Everyone has that pile of cherished DVDs at home that they push to the back of the shelf, or bury under copies of Die Hard, Robocop and Braveheart. Those movies you go to in times of distress, movies that can make the manliest of men seem a little too in touch with their sensitive side (i.e. movies that make you cry like a little girl) or their weird sense of humor. You might not quote from them while you’re hitting on the hot girl in your poli-sci class, but here are the top 10 movies you love but won’t admit to loving.
10. What About Bob?
This highly underappreciated Bill Murray comedy from 1991 is one of those movies that makes you laugh every single time, but that most people won’t actually admit is at the top of their favorite comedies list – or at least at the top of their favorite Bill Murray (or Richard Dreyfuss, who's equally hilarious) movies list. It’s an unusual role for Murray, whose character Bob Wiley is sincere and loving and neurotic to a fault. For an actor whose bread and butter were sarcastic, biting, overconfident leading men roles in the ‘80s and ‘90s this was a hilarious change of pace. If anything it makes me wonder why he didn’t go this route more often.
There was a time when Tim Burton had talent to spare, and could make a dark comedy as outlandish as Beetlejuice a really, really funny movie. And here was a very weird cast: Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis and Michael Keaton. Which casting director concocted that line-up? The really weird thing is that this was Keaton’s warm-up for 1989’s Batman. Only Burton could see the guy who played a vile, horny, scamming ghost as a perfect fit for the Dark Knight. And history would of course prove him right. I’m not sure why it’s so in vogue to dismiss Beetlejuice as an inferior flick, but it doesn’t seem to be taken seriously by either Burton fans or cinephiles. Inferior flick it is not. Take that battered DVD of Beetle Juice and put it front and center with Batman and Batman Returns; save your shame for Burton movies that deserve it: Planet of the Apes, Big Fish, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
8. Good Will Hunting
If you ask most guys whether they like this movie they’ll probably cop to it – the first time. It might even be on their top 10 list of Best Dramas About Tough Geniuses with a Soft Spot. But ask a guy a second or third time what he thinks of it and he’ll shrug it off. Why? Because this movie speaks to every young guy who sees himself, deep down, as the wounded, underappreciated genius who has the potential to change the world but is beat down by the vicissitudes of mediocrity and small minds that are unable to appreciate his brilliance. Which is to say, it speaks to just about every guy in college, math and philosophy majors most of all. But no guy will admit that he indulges in this romanticized self-image – especially since most can barely get through intermediate algebra, much less do advanced organic chemistry equations on napkins. So how do you admit to loving Good Will Hunting without owning up to your delusions of smartness? I find emphasizing the quality of the acting and writing, and the fact that it was Matt Damon’s first baby-step toward becoming one of modern cinema’s top 5 badasses – Jason Bourne – helps disguise the fact that I have a very misguided sense of self-worth.
7. When Harry Met Sally
Few men will admit to loving this movie, despite its hilariousness, without subjecting them to what would under the Geneva Conventions count as torture. I don’t remember the last time I was at a poker game and after lighting up our cigars one of the guys off-handedly remarked, “Man, I keep waiting for someone to make another romantic comedy as funny and heart-warming and cute as When Harry Met Sally. I mean, do I have to beg for more Meg Ryan or what?” (For purposes of journalistic integrity I should disclose that I don’t remember the last time I played poker or partook of cigar smoking, either). But the fact of the matter is that this was one of the great Billy Crystal comedies, romantic or not. It was – if I may be so bold – one of the best romantic comedies ever made, setting the mold for future greats, such as Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail. Are those movies the equivalent of kryptonite to most red-blooded American men? Perhaps. But let’s just keep one thing in mind before you go smack talking When Harry Met Sally to your buds, knowing in your heart of hearts that you love it: this rom-com wasn’t directed by some lovey-dovey woman, but by a man, Rob Reiner (who, it should be noted, gave us classics such as Spinal Tap and A Few Good Men). I propose that if you don’t think you could take Reiner in a hamburger eating contest or arm wrestling match, you should either say something nice or say nothing at all.
6. The Goonies
For all of you born in the ‘80s, you’ve probably seen this movie at some point during your childhood and loved it. But now when your friends start listing off awesome movies from the ‘80s – Back to the Future, Aliens, Predator – The Goonies gets mysteriously omitted. Why? Because it stars a bunch of kids? (Including Sean Astin, who would prove that some people get a second chance. And a third. And a fourth…) Because it’s a modern day fairy tale? Because it’s about friendship, instead of violent aliens or time travel? Well, whatever the reasons for this conscious omission, it was and still is one of the oft overlooked gems of the ‘80s, and everyone who grew up watching it knows this. So next time you’re reminiscing with your crew about the coolest movies of the ‘80s, be a man and list this awesome film about a bunch of adventurous boys.
5. The Princess Bride
The title alone causes many hardened men of valor and courage to refrain from mentioning this movie as one of their all-time favorites. And for good reason. The girliness of this title must give all serious men pause. But at some point all good things deserve their due, and after over twenty years of shamefully repressing our love of this film, men everywhere must proclaim, “We’re fans of The Princess Bride and we’re proud!” Yes, it’s a fairy tale, and yes it’s about a man’s adventures as he tries to rescue a princess. But you know what? Back in 1987 Robin Wright Penn was looking pretty dang hot. Not to mention this was one of Mandy Patinkin’s biggest films. How many movies let you name drop Mandy Patinkin? If you want to talk a little garbage then expatiate on how in hell anyone could ever be born with such a ridiculous name (or be born stupid enough to change one’s name to that). But when it comes down to it this movie really does have it all: humor (lots of it – check out a young Christopher Guest and a made-up Billy Crystal), action, adventure and even a bit of romance. And Fred Savage before the miseries of puberty gripped his sad little soul. This film is a great spring board from which to begin countless movie trivia conversations. Do not be so insecure as to not reference it simply because the title makes it sound like an episode of My Little Pony.
4. Garden State
There are many reasons to not admit to your friends and loved ones that you’re a fan of Garden State. Here are a few of them: it stars Zach Braff; it was written by Zach Braff; it was directed by the one and only…Zach Braff. It’s about an emotionally detached young man who must come to terms with his mother’s death and his dependence on mood-altering drugs and the girl who helps him overcome these problems. It’s basically a male fantasy wherein the hero is desired by every woman he meets, including Natalie Portman, and who emotes a thin layer of melancholy that sits atop deep waters of complexity and psychological anguish. Garden State allows guys to see themselves as that guy: the guy who is effortlessly funny, but doesn’t laugh at anyone else’s jokes. The guy who’s profound existential problems keep him from getting entangled in the bullshit everyday problems of his friends. The guy who lands the prettiest girl in his city by being the dullest, most arrogant narcissist in his zip code. And that pretty girl is the only one who has a chance at unlocking the secrets of his heavy-hearted profundity. Yes, most guys enjoy partaking of this fantasy. Should they be embarrassed about it? Maybe. But think of it this way: Braff plays the hurt hero in the world he writes for himself, but he plays the foolish jester in the world written by others. If he can play the buffoon while imagining himself the messiah – why can’t you? Put that copy of Garden State back in plain sight and impress all the girls with how sensitive and distraught you are.
3. Say Anything
Say Anything was one of the last great ‘80s high school movies to come out before the decade was over, it was Cameron Crowe’s directorial debut, and it was the movie that really put John Cusack on the map. That’s a whole lotta awesome for just one movie. Oh, did I mention that Jeremy Piven has a hilarious cameo as a douchebag buddy? Cusack’s role, Lloyd Dobler, has gone down in history as one of the coolest characters in high school movie history. He’s a kick-boxing slacker who holds up boom-boxes in the early hours of the morning to impress his girlfriend. Only in a Cameron Crowe movie can a guy woo his girl with Phil Collins. What’s not to admire about this guy? What’s not to admire about this movie? Yeah, it’s kind of a romantic comedy, and yeah it has a pretty wussy title. But you know what? I’d rather take some guff from my friend(s) after busting out this title in the middle of a conversation than be on the wrong side of history.
2. Sense and Sensibility
I’ll be the first to admit, at first glance there are more things to shame any guy who admits to liking this movie than not. I mean, take a look at the cover. We’ve got a couple of women with really stupid hair cuts, one of whom wears a really stupid hat, and then Hugh Grant, who was kind of the British gigolo of high-class rom-coms in the ‘90s (and, perhaps, to this day – though he’s getting a bit old for his standard “I’m-flustered-yet-haphazardly-charming” act). The title itself is reason to cause alarm in any man: it’s an adaptation of the novel by Jane Austen, and if we didn’t in the ‘90s we definitely know by now that Austen is female territory, cordoned off by hundreds of pages of stuffy prose obsessing over the tepid lustiness of men and women. Only a person living in Victorian England could be flustered by the right use of the word “propriety” or “whomsoever”. But Sense and Sensibility is a finely crafted film with great performances, writing and directing that made many male fans of the Austen oeuvre, too embarrassed though they may be to admit it. The movie is also very funny and features the always excellent but too seldom seen Alan Rickman, as well as Emma Thompson in her prime. If there’s a Jane Austen movie to proudly display in your collection, this is it. Anyone gives you shit just remind them Ang Lee, who directed it, is also the guy who directed Hulk. That should shut ‘em up.
1. Love Actually
Renowned writer Richard Curtis’s directorial debut, 2003’s Love Actually was an instant hit with the ladies. But let’s face it – you liked it too. Yeah, a few of the plot lines were dull and the movie could’ve been improved had it cut two or three of them. Yes, the movie is clearly about love in all of its many English manifestations. For all that it’s also probably the funniest non-slapstick rom-com to have come out this decade, with hilarious turns from Bill Nighy, Martin Freeman (of the UK “The Office” fame), Hugh Grant and others. It’s also got Keira Knightley in all her teenaged glory and a very funny scene involving a kid in an octopus costume. While you might not want to admit to your girlfriend that you actually like this movie (why subject yourself to more British romantic comedy than is necessary?), at least admit it to yourself. And if you really have a pair of balls, admit it to your friends, too. There are enough big-name stars in Love Actually to pull some cinephile snobbery on their asses: Alan Rickman, Liam Neeson, Emma Thompson and Laura Linney all deliver great performances. If all else fails, say you like it because it has Rowan Atkinson in it and you’re a big Black Adder fan. By the time they’ve looked up what the hell Black Adder is you’ll be half-way down your Netflix list, moving First Blood to the top of your queue.