Everybody has that one movie that they've watched so many times, “knowing it by heart” doesn't even begin to describe the relationship.
It's the film that you drop everything to watch when it comes on TV, or that you bought and wore out the VHS copy, and then the DVD and the Blu-Ray… and you're still happy to watch it again on Netflix. Maybe it all started with what your family liked to watch (or what they hated) or what ended up in your stocking at holiday time, or what you fell in love with at the theater.
Below, the HitFix editorial staff shares its most-watched movies of all time. What is yours? Tell us in the comments!
Donna Dickens “Titanic”
I was that fourteen year old girl. The one that saw “Titanic” in theaters multiple times (my personal tally was seven.) I bought the VHS two-pack. I recorded the MST3K Oscar special specifically for the segment that mocked my new obsession. I listened to “My Heart Will Go On” until my mother thought she would lose her damn mind. James Cameron is the horse whisperer or teenage girls and he had me right by the ovaries.
As an adult, the story of an entitled rich girl rebelling against her life by jumping into bed with a glorified one night stand normally causes me to scoff. But “Titanic” will forever be insulated from my grown-up cynicism by a cocoon of sentiment. Yes, this movie is basically Mary Sue fanfic couched in history. But it”s the glamorous, arrogant history of oil barons and steel tycoons. When nouveau riche plundered the Baroque aesthetic to prove how cultured they were, putting a sophisticated mask over the seething inequality and suffocating class structure beneath. Pretty to look at, but not to live in.
Chris Eggertsen “Aliens”
I first watched “Aliens” on network television in the middle of the afternoon, and I loved it so much that I taped it and watched it dozens more times. It was the most amazing thing I had ever seen. A lot has been said about Sigourney Weaver's indelible (Oscar-nominated!) performance as Ellen Ripley, and James Cameron's muscular direction, and of course Stan Winston's iconic work bringing the Alien Queen to life. But let's not overlook the essential contribution of James Horner's music, which builds to such gripping crescendoes during the film's double climaxes that it may go down as the greatest action score of all time. (Fun fact: the famed, endlessly-recycled final cue was written virtually overnight.)
“Aliens” flawlessly combines horror, action and sci-fi. It has a character named Newt. It is immensely, endlessly watchable. My heart bursts.
Gregory Ellwood “Star Trek II The Wrath of Khan”
“The Dark Knight,” “The Matrix” or any “Lord of the Rings” films are excellent examples of wallpaper movies that you find flicking around cable television that pop up because at some point they seemed to be programmed every hour on the hour. Then there are other films that you've continually chosen to watch over the years simply because they are too good not to keep returning to. Nicholas Meyer's “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” is that movie for me.
For a sequel that was almost an after thought to its studio when it went into production over 30 years ago, “Wrath of Khan” is still the crown jewel of all “Star Trek” films before and since (sorry J.J. and “First Contact” fans). It's just a stunning case of all the right elements coming together on a picture. Inspired direction from Meyer (he was never better), a cast who had nothing to lose (you can see it in their confident and relaxed performances), an ILM effects crew probably going above and beyond what they were being paid for, James Horner's most underrated score (that he's ripped off numerous times since), the greatest performance of Ricardo Montalban's career (would have gotten him an Oscar nomination today), an edge of your seat Naval battle in space that hasn't been matched since, those twist moments that just make you smile every time you watch them (“I don't like to lose”) and Spock's inspired death scene (well, at least until he was resurrected in the next movie). And every time you watch it you catch something new. Now that's a movie.
Daniel Fienberg “Groundhog Day”
Repeatedly watching a movie about repetition sounds like it could be, well you know, repetitious. The genius of Harold Ramis' 1993 film — both Ramis' direction and the script credited to Ramis and Danny Rubin — isn't in how well it plays the first time you watch it, though Bill Murray probably has never been and probably will never be funnier, while Andie MacDowell certainly has never been and certainly never will be more appealing. “Groundhog Day” is smart and hilarious and effectively romantic the first time around.
