Does a movie have to be re-watchable to be great?

I saw a comment on the “Oscars: 2015 Best Picture nominees - ongoing tracking thread of which of the films you have seen” thread and wanted to reply to that comment, but didn’t want to hijack it, and thought the subject deserved a thread of it’s own.

There was this comment concerning how a film finished on a “Best Picture” list: “I thought Spotlight, The Big Short and Bridge of Spies, despite the great people involved, were all serviceable but readily forgotten. I wouldn’t bother re-watching any of them.”

I’ve read many comments similar to this one, judging how great a film is, just by how re-watchable it is.

Really? Does the quality of greatness for a movie really just mean that you can watch it again and again?

"Schindler’s List" for example. It’s direction, the performances, some very good scenes all add up to a great film. But it’s subject matter, the dire situations, don’t generally mean you could pop it in the DVD player and re-watch it at the drop of a hat, unlike a fun comedy you might like or a campy monster movie. So because it’s not easily viewable again, does it make it any less good?

Imo, yes.

IMHO, no.

I will never watch Shindler’s List again. Nor Apocolypse Now or The Killing Fields. Yet these are great films. I also watch Independence Day every chance I get. Nobocfy would rank it as one of the greatest movies ever. Rewatchability is a ridiculous mark of a great movie. Unless you’re ranking movies great to watch over and over again.

In my case I have different usages for “re-watchable” and “great.” Many movies are both and are usually worth buying (or at least renting again). But many are “great” but unpleasant to re-watch.

I agree with the OP about "Schindler’s List" and would like to see a listing we could come up with of similar movies. But I don’t wish to hijack this thread for such.

And there are probably a few more terms we could include in the “must watch” category besides “great.” One I will mention in that category (for me) is Thunder Road (1958) which came at just the right time to be one of my all-time favorites although I would never dare refer to it as “great.” Just some bodacious Robert Mitchum shenanigans! :smiley:

No, but there are different kinds of great. There’s “once is enough” great and “love to re-watch it every few years” great and “I’ll put it on any time because it’s comforting” great.

The one movie that really confuses me is Pulp Fiction. I like it slightly less every time I watch it.

There are some movies that are great, but so emotionally draining, you don’t care to see them again.

Then there are some movies that are fun, like a ride at the amusement park, that you do want to ride that roller-coaster over and over again.

I’d say the truly great works of art, the one’s that change a person’s world view or strikes at their emotional core, are NOT the type of movies one wants to see over and over again.

Nope. Shindlers List is amazing but I don’t know if I could watch it again.

There are different meanings in saying a movie is or is not re-watchable. Just because you may say you would not want to re-watch a film, does not have to mean you don’t think the film is high quality. I have seen films that I thought were great and had a real emotional punch, but were so harrowing that I don’t really want to see them again - “Dancer in the Dark” comes to mind. I’ve also seen many films that I thought were fine, they may have been enjoyable to see, but if I passed by them showing on TV I wouldn’t feel the need to watch them again. “Spotlight” is actually a great example of that. It’s a good film, but eh, I could be watching something I haven’t already seen. “Mad Max,” on the other hand, is a fun movie that I could (and already have) watched several times.

Don’t want to watch No Country For Old Men again. Once was enough. In cases like this, the fact that it hits so hard is a lot of what makes it great.

A documentary that fits this mold is one on carnies I watched 5-10 years ago. Can never find it on IMDb. Interesting but incredibly depressing. These are damaged people. Really great, never want to see it again.

I agree that being re-watchable is not necessary for a great movie.

Some movies have a great twist (Usual Suspects), which is never quite the same the second time.
(Mind you, I did enjoy re-watching the Usual Suspects once to see how cleverly the twist was prepared!)

Some movies are just to heart-breaking to see again (To Kill a Mockingbird had that effect on me.)

