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Movies On TV You Can't Help But Watch

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Much of my exposure to films came from whatever was on the TV. My brother and I would spend a couple of evenings a week at my Granny’s house after school and we would finger through the TV guide and circle films for her to record on VHS. Each week we would then sit down with a Wagon Wheel and watch whatever action-filled gore-fest we had picked the previous week (“Ooh, you two do watch some horrible stuff!”). I would also stumble across films myself, scrolling through the channels late at night. Sometimes I would come across a gem, and that was exactly how I first watched The Shining (1980) and Alien (1979). A lot of the time though it would utter rubbish. Without Netflix the pickings were pretty slim back then so I would have to make do with whatever film ITV2 were showing for the 46th night in a row.

Nowadays we don’t watch an awful lot of telly. If we’re not watching a DVD or Netflix, we will be working through a boxset (the latest Sherlock series was the first ‘live’ TV show I had watched since Peaky Blinders). However, when channel flicking sometimes you can come across something you didn’t realise you needed – I remember one night we were after an easy watch and Role Models (2008) was on: perfect. When you’re scrolling through the TV guide there are certain films I think many would always struggle to switch over from when they come on. It doesn’t matter what point the film is up to because you have already seen it 5 times before. It doesn’t matter if you’re up early the next morning. Now you’re in for the long haul and your only hope is to tear yourself away when the next ad break comes on.

Big (1988)
Forrest Gump (1994)
You’ve Got Mail (1998)
Catch Me If You Can (2002)


When I started putting this list together and these 4 were the first that came to me, I was really worried it was just going to turn in to a Tom Hanks-Fest (so much so that I nearly took out Big, but how could I live with myself?). In truth there are others that could have made this list, but I’ve got vivid memories of struggling to look away from each of these 4 when they have come on telly. There’s definitely something eminently ‘watchable’ and comforting about having Tom Hanks on screen. Charlotte’s Dad isn’t a huge film fan, and we joke that the only way to be sure he will enjoy a movie is to ensure Tom Hanks is cast in it.

Each of these 4 are family favourites, and each feel like a big warm hug. There’s no time you wouldn’t be up for that. For what it’s worth, I’ve always much preferred You’ve Got Mail to it’s parent film, Sleepless in Seattle, and Catch Me If You Can is right up there with those Spielberg films made at his peak. It also came very close to making my list of favourite Christmas films although I think that may have been pushing it.

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The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

I watched Shawshank Redemption for the first time by myself, and I’ll never forget the effect it had on me. Without spoiling anything, I don’t think I’ve ever been more desperate for a fairytale ending than during the penultimate scene on the bus. That is actually where Stephen King’s short story finishes and although the film’s ending is very idyllic, I remember needing that ending. It’s a story about hope, and once you have gone through the multiple hits Andy Dufresne takes in Shawshank State Penitentiary to take that conclusion away would have made a completely different film. It’s a bit of a bog standard go-to answer whenever people are asked what their favourite film is, but that is for very good reason. The Shawshank Redemption is extremely uplifting every time, and definitely hooks you in whenever it’s on.

And Morgan Freeman’s voice is so fit.

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Zoolander (2001)

I missed the recent sequel when it came out, but by all accounts I may have dodged a bullet. Hopefully that doesn’t taint the ever-quotable original Zoolander though. It’s got Ben Stiller and Will Ferrell performing right at their peak, and even Owen Wilson is good. Much like 2004’s Anchorman, it’s the endless ‘quotability’ that keeps you from scrolling past it when it’s on. You know what joke is coming because you reference it at least twice a week with your mates. That doesn’t make you, any less funny though.

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Shaun of the Dead (2004)

Some film genres are getting really tired. Vampire films had their day, and I’ve been bored superhero films (2014’s Captain America: Winter Soldier apart) since the Christopher Nolan Dark Knight trilogy (2005 – 2012). The king of them all though is the zombie movie. I really can’t get excited about a zombie film anymore. How many different things could you possibly do with it? Shaun of the Dead play on that brilliantly though, and although it didn’t catch my imagination first time round, it always sucks me in when it’s on TV. Those repeat viewings have helped me appreciate what is a modern comedy classic and despite it’s jokes at the genre’s expense, arguably one of the best zombie films ever made too. We’re coming to get you Barbara!
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Braveheart (1995)

When I heard that Mel Gibson had directed a World War II epic with intense battle scenes, my mind immediately went to Braveheart. Thankfully Hacksaw Ridge met those high expectations (and then some), which is impressive when you consider how high he had set the bar with his second foray in to directing. Braveheart tells the true(ish) story of William Wallace, and his 13th century fight against the English for Scottish independence. Gibson plays the titular character, Scottish accent(ish) and all, and went on to pick up Best Picture and Best Director Academy Awards for his efforts. As with many of his directorial work it doesn’t shy away from the violence but I never feel it becomes gratuitous. It's scale is incredible, has one of the best speeches in a movie, and that ending.... *top lip wobble*

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How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003)

Remember when Matthew McConaughey fooled is all in to thinking all he had was a pretty face a dreamy southern drawl? A decision to go for more dramatic roles than his 00’s romantic comedy staples, and a clutch of awards later and we’re suddenly all looking very silly. Looking back, we shouldn’t have been entirely surprised (1996’s A Time to Kill is massively underrated), but he hardly made it an easy proposition to imagine. For years McConaughey rolled out mindless rom com after mindless rom com… but in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days there is one that actually stays in the memory. It’s a bit of a guilty pleasure in truth, but McConaughey and Kate Hudson do have great chemistry, and the concept is original and funny: Hudson is writing an article on how to get a man to dump you in 10 days, and McConaughey is bet that he can’t stay with a girl for that long. You know where it’s heading but it says a lot for what goes on before it that the soppy ending doesn’t stick in the throat. This was an ITV2 classic at weekends.

how to lose a guy in 10 days
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The Parent Trap (1998)

Talking of alternate career trajectories: Lindsay Lohan. Remember when she was super cute as the twins in the remake of 1961’s The Parent Trap? Remember when she went on to star in the brilliant Mean Girls (2004)? Yeah, she’s 30 now. Time’s weird. The Parent Trap screams 90s, and maybe it’s that nostalgia that keeps bringing us back for more whenever we find ourselves in front of a TV screen on an early Saturday afternoon.

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The Sixth Sense (1999)

I’m not sure how I feel about M. Night Shyamalan. With The Sixth Sense he created a brilliant horror with an original story, genuine scares, and a twist so entrenched in pop culture that it’s easy to forget just how brilliant it is. I was away at a mate’s one night, and when I got back the family forced me to sit down and watch the VHS they have rented the night before. It absolutely blew my mind. One of the reasons you can rewatch it back whenever it’s on the tellybox is that certain scenes then take on a fresh perspective when you’re aware of it’s twist ending. I don’t think that’s the only reason though, as this is a really well-crafted film that sucks you in with great direction and performances. It’s a difficult one to turn away from, so it’s a shame his work's never come close since. As per my review of Split I thought that was a lot of fun and hopefully a return to form for a director who appeared to have begun to listen to his own hype. His wobbly CV shouldn’t make what is a modern classic any less of a compulsive watch though.

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