The Best Movies I Never Watch

I have movies on my mind today, but first a quick update on my work-in-progress: Colonel Brandon in His Own Words. The book is about 3/4 done and it’s all starting to come together! I hope to have it out before the end of the summer. (Read more about it here and here.)



I have a fairly small movie collection – DVDs I have judiciously selected over the years. I normally watch the movie first (in the theater, rented, borrowed, streamed) before purchasing, so that I don’t waste my money on an unknown. I don’t need to own mediocre movies I will only watch once; I want to own movies that are so good I’ll watch them again and again.

That’s the theory anyway. But it doesn’t always work out that way in practice.

Here’s what happens. When I feel like watching a movie, I go to my collection and scan through the titles for something I haven’t seen in a while. But there are some that remain on the shelf. I consistently pass over them, again and again, even though they are really good (or else I wouldn’t have bought them, right?).

I can be okay with an ambiguous ending if there’s a good reason for it, which makes me a little more broadminded that some. (My sister, for example, who pretty much insists that I pre-watch any unknown commodity before I play it for her on one of our “movie days,” to be sure the ending is acceptable = unequivocally happy.) To me, on the other hand, it’s possible for an ending to be satisfying without being classically “happy.” Here are some examples from my collection:

With Atonement (I skip over all the grueling war stuff, btw), we’re given a better alternative ending to believe if we choose (which I do). Before We Go and Before Sunrise leave it to our own imaginations to decide how things work out, so it’s up to you. 500 Days of Summer doesn’t end the way you expect, but you’re left with the understanding that all will be well. Similarly, with Becoming Jane, we don’t get the outcome we may have been rooting for, but we understand that Jane and Tom made the right choice and were not left miserable because of it. A higher good was served.

These are exceptions, but in general, I’m all about the happy ending. That’s what I want and expect after I’ve invested my time and money. And I often feel annoyed (or worse) if I don’t get it – be it book or movie.

I know tragedies can be beautiful and moving too, and that’s where I get into trouble. I watch one and think, “Oh, that was such a good movie!” And so I buy it for my collection. But then, now knowing how it ends, I can’t bear to put myself through the anguish of such a heart-wrenchingly sad story. I say, “Not tonight. I’m in the mood for something light and happy.” Problem is, I’m basically always in the mood for light and happy.

So these wonderful films – City of Angels, Romeo and Juliet, Tristan + Isolde, Sommersby, First Knight – sit neglected on the shelf, month after month, year after year. Some of them I have literally never seen a second time and I can barely remember. I just know they’re very sad. And so, they have become the best movies I own but never watch.

Do you have this issue too? Thoughts on any of the movies named here or others you would add to the list? As for movies I do watch more than once, here’s a related post: My Movie Picks. It’s several years old now, and there are probably a few things I would update. But it’s still pretty accurate. And speaking of happy endings…

Colonel Brandon was now as happy as all those who best loved him believed he deserved to be. In Marianne he was consoled for every past affliction; her regard and her society restored his mind to animation, and his spirits to cheerfullness… (Sense and Sensibility, chapter 50)

About Shannon Winslow

author of historical fiction in the tradition of Jane Austen
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7 Responses to The Best Movies I Never Watch

  1. Robin G. says:

    I remember sitting on the couch, just saying “wow” after watching Moulin Rouge. For some reason, I’ve never watched it again.

    • I don’t think I’ve seen that one, although I seem to remember starting it once. Hmm. I just got out The Phantom of the Opera last night for the first time in a long while. It kind of has one of those ambiguous endings I mentioned: bittersweet.

  2. I haven’t watched all the movies above, but I agree with the theme of your post on the movies I have seen. I’ll never choose to watch Sommersby or Atonement again. Loved them once. I’m really glad such movies were made along with many others that do not have happy endings. The serious subject, not happy or ambiguous endings are kind of cathartic to watch. Others are very important to see once, like Schindler’s List.

    I thought I’d seen City of Angels, but I was thinking of another movie. I looked it up and it was a remake of a German film (Wings of Desire) I’d seen a couple of times and loved and yes, it too was sad but very compelling…I think it’s only available with subtitles. This was probably 15 years ago but the cinematography and story were amazing, but I wonder if I’d still like it as much. The next time I’m in the mood for something sad I’ll have to check out City of Angels.

    We so rarely watch TV anymore, but when we do it’s usually a movie we’ve heard about and want to see. The last thing we watched was The Dig, which was so lovely and I would watch that again.

    Here’s a new category for you, Shannon: Movies I’ve watched over and over and over again until I’ve finally hit the ’tilt’ mark and probably won’t watch them again, or maybe years and years in the future. None of the Jane Austen movie productions are in that group, though some of the older versions are easier to pass over in favor of the newer ones. 😀 I loved seeing a bit of your non-JAFF entertainment life.

    • You’re right that some movies are important to see once, even if they don’t qualify as light entertainment.

      Other than some sports, I don’t watch hardly any TV anymore either. I either watch a movie or listen to an audio book while I work online jigsaw puzzles.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  3. Glynis says:

    I would never watch Sommersby again despite it having Richard Gere! Pretty Woman however is totally rewatchable. I’ve watched many films over the years that I loved but found I didn’t watch again. I haven’t been to the cinema now for many years but I do have films I can watch many times including Pride and Prejudice, Dirty Dancing, Sweet Home Alabama, 10 Things I Hate About You, How to Lose A Guy, plus films I loved as a child like Pollyanna, The Parent Trap. Moonspinners, Blue Hawaii and GI Blues.
    I remember going with school to watch Romeo and Juliet with Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting? I loved that as well as Great Expectations with John Mills that we also went to see. I have watched them again since but wouldn’t buy them.
    Thanks for this, very thought provoking!

    • Sounds like our experiences are tracking pretty closely, Glynis! I loved the original Parent Trap and the book/movie The Moonspinners too. On the Haley Mills theme, what about The Trouble With Angels? That’s another oldie but goodie.

      • Glynis says:

        I loved all Hayley’s films. Was one called Summer Magic? In Search of the Castaways and The Family Way! Another favourite film that I missed off the list is the wonderful Princess Bride 🥰🥰

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