The beauty of being a movie-lover is that every day, at any moment, you can pop in a favorite film and enjoy it in the comfort of your own home. Forget 3D advancements and Blu-rays – all that matters is the movie. On a computer screen or a projector, the wonders that we enjoy surpass size and volume; they latch onto our hearts and memories like timeless ticks.
Some films catch us at the perfect time. Whether it is the veritable naiveté of a child exploring new worlds or the mature mind of an adult looking for that next thought-provoking piece to spark some curiosity, films will always matter to the soul.
When I find myself at that unpredictable point in a day with nothing to do, I don’t look around for a book to read or a snack to eat. I stand up, walk over to my movie collection and decide the next two hours of my life. Almost always – especially when the choices overwhelm me – I resort to five golden movies – those that always win, no matter what.
The following are not necessarily my five favorite films of all time, but some of them are near the top of that list. Instead, these are the five films I could watch every single day, no matter the circumstance.
These are in no way an ultimatum. The list is simply my list. It is also in no order. I hope all of you will share your own ‘forever watchables’ in the comments section and explain why.
An unlikely movie on this list, The Prestige is not a household name like the others. It is truly the secret masterpiece of The Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan. Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale find themselves in a rivalry that reaches deep into the supernatural. The film gives you something new with every viewing.
Sometimes the revelation of a plot twist can be amazing at first, only to fade away with time. The knowledge of the secret behind The Prestige‘s trick creates an endless ocean of repeatability. The nuances of the film reward the impassioned audience member with an unbelievable sense of doubt every time the “prestige” comes about.
Every character is pitch perfect to a point where even the most seasoned watcher of The Prestige can forget what he already knows. Those little details that emerge throughout the film are even more fascinating when you know the secret.
Nolan’s work is so focused and direct that it is easy to forget you are watching a movie that jumps around more than a Kris Kross concert. The plot would lose its direction if it was simply presented chronologically. Instead, it is constantly moving and always questioning the audience member’s confidence in their analysis.
My favorite film of all time is not instantly regarded as re-watchable. Gladiator is a serious film with a singular focus. Yet, the characters are so detailed and complex that each viewing somehow rewards you with a new journey. It truly deserved its Oscar for Best Picture.
Every scene is memorable – from the scruffy, opening battle to the epic showdown between Maximus and Commodus. Throughout the film, the scenes are elevated by a timeless score from Hans Zimmer. Arguably his best work, the score to Gladiator is as triumphant as it is mesmerizing.
But what sets Gladiator apart from so many like it is the full-circle story. Open-ended stories are becoming a staple in the film industry. Sequels are losing value – especially when they are greenlit prior to the original’s release. But the simple fact that Maximus dies gives the film its glory. His death is an honorable and complete one. It is a sacrifice essential to the arc of a nearly perfect story.
Gladiator is a tremendously personal film set on a grand scale. Every chance Ridley Scott had to make a sprawling CGI epic, he brought the camera in and focused on the characters that mattered within the film. Because of this focus and determination on all levels of production, Gladiator has become a frequent visitor to my DVD player.
The Dark Knight
Christopher Nolan’s vision of a world with Batman surpassed everybody’s expectation when he brought us Batman Begins. The sequel would prove to be his toughest challenge yet. But he rose to the occasion and gave the world a superhero film that will be forever cherished.
Heath Ledger’s iconic turn as The Joker may be the main reason I can watch The Dark Knight every day. His Oscar-wining performance is greeted with a wide smile (or fearful shudder) from viewers every time he graces the screen. Ledger’s scenes are so memorable that the closing moment of a prior scene is simply a transition to the next time we get to enjoy his work.
But there is so much more to The Dark Knight. A sprawling score from Hans Zimmer gives you everything. The devastation of a lost love and the unpredictable fear of a costumed villain are constantly present in Zimmer’s score.
What makes The Dark Knight worth repeat viewings are the fine details. The way every scene blends in with the next one. The way Nolan presents a film where every event matters to every character involved. The way nobody ever makes a sound when the truck flips end over. The way the Batpod emerges from the Tumbler.
The Dark Knight is full of memorable moments that equal two and a half hours of greatness. Only two years old, the film has been played on my television more than most. It’s not about some undying devotion to the Batman lore, but a love for a film that can be watched every single day.
Quentin Tarantino has a way of re-writing history. Of course, with Inglourious Basterds he took a more literal approach to that idea. However, Tarantino has found a way to merge genres that many others would see no clear bridge between. By fusing Westerns and Samurai films, Tarantino came up with the eclectic wonder of Kill Bill.
Uma Thurman and everybody around her are brilliant on screen, but the reason people have come to love the film is completely due to Tarantino’s vision. The blend of music and action is unrivaled – even when it is composed directly for a movie. What other film can you name that uses nearly ten songs in a single fight scene?
The multiple chapters of Kill Bill keep you on your toes. The inevitability of the main character’s journey is always right in front of you. You know The Bride will survive, but there is still suspense and tension throughout every scene. Every character is new and every scene is unpredictable. Of course, when you’ve watched it as often as I have, it’s more of a sing-a-long than a movie.
As I said earlier, some films catch the veritable naiveté of a child exploring unexplainable worlds. In 1993, I was that eight-year-old child. Only Steven Spielberg could make a movie about dinosaurs and humans in the same world and make it work. His dedication to realism gave every viewer a believable environment with unbelievable events.
But it isn’t the story in Jurassic Park that makes it timeless. The reason I can watch it every day is a combination of two things – John Williams’ score and the dinosaurs.
John Williams is the king of movie themes. He will always be one of the best composers in film history and this is due in large part to his ability to create memorable themes. Even people who have never seen Jurassic Park would recognize the theme. It brings the fear and wonder of the massive creatures on screen into your soul.
Those massive creatures were so brilliantly depicted that every attempt since 1993 has been overshadowed by Spielberg’s work. Forget the latest CGI and motion-capture technology, the visible realism of the animatronic dinosaurs in Jurassic Park made it more than a movie. The Raptors, Dilophosaurus and Brachiosaurus all became a part of my childhood. Of course, nothing was as moving as the terrifying Tyrannosaurus Rex.
Lets not forget the perfection that was Jeff Goldblum’s mid-90s career. A day without a mid-90s Goldblum is like a day without true laughter. “You do have, um, dinosaurs, on your dinosaur tour” is a line that is heard in my close circles at least once a day. Those near my apartment hear it as well, as Jurassic Park is one of the five movies I could watch every day, and kind of do.
Some of the films above are packed with action, while others keep the brain working. Either way, they all merit multiple viewings and reward audience members by flirting with perfection.
Comedies can give crowds a surefire laugh for a couple hours and scary movies can guarantee a man the firm grasp from the woman by his side. But when you need to make that quick decision on a movie to watch at leisure, there are always those few you can count on to always entertain.
What are your five go-to films? Share your list and tell us why in the comments section below.