First let’s underline what constitutes re-watchable movies. According to popular notion, and by which we too abide by, films that can be absorbed easily and enjoyed wholeheartedly tend to be the ones that are most popular, even during reruns.
But there will be pockets of niche audiences who go back to a movie for reasons altogether different. That is why, we need to apologize in advance: A number of your favourite re-watchable directors may not be on this list. Some didn’t fit into the mould while others could not make it within the top ten names. Whatever the reason for their absence, hopefully you’ll benefit from the disappointment by finding a new one that you didn’t know can make the cut.
So without further ado we will begin the countdown with the director who from popular POV has made the most re-watchable movies. But before that, make sure you have at hand whatever you need for a long and interesting read ahead. Here goes.
10. Martin Scorsese
One of the most prolific filmmakers of the late 20th and early 21st century, Scorsese may be a septuagenarian yet retirement seems to be the last thing on his mind.
Of his long list of films, many consider Taxi Driver, the hellish story of a Vietnam veteran’s descent into madness to be his best. The film was awarded the Palme d’Or at Cannes. Other film enthusiasts vote for Goodfellas as his number one masterpiece. From the very start, Goodfellas takes off at breakneck speed and before you know you are captivated in its whirlwind of complexity.
Next up, among the top Scorsese films is another gem that demands inclusion – Raging Bull, the memoir of Jake LaMotta, a 1940’s middleweight boxer with major personal problems. This not-so-great book became a great film in the hands of the highly competent Scorsese. Robert De Niro, as usual, gave all he had, making the character of LaMotta truly unforgettable.
Then there is the 2006 thriller, The Departed, up next by the popularity charts. What Scorsese was craving for and could have got with Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, he got from The Departed – a saga about the Irish mob planting a mole within the Massachusetts State Police. It made nearly $300 million at the box office. More importantly, he was awarded the ever-eluding Oscar for best director in 2007.
Another entertaining film from him is Casino. Many saw this as a remake of Goodfellas, as both are mob films written by Nicholas Pileggi with De Niro in the lead. Then there is Mean Streets, which was hailed as a masterpiece immediately upon its release. The film had a big part in launching De Niro’s career and it proved to be the start of an amazing creative partnership between the director and the actor.
9. Coen Brothers
This brilliant director-duo seems to be inexhaustible. They are among the rarest of filmmakers whose repertoire boasts of a diverse set of films encompassing noir crime dramas, full-on laugh riots and character study of American lowlife. No wonder their films enjoy so much popularity.
Their best film till date is No Country for Old Men. Set in 1980’s West Texas, the film narrates how a hunter stumbles upon a drug deal gone awry. As he escapes with a pile of cash, a remorseless serial killer comes after him. Essayed by Javier Bardem, this role immediately finds its place as one of cinema’s most cold-blooded and terrifying villains. The film swept the 2008 Academy Awards, bagging the Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Javier Bardem.
Then there is the unforgettable Fargo. The contrast of blood splattered on pristine white snow along with the visually stunning locales created a movie so distinctive that it spurred several indie films in this genre. Instead of sensationalizing bloodshed, the Brothers actually used murder as a means of story progression. Frances McDormand won a best actress Oscar for her portrayal of Marge Gunderson, a cop with a conscience.
Another re-watchable film from the Coen Brothers stable is Inside Llewyn Davis – an obscure ode to art and the artists behind it. It is the story of one good musician among many others in New York – depicted here as a turgid concrete tundra where everything is the colour of stale cigarette smoke. Unlike other comedies that make you laugh and then cry, Inside Llewyn Davis will make you laugh while you are crying.
Then there is Raising Arizona, a story about an ex-con and his ex-cop wife who are unable to have children. They then decide to steal a baby from the local furniture businessman with quintuplets. In spite of almost every scene seeming to be a comic or action sequence, the film digs into surprising depths of emotion, as it is at its core about a couple who are hell bent on having a family.
Up next is Barton Fink – the story of a screenplay writer who moves to Hollywood. Faced with a writer’s block, Barton turns to his next-door neighbour in a seedy hotel, a travelling salesman for inspiration into what makes the common man tick. This was the Coen Brothers fourth film where they proved they could churn out an eclectic, black comedy about the human mind.
8. Francois Truffaut
Along with his colleague, friend and rival Godard, Francois Truffaut is one of the pioneers of the fascinating French New Wave movement – a movement that is responsible for creating works of art that resembled the philosophical and aesthetic significance of literature.
Though the language and the landscape were different yet what was said was essentially similar. It suffices to say that each and every film of Truffaut is shot with exuberance, humour, poignancy and most importantly, an overwhelming love for the cinema.
His debut masterpiece Les Quatre cents coups or 400 Blows was a pioneering semi-autobiographical work of the French New Wave, loosely based on his adolescence. The film follows Antoine, a boy in his early teens, who reacts violently to his mother and step-father neglecting and taking him for granted. The ending of the film is ambiguous and invites much intellectual participation from the audience, for each to interpret it in his own way. It was very well-received and Truffaut was honoured with the Best Director award at Cannes, the same festival that had banned him as a critic just a year ago.
In 1962, Truffaut made Jules et Jim, a captivating love triangle between Jules, Jim and Catherine, a free-spirited lady, over a period encompassing before, after and during the First World War. The film is known for its radically innovative storytelling techniques.
