The Movies We Never Switch Off When They’re on TV

Movies
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One of the downsides of streaming’s cord-cutting era has been how hard it is to stumble on a great movie midway through. You know the joy of which we speak. After a long day at work or school, a moment to unwind turns into discovering one of your favorite flicks, that one you’ve probably seen a hundred times, is playing right now on cable. And wouldn’t you know it, you’ve come across it right at your favorite bit.

Before you know it, you spend the next 90 minutes catching up on a film you already have half committed to memory. It’s a perhaps uniquely dated phenomenon, but a great one for those of us who have entire personal libraries of movies that we may never have seen from beginning to end. I spent years, for example, convinced Con Air started with Nic Cage enunciating, “I said put the bunny back in the box.” Still, some movies invite more repeat viewings than others, and a few are just so good that even if they’re 75 percent over, coming across a frame of them means you’re now pot-committed. Here are the ones too good for us to quit.

My Cousin Vinny (1992)

It was 30 years ago last March when Marisa Tomei won her Oscar for movie-stealing work in My Cousin Vinny. There were dissenters—I hear—at that time about a comedic performance winning a little gold man. But for anyone who grew up with My Cousin Vinny playing seemingly on a loop, those contrarians have long since been discarded to the dustbins of history.

Tomei’s fabulous turn, and fabulously ridiculous Brooklyn accent, not only deserved the award, but deserved being enshrined in the most compulsively watchable “legal thriller” in the canon. See, we must use quotes around the term “thriller,” because even though the movie begins with two young yankees being wrongfully accused of the brutal murder of a stranger—and with nothing less than their lives now being on the line—this is also a movie where Joe Pesci will forever refer to them as “two youts” while wearing an antebellum’s bellboy uniform to court.

A film that trades on stereotypes and stock roles, My Cousin Vinny’s secret is its electric cast, from Pesci as the worst lawyer from the greater five borough area on down to Fred Gwynne as good ol’ boy judge, and Lane Smith as his good ol’ boy attorney. And through it all is, of course, Tomei’s magnificent Mona Lisa Vito whose climactic witness testimony never fails to delight. Wherever you come into the movie, be it for the murder or long after Vinny’s third stint of being held in contempt of court, you know you got to stick with it until you hear Tomei say, “Now I ask ya, would you give a fuck what kind of pants the son of a bitch who shot ya was wearing?!” – David Crow

Goodfellas (1990)

I had to convince David to let Goodfellas be on this list because it was such an obvious choice that it felt like cheating. As our best living director (and may he keep on living forever), Martin Scorsese has helmed many great movies. Which of those movies is his best is up for debate. What’s not up for debate, however, is that Goodfellas is his most entertaining. 

This 1990 classic about Henry Hill’s (Ray Liotta) life in the mafia is among the most compulsively watchable films ever made. Scorsese and his longtime editor Thelma Schoonmaker cut this thing together like a thrilling two and a half hour music video. Goodfellas is quite simply always moving with nary a second wasted. It’s a movie that demands you stop and pay attention whenever you come across it while flipping around your cable package. – Alec Bojalad

School of Rock (2003)

Could you switch off School of Rock, the greatest film ever made about either school or rock? Then you’re a stronger man than I am.

Imagine stumbling on Richard Linklater, Mike White, and Jack Black’s 2003 masterpiece on a dusty TV channel. At what point would you click the remote to leave it behind? When Tomika kills it a cappella on Aretha Franklin’s “Chain of Fools?” When Principal Mullins drinks that beer and listens to Stevie Nicks at the bar? At the parent-teacher conference? When fake teacher Dewey does the work of 20 actual teachers by replacing Zack’s bullied anxiety with creativity-born self-esteem? When he proceeds to do that for EVERY KID IN THAT CLASS AND THEY, IN TURN, DO THE SAME FOR HIM AND THEN THEY ALL COME TOGETHER TO PERFORM ONE GREAT ROCK SHOW THAT COULD CHANGE THE WORLD? Exactly. It’s un-switch-offable.

Quite honestly, if you’re prepared to turn your back on Joan Cusack in any form, then you may be beyond help. Thanks to School of Rock’s end credits gags, the only proper time to turn that movie off is after the Motion Picture Association of America logo has rolled.  – Louisa Mellor

Just My Luck (2006)

There are loads of films I leave on if I come across them on the telly, About a Boy, Bring It On, and The Clash of the Titans are but three. But to me these do not count since I would also deliberately put these films on. Just My Luck however, I would never actively choose to watch. No, the Lindsay Lohan/Chris Pine rom-com featuring the band McFly holds some sort of hypnotic power over me. 

