Strange IndiaStrange India

A new movie prompt on X, the site formerly/always known as Twitter, is usually a delightful break from the fascist rantings and “n u d e s-i n-b i o” pornbots that normally dominate my feed. Earlier this week, the question du jour was about the naming the 10 films you’ve seen the most in your life.

It’s the kind of prompt that demands radical honesty. When asked for the best films in a particular category, my inner critic immediately pipes up, and the movies I might actually prefer to watch get shoved aside in favor of films that meet some vague highbrow artistic criteria. When asked what movies I watch all the time, though, I’m being asked to provide a window into my movie-watching soul. Citizen Kane might genuinely be one of my favorite movies, and I’ve seen it a bunch of times…but I watch The Muppet Movie and Charlie’s Angels far more frequently.

Recognizing that what follows is a wildly unscientific look at the actual viewing habits of only a subset of social media users, I think there is something to learn from a summation of the movies X users listed in response to this prompt. It’s also worth considering whether the movies themselves were huge right out of the gate, or if thye took a while to develop their fervent followings. In other words, were they growers or showers—a phrase that has no other meaning or context I’m aware of.

Star Wars (1977)

One of the most frequently cited films, probably not surprisingly, is the original Star Wars, released in 1977. While some users referenced the series as a whole, or chose a later franchise installment (The Empire Strikes Back, for example), A New Hope was the top choice. Given that we’re still living in the blockbuster era that George Lucas’ masterpiece spawned, not to mention the longevity of the franchise, it would be weird if people weren’t rewatching the original movie from time to time. For viewers of a certain age, it’s a movie they’ve been watching for nearly their entire lives.

Shower, or grower? Star Wars was, of course, a success right from the beginning. Theater audiences lined up around the block, and the movie was nominated for an impressive 13 Academy Awards, including for Best Picture. Home video, TV airings, and streaming (not included in box office figures), as well as (sometimes controversial) theatrical rereleases have kept the fires burning for nearly half a century.

Where to watch again: Disney+

Back to the Future (1985)

Another strong contender was the original Back to the Future, starring Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd as a time-traveling teenager and his charmingly addled scientist friend. The movie was initially a tough sell, as studios found the pitch either too tame to compete with the raunchy teen comedies popular in the early ’80s (think Porky’s), or too adult for audiences that might be weirded out by a mom trying to make out with her son. With a little backing from Steven Spielberg, it got made, and wound up being just right for 1985. (It doesn’t hurt that it’s basically a perfect film.) It was also just in time to ride a wave of home video, and the first VHS release added “To Be Continued…” to the finale, setting up a sequel that also made a few user’s lists (with no love, sadly, for the equally entertaining Part 3).

Shower, or grower? The movie did big business straight off the bat, becoming 1985’s top draw at the box office. When it was released on VHS nearly a year later, it broke sales records (even at $79.99), and became the most rented cassette of the year. Even though the last movie of the trilogy came out in 1990, it lives on in various releases, merchandise, and even a new Broadway musical.

Where to watch again: Digital rental

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

Today’s children will never know the joy, and torment, of living in an era when It’s a Wonderful Life was an inevitable annual watch, and nearly impossible to escape during the holiday season. As a film, it’s pretty wonderful, actually, and surprisingly dark for something that parents used to plop their kids in front of as a seasonal distraction, but few movies can stand up to that level of cultural saturation with their coolness intact. Anyone who grew up in the pre-streaming era has likely seen it any number of times, whether they wanted to or not, and in color or not.

Shower, or grower? Perhaps surprisingly, given its pedigree, this one was very much a grower. Despite the presence of big names (director Frank Capra, star James Stewart), it opened to good, but not universally glowing, reviews, and it lost money at the box office. It picked up a few Oscar nominations but only won one in a technical category for its snow effects. It wasn’t forgotten, exactly, but a dispute over the copyright placed it in the public domain (it’s complicated) in the 1970s, which made it a cheap holiday screening for TV networks. Out of such legal kerfuffles are holiday classics born.

Where to watch again: Prime Video, The Roku Channel

The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Really, who hasn’t seen The Wizard of Oz at least two or three times?

Shower, or grower? A little bit of both. In a legendarily good year for American movies, it wound up ranking fifth at the box office. Not a bad showing, but the movie was so expensive to produce that it didn’t turn a profit until a rerelease a decade later. Around a dozen more theatrical releases since have helped, but the movie truly became a staple in 1956, when CBS was sold the television rights. The first airing earned huge ratings, and a subsequent one a couple of years later did even better. It shortly became an (at least) annual tradition.

