Most movies only require a single viewing, but the best filmmakers tell rich, complex stories and fill every frame with detail and hide subtle foreshadowing in early scenes, so the audience has to watch their masterpieces a few times to catch everything and fully comprehend the themes.
Certain movies are so meticulously crafted that they stand up to countless repeat viewings. Audiences always pick up on things they missed the first time when they revisit acclaimed dramas like The Godfather or There Will Be Blood.
10 Forrest Gump (1994)
Winning Tom Hanks his second Oscar in a row, Robert Zemeckis’ Forrest Gump is a wholesome, life-affirming epic about the sweetest guy in the world leading a simple existence and unwittingly touching people’s lives along the way.
The movie plays as a sort of pop-culture history lesson. Throughout the story, Forrest crosses paths with a bunch of famous 20th-century figures like John Lennon and a couple of U.S. presidents, and he directly impacts a handful of historical events like the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal. It’s impossible to pick up on all these period Easter eggs on the first go.
9 There Will Be Blood (2007)
Daniel Day-Lewis gave arguably the finest performance of his career in Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood, a quintessentially American epic about an oil tycoon gradually losing his humanity as he increases his wealth.
The saga of Daniel Plainview is richly plotted and packed with symbolism to catch the second or third time. For example, Anderson uses thick, gooey, black oil to visualize the corruption of Daniel’s soul.
8 Arrival (2016)
Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival is a very different kind of UFO movie. Instead of coming to Earth to destroy all humans, the aliens in Arrival want to communicate with us. Amy Adams plays a linguistics expert seemingly grieving the loss of her young daughter who’s brought in to translate the aliens’ markings.
Tonally, Villeneuve’s movie is a refreshingly somber, cerebral drama set against a high-concept background. What really makes it noteworthy is its mind-blowing, heart-wrenching final twist. This movie is actually more effective when the viewer already knows the twist going in, because it adds an emotional context to all the dry linguistic analysis.
7 The Godfather (1972)
Once the highest-grossing movie ever made, Francis Ford Coppola’s gangster epic The Godfather stars Marlon Brando as an aging mob boss and Al Pacino as the war veteran son with legitimate prospects that he wants to keep out of the grisly family business.
Coppola filled this movie with symbolism (like using oranges to represent death), and he packed details into every frame. A mob hit framed with the Statue of Liberty off in the distance offers a perfect visual metaphor for the dark side of the American Dream.
6 The Prestige (2006)
Starring Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman as two rivaling magicians trying to pull off the same teleportation trick, The Prestige is arguably Christopher Nolan’s most underrated movie.
Nolan structured the movie like a magic trick – with a pledge in the first act, a turn in the second, and a payoff in the third – and spoiled all the biggest twists in subtle ways throughout the early scenes. As a result, this baffling thriller needs to be watched a few times before it can be fully comprehended.
5 Boyhood (2014)
Richard Linklater covered his protagonist’s entire childhood in 2014’s coming-of-age gem Boyhood, and instead of casting a few actors to play him at different ages, he cast one actor and waited for him to age.
This real-time shooting style resulted in a totally unique movie that can be enjoyed again and again without getting old. Linklater crafted the script over the course of Boyhood’s 12-year production and the final piece plays like a series of vignettes or snapshots of real people’s lives that can be revisited a bunch of times.
4 The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Although it bombed at the box office on its initial release, Frank Darabont’s prison drama The Shawshank Redemption has since been ranked as the greatest movie ever made by IMDb users. Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman star as a pair of inmates who dream of breaking out.
Darabont tells an epic story spanning a years-long prison sentence through the prism of an intimate friendship. There are lots of subplots and side characters to bolster the movie’s rewatchability. Plus, there’s foreshadowing to catch on repeat viewings, like when Freeman tells Robbins that escaping prison is a “sh*tty pipe dream.” This wink to the audience only makes sense to returning viewers who know that Robbins will eventually escape through a literal sh*tty pipe.
3 No Country For Old Men (2007)
The Coen brothers’ adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men has been hailed as one of the greatest thrillers ever made. With motifs of both neo-noirs and neo-westerns, the Coens breathed visceral life into hitman Anton Chigurh’s ruthless pursuit of a briefcase full of cash and the hunter who stole it.
This movie is notable for its bleak ending providing no closure. The Coens create an unbearably tense atmosphere from the moment Llewellyn takes the cash and seals his grim fate. Like most of the brothers’ movies, No Country for Old Men is open to interpretation and can’t be fully understood, so it withstands endless revisits.
2 Rocky (1976)
The title character in Rocky, an amateur boxer who’s challenged to a gimmicky fight with a world-renowned champion, is one of cinema’s quintessential underdogs. Sylvester Stallone wrote the script to give himself a starring role when he was a struggling actor, so he was an underdog himself when he sat down to tell Rocky’s story.
Stallone’s Oscar-nominated script has a longer first act than usual, because he takes the time to round out Rocky as a character before introducing his championship fight with Apollo Creed. Rocky is presented as a boxing movie, but it’s really a love story. By focusing on the character and his emotional journey, Stallone made his sports movie classic infinitely rewatchable.
1 Goodfellas (1990)
Martin Scorsese’s ongoing cinematic treatise about the dangers of the mafia lifestyle reached its peak with 1990’s Goodfellas. Ray Liotta stars as an Italian-American kid who always dreamed of being a mobster, got in way over his head, and ended up ratting out all his friends to avoid jail time.
According to IndieWire, Scorsese made the movie with the intention of stretching the pacing and energy of the opening few minutes of Jules and Jim to feature-length. Goodfellas has as much story material as an HBO miniseries and it hits like a speeding bullet. It needs 1,000 viewings to catch everything.
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