19 of the Most Rewatchable Movies Ever Made

19 of the Most Rewatchable Movies Ever Made
Screenshot: The Rocky Horror Picture Show/20th Century Fox
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Without question, we live in an era of media over-saturation. Even post-COVID (lol), the industry is still pumping out new movies and new streaming services to host them on at an alarming rate — and those same services mean we also have easy access to thousands of films from the last century. I never need to rewatch a film again! And yet still, here I am, rewatching Back to the Future.

Because sometimes, you just want a known quantity, and some movies seem designed to be rewatched again and again. The criteria for a rewatchable film varies, but there are some common themes: They tend to have multiple memorable set pieces — scenes that stand out, and that draw our attention, even when the movie’s just playing in the background, whether a musical number, an action sequence, or even a strong emotional beat. They also need to build to a satisfying conclusion — it helps if it’s uplifting, though that’s not a requirement; a worthwhile catharsis will do (think of the ending of The Shawshank Redemption).

It’s also matter of taste, of course (I’ll rewatch Citizen Kane as readily as I’ll rewatch Charlie’s Angels), and nostalgia never hurts. Do we rewatch films because they’re great? Or do we enjoy them because they hit at just the right point in our lives? In spite of that personal variability, the following films are certainly worth seeing more than once. Or twice. Or…

Groundhog Day (1993)

What makes it rewatchable: The time loop has become a wee bit of a trope, but it’s never been done with as much charm as in this, one of its earliest and most iconic incarnations. Andie MacDowell is great, and Bill Murray is at his curmudgeonly best as he slowly comes to accept that moving forward in his life (both metaphorically and literally) might require changing everything about himself.

Where to stream: Binge

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

What makes it rewatchable: A feel-good prison story that incorporates elements of murder, corruption, and money-laundering, Shawshank is bittersweet (the title’s promised redemption arrives more-or-less on schedule) but never cloying. Happy endings are easy, but this one offers something harder won, and a bit more satisfying, making this Stephen King adaptation more than simple comfort food. The movie also has the resume to back up its rep: It was a cable-TV mainstay for decades, creating a sense of familiarity fed by its ubiquity.

Where to stream: Binge

Soul Food (1997)

What makes it rewatchable: It’s a movie about family and the power of community, big-hearted without being treacly. It’s also the kind of thing that gets played at many a holiday gathering.

Where to stream: Disney+

Die Hard (1988)

What makes it rewatchable: A great action movie needs a great protagonist, and benefits tremendously from a great setting. This one has both — Bruce Willis is doing all the stuff we like about Bruce Willis, and the Nakatomi Plaza setting is brilliantly utilised — we understand the space and therefore always know where John McClane is in relation to the terrorists. It’s all very carefully constructed.

Where to stream: Disney+

The Princess Bride (1987)

What makes it rewatchable: Endlessly quotable, The Princess Bride is a masterwork of tone, mixing in disparate elements in just the right measures. It’s a parody and a farce, a fairy tale, a fantasy, and a genuinely satisfying love story that adds in pirates for good measure. It’s weird, but not so much as to be off-putting, and always returns to the central character relationships whenever things are getting too silly. It movies from memorable scene to memorable scene effortlessly, which ensures that it’s nearly as enjoyable in bits and pieces as it is from beginning to end.

Where to stream: Stan

The Wizard of Oz (1939)

What makes it rewatchable: Unlike many beloved classics, The Wizard of Oz wasn’t the slow build its reputation sometimes suggests: The movie actually did very well in theatres initially, and only built its popularity through theatrical re-releases and then endless TV airings. It has hardly lost any steam over the past eight decades. And why would it? It’s a fun all-ages fantasy and a singable musical with a career-making lead performance, with themes around childhood anxieties that still more-or-less hold up.

Where to stream: Stan

Mean Girls (2004)

What makes it rewatchable: Written by Tina Fey (shortly before she became a household name), the script balances super sharp comedy with an incisive understanding of high school politics and a worthwhile message about the hollowness of the drive to be the best and prettiest.

Where to stream: Netflix, Binge, Stan

The Colour Purple (1985)

What makes it rewatchable: Though this is a Black story told by a largely white team behind the camera, it’s Steven Spielberg at his most humane. The multigenerational story includes some of the best actors of their generations playing some of their most memorable characters. While not everyone gets a happy ending, the conclusion is about as satisfying as they come.

