5 Movies You Must Watch If We’re Going To Be Friends

movie 3Most of you know me as that blogger in the toga, who is a writer for The Nite Show With Danny Cashman.

But how many of you are aware that I am a screenwriter with two produced feature films to my credit?

The trailers are on the About page of this blog if you want to check them out.

I don’t talk much about my screenwriting career on the blog for reasons better explained by my lawyer.

However, I feel like talking about movies with you tonight, and if I’m going to share my Deep Thoughts on flicks, my screenwriting life is bound to come up.  So, I got the go ahead from Cy to chat it up as long as I’m careful.

I’m going to share the list of 5 Movies You Must Watch If We’re Ever Going To Be Friends.  This list is non-negotiable, so take it very seriously if you ever want to come to a Movie Night at The House on the Hill.

In no particular order, the 5 Must Watch Movies are…

movies 4Swingers.  I love this movie for so many reasons.  What gets to me the most, though, is the story behind the flick.  Jon Favreau, who would grow up to direct the first two entries in the Iron Man franchise, wrote the script for him and his friends.  How cool is that?  You want to make it in Hollywood, but no one will hire you?  Write a kick ass screenplay for you and your posse.

Of course, the breakout star of Swingers is a very young, very skinny Vince Vaughn.  He is hilarious as Trent, and the legend is that Swingers helped him land the role in the second Jurassic Park film, which led to his big time stardom.

The script is so well written and filled with memorable lines.  “Vegas, Baby, Vegas!”, “You’re so money and you don’t even know it!”, “Double down!”.

And I still wet my toga whenever I watch the diner scene where Vaughn gives away his food to the guy sitting in the next booth, and then gets up on the table to do his strange, yet hilarious striptease.

Whenever I watch Swingers, I want to work on another screenplay.  The movie inspires and entertains.  Great soundtrack, too.

movie 6The Sure Thing.  I am a huge John Cusack fan, Modern Philosophers, but if I had to pick only one of his movies to take with me on a solo mission to Mars, it would be this one.

Most people have never heard of it, but I assure you that it is a classic.  Rob Reiner directed this road trip flick, which is far too intelligent to be labeled as a “teen movie”.

John Cusack plays an Ivy Leaguer, who is horrible with the ladies, and decides to hitch a ride home to California over Christmas Break to hook up with a “sure thing”.

Of course, it’s not that simple.  There are show tunes, a lesson in how to properly shotgun a beer, Deep Thoughts about the perfect cheese to sauce ratio on a pizza, and an important tutorial on how not to write a letter to Penthouse.

Memorable lines in this one include “Usually around girls, I’m awkward and shy, but with you, things are different”, “Elliott is a fat kid with glasses who eats paste”, and “All my life, I’ve never had a sure thing.  You pay the speeding tickets, and I’ll get you in the saddle”.

The hitchhiking scene, to this day, still makes me hyperventilate with laughter.

movie 1The Usual Suspects.  This movie, which deservedly earned Christopher McQuarrie a Best Original Screenplay Oscar, is probably the flick that has most influenced my screenwriting style.

Telling the story out of sequence, messing with the heads of the viewers, and then blowing them away with a twist ending, is a formula that I used with .33 Reverse Gunther, which is my favorite of all the screenplays I’ve ever written.

In early drafts, Gunther was a much different story, told in chronological order, and meant to emulate the writing of Quentin Tarantino and Kevin Smith.  I wasn’t happy with the script, and as much as I wanted to be like Tarantino and Smith, it was McQuarrie who would end up being my inspiration.

The Usual Suspects is an amazing movie on so many levels.  The storytelling is phenomenal, the acting is superb (Kevin Spacey won Best Supporting Actor), and Bryan Singer’s direction is top notch.  On top of all that, it simply a damn entertaining flick.

Yes, I am very proud of that fact that I leaned over halfway through my first viewing of the movie and whispered to my now ex-wife, the identity of Keyser Soze.