The genius is in the moment you think, “Well that couldn't possibly hold together and work a second time.” And then you watch it and you start concentrating on the structure logic to Phil Connors and his endless loop of Punxsutawney celebrations and you go, “Hmmm, maybe I don't get every detail, but it actually seems to make sense, or actually build.” Then you start taking out a stopwatch and monitoring Bill Murray's comic timing, which maximizes both laughs and a level of pathos in a combination unseen since Buster Keaton. And then you start to wonder, maybe after the seventh or eight viewing, if something bigger might be happening, something deeper, something more spiritual and just as you're getting ready to tie “Groundhog Day” in with Buddhism or Jewish mysticism or whatever… Well, you just start laughing again.
Katie Hasty “Scrooged”
“Jesus Christ,” my dad once said, rolling his eyes at the part in “Elf” Zooey Deschanel is lighting some damned candles and singing some Christmas song in perfect pitch. “Please.” We're a Christmas movie-watching family. We're also Bill Murray people.
That's why “Scrooged” is a winning combination, even with the equally shameful “we all burst into song” holiday moment. It's the cheeky one-liners, Frank Cross' ad-libs and physical comedy that sustains this old story. This whole movie is just a social quote-along, with the added and essential elements of Bobcat Goldthwaite, David Johanson, a breathtaking Claire Phillips, and the incomparable Carol Kane. So even when they're all singing “Put a Little Love in Your Heart,” I'm all Niagara Falls.
Josh Lasser “Princess Bride”
There was a moment growing up that I would watch “The Princess Bride” on nearly a daily basis. From Fred Savage playing “Hardball” at the beginning to the kiss at the end, Peter Falk's character has it exactly right – “The Princess Bride” has everything, “Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles.” Try to stay awake indeed.
“The Princess Bride” is not just a swashbuckling adventure tale. It is incredibly fun, full of great performances, and perhaps best of all, it is highly-insanely-quotable. “I am not left-handed.” “My way's not very sportsman-like.” “No, to the pain.” “I'm not a witch, I'm your wife, but after what you just said, I'm not even sure I want to be that anymore.” “Rodents of unusual size? I don't think they exist.” “Never get involved in a land war in Asia.” “As you wish.” And, the ever-popular, “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father, prepare to die.” It all makes me want to pop the Blu-ray in right now so that I can go back to the beginning.
Dave Lewis “Die Hard”
A lot of the movies I watched repeatedly as a kid and teen were taped off broadcast TV or basic cable, and were severely edited — for years I had no idea that there was pot-smoking scene in “The Breakfast Club” — but the mercilessly panned-and-scanned, profanity-free, ad-interrupted “Die Hard” was always the first to go in the VCR. John McTiernan's swift, endlessly quotable actioner is loaded with enough weird supporting characters and minute details to encourage repeat viewings.
High school was a blur of Hans Gruber impressions and pre-IMDB cast recognition realizations (“There's Genghis Khan from 'Bill and Ted'! One of the terrorists is Vigo the Carpathian! One of them looks like Huey Lewis!). Later, I bought a copy of it on laserdisc, and was excited to see a remastered, widescreen copy of my then-favorite movie. But I only watched it once, for it was too much awesomeness to handle.
Drew McWeeny “Dazed and Confused”
When “Dazed & Confused” came out in 1993, I enjoyed the movie greatly. I still think it's one of the best films ever made about that first night you're old enough to control your own fate, when you suddenly find yourself mixing with older high school kids and temptation is presented to you for the first time and you make some terrible choices and you have a fight and you get drunk and you break curfew and for the first time, you think you've seen some larger world. When it arrived on laserdisc, though, it became the go-to movie that we showed anyone who came over, both because of the workout the soundtrack gave our sound system and because we enjoyed creating an interactive experience during the screening. Ahem. Cough.
What's amazing is just how great Linklater's eye for new talent was, and you can look at the film now as a who's who of a certain age group of Hollywood actors, including the amazing work Matthew McConaughey does as Wooderson. Alright, alright, alright, indeed.
