Don’t Touch that Dial
We all love comfort movies. Those movies that we’ve watched countless times and yet still laugh or cry whenever we see them. Even if it’s just playing in the background, you still have every beat committed to memory and you can whisper to yourself every line of dialogue alongside the characters. To us they never get old, and new moments are continuously discovered with each repeated viewing. That’s what makes them so enjoyable. This list is dedicated to a few films that I can’t seem to skip over whenever I catch them on TV. No matter if it’s the first 10 minutes or two-thirds of the way done, these cable classics suck me in like a vacuum of nostalgia.
1. DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story (2004) – dir. Rawson Marshall Thurber
When his small but cozy gym is bought out by the ruthless White Goodman (Ben Stiller) who operates the Globo-Gym across the street, Peter LaFleur must think outside of the box to save his company. Broke and out of ideas, he enlists the help of a couple of employees and a few oddball members of Average Joe’s Gym and enters a dodgeball tournament in Las Vegas with the winner taking home a $50,000 grand prize. DodgeBall is great fun because it has all the plot points of a typical sports movie surrounding the most atypical of sports. To grown adults who enjoy nothing more than throwing red balls at teams of other adults, this movie is the Holy Grail. Ben Stiller is on top of his game and the supporting cast provides hilarious gags to supplement Vaughn’s deadpan humor (Jason Bateman stands out as ESPN 8-The Ocho commentator Pepper Brooks). With cameos from Chuck Norris, Lance Armstrong, and David Hasselhoff, DodgeBall is a sports comedy that has it all, and leaves you feeling warm and fuzzy.
Favorite Line: “There’s no reason we need to be shackled by the strictures of the employee-employer relationship. Unless you’re into that sort of thing. In which case, I got some shackles in the back. I’m just kidding. But seriously, I’ve got ’em.”
2. The Shawshank Redemption (1994) – dir. Frank Darabont
The Shawshank Redemption is the very definition of a timeless classic. Although somewhat forgotten about upon its release (it only grossed $28 million at the box office), Shawshank has found new life on cable television. It helps that Ted Turner, who owns TNT, sold the rights to the film to his own network for a lower than usual price. Because it’s so inexpensive to broadcast, the film is shown on TNT what feels like 10 times a month. That is by no means a complaint. Shawshank stands up with there with the great dramas of our time and tells an inspiring story of hope, salvation, and friendship in the darkest of places.
Favorite Line: “Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”
3. Shaun of the Dead (2004) – dir. Edgar Wright
The first film in the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy, Shaun of the Dead packs plenty of laughs to back up its bloody horror. Edgar Wright is the master of action comedy, and his skills are on full display in his first mainstream outing. On top of a rocky relationship with his father, tension with his brother, a crumbling romance with his girlfriend, and directionless position at his sales job, Shaun wakes up from a hangover to discover a zombie apocalypse has taken over the city. Hilarity ensues from here as Shaun and his small circle of cohorts fight to survive through this nightmare. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost have effortless chemistry on every project they work on together and Wright fills up the screen with too many classic horror homages to count. Shaun of the Dead is fun for the whole family, living and undead alike.
Favorite Line: “Well, your mum rang about you going around tomorrow night, and then Liz rang about the two of you eating out tonight, and then your mum rang back to see if I wanted to eat her out tonight.”
4. Gladiator (2000) – dir. Ridley Scott
The movie that made Russell Crowe a household name. Gladiator tells the story of fallen Spanish-Roman General Maximus who, after the slaughter of his family, is sold into slavery and vows vengeance on the man he holds responsible – the corrupt Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix). Ridley Scott tackles projects as diverse as anyone working in Hollywood, and his influence cuts across varies genres. Gladiator is testament to his legacy, as it is the quintessential gladiator movie. Strong battle sequences, poetic dialogue, and beautiful vistas of ancient Rome make Gladiator a silver and small screen staple.
Favorite Line: “Today I saw a slave become more powerful than the Emperor of Rome.”
