Some movies are meant not only to be watched but to be experienced. The significant difference between watching and experiencing a movie is what forms the basis of this list. Many a times we miss out on the very little things that shape up the beauty of a film on its first viewing. And as a lifelong cinephile, the films that moved me and made me think the most are the films that I had to revisit again and again from time to time, which is why I am excited to present this list of movies that grow on you with multiple viewings.
10. Birdman (2014)
A surprising entry to begin the list. I say surprising because, apparently, ‘Birdman’ is an easy film to like on its first viewing, not to understand. The simplicity of its plot can be deceptive. And apart from the stunning long shots, what makes ‘Birdman’ a work of genius is the kind of themes that it deals with. The film daringly resists being just another enjoyable work of comedy and presents us, viewers, with a lot of questions which can easily be missed out on its first viewing. A man’s desire to be an artist clashes with his past when the ghost of the superhero character that he played during his heydays, comes to haunt him. Riggan Thomson is a man torn up between the desire to be appreciated for his artistic abilities and the want to just elicit attention from people who seem to have forgotten him. The film raises questions about our modern society’s idea of fame, stardom and the dominance of technology.
What does an artist expect from his craft? True happiness of the soul gained from complete self-expression? Or the undying want to be looked at by people around you? Can an artist just be born out of the dire need to vent out one’s own frustration and anger? Riggan Thomson is a self-centered and self obsessed man who lived in his own world throughout and couldn’t express his real self behind the mask of the Birdman that forged his identity as a person. He could never come to terms with accepting the fact that Birdman was his alter ago or the other way around, maybe. Who knows! The stunning climax, that popped our eyeballs out, will only be discussed, interpreted for the many years to come.
9. Certified Copy (2010)
Abbas Kiarostami’s 2010 European classic is a film that leaves you with mixed feelings on its first viewing due to the sheer experimental nature of the film. What seems to be a really simple plot is masterfully turned into an unforgettable tale of lost romance between a French woman and an English man by Kiarostami. A romance that got lost somewhere in the cafes, the beautiful streets of Tuscany or in their marriage. The couple meet as strangers at a promotional event and begin to wander through the lanes and sidewalks of the city as if they just met before throwing away their charades when they realize that their lost souls were once entangled with each other .
Kiarostami’s ability to hook up the audiences with striking and deep conversations is beautifully displayed in the film as we see the two lead characters rediscover themselves through the memories they lived and places they visited in the past. And like other great filmmakers, the master Iranian filmmaker doesn’t try to feed us with obvious answers here rather letting the story move on in our hearts even long after the credits have rolled out.
8. Memento (2000)
‘Memento’ is without a doubt Christopher Nolan’s most powerful work till date. Apart from being a mind bending neo-noir thriller, the film brilliantly manages to convey the emotions of guilt, revenge and paranoia by taking us into the head of the protagonist. The film’s famous screenplay that follows a reverse chronology structure might be a little too difficult to follow in its first viewing but only gets better with repeated viewings. Nolan leaves us with a lot of clues that is almost impossible to decipher on its first watch. The “climax” (Technically, the beginning) of the film leaves us viewers with utter shock and total disbelief. Nolan gives freedom to the audience to settle with their own conclusions. Whom should we believe? Do our minds have the strength to accept the truth? Or should we live our whole life as a lie, making up our own truth?
7. Fight Club (1999)
“The First rule of Fight Club is that you don’t talk about Fight Club…..It’s only after we’ve lost everything we are free to do anything….” Oh boy! Not a single day goes by without seeing at least a post or a quote from this masterpiece of a film. Like ‘Birdman’, ‘Fight Club’ too has a plot-line that is not so difficult to follow. Ambitiously made by the maverick David Fincher, the film polarized critics 18 years back at its release since it was too violent and disturbing for many to stomach. But like many great films, ‘Fight Club’ acquired a cult status over the years and is now regarded as one of the most iconic American movies ever made. It is also one of those rare films that give you a completely different perspective on its second viewing.
A raw portrayal of a disturbed man’s psyche, Brad Pitt’s Tyler Durden inspires us to rebel against the forces that dominate our lives in modern society. Rebel against our jobs….Rebel against technology…Rebel against the things that turn us into persons who we are not. Some of the dialogues in the film resonate even more today than they did in 1999 as we’ve all “become our jobs…..Working jobs we hate so that we can buy shit we don’t’ need.” Amidst all the blockbusters and money-making mania going on in Hollywood, I do not see a film coming close to the audacity, madness and eccentricity of ‘Fight Club’ anytime in the near future.
6. Mulholland Drive (2001)
Probably, the easiest pick for the list. ‘Mulholland Drive’ is a film that is never quite understood even with multiple viewings. And maybe people have tried too hard to understand the film when it actually wasn’t meant to be understood. David Lynch was a painter long before he became a filmmaker and this could be the reason why the entire film feels like one beautiful painting of the human subconscious. The overall tone of the film itself is more frightening than any jump scare in a horror movie. There is something that is so deeply terrifying in the film that it feels like David Lynch has hypnotized our minds and ripped apart the deepest fears of our subconscious and presented it in the form of cinema. Like some of the characters in the film, many of the scenes feel like a dream which we might have seen but have forgotten. Maybe the entire plot of the film was one big nightmare. I think trying to make sense or bringing out one simple conclusion for the film will only take away its viewing experience.
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5. There Will Be Blood (2007)
I might not have been able to live with the guilt had I excluded ‘There Will Be Blood’ from a list of movies that grow on you with repeated viewings because that is exactly what this film does — the movie grows on you the more and more number of times you watch it. Maybe it’s the roaring performance of Daniel Day-Lewis as the sociopathic oil dweller who generally hates “people”; maybe it’s Paul Thomas Anderson’s unique style and approach to his filmmaking; or maybe it’s the stunning visuals of the oil fields or the edgy background score that keeps us on the verge. ‘There Will Be Blood’ is without a doubt one of the greatest films of the 21st century.
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4. No Country for Old Men (2007)
Like I said, the list contains movies that “grow” on you with multiple viewings, not films that “require” multiple viewings. Coen Brothers’ 21st Century masterpiece is a classic tale of greed, violence and deception. The film, apart from giving us an iconic villain in Javier Bardem’s Anton Chigurh, also makes us question the morality of our own psyche. A more traditional Western Film would have had an ending where the hero triumphs over the villain in a gun fight. But ‘No Country for Old Men’ refuses to present us with a sugar-coated, happy ending, leaving us viewers in state of shock and depression. People like Chigurh will always exist, for, all evil has just one face. Chigurh does what he should do. And he does that with absolutely no emotion or feeling. Violence, no matter how futile it appears to be, will always surround the good people and before they know they have grown old, weak and helpless.
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3. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
This science fiction romantic comedy stole our hearts 12 years back, and still remains an eternal classic. Charlie Kaufman’s crazy screenplay that examines and autopsies the human mind like no other film, tells us the epic love story between Joel and Clementine. So many images come to mind when I think of this film. The couple’s first meeting on a train, laying down in the snows watching stars, Kate Winslet’s beautifully colored hairs and so on. The film beautifully manages to capture some of the innermost human desires. We, human beings, are such suckers for the past. We often tend to embrace our good memories even though we fail to change the past. And that, I think, is the central focus of the story. Can two people erase the bad memories of their past and fall in love again as different people?
2. American Beauty (1999)
I don’t know but this could be a very personal choice. I remember watching ‘American Beauty’ for the first time and failing to find anything particularly great about the film. Years later when I revisited the film, I was blown away by the sheer depth and beauty of the film’s characters and the themes. Maybe I became more matured as a person and as a cinephile to appreciate the little things that make up a great film. The plastic bag scene has to be one of the most magical moments ever captured in cinema. We could empathize with almost every character in the film despite their dark sides.
The film sheds light on the fact that how people have forgotten to live their lives and have failed to recognize their existence in their own mundane worlds. The emotional distance between the characters shown in the movie is so convincingly written, directed and acted that we could not help but feel for each and every one of them for their plight. Maybe they had time to mend and regain their broken relationships and lost time or they have accepted the truth that they could never be their former selves again.
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1. 2001 : A Space Odyssey (1967)
And here we go. The one film that had to be on this list. There is nothing about this film that hasn’t been talked about or discussed. It grows on you like no other film and thus makes it superior to the rest in the list. This was the first Stanley Kubrick film that I had ever seen. And within seconds into that opening scene which shows the evolution of man from guerillas, I realized he was an artist. The haunting classical soundtrack of the film accompanied with some of the most sensational imagery ever in cinema makes the film more like a meditative experience. Every viewing of the film gives another perspective, meaning and freshness. ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ is one of those very rare films that has the power to touch, reflect and change the human mind’s thought process and reprogram our sub conscious.
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