Where to watch again: Max

Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)

I suspect that any and all Hayao Miyazaki films are rewatched frequently, so why does Howl’s Moving Castle come up more frequently than others? The anti-war parable about a young milliner who is transformed into an elderly woman by a witch after she meets a wizard named Howl isn’t the most whimsical of his films, but it offers, perhaps, some of Studio Ghibli’s deepest thematic considerations, and thus invites additional viewings to make sense of it all. Plus it has that cute li’l fire demon. It’s also the director’s favorite of his films, at least it was as of 2013, before the release of 2023’s The Boy and the Heron.

Shower, or grower? In the U.S., Howl is only the fifth most successful Studio Ghibli film in terms of box office, but worldwide, it’s one of the most successful Japanese films of all time.

Where to watch again: Max

Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Several Nightmare entries came up in discussion, with the first getting the lion’s share of mentions. Wes Craven’s horror classic stars Heather Langenkanp and Robert Englund as Nancy Thomson and Freddy Krueger, the pizza-faced, knife-gloved serial killer who returns from the grave to get revenge on the children of those who killed him. In their dreams, of course. It’s far more visually ambitious than most of the other slasher movies of the era, brings some big ideas along with the bloodshed, and makes of its lead a genuinely kick-ass protagonist rather than just a final girl.

Shower, or grower? Nightmare opened to solid reviews (especially for a teen slasher), and was a major success at the box office (nearly $60 million worldwide on a budget of just over $1 million), but the proof is in the franchise: six sequels (some quite good), a reboot, a TV series, and a Friday the 13th crossover. Things are quiet on Elm Street at the moment, but it’d be a real shocker if we never saw Freddy again.

Where to watch again: Digital rental

Titanic (1997)

Like James Cameron’s Avatar, everyone likes to act like they’re too cool for Titanic…and then rewatch it 50 times anyway. During production, the movie was expected to be a disaster, with a budget of $200m (real money in 1997) that made it seem like there was no way it could be successful. Critics were eager to whip out every bad “sinking ship” metaphor imaginable, but then the movie came out, and steamed it’s way well more than a billion dollars at the worldwide box office.

Shower, or grower? Titanic ranks fourth or fifth in all-time box office, depending on whether we’re looking at original or adjusted grosses…so, regardless, it did fine on release. It actually held the number one spot for 15 consecutive weeks in North America, a record yet to be surpassed, and went on to win 11 Oscars.

Where to watch again: Paramount+

The Princess Bride (1987)

Romantic but not schmaltzy, and possessed of some of the most readily quotable dialogue in the history of cinema, The Princess Bride is an easy comfort watch that rewards multiple viewings, even when you’ve got the whole thing memorized. If you’ve ever shouted “Inconceivable!” at someone at an inappropriate moment, this movie is why.

Shower, or grower? It wasn’t a disaster, but the movie made around $30 million on a $16 million dollar budget, so it wasn’t exactly a roaring success either. A VHS release about six months later, as well as frequent cable airings, gave the movie a second life, its quotability and general charm eventually earning it its enduring classic status.

Where to watch again: Disney+

Alien (1979)

Users references both Alien and Aliens, with no love for the underrated Alien 3. Still, Ridley Scott’s original seemed to do slightly better in the rewatch olympics, likely because of the larger role played by Jonesy, the ship’s cat, who becomes a special friend to Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley (just me?). The first film is a stylish and scary haunted house movie in space, while James Cameron’s followup is pure adrenaline—a blockbuster action film of a kind they don’t quite make anymore. They’re both dense enough to support multiple viewings, with style and performances that elevate the material beyond mere spectacle.

Shower, or grower? Though the film rolled out with relatively little fanfare, word of mouth made it a pretty solid success, even though distributor 20th Century Fox was quick to deny the fact: Apparently eager to avoid paying production company Brandywine, Fox claimed that the movie lost money. The move was seen as a good examples of Hollywood’s creative accounting practices, and an influential lawsuit forced a revision which made clear why the movie’s success would justify a sequel.

Where to watch again: Hulu

Halloween (1978)

What could’ve been a quickie bit of filler for director John Carpenter and producer/co-writer Debra Hill instead became the zenith of the slasher genre, and a pretty great movie in any category.

Shower, or grower? From a budget somewhere in the $300,000 range, the movie became, during its original theatrical release, the most successful independent film ever. Twelve followups and hundreds of imitators later, it’s clear it birthed a monster that’s been with us ever since.

Where to watch again: Shudder, Crackle, AMC+

The Devil Wears Prada (2006)

Fresh young assistant Anne Hathaway plays against Meryl Streep’s instantly iconic Miranda Priestly in this dark comedy set in the world of high fashion. Streep’s performance makes the deliriously bitchy, nearly monstrous Priestly something like an antihero; she’s one of the great villains in American cinema. It’s a triumph.

