Movies Which Should Be Seen By Everyone

Earlier today, I was pondering the potential of various movies I saw previews for while watching yon Dawn of the Dead "remake" (more on that later). One of these previews was for a movie starring the character who didn't die in Pitch Black (a semi-obscure cheesy horror flick) in some weird pseudo-fantasy type thing. It struck me that the same description pretty much applies to Army of Darkness, so there may be some potential here. Around this point, someone pointed out that he had never seen Army of Darkness, or many other movies which I assume everyone to have seen. So after a brief flaying, he asked me to give him a list of the various cheesy weird sci-fihorrorfantasy movies everyone really should see. So here, in an order that flows, is a nice sized chunk of that list for you all.

The Star Wars Trilogy

Everyone is required by law to watch these movies, so I'll assume you've done so.

The Indiana Jones Trilogy

These too.

Legitimate Horror

A lot of these here movies can be classified as horror, but they dwell decidedly on the silly side of the fence. These first three though are the real deal.

  1. Alien: Take what is quite possibly the most realistic depiction of a future with space travel ever put to film. Now use this as the setting for a horror movie made by someone who actually knows what makes a movie scary. What you get is Alien. No gore really. Nothing that really makes you jump out of your seat. Just tension and fleeting glimpses of a rather unique monster. Of course, it hasn't really aged well. I can't help but wonder how the recent re-release stacks up.
  2. Aliens: OK, so I lied. Aliens isn't a horror movie. Aliens is an action movie. Still though, it's the follow-up to Alien, it is one of the oh-so rare sequels that really warranted making, and it's the source of a staggeringly large number of quotes you hear all the time without realizing what they're from.
  3. The Thing: There are two movies by this name. One is an utterly forgettable movie from the 1950s about some sort of plant man. The other is John Carpenter's The Thing. A decidedly ill-fitting title really. In any case, The Thing is the best horror movie I have ever seen, and I have seen nearly all of them. I don't mean by this that it's the most enjoyable, nor that it's the movie which will make you jump the most. What I mean is, no movie other than this evokes more fear in its audience than this does. Not cheap "I don't want to see the monster eat that guy!" sort of fear either. The good stuff. Paranoia, dread, and a general sense of hopelessness. The special effects are still plenty intense though.
  • Little Shop of Horrors: Speaking of movies sharing their titles with evil plant flicks from the 50s, this is as good a time as any to point this out. The film adaptation of a broadway musical based on a 1950s B-movie about a plant that eats people. With Steve Martin as a sadist/dentist/biker.

Tremors

I feel bad starting off with these, but it's the only way I can really segue properly. Rednecks vs. Dune-style sandworms.

  1. Tremors: I repeat. Rednecks vs. Dune style sandworms. Tremors is one of the most pristenely cheesy movies ever made. We have a little town out in the desert. We have giant precambrian worm monsters eating people. We have a crazy survivalist. We have explosives. Fun simple indulgence.
  2. Tremors 2: Like many monsters do, the worms from Tremors mutate into a far less threatening form. Otherwise, it's pretty much more of the same.
  3. Tremors 3: A third form of our little monstery friends, which makes up for the ones from Tremors 2. Tremors 3 pretty much establishes the fact that they could keep making these movies until the end of time. Of course, it also paved the ground for an ill-fated TV series, but let's not get into that.

George Romero's Zombie Trilogy

These movies are the original movies about zombies. The most accurate. The most thorough. The most required. If you have any interest in zombies whatsoever, you must watch this trilogy. If you have no interest in zombies, watch these anyway and gain some appreciation for the finer things.

Incidently, the Return of the Living Dead movies are NOT related to this trilogy, and zombies neither say, nor eat brains. In fact, seeing how you have to shoot or stab a zombie through the head to drop it, they'd be a self-solving problem if they did.