In case, UNLIKE ME, you haven’t seen this film multiple times, it stars Lohan as a preternaturally lucky young woman who basically gets everything she wants until one day she bumps into terminally unlucky Chris Pine, and over a kiss their powers swap. He gets a decent break in life; she learns humility; there is romance; there is McFly. It’s no Freaky Friday. But there it is, on the telly, probably on ITV or Channel 5, and there I am, in for the duration.

Perhaps it reminds me of a simpler time when rom-coms with high concepts were all the rage. This is a film by one of the crowned rom-com kings Donald Petrie, he of Miss Congeniality, How To Lose a Guy in Ten Days, and Mystic Pizza. After Just My Luck though, he somewhat disappeared from the scene with his latest being a 2018 rom-com set in Italy about warring pizza restaurants, starring Emma Roberts and Hayden Christensen. Sounds like someone might have kissed the wrong Chris Pine. – Rosie Fletcher

UHF (1984)

Just a few days earlier, Shout Factory announced a 4K release of UHF and I preordered it immediately. This will be the fourth time I purchased UHF, which I’ve also owned on VHS, DVD, and Blu-Ray. I think I have some sort of compulsion to always buy the newest edition of UHF, the same way I’m compelled to watch the entirety of the movie whenever it’s on. And I think this compulsion stems from the fact that I first saw UHF in the middle of the night during my 12th birthday party, which is the ideal state in which to watch a movie written by and starring Weird Al Yankovic. 

Of course UHF has much to offer beyond nostalgia. The loose plot involves Weird Al’s George Newman inheriting a failing TV station, which he turns around with some wild ideas and the help of odd-ball personalities (portrayed by Fran Drescher, Michael Richards, Billy Barty, and Emo Philips). Really, it’s just an excuse for Weird Al to do with movies and TV what he does with music: create hilarious and wholesome spoofs (give or take some Looney Tunes violence). It was funny when I was 12, it’s funny today, and it will be funny in 30 years when I buy the 1200K holo-edition to watch at my retirement home.  – Joe George

A Few Good Men (1992)

Looking back, it’s pretty remarkable that I (and, I imagine, many others) first saw A Few Good Men by catching it in the middle of one of its many mid-day cable TV screenings. This twisty and complex courtroom thriller doesn’t seem like the type of movie you can just hop into. It is certainly better to watch it from the start to appreciate the scope of its plot and the many little character moments that lead up to its memorable conclusion. 

Yet, the reason why A Few Good Men turned out to be a somewhat unlikely TV hit is the same reason why it’s so hard to resist repeat viewings of it to this day. For all its intricacies, A Few Good Men is also a star-power-fueled journey comprised of incredible individual scenes. If you’re watching the movie for the first time, the allure of that incredible cast spouting that peak Aaron Sorkin dialogue while Rob Reiner guides the action with a reassuring hand will be more than enough to instantly hook you. Years (and many viewings) later, any of those scenes will beckon you back into this expertly crafted thriller where each nearly perfect sequence ultimately serves as the piece of a puzzle that is infinitely satisfying to watch slowly come together. – Matthew Byrd

Shrek (2001)

Somebody once told me the best comedy of the 21st century wasn’t live-action but animated. Enter Shrek, Dreamworks’ hysterical riff on classic fairy tales (and not-so-subtle jab at Disney). The inaugural winner of the Best Animated Feature award at the Oscars has been immortalized through a flurry of sequels, spinoffs, internet memes, and specialty-themed raves. But like Onions before it, Shrek has layers. 

Imagine winding down from a long day on vacation, turning on your hotel’s cable television to hear Rufus Wainwright serenading you with his illustrious cover of “Hallelujah.” If a plethora of irresistible needle-drops aren’t enough to hook you, perhaps a barrage of iconic quotes, ranging from “I like that boulder, that is a nice boulder” to “Do you think he’s compensating for something?” will tickle your fancy. Even if that somehow hasn’t caught your attention, maybe a genuinely compelling romance between swamp-crossed lovers will.

If all those elements don’t have you shouting, “I’m a believer,” we’re unsure what will. Shrek has weathered the test of time, standing tall over two decades later, cementing its status in the pantheon of cartoon classics. It has even outshone the fairy tale features it once parodied. If you’re thinking of switching off Shrek, you should pick up your knives and pitchforks on the way out. – Lee Parham

Which movies do you have to watch every time you catch them on the telly? Tell us in the comments!

The post The Movies We Never Switch Off When They’re on TV appeared first on Den of Geek.

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