The A.V. Club first asked this question more than a decade ago, so it feels long overdue to ask it anew:
What’s your most re-watched movie?
Most of my repeat viewings of movies began when I was pretty young. The Princess Bride, Jurassic Park, It’s A Wonderful Life. I also watched quite a few less kid-appropriate films during that time—mostly from Kubrick, Scorsese, and Hitchcock. Of those, Rear Window still gets the most play. In Rear Window, you get all the meta, male voyeurism of movies like Vertigo (the viewer watching Jimmy Stewart watch some blond woman), along with the jaunty fun of Grace Kelly’s Technicolor wardrobe and Thelma Ritter’s morbid wordplay. There’s also this part where Stewart wrestles with Raymond Burr, who’s trying to toss him out a window, and he makes this sound, this glottal noise that is so unexpected and awkward and funny—something like “Guh-guh-guh-geel”—that I’ll rewatch the whole movie just to get to that scene.
In terms of joke volume, quotability, and structure that produces multiple scenes that would function perfectly well as stand-alone vignettes on a sketch comedy show (imagine that!), Wet Hot American Summer has unmatched replay value. And I’ve put it to the test, watching David Wain and Michael Showalter’s summer-camp romp with my friends at least once a weekend during my freshman year of college. (This followed a senior year of high school in which my friend Ash—whose VHS of the movie enabled our dorm-room ritual—asked me daily, “Have you seen Wet Hot American Summer yet?”) I don’t watch the film with anywhere near the same frequency these days, but I do keep a spot on the calendar reserved for it: Just as I try to watch Dazed And Confused around Memorial Day each year, I make it my beeswax to bid farewell to Camp Firewood (and another summer) every Labor Day.
This has probably been my answer to too many of these things as it is, but fuck it, I’m not going to lie about this: My most re-watched film is The Transformers: The Movie. The first 30 minutes or so are absolute perfection, with a nonstop streak of cool action sequences and badass one-liners. The opening act culminates in Optimus Prime’s extremely melodramatic (yet still shockingly effective) death scene. I’ve stopped there more often than not on my many rewatches, as the rest of the movie spends too much time on boring replacement heroes like Robert Stack’s Ultra Magnus and Judd Nelson’s Hot Rod, but there’s good stuff at the end. Who doesn’t want to see Orson Welles as a planet-sized robot ripping himself apart because the Transformers he ate are trying to kill him? It’s a movie I loved as a kid, then I grew up, and it became a movie I loved ironically, and now I don’t care what anyone thinks so it’s just my favorite movie, period.
I actually hate re-watching movies. As a serious novelty junkie, it’s hard for me to revisit a film unless there’s been at least five years in between viewings, the better to ward off the creeping boredom of knowing what happens next. The only real exceptions to this came, unsurprisingly, from those times in my life when I used to watch way more TV than I do now, where it’s harder to resist the allure of sinking into the rhythms of an old favorite. Back in college, it felt like The Big Lebowski was on in a near-constant rotation on Comedy Central—strangers in the Alps and all—and its nigh-plotless storytelling easily short-circuited my usual resistance to repetition. It doesn’t hurt that Lebowski, along with Raising Arizona, might be the most overtly hopeful movie in the entire Coen oeuvre. Nothing puts a lift in my step like hearing Sam Elliott’s optimistic, almost mystical purr of “The Dude abides,” even if it’s for the 50th time.
This is weird, but I swear I’ve watched Jesus Camp more times than its documentarians, Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, ever thought anyone possibly would. Hell, I’ve watched it more times than Tommy Boy, my go-to rainy day flick. Credit my weird evangelical background, as well as my enduring obsession with all things megachurch, but this 2006 documentary of Christianity’s efforts to weaponize its youth inspires everything from anger to yearning in my lapsed heart. It’s easy to see the film’s punishing sermons, bizarre performance art, and endless sea of crying kids as its own kind of torture porn, but having lived it, there’s a part of me that, I dunno, kind of misses just how much those terrifyingly high stakes made me care so hard about just about everything. That said, the movie, a Bush-era period piece by this point, resonates differently in the Trump era, which has exposed the evangelical sect’s innate hypocrisy even more than G.W. did. I’m not watching it as much as I used to these days, but it’s still the best way to show people what church used to look like for me.
