We all have them. Maybe it’s Dove chocolates that you hide in the cabinet with the aluminum foil and trash bags, so the kids can’t get into them. Maybe it’s the songs from ABBA and Air Supply on your playlist. Or, it’s the fact that you’re addicted to playing Bubble Witch on your iPhone.
Or, it might be a certain movie that you like a lot, but are sometimes ashamed to admit it. It doesn’t have to be a movie with terrible production values like Plan 9 from Outer Space, a contender for worst movie ever. Bad movies are sometimes fun to watch just to goof on them with family and friends, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I like a good bad movie from time to time.
But, there are a few movies that I might hesitate to admit enjoying because I don’t want to change a person’s opinion of me. I said, “I might” hesitate. 99% of the time I’m not concerned with other peoples’ opinions of me. But, there’s still that 1% of the general population who I don’t want to have to explain my affection for certain movies that might be considered lowbrow or girly. My wife, for instance.
Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying here. I like stupid, testosterone-driven action flicks with impossible martial arts, spectacular car crashes and violent explosions as much as the next guy. Maybe more. Those aren’t my guilty pleasures. Most men I know will freely admit to enjoying a Fast & Furious movie (pick one), or something starring Jet Li or Chow Yun Fat. Many would even admit to having a hetero man-crush (or even not-hetero, whatever floats your boat) on Jason Statham or Daniel Craig. I also don’t mind graphic violence, harsh language or sexual content. I may not brag about such movies, but I’m not ashamed to admit that I like them.
But, like it or not, some of us—especially guys my age or older—were raised with certain gender stereotypes to which we were expected to conform. John Wayne movies were for guys. Gone with the Wind was for girls. Guys liked rock-and-roll music. Girls liked disco. Guys liked televised sports, drinking beer and playing poker. Girls liked soap operas, drinking wine and Harlequin romance novels. Guys liked The A-Team and Six Million Dollar Man. Girls liked Falcon Crest and The Love Boat.
Not all of the guilty-pleasure movies on my list are there because they don’t conform to expected gender stereotypes. Some of them are on the list because I can’t really explain why I like them to someone. I just do.
If you’ve watched Napoleon Dynamite, you’ll understand more of what I’m about to write. If you haven’t watched this movie, I’m almost certain nothing I say will make you want to.
I probably laughed out loud more when I watched this movie the first time than I have with any other movie. That is a ringing endorsement for a comedy, I suspect. Not so much with my next observation: not one single objectively funny thing happens in this movie.
I can’t explain why I laugh when Napoleon’s brother Kip talks about wanting to become a cage fighter, or when we learn Napoleon’s grandmother broke her coccyx in a quad-bike accident. Or, any time Uncle Rico appears on-screen. I also can’t explain why Napoleon’s dance routine is one of the most weirdly awesome things I’ve ever seen. But, it is.
I know. This is hardly a movie flop. It earned something like 100 times its cost in the theaters. So, I’m not alone here. I just can’t explain it.
Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle
This is a movie I don’t like to talk about in mixed company because I don’t want anyone to get the impression that I’m a stoner.
I’m not. Really. Honest.
Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle has an almost-perfect story structure. A pair of stoner buds, one Indian-American and the other Korean-American, get the munchies after smoking it up and only White Castle’s tiny burgers will satisfy them. Perfect. Here are our characters; here is their goal. Everything else that happens in the story is second-act obstacles, including Neil Patrick Harris playing a fictionalized version of himself as a heterosexual drug fiend and all-around agent of chaos.
Aside from the main story goal, we have individual character goals. Harold wants to gain the confidence to tell a young woman that he likes her. Kumar is being pressured by his family to attend medical school, but he’s trying to decide if that’s something he really wants. Both of these sideplots are reasonably resolved, and the boys get their tiny hamburgers.
P.S. I’ve never eaten a White Castle burger, unless you count those frozen ones, but I gather they’re akin to Krystal’s sliders. All I have to say to Harold and Kumar is this: I get it.
Okay, this is a chick flick. I have no business liking Steel Magnolias as much as I do. But, as a true son of the South, I identify with a lot of things that happen in this movie. It was based on a stage play of the same name. It has humor and it has drama. It also has Sally Field, Dolly Parton, Olympia Dukakis, Julia Roberts, Shirley MacLaine and Daryl Hannah. Is it a full-bore melodrama at the end? Absolutely. But, Tom Skerritt is almost every adult male role model I had when I was growing up.