Shower, or grower? Though the idea that a mid-budget comedy could be a blockbuster is entirely foreign in today’s streaming-dominated landscape, The Devil Wears Prada did excellent box office business right out of the gate, earning $326 million on a $35 million budget. Critics’ reviews were likewise solid, aside from Vogue editor Anna Wintour, who was clearly an inspiration for Streep’s character; she allegedly maintained the movie would go straight to DVD. Instead, it earned Oscar nominations for Streep’s performance and for its costume design.

Where to watch again: Max

Mary Poppins (1964)

A Disney childhood favorite for at least a few generations, Mary Poppins stars Julie Andrews as the magical, delightful, and ever-so-slightly terrifying nanny from the novel series by P. L. Travers. Songs like “A Spoonful of Sugar,” “Let’s Go Fly a Kite,” and “Super-cali-fragil-istic-expi-ali-docious” all remain standards, though they have never been performed better than by Andrews and Dick Van Dyke.

Shower, or grower? Not only did Mary top the box office in 1964, its profits were such that Walt Disney used the money to buy the Florida land that would later become Walt Disney World.

Where to watch again: Disney+

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

It’s astounding, time is fleeting, and Rocky Horror has been freaking out the squares for nearly 50 years. Richard O’Brien and Jim Sharman’s musical is about a newly engaged couple (Barry Bostwick and Susan Sarandon) who show up at the castle of a charming cross-dresser (Tim Curry), where queer doings are afoot.

Shower, or grower? We’ve discussed profits made by films on their initial releases; that’s complicated here by the weird fact that, technically, Rocky Horror was never pulled from theaters. It’s thus considered the longest-running film in the world. Might help to explain why it’s so often rewatched. It was never going to be a blockbuster, instead gaining a reputation as an outré midnight movie for brave souls. Decades later, it’s still seen that way, even as large audiences show up in drag to sing along and throw trash at the screen.

Where to watch again: Digital rental

Transformers: The Movie (1986)

Pushing the narrative of the ’80s Transformers cartoon series into the near future, the movie’s task was, essentially, to clear the decks of old Transformers to make way for new toy lines. By killing off a whole bunch of beloved robots. From that deeply cynical motive arose something that felt particularly dark to kids of the era, and also oddly emotional. If it seems odd that a Hasbro property would become a cult classic, consider the very weird voice cast that includes Eric Idle, Judd Nelson, Leonard Nimoy, Robert Stack, Scatman Crothers, and Orson Welles in his final film role. The fun, all-over-the-board soundtrack also includes the Weird Al banger “Dare to Be Stupid.”

Shower, or grower? Transformers was released in a crowded summer that included Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Labyrinth, Big Trouble in Little China, The Karate Kid: Part II, Aliens, Stand by Me, and The Fly, among others, and it never had a chance…particularly given that you could watch Transformers the TV show at home, for free. Home video gave it a boost, and eventually steered it toward cult status, an eventual remastering, and even a theatrical rerelease or two.

Where to watch again: Digital rental

Lord of the Rings (2001 – 2003)

Indie splatter director Peter Jackson was an unexpected choice to helm a mega-blockbuster fantasy franchise, but the results speak for themselves. A epic with heart and soul, as well as a refreshing willingness to be a little goofy, the movies became standard viewing for Tolkien nerds and normies alike, with viewers often opting for the extended versions that balloon the saga to over 11 hours.

Showers, or growers? The movies made something like $3 billion at the box office, and each film received a Best Picture Oscar nomination. Return of the King was nominated for 11 Oscars, and made a clean sweep.

Where to watch again: Max, Prime Video

Scream (1996)

Another case where the first movie is taking the place of an entire series, perhaps, but the first Scream remains the best in a rather shockingly consistent horror franchise. Wes Craven’s comeback brought Agatha Christie-style mystery to the slasher subgenre, and delighted in turning horror tropes on their heads.

Shower, or grower? The first Scream looked, at first, like a failure…but only for a weekend. Though the movie didn’t fare well on opening, word-of-mouth spread quickly, and it wound up turning a solid profit thanks to its impressive legs, which kept it in the top 10 for nine weeks. Until the 2018 Halloween remake, it was the highest grossing slasher of all time. Much like the original 1978 Halloween, Scream kicked off a wave of imitators, influencing the genre for better and worse.

Where to watch again: Paramount+

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

Michael Gondry and Charlie Kaufman’s existential sci-fi romance is sometimes sweet, often harrowing, and, ultimately, rewards repeat viewings. In the film, a couple (played by Kate Winslet and Jim Carrey) separately undergo a procedure to erase the other from their memory, with surreal results. The performances are consistently brilliant, and the movie takes an dark route toward something like light.

Shower, or grower? A fourth Oscar nomination for Kate Winslet lead to a fourth loss, but the movie did rather well at the box office…for an “indie” release anyway. Too idiosyncratic to have ever been a blockbuster like Jim Carrey’s broad comedies, it nevertheless showed impressive legs—staying in theaters for 19 weeks—and turned a tidy profit.

