Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A List of Alternates

Yesterday I blogged about Being John Malkovich, which happens to be the 200th movie that I’ve crossed off the list of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die. A couple of pieces of perspective to keep in mind here: first, when I discovered the list a year or two ago, the first thing I did was go through and cross off all the movies I happened to have already seen, which was a decent chunk of a hundred-and-some. So I have not crammed in the viewing of 200 classic movies total since I started hanging with the 1001 Movies Blog Club, I’ve merely crossed the 200 movie threshold of my own lifetime of film watching. And second, please note that I am tracking myself against a list which is more than 1001 movies long, because it includes every film ever featured in the 1001 Movies book series, which releases a revised edition every year that omits the bottom 1 percent or so of the previous list and adds another 10 or 15 new movies. So the all-time Master List stands at about 1103 movies as of now, and I’m still quite a few flicks shy of hitting even 20% of that list.

Still, the 200 movie milestone got me thinking, particularly the relatively small percentage of the Master List those movies represent. I love movies, I really do (he protested too much) so how could my itemized cinephilia tally up so insignificantly?

Part of the answer is that I love bad movies just as much as good ones, and quite possibly moreso. I know I’ve seen more than 200 movies in my lifetime; in fact it feels like quite a bit more. Out of curiosity, I decided to try to list as many movies as I could think of that I have seen and yet do not appear on the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list. I wanted to see if I could come up with at least 200 of those to match the 200 certified classics I’ve notched.

KEY: C = comedy; F = fantasy; H = horror; SF = sci-fi; A = animation; CBA = comic book adaptation; OSH = original superheroes; OCB = other comic book connection; Q = sequel; R = rock and roll; + = seen more than once; ++ = seen LOTS of times

1 300 (CBA)
2 20000 Leagues Under the Sea (SF)
3 40-Year Old Virgin, The (C, ++)
4 Aladdin (A, ++)
5 Alice in Wonderland (A, ++)
6 Aliens (SF, +)
7 Almost Famous (R)
8 Animal House (C)
9 Aristocrats, The (C)
10 Army of Darkness (C, H)
11 Attack of the Clones (SF, Q, +)
12 Austin Powers (C, SF, +)
13 Avengers, The (CBA, Q)
14 Back to School (C, +)
15 Back to the Future Part II (SF, C, Q, +)
16 Back to the Future Part III (SF, C, Q, +)
17 Basic Instinct (+)
18 Batman 66 (CBA)
19 Batman and Robin (CBA, Q)
20 Batman Forever (CBA, Q, +)
21 Batman Returns (CBA, Q, +)
22 Beastmaster, The (F, +)
23 Beauty and the Beast (A, +)
24 Beavis and Butthead Do America (A, C)
25 Beetlejuice (F, C)
26 Better Off Dead (C, ++)
27 Big Daddy (C, +)
28 Big Trouble in Little China (C, F, +)
29 Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure (C, SF)
30 Billy Madison (C)
31 Birdcage, The (C)
32 Black Hole, The (SF)
33 Blade (CBA, H)
34 Blade II (CBA, H, Q)
35 Blade: Trinity (CBA, H, Q)
36 Blues Brothers, The (C)
37 Bordello of Blood (CBA, H)
38 Brain Candy (C)
39 Buffy the Vampire Slayer (F)
40 Bug's Life, A (A)
41 Captain America (CBA)
42 Cars (A, ++)
43 Cars 2 (A, Q, +)
44 Charlotte's Web (A, F)
45 Chasing Amy (C, OCB, ++)