Richard Rushfield “Blazing Saddles”
I saw “Blazing Saddles” long before I had ever seen the films it was sending up, watching it over and over until the VHS copy I”d made off cable almost fell off its sprockets and disintegrated. While I didn”t know the origins of Mel Brooks” world of old Western insanity, the sheer energy of the chaos, the ability to undermine every trope, every grope for seriousness with pure unbridled silliness, was as intoxicating as a drug. That was the world I wanted to live in, watching as a boy, a world where stuffed shirts like Harvey Korman had ludicrous names and were constantly undermined by the inability of the world to just sit still and behave. When the finale spills out of the screen onto modern day Hollywood Blvd, it felt like that spirit might just swallow the whole world. Or as Mel Brooks” Governor Lepetomane puts it, “I didn”t get a harumph out of that guy!”
Alan Sepinwall “Hoosiers”
Underdog sports movies have long been my movie Kryptonite. Doesn't matter how good the movie is, nor how much I care about the sport being depicted. Give me a three-hour Bollywood musical about cricket? I'm there. Give me Kevin Bacon teaching Africans how to play basketball? TAKE MY MONEY. Even though I know the original “Bad News Bears” is objectively better in every possible way from “Bad News Bears in Breaking Training,” I've always had a soft spot for the sequel, just because Tanner and the boys win the big game for once. Sports movies provide the assurance of a happy ending – or, in cases like the first “Rocky,” moral victory in defeat – in a way that actual sporting events can only occasionally provide. When I watch the New York Giants play on Sunday, there's a good chance (especially lately) I'll be unhappy three hours later; when I watch Keanu Reeves lead his team of lovable scabs in “The Replacements,” I already know what the outcome will be.
There are some movies in the genre, though, that I never have to feel guilty about watching over and over and over, including the one that I think has passed “Midnight Run” as my most-viewed movie (if not my favorite movie): “Hoosiers.” There are flaws that become more obvious with each viewing – the Gene Hackman/Barbara Hershey romance is undercooked, there's no good explanation (save for a deleted scene on a DVD set released decades after the movie) for why Buddy the point guard is back on the team after quitting in a huff, and no good explanation for why the team defies Norman on the final play-call (it's a great moment for him, but one that needed to be set up better on their end) – yet Hackman and Dennis Hopper's performances, the collaboration between director David Anspaugh and Angelo Pizzo (whose “Rudy” is also very high on my most-viewed list), the score and all the basketball sequences combine to make a movie that, close to 30 years later, remains the class of the genre. To quote Norman Dale, “This is your team.”
Kristopher Tapley “Batman” (1989)
With 2014 being the 25th anniversary of Tim Burton's “Batman” and all, I've probably written far too much about it as it is. But when asked what movie I've seen the most, it's my go-to answer. There was a time as a child when I may well have had the whole damn thing memorized, from “For God's sake, Harold, can we please just get a taxi?” to “I'm not a bit surprised.”
Why? Because the film was sort of my Cecil B. DeMille moment, when movies went from this entertaining curiosity to HOLY CRAP MOVIES! It was also the first sell-through VHS, which my parents dutifully purchased for me for Christmas in 1989. Just six months removed from having already seen it a couple of times in theaters, I pretty much wore out the spools on the thing. I've owned it in more home video formats than anything else and I'd have to say I probably watch it at least once every single year.
Louis Virtel “Clue”
The cult phenomenon of “Clue” is still (wait for it!) a mystery to me. It can't be that we all rented a VHS copy of a 1985 Martin Mull bomb and watched it repeatedly and endlessly throughout our entire childhoods. It just can't be. But somehow “Clue” is a movie that most of my friends have seen and worshiped since infancy. Strange.
The boardgame-based whodunit is, for my money, one of the only ensemble comedies where the female roles are better written than the male roles and the actresses outclass the actors with whizzbang line-delivery. Eileen Brennan's “Private Benjamin” grit disappears as she squawks and grouses as the addle-brained Mrs. Peacock. Lesley Ann Warren's lowered glance is deadly as she inhabits the cheeky madam Miss Scarlet. And Madeline Kahn — that songbird of comic lunacy — is Death Valley-dry as the sinister Mrs. White. Surely Tim Curry's snooty charms as Wadsworth the butler are uproarious too (“I butle, sir.”), but I love “Clue” for giving vampy supporting actresses a chance to showboat, sneer, and occasionally shoot people.