Shawshank was on TV the other day. Again. But even though I don’t rank it among my favorite movies, I was instantly hooked anew and saw it through to the end. Again. I don’t know how many times I’ve watched it in whole or in part, but it’s enough that I refer to it in the shorthand as just Shawshank.
There are a lot of movies that have that effect on me. Groundhog Day; Rio Bravo, The Searchers, The Princess Bride, The Day the Earth Stood Still, and at Christmas Miracle on 34th Street and Elf. Even the guiltiest pleasure has an indelible moment, a great performance or a classic line I will enjoy as if it were the first time.
Some movies are like that; they have that special ineffable quality that the home video industry calls “repeatability,” meaning you can watch it over and over and over again.
Some movies are just that good.
Some movies are just that resonant.
Some movies are just Road House.
And some movies are just on. The Shawshank Redemption was among the 10 most-broadcast movies on basic cable, according to a recent report from HIS Technology. Never mind “The Walking Dead,” “Louie” or “Mad Men.” Movies are the hottest thing on U.S. basic cable. The quantity of movie content reached a three-year high last year, comprising nearly 15 percent of all airtime, an increase of 1,180 hours over 2011.
It is a testament to the power of repeatability that fewer unique movies were broadcast in 2013 compared to the previous three years, indicating that films were being rerun more than ever before.
These are the ten most-broadcast movies on basic cable in 2013:
1: Mrs. Doubtfire
2. She's All That
4. Austin Powers in Goldmember
5. Ice Age
6. There’s Something About Mary
7. Sleepless in Seattle
8. A Few Good Men
9. The Shawshank Redemption
Why any network would want to broadcast the Halle Berry career-killer Catwoman even once, let alone 44 times, is beyond me, but that’s another thing about repeatability: some movies are just so darn awful you simply can’t turn away. You watch; wince’ repeat. Even Showgirls has its staunch defenders.
Classic lines and classic scenes are a big part of what makes a movie endlessly watchable, whether it’s “You can’t handle the truth” from A Few Good Men, the “Cinderella Story” from Caddyshack or “Here's looking at you, kid," from Casablanca (another film I can never walk away from).
Repeatability can also be nostalgia for a childhood favorite or affection for a movie that came out at a pivotal moment in your life and lives on as a memory of the way you were.
What about you? What are the movies you’ll drop everything to watch anytime they are on?