46 Clash of the Titans (F, +)
47 Clerks 2 (C)
48 Cloverfield (H)
49 Coming to America (C, +)
50 Con Air (+)
51 Conan the Barbarian (F, +)
52 Conan the Destroyer (F, +)
53 Copycat
54 Craft, The (F, H)
55 Crow, The (CBA, ++)
56 Daredevil (CBA)
57 Dark Crystal, The (F, +)
58 Darkman (OSH)
59 Dead Again (F, +)
60 Dead Zone, The (SF)
61 Demolition Man (SF, +)
62 Demon Knight (CBA, H, Q)
63 Die Hard 2 (Q)
64 Die Hard with a Vengeance (Q, +)
65 Dogma (C, F, +)
66 Donnie Darko (SF)
67 Dragonslayer (F)
68 Dreamscape (SF, +)
69 Empire Records (C, R, +)
70 Enemy Mine (SF, +)
71 European Vacation (C, +)
72 Excalibur (F)
73 Fantastic Four (CBA)
74 Fantastic Four Rise of the Silver Surfer (CBA, Q)
75 Few Good Men, A (++)
76 Firestarter (SF)
77 Flash Gordon (F, CBA, ++)
78 Fox and the Hound, The (A, +)
79 Ghost Rider (CBA)
80 Goldmember (C, SF, Q)
81 Goonies, The (+)
82 Great Muppet Caper, The (C, Q, +)
83 Green Lantern (CBA)
84 Gremlins (SF, +)
85 Gremlins 2 (SF, C, Q)
86 Hackers (SF)
87 Happy Gilmore (C)
88 Heathers (C)
89 Heavy Metal (A, R)
90 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (R, +)
91 Hellboy (CBA)
92 High Fidelity (C, R, ++)
93 History of the World Part 1 (C, +)
94 Howard the Duck (CBA)
95 Hulk (CBA)
96 Hunchback of Notre Dame, The (A)
97 I'm Gonna Git You Sucka (C)
98 Ice Pirates (C, SF, +)
99 Incredibles, The (A, OSH, ++)

100 Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (SF, Q)
101 Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (F, Q, ++)
102 Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (F, Q, ++)
103 Iron Eagle (+)
104 Iron Man (CBA)
105 Iron Man 2 (CBA, Q)
106 Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (C, OCB)
107 Jerry Maguire (++)
108 Jersey Girl (C)
109 Johnny Dangerously (C, +)
110 Karate Kid, The (+)
111 Karate Kid Part 2, The (Q, +)
112 Kick-Ass (CBA)
113 Krull (F)
114 Labyrinth (F)
115 Last Starfighter, The (SF)
116 League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (CBA)
117 Little Mermaid, The (A, +)
118 Lost Boys, The (F, H)
119 Mallrats (C, OCB, +)
120 Matrix Reloaded (SF, Q)
121 Matrix Revolutions (SF, Q)
122 Midnight Madness (C, +)
123 Misery (H)
124 Mortal Kombat (F)
125 Mr. Holland's Opus (R, +)
126 Muppets Take Manhattan, The (C, Q, ++)
127 Muppets, The (C, Q)
128 Mystery Men (C, CBA)
129 Nightmare on Elm Street 3 (H, Q, +)
130 Pet Sematary (H)
131 Phantom Menace, The (SF, Q, +)
132 Phantom, The (CBA)
133 Point Break (+)
134 Predator (SF)
135 Primal Fear (+)
136 Primer (SF)
137 Ratatouille (A)
138 Real Genius (C, SF, +)
139 Red State (H)
140 Revenge of the Nerds (C)
141 Revenge of the Nerds 2 (C)
142 Revenge of the Sith (SF, Q, +)
143 Ring, the (H)
144 Robin Hood (A, ++)
145 Rocky II (Q)
146 Rocky III (Q, +)
147 Rocky IV (Q)
148 Rollerball (both!) (SF)
149 Secret of Nimh, The (A, SF)
150 Serenity (SF)
151 Shakespeare in Love (+)
152 Sheena (CBA, +)
153 Simpsons, The (A, C)
154 Sky High (OSH)
155 South Park Bigger Longer Uncut (A, C, ++)

156 Species (H, SF)
157 Species 2 (H, SF, Q)
158 Spider-Man (CBA, +)
159 Spider-Man 2 (CBA, Q)
160 Spider-Man 3 (CBA, Q)
161 Spy Who Shagged Me (C, SF, Q)
162 Star Trek (2009) (SF, Q)
163 Star Trek First Contact (SF, Q, ++)
164 Star Trek Generations (SF, Q, +)
165 Star Trek II (SF, Q)
166 Star Trek IV (SF, Q)
167 Star Trek VI (SF, Q, +)
168 Starship Troopers (SF)
169 Street Fighter (SF)
170 Superfuzz (OSH, C, +)
171 Supergirl (CBA)
172 Superman (CBA, +)
173 Superman II (CBA, Q, +)
174 Superman III (CBA, Q, +)
175 Superman IV (CBA, Q)
176 Superman Returns (CBA, Q)
177 Swamp Thing (CBA)
178 Tank Girl (CBA)
179 Team America World Police (C, +)
180 Teen Wolf (C, F, +)
181 Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (SF, Q)
182 Thor (CBA)
183 Time Bandits (C, SF)
184 Titan AE (A, SF)
185 Toy, The (C, +)
186 Trading Places (C, +)
187 Tron (A, SF, +)
188 True Romance (OCB)
189 Twilight Zone, The (F, H, +)
190 Vacation (C)
191 Wanted (CBA)
192 Warriors, The (OCB)
193 Watchmen (CBA)
194 Wayne's World (C, +)
195 Weird Science (C, SF)
196 Willow (F)
197 X-Men (CBA)
198 X-Men: First Class (CBA, Q)
199 X-Men: The Last Stand (CBA, Q)
200 X2: X-Men United (CBA, Q)