For as long as I can remember, musicals have been my not-so-guilty pleasure, my cure-all for life’s woes. And while there’s a lot so say about Chicago, The Sound Of Music, or Funny Girl, nothing chases away the stormy clouds quite like Singin’ In The Rain. A classic that doesn’t take itself too seriously, SITR makes up for what it lacks in plot with sharp humor, charismatic leads, and musical numbers manufactured to make you smile. In fact, I’ll make the unpopular argument that SITR nails the music to no-music ratio (a.k.a., a whole lot of music). Still, I think its particular draw, for me, stems from my own pluviophilia. Rain makes me happy. Musicals also make me happy. Gene Kelly euphorically singing and dancing in the rain makes me very happy (as do Donald O’Connor running up walls and everything Debbie Reynolds does). It’s pure sunshine from start to end, and for that reason I keep coming back to it whenever I’m feeling under the weather.
Up until a few years ago, my answer would have been, and likely always will remain, either Empire Strikes Back or Raiders Of The Lost Ark. After all, those are the two movies that came free with my character build of a white guy born in the ’70s and were both readily available during the span of my youth, when I had nothing but time and an inclination to rewatch the same handful of beloved films. So I’m surprised that since Mad Max: Fury Road came out in 2015, I’ve actually been able to accelerate it to the front of my list of revisited films. Partly it’s just because Fury Road feels more like a song than a movie. It’s poetic and rhythmic and you can just put it on, enjoy a bit here and there, and move onto something else. It’s also because the movie remains almost singular in the world of action-heavy blockbusters in presenting a rich mythology to the viewer without fussing over momentum-killing exposition and instead trusting the viewer to absorb the details. I’ll watch and rewatch this world of radiated car cultists and think of all the other filmmakers and studios that got scared and swerved away from their own awesome, strange ideas.
There’s probably some close contenders here for my most-watched film. In college the original Mission: Impossible was a go-to on sick days, and in grad school, when I would collapse at night after 12 straight hours of political theory, pop culture adrenaline rushes like The Avengers or the Star Trek reboot got a lot of replay. But it’s probably safe to say they all still number fewer viewings than that classic of bad-good shark attack movies, Deep Blue Sea. Shark movies, as long as the budget is big enough (or the film decent enough), are one of my primary forms of cinematic catnip. Really, any “giant underwater creature killing people” will do, it’s just that sharks so often fit the bill. I first became fascinated with the hilarious we-made-smart-sharks Deep Blue Sea thanks to the always-delightful Samuel Jackson death scene, but quickly found the film fit the bill for just about any situation: Sick, tired, bored, drunk... the movie’s gleeful stupidity works for all occasions. And the clunky turn-of-the-millennium CGI makes for the best shark reaction shots you’ll ever see. More dumb shark movies with big budgets, please! (God help me, I’ll even watch The Meg again, and that thing is a shitshow.)
My response to this question is born of necessity and limitations rather than some lifelong affinity. When I was in college, my off-campus apartment was robbed, leaving me with a boxy old TV-VCR duo and very little media aside from a bunch of burnt CDs—and a Hudson Hawk VHS tape. Laugh all you want at how some jerks with crowbars had more discerning taste than my teenage self, but I’ll have you know that they made off with several “great” movies, too, like Unforgiven and My Cousin Vinny, the latter of which is bound to replace Hudson Hawk at some point now that I own it again. But back then, I couldn’t afford to pay for cable, so on nights in, my roommate and I watched Bruce Willis and Danny Aiello try to swing on a star and battle Sandra Bernhard and Richard E. Grant, all while trying to approximate Andie MacDowell’s dolphin impression. All told, I’ve probably seen Hudson Hawk 20 times—no, the slapstick doesn’t get much better, nor does the Mayflowers’ scheme make any more sense, but the movie has been in my “so bad, it’s fun” file for so long that it’s just never coming out. Well, maybe on my 21st viewing.