Rough Cut's Best Rewatches of 2019
By Sara Murphy D'Amico, Carson Cook, Zach D'Amico, and Jonny Diaz What makes a movie worth returning to over and over? Which scenes stick in the memory weeks, months, and dozens of movies -- both bad and good -- later? What details do you pick up on during a second, third, and fourth viewing? We endeavor to answer those questions and more in our first annual staff list of our best rewatches of 2019. With hundreds of unseen classics awaiting our virgin eyes, these are the movies that made us say, "nah, screw it."
Without further ado, in alphabetical order, Rough Cut's best rewatches of 2019.
Children of Men (2006) Why It’s Rewatchable: Children of Men is the rare film that becomes more timely the further we get from its release. Despite coming out over a decade ago (and being based on a nearly thirty year old book), Alfonso Cuaron’s masterpiece has never felt more prescient, and revisiting it after several years brought all of its sociopolitical themes into even starker relief. But it’s not just that our current state of affairs has made this dystopian tale more relevant than ever--Children of Men is an immaculately constructed and thrilling action movie with palpable human stakes, and it’s a blast to watch. New Takeaway: On first watch, it’s easy to get swept up in Children of Men’s technical brilliance and political themes, but it’s also got a top shelf cast, all working at the top of their game. Clive Owen and then-newcomer Claire-Hope Ashitey carry the film on the strength of their performances, supported by great turns from the likes of Julianne Moore, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Charlie Hunnam, Michael Caine, and Danny Huston. It’s an amazing ensemble. Most Rewatchable Moment: The centerpiece scenes of Children of Men are two extended action sequences shot as long single takes, and every time I watch them I notice new things I missed the last time. They’re absolutely jaw dropping. -JD
Edge of Seventeen (2016) Why It’s Rewatchable: The Edge of Seventeen has one of the low-key best ensemble performances of the decade. The performances are each strong, but it’s the way the characters interact that transcends, turning an honestly written coming-of-age tale into a sublime story of processing pain. It is an absolute treat to watch Hailee Steinfeld bounce off her weary, impatient mom (Kyra Sedgwick), her perfect brother (Blake Jenner), her traitorous best friend (Haley Lu Richardson), and her gruff-but-has-a-heart teacher Mr. Bruner (Woody Harrelson). New Takeaway: Coming-of-age performances aren’t always given the attention and appreciation they deserve, but Steinfeld is fantastic. In particular, her body language is controlled and evocative, whipping between faux-over-confident and self-defeated. Most Rewatchable Moment: When Hailee Steinfeld’s Nadine predicts everything her mother is going to say during an argument, writing down each familiar retort before she delivers it. It’s wish-fulfillment-catharsis for every person who was once a 16-year-old. -ZD
Edge of Tomorrow (2014) Why It’s Rewatchable: Groundhog Day, but with Tom Cruise as a cowardly military PR agent who keeps getting murdered by aliens and Emily Blunt as an ass-kicking war hero — what’s not to love?! This is big, fun sci-fi storytelling at its best: great premise, locked-in leads, inventive action sequences, and enough of a character arc to leave you narratively satisfied. Cruise and Blunt have excellent chemistry and, crucially for a movie of this ilk, Blunt’s character never feels like she’s just there as a plot device. An underrated gem at this point (the bizarre Live Die Repeat renaming saga did it no favors), I find myself drawn back to the film on a regular basis — and if that’s the loop I’m stuck in, I have no need to break out. New Takeaway: I absolutely adore the Mission: Impossible franchise and Cruise’s portrayal of near-superhuman spy Ethan Hunt, but he really excels at the sort of charming shadiness on display early in this movie — hopefully he continues to take on roles with more shades of gray in between Missions. Most Rewatchable Moment: The montage of Cruise being killed over and over again — often by Blunt putting him out of his misery despite his protestations — never gets old. -CC
Election (1999) Why It’s Rewatchable: Payne uses high school politics to paint a darkly comic, brilliantly scathing portrait of masculine fragility. The incisive script (adapted by Payne and Jim Taylor from Tom Perotta’s novel) isn’t afraid to make its leads refreshingly unlikable, and Matthew Broderick and Reese Witherspoon give note-perfect performances that highlight the difference in degree in that unlikeability. Tracy Flick may be a little annoying, but she’s just a kid trying to succeed in a world that she knows will do its best to make that difficult for her. Jim McAllister, on the other hand, is the prototypical “nice guy” who also blames a high school girl for the predatory sexual behavior of his friend. It’s not hard to see which one of these characters is the true hero here and every time I watch I root for Tracy more and more. New Takeaway: The original ending to the film was unearthed several years ago, which features a reconciliation between Tracy and Jim. Watching it now underlines just how much the actual finale, in its depiction of steadfast refusal to accept personal responsibility for one’s failings, resonates today. Most Rewatchable Moment: Any scene with Chris Klein’s lovable jock Paul Metzler. As maybe the movie’s most genuinely altruistic character despite his glaring lack of awareness, you just want to give him a hug every time you see him. -CC