Eddie and the Cruisers
Why is this a guilty pleasure? Mostly because I will freely admit that I like this movie far, far more than I should. It was a box office flop, the story itself is an admitted mess, and its Rotten Tomatoes rating, at least on the professional critic side, is a dismal 38%, which is certified rotten, if you’re keeping score. The audience score was a respectable 78%, however. We commoners are often more accepting of a flawed product.
In spite of the movie’s flaws, which are numerous, it gets bonus points from me because it is earnest and the makers of the film tried very hard. The Citizen Kane-like framing device is clunky and obvious, and the central mystery of the missing tapes is contrived and threadbare, from a plot perspective. Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story was a comedic parody of music biopics. In a way, Eddie and the Cruisers is as well, dipping into the history of myriad musical acts, such as Bruce Springsteen and The Doors. The music of John Cafferty & the Beaver Brown Band ties all of the confusing, competing elements of this movie together for me. I still like many of these songs.
Yes, the ending is hokey. I still loved it.
Pretty in Pink
The truth is I could have picked any of several John Hughes movies as a guilty pleasure. But, only Sixteen Candles and this one are what I would consider guilty pleasures. Without hesitation, I can bring up Ferris Beuller’s Day Off, The Breakfast Club, and Uncle Buck in almost any group situation.
Kevin Smith even bad-mouths this movie, and I believe it’s a contender for one of his best films. I know what happened. A lot of people hated on this movie because it starred Jennifer Lopez (briefly) and Ben Affleck, who made the monumental flop Gigli in 2003, a year before Jersey Girl was released. Plus, Kevin Smith seems to revel in making enemies also, so this was the perfect storm of movie-making.
This movie has a sentimental story, and is more mature than most of Smith’s output. Plus, it features a wonderful performance from the late George Carlin. There’s other Smith films that I’d join the dogpile on, such as Jay and Silent Bob Reboot and Yoga Hosers, but this one merits a closer look.
“Nobody puts Baby in the corner.”
Remember this: men quote movie dialogue—like, a lot. Women who I have known have a natural faculty for quoting things that men don’t remember saying.
That reads more than a little sexist, but it wasn’t intended that way. I didn’t say all women. I said all of the women I have personally known. If you don’t know me, you can’t be angry at me.
My wife, who is normally a kind and compassionate person (just ask anyone), made fun of me, mercilessly, after I told her I loved this movie. But, I do. The love story. Swayze. Jennifer Grey, when she still had her nose. Jerry Orbach—Lennie Briscoe from Law & Order—as the dad. The abortion subplot. The dance contest and the lift.
Sure, I always feel like I need to watch something with high-caliber weapons and roundhouse kicks to get my testosterone levels up afterward. I still love this movie.
I’m talking the original here with Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell. I’ve seen the remake, and it’s okay, but the original is better. There’s a skeevy sort of love story, in which a man with a house full of children makes an amnesiac socialite believe she is his wife and mother to the aforementioned children. The man’s insidious, and felonious, plot is discovered, the socialite returns to her husband and yacht, and then the two decide that they do need to be together. They jump from their respective boats into the ocean and then swim to each other. Happy ending.
John Travolta probably ends up on many “guilty pleasures” lists. Saturday Night Fever and Staying Alive aren’t guilty pleasures for me, because I’m not a huge fan of either. Battlefield Earth wasn’t a pleasure for anyone. I like Michael, and it almost qualified for this list, but my pleasure derived from Pulp Fiction isn’t guilty at all. Yes, I know Travolta has been in other movies, but my attitude towards them is seldom pleasurable or guilty, so I’m not talking about them here.
This is Deborah Winger and Scott Glenn, and Travolta, in an overwrought drama about bull riding (both real and mechanical) and Gilly’s spansive barroom. There’s something very country about this. But, I still love it.
I love Roadhouse and Red Dawn and Taps in a similar fashion, but without the guilt.
It’s no coincidence that Pure Country ends up on the list beside Urban Cowboy. They are similar stories, similarly structured. I will cop to not being a George Strait fan prior to this movie. But, it was Lesley Ann Warren who brought this one home for me. This is the movie that makes me involuntarily belt out country songs.
In many ways, this movie is a love sonnet for classic country and an indictment of modern country. I find that I’m on board with this sentiment.
You could argue that I have no reason to feel guilty for liking any one of these movies. I’d accept that argument. Still—