This weekend the greatest thing in the world happened – as I was trolling through my guide on TV I randomly stumbled upon The Shawshank Redemption. I immediately switched from whatever I was watching and I think the clouds parted because I was roughly 15 minutes away from one of 9,236 quotable lines from the movie: Get busy living or get busy dying. I’m not talking about the first time when Andy and Red are sitting in the courtyard but the second time when Red is out in the world and Andy has dropped breadcrumbs for him to come be with him on the Pacific.
I’m not sure if it was the slight hang over that I may or may not have been nursing, or the fact that I really wish I changed the channel earlier to see Andy escape from Shawshank, but I suddenly felt a bit emotional. I called my girlfriend into the room and said “babe, check it out. Get busy living or get busy dying.” She watched it with me - Like she’s done every other time. Once the movie was coming to an end she stood up and said, “Wow, you really love this movie.”
Fuck yeah I love this movie. If you don’t love this movie you have issues.
Her small comment led me to do some thinking. I wondered why she said that, and was there a tone to the way she said it? It’s not like I always talk about Shawshank. So, I asked her.
“Hey, why did you say I loved this movie? I mean, I do love this movie, but why’d you say that?”
“Because you always stop watching whatever you’re watching to turn it on.”
I always do irrationally turn on Shawshank as though I directed, wrote, and produced it. There is something that feels great about catching a movie you love on TV, as though you can just plop in and say hello to it.
I started thinking about movies that no matter what’s happening, I’d change the channel for. It’s those movies that you’ve seen 18 times but if you don’t change the channel there’s some sort of internal conflict that ultimately challenges how much you like film in general – whether it be for a scene, line, sequence, character, or third act, you need to turn on that movie.
I dug deeper and ultimately accumulated my first ever: Movies that if you ever see are on television then you need to change the channel and peek in on it otherwise the movie Gods will know list.
The Shawshank Redemption: See above.
The Matrix: If you catch this on a channel like TNT or TBS, then you’re basically only watching until you realize they took out great action scenes and also the curse words. But if you catch it on a premium channel and get to watch the groundbreaking action and Keanu almost being emotional then you’re set. At some point in this channel change you’ll inevitably say “Whoa” and then “Wow, this movie was awesome, but the others weren’t.”
Back To The Future: Come on. I feel like people turn this on for nostalgic purposes and you inevitably realize that you’re watching a perfect movie.
Good Will Hunting: I feel like there was a moment when Affleck was bringing down the credibility of this movie but then redeemed everything with Gone Baby Gone and The Town. You’re probably turning this on for the first act of the film when Damon is outsmarting everyone and saying “How do you like them apples” or you hope to catch the final sequence, which in my opinion is insanely underrated, when Affleck heads to the vacant house of Damon.
ET: If you’re sitting by someone who’s never seen this movie then you need to evaluate your friendship with whomever you’re sitting next too.
Pulp Fiction: Last week I changed the channel just to watch the dance scene with Travolta.
The Truman Show: I’ve argued the greatness of this movie for years. Jim Carrey was robbed of an Academy Award nomination (He WON for Golden Globe by the way) and this film is way ahead of its time. If you’ve never seen this movie… Do it… Now.
Minority Report: Some of the best running Tom Cruise has ever done is in this movie. Take a second and turn this movie on, you’ll notice that roughly 80% of the “science fiction” is actually here today.
The Empire Strikes Back: I’m not ever going to mention why someone needs to turn on this movie.
The Karate Kid (original): If you see this on television then just hope it’s the moment when all the badasses are dressed as the skeleton’s aka the best continuous Halloween costume ever.
Top Gun: This was essentially a perfect storm. It’s kind of when Jerry Bruckheimer figured out how to do action, it really put Tony Scott on the map, and Tom Cruise could essentially do no wrong (insert any joke here). If you’re fortunate enough to turn on this movie during the montage of volleyball and motorcycle riding then you should go buy a lottery ticket.
The Sixth Sense: If you’re the person who says, “I knew Bruce Willis was dead” then you’re full of shit. This movie was an amazing break out for M Knight Shyamalan and even though he made some… um… uh… questionable movies afterwards we can’t let The Happening ruin liking this.
Yes, I’m aware there are hundreds of other movies to fill the list, and yes I know all the movies above were released no later than 1980, but that’s neither here nor there right now. The next time you find yourself lounging on your couch and you see one of the films above – I dare you not to change the channel. See how good you feel about yourself afterwards.
Get busy living or get busy dying.