The Fighter (2010) Why It’s Rewatchable: This film is rewatchable for its top-notch performances by actors Christian Bale, Mark Wahlberg, Amy Adams, and Melissa Leo. It’s a sports movie that at its core is more about the relationships between Micky and Dicky Ecklund, their mother, and Micky’s girlfriend, with Micky’s boxing career serving as the conduit for conflict. The Fighter is complex and fast-paced, lending itself to multiple rewatches without boring the viewer. You’ll notice something new every time you see it. New Takeaway: Amy Adams’ performance cannot be understated. She plays Charlene Fleming as an independent, forthright, I-won’t-take-anyone’s-shit small-town girl. But Amy gives her character room to have a somewhat softer side, especially when it comes to Micky. It’s a fine line to walk, and she does it well. Fun Fact: Mickey O’Keefe, Micky’s real-life trainer, plays himself in the film. -SMD
Frances Ha (2012) Why It’s Rewatchable: In the same way Rounders is rewatchable for Damon, Frances Ha is so revisitable for the perfect Greta Gerwig performance. But it’s not just Greta – it’s a combination of her and her character, Frances. We know her because we know that character, because she is so vividly written by Gerwig and Noah Baumbach. But we want to spend time with her because of Gerwig’s performance. New Takeaway: I often assume on first watches that a filmmaker is saying something, either positive or negative, about a film’s protagonist. On rewatch, I realize the beauty and simplicity of Frances Ha is that Frances just is. Baumbach’s film is one of his least judgmental, and I’d hazard a guess that Gerwig’s co-writing credit has something to do with that. Most Rewatchable Moment: When Greta Gerwig as Frances Ha trips and falls on her run back to a restaurant from the ATM, we all trip and fall on our run back to a restaurant from the ATM. -ZD
The Graduate (1967) Why It’s Rewatchable: The Graduate is instantly relatable for anyone who’s ever felt unsure about where their life is going. Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman, in his breakthrough role) is caught between adolescence and adulthood, on the precipice of a life he’s not sure he wants, pulled into romance with an older woman he doesn’t understand--the iconic Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft). It’s darkly comedic with a sizzling wit, and it’s the kind of movie that grows and evolves with you as you move through life. There are things in The Graduate that I thought I understood when I first saw it almost a decade ago, only to discover that on rewatch, they played a completely different way--not because the movie had changed, but because I had. Now that’s the hallmark of a truly rewatchable movie. New Takeaway: This time around, I really honed in on Katharine Ross’s Elaine. The movie mostly focuses on Benjamin and Mrs. Robinson, of course, but Ross gives a beautifully sympathetic performance that hints at her own, unexplored version of Benjamin’s generational ennui. I’d love to see the same story play out from her perspective. Most Rewatchable Moment: The infamous seduction scene is iconic for a reason. It’s a masterclass in writing, acting, direction, editing--everything that makes cinema what it is--all at once. You could teach an entire filmmaking course on this scene alone. -JD
A League of Their Own (1991) Why It’s Rewatchable: A League of Their Own is a half-dozen movies rolled into one. It’s a sports movie, a period piece, a buddy comedy, a family drama, a screwball romp, and a feminist triumph all rolled into one. It’s relentlessly entertaining with an all-star cast firing on all cylinders. The dialogue crackles, the story soars, and the performances are pitch perfect. Bottom line: it’s just really fun. New Takeaway: When I first saw this movie, years ago, I was naturally captivated by the murderer’s row of dynamic, supporting performances: Rosie O’Donnell, Madonna, Tom Hanks, and even Jon Lovitz take turns stealing the spotlight. But, like the Rockford Peaches themselves, the ensemble wouldn’t work without Geena Davis at the center, anchoring the entire movie. Davis doesn’t ever take the easy approach (her Dottie is pricklier than I remembered), and she manages to layer each scene with multiple textures, evident in only the slightest glance or gesture. It’s a capital M, capital S turn from one of our greatest (and most underappreciated) Movie Stars. Most Rewatchable Moment: There’s a particular thrill in looking back at a young Tom Hanks, star very much still on the rise, as a washed-up baseball coach giving a hilariously ornery performance, especially knowing that he would grow up to become America’s Dad. I could watch him in the “there’s no crying in baseball” scene every day for the rest of my life. -JD