5. Training Day (2001) – dir. Antoine Fuqua
Good cop vs. bad cop. Officer vs. Detective. White vs. Black. All of these dynamics are at play in Training Day. Indeed, new recruit Jake Hoyt learns many lessons from Alonzo on this day, who isn’t afraid to bend the rule of law in application of his own brand of street justice. Penned by David Ayer (who frequently chronicles life on the streets of Los Angeles), this hard hitting look at gang violence and the blue wall of silence that dominates police culture feels more timely than ever. While it’s more known these days for the role that won Denzel his “Best Actor” Oscar, Training Day belongs just as much to Ethan Hawke who infuses the story with just the right amount of naiveté.
Favorite Line: “You don’t know any stories? Okay, I’ll tell you a story. This is a newspaper. It’s 90 percent bullshit, but it’s entertaining. That’s why I read it, because it entertains me. You won’t let me read it, so you entertain me with your bullshit. Tell me a story, right now.”
6. True Lies (1994) – dir. James Cameron
Before he was a governor, Arnold was fighting terrorists like it was his day job. In True Lies, it happens to be just that. Schwarzenegger plays secret agent Harry Tasker who is charged with going undercover and tracking the sale of nuclear warheads to an evil group known as the Crimson Jihad. However that’s not the only battle he’s fighting. His wife Helen (Jamie Lee Curtis) is less than satisfied with her role as a domesticated housewife and she seeks out a little sense of danger by carrying out her own secret fantasies. It’s now Harry’s job to protect the country from hellbent terrorists while also utilizing his skills to save his marriage. Throughout the late 80s and early 90s, Arnold was kicking all sorts of butt, and his collaborations with James Cameron have always been particularly fruitful (they made one of the finest sequels in movie history with 1991’s T2). True Lies continued that winning streak.
Favorite Line: “So your life’s in the crapper. So you wife is banging a used car salesman – it’s humiliating, I know. But goddammit, Harry, take it like a man!”
7. Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008) – dir. Nicholas Stoller
Forgetting Sarah Marshall is the perfect comfort movie. It’s funny, it’s sad, it’s sweet, it’s heartfelt, and it never overstays its welcome. Jason Segel plays the lovable loser Peter Bretter, who is just coming off of an unexpected breakup with his TV actress girlfriend Sarah Marshall. Unable to be productive at his composing job given the sudden shock, he travels to Hawaii for what he thinks will be a peaceful getaway. Unfortunately for him, Sarah and her new rock star boyfriend Aldous Snow (Russell Brand) are staying at the same resort. FSM has the perfect balance of romance and comedy, supplemented by the calming Hawaiian landscape. Each member of the principal cast holds their own and the supporting bits from Jonah Hill, Paul Rudd, and Bill Hader all help FSM to go down smooth every time.
Favorite Line: “I mean, I’ve heard that women do fake orgasms, but I’ve never seen it… It really, deeply upset me.”
8. Starship Troopers (1997) – dir. Paul Verhoeven
Imagine a world in which we are not alone. Now imagine if the inhabitants we share the galaxy with are gigantic killer bugs determined to wipe out the human race. Such is the reality in the world of Starship Troopers. Paul Verhoeven’s futuristic military adaptation of the popular sci-fi novel is one of the most memorable productions before the turn of the century. It starts off as an apparently xenophobic propaganda piece but quickly turns into a heavy satire on the nature of soldiers and jingoistic military leadership. This film is equal parts brain and brawn; it has a lot more going on under the hood than the obvious blood splattering and limb tearing you see on screen. But man are those bug vs. human battles brutal. Be warned: this movie is not for the weak stomached.
Favorite Line: “Funny how they always want to be friends after they rip your guts out.”
9. Back to the Future (1985) – dir. Robert Zemeckis
Last but certainly not least, we have the ultimate in re-watchability. Back to the Future is as close to a complete viewing experience as films come. An excellent script, pitch-perfect casting (it’s hard to believe someone other than Fox was originally tapped to play Marty), and masterful pacing all make for an enjoyable trip through time and space. Robert Zemeckis is no stranger to easily re-watchable movies (having made such classics as Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Forrest Gump). Even though it spawned two more sequels to cap off a beloved trilogy, the first installment in the franchise will always remain near and dear in the hearts of moviegoers everywhere.
Favorite Line: “Last night, Darth Vader came down from Planet Vulcan and told me that if I didn’t take Lorraine out, that he’d melt my brain!”
What are your thoughts on this list? Leave a comment and share some of your favorite re-watchable movies below!