She’s probably still mad at me for figuring out that one and blowing the ending, but as a screenwriter, I just saw the clues.

movies5Back to the Future.  Great Scott!  You’re a slacker, if you read this blog regularly and didn’t figure out that this movie would be on the list.  Not only is my avatar a photo of my hero Doc Brown, but Doc is also the blog’s biggest financial supporter.

I am obsessed with Time Travel, and this flick is a major reason for that.  When Spike TV broadcast the trilogy on Christmas Eve, I watched the first two and then drifted off to sleep shortly after Marty arrived in the Old West.  Can you blame me, though?

The screenplay is cited in screenwriting books as being as close to perfect as a screenplay gets.  Think about how everything introduced at the beginning of the story comes into play at the end.  I still smile every time the lady hands Marty that Save the Clock Tower flyer.

Aside from Time Travel, you have a fun love story, a great friendship, a memorable bad guy, and total nerd power!

Did I forget to mention a little Huey Lewis and the News?

movie 2Star Wars.  The Usual Suspects might’ve influenced my writing style the most, and Swingers opened my eyes to the power of a well written independent screenplay, but Star Wars is the movie that made me want to be a writer.

A long time ago, in a theater far, far away, a seven year old Modern Philosopher was blown away by George Lucas’ magnum opus.

I wrote about Star Wars’ influence on me in my entrance essay to NYU Film School.

After I went on this incredible adventure with Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, Ben, and the droids, I knew where my life was headed.

Sure, the flick might look a little cheesy now compared to the other flicks in the franchise, but in 1977, it was, without a doubt, the most amazing thing I’d ever seen.

To this day, no other movie has ever moved me like the original Star Wars.

Honorable Mentions.  Here are some other movies that came close to making the list:

Reservoir Dogs, Chasing Amy, Meatballs, Out of Sight, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Bad Santa, Casablanca, Wedding Crashers, Fight Club, It’s A Wonderful Life, Silence of the Lambs.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on my list.  What movies are on yours?

Don’t forget, you can follow me now on Pinterest and check out my Movies board…

About Austin

Native New Yorker who's fled to the quiet life in Maine. I write movies, root for the Yankees, and shovel lots of snow.
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30 Responses to 5 Movies You Must Watch If We’re Going To Be Friends

  1. The Cutter says:

    I’m 4/5. Swingers came out my freshman year of college. It basically shaped how every male in school acted the next four years. Everything was “money.”

  2. ksbeth says:

    the usual suspects is one of my favs –

  3. JustJan says:

    Love, love love your picks. Glad Bad Santa made it! I also love to Kill a Mockingbird.

  4. It seems we have similar taste in movies, although my Cusack poison(s) of choice are more along the lines of Better Off Dead/One Crazy Summer or Grosse Point Blank. Still, I’m glad to know we see eye to eye on this matter. I’d hate to lose stature for that. 😉

  5. Ocean Bream says:

    Well I certainly didn’t know you wrote screenplays! I have watched only three of your five, alas 😛 Excuse me while I trawl through your blog in search of said screenplays.

  6. Back to the Future is one of the first movies I can remember watching and I still love it (along with Ghostbusters which, having watched it again more recently, I can’t believe my parents let me watch so young). The Usual Suspects had meant I can never trust Kevin Spacey in anything I see him in and, not surprisingly, his roles are usually all morally ambiguous characters (to say the least).
    It’s a Wonderful Life is an absolute classic. It’s so brilliant, partly because you always forget how terrible everything gets before it turns out wonderful. And I love Jimmy Stewart.

  7. The Hook says:

    “The Sure Thing” is a ridiculously-underrated flick.
    You’re a wise man, Austin.

  8. holley4734 says:

    I win! I have seen them all. Multiple times. 🙂

  9. holley4734 says:

    I also love “Better Off Dead.” “The Princess Bride” is one of my favorites. “Dirty Dancing” too but I’m not sure why. I guess the dancing.

  10. Field of Dreams is the end all, be all of movies. Also, Spaceballs and Zoolander because duh. 😉

  11. I have seen and love every film on your list, except “Swingers.” Haven’t seen that one. An oversight that must be corrected. ;o)

  12. D. Parker says:

    Yeah, we can be friends! 😉
    Awesome list, Austin!!! 🙂

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