What popular movies do you just don’t get?

Pic of Big Lebowski movie poster.

The Big Wha???

And when I say “just don’t get” I mean you don’t understand what the big fucking deal is? You know the sort I’m talking about: Everyone you know has seen it and thinks it’s the most incredible/deeply philosophical/emotionally moving/amazingly subtle story they’ve ever seen. Then you watch it and all you can manage at the end of it is a great big “meh.” Or worse, a “what the fuck was THAT supposed to be about?”

I’m asking because I have a number of movies that fall into that category and I was reminded of it by a tweet from Godless Girl about The Big Lebowski in which she announced that she’s watching it for the first time ever. I saw it quite some time ago. Hell, I’ve watched it more than once because every time I do I still don’t get it. Apparently I’m not entirely alone as the movie flopped domestically when it was released, but since then it has become a cult classic spawning Lebowski Fests in various cities starting back in 2002. We all know someone who thinks it’s the most amazing movie ever and quoting The Dude is practically a compulsion among those sorts of people. I don’t think my inability to grasp it’s supposed wonderfulness is because it’s a Coen Brothers film as I loved Fargo which they also did. It’s also not an issue of not being able to follow the plot as multiple viewings have made it quite clear. I just don’t understand its appeal.

Another movie that I just don’t get is Pulp Fiction. In part I think that’s because the first time I saw the trailer for it it confused me and I thought the movie had two versions of John Travolta in it. The scene where they confront the young adults who had the briefcase had a guy in it that, in the quick edits of the trailer, I thought was a younger John Travolta who appeared to be being threatened by an older John Travolta and it confused the shit out of me. I mean it didn’t look like a science fiction movie so where’d the time travel come from? Of course it wasn’t a younger Travolta I was seeing, but that misconception didn’t help when I finally did see it. Then the non-linear nature of the story telling didn’t help with the comprehension either. I still can’t tell you what the hell it was supposed to be about.

Unlike TBL, Pulp Fiction was critically acclaimed and every time I tell someone that I don’t get it they look at me like I just said I don’t understand how to tie my own shoes. Again there are plenty of other films by Tarantino that I’ve enjoyed immensely and had no problem understanding the appeal, but PF just leaves me scratching my head. The one issue of endless speculation among fans is what was the glowing thing in the brief case. Personally, I couldn’t care less what the hell it was supposed to be and, according to Tarantino, it was simply a plot device and wasn’t ever meant to be anything in particular.

So how about you? What popular or cult movies do you just not get? I can’t be the only one who has a few head scratchers in his past.

39 thoughts on “What popular movies do you just don’t get?

  1. I loved Pulp Fiction but apparently so did a few zillion other people. But I totally didn’t get “Lost In Translation”.

  2. “Where the wild things are”. I still don’t understand what the point, plot or “lesson learned” was supposed to be.
    Pulp Fiction was great. I love Tarantino movies.

  3. Sleepless in Seattle, here.

    Yes, it had some funny scenes, but they explained to you how the movie was going to end, and then you had to wait for 2 freaking hours for it to happen.

  4. I’d have to say Donnie Darko and Memento. DD was extremely incomprehensible to me and Memento seemed lazily written but used the back and forth non-linear style as a way to make up for a bad story and script

  5. This happens to me all the time, but I’d have to say that the most popular movie by far of which I never grasped the appeal would be Forrest Gump.

  6. I picture Forrest Gump fans as washing down the sweetness of the movie with a nice tall glass of Karo syrup.

  7. I didn’t much care for Pan’s Labyrinth. While I am generally anti-capital punishment, exceptions could be made for the people responsible for Avatar…

  8. Any film by Wes Anderson. I find them to be boring, unfunny, and up their own asses with Anderson’s self-absorbed hipness. Rushmore was especially painful.

    Also, Fight Club. I’m one of three people I’ve ever met who don’t like it.

  9. I didn’t get Inglorious Bastards the first time I watched it even though I absolutely enjoyed the film. The next time I watched it I fell in love with it. The scene in the bar that just builds up the suspense is crazy awesome.

