Movies Worth Seeing at Least Once

Why Some Movies Worth Seeing at Least Once

These are movies that need to be seen only once to be appreciated, as opposed to "Movies You've Just Got to See a Zillion Times to Truly Comprehend in a Zen Mystical Way".  I just don't think that movies need to be seen more than once to get the basics.  There are rare exceptions.

I guess that there's a "1001 Movies to See Before You Die" list out there. Have you seen this list? It struck me as being a list of every movie that won an Academy Award of any kind as well as movies that were simply nominated for a major Oscar. That summary might be unfair, but that's what it seemed like to me. Maybe more thought than that went into it, but the end result is a less than tailored list of movies. The name should perhaps be changed to "1001 Movies to See in Case There are 12 You Might Like" instead.

And isn't the list well over 1001 now? Tell me you can trust what they're hawking when the title doesn't match the content.

Anyway, that's where this list comes in. It doesn't contain a lot of fluff. Which would you rather see? The Adventures of Priscillia, Queen of the Desert which is on their list but not mine or To Live and Die in L.A. which is not on their list but is on mine? Hrm. Drag queen or counterfeiter? Tough one, huh? If you answered To Live and Die in L.A., then you're in the right place.

Face it, 1001 movies is a lot of hours spent watching. Stick with what you like.

You'll probably wonder if Citizen Kane should be on my list. I mean, it's on everyone else's top ten list. Citizen Kane is an odd one. It's shot in black and white.  The special effects are weak double exposure shots.  It's often dull and plodding. And the characters  aren't all that interesting. But you've got to watch it just to use it as a comparison to other movies, if for no other reason.

And one day, when I watch it again and write it up while it's still fresh in my mind, I'll probably add it to this list. Until then, it's absent but should probably be included.

In my At Least Once category are movies that sometimes started a new genre or added something original to film making or just "got it right".  Often the movies are not entertaining enough to watch more than once.  For example, once I knew who Keyser Soze was, the movie The Usual Suspects was no longer entertaining to me.   I'm glad I watched it once, though. 

Some people might disagree and think that some of the movies on this page are worth seeing a more than once.  Everyone's entitled to an opinion and that's why it says, "At Least Once" rather than "Only Once"

Also, I consider all of the movies on this list "great". Maybe only a little "great", but still great.

For perspective, some of the movies on my "More than Once" list are also "great".  I just like to watch those other ones more than once.

So let's define a movie that's worth seeing at least once.  It needs to have positive answers to most, if not all, of the following questions. Unfortunately, the answers to the questions are all subjective.

  1. Is it well crafted?
  2. Can it qualify as "art"?
  3. Are the actors convincing?
  4. Are there few, if any, continuity gaffs?
  5. Did it have a lot of imitators?
  6. Was it unique in some way at the time of its release?
  7. Would it get boring if viewed more than once?

Here're explanations of the categories...

#1 A movie needs to be presented evenly and all parts need to fit.  For example, the use of a five foot tall giant for Jack and the Beanstalk would not be a good thing.  The use of a firearm by a caveman would not be a good thing.  Wearing Oakleys during the Middle Ages would not be a good thing.

#2 "Art" means different things to different people.  If one movie has been interpreted differently by different people, then this could be an affirmative response to the question.  Not just because the movie resulted in differing interpretations, but because people thought about this movie after it was over.  It made people think and want to discuss it.

#3 Jack Nicolson was the only character in The Departed that did not have a Boston accent.  Despite this, I bought his character.  He was convincing.  On the other hand, Keanu Reeves as a professional quarterback in The Replacements?  Yeah, right.

#4 Continuity errors, especially in a murder mystery, drive me nuts.  Variable damage during car chases also takes me out of the movie.  (How many times can the right front hub cap fly off of a car in a turn?)

#5 This one works both ways, both as a good and a bad trait.  Sometimes the original movie had a good premise but lousy follow-throught. In this case, imitators and potential remakes might be better than the parent. Which one is the "must see"?  It depends, and this list makes the judgement call.

#6 This is a biggie.  Have the plot, approach, direction, or special effects never been used, or only poorly done, prior to this film?  If so, it's a potential candidate.

#7 The word "boring" is also subjective.  The question should really be, "Would I like to see it more than once within a six month period?"

Movies, that for good, bad, or just to notch your movie gun, should be seen at least once.

The List of Movies Worth Seeing at Least Once

Army of Darkness
The Big Blue
The Black Cat
Citizen X
Duck Soup
Escape from New York
A Fatal Glass of Beer
The Fountainhead
The Friends of Eddie Coyle
Hamburger Hill
The Horror of Dracula
Jacob's Ladder
Kelly's Heroes
The Killer
To Live and Die in L.A.
Murder My Sweet
Reservoir Dogs
The Thing From Another World (1951)
The Third Man
2001: A Space Odyssey
The War of the Worlds (1953)