But the film that will keep you glued to your seat right till the dramatic and thrilling end is La Femme d’a cote or The Woman Next Door – a film about the pitfalls and dire consequences of the destructive side effects of lust and jealousy.
Then there is La Nuit Americaine or Day for Night, a movie about the maniacal business of making movies. Few films have been able to depict the movie-within-the-movie experience as vividly as Truffaut.
Stolen Kisses or Baisers voles, the third instalment of the Antoine Doinel saga, where, on his dishonourable discharge from the army, Antoine takes up a series of jobs, while falling in and out of love with several women. It is a charming movie that fluidly moves between romantic lyricism, dramatic confrontation and slapstick comedy in great style.
7. Akira Kurosawa
In a career spanning over fifty years, the Japanese master made some incredible films that resonated not only in Japan but around the world. He was the first filmmaker from Japan to get worldwide recognition. The first of his films that got international recognition was Rashomon. It won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival including an honorary Oscar in 1951 and 52 respectively.
Ostensibly, the films of American director John Ford and the writings of Shakespeare were huge influences on Kurosawa. His expansive repertoire consists of many gems that were exemplary works of both art and entertainment.
Akira Kurosawa was honoured with the Honorary Academy Award on 26th March 1990 for having entertained audiences and inspired filmmakers around the world. The only thing he reiterated on stage while receiving the coveted award was that he is still a student who is yet to grasp the true essence of cinema. Remarkable humility indeed.
Rashomon’s plot revolves around four characters giving four different accounts of one incident. It nudged the audience to question the very nature of truth, memory, interpretation and motivation.
His next film that deserves repeat viewing is definitely the iconic Seven Samurai – the story of a village under attack by bandits, and how the villagers hire seven samurai’s to defeat the bandits. This film influenced filmmakers around the world – and one very apparent remake was The Magnificent Seven from Hollywood.
There’s also Kurosawa’s most emotionally resonant film Ikiru, the story of a terminally ill patient who attempts to contemplate the meaning and purpose of life before passing away.
Then there is Yojimbo, where a crafty character comes to town that is divided between two rival gangs and proceeds to play one against the other, succeeding in rescuing the townsfolk from their terror.
In 1963, Kurosawa directed High and Low, a film based on the American crime novel King’s Ransom – the story of a wealthy businessman whose son is kidnapped for a huge ransom. This is a suspenseful police procedural film taut in its structure.
Next on the list of Kurosawa’s re-watchable films is Stray Dog – a classic Japanese entry into the film noir genre. The film is about an amateur detective whose gun is stolen in a crowded tram and how he goes after the thief, especially after it turns out that the same gun has been used in several crimes. This movie is a must-see for both Kurosawa and film noir fans alike.
6. James Cameron
James Cameron was really selective about the films he directed since the last three decades. Though he made only 8 movies since his debut feature Piranha II: The Spawning, almost all of them had that special quality of extravagance and entertainment – making them largely re-watchable.
Today, Cameron is one of the most sought after directors in Hollywood yet he is often criticized for his shortcomings as a serious storyteller. There is little doubt though that he has been the pioneer of stunning visual effects since the 1980’s and later on, responsible for the CGI resurgence with Avatar.
The movie that catapulted James Cameron to Hollywood’s A-list happened in the year 1984 – The Terminator was based on a vivid dream that Cameron had of a metallic figure crawling away from an explosion. The film succeeded at a number of levels – an original sci-fi idea, an edge-of-the-seat thriller, a spectacular action spectacle that went on to become one of the landmark sci-fi movies in cinema’s history.
Spurred on by the success of his breakthrough feature, Cameron took over the reins of a franchise – Aliens, from Ridley Scot and turned it into a sci-fi action thriller, delivering one of the decade’s best action flicks. Led by Sigourney Weaver’s Oscar nominated performance, the film went on to become a huge blockbuster garnering 130m against a 18m budget.
Again, seven years later, Cameron, armed with a $100m budget, reverse-engineered Arnold’s role as a killing machine and turned the liquid metal T1000 into a hero, the protector, for the sequel – Terminator 2: Judgement Day. And as they say, the rest is history. The end result was one of the greatest action films ever.
Next on queue is a film that is largely overlooked among Cameron’s directorial ventures but which has Arnold’s career-best performance – True Lies. It is a fast-paced spy thriller where Arnold, using government resources, spies on his wife to find out whether she is having an affair. Later the two get embroiled with a terrorist plot to detonate a nuclear weapon. Arguably, True Lies is one of the best action flicks coming out from 90’s Hollywood.
A decade or so later, in 2009, came Cameron’s exponentially expensive gamble in the form of Avatar. Though the script was ready, the film took time to go on the floors as the 3D camera technology needed to create the world of Pandora wasn’t ready. Upon release, the movie ended up raking in more than a ridiculous 2.78bn at the box office.
Then there is Titanic, the epic story of the sinking cruiser that had become a cultural phenomenon by the end of the 20th century. This three hour love story had gone grossly over budget, as a result of which Cameron had waived his director’s fees for a percentage of the profits, which in hindsight turned out to be a very smart move.
The over-five-months shoot turned out to be a nightmare for the crew with Cameron becoming temperamental and resorting to verbal onslaughts on several occasions. But as they say, all’s well that ends well, and Titanic went on to set new box-office records on one hand and win 11 Academy Awards, including Best Director and Best Picture on the other. A truly unbelievable feat for a film that was no great shakes in several departments.