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) Why It’s Rewatchable: For me (and maybe every millenial?) this is the classic rewatchable movie. It’s a movie I’m happy to turn on no matter what mood I’m in. The tone is light, the characters are feisty, and the score masterfully reflects the film’s bold stride into 1700’s piracy. Rewatching Pirates is more about reliving the hilarious moments you may have forgotten but quickly remember - such as Captain Jack Sparrow’s pronounced entrance into Port Royal on a sinking ship, or when Elizabeth Swann burns all the rum (drink up me hearties, yo ho!) or any of the dozen times Will Turner takes himself too seriously - than about discovering something new. New Takeaway: The writing in this movie is incredible. I know this, because I watched with Zach and Carson, and between the three of us we could quote almost the entire movie. Fun Fact: according to the Internet, the role of Captain Jack Sparrow was originally written for Hugh Jackman (too unknown at the time for Disney’s liking) and was later offered to Robert De Niro (who thought it wouldn’t do well at the box office). -SMD
Rounders (1998) Why It’s Rewatchable: Frankly, it’s Damon. He’s in virtually every scene, and he absolutely carries it as an eminently magnetic every man who wants-to-be-good but can’t quite escape his calling. Pairing him with Ed Norton’s Worm is a genius move: it allows us to feel comfortable rooting for Mikey McD, even when he’s sort of an asshole, because Worm is always worse. Add in the cascade of memorable guest turns – particularly Martin Landau and John Malkovich – and you can return to Rounders again and again. New Takeaway: I recently started The Sopranos for the first time, and Michael Rispoli does the flip-side of the same gangster performance coin as Jackie Aprile there and Grama here. The performances air about five months apart, and they are perfect complements. Most Rewatchable Moment: If I can’t just say every scene, I have to go with that opening. Rounders is infinitely re-watchable because it forever draws you in. The “If you can’t spot the sucker” quote; three stacks of high society; perfectly capturing the highs and the lows of poker and what it feels like to be on tilt. The opening has it all. -ZD
Shakespeare in Love (1998) Why It’s Rewatchable: I count this among the most rewatchable love stories ever made. John Madden’s rom-com twist on the classic Romeo and Juliet strikes the perfect Shakespearean balance of making you laugh while also breaking your heart. The plot brilliantly twists together the love story that drives the film with the love story that Shakespeare is writing for Philip Henslowe, the owner of the Rose Theater (which turns out to be Romeo and Juliet). And the cast (Gwyneth Paltrow, Joseph Fiennes, Geoffry Rush, Colin Firth, Ben Affleck, and Judi Dench) and production design leave nothing to be desired. This movie deserved every Oscar it won (7). It is an easy story to get lost in, which makes it more rewatchable and also more devastating. 5/5 stars. New Takeaway: Given that (1) the movie was set in the 1500’s and (2) it is a movie about Shakespeare, it would have been easy to have the focus be on the male lead and to write Viola de Lessep (Paltrow) as a meek, malleable character. Instead, she is a strong co-lead with her own ambitions, curiosity, and sense of adventure. Kudos to Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard. Fun Fact: Judi Dench won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, even though her on-screen time is about 6 minutes. It’s the second-shortest performance to ever win, behind Beatrice Straight’s win for a 5-minute part in Network. -SMD
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) Why It’s Rewatchable: Cameron’s sci-fi masterpiece holds up as one of the greatest action films ever made. T2’s decision to make Arnold Schwarzenegger’s killer robot the hero after being an unstoppable villain in the original film was a stroke of genius, but there’s more to it than just that fun premise: expertly paced and featuring wonderful turns from Linda Hamilton and Robert Patrick, T2 is filled to the brim with thrills while leaving enough room for genuine human moments that somehow feel all the more authentic when they involve time-travelling machines. New Takeaway: I watched this in anticipation of Linda Hamilton’s return to the franchise in this year’s Terminator: Dark Fate, and it’s unbelievable that they made three movies without her. Schwarzenneger is great, but Hamilton is the one who takes the whole endeavor to another level. Most Rewatchable Moment: This is a film jam-packed with standout sequences, and while an honorable mention goes to the prison break, the car (truck, dirt bike, motorcycle) chase down the Los Angeles River is the scene I always find myself returning to — I’m not sure anything has ever been cooler than the way Arnie reloads that shotgun. -CC