I was recently asked how many times I’d seen All About Eve, the movie that topped my 10 best of all time list. To my surprise, I realized I’d seen it about 20-25 times since I first saw it in on video in 1987. That didn’t seem like a great number for a movie I held in such high regard. In fact, when I ran through my entire all-time bests list, I discovered the 20-25 times range held true for all of them.
By contrast, I know I’ve seen Richard Pryor’s Lina Wertmueller remake, Which Way Is Up? at least 50 times. In fact, there was a whole slew of movies I know I’ve seen more than All About Eve, Sunset Blvd. and Citizen Kane, to name three movies on my all-time bests list.
Am I the only one in this predicament? While you contemplate the movies you’ve seen the most times, here are 10 movies I’ve seen too many times to count. Except for #1 and #2, these are in no particular order. To reiterate, these are NOT the best movies ever made. These are the movies I think I’ve seen more often than any others. It’s a strange list, to be sure.
10.) The Beastmaster
I may as well start here. If you’re my age, had HBO, and are honest, you’d have to put this one on your most-viewed list. HBO used to have a “no R-rated movies before prime time” rule, so during the day, it was all G and PG-rated fare. There are a lot more non-prime time hours, and a lot more R-rated movies, so HBO had to come up with something to fill the day. That something was The Beastmaster. It aired—I kid you not—18 million times a day. HBO stood for “Honey, Beastmaster’s On!” Had director Don Coscarelli gotten paid for every showing, he would have been able to remake Phantasm with James Cameron’s Titanic budget.
The Beastmaster isn’t even a good movie. It’s terrible. But I was home every day. When I was bored, or killing time before 8 p.m. broadcasts of Personal Best, I could rest assured that I’d see Marc Singer cavorting with his jacked-up animals and Sheena, Queen of the Jungle herself, Tanya Roberts. It evaporated from my mind right after I saw it, so watching it was always like seeing it for the first time.
9.) Pulp Fiction
Had this film been shorter, I would probably have seen it more times. I was obsessed with Tarantino’s wicked little trendsetter. So was Hollywood, which turned out lackluster clone after lackluster clone for the remainder of the ‘90s. I bought the screenplay, the soundtracks, and I have two copies of it on DVD. It topped my list of films of the 1990’s. I can recite more of it than necessary. It’s a great movie, but the valuable brain space Pulp Fiction’s dialogue occupies in my head could be better used for things like remembering where I put my car keys. Old age is a bitch, but at least I’ll have Sam Jackson’s Jheri-curled Jules Winfield to keep me warm during my descent into senility.
8.) To Sir, With Love
I’ve written many times of my unhealthy love of Sidney Poitier’s turn as Sir, the instructor who teaches his British charges dignity, respect, and how to get punched out by 1967’s most bankable star. I’m a sucker for teacher movies anyway, and this is the first one I ever saw. It’s manipulative and dated, and that Lulu song has probably driven more than one person to shoot their radio. But, God help me, I love this movie. And why not? Sidney’s great in it, it’s decently made, and it doesn’t shy away from its racial implications. It wears all the genre clichés on its sleeve, and that’s why it’s so despised. If I had the capacity for movie guilt, I’d call this my guiltiest pleasure. Since I have no shame, I’ll just say that under this gruff exterior beats the heart of the most sentimental fool you’ll ever meet. I’ll even cop to liking that infernal theme song. Click that link, because you know you want to hear it.
7.) White Heat
When I was a kid, I wanted to be Jimmy Cagney. He was one of my Mom’s favorite actors, he could sing and dance, he had a great speaking voice, and most important of all, he shot people. Channel 5 in NYC was enamored of Cagney’s Warner Bros. gangster pictures, including this one. It was a “drop everything and watch” event every time it came on. Here was Cagney at his most unhinged, loving his evil Ma a tad too much, suffering from debilitating migraines and yes, shooting people as viciously as he ever did. How Cagney didn’t manage to get an Oscar nomination for this is incredible; his famous jailhouse freakout over Ma Jarret’s death is one hell of an Oscar clip. And the ending has been ripped off ever since, most memorably in Robert Wise’s racial crime drama Odds Against Tomorrow.
