I love all kinds of movies – the good, the bad and even the just-good-looking, but there will always be more movies than I can watch, so how to pick which one? Usually, I catch whatever is at the cinema, or maybe a friend recommends a movie. On top of these standard ways of thinning the herd, there are a few specific “genres” that will always get me to watch a film, even though I know it’s probably going to be bad. I say genres, but every entry here can include everything from romance to action, so I guess you can say if a movie contains one of these five things, I’m watching it.
1. U-Boat Movies
Favourite example: Das Boot (1981)
To put it simply: if it’s set on a submarine, I’m there. Or rather, I wish I was, and before you ask, no, it’s not the thought of canned man meat that gets me going (though it helps). There’s just something endlessly fascinating about people engaging in warfare without being able to see each other. Directors have to be clever in order to convey the right sense of tightness without sacrificing our ability to see and understand what’s happening. If there’s a scene where the crew has to keep quiet in order to hide from the enemy, I’m sold. The cramped space probably has something to do with my next entry on this list, but my love for submarine movies is just too high not to give them their own entry. In fact, I’ve yet to find an example I actually dislike. With the next genre, however, there are as many bad examples as good ones.
2. Movies in limited spaces.
Favourite example: in a pinch, I’d have to say Cube (1997)
Movies are almost naturally “big”, in that directors want to go out and show us the action. There’s a reason why every big-screen version of Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House takes the action outside the Helmers’ house, even though the story takes much of its strength from the claustrophobic set. Many screen adaptations of plays will include scenes that were only spoken about on stage, simply because they can now show action that would have been impossible in the theater.
The camera, however, is also very well suited to create claustrophobia, by getting up close. Movies like Conspiracy that take place almost entirely in one room are, to me, fascinating, even if they don’t always come out great (though this one is worth a watch). Many of them have very descriptive titles, like Cube, Phone Booth, Panic Room, Flight Plan, or The Hole. Basically, any movie that manages to be engaging while keeping us in one place, deserves a go in my book. Whether forced into a single elevator (Devil) or with a whole room to ourselves (Twelve Angry Men), I’m helpless to escape.
3. Anything with Christian Mythology.
Favourite example: Dogma (1999)
I know, I know, He doesn’t like it when you refer to it as “mythology” but it’s the best description I can give. Maybe it’s my atheism, or the historian in me, but I just love anything with angels, demons, the Vatican, conspiracy or – as is often the case – all of the above. It might be a fun movie, like Dogma, or it might be a blood-soaked ride to hell, like another favourite, Constantine. I’ve even watched the god-awful Legion. It’s not a good movie, but that won’t stop me watching a sequel if I come across it. I hated The Da Vinci Code almost as much as I hated The Da Vinci Code, the book, but I still watched it, and I went back for more in Angels & Demons, though I was pleasantly surprised by that one. Why this fascination? I suppose it’s the same reason why we love conspiracy theories, and “who really created and/or controls the universe” is the ultimate conspiracy theory.
4. Vampire Movies………
Favourite example: Blade (1998)
If you thought I was gonna say Twilight, rest assured, I am with the haters on this one. But don’t let one bad apple spoil the basket. We should all remember that despite their current reputation, vampires are traditional bad guys, along with zombies and werewolves. More than that: with the introduction of the aristocrat-vampire thanks to the ravings of a mad Irish man, they became much more complex. They’re a species that can suit your every movie need!
Vampires can be pure monsters, like in Vampires (1998) or most of the Buffy buffet. They can be evil and clever like in Bram Stoker’s Dracula (and Dracula 2000), or badass and sometimes good in the Blade trilogy, or Daybreakers. Let’s not forget evil and hilarious, like Dracula: Dead and Loving It. Crucially for the Twilight-hoards, they can be “misunderstood”. I personally prefer evil yet sympathetic, for lack of a better term, like in Interview with the vampire (1994). Say what you want about this movie, but with Tom Cruise’s wild performance and Kirsten Dunst’s to-date best role in my book, Interview does something Twilight just doesn’t get. The vampires can still be actual characters with personalities while drinking people dry. Lestat is awesome not because he’s handsome and drinks your blood, but because he’s a complicated villain. The same goes for Armand, and the rest of the gang in the books (but that’s another discussion).
In the end, all I really want from a vampire movie is a vampire that you have to kill, while ever-so-secretly being curious about what it’s like. That’s what makes a vampire more dangerous than a mere zombie: you actually might like being one.
5. Time Travel (or inter-dimension / instant and unexpected space travel)
Favourite example: Do I even have to say it? Oh, right, I do because it’s Back to the Future III.
Be it killing your grandfather in Futurama, going to a party in a hot tub, or jumping across the universe in a worm hole, I love going back to the past or into the future, or even sideways. I will watch any movie where the protagonist is suddenly thrust into either an unknown or slightly familiar but ultimately unpredictable world. Apart from the classic trilogy, I also have a soft spot for the golden oldie The Time Machine (I even sort of didn’t hate the new version, because Guy Pierce). For instant space travel, my first love was probably the show Farscape. I was also unable to resist seeing John Carter, and I had a great time. Another TV show I watched purely because of its gimmick is Lost In Austin, where a modern girl literally steps into Pride and Prejudice. Sounds like bad fanfiction, right? But it’s actually hilariously sweet. My love for space and time travel knows no bounds, and it’s probably why I have to confess that despite the number of awesome movies, my favourite Star Trek movie will always be First Contact. I can’t help myself!
It’s hard picking a movie to watch if you don’t know much about them. For myself, if you want to get me to watch a movie, just casually mention it includes any one of these five things and I will be there with bells on. I just hope no one ever makes a movie about a time-travelling submarine crewed by vampires on a mission to fight angels and/or demons, because then I probably won’t watch any other movie ever again.