Where to stream: Paramount+

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)

What makes it rewatchable: Raiders of the Lost Ark remains the best of the series, but a good case can be made that Last Crusade is the more rewatchable entry (I’m sure I’m not alone in having seen both of them plenty of times). Crusade is a bit lighter than its predecessor, a little bit looser and more fun, with great chemistry between Harrison Ford and Sean Connery.

Where to stream: Paramount+, Stan

Ghostbusters (1984)

What makes it rewatchable: Making wacky comedies that were also kind of art was a particular skillset that ‘80s filmmakers seemed to possess, and there’s a meticulousness to the film’s construction that belies the cynical-but-easygoing vibe that Bill Murray personifies. It’s goofy, but it all holds together. (The 2016 remake lacks the solid construction that made this one a classic, but is also rewatchable for its similarly talented cast; a hill I shall die on).

Where to stream: Binge

Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit

What makes it rewatchable: The first Sister Act is a better movie, a highlight of the era when we were moving away from R-rated sex comedies into more family-friendly fare (for better and worse). But the second Sister Act is both more real with its characters’ move into the inner city, but also campier and weirder in its efforts to blend the Lean on Me-style school drama with a singing nuns/mistaken-identity farce. Nineties kids instantly recognise the jams, mum jeans, and spontaneous break-dancing as signifiers of the era. It also builds to a genuinely joyful finale, even if you’re a bit embarrassed for the white boy rapping in overalls.

Where to stream: Disney+

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

What makes it rewatchable: In these days of manufactured camp, there’s more value than ever in something that’s simply the product of queer weirdos putting their heads together. Most frequently experienced as a communal event, and demanding very little beyond a willingness to sing along and maybe pull on some fishnets, it’s the kind of movie that, I suspect, very few people have seen just once.

Where to stream: Disney+

Coming to America (1988)

What makes it rewatchable: There’s a great supporting cast here, but this is Eddie Murphy at his ‘80s best — wildly funny, and just profane enough. It’s just scene after memorable scene.

Where to stream: Binge

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)

What makes it rewatchable: It is, by far, the most standalone of the many Star Trek movies, working on its own as a sci-fi cat-and-mouse movie with a wildly memorable protagonist. [Editor’s note: Star Trek VI though?]

Where to stream: Binge, Paramount+, Stan

Casablanca (1942)

What makes it rewatchable: The iconic movie of Hollywood’s golden age, you know the lines (and the ending) even if you’ve never seen it. If you have seen it, it’s unlikely you’ve seen it only once.

Where to stream: Apple TV

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors (1980)

What makes it rewatchable: Slasher fans are loyal (putting my hand up), so a list of rewatchable movies could easily be overrun with Freddys, Jasons, Michaels, and Ghostfaces. So, though this choice is slightly arbitrary, Dream Warriors is Freddy at his height, still scary in the era just prior to his wise-cracking huckster phase. Every scene/kill here is memorable on its own, and there’s an almost Avengers-like quality to the anti-Freddy team that assembles to bring him down.

Where to stream: Netflix, Paramount+

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

What makes it rewatchable: Ferris is the coolest kid in school, somehow managing that without being insufferable (mostly). There are elements to his laid-back attitude and concern for his friends that most of us could stand to learn from. This is another that goes from memorable scene to memorable scene.

Where to stream: Binge, Stan

Attack the Block (2011)

What makes it rewatchable: A band of outsiders teams up to stop an alien invasion on a council estate. It’s energetic and action-packed, with memorable characters and even more memorable aliens. Plus, it’s the movie that teamed up a future Star Wars lead (John Boyega) with a future Doctor Who (Jodie Whitaker).

Where to stream: Stan

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)

What makes it rewatchable: Ripped from the pages of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s heavily manga-influenced graphic novel series, this 2010 Edgar Wright underperformer seemed designed to play better on a second (of fifth) viewing. The humour is incredibly dense, every shot peppered with background gags and onscreen graphics, and the episodic plot — with goofy loser “hero” Scott going up against his girlfriend’s ex-boyfriends in cartoonish one-on-one showdowns — recreate the experiences of moving from level to level in a video game you just can’t put down.

Where to stream: Binge, Stan

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