Where to watch again: The Criterion Channel

West Side Story (1961)

Directors Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins crafted a film that, certainly for its time, broke the rules of screen musicals, trodding in territory that was somewhat richer than, say, The Music Man, released just a year later. Thought some pretty awful fake accents from white actors (sorry, Natalie Wood) playing Puerto Rican characters are a liability then and now, the movie still packs a tremendous punch.

Shower, or grower? It was the highest-grossing film of 1961, and that year’s Best Picture Oscar winner. Rita Moreno also took home an award, making her the first Latina Oscar winner—and the only one for decades to follow.

Where to watch again: Tubi, The Roku Channel, Hoopla

The Sound of Music (1965)

A second appearance from Julie Andrews on the list, and, likewise, another for director Robert Wise, and for another musical that’s frequently on repeat. Alongside the memorable songs, this one also sees its lead characters outwitting the Nazis, and thus earns a few extra points.

Shower, or grower? In adjusted box office, The Sound of Music is the third most successful film of all time, winning a Best Picture Oscar, as well as one for director Robert Wise. It did quite well from day one, is the point.

Where to watch again: Disney+, Hulu

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

This bittersweet and humane prison drama, starring Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman, was largely ignored upon release. It took the world a while to fall in love with this Stephen King adaptation, but it’s now a fan favorite, and recognized as a top-tier prison movie.

Shower, or grower? Shawshank was a significant disappointment during its initial run, earning around $16 million on a $25 million budget (didn’t help that it was playing against Pulp Fiction and Forrest Gump). After the movie was nominated for Oscars, the studio re-released the film, and it earned enough to make it profitable. It was home video, though, where the movie really earned its legs: in 1995, it was one of the top rented films of the year, and 1997 airings of the movie on cable earned record numbers. For a long time, it was also users’ choice as the best ever over on the Internet Movie Database.

Where to watch again: AMC+

Jaws (1975)

Star Wars refined the summer blockbuster formula, but Stephen Spielberg invented it with this shark-attack thriller that has stood the test of time.

Shower, or grower? Jaws was a major, and surprising success upon initial release, breaking box office records even in its first week. Even several sub-par sequels haven’t dimmed enthusiasm for the movie that made Spielberg a household name.

Where to watch again: Digital rental

Ghostbusters (1984)

This is exactly the kind of mid-budget comedy that they don’t make anymore, or, at least, that don’t become blockbusters when they do. Bill Murray, Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson, Sigourney Weaver, Annie Potts, and Rick Moranis star in the film about a group of wacky eccentric parapsychologists who start a ghost-catching business in NYC. And, really, who ya gonna call? The fandom still runs wild today, with people going wild for anything Ghostbusters-related that doesn’t involve girls.

Shower, or grower? Ghostbusters was the top movie of 1984, beating out Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Gremlins, The Karate Kid, and Beverly Hills Cop.

Where to watch again: Digital rental

Elvira, Mistress of the Dark (1988)

Busty horror host Elvira (Cassandra Peterson) inherits a house in a town full of absolute prudes, eventually teaching middle America a lesson it would never forget. For queer audiences particularly, the movie is an easy rewatch: Elvira, as goofy as she is sex-positive, defies the squares to be herself, and it’s glorious.

Shower, or grower? Oh, a grower for sure. The movie lost money on its release, and helped to bankrupt its studio. Peterson herself was nominated for a worst actress Razzie, which makes clear just how dumb the Razzies are.

Where to watch again? Prime Video, The Roku Channel

Beauty and the Beast (1991)

This era of Disney animation got quite a few mentions, with The Lion King and The Little Mermaid coming on strong as well. Getting the single most mentions, though, is this story of the romance between a bookish peasant and her bear of a kidnapper. Hairy guys, amirite? Come for the endearingly complicated love story, stay for Angela Lansbury as an anthropomorphic teakettle.

Shower, or grower? After a third place opening weekend, Beauty and the Beast took off to become Disney’s highest-grossing animated film to that date. It later became the first animated film to be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, which it lost to Silence of the Lambs. (Abductions were big at the box office that year.)

Where to watch again? Disney+

Blade Runner (1982)

Another strong showing for director Ridley Scott, with his stylish, influential science fiction adaptation going from flop to culte classic to bonafide classic over the years. I suspect that almost any Harrison Ford movie that’s not Regarding Henry gets this kind of love (where are my The Fugitive stans?), but Blade Runner‘s many mysteries and ambiguities (is he or isn’t he?) lend a bit of extra rewatchability.

Shower, or grower? The movie did the kind of middling business and earned the kind of mixed reviews that would have seemed to put it on course to be forgotten. Instead, we got a mega-budget sequel some 35 years later.

Where to watch again? Digital rental

Source link


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *