An interesting poll from The Press Association today. According to a study of 1500 by the UK video rental firm Lovefilm, “The Godfather” is the #1 movie most people claim to have seen, but haven’t. According to this poll, almost one out of every three people say they have seen “The Godfather” under false pretenses. The rest of the top five most lied about movies are “Casablanca,” “Taxi Driver,” “2001: A Space Odyssey,” and “Reservoir Dogs.” It should be noted this is a UK poll with UK voters; it’s possible an American poll with American voters might come out differently.
Let’s talk for a minute about lying about movies you’ve seen. We’ve all done it at least once in our life. I definitely have. The last time for me was a couple of years ago when I got into a conversation about Akira Kurosawa and I may or may not have pretended to have seen “Seven Samurai.” I might not have necessarily said “I’ve seen that!” but I was definitely asked “You know ‘Seven Samurai,’ right?” and I nodded my head and kept my mouth shut so as to not arouse suspicion. (And by the way, I’ve seen “Seven Samurai” twice, since. I swear.) On the old IFC podcast we devoted a couple of episodes to cinematic blindspots. We never got to watch and discuss our last round of blindspots; the final batch of movies I got called out for not having seen was “All About Eve,” (which I’ve probably lied about having seen at least once or twice) “The Earrings of Madame De…,” and “Intolerance” which, in my defense, is really freaking long.
Lovefilm was polling average moviegoers, not critics, but I have to admit some of the movies on that list surprise me. They’re all fun films to watch: suspenseful, romantic, visually engaging, whatever. These are not turgid melodramas, or eighteen hour Bulgarian artfilms about a guy watching a cat (no offense, Bulgaria). It is an inevitability of this job. Until you’ve been at it for decades, there are movies you should have seen and haven’t. All you can do is keep trying to see these films and expand your knowledge. Someimes the urge to pretend you’re more knowledgable than you are can be hard to resist.
So let’s fess up, people: What movies have you lied about seeing?
Far be it from us to contradict Mr. Bill Murray, but a prediction made in a scene from one of his films is about to be put to the test. If you remember Ghostbusters II, then you know that at the beginning of the film, retired ‘buster Peter Venkman is the host of a chat show called World of the Psychic. According to a guest on the show, the world will end on February 14th, 2016 — this Valentine’s Day.
Now, before you start looting, keep in mind the source of this information is a tad unreliable. Elaine (played by Sid and Nancy star Chloe Webb) sits with Venkman and relates how she received this intel from an alien who may or may not have disguised a UFO to look like a Holiday Inn in Paramus. Let’s just hope she misheard, otherwise there will be some awkward date nights this year.
Check out the grim prognostication in the clip below. Hopefully the world will still be here when Ghostbusters IIairs Monday, Feb. 15th and throughout the month on IFC.
In the early ’90s, The X-Files was a cultural happening, right up there with Pogs and the Bartman. It hit at a perfect moment, spawning catchphrases and racy fan fiction that helped shape the early days of the Internet. With The X-Files: Fight the Future and The X-Files: I Want to Believe airing this month on IFC, we thought we’d revisit some of the scariest episodes the show ever produced. Wake up your inner ’90s child, and let them know they won’t being going to sleep tonight, because the truth is out there, and it is freaking terrifying.
12. “Our Town,” Season Two
We all know small towns have something to hide, at least on The X-Files. That certainly proved true in this second season episode that made us rethink our eating habits. When The X-Files did horror, the writers always strived to find a new slant on an old genre. Here, that meant taking the iconography of cannibals, masked murderers and factory farming, and whipping them together into a uniquely scary stew. “Our Town” isn’t a perfect episode, falling into cliché at times (Scully pulls the damsel in distress routine for the umpteeth time), but it more than makes up for its faults with some genuine scares.
11. “Chinga,” Season Five
What do you get when you combine the greatest horror show of its time with the greatest horror author of the century? The answer is this fifth season episode, penned by Stephen King himself, about a mind controlling killer doll come to life. Whether it’s clawing out your own eyes, or stabbing yourself with a hammer, this stuffed little lady is impossible to say no to. While the episode received mixed reviews, for any fan of King, it’s a must watch. If nothing else, the surprise the network got when they learned that “Chinga” is actually a curse word in Spanish must’ve been pretty terrifying.
10. “Eve,” Season One
Nothing is scarier than twins. That’s just a fact. But what if those creepy twins were just the tip of the iceberg? What if countless clones were made in some secret government lab, all with one purpose… Murder! That’s the idea here, as Mulder and Scully face off against a ragtag band of grimy killer clones, who will just as soon bite your head off as look at you. “Eve” was a creepy first season episode that demonstrated what a mastery of genre the show would have moving forward.
9. “The Host,” Season Two
For any of us that have worried about what monsters may be lurking in the toilet, this episode confirmed our very worst fears. An early effort at the “Monster-of-the-Week” format that would come to define the show, it’s far from a perfect episode. But what it does do effectively is create a creepy monster with a freakish sucker face that plays on our unspoken fears of the unknown. An early indicator of what this show was capable of, “The Host” (and Flukeman) still freaks us out enough to make the list.
8. “Folie à Deux,” Season Five
There’s nothing scarier than losing your mind. That’s what this season five episode explored, when Mulder found himself seeing monsters no one else could. Was he cracking up? Or were they real (and unstoppable) because no one would believe him? Which is really more terrifying? A spooky outing full of fun ideas and creepy visuals, this was one of the few episodes that made you wonder if Mulder was going to find a way out of it in one piece.
7. “Irresistible,” Season Two
The X-Files would do anything for a scare, even if it meant dropping the supernatural for an episode and showing us how terrifying man can be without all the aliens and ghosts to get in the way. “Irresistible” focused on a Scully-obsessed serial killer who takes misogyny to the next level, killing women and keeping their hair and fingers as trophies. The episode stands out thanks to a furiously creepy performance from Nick Chinlund, who imbues his killer with an oily smugness. Featuring one of the show’s all-time best guest spots, this episode really showed why you should trust no one.
6. “Die Hand Die Verletzt,” Season Two
Everyone knows that substitute teachers are a bunch of pushovers. Well, that doesn’t seem to be the case in Milford Haven, New Hampshire, where desks are filled with student’s eyes and hearts, instead of homework. This season two episode explored what happens when those we trust with our kids prey upon them. While the story was fairly conventional, the scares were intense, playing out ritual sacrifice and supernatural suicide against a backdrop of typical high school drama.
5. “Patient X,” Season Five
Most of the truly scary, full-blown horror episodes of The X-Files were stand alone, and separate from the show’s larger mythology. This episode is different. Diving head first into the show’s labyrinthine plot about alien invasion, “Patient X” showed how terrifying visitors from outer space could be. There’s lots of dark moments here. Bodies burned alive. Alien infections. But none compare to the visual of the infected, their bloody eyes and mouths sewn shut, coming for us all. One of the most striking visuals the show ever came up with, it was a moment that turned an episode that was for true blue fans into something that could freak out just about anybody.
4. “Sanguinarium,” Season Four
Talk about medical malpractice. This fourth season episode explored the trust we place in our doctors to not go batty and start ritually sacrificing us while they’re all up in our guts. Plastic surgery was just becoming a way of life in the ’90s, which meant it was a fertile subject for satire. And what is horror but satire with blood? X-Files creator Chris Carter saw the potential in exploring the glamorous industry’s dark underbelly of vanity and pride. It’s not much of a leap from paying a doctor thousands of dollars for the perfect body to selling your soul for one. And, of course, there’s plenty of blood to boot.
3. “Field Trip,” Season Six
This sixth season episode was a head-trip, for both the characters and the audience. What’s real and what’s a hallucination? In the episode, Mulder and Scully both find themselves under the effects of a potent, psychotropic spore that causes them to vividly hallucinate. We see them kidnap aliens and die horrible deaths, all while still trapped inside their own minds. Each time we think they’ve made it free, we realize this is just another layer of fantasy. A mind-tripping horror show that leave us on the edge of our seats, “Field Trip” was one of the most innovative and freaky episodes in the show’s run.
2. “Detour,” Season Five
You’re lost in the woods, being hunted by a monster you can’t see. AND you have to deal with some serious sexual tension with your work wife to boot. That’s the premise of this classic episode from the show’s fifth season which pits Mulder and Scully against nature itself, by way of a chameleon-like “Monster-of-the-Week.” The monster in this episode was one of the show’s best, blending into its surrounding just enough to be anywhere, while always tipping us off with its disturbing, glowing eyes. If we can all agree to ignore its similarities to Predator, this is one of the show’s very best episodes.
1. “Home,” Season Four
One of the most controversial outings in the show’s history, this season four episode was so brutal, so graphic, and so disturbing that some fans felt like they’d been betrayed. In a sense, this episode posits what would happen if Mulder and Scully wandered into The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but with a bit less chainsaw, and bit more inbred freaks. The show would never again create freaks as disturbing as The Peacocks, who were almost scarier for their way of life than their brutal murders.
Posted by Emmy Potter on Photo Credit: Mary Evans/Universal Pictures/Ronald Grant/Everett Collection
After the Kennedy Assassination and Watergate Scandal, the American public found themselves living with a greater sense of paranoia and cynicism toward the powers that be. Those bleak fears bled into popular culture and especially cinema in the 1970s, which gave us arguably the greatest, most influential decade of American film. In the post-9/11 political landscape, fear-mongering and a higher emphasis on invasive government surveillance have reignited Big Brother paranoia all over again. Before you go on the run with superspy Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum on IFC this month, check out our list of conspiracy thrillers worth investigating. But be careful…You never know who’s watching.
1. All The President’s Men
That demise Richard Nixon’s presidency is in part the result of some ace investigative journalism by Washington Post reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, who are the subjects of director Alan J. Pakula’s classic film, the third and final installment in his unofficial “paranoia trilogy” which includes the excellent Klute and The Parallax View.
As Woodward (Robert Redford) and Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) begin uncovering proof of wire taps, blackmail, and other forms of clandestinely illegal activities tied to Nixon’s administration, their lives are put into greater danger. William Goldman, who also wrote The Princess Bride, was personally chosen by Robert Redford to pen the script, but Redford didn’t like the first draft and had Bernstein and then-girlfriend Nora Ephron write a draft. Ultimately, Goldman’s taut, tense script won out and netted him an Oscar as well.
2. Three Days of the Condor
Three Days of the Condor is one of seven films Robert Redford made with director Sydney Pollack before Pollack’s death in 2008. The film centers around Redford’s CIA analyst character, code name “Condor,” who returns from lunch one day to find all six of his co-workers murdered. Turner goes on the run while he tries to uncover who is behind the murders, never knowing whom he can trust, including the CIA.
Three Days of the Condor started shooting about a month or so after Nixon’s resignation in 1974, and is one of the first of a slew of films influenced by the corruption of the Watergate era. Interestingly enough, the film inspired the story structure for Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which also, coincidentally, stars Robert Redford.
3. Marathon Man
Depending on when you grew up, Marathon Man may have kept you from visiting the dentist’s office thanks to the sadistic torture techniques used by Sir Laurence Olivier’s terrifying Nazi war criminal Dr. Szell on Ph.D. student, Babe (an intense and neurotic Dustin Hoffman), after he gets mixed up in his older brother Doc’s (Roy Scheider, a smooth operator here in his first post-Jaws role) unfinished government business.
The infamous torture scene involving teeth-pulling, drilling, and needles was actually much longer in the original cut, but was shortened after test screening audience members fled the theater in disgust. Nevertheless, Olivier was nominated for an Oscar for his performance, which he filmed while battling cancer and a degenerative muscle disorder.
4. Blow Out
While recording sounds for a slasher film, Jack Terry (John Travolta) overhears an assassination involving a presidential candidate. Terry winds up saving a young woman (Nancy Allen) who also happened to be in the car with the murder victim, and the pair wind up scrambling to assemble proof of the assassination before she can be murdered too.
Based on Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-up, which is about a photographer who accidentally captures a murder on film, Blow Out reteamed director Brian De Palma with John Travolta after the pair worked together on Carrie in 1976. Fun fact: Quentin Tarantino was inspired to cast Travolta as Vincent Vega in Pulp Fiction based on his performance in Blow Out, which is one of Tarantino’s favorite films.
5. Minority Report
Even if you eliminate the sci-fi element, Minority Report is still a tense, elegantly constructed thriller about corruption, murder, and conspiracy in the nation’s capital. Steven Spielberg’s 2002 film, loosely based on Philip K. Dick’s short story of the same name, follows pre-crime Chief John Anderton (Tom Cruise) as he and his team set out to solve murders before they happen based on information given to them via PreCogs or “precognitives.” But after discovering the unsolved murder of a young woman who has special ties to one of the PreCogs, Anderton finds himself on the run from the FBI and his own team when he himself is accused of a murder he has yet to commit.
The film was enthusiastically praised for its writing and especially its visuals, including a breathless chase set in a car factory that was based on an idea Hitchcock had for an unfilmed sequence in North by Northwest. Look for a strong performance from Max Von Sydow as Anderton’s superior, who may or may not have something to hide.
6. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
While most may think of the second installment in Marvel’s Captain America franchise as a superhero film first, it is highly influenced by many of the 1970s conspiracy films on our list, including Three Days of the Condor, Marathon Man, and The Parallax View. Screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely felt the conspiracy genre was the best match for Captain America’s readjustment to the modern political landscape and his distrust of many of its most prominent players including his own employer, S.H.I.E.L.D.
As Cap (the affable Chris Evans) navigates a web of government lies and cover-ups with Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson, thankfully getting a lot more to do here than she did in The Avengers), he discovers all is not what it appears to be, and his faith in his country and S.H.I.E.L.D. is tested. Captain America: The Winter Soldier also has ties to All The President’s Men beyond Robert Redford: a copy of the book is visible on a bookshelf is Steve Rogers’ apartment. Cap has good taste!
7. The Bourne Series
Matt Damon saves himself for a change in these fast-paced thrillers about an amnesiac man on the run from the CIA, trying to piece together his memories and uncover a covert conspiracy within the organization. Bourne Identity director Doug Liman originally offered the role of Jason Bourne to Brad Pitt, who turned it down to make a different spy film, Spy Game with Robert Redford. Damon went through three intense months of training for the role, and did many of his own stunts, including several dizzying climbing sequences on the exteriors of buildings.
Though he returned for both The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum, Matt Damon chose to skip out on The Bourne Legacy (Jeremy Renner took a starring role), but will be returning for an as-yet-untitled fifth Bourne film due in July 2016. The Bourne Series, loosely-based on Robert Ludlum’s novels of the same name, have been praised for their realism and reliance on practical stunt work versus computer-generated effects, no doubt inspiring the Bond franchise to branch out into similar, brawling, broody territory when Daniel Craig came aboard in 2006 for Casino Royale.
8. The Conversation
The Conversation was released just a few months before Nixon resigned the presidency, so it’s difficult to not see links between Francis Ford Coppola’s film and the current events of the day, especially given the surveillance and wire-tapping equipment used by main character Henry Caul (a fine Gene Hackman) is the same as that used by the Nixon Administration during the Watergate Scandal (a coincidence that visibly shocked Coppola after the film was released).
Coppola, like De Palma, was inspired by Antonioni’s Blow-up, and began writing The Conversation in the mid-60s, focusing on a humble, intensely private surveillance expert in San Francisco who overhears a conversation about a potential murder. Caul is hesitant to hand over the tape to the man who commissioned it (Robert Duvall) and finds himself under pressure from a bullying aide (a pre-Star Wars Harrsion Ford). The film, both Coppola and Hackman’s personal favorite, happened to be released the same year as The Godfather Part II, which wound up overshadowing it at the Academy Awards.
9. No Way Out
No Way Out is one of two great films Kevin Costner made in 1987 (the other is The Untouchables), and it is widely considered the film that launched Costner as a leading man. A remake of 1948’s The Big Clock, No Way Out centers on Lt. Commander Tom Farrell (Costner) who strikes up an affair with a young woman (Sean Young) he meets at an inaugural ball.
Farrell, who works at the Pentagon under Secretary of Defense David Brice (Gene Hackman), is unaware the woman was having an affair with Brice, and when she winds up dead, Farrell is framed by Brice for her murder and accused of being a KGB agent. No Way Out is, in many ways, a solid precursor to many of the big screen adaptations of John Grisham’s novels that dominated the box office during the ’90s.
10. The Parallax View
The opening scene of The Parallax View was purposely shot to mirror Robert Kennedy’s assassination in 1968, heightening the unsettling fear at the heart of the film’s story about a newspaper reporter (Warren Beatty) who gets mixed up in a conspiracy surrounding the assassination of a presidential candidate. Joe Frady’s suspicions are further provoked by his investigation into a mysterious company called The Parallax Corporation, which he discovers is a recruiting front for political assassins.
The film, the third and final of Alan J. Pakula’s Political Paranoia Trilogy, started principal photography without a finished screenplay due to a writer’s strike. Star Warren Beatty took it upon himself to do re-writes with the help of his friend Robert Towne (the screenwriter of Chinatown), and the film was finished on schedule. Though it received mixed reviews at the time (possibly due to its bleak ending), The Parallax View is now considered one of the best films of the conspiracy genre.