It’s the holiday season and you know what that means—starting with Thanksgiving, Home Alone has been on TV constantly. And it’s fucking awesome.
Christmas/New Years’ time, especially when you’re still in school so you’re home on break, seems to be a period, for many of us, that involves lots of passive, half-asleep viewing of movies on TV. When it’s not football, it’s well-worn, time-tested movies. Think TNT, TBS. Think USA, TCM, AMC. Think FX. But mostly, think of the many movies that somehow always seem to be on television—I mean year-round, not just around the holidays—and even though you would probably not think to put them on your ‘favorite films’ list, be honest, you almost always watch them all the way through. Even when you tune in halfway, and even when you happen to have just watched this fucking movie one fucking month ago and leaving it on will make you feel like a worthless piece of shit, you will stay on that couch. Here are ten I can think of.
10. Legally Blonde
This is so much more than a chick flick. It’s a dick flick, too, because it’s got the hot girl (Reese, or, depending on your taste, Ali Larter), the bitchy girl (Selma), the geek factor (look! Stifler’s mom! Or, for geeks, the gal from the Christopher Guest movies), and the dude’s dude (it’s our boy Luke Wilson! You remember, guys, from Old School!). There’s an exciting subterfuge with concealing this young Ally McBeal-inspired go-getter’s final legal plan, some great courtroom drama, and even the sleazy-professor-coming-onto-his-student subplot you’ve always wanted (is that the dad from Alias?!). Keep it on, get popcorn, get your girlfriend or your sister or your mom or, if none of those are around, at least a pet, to watch with you.
9. The Breakfast Club
John Hughes. The brain. The princess. The athlete. The basket case. The criminal. All that pants-creaming classic 80s music. The high school nostalgia. The “mess with the bull, get the horns” speech. It’s your favorite movie, you just never realized. Or maybe you did, in which case, you probably also love Pretty in Pink, Weird Science, Sixteen Candles, and Risky Business.
8. The ‘Die Hard’ movies.
I realize this is technically three movies (well, now four, but Justin Long was so lame in that last one it doesn’t count), but they all meld together, don’t they? Same basic plot, same guy… but that guy is BRUCE WILLIS. So, yeah, you’ll watch. You’ll stay riveted to your seat. And you’ll be even more riveted if it’s the third movie, Die Hard with a Vengeance, that’s showing, because Sammy L.J. kills it, bringing you the super cheesy, surprisingly good acting in a weird setting in which you would not expect to see good acting. Plus, he’ll probably bust through the TV and shoot you if you change the channel.
I love this movie. But it makes me feel like I’m eighty, because every time it’s on I think, “Hey, I don’t think I’ve seen that…” and then I realize I have. But I also always feel like it’s new, because I’m pretty sure I’ve never sat down and watched it in one sitting, all the way through. I’ve seen chunks or pieces, through which I’ve constructed what seems like a coherent movie. It always seems new to me, and exciting. I also imagine this description fits many of these other movies for a lot of people. But hot damn, if you were a fan of The Sopranos, this movie is like a wet dream. Like thinking you’re a Seth Rogen fan and then discovering Freaks and Geeks (you’re late to the party, it was the best TV show ever made and abandoned, but hey, welcome nonetheless). De Niro. Pesci. James Woods. Frank Vincent. A guy named Dick Smothers. This is a good one to watch with your dad. Or, as the gender-unbiased case may be, your mom, if she’s into gangster shit.
6. The Goonies
Is there anything to write about this movie beyond what we all know, if you were born between 1975 and 1990 (and, c’mon, doesn’t that cover 90% of Thought Catalog readers)? It’s The Goonies. You fucking love it. Yeah, of course you’ll watch again. And again, you’ll say, as if you didn’t just say this last year, ‘Damn, that’s the guy who grew up to play Rudy? And Sam in LOTR?’ Yes, yes, yes, but shut up.
5. American Gangster
How this movie, a legitimate cinema mega-hit (though it suffered a bit from release one year after The Departed, making it look like a copy), so quickly became an always-on-TV-thereby-making-it-look-slightly-shitty movie, I’m not sure. But it’s on all the time, and it’s like five fucking hours long, and you’ll be glued. In the tradition of Public Enemies (Depp or Bale?), in the tradition of Reservoir Dogs (Roth or the others?), in the tradition of Face/Off (Cage or Travolta?) you’ve got two guys, one technically “good,” one “bad,” and you want to root for both. Crowe is just working hard, doin’ his thang, trying to catch himself a drug kingpin, but shit, the other dude is Denzel fucking Washington! The drama unfolds with an outstanding supporting cast and a plot that is not entirely new, but done so well you can’t look away. Real lovers of this movie probably own the DVD, but they’re suckers. Just watch it free on TV.
This was my favorite, favorite movie as a child. My friend and I would beg my mom to rent it for us (we were too stupid, as was she, I guess, to just purchase it on tape) at Blockbuster (wow, that’s how you know this was years ago). We rented it every time we had a sleepover, and we’d quote lines all the time, like, “Deaaaaaagle. Deagle, Deagle, Deagle,” or, “Sorry, Mogwai not for sale.” Then, I hit high school, and we forgot the movie existed until a couple years ago when I realized it’s on TV every Christmas. Because hey, who doesn’t want to watch small, Furby-looking alien things destroy a town and spit white venom stuff at humans?
3. Con Air
Is there any movie easier to like? More watchable, more instantly-understandable? The background and plot so far can be figured out in about one minute even to those who tune in with only a half hour left and have never seen it: Convicts hijack a plane, good boy John Cusack is in charge of the plane, Nic Cage is the Fabio-haired “good guy” convict, and Steve Buscemi is scary as fuck as the Hannibal-esque freak in a muzzle (that scene where he has tea with a little girl, omg). Add in John Malkovich, Ving Rhames, Dave Chappelle (!!) and Danny Trejo and you’ve got a plane full of testosterone, two likable heartthrobs, and more insta-quotes for you and your friends than Snakes on a Plane delivered. (“Put. The bunny. Back in the box.”) Why this thing didn’t win any Oscars is beyond me.
2. Remember the Titans
It’s Denzel fucking Washington, again, but this time he ain’t killing cops or flying to Vietnam to get heroin. No, here he’s just a hard-working high school football coach. A family man. The original Coach Taylor. Add to that gold-standard underdog sports story an inspiring theme about racism, an inspiring scene in which boys bond through singing and rooming together, Ethan Suplee (you know him as the fat guy from Boy Meets World, or the goth friend in The Butterfly Effect) and some very, very awesome classic rock, and you have yourself a yes-I-will-watch-this-movie-for-the-fourteenth-time kind of afternoon.
It may not be fair for this—a legitimately good movie that was nominated for Best Picture and Best Actor—to be included on a list of movies that, otherwise, are mediocre, laughable, or in some particular way embarrassing to like. But god damn, Sideways is on permanent loop. And I always watch. I love Giamatti. I love Thomas Haden Church. I love Sandra Oh. The scene when Virginia Madsen describes why she likes wine, speaking softly about the grapes and the workers—holy shit. The scene where Paulie G. sneaks back into the house where his idiot friend had sex with a random fat waitress and left his wallet—holy shit. And the overall feeling of blended misery/comedy/satisfaction/confusion (cliffhanger ending… sort of), it all makes for a perfect holiday viewing experience. If you watch enough times, or sit through enough of these films, maybe you can develop a nice, solid, Giamatti-sized gut.