  1. Night of the Living Dead: Zombies happen. A bunch of people end up holed up in a house debating the questions I ask myself about zombie incidents every day. Where's the best place to hide out? How much of a threat are they, really? To a certain extent, what makes them tick? Etc.
  2. Dawn of the Dead: Starting more or less the day after Night, here we have a frank and honest look at what day to day life is like in the aftermath of society's total collapse due to zombies. Seeing how the creator freely admits that zombies really aren't much of a threat, the end result is surprisingly upbeat and funny.
  3. Day of the Dead: One last look at the world, overrun by zombies. To be quite honest, there isn't a whole lot of merit to this one. It's pretty much just a mouthpiece for the creator to voice some final thoughts on zombie psychology, and to make up for the lousy makeup Dawn had.
  • Dead Alive: The decidedly tongue-in-cheek zombie flick by Peter "Lord of the Rings" Jackson. A dorky guy's mother winds up as a zombie, as do a few other people. The main character, not picking up on their zombie-hood despite one having her head falling off all the time, decides to nurse them back to health. Towards the end of the movie, we get the bizarrely cute little intestines monster, and the official Goriest Scene From Any Movie Ever.

Sam Raimi's Evil Dead Trilogy

Army of Darkness is one of those movies that has entirely too much of a following. It's also a perfect example of Sam Raimi's unique style. One that involves slapstick comedy, blood geysers, and cameras tied to logs. It's also the third in a series.

  1. Evil Dead: Evil Dead is a low-budget horror film by a budding young director and his friends, largely inspired by a no-budget student film/demo piece. Four college students go to study in a cabin in the woods. Surreal Lovecraftian hijinks ensue. To be honest though, between the lack of budget and the unfortunate tree scene, the only real reason to watch this is to contrast ED1 Ash to AoD Ash.
  2. Evil Dead 2: The sequel that feels like a remake. ED2 is a lot like the original, but, you know, good. Highlights include someone being beaten unconscious by their own hand, and of course The Rigging Of The Chainsaw.
  3. Army of Darkness: The real movie. Some guy who lived through two cheesy horror movies full of hideous demonic monsters who beat him up a heck of a lot winds up in the 13th century fending off an army of stop-motion skeletons. 'Nuff said.
  • Idle Hands: Rounding out the zombie portion of our festivities, we have this silly little piece from the oddly prolific Evil Hand sub-genre (See also Evil Dead 2, Parasyte, etc.). The main reason for watching this movie is the pair of zombies therein, and their origins.
  • An American Werewolf in London: I myself have somehow managed to avoid seeing this some how, but it's on the same wavelength as this stuff I'm fairly sure. I'll have to update this blurb later.

Ghostbusters

Shifting gears slightly from zombies to ghosts, we have this pile of movies which many feel should be a trilogy, created by and staring some original SNL folk. Do I really need to summarize these?

  1. Ghostbusters: A bunch of people fresh out of college start up their own business, eventually culminating in a battle with a Sumerian god resembling the Pillsbury Dough Boy.
  2. Ghostbusters 2: I feel kinda bad saying so, but let's be honest. More of the same.
  3. The Frighteners: Peter Jackson's answer to Ghostbusters. It starts out as a nice light-hearted comedy, and then it turns into something else. Good though.
  • Scrooged: This is as good a time as any to list it. A rather good modern take on A Christmas Carol, with Bill Murray and a physically abusive fairy.

Everything by Tim Burton

There are precious few people out there whose names will automatically get me into a movie theater. Scratch that. There's just one. This one.

  1. Beetlejuice: A nice happy couple die. Then some yuppies buy their house. Then they hire someone to chase those yuppies out. Oh yes, and there's the whole Mexican Day of the Dead motif to the whole thing. Incidently, for all intents and purposes, I live in that town. This is a Type A Tim Burton movie. It's fun, there's a point, there's a wonderfully unique visual style. There's a great Danny Elfman soundtrack.
  2. Edward Scissorhands: This is an odd one. Essentially, we have a movie without a plot. We make up for this with very very memorable characters and setting. Basically, we have a movie about someone who.... well, has scissors for hands, and attempts to enter normal society. This is a Type B Tim Burton movie. It's tear-jerky, there's no real point, there's a wonderfully unique visual style. There's a great Danny Elfman soundtrack.
  3. Batman and Batman Returns: These are the rare and sketchy Type C Tim Burton movies. That is to say, these are traditional hollywood type movies someone asked Tim Burton to direct. They don't have the same degree of unique weird flavor as most of his stuff, but they're still quite good.
  4. The Nightmare Before Christmas: A claymation movie we watch in November. The embodiment of Halloween finds himself in a rut, and decides to try his hand at Christmas. Oh yes, and it's a musical.
  5. Sleepy Hollow: A nice little Type A Tim Burton movie inspired by, but not really based on, the story of the same name. I'd go into more detail, but I'd be spoiling it for you.
  6. Big Fish: Here we have a type B. A dying old man recounts the various fantastical stories of his life. It's a bit like The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (see below) set in Louisiana, but it's much more enjoyable if you avoid making that comparison.
  7. Anything I left out, and anything released between the time I wrote this and the time Tim Burton loses his touch: With the exception of Planet of the Apes (which is something of a sour Type C note), watch it. Love it.