I mainly watch movies more than once either to relax or cheer myself up. :slight_smile:

Good question, actually. My first instinct would have been “yes”. Then again I can think of some objectively terrible movies I find immensely rewatchable. The Island. Con Air. The Cutting Edge. Liar Liar. Anything with Godzilla. Demolition Man. Everything Van Damme from the 90’s. Bring it on.

But not a single great movie I wouldn’t find easy to watch again, even those with harsh subject matters are difficult to watch again because of the subject, not the quality of the film. And having some depth and subtle touches that make watching it again a new experience is a mark of greatness.

So yeah, great movies are rewatchable… but rewatchable movies are not necessarily great.

No. I can think of a number of movies that I thought were great but would only want to watch once because they were violent, disturbing, emotionally draining, or some combination of all three. Schindler’s List, The Grey Zone, American History X, Apocalypse Now, The Shining, The Exorcist, Saving Private Ryan, No Country for Old Men, and Munich are all films that I thought were great and well worth watching but would not see again. They made a very deep impression the first time.

(Incidentally, I’ve rewatched both Bridge of Spies and Spotlight a couple of times already, so I disagree with the article on that as well)

Is there a significant difference between a movie that “I wouldn’t bother to see again” and one that “I wouldn’t want to see again”?

"To Kill a Mockingbird" was, along with "Schindler’s List", another great film in this vein that I was thinking of.
The first time I saw it, I was so angry with the obvious unjust outcome of the trial that to watch it again, I thought, would still anger me. But I’m glad I’ve watched it numerous times since. There are so many great, touching scenes in the film, to avoid re-watching it would do a disservice to those excellent performances.

And yes, I still get upset over that damn trial!

Definitely not. In fact, I don’t consider many of my favorite movies hugely rewatchable. They tend to demand a lot of attention and often depend on emotional waves that are difficult to replicate. Most of these I’m willing to watch again, but not in a rush to do so. There’s also a few that are exhausting (emotionally or otherwise) and I would actively avoid rewatching.

Rewatchable movies, in my book, are usually a step down from my favorites. Fun, maybe a little looser or broader. Stuff like Marvel flicks or light comedies.

The big, important question, to me, isn’t “would I rewatch this?” it’s “would I recommend others watch this?”

I think there’s a very big difference between re-watchable in the sense of an enjoyable film you want to watch again to relive the magic of the first viewing versus re-watchable in the sense of a film where subsequent viewings yield meaningfully different insights than the first. Artistically great films may or may not be re-watchable in the first sense, but I do think they are virtually all re-watchable in the second sense.

I’d say yes.

This is analogous to great plays, musical works, books, paintings, etc. Nobody thinks there’s anything odd or unusual about listening to a Mozart symphony multiple times, seeing the umpteenth production of Hamlet, rereading Poe’s “The Raven,” or hanging a Van Gogh print in your home and looking at it every day. Important creative works are assumed to reward repeat readings/hearings/viewings. Why shouldn’t this also be true of films?

The only movies I have watched more than once are Groundhog Day, and Air Force One. Neither one deserves an Oscar.

Mostly, I watch movies once, even really really good ones. So, I vote “no.”

Murder by Death, or El Dorado. Just pure joy to watch, and I can drop everything and enjoy them at any moment. Put 'em on in front of me, and I’ll watch.

I think, perhaps, maybe, that the very best movies are too emotionally involving to watch too often.

I love Bridge on the River Kwai, and will re-watch it…but I need a cooling down period before I can watch it again. I need to let the emotions percolate away. Same with Branagh’s Henry V. I love that movie…but once every couple of years is enough. More often would grate.

El Dorado? Next week, again? Sure!

Thinking back to the movies I would rate as really great, some I could rewatch - Wings of Desire, or Spirited Away, for instance. And some I don’t want to - Aguirre, Wrath Of God or Grave Of The Fireflies - once was enough. Mostly, it’s the harrowing ones where once was enough, and the uplifting ones with a positive ending that can be rewatched, and their greatness isn’t dependent on their positivity.

One exception - I could rewatch Time Of The Gypsies often, and it’s a bit of a downer…