Once is Enough: Ten Movies I Do Not Need to See Again
At a gathering of friends a few years ago, our host was proudly showing off his new big screen TV with surround sound. Nobody was paying much attention during the Road Runner cartoons and even less during the Charlie Chaplain movie. At the end of the night when just the inner circle remained, gathered in front of the TV, our host decided to put on a movie for us to watch: Saving Private Ryan, a personal favorite of his. Before I could object, a woman said, “No way. It’s a great movie but I have no intention of ever watching that again.” Saving Private Ryan is a great movie. Big time director, big time stars, five Oscars including Best Director, and six more nominations. But I don’t want to see it again, not that night, not ever.
We all have our own feel for movies – the good ones, the bad ones, and the ones that are just plain ugly. The ugly we can quickly move on from and a few of the bad eventually become guilty pleasures. But what about the ones that even though they are considered to be in the good to great category, we have no intention of ever watching again?
The following list of films that I will personally never watch again are either great films, extremely popular films, or films made by highly acclaimed directors and actors. Some are Academy Award winners, some are part of the most successful franchises in movie history, and some feature our most beloved movie stars and characters. Others are just good films that deserve to be watched again. Just not by me. These are, simply put, ten movies I do not need to see again.
Forrest Gump (Robert Zemeckis, 1994)
Let’s just get this one out of the way right off the top. Stupid is as stupid does and this movie is stupid. Is there anything more difficult to watch than a comedy/romance/tearjerker? Forrest’s gentle sweetness and lovability can only go so far before it becomes sappy and wearisome beyond belief. Nobody, not even a fictitious character, can be so virtuous. Forrest shows us what we can accomplish if we just experience life as it comes. I.Q. of 75? No problem. Racism, political assassination, war, peace, and poverty are all reduced to another small step for Forrest as he works his way through history and into our hearts. By the end we are convinced that all things are better when viewed through the eyes of someone so dim witted.
What we take from Forrest Gump is that all things are possible in this world. Or that ignorance is bliss. Take your pick. The godliness in being a simpleton was not lost on the American public who ate it up. Life really is like a box of chocolates. This one won six Academy Awards.
Saving Private Ryan (Steven Spielberg, 1998)
Yeah, war is hell and all war movies are anti-war. I know that. I get that. But I don’t need to be hit over the head with it. This didn’t just turn me off of war, it turned me off war movies.
What was the point of the first 20 minutes of this film? Was Spielberg trying to show us that he could make us as sick as those poor guys on Omaha Beach were? Well, he succeeded. When the brutality of combat is presented so realistically, we can only hope to make it to the next scene. By the end of the film I felt like one of the survivors. Unless you like feeling uneasy for almost three hours, there is no pleasure or enjoyment in watching this film. It’s enough to make me want to watch a jingoistic John Wayne WWII film. You can’t take your kids to see it, or your wife, your mom, or your dad. Other than that it’s great.
Schindler’s List (Steven Spielberg, 1993)
One of the most emotionally powerful films of all time, Schindler’s List is a way too close close-up of humanity at its worst and best during history’s greatest tragedy – the Holocaust. It shows us things we don’t want to see and takes us to a place we don’t want to be. But that’s part of the reason it’s great. The truth can be ugly and the truth of the Holocaust is horrific whether it is experienced through film, art or literature.
This truly great film is more than difficult to watch; it’s difficult to handle. I saw this on the big screen in 1994 after it had been out for several months, so I knew what I was getting into as did the rest of the audience. At the conclusion everyone walked out in a daze. A young woman was crying uncontrollably, literally being held up by her companion. Everyone should see this film – once.
The Fly (David Cronenberg, 1986)
This has to be one of the most disgusting films ever made. Our star’s metamorphosis into Brundlefly and the failed experiments which result in inside out baboons and monkey-cats are enough to make us want to give up on our dreams of matter transportation. Cronenberg’s films are known for their graphic depiction of physical disfigurement and freakish mutations and this one doesn’t disappoint.
The most interesting thing about this film is the strange mixture of romance with all of this gore. I’m not sure it works but it does add some much needed pathos. And even this makes me queasy as Brundle’s girlfriend, rather than being horrified, is strangely drawn to her fly-man. The end of Brundlefly is a welcome relief. Some say this is Cronenberg’s best film – which is saying a lot. Crash (1996) is one of the few films I’ve walked out on. I should have done the same with this one.
Never Let Me Go (Mark Romanek, 2010)
This intriguing story by Kazuo Ishiguro is beautifully written, photographed, and acted by an excellent young cast. The film is depressing, melancholy, chilling, and overwhelmingly sad. In short, it’s a complete downer. It’s a love story that can’t overcome the horror of its subject: the lives and fate of children who were created, not born, to serve only one purpose. We watch them come of age and get to know them, knowing that they are doomed. Any hope that we have for any redemption is cruelly crushed in the final act.
It is heartbreaking to watch these children become aware of the nature of their existence and then struggle to reconcile its meaning as they grow older. In the end we wonder if there really are souls behind those eyes, or are they merely lambs being led to the slaughter. And, oh, did I mention that it’s depressing? Otherwise it’s a great movie.
The Deer Hunter (Michael Cimino, 1978)
Once again, war is hell, and this one takes us to hell and back and then back to hell again. The subject matter is something so foreign to our sensibilities that we can only wonder what it means. Was this war, this place on Earth, really capable of such unspeakable evil?
This is really two different movies. The first half, with the wedding scene and the deer hunting scenes are a portrayal of blue collar America as seen in a Pennsylvania steel town. The scenes are incredibly genuine but what follows is something so bizarre that we wonder if it could ever really happen. Any depiction of another senseless war is okay with me, but the bizarre account of Russian roulette parlors in Saigon is beyond comprehension. Even after an emotionally draining resolution, this film is not done with us. Back in Pennsylvania what is left of our players and their families gather for an unnecessary and overly melodramatic rendition of “God Bless America.” Whew. I’m glad that’s over with.
The Silence of the Lambs (Jonathan Demme, 1991)
This isn’t even a good slasher film. Instead of horror we get silliness where bizarre and shocking scenes were intended. Hannibal getting wheeled around on a dolly with restraints and a mask made me laugh more than anything else. There is more of Charlie Brown in Lecter than Charlie Manson.
Portraying a serial killer as a highly intelligent psychiatrist makes Hannibal both unbelievable and uninteresting at the same time. What is Demme trying to show us, the dark side of the psychiatric profession? Sitting in a beautifully appointed glass cell, he is supposed to be able to wreck mental havoc on anyone who talks to him. Yeah, right.
Finally, the pathetic scene with Buffalo Bill dancing around in his “woman skin” is repulsive but it’s also laughable. This is exploitation cinema without the fun.
The New World (Terrence Malick, 2005)
Once you get a reputation as being one of the most brilliant filmmakers in Hollywood, anything you do passes for genius. After having made two great movies in the 1970s, Malick has done little worth watching since, yet he continues to garner a loyal following of worshipers.
Malick can make anything boring (including a film about the Battle of Guadalcanal) and proves that great cinematography can’t hide a bad script. This one turns one of America’s iconic myths into something we wish we’d never heard of. Malick’s overly introspective film has no emotion and offers no one we care about while showing us in extremely slow camera movements how nature intended the new world to look. We see water, trees, and fields of grass. Then more water, more trees, and more fields of grass. The despoliation of Eden by the white man is better experienced in a National Geographic film. Pocahontas, showing wisdom beyond her years, makes sense of the whole mess when she tells us, “We are like grass.” Now that clears up a few things.
The Lost World: Jurassic Park (Steven Spielberg, 1997)
Only the dinosaurs are an improvement over the original in this completely unnecessary sequel to the biggest money maker of all time. I guess it was inevitable, but Spielberg has to be sorry he ever got involved in this mess.
Chaos theory expert Ian Malcom is back on the island again and, like the unpredictability of a drop of water on a human hand, this one proves Malcom’s theory: who could have known this movie would be so bad? Jurassic Park (1993) was creative and this one tries to follow the blueprint but when it’s already been done before, what’s the point? The Lost World proves what we already knew: less is more. The good news is that it’s better than JP3.
Reservoir Dogs (Quentin Tarantino, 1992)
This is a truly great film that shows us that a crime drama can be dialog driven, something Tarantino has proven to be better at than anyone. If you can stomach extreme nihilism and brutality, you will see one of the most remarkable directorial debuts of all time. However this one, as they say, is not for the faint of heart.
There is an uneasy sense of panic and paranoia about the film as things go very badly for an incredibly interesting cast of characters played by some of the best actors of our time. The shifting back and forth between pre-heist and post-heist scenes actually heightens, rather than deflates, tension.
So what’s wrong with this film? Its unrelenting intensity and hopelessness kind of wore me down. And if watching Mr. Orange bleed out for ninety minutes wasn’t enough, there’s the Mr. Blonde ear torture scene. I’m glad I saw it, but once is enough.