Friday, January 22, 2021

Non-Fantasy Movies I'd Watch a Second Time


Guys, movies are hard. I'm not even talking about making them. That is, obviously, intensely difficult on a scale I don't think I really comprehend. I'm just talking about actually watching them. For me, at least. The only thing that decreases at a slower rate than the number of books on my TBR is the number of movies on my to-watch list — because, yeah, they're great, but (A) I have to commit to doing just one very static thing for two or more hours, (B) I often have to coordinate those two hours with at least two other people who I want to watch that movie with, and (C) because I'm watching with other people, I can't skim through scenes I find awkward/frustrating/overly dense or overacted like I can in a book. One of those problems on its own is fine. Two is manageable. Three is very difficult (which, for the record, is why I also have trouble staying focused during D&D sessions). So no matter how much I appreciate a truly epic action sequence or a beautifully cinematic moment, and no matter how nice it is to actually see the stories instead of just imagining them, it is quite infrequent that I actually watch movies.

When I do find the time to watch something though, I tend to pick either a film I haven't seen (in a futile effort to decrease my to-watch list a little faster) or a fantasy or speculative fiction favorite. Actually, most of the movies I'll watch not just once but multiple times (other than Christmas movies) are some flavor of speculative fiction, whether that's an animated Disney movie like Tangled or Big Hero Six, a superhero movie like the first Avengers movie, or, of course, an epic like my all-time favorite movie trilogy, The Lord of the Rings. There aren't a lot of non-fantasy, non-speculative fiction films that I'll choose to watch more than once. But there are some, and if you haven't guessed yet, that's what I'm spotlighting today.


Non-Fantasy Movies I'd Watch a Second Time

  1. Romancing the Stone. Yes, this name sounds like the name of a questionable romance movie. That's not what it actually is, though. Romancing the Stone is an Indiana Jones-style exotic adventure movie — except I liked it better than Indiana Jones. Part of that might be that the main character is a writer (who attempts! to use things from her books! in real-life adventures! and actually handles the reality of an adventure a lot better than a lot of fantasy heroines). Part of it might be that the romantic half of the plot uses some of my favorite tropes to excellent effect. But mostly, it's just a very fun and exciting movie with characters who don't actually annoy me particularly much.
  2. Charade. I have concluded that I don't much care for Hitchcock movies. Charade, on the other hand? I like this. It's got a treasure hunt and a mystery. It's got a female lead who can hold her own and a male lead who keeps you guessing but also who I couldn't dislike. It's got twists and drama and fabulous character dynamics. It's got a minimum of angst. And it never drags, which is a problem I have with a lot of movies.
  3. True Grit. My efforts to watch more Westerns haven't worked out very well so far — at this point, I don't have to say why — but True Grit is one of the few that I've watched, and it's certainly my favorite of those few. I suspect it'll remain my favorite Western even after I see more of the genre. Between the main protagonist (who knows what she wants and isn't about to let anyone stop her from getting it), the abundant snark, and the fact that it's a fabulous example of the “grizzled, cynical loner accidentally adopts small naive newbie-adventurer” trope, it really is an excellent movie. I'm not surprised it's a classic.
  4. Secondhand Lions. Speaking of grizzled, cynical loners . . . This one has more secondhand embarrassment embedded in the story than I'd usually enjoy, but it has enough heart that I really don't care. It's a family figuring itself out and remembering how to care — not quite found family, but almost — mixed in with enough mysterious backstory and swashbuckling adventure to satisfy a fantasy lover.
  5. The Music Man. We're rounding off this list with my favorite musical — because I first experienced it and have most often experienced it as a movie, even if it is also a play, and it's probably the non-fantasy movie I've watched the most times. (The Parent Trap, a runner-up for the list, might be close. But it's hard to say for sure.) I blogged about this story a couple years ago and how it's actually influenced my writing and my love of a particular set of tropes. But even if it hadn't played such a role in my storytelling, it would still be one of my favorites.

There were several other movies that almost made it on this list as well, and I feel like I should share a few of those. Where Eagles Dare and The Sting are both thrilling, twisty stories, but I spend far too much time while watching them trying to tell people apart and figure out who's who. (For the record, I'm a little bit face-blind at the best of times; when everyone's on a screen and wearing similar outfits, it's a real struggle to tell people apart.) The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence is both thoughtful and exciting and has excellent character dynamics, but it also frustrates me at times. And My Fair Lady and Singing in the Rain are tied for my second-favorite musical — one I love the plot and character dynamics but want to rewrite so I can fix the ending, and one I get frustrated with certain bits in the beginning and middle but I'm immensely satisfied with the ending.

What non-fantasy movies do you (or would you) keep coming back to? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!


  1. I love True Grit and really need to watch those first two.

    1. You clearly have good movie taste! I hope you enjoy them when you get the chance to see them!


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