Five movies to watch alone

To coincide with our “Five movies to watch with a group,” post from the summer, it’s time for the foil.  Here are movies that we think you’ll get a deeper understanding from if you kick out the guests and block out the rest of the world.  While the group movies offer visceral thrills and outlandish humor, these movies use a sometimes understated, subtle way of telling the story that can’t be appreciated with a loud group of people.

There Will Be Blood- We both named Paul Thomas Anderson’s epic the best movie of the 2000s, but we’ve never watched it together.  Something primal about Anderson’s direction and Daniel Day-Lewis’ performance (also topping our best male performances list) leaps off the screen and speaks right to you.  If you’re in a crowded room, you won’t hear it as well.


Mulholland Dr.– This movie means something different to everybody who watches it.  The best way to watch it is at night with absolutely no distractions.  Let David Lynch’s surrealistic masterpiece enter and occupy your brain undisturbed, and you may learn a thing or two about yourself.  Watching Mulholland Dr. with a group makes the twist at the end seem more like an inconvenience than a thought-provoking, maddening thing of beauty.

Taxi Driver- A movie about a man isolated among a throng of people… what better way to watch it than alone?  Travis Bickle, immortally played by Robert DeNiro, wanders New York after leaving Vietnam.  He’s insane, but not the loud kind.  Watching this movie alone makes that “You talkin’ to me scene” all the more intense, because you’re the only one in the room with this mad man.

Lost in Translation– Make no mistake, this is a comedy; a comedy of looks more than words, of quiet moments more than flamboyant situations.  Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson are comedic gold and more, running amok on a journey of self-discovery in Tokyo both alone and together.  Sofia Coppola has a keen eye on how to shoot the city, something comedy viewers rarely get to appreciate.  There are dramatic elements to the film, but they are whispers as well.  If nothing else, you’ll want to watch this alone so there’s no obnoxious person yelling “What did he say in her ear??” at the end.


Dancer in the Dark- Lars von Trier’s brutally sadistic musical (try finding another one of those) is such an emotionally demanding, exhausting experience that it’s likely to put a damper on any social gathering if you watch it with a group.  Watching Bjork’s Selma endure the endless horrors of her American Nightmare and then escape into a world of music is something you need to experience alone, with a box of tissues handy.

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40 thoughts on “Five movies to watch alone

  1. What about Requiem for a Dream!

    I watched it with a girl i kinda liked, and that really killed the mood! – I should have watched alone first! – Then I would have known how depressing it is and put Sex Drive on instead…

  2. great list guys, deservedly on imdb.
    youre right – you shouldnt watch Lost in Translation with a group.. you shouldnt watch it at all, its a pile of pretentious crap.

    • woah! There shall be no denouncing ‘Lost In Translation’ on a film website… all film-makers think it’s one of the most poetic films out there. Sophia Coppolla does a great job at continuing her father’s legacy of making great films, also being the first american woman to win an Oscar for Directing, she should get praise anywhere linked to film-making.

      Might aswell go and slay ‘Shawshank Redemption’ and ‘The Good, The Bad and the Ugly’ whilst you’re there…

    • I agree about ‘Lost in translation’ , it is garbage. I found it xenophobic and didn’t sypathise with the main characters ; they were in Japan by choice !

      • I would say that Lost in Translation is anything but xenophobic. Sure, they don’t understand the culture, but they are totally immersed in it. In that state of vulnerability they grow from not only each other, but also from the place they are at. I don’t think sympathy is really something you would go for in this kind of movie, simply because the characters are really normal and kind of average. You have to put them in different situations to get any kind of depth or entertainment value out of it.

  3. You’re right on the money with Mulholland Dr – I was told that it was a great movie, so invited my girlfriend with a couple friends to watch it in my living room. Everyone fell asleep except my best friend and I. This movie should definitely be watched alone…

  4. I saw all these alone.

    There Will Be Blood is a horrible look at a horrible man doing awful things. Horrible!

    Dancer in the Dark is so bad I could only get half way through it. Lars von Trier hates women. He always makes them suffer horribly. Maybe his Mommy spanked his bare bottom and he is getting even!

    Taxi Driver makes me squirm. No matter if I’m alone or with others.

    Agree on Lost In Translation. Usually watch it alone and love it. Perfect little story of lonely people.

  5. I agree with all the films on this list, except for Lost in Translation which in my opinion in nowhere near in the same league as these other masterpieces.

  6. Holy shit, I tried watching Dancer in the Dark alone but then my friend walked in and I had to turn it off because they wouldn’t stop asking me “What the fuck are you WATCHING?!” Been meaning to do a von Trier marathon for a while now, might have to look for one of those lonely weekends. Awesome list, btw.

  7. I would also argue The Shining belongs in this list. You have to be alone to let the paranoia slowly creep up on you. In a group it’s boring and too long.

