.
8. Armour of God (1987)
Here is a random one. Armour of God is in my opinion Jackie Chan’s best film, and miles better than any of his later stuff. He also almost died filming one of the scenes, when he fell from a tree and hit his head on a rock, cracking a hole in his skull (and hence the difference in hair length before and after).
The story follows Chan, an ex-band member turned treasure hunter who, together with an old mate, searches for the various pieces of the Armour of God in order to save an ex-girlfriend from an evil cult. Sounds tacky, I know, but Armour of God was way ahead of its time. It had that Indiana Jones-esque feel to it, with unbelievable innovation in terms of action, gadgets and stunts. The fight scenes were also some of the best of Chan’s career, especially the final battle, where he takes on four buffed kung fu women at once (I am not making this up).
Definitely check it out if you can find it.
7. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
My favourite of the Indiana Jones franchise and the most rewatchable one of the lot. It was more fun, more funny and more exciting than the original and its sequels.
The premise was also probably the most ridiculous (until the Crystal Skull came along), but Indy and Kate Capshaw (and Short Round) took it in their stride. Whether it was eating monkey brains, crawling amongst bugs in the dark, ripping hearts out of chests, or roller coaster rides in underground mines, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom manages to capture that old fashioned adventure feel that is rarely replicated these days.
6. There’s Something About Mary (1998)
I first went into There’s Something About Mary not having a clue what it was about, and came within an inch of pissing my pants (the only other time I came that close was when I watched Paradise Road, but that was because I had 3 large beverages before the movie and it was too freaking long).
There have been so many copycat movies since (including by the Farrelly Brothers), trying to take the grossness and the outrageousness to new heights, but none have come close to the magical power of Mary. We, the viewers, became like Ben Stiller and Matt Dillon, hopelessly devoted to the film like they were to Mary. Everyone remembers the zipper scene and the hair gel scene, but the best parts for me belonged to Dillon’s Pat Healy, who combined wonderful sleaziness with killer politically incorrect lines.
No matter how many times I watch Mary, I still laugh hard, every time.
5. Pulp Fiction (1994)
The first time I watched Pulp Fiction, I may have been too young or not focused enough, and as a result I didn’t find it all that great. It wasn’t until several years later, when I watched it properly, that I realised what a freaking masterpiece it was. And the more times I watched it, the more I loved it. Now, it’s one of my all-time favourites.
From the initial diner scene to the gimp scene to the hilarious sequence beginning from the car ride with Marvin to the final diner scene, every segment is a classic. It makes you wonder how anyone could have come up with such sensational dialogue and situations that make you clueless as to what the heck is going to happen next.
How many lines from the film can you recite off the top of your head?
4. Fargo (1996)
Fargo was the last film I expected to like when I accidentally stumbled across it one day at the video store, but I loved it from the very first time I watched it and loved it more and more with each subsequent viewing.
It’s black comedy at its very best. Some of the dialogue and scenes make you wonder whether it’s appropriate to laugh, until you realise it’s too late and you’re already laughing your ass off. It made Steve Buscemi my favourite actor – from his banter with Peter Stormare to his encounter with the escort lady to getting shot in the face, it was simply a masterful performance that should have gotten just as much credit as Frances McDormand (who won the Oscar) or William H Macy (who got nominated).
I must have annoyed the hell out of everyone when I went through a phase responding to any human interaction with “The heck d’ya mean?” or “You’re darn tootin’!”
3. Stand By Me (1986)
Stand By Me was the first home video we owned in the family and my sister and I would watch it religiously, over and over (yes, she had a crush on all the boys except the fat one, who happens to be Jerry O’Connell). I can say with confidence that there is no film I have seen more.
Based on Stephen King’s novella The Body, Stand By Me is the ultimate coming of age movie and the ultimate friendship movie. There’s that distinctive narration by Richard Dreyfuss, the innocent young faces of Wil Wheaton, Corey Feldman and Jerry O’Connell, and of course the late River Phoenix, whose poise and screen presence even at that age makes me sigh every time I think about his tragic death. Oh, and who can forget Kiefer Sutherland as the bad older kid? I bet that’s what Jack Bauer used to be like as a teenager!
Stand By Me is one of the films that, no matter how many times you watch, still gets to you in the end. They just don’t make movies like this anymore.
2. Die Hard (1988)
“Yippee-ki-yay, motherf&*ker.” I have a friend who insists Die Hard should be number one, and to be honest, it came very close.
It’s the film against which all other action films are measured. It is also the film against which all Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman and the dad from Family Matters’ films are measured.
One man (John McClane) against an army of terrorists, trapped inside a massive corporate building. He’s hurt, he’s bleeding, and he’s all alone. And yet he’s their only hope! Gotta love that.
It’s a premise that film-makers have challenged many times, but for some reason Die Hard just has that special supernatural ability to make you want to keep watching it. The most amazing thing is that all the sequels to Die Hard are actually pretty good, but none can even come close to the brilliance of the original.
1. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
The first time I watched Shawshank, I went “WHOA”. The second time I watched Shawshank, I still went “WHOA”. And the third time, and the fourth time, and so on. There’s no movie quite like Shawshank when it comes to rewatchability, and what makes it more remarkable is that it is a freaking prison drama with very little humour and almost no action.
There’s a good reason why Shawshank is consistently ranked as one of the top 2 at IMDB.com. It’s the type of film that, after watching it, you need to sit through the credits just to compose yourself. You don’t have to speak to the person beside you or even tell them “That was good,” because you know they know it was bloody awesome.
It’s a downright travesty that despite being nominated for 7 Oscars in 1994, Shawshank didn’t get a single one. Seriously, look at the other 4 nominees for Best Picture that year: Forrest Gump (winner), Pulp Fiction, Quiz Show and Four Weddings and A Funeral. Yes, all good films. Forrest Gump was very likable and enjoyable, but if you ask anyone now which was the better film, 9 out of 10 would say Shawshank, without a doubt.
The most amazing thing about all of this is that Stephen King also wrote the novella (Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption) upon which the film was based (that makes it 2 out of my top 3 on this list!) and even crazier, both novellas were in the same book (Different Seasons)!
Yes, as you may have noticed, there were a lot of comedies and action films in the above list. Well, that’s because comedies and action films are the most rewatchable genres. They are easy to watch, don’t require much emotional investment or brain usage, and are more likely to still be watchable even if you start watching mid-way.
On the other hand, dramas and romances take too much out of you, and except for the really amazing ones (like the ones in this list), lose their emotional impact on repeat viewings. Few horrors and thrillers are capable of scaring or thrilling people the second or third time round (some can’t even do that on the first), and apart from the really exceptional ones, the more you watch the clever/twist films, the less clever they become.
Oh, and the reason why there aren’t any recent films on the list? Because they haven’t been out long enough to be capable of repeated viewings.
So there. My top 20. What are yours?
Missing the cut
Con Air (1997), True Lies (1994), The Mighty Ducks (1992), Back to the Future II (1989) , Dead Poets Society (1989), What About Bob (1991), From Dusk Till Dawn (1996), The Lost Boys (1987), Gladiator (2000). A friend has also told me that the British comedy Withnail & I (1987) is also highly rewatchable.
UPDATE: Thanks to everyone for all their likes and comments. I was surprised that I found a lot of the films mentioned by people were films I also rewatched often and totally forgot about for the purpose of this list. So I’ve done an updated post with some additional films. Check it out here.
Additionally, check out these other movie lists if interested: