What do the following movies have in common? (Take your time, I’ll wait):
- White Christmas
- Singing in the Rain
- When Harry Met Sally
- The Russia House
- The Hunt for Red October
- Dan in Real Life
- Sense and Sensibility (Emma Thompson version)
- Pride and Prejudice (Keira Knightley version)
- The Great Escape
- The Fabulous Baker Boys
- The Sound of Music
- Raiders of the Lost Ark
- The Rocky Horror Picture Show
These are all movies that I have watched over and over and over again. I have no idea how many times I have seen them – at least ten times each – but some of them many more times than that. If I run across one of them on TV I am at least tempted to stop and watch and often will even though I own copies of all of them and pull them out when I have the time.
I know whole scenes of dialog for most of these movies. I know every word to every song and quite a few of the dance routines in the ones that are musicals. Obviously I know how they will turn out, and with only one exception I actually want them to turn out the same way every time. The exception is The Great Escape. I always hope that [spoiler alert!] this time they will all make it out of the camp and to safety. It’s interesting to note that this is one out of only two movies on the list based on a true story.
These are not necessarily the best movies I’ve ever seen. I would not even necessarily classify them as my favorite movies. Some of these movies make me laugh. A lot of them make me cry. A few of them make me do both, but there is something in or about each and every one of these movies that touches me at a level far beyond what words can express. In fact, I relate to them in ways I don’t fully understand.
For example, I saw The Sound of Music at the Ridglea Theater in Fort Worth, Texas, the summer of 1965 when I was nine years old. It was a hot Texas day and I remember it like it was yesterday. My father had died about three months earlier and seeing this movie was the first fun thing my mother, my sister, and I had done together. When the movie was over and we walked out of the dark lobby into the harsh sunlight I somehow knew that eventually, someday, we were going to be okay. Before that day I wasn’t at all sure of that. “Climb Every Mountain” still makes me cry.
I actually saw The Rocky Horror Picture Show when it first came out. This was my sophomore year of college at The University of Texas at Austin – 1975 – and long before it became a midnight cult film. This was even before people were singing along, much less shouting lines at the screen or throwing things. That night my roommate and I had gone to see Lina Wertmuller’s Seven Beauties (um, that one didn’t make this list.) If you haven’t seen it, I don’t think I can explain it. Let’s just say that two 19 year old co-eds were desperate to find something else to focus on. We had seen the posters for Rocky Horror and decided it looked like it would be completely different from Seven Beauties. We went to the next showing that night. It wasn’t a full theater, but it was clear that a lot of people there had already seen the movie. Of course it starts innocuously enough, but by the time we saw sparkly high heels tapping as they descended in an elevator we knew this was something altogether different. Yes, eventually it became a midnight movie. Eventually people started dressing up and shouting and throwing things and even acting it out in front of the screen, but that first night when we had no idea… I’ll never forget it. I have no earthly idea how many times I’ve seen the movie since, and yes, I’ve dressed up. I even went to the first Rocky Horror Birthday party in 1976 featuring a live appearance by Tim Curry who looked out at the auditorium full of costumed fans and didn’t know what to say. But I actually prefer to see the movie in its original form without all the distractions – unless you count me singing every word a distraction.
I’ll save the stories behind the rest of the movies for another time. As I said, I’m not really sure why I love some of them so much. I only know that I want, maybe at some level need, to live through the experience again.