  8. 1. Weekend – Dir: Jean-Luc Godard
    2. Inland Empire – Dir: David Lynch
    3. 8 1/2 – Dir: Federico Fellini
    4. The Devils – Dir: Ken Russell
    5. Caché – Dir: Michael Haneke

  9. Nice List.

    But “John Q.” should definitely be on it. I watch it alone for the simple fact that I wouldn’t want anybody to see how I’m close to bursting out in Tears, everytime that whole “Take my Heart” Speech starts!

  10. Good list, although I wasn’t as impressed with some of the choices in the 5 movies to watch in a group. Perhaps one could add that these are movies that should be watched first by oneself and then with others because there is so much to be discussed in some of them. LiT is clearly one that some like and some hate too. I actually didn’t like it at first and then understood it more and thus liked it upon second viewing. I was one of the few that felt that There Will Be Blood was over-rated (over-acted), but that’s me. Maybe next you could do 5 movies that can’t be unseen. Movies that you enjoyed yet still wish you hadn’t seen because of how disturbing some aspect of the film was. That’s where I would put Dancer in the Dark plus movies like Antichrist.

  11. I would like to second “Requiem” and add
    1. The House of the Devil – If you watch it with others it can get very boring but if you watch it alone you get to enjoy the atmosphere and let it really creep you out.
    2. Children of Men – It is so literary that for it to really affect you need to watch it alone and then spend another half an hour alone thinking about it.
    3. Planes, Trains, and Automobiles – So that no one sees you shed a tear at the end
    4. Any Terrence Malick flick – its just you and nature.

  12. Pingback: Open Bar: December 2, 2010 — ANOMALOUS MATERIAL

  13. “Lars von Trier’s brutally sadistic musical (try finding another one of those)..”

    Challenge accepted!

    Repo, the Genetic Opera
    The Cook, the Thief, his Wife and her Lover
    Ed Gein the musical
    Evil Dead the musical
    Forbidden Zone
    Camp Blood: The Musical
    Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker
    Poultrygeist – Night of the Chicken Dead
    Little Shop of Horrors
    Cannibal the Musical
    Phantom of the Opera
    Monty Python and the Holy Grail

    Those are just off the top of my head.

    When I was recently forced to watch Dancer in the Dark again as part of a seminar, I couldn’t bare to sit through it till the end.

    The almost total lack of cinematography, missing make-up, ensemble of strictly one-dimensional characters, intentional strain of on-the-nose dialogue and total dependence of predictable cliches to fill his story, is simply von Trier’s giant insult of his audience.

    In his whole career, von Trier has basically made the same film over and over (a woman in peril shows her strength through tremendous sacrifice) and although some of his films are astounding achievements in movie making, no one is more aware of this more than von Trier himself. (He even said so himself in the Antichrist interview, where he proclaimed to be the greatest director in the world).

    Being the experimentalist that he is, he understands the effectiveness of his simple methods, and seems to be on a mission to see how many superficial elements he can strip away from his films, and still have people falling for his tricks, even when he’s not even trying to hide his ways anymore.

    Well, in Dancer in the Dark he took it too far. It is nothing but cheap melodrama about as enticing as an extremely low budget soap opera, helmed by Bjørk’s music.

    That’s not to say anyone who still likes Dancer in the dark is incredibly gullible and not particularly bright, but simply that they can’t possibly know much about movies for them to not notice what a giant middle finger the film is at its core.

  14. Fantastic list there. I saw TWBB on a date and when I pointed out the religion v. capitalism allegory, she wouldn’t shut up about how pretentious I was. I’ve watched it alone on my two subsequent viewings. And I’m not dating her anymore.

  15. Just my 2¢
    All of these films are nothing but cartoons, next to Gaspar Noe’s “Irreversible” of which last five minutes of the film are the sanest, or Lars Van Triers’s Antichrist. Which for the sake of this conversation should be viewed in a submarine. Even Pink Flamingos looks “normal” next to these I have listed above.
    There will be Blood was amazing and was harsh due to the context of the time of the characters involved. If you think was heavy? Watch Straw Dogs and get back to me.
    Taxi Driver was the pretty heavy but so was the time, and environment it was portraying. But not even as heavy to say, A Clockwork Orange?
    Mulholland Drive was steeped in David Lynch weirdness but, i do not think it is too heavy. Parts where out there but not the movie as a whole.
    Lost in Translation was like watching caulk dry. Nothing happened between them? Old Yeller was heaver than this one.
    If people who watch a movie and are bothered or offended then the film has done something made you feel. Plenty of films are made that are for General audiences.

    • I have to agree with you on “Irreversible.” I did watch it alone, and I couldn’t even imagine watching it with anyone. Even trying to explain this movie is difficult. I felt the reason why it was so painful, is the realistic approach Noe had throughout.

  16. Congrats on making the IMDb front page guys! Glad to see Mulholland Dr. on the list, it’s definitely one of those movies that needs to be seen all by yourself late at night for maximum effect.

  17. “Funny Games,” and “Bad Lieutenant.” Both of these movies need to be watched alone. There are elements to both of these movies that test your threshold for viewing.

  18. Pingback: It’s the Most Wonderful Posts of the Year « CyniCritics

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