Once Started, Always Finished

I was thinking today about movies that when, once we start them, we cannot stop watching. We always have to finish. Not everyone has movies like these. Some people are easily distracted by any number of things, but a lot of film fans do have those movies they have to watch the whole way through once they’ve started.

For me, there are a small handful of films like this. Films that never bore me. Films that suit whatever the mood is. Films that I find enthralling for every second, that don’t have a single weak moment that sees me looking anxiously at the clock. Films that make me think the moment I start watching them from whatever point: “Right, this is it, hell yes.” Here are five of those films for me:

Stranger than Paradise (1984): It’s almost as if the lyrics of the song used prominently in this movie are describing my reaction to it: “I put a spell on you… because you’re mine!” Screamin’ Jay Hawkins unforgettable voice that opens this indie gem puts a spell on me, and once Jim Jarmusch’s characters are introduced, that’s it… I’m staying for the whole thing. Willie, Eddie and Eva… I love you guys.

Delicatessen (1991): I have an Australian friend who has not seen this movie, and every time I see him I feel like saying “This is a job for the Australian!”, a direct quote from this movie. Delicatessen, one of the most consistently hilarious movies ever made, is a cult classic in my house and I watch it once a month most months, sometimes with my girlfriend, sometimes alone, generally with alcohol and always with a smile on my face.

Three Colours: Red (1994): Maybe it’s the wonderful, mindbogglingly sexy Irene Jacob, or the serene but embittered Jean-Louis Trintignant. Maybe it’s the film’s rich colours and dark tone. Maybe it’s Krzysztof Kieslowski. All I know is that I have to sit this masterpiece through to its revelatory end.

Werckmeister Harmonies (2000): Keep me away from my DVD of my favourite film if it’s early in the day. Because if I start watching even a second of it in the morning, then all bets are off. I will cancel all appointments, skip work, shut everything and everyone out for the remaining 139 minutes. From its opening moments it grabs me like a magnet, and holds me in its grasp.

Glengarry Glen Ross (1992): Every single moment of this is perfect. All the actors are insanely brilliant. The script is mindblowingly holy-f**king-shit good. There’s not a single flawed aspect of this 90s classic, and once started, it can never be stopped.

What are some of your once started, always finished (or OSAF) movies? Let me know in the comments, and explain why it is these movies glue your eyes to the screen.


Posted on July 30, 2012, in Lists, Movies, Random Question and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 35 Comments.

  1. For me, it’s Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. There’s something about the film that’s so kinetic and catchy that I get suckered in every time. The way that Meyers layers the film– inserting the end at the beginning, inserting incongruous shots all over the place– also makes it fun to piece out how it connects. And the music is great, too.

    Dammit, now I want to watch it again…

  2. Alright off the top of my head:

    Inside Man
    12 Angry Men
    Good Will Hunting
    Wedding Crashers
    Almost Famous
    Forrest Gump
    The Shawshank Redemption

    Just a few.

    • Nice list. I like all of those films (well, the ones I’ve seen). No particularly surprising choices there, but still decent ones. Thanks for commenting Sam!

  3. You respond immediately, don’t you?

  4. Hmm… I’d say almost *everything* I watch is a case of I’ve-started-so-I’ll-finish. If it’s something I’m watching for the first time, I’ll see it through unless it’s absolutely unwatchably terrible or boring. Because I have so much unwatched stuff I don’t really do a lot of rewatches, nowhere near as much as I’d like, so when I do decide to rewatch something, if I’m going to go to the effort of hunting out a DVD I’m going to watch it through to the end…

  5. Christian Hallbeck

    “Three Colours: Red” is probably the film that I’ve seen most times. And as i now a days hardly watch any movies at all (though I ordered a film the other day called “Once Upon a Time in Anatolia”, which I belive I’ll like), “Red” is one of very few films that I still can watch over again, without getting bored. So I totally agree with you about that film.

  6. The main ones for me are Annie Hall (which I’ve seen… Maybe 10 times), Nine (which I’ve seen around six times), and, right at the top of the list, Allen’s masterpiece, Manhattan (which I’ve seen… A dozen times). With Manhattan in particular, there’s just something about it, and because I love the end as much as I love the iconic beginning, I’d be sinning if I didn’t watch it all the way through.

    • I love Annie Hall and Manhattan. Great movies, both of them. I’ve seen Annie Hall several times but Manhattan only once. A rewatch of the latter is certainly in my future.

      • I highly recommend rewatching it. I actually didn’t really love it as much as I do the first time I saw it, but for some reason after a repeat watch, something about it just, for want of a better word, clicked.

  7. Full Metal Jacket is on the list for me; I just find it so compelling. I will also watch all of Wayne’s World because I still struggle to find an unfunny moment in it. Not the most sophisticated choices I admit!

  8. Great article and a great way to measure great films. I can never switch off There will be blood and even more so The Assassination of Jesse James, i find it totally captivating and at times nothing seems to be happening but, really is.

    Hope you can excuse me the plug.

    • I actually haven’t seen Jesse James yet and you aren’t the first person to recommend it. I really need to see it soon.

      • you will not be dissapointed.

        • Christian Hallbeck

          I saw “The Assassination of Jesse James” last night, and highly recommend it too! Such an impressive piece of filmmaking! Now there’s a director who knows how to tell a story in pictures! I was NOT bored by this film! Everything about it is more or less flawless. But for me Casey Affleck’s portrayal of Robert Ford is the one thing that stands out the most. It truly is masterful! I’m deeply impressed by it!

          • Believe me, I’ll be seeing it as soon as possible. Quite excited.

          • So glad someone else loves this, I haven’t come across many, but I know there must be more. Affleck is superb in this, creepy but equally pitiful and in the end it’s hard not to feel sorry for him.

            • Christian Hallbeck

              It’s the precice psychological figuration of almost every scene that impresses me the most about this film. The psychological tension and dynamic within each person, between two or more persons, as well as between the persons and their situation and physical environment. The mise en scène is splendid! As is the directors eye for genuine acting. Not one piece of bad acting exists in this film. On the contrary: they’re all acting at the top of their ability. And the photography!… I find it hard to understand how one can fail to see that this is a masterpiece of filmmaking.

  9. Le Fabuleux Destin D’Amelie Poulain. That is all.

  10. I can watch these anytime: The Apartment, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, A Fish Called Wanda, Dial M for Murder, The Shop Around the Corner, and A Good Year.

  11. My Jarmusch choice would be Down By Law and I couldn’t agree more on Glengarry Glen Ross – simply, a class act.
    I’d also include The Big Lebowski, every time I come across it, I can’t stop. I become completely embroiled time and time again.

  12. Alex Withrow

    Bitchin list, love your disclaimer for Werckmeister. That’s what Taxi Driver does for me. If I turn on the TV as I’m going to sleep, and I accidentally come across that flick, then I’m stuck for the duration. I’m still completely transfixed by it.

    Another for me is Pulp Fiction. That movie will never, for a second, bore me.

    Also, Psycho.

  13. I need to watch “Red” again. I have seen the 2nd movie “White” of the three color trilogy more times then the others. “The Shining”, “Blade Runner” “Dawn Of The Dead”(78) and “Manhattan Murder Mystery” are ones that once I start I have to finish

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