My “20 Most Compulsively Watchable” Films List
Ever click on a television station, catch a film in the midst of its runtime, and had been unable to turn it off? The following is my personal list of most addicting films.
It’s a sickness. Indeed, these films comprise a veritable addiction, as opposed to my more respectable list of favorite films ever, which shakes out something like this:
- The “Star Wars” franchise (I cheated, there)
- A Clockwork Orange
- Duck Soup (Marx Brothers)
- City Lights (Chaplin)
- The Exorcist
- 2001: A Space Odyssey
- Bride of Frankenstein
- The “Planet of the Apes” franchise (I cheated again)
The difference between the two lists is I can bypass a few of these as I flip the channels. The films in the preceding list each impact me in different ways, and some, like “Metropolis,” I need to be in the mood for to sit through. But, once I do, I’m riveted.
The below list is of films I simply cannot turn off. These are not films that I claim as the greatest ever made, or even my personal favorites (though some do cross over). These are films I’ve seen dozens (a few, such as “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Superman II,” surely hundreds) of times, that service a life-long cinematic addiction.
No one ever said I was normal.
And so …
To the current list, in descending order …
20) Flash Gordon
An acid trip of a film. I remember being disappointed when I saw it for the first time in 1980, following my first screening of “The Empire Strikes Back,” but damn if this one didn’t grow on me. The costumes and set design are one-of-a-kind, the special effects horribly cheesy, and the acting inconsistent at best. As for Max von Sydow’s Ming? A masterful performance. One for the books.
“Flash Gordon” is surely one of the most compulsively watchable films I’ve ever seen.
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19) Good Will Hunting
As a former special education teacher who worked with gifted but troubled students much like Matt Damon’s Will Hunting, this film has a watchability factor and holds a personal resonance beyond most others.
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18) National Lampoon’s Animal House
The greatest comedy of the last 50 years. Still. John Belushi was solid gold as Bluto Blutarsky, and John Landis’ direction was classic. From the script by Harold Ramis, Douglas Kenney and Chris Miller, “National Lampoon’s Animal House” was a blast. (My other compulsive faves in this raunchy comedic realm are “There’s Something About Mary,” and “American Pie 2.” If you indulge me and consider bios here, then I’ll need to add Howard Stern’s “Private Parts” and the underrated Andy Kaufman biopic, “Man on the Moon,” to the mix.)
17) Enter the Dragon
The legendary Bruce Lee blazed like a meteor with his first U.S. film. Unfortunately, he did not live long enough to see his success.
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I would also add the Bruce Lee (highly-fictionalized) bio: “Dragon: the Bruce Lee Story” starring Jason Scott Lee as another Lee-related film from which I cannot turn away. It’s not a great movie by any stretch, but again, it hits me on a gut level. And that outstanding Randy Edelman score? Memorable enough to use as trailer temp music for years, and an evergreen on my Spotify playlist.
16) Dawn of the Dead (1978), Halloween (1978), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), and “The Purge” franchise
I was into splatter films like no none’s business in the 70s. Still am, admittedly, but today’s related product is a dime a dozen. Nothing beats the above troika for compulsive watchability … except for maybe the gory, B-movie Trumpian “The Purge” satires. No, they are not “splatter films” in their truest sense, but for low-budget influential franchise product, they’re right up there in terms of resonance.
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As I will with my 9th choice, below, I’ll get kickback for this one as backlash against what was once worldwide the highest-grossing film of all time is now an uncool footnote for film aficionados. I don’t care. If it’s on, warts and all, I’m watching.
14) Superman II
I have an article coming soon on this one. The tough production history — replacing the original film’s director, Richard Donner, with the more comedically-inclined Richard Lester —nonetheless led to the small miracle of a smash sequel. In the meantime, what in today’s world beats Non, Ursa and Terence Stamp’s iconic General Zod in a three-on-one vs. Christopher Reeve’s standard-bearer Superman?
13) Boogie Nights
Mark Wahlberg is an actor with whom I could go either way. I didn’t care for him at all in Tim Burton’s remake of “Planet of the Apes.” I thought he was sensational in “Boogie Nights,” however, as rising (no pun intended) porn star Dirk Diggler. And, to me, Burt Reynolds has never been better in a film. His role as porn producer Jack Horner truly is one of the greatest of all Oscar omissions. He was nominated for Best Supporting Actor that year. He should have won.
12) Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
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Speaking of “glaring Oscar omissions,” “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” supplanted the original 1968 film for me as the greatest “Apes” film ever, and Andy Serkis was — again — robbed of even a nomination. His Caesar is one of filmdom’s great creations. Thankfully, this newest “Apes” iteration has ensured the future of this franchise.
I mean, really, who could ever forget that poster? And the film was just as good. An amazing script credited to source material author Peter Benchley and Carl Gottlieb, and terrific acting, led Steven Spielberg’s coming out party to become — until “Star Wars” — the highest-grossing film of all time.
10) Saturday Night Fever
I was born and raised in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, about 15 minutes away from “Saturday Night Fever’s” iconic 2001 Disco. With one exception, no film for me, before or since, better expressed coming of age in that borough as did this one. The exception: Spike Lee’s classic “Do the Right Thing.” The difference for me is most of my neighbors seemed to live Tony Manero’s life.
Save for my old buddy, Curtis. Definitely Mookie.
Regardless, I stayed home. I was the introverted writer who was too shy to even date, much less dance.
9) Forrest Gump
Poor Forrest. Made a fortune — both he and the film — but the cool crowd hated him in favor of Vinny Vega in Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction.” Hell, I loved ’em both. And I’m a fan of both films. Who said you have to like one and not the other?
8) Dead Poets Society
“Oh Captain, my Captain.” One of the few films I’ve ever seen (perhaps Lawrence Kasdan’s “Grand Canyon” and Michael Mann’s “Last of the Mohicans” being two of the scant others) where I am completely mesmerized by the transcendence attained. Peter Weir’s “Dead Poets Society” holds more truths about life and death than most textbooks on the subject.
7) Billy Jack
“Billy Jack” was a phenomenon, becoming one of the highest-grossing indies of all-time. (There’s a big story here; I encourage anyone curious to look this one up.) The character of the same name, played by Tom Laughlin, made his second appearance here after a supporting turn in “Born Losers,” and he became a counter-culture hero unlike any other. “Billy Jack” was followed by “The Trial of Billy Jack” and “Billy Jack Goes to Washington,” and contained one of the greatest theme songs in all of cinema:
6) The Last Dragon
Bruce Leeroy vs. Sho’ Nuff.
‘Nuff said. And, speaking of songs, check what’s inside this article:
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4) The Big Picture
Christopher Guest directed a comedic masterwork that any aspiring filmmaker must watch. Everyone is fair game here, from agents to creative talent, and I have to admit I’ve never identified with a film more.
I moved from New York to Los Angeles 25 years ago. This movie was my life for half of that as I strived to write for television and film. A spot-on, overlooked classic.
3) Carrie (1976)
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The first horror film I saw by myself. I was 12 and I snuck into the theater. The finest adaptation of any Stephen King novel, the denouement nearly destroyed me. I literally jumped from my seat and ran to the back of the theater.
And I was forever addicted. I suddenly needed more horror films in my life.
2) A Clockwork Orange
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- The Empire Strikes Back
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Truth be told, you can insert nearly any “Star Wars” film here. 1977’s original wrecked me for life, but “The Empire Strikes Back” was a whole other … mythological beast. Just an utter masterpiece that remains my most watchable of all films.
So there’s that.
Honorable Mention: The Brady Bunch Movie
Don’t ask. It just cracks me up every time I watch. Consider it my “guilty pleasure” of this list.
I had some fun with this one.
What are your choices for the most addicting films ever?
Thank you for reading.
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