Everything by Terry Gilliam

This would be another name that gets me into theaters, if only theaters actually screened this stuff around here.

  1. Erik the Viking: Fun with Norse mythology. It's dark. It's funny. I wouldn't call it a black comedy though.
  2. "The Trilogy": Three movies which, while not really set in the same world, represent childhood, adulthood, and old age.
    1. Time Bandits: A group of dwarves who work for God are sent to repair holes in the space time continuum, but decide to use them to steal things instead. Various weird and funny things ensue.
    2. Brazil: A horridly bleak movie, more or less designed to rip out your soul and stomp on it. Watch it anyway though.
    3. The Adventures of Baron Munchausen: A senile old man has a bunch of wildly imaginative adventures, while being stalked by a very cool looking Death.
  3. 12 Monkies: Proof that you can have a movie about time travel where you can't change the past, you know you can't change the past, but there's still reasons you'd want to go back in time.
  4. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: This you may want to skip, as it's non-fiction. A film adaptation of the autobiography of someone who took entirely too many drugs.
  • Dr. Strangelove: While we're discussing brilliant writer/directors, now's probably a good time to plug Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove. A weird little movie about the cold war.

Recent, Obscure, and Artsy

These here are movies most people might have heard of once or twice, but never really checked out. Shame on them.

  1. Dark City: This is, quite possibly, the best movie ever made. That isn't to say it's necessarily the most enjoyable movie ever made mind you. I'm talking about the creator's skill at the art of making a movie. Direction. Camera work. Set design. Pacing. Score. The subliminal effects of background elements. Subtle nuances you don't catch until the third time you watch it. Everything about this movie is done with great care, and for a specific reason. Technically brilliant. As far as the actual plot of the movie, it's about people forced to live in a surreal timeless city, having their identities swapped around.
  2. City of Lost Children: Weird, French, silly movie with a strange cast of characters, including a brain in a fish tank connected to a phonograph, a trained flea, and six silly clones. Oh yes, and quite a large number of complex chain reactions.
  3. Moulin Rouge: A very bright, cheerful, and insane musical. You really have to see it for yourself, I just can't explain it.

Comedy

Weird sci-fi premises, funny movies.

  1. Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure: Two stupid kids who are destined to benefit mankind are given a time machine to help pass a history exam. Features Ghangis Khan going on a rampage in a sporting goods store, and Napoleon being a huge dork.
  2. Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey: Replace time travel with the afterlife and you get the sequel to Bill and Ted. Evil robot duplicates, good robot duplicates, and a darn funny Death. After this, Ted went on to become a huge star. Bill didn't. Poor Bill.
  3. Groundhog Day: Some guy relives the same day over and over and over and over and over and over...
  • Death to Smoochie: No science fiction or fantasy here, just a black comedy about the seemy underbelly of Children's Television. Hilarious.

So yeah, there you go. A list of movies everyone should see. I suppose you can skip a few if you insist, particularly where I list a whole series, but don't blame me if you miss out on in-jokes.

Oh yes. I promised to mention that Dawn of the Dead "remake" didn't I. OK, here goes. It isn't a remake. It has no relation whatsoever to the actual Dawn of the Dead save that there's a mall, and there's zombies. It has just as much in common with the real Dawn of the Dead as it does with Resident Evil or Army of Darkness. Bearing that in mind, along with the fact that it's rather tasteless at times, and zombies move entirely too fast, it's not bad.


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