Nine Films I’ve Seen More Than Once in a Movie Theater (as an Adult)


My generation, Generation X, once maligned as a bunch of slackers, is gaining newfound respect as the last generation of humans to have grown up in – and thus to have an interest in preserving – the pre-digital world. Part of that world involved seeing a movie over and over again in the theater, when ticket prices weren't prohibitively expensive and it could take years for said movie to reemerge on TV. As a 21st century adult? Forget it! Why shell out another $15 to re-see a film that'll be on Netflix in three months? I do have friends who have done this with the recent Star Wars installments: perhaps indulging in a little Gen-X nostalgia. Meanwhile, here are nine movies that I have seen twice, in theaters, during the last 25 years.

  1. Pulp Fiction. Quentin Tarantino's game-changer – now there's a Gen-X term – demanded multiple viewings, due to its unconventional structure and its quotable dialogue. I took a visiting Finnish penpal to a cheap second-run theater for my second look at the film. To my surprise, it didn't hold up well, once I knew what was going to happen.
  2. City of God. Technically, I only saw this 1.75 times in the theater. I dragged my feet on catching this 2003 epic about gangs in 1970s Rio, which quite unusually ran for over a year in LA cinemas. When I finally saw it, the theater's power cut out just before the third act, due to a violent rainstorm. I was given a literal raincheck and cashed it in two nights later, not just to see that third act but to enjoy the entire 130 minute film all over again. That's how good City of God is.
  3. Moulin Rouge. I don't quite remember where I first saw Baz Luhrmann's polarizing musical – obviously it was in LA, but whether it was a matinee or an evening performance, a hip crowd or a square suburban audience, I cannot say. But the second time I saw Moulin Rouge was at the Blue Fox Theater in tiny Grangeville, Idaho, my mother's hometown. There's not much to do in Grangeville, so I opted to catch the film with my sister. The chaotic, MTV-style editing that takes up the first act plays much better upon a second viewing, as does the film as a whole.
  4. Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. I probably wouldn't have seen this more than once, but after I caught it in San Francisco during Christmas vacation, I was invited to see it again in LA a few weeks later. I still feel it was worth it, but I wouldn't say the same for Peter Jackson's other Tolkien adaptations, even the good ones.
  5. Dogville. Lars von Trier's brutal riff on Thornton Wilder's Our Town is not exactly fun, but it blew me away when I discovered it at the 2003 Norwegian Film Festival, so I took my future wife to see it when it came to Los Angeles a couple of months later. Twice is enough.
  6. Fargo. I first saw Fargo in Seattle, whose hipsters were caught up in a despicable 1990s fad of derisively laughing at movies just to prove how cool they were. While Fargo is often hilarious, there was such an arbitrary nature to the Seattleites' guffawing that it felt like they simply didn't get the film, so they didn't know how to react to it. Partly because Fargo is brilliant, and partly to rinse that Seattle taste out of my mouth, I saw the film a few weeks later in LA, where the audience clearly got it. (I don't mean to act superior. I'm just saying, that's how it went.)
  7. Safe. Todd Haynes's little-seen drama about a California housewife (Julianne Moore, in her first starring role) succumbing to a mysterious illness is both accessible and inscrutable. When I first saw it, I detected a major talent at work and a lot of details worth exploring again. Years later, I finally saw it for a third time – it had long been unavailable on DVD, for whatever reason – and it holds up.
  8. Exotica. I might be romanticizing the era, but the mid-'90s was, in my opinion, indie film's artistic peak. Back then, filmmakers seemed to care more about visual symbolism, moral ambiguity, and structural daring. Writer/director Atom Egoyan made a bigger splash with his follow-up The Sweet Hereafter – and then it was all downhill from there – but I much prefer Exotica, despite its pretentious moments. It's a very see-it-twice movie, though it's hard to find.
  9. La La Land. I truly thought my days of seeing a film twice in theater were over. I mean, the most recent film up to now on this list came out in, what, 2003? Now, I did catch Cloud Atlas twice – I first had to watch it for work, watermarked and timecoded in an office screening room, then I paid to see it when it was released – but that doesn't count. La La Land, which in my view is not nearly as good as Cloud Atlas or any other film on this list, earned its second theatrical viewing when I took my mother-in-law to see it in New Jersey last February. My wife and I were about to watch the Oscars with her, and I felt bad that this diehard movie lover, who due to ill health couldn't go to the theater on her own anymore, hadn't seen any of the nominated pictures. It would be the last movie my mother-in-law would see in a theater; she died less than four months later.