  10. YMO, I agree that Pan’s Labyrinth was difficult to watch, but was it that you didn’t like it or didn’t GET it?

    Don, I agree with you about Fight Club. I seriously didn’t get that movie.

    I haven’t seen American Beauty yet, I did get Lost in Translation, but I didn’t think it was a great movie. I definitely got Donnie Darko, but then those types of weird movies always appeal to me it seems. I got Forest Gump, I just didn’t fall in love with it. Haven’t seen Inglorious Bastards yet, but plan to.

  11. I loved American Beauty, but MrsDoF totally didn’t get it. And I don’t get what she didn’t get, and she doesn’t get what I got.

  12. I love American Beauty, but my parents hated it, and I don’t think it’s coincidence that they were going through similar middle-age identity issues as Kevin Spacey and Anette Benning at the time, and have since divorced.

    I get Forrest Gump, but in a different way than most people seem to get it: I read the movie as a celebration of traditionalism, conservatism, doing what you’re told, and manufactured, sepia-toned Americana, which is why I don’t like it on an intellectual level, even if it has its moments of emotional resonance.

    And since someone brought up Spike Jonze and I missed it, how about Being John Malkovich? I really didn’t get that movie.

  13. the most popular movie by far of which I never grasped the appeal would be Forrest Gump.

    You obviously did not serve in Vietnam. ANYone who did was totally blown away when Forrest mooned President Johnson.


    And, if you failed to see the parallels between the idiots who followed Forrest blindly as if he were a Guru and those sheep who blindly follow Televangelists, etc., you missed BOTH points of the picture.

    Also, it took a couple of viewings before I got the points of “2001 A Space Odyssey.”


  14. I actually get all of these movies.

    Movies I did not like that everyone else did: Dramas. I’m not a big fan of a lot of dramas, but I don’t not understand them. I just get an itchy annoyed feeling with their music more often than I do with other films, so that’s distracting. I get them, they’re just not my favorites.

  15. There are a bunch of movies I don’t like and there are a bunch of movies I don’t get, and sometimes they are one in the same. For instance, I liked Avatar, but I didn’t get it. I didn’t like The Book of Eli, but I get it.

    On the other hand, there aren’t many movies I simply don’t understand the point of, so maybe I got Avatar, but because of the hype I was looking for something that wasn’t in it. There are plenty of movies that I don’t understand why they were made; most sequels fall into that category, especially sequels with numbers in the title.

    I’ve seen a LOT of “cult” movies and most of them I like, and I could see why others would like them. On the other hand, I haven’t ever been able to figure out why they attract the fanatical following they do. The only one that comes close was Serenity. I thought it was an okay movie, but it had instant cult status among the “browncoats” I sort of understand it because I really do think that the series got royally screwed and it’s nice to see that they finally got all their ends tied up in spite of incredible odds against. On the other hand, like I said.. the movie was only okay… so I don’t get the fanatical following.

    On the third hand, there are very few movies out there that I think are really good, so any movie the rest of the population thinks is really good usually gets a “huh?” from me anyway. I guess that means I don’t “get” most of the popular movies. I’ve lived long enough to know that popularity hardly ever = quality.

  16. Les,

    Didn’t much like, nor get, Pan’s Labyrinth.

    Avatar was all balls and whistles, and an exceptionally transparent script. I was surprised how 2-dimensional (or 1, maybe) the characters were in a 3-D epic. Toy Story 3, now there was some fine computer acting!

  17. YMO: Funny.. I don’t remember any balls in Avatar… Of course if there were balls… it stands to reason that there would be whistles too… What kind of adult channels do you get? Maybe you’re mixing it up with something else.

  18. The crown jewel of total bewliderment for me is “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”. Back in the day, I never felt more on the outside looking in as when my peer group would suddenly stampede off in make up, panty hose and high heels for a Halloween viewing of “Rocky”. I’d wait the time out humming the Twilight Zone theme, hugging a pillow, wondering which reality I had fallen into…

  19. Blaze: I know exactly how you feel. It wasn’t so much bewilderment at the movie. Personally I thought it was hilarious, but I share your feeling regarding the temporary insanity that seems to grip some people every time it begins to make the rounds of the late night theaters… It didn’t always have to be Halloween either.

    I went through high school and college in LA and it was some kind of Hollyweird Tradition with some of the people I hung out with to hit a midnight showing of RHPS every once in a while… for no particular reason other than apparently “We haven’t acted like complete nut-jobs in almost two months”. There was no real difference between those showings and the Halloween showings.

    I usually just find something else to occupy my time and never EVER ask “How did it go?” when they came back… because they might tell me.

  20. Blaze, I’m with you — I came to RHPS very late in the game, after years of hearing people rant and rave about THE EXPERIENCE. Which, ultimately, was vastly disappointing.

    I actually liked “Fight Club,” though it’s on those list of movies I’ve never had any great desire to watch after the first time. But, then, I was raised on Rod Serling and Richard Matheson twist endings on “Twilight Zone,” so it was right up my alley.

    I also liked “Pulp Fiction.” Not loved it, though I’ve watched it a few times. But found it interestingly crafted. It was my intro to Tarentino.

  21. Will, put the third hand back in your pants.

    Dunno if I ever had a problem “getting” a movie, but I really, REALLY have never liked anything by Martin Scorsese. Every film of his I’ve watched has bored me to tears. I guess if there’s anything I don’t get is the adulation heaped on him.

    More recently, I really hated Diary of a Wimpy Kid. That has to be the most mean-spirited, “tribute to my childhood”, POS I’ve ever seen.

  22. I also did not get pulp fiction. The only other movie that comes to mind that I did not get was Diner. That was around 1980. All of my friends loved it but all I wanted to do was bolt out of the theater. Even today if it is on TV my reaction is to bolt out of my house.

  23. I believe I understood Fight Club (thanks for the heads up on the italics, Dave.) I believe the movie represents the schizophrenia of people, particularly men, who are both drawn to consumerism and conformity but also to rebellion and animal instinct. I think that is what it means, anyway. I liked the movie.

    I liked The Big Lebowski, though that one is too complicated to explain without seeing it again. I suspect that a Beatles verse might summarize it “I get by with a little help from my friends.” And I would have to call myself a John Goodman fan.

    I am bewildered that someone does not like Scorsese; but to each his own.

    I’m not entirely sure that I “got” Dr. Strangelove. I have not seen it in a long time, though. I suppose the message is probably merely “be afraid (of nukes)” but I get the feeling that there is more to it than that. I suppose I should just watch it again.

  24. Positive: Dr Strangelove had a point? Any movie that has Peter Sellers playing three different roles doesn’t really NEED a point, now.. does it? 🙂 The only “message” I got from it was probably “We’re all going to die… or we’re not, and there’s nothing you can do about it so quit yer bitchin'”

  25. I’ve never had a problem “getting” any movie I’ve seen that I can remember, but there are whole genres of movies that, while I “get” the premises and understand the emotional reactions that some people take away from the film, I can never experience the emotional rush myself. Specifically, weepy dramas, family dramas & romance films (often known as “chick flicks”), and also, most material marketed specifically to males, like plot-impaired action movies, the vast majority of war-glorifying movies and westerns, and usually worst of all, sports movies.
    I intellectually understand the vicarious thrill that people can get from canned romance or underdog sports stories, just as I can understand the vicarious thrill people get from watching televised sports, war footage, or gossiping about friends’ relationship problems, but I just can’t get a “movie high” off of them, no matter how hard I try to care. The Rocky series (I somehow made it all the way through the gawd-awful #4) just mystifies me. I’m pretty sure I “get it”, I’m just confused as to how anybody could possibly give a shit. I really do like a good underdog story once in a while, but most of them are crap-the shitty, shallow, one-dimensional characters, generally crappy acting, the contrived plots and circumstances, the overly-dramatic and yet still boring dialogue, the reliance on oversimplified themes and morals like the necessity of having “willpower” and “drive”, and the complete lack of surprises or ingenuity of any kind just make it all feel like the worst kind of wasted time. I’d probably get more fulfillment and stimulation from climbing a tree and jacking off in front of a squirrel.

