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4 Ways to Improve Your Movie Night with your Friends

Updated on January 2, 2011

There are few things less inspiring than wanting to rent a movie, only to pour over lists of downloads that you're not interested in. Walking over to your collection and not being in the mood to watch anything on the shelf. Or going to the rental store with your friends, only to stand around for seemingly hours while the only thing you accomplish is knowing what films you don't want to watch.

On nights like that, what I try to do is mix things up a bit. Here are four tips you can try the next time you face “movie block” with your friends.

Robert Mitchum & John Wayne in "El Dorado"
Robert Mitchum & John Wayne in "El Dorado" | Source

Pick a Theme

Seems simple enough, but this can be a great time saver. With my friends I just ask, “Hey, in case we can't find anything new, can we pick a musical comedy?” It's important to pick a theme that's not too broad, such as “comedy”. Let's face it, “comedy” covers thousands of selections and gets you nowhere fast. By narrowing it down to something more strict like the aforementioned “musical comedy”, you can get closer to making a selection.

Of course, you probably want to pick themes that are even more specific, such as actors, holidays, events, etc.

And for more fun you can make some rather interesting choices if you mixed themes together. Let's say if someone picked “John Wayne” for actor and “Christmas” for a holiday, then “Donovan's Reef” would fit both categories.

Themes can even extend into seasons, for example in the doldrums of winter seeing a film like “The Secret Garden” can work wonders. It has to be one of the most “spring” of films ever made. There are many possibilities out there, just use your imagination and be somewhat specific...of course.

Have some “short” films available.

“Short” films can include cartoons, music videos, television episodes, or even full-length films that are divided into separate stories like “Aria” or “Four Rooms”. This is a great way for everyone to settle in for the evening and can in case no one can agree on anything new to watch be the entertainment for the night.

You can tie in television series to your movie night. For example, if you've chosen a “Western” film for the evening, then watching an episode or two of a series like “Wanted: Dead or Alive” is perfect since each show is under a half hour in run time.

I'll admit I'm a huge fan of the old Comedy Central/Syfy series “Mystery Science Theater 3000”. Where three characters made funny riffs over older and generally “bad” films. Three of the old “MST3K” members run a website called “Rifftrax”. Where they produce not only comedy riffs you can use over some of the newer, popular films like the “Twilight” series, but also have riffed over some short films that you can purchase as low as .99 cents. They've also combined many of these “shorts” into DVD collections.

Pick a “Drinking Game” Movie.

Usually the film that's subject to a “drinking game” is one that has a repeated line or action. A popular one is “Dazed and Confused” where the words “Hey” & “Man” often are spoken in the same sentence by many of the films characters. Or to pick one of my favorites, “Rio Bravo” where Dean Martin's character “Dude” wipes his lips throughout the film. Another popular choice is the rather obscure film “Run Ronny Run” where the “take a swig” rule applies only to when a known actor makes a cameo. And trust me, there are plenty of known actors who show up in this flick.

I tend to chose the “drinking game” films that have a simple “one swig only” rule for each line or action as opposed to the “Drink six times when X happens”. No need for things like doing math to ruin a perfectly good evening.

Now, I'm not suggesting that you actually “drink” to the film, that's your choice. But this is the kind of college tradition that can be transposed to a non-alcoholic world. Instead of “taking a swig” as they say, you might do something as simple as raising your glass, repeating the action or that line out loud. Or just make up your own rule that everyone can agree with.

As a last resort, have a small selection of “anytime” films around.

In my collection, I have a few films that I can watch literally anytime. It's not that they are the best films ever made, just the kind of movies that fit whatever mood I'm in. One in particular is The Beatles “A Hard Day's Night”, a film that seems just as new and fresh as when it was first released back in 1964. It helps that I'm a huge Beatles fan, but more importantly it has that rebellious spirit, the kind of tweak the nose of authority that all of us can identify with.

Along the same lines would be a Marx Brothers movie like “Duck Soup” or “Horsefeathers”. The latter in particular I can identify with since I went to college (though no college like the one depicted in the film).

With your friends, what I would suggest is mentioning an “anytime” film beforehand like, “Hey, in case we can't find a film like X, perhaps something like Y is in order?” just to gauge the mood your friends are in that night. Even “anytime” films can get tedious if they are watched too many times, so be sure not to go to this well too often.

I hope these suggestions help you in cutting down on the search time that can eat up a potential evening's worth of enjoyment. If you have any others, I would be glad to see them.


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