6.) The Quiet Man
On the other side of my childhood TV dial, I could find John Wayne movies galore. I was not a John Wayne fan, but I would do anything for Maureen O’Hara. Here she is, in brash, glorious color, singing and talking tough on the Emerald Isle. Channel 11 always ran this on St. Patrick’s Day, but they weren’t above running it whenever they damn well pleased. It’s my favorite John Ford movie, and by extension, my favorite John Wayne movie too. Oddly enough, this isn’t my favorite Maureen O’Hara movie. That would be Miracle on 34th Street.
5.) Return of the Jedi
The Empire Strikes Back is certainly the best of the Star Wars movies. I’ve seen it plenty of times. (Oddly enough, I’ve only seen Star Wars four times.) Return of the Jedi, however, earns its place here for a few reasons other than it being my most-viewed film in the entire series. It was the Star Wars film I saw the most times theatrically (I went back six times to see it in 1983). It was the one my much younger siblings wanted to watch on VHS. It seemed to be on TV more than the other two films. And what would you expect from a guy who wrote a piece defending the Ewoks? That’s right, those fluffy, pseudo-Russian speaking toys who brought down the entire Empire with, like twigs and shit. If that wasn’t something a poor, broke ghetto kid like me could cheer about, I don’t know what is.
4.) The Blues Brothers
I wrote a huge article on this movie over at Big Media Vandalism, so all I’ll say here is that you couldn’t pull me away from the TV when this was on. (Thanks again, Channel 11!) It was the first R-rated movie I snuck in to see, and when it came out on VHS, I wore out a few copies of it. The best time I had at a movie in 2012 was a midnight screening of this, which marked the first time I’d seen it on the big screen since 1980. I own the DVD, and I’ll never get tired of watching it.
Most people have fond childhood/adolescent memories of that other Bill Murray movie, the one with the gopher and Kenny Loggins. I hate that movie. I prefer Murray’s goofy summer camp movie debut, which is odd because I hated summer camp more than I hated Caddyshack. My summer camp experience was just slightly better than the one those kids had in Friday the 13th, even if I did win a contest by singing a song about reefer. Maybe I watched Meatballs so many times because I wanted Chris Makepeace’s summer camp experience. He got to hang out with Bill Murray, who was funny, played cool pranks on Marty, and brought a kid out of his shell with Meatballs’ mantra “It just doesn’t matter!” Or maybe it was because, like Beastmaster, it was a PG-rated movie HBO repeatedly exploited to fill time. Who knows?
2.) Coming to America
And now for a brief moment of immodesty. I wrote the quintessential piece on this movie. It explains why I’d watch it over and over. Rather than repeat those details, I’ll mention that this movie got the biggest laugh I have ever heard In a movie theater. It involved a Jheri curl activator, a couch, and a scenario so familiar to my fellow ‘hood denizens that it caused a laugh riot at the Hudson Mall Cinemas in Jersey City. You couldn’t hear a line of dialogue from this movie for the next five minutes. People were laughing so hard that I feared the theater would collapse. I was literally on the floor (I sat in the front row of the theater because it was full) and my cousin was on top of me. My stomach hurt for the rest of the day. I can safely say I’ve seen this movie at least 100 times. Which would make it #1 had I never seen…
1.) Blazing Saddles
I saw Blazing Saddles when it came out, which means I didn’t understand 95% of the jokes because I was 4. Over the years, the TV print of Blazing Saddles became so ingrained in my head that when I finally got the VHS tape, I was stunned to find that certain scenes and sound effects were missing. No matter. I’ve seen the theatrical cut an ungodly amount of times over the years. I own 3 copies of it on DVD. I can recite the entire movie by heart, which explains a lot about my sense of humor. Black Bart is my hero, a Black man in a racist White world who manages to get them to begrudgingly respect him. I can identify with that, right down to having a similar experience with an old White lady to whom I said “Good morning.” Black Bart also gets some lovin’ from Lily von Shtupp and has a Sidekick Negro played with great comic timing by Mr. Gene Wilder. When Wilder’s Waco Kid says he received a letter “addressed to the Deputy Spade,” I fell in love with Blazing Saddles. I estimate I’ve seen it over 200 times, and I’ll probably be buried with a copy of it so I can laugh my ass off while burning in Hell.