    One recommendation for jonesy-I’m a bit hit and miss with Scorcese, especially the mobster movies, but Gangs of New York was awesome.

  26. @Positive – I think the message of Doctor Strangelove was not so much “fear nuclear weapons” as “fear nuclear weapons in the hands of people, many of whom are just darned nuts.”

    I get the movie. I just don’t enjoy it very much.

  27. I don’t know that I get any Quentin Tarantio movie. However, the Christopher Walken – your father’s watch scene was IMO pretty f’n funny. As for Rocky Horror, I had a blast seeing it and doing the audience participation. I don’t know that there was anything there to “get”.

  28. I count myself among those who didn’t get RHPS, The Big Lebowski, Pulp Fiction (it’s a crime it beat out Red at Cannes that year) or Dr. Strangelove. I actually don’t get most Coen Bros. movies, especially Burn After Reading and Oh, Brother Where Art Thou?

    Les, I’d love someone who got Donnie Darko to explain it. I own it and love it, but I’m pretty convinced the movie isn’t actually about anything. Considering the career of Kelly I think he’s just good enough at being stylish and jerking people’s emotions around to make B-rate movie scripts seem like great intellectual fodder.

  29. As an Englishman living in the US (and not having seen The Big Lebowski) I was scorned over the years for not doing so. Then I did about a month ago. And I had the same reaction. The saving grace was John Goodman’s character…he was great.

  30. I just love movie-talk, where to begin? ‘Pulp Fiction’, yes You
    might surely like such an intricately done flick. Yet it is still
    just porn, a certain set of people doing their thing. Fucked-up
    and with money-shot(s).
    ‘Forrest Gump’ is sort of cute but the american version of Grimmelshausens
    Simplicissimus has better music yet no depth.
    ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’, my then gf put me through that and had it not been
    for her, erm, features I would have gone comatose. Jahrmarktbuden
    Moritat in essence.
    ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ is a theatre piece that accidentaly was
    made a movie. I once experienced it live with (sweating) actors. Great.
    ‘The Big Lebowski’, I always wondered what to ‘get’ about this movie.
    So I thought it must be some deep bowling philosophy thing. All about
    not even having to pretend to be trying hard to hit the pins, then missing
    and all the while doing it every so often for the sake of it.
    ‘Dr. Strangelove’ did not have a point, it was one. If You do not like
    it You get flouridated water. Or try ‘Catch-22’, has nicer
    marching-music and just as sharp sarcasm.
    The movie that was all the rage back then for me was ‘Brazil’,
    I never understood why anyone rated that as more than ‘soap’.
    Enlighten me…

  31. I honestly did not get pulp fiction, rocky horror picture show or blue Valentine. Well watching the movies i was thinking why the hellz is this a movie what deranged freak thought of this? And why is it a movie???

  32. loved pulp fiction, you’re post popped up because i googled “what’s so good about the big lebowski”. another i just don’t get is both tarantino’s kill bills

  33. I did not “get” pulp fiction either. And I am VERY open minded about movies that are unconventional. There’s definitely a # of people who love it because they think it’s cool to love it, kinda like The Breakfast Club, or Fear and Loathing.

    I guess I don’t “get” QT as a director/writer. I find his work lacking, the kind of director that makes you think “damn, I could have done that.”

    I did, however, enjoy IB and Django. Mainly for the acting, though.

  34. I don’t get The Big Lebowski. Okay, I have to admit I didn’t watch the whole thing. When Julianne Moore started talking about vaginas I just said “fuck it” and went to sleep. Up to that point, I don’t think there was a single line of dialogue that didn’t irritate me. Nothing that made me smile. I honestly don’t get why this is considered funny.

    Fight Club. Apparently it’s about consumerism and something, but I just thought it was boring as shit. I don’t understand the appeal. I almost enjoyed the book though.

    I know I’ll get crucified for this, but I don’t get The Breakfast Club. I mean, I understand what it’s about, but I don’t see why people like it so much. It’s just not good. At all. It should have been called The Stereotypes. Totally unrealistic.

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