List o’ the Week: Movies I Don’t Get

A few weeks ago, I ran into an old friend, who happens to be one of my (very) few “real-life” friends who has any interest whatsoever in classic movies. We got to talking about some films he’d seen recently, which had been recommended to him – The Third Man and How Green Was My Valley. He gave a disgruntled, lengthy thumbs-down review to them both, saying he just “didn’t get” what all the fuss was about. Although I urged him to give The Third Man a second (or third, or fourth) try, and explained that although How Green Was My Valley didn’t really have a plot, it was a beautiful, moving film, he wasn’t convinced.

This started me to thinking about movies I’ve seen, that are highly thought of by most film fans, but that I just “don’t get.” So that’s today’s List o’ the Week: my Top 10 movies I don’t get:

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

I can’t deny it. This movie made me want to stick something in my eye. Anything.

Vertigo (1958)

I’m a HUGE Hitchcock fan, but I just can’t with this one. I’ve tried. But I just can’t.

Dr. Zhivago (1965)

I only get this movie as a substitute for a sleeping pill. Zzzz.

The Swimmer (1968)

I REALLY don’t get this one.

Spellbound (1945)

I love Ingrid Bergman, Gregory Peck is great, Hitchcock is awesome…so it’s a mystery why I don’t get this one. But I don’t.

The Champ (1931)

Oh my gosh, y’all — the scenery chomping is too much. And the final scene just makes me laugh. I’m sorry.

Black Narcissus (1947)

I know it’s all visually breathtaking and deep and Powell and Pressburger and whatnot, but I don’t get it.

Chinatown (1974)

For me, the parts were better than the whole — quotable quotes, memorable scenes (“She’s my sister! She’s my daughter!”), awesome cinematography, but I just wasn’t bowled over. Maybe because I didn’t know what the heck was going on most of the time.

Kiss Me Deadly (1955)


Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)

I’m wild about Cary, but I have to admit that I … well, you know.

And that’s my top 10 list of films I don’t get. I may revisit some of these as part of a future “Second Chances” series I have planned — but in the meantime, they remain in the realm of perplexed shrugs, if you know what I mean.

What about you – are there any fan favorites whose charms escapes you? And what do you think of my list?

~ by shadowsandsatin on June 16, 2018.

30 Responses to “List o’ the Week: Movies I Don’t Get”

  1. Vertigo is a brave choice, considering all the ink spilled over it. I kind of agree. I keep thinking, well, I guess I’m just not worthy, and maybe the next time I watch it something will click and I’ll be bowled over like everybody else. Not yet. Anyway, I love most Hitchcock, but Suspicion is another one that did absolutely nothing for me.

    • I’m glad I’m not alone on Vertigo, Michael. I don’t know many (any) people who don’t think it’s a masterpiece. I did like Suspicion, but it’s not one of my favorite Hitchocks, and I can’t stand the ending.

  2. My list would almost match yours! Dr Zhivago was a snoozefest for me, and Vertigo seemed to be all about male obsession with Novak’s role one big yawn (totally prefer this duo in Bell, Book, and Candle!). But I do have a caveat: i found Casablanca super dull until I was much older, so you never can say never!

    • I agree with you about preferring Stewart-Novak in Bell, Book and Candle, which I saw for the first time just recently. I also agree that you can never say never — it took several viewings of The Magnificent Ambersons, Citizen Kane, and The Razor’s Edge to grow on me.

  3. I’m with you on 2001 and THE SWIMMER is a real oddity (but still interesting in its own way). But VERTIGO and BLACK NARCISSUS are among my all-time faves and I’m a fan of CHINATOWN, ARSENIC AND OLD LACE, and KISS ME, DEADLY. Just goes to show that watching films is a personal experience!

    • That’s for sure about filmgoing — it’s really interesting that what really turns one person off can be the very thing that attracts someone else! I might give Chinatown another whirl, incidentally. 🙂

  4. I never could stand Vertigo, but I absolutely LOVE The Swimmer. I’ve read the short story, and watched the film repeatedly. The film is ultimately a major downer, and I discover ever deeper layers of meaning on each viewing. I’m going to watch it again tonight!

  5. Cool list, and brave of you to cite all these hoary classics that get the critical classes’ hearts fluttering – certainly you can’t say the word Kubrick in some peoples’ company without seeing the eyes glaze over and hearing the whispered, reverential ‘genius’…

    For me, I have never got French New Wave. These films are meant to be wonderful, thrusting, bold, cool, etc, but they leave me largely cold. I have tried. I go through the usual effort of trying to catch as many ‘great’ movies as I can, and normally I can see what all the gushing is about, but not these – I find Godard largely impenetrable, aloof even, A BOUT DE SOUFFLE should leave me… breathless, but it just looks like 90 minutes of some fella being a bit mean to Jean Seberg, for no reason I can see.

    • Your comment about Kubrick cracked me up. I don’t get the appeal of most of his stuff, but I will admit that The Killing is one of my favorite movies of all time.

      I haven’t seen many French New Wave films, but I’ve seen Breathless and brother, I’m right there with you. Blecch.

  6. I was just talking about this! I don’t like Bringing Up Baby. During a recent rewatch I decided it’s because the Hepburn character is just an terrible, charmless person. It’s not this cute screwball thing, she’s just annoying and self-centered. PHew, felt good to get that out again.

    (I love almost all the movies on this list LOL)

    • I actually like Bringing Up Baby for quite a bit of the movie — the screwballiness keeps me quite entertained — but it kinda loses me after a while. In fact, there’s about 20 minutes that I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen, because I totally zone out. LOL

  7. Of your ten, there are four I may never ‘get ‘ as I can’t see me making any effort to watch them – The Swimmer, The Champ, Chinatown and Dr. Zhivago.
    I love Michael Ostrowski’s comment on Vertigo – “….considering all the ink spilled over it!”
    Of the other films in your list I’m sad you don’t like Kiss Me Deadly.
    Personally, I don’t get Citizen Kane, Touch of Evil or Gone With The Wind. So there!

    • I tell you, Vienna, I’m kinda said that I don’t like Kiss Me Deadly too. But it’s not for lack of trying, that’s for sure! I’m not that wild about Touch of Evil either (matter of fact, that one should’ve made my list), but Gone With the Wind? Them’s fightin’ words! LOL

  8. There seems to be a common thread that some of these are anti-genre genre films. With depressing conclusions for their protagonists. 2001’s message is that Man(Person?)kind has been a pawn of outside forces since its inception. NOTHING we’ve done has any value except as a prelude to the Final Transcendence. Vertigo, Kiss Me Deadly, Chinatown all have detectives who find that the real world contains much meaner streets than are found in fiction. The Mike Hammer of Kiss Me Deadly is a swaggering, sneering idiot who only succeeds in – SPOILER I GUESS – getting himself and all the rest of us killed. But these three all deny the expected pleasures that genre’s supposed to provide.

    • What an interesting take on my list, Bill — I see what you mean! Although I must say that I definitely have nothing against a downbeat ending — I prefer it, in fact, when it comes to noir. But maybe, like with Mike Hammer, my problem with these is that I just can’t find anything at all appealing about the detectives — I don’t even love to hate ’em!

  9. I’m with you on 2001, Spellbound, The Swimmer and Zhivago.

    I’m starting to find myself having more kindly thoughts toward Vertigo and Kiss Me Deadly the last few years.

    As a zaftig woman who once played Aunt Abby in a community theatre production of Arsenic and Old Lace, I feel bound to defend the charms of the old lady serial killer play. I think there’s a special place in Heaven for all the gals who once played the aunts.

    • Arsenic and Old Lace truly seems to be universally loved — I feel almost duty-bound to give it another chance. Hmm. (And I would’ve dearly loved to have seen you as Aunt Abby!!)

  10. Of the ones on your list that I’ve seen too, I must concur with the two Hitchcock selections (along with Mr. Ostrowski’s assessment of Suspicion). All of them are Hitchcock titles you see at least once because of his name, but they don’t prompt repeated viewings like Rear Window, The Birds, Psycho and Marnie, for instance.

    Everything I’ve read about Wallace Berry suggests the man was a true pill to work with. I don’t think he gave Marie Dressler any guff, but he made things difficult for the young Crawford (Grand Hotel) when co-star help really counted, he outright hated Jean Harlow, was jealous of Gable’s power with women, and later in life, the adult Jackie Cooper would detail what little fun there was working with Berry. With that in mind, one go-round with The Champ was enough.

    There’s no denying how visually mesmerizing 2001 is, but I fully agree that those seeking strong narrative also are left totally bereft by it. As I am.

    On the other hand, there’s The Swimmer. While I don’t fully get all of it, I think it’s about the ultimate soul-emptying price demanded of subservience to consumerism and status seeking. It does okay on that score, but that’s not why I return. With guilt, I confess I find Lancaster, 53 when this filmed in 1966, and mostly undressed for 90 great minutes, some irresistible mature beefcake. 😛 Then there’s the kick of Joan Rivers long before any plastic surgery, and some post-Streetcar Kim Hunter minus any ape makeup.

    • I had to laugh about Marnie, Dave — that’s another one that should’ve made my list. Yipes! But I totally agree about the others, and I’m glad to see that I’m not alone!

      I did love seeing Joan Rivers in The Swimmer– I’m glad you mentioned her! And the stuff about Beery — so interesting! I didn’t know anything about his relationships with his adult co-stars, just Jackie Cooper. He’s now officially on my list.

  11. If I ever have to sit through Dr. Zhivago again, I hope someone will put me out of my misery. My list would also included Citizen Kane and Ninotchka.

    • Ninotchka is another one that has totally grown on me over the years. The first time I saw it, I totally didn’t get the attraction. Garbo laughs. Big whoop. But I totally fell for it after the second or third time, and now I love it. And Citizen Kane definitely took multiple viewings for me to appreciate it.

  12. I agree with your list maybe with the exception of “Vertigo” because that was very fun to parody! I’m embarrassed to admit it but I also would add, “Best Years of Our Lives”. That was sort of painful. And, truthfully, I couldn’t see “Gone With the Wind” again if my life depended upon it.

    The older I get the less patience I have anyway, and some of these shows just wear me out! My favorite film genre is noir and that remains the case. I could watch “Double Indemnity” back to back. By the way, that was a fun parody too.

    • It’s funny that you mention Best Years of Our Lives! It’s always been one of those movies that made me roll my eyes when people would go on about it. But the last time I saw it, I was frickin’ mesmerized! And it made me cry, like, five or six times! Now I am one of the converted. LOL.

      And you know I’m with you on Double Indemnity. I could totally watch it on a loop.

  13. I think I get most of your choices…. any movie starring Bela Legosi after 1941 sends me into the land of confusion. 😀

  14. This is a fabulous list, Karen. Many of my “Don’t Get’s” are on this list too, starting with 2001: A Space Odyssey.

  15. Then there’s the kick of Joan Rivers long before any plastic surgery

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