This isn’t meant to be a list of classic films. In fact, many classics would find it difficult to creep on to this list. These films don’t have to have bemusing screenplays, flawless acting, blood-pumping soundtracks, or brilliant cinematography. But they are all linked by that special je ne sais quoi which makes me able to watch them time and time again. That isn’t to say there aren’t plenty of great movies that share this rather dubious accolade. I could and would watch many of them again, but the experience is always be somewhat diminished from that initial viewing.
The films on this list, however, have something special that gives them enduring longevity. It’s not the film itself but the film experience that counts. With the intricacies of the plot laid bare, the twists, turns, shocks and surprises all blunted by experience, what’s left is whatever ethos the film can conjure up. Which is precisely what some cult classics manage so successfully. Umberto Eco once wrote that “Casablanca became a cult movie because it is not one movie. It is “movies”.” ((Umberto Eco, Travels in Hyperreality, (London, 1986), p. 208.)) His point was that the film itself wasn’t any particular gem, but it encapsulated what movie-goers expected to see. The lines were famous before they were spoken, perhaps the most famous line of all being the one that wasn’t even in it (“Play it again, Sam”). But films that are able to do that go on to be remembered long after they’re made, irrespective of their individual merits and the quality of their cinematography, acting or screenplay.
This is simply a list of films that qualify merely on account of springing to mind first when considering what makes a film rewatchable. They’re mostly quite mainstream, with a heavy slant on the action side, no doubt in part because drama is a singularly poor trait for repeat value. But they are foremost a very personal example, and I doubt whether others will share even a portion of their number.