And this is the list after I cut it down to match the 200 movie target. I easily got past 250 movies and if I had kept jotting down movies every time I was reminded of one, I would have had even more. (Case in point: yesterday the simple fact that I was reflecting on how much I like John Cusack and John Malkovich triggered memories of Better Off Dead and Con Air, and I added them to the list to replace a couple of others.)

If I were to produce the list of movies off the Master List I’ve seen, out of context, and someone were to use that to gauge my interests, I think they would only get an impression of a certain side of me, eclectic and dedicated to being well-versed in various canons. Golden-oldie Hollywood, Japanese cinema, independent auteur-driven work? I’m interested in those things, but I’m not really into those things.

What am I really into? Comedies, smart and dumb and everything in between. Animated movies, both the ones made for kids of all ages and the ones made just for adults. The blessed geek trifecta of fantasy/sci-fi/horror. Anything and everything remotely related to superhero comic books. Sequels, especially if they fall in any of the above genres, but really since I am a compulsive completist the only prerequisite is that I’ve seen the first movie in the series. Kevin Smith. Stephen King. There’s really no denying how those particular domains hold sway over this extensive sampling of top-of-mind flicks. And as it happens, by and large, those are not the kinds of movie genres that tend to be critically lauded and enshrined in the canon.

Another thing that really jumped out at me is how many of the movies on my non-Must-See rundown are movies that I watched over and over (and over) again when I was a kid. I’ve mentioned many a time before that my parents got cable including HBO when I was fairly young, and my television watching was not exactly monitored; I think my parents were largely content with me staying quiet and out of trouble (and now that I have kids I get that, I just try not to settle for being largely content). Having a “premium” movie channel broadcasting into my house 24 hours a day, on the model of running a set rotation of movies into the ground for a month or so at a stretch, is pretty much all the explanation needed for how I not only came to see certain movies that no one ever recommended to me per se, but how I came to see so many of them each on their own weeks-long loop. There’s a bit of a chicken/egg phenomenon to contend with where those movies are concerned: sometimes I loved them so much that I re-watched them by choice, and sometimes I was bored and re-watched the same movies again and again until I grew to love them.

Originally with this post I was going to call out a few of the subsets of movies, or individual films, on this list to talk about them in more depth. But this monster is already long enough, I reckon. I can always come back and mine this territory for future blog posts, and I almost certainly will. For starters, there are a handful of movies on my list which I could argue do actually belong on a comprehensive inventory of Movies You Must See Before You Die. Not all of them, not most of them, but some. And then there are others which I fully acknowledge offer very little reason why anyone should watch them, ever, but they mean something to me and I can always dig a little deeper into those whys and wherefores. Stay tuned!

(Note: This list differs from its initial content, as I retroactively realized that a handful of movies I originally listed are, in fact, entries from the 1001 Movies series. If you are returning to this list and can no longer find a particular movie, I've deleted it and replaced it with another.)


  1. Really nice post. Definitely a good reminder that 1001 Movies is not, nor shall it ever be, an end-all be-all definitive list. And I really like your comment about how someone simply gauging interest based off the 1001 Movies list would think differently of me than what my actual interests in cinema are.

    Which of the movies from the ones you listed above would you be most motivated to include in 1001 Movies?

    1. Thanks, siochembio! I'm glad this rang true for you, too. I very nearly didn't join up with the 1001 Movies Blog Club because I assumed that everyone already in the club was mainly, if not exclusively, interested in highbrow cinema. I was afraid I'd be the odd man out. It's good to know that other people also consider their personal tastes and the Master List to overlap without being identical.

      As far as the movies above I would lobby hard for, I am working up a post on that subject as we speak! I should put it up some time next week, so stay tuned.