I hereby provide my list of the Ten Hardest Movies to Turn Off Once You Start Watching Them. These may not be the best movies ever made — or they may be. But no matter where you come in on these films — no matter whether you intended to watch them or stumbled on them while lazily channel surfing — they grab you and won’t let you go. Or at least they grab me — which is more important, because I live here and you don’t.
Except for the first one — the most compulsively watchable film ever made — they’re not in any particular order. And any further suggestions will be welcomed and watched.
The black hole of movies. You’re turning the TV channels. You hit The Godfather. Two hours are gone. What the heck happened?
Jimmy Cagney and Edward G. Robinson reincarnated in the form of Al Pacino and Robert de Niro. Michael Mann directed and every actor in it went on to have a career, even a lot of the bit players. I have a copy of this in my small collection but I bury it under the floorboards with a magical sign scrawled on top of it to keep it from jumping up and stealing my life.
3. Ben Hur
Prime Chuck Heston in a story so big even the Son of God only gets a cameo. Recently I came in on the middle of this on Turner Classics while I was working out on the elliptical machine. I lost 35 pounds because I couldn’t stop watching. It was like that scene in movies where the hero gets locked in the sauna.
Still the one. Not just unturnoffable, but probably the greatest movie of all time, too. People who say the greatest movie is Citizen Kane are just lying to sound smart. Also, Gone With the Wind is practically a school on how to deliver a strong female lead without turning her into a make-believe man. What a woman!
Once you start watching, it robs you of your time at gunpoint, then knocks your teeth out and kicks you downstairs, drops on top of you and jabs a fountain pen in your eye. The only movie I can think of that captures the sheer joy of being a violent sociopathic scumbag. Riveting.
Probably the most intelligent entertaining movie ever made. Great acting, great cinematography, great storytelling, and a look into a man’s soul through big, sweeping action. You can almost turn it off during some of the long traveling-through-the-desert sequences… but not quite. And then you’re stuck.
There’s just too much joy to turn it off. It’s like taking an anti-depressant. True hearts triumphing over the movie business — made by the movie business when the movie business actually was the movie business.
8. Road House
Shut up, it’s a great movie! One night when my wife was out of town, I started watching this over dinner and watched the whole thing. Next night, it was on again — I watched it again. Thank heavens my wife came back, or I’d still be sitting there, a skeleton staring at Patrick Swayze ripping bad guys’ throats out. And great writing: “Pain don’t hurt.” “Be nice — until it’s time to not be nice.” One quotable line after another.
A great escape — back from the days when star-studded meant studded with stars. Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough versus the Nazis. How can you turn it off? The British complain that the film Americanizes what was essentially a British operation. Tough luck, Brits. Next time, don’t raise the tax on tea and you’ll be able to make your own great movies.
More than thirty years ago, my wife phoned me while I was watching this to tell me someone had stolen her purse and she was upset and would I come pick her up? I went — but I still bring it up in a sulky, accusatory tone of voice from time to time. She interrupted Liberty Valance. I mean, when you know I’m watching this, keep your eye on your purse, all right?