Pop Culture Intervention

I’ve Been Rewatching All The Old Movies I Used To Love, And You Should, Too

Make something old new again.

It all started last month when the cast of That Thing You Do! reunited. "Aww, I remember loving that movie," I said to myself. "I should watch it again one of these days."

One of these days turned into the very same day, as I remembered I had a copy of the movie in my DVD collection and no plans for the night. I had an absolute blast reliving moments I had forgotten, appreciating references that may have gone over my head when I first watched as a kid, and getting the title song stuck in my brain for at least a week. (You're singing it to yourself right now, aren't you? Enjoy!)

That viewing must have opened some sort of floodgate that I wasn't aware even existed, because a week later I found myself wanting to rewatch yet another movie I hadn't seen in years — The Mummy. This time, it was because I had just seen the trailer for this year's reboot, and suddenly felt very protective of Brendan Fraser.

So I ordered a pizza and popped the VHS tape into the player. (Yes, I still own one.) Once again, I thoroughly enjoyed the rewatching experience, and actually found myself wishing I had a copy of The Mummy Returns so I could make it a double feature. 

In the weeks since, I've revisited two more movies I used to love — the classic screwball comedy Bringing Up Baby (I was a teenage film snob) and The Truman Show. I chose to watch them on a whim, having recently been reminded of their existence and finding them waiting for me in my extensive, but mostly untouched, movie collection. Unsurprisingly, I had a great time watching both.


This may not seem noteworthy, especially since I'm no stranger to rewatching things. I watch The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit so often that I could quote entire scenes to you from memory right now; I turn on Friends reruns nearly every day; I watch the entire series of 30 Rock at least once a year; and whenever I spot Mean Girls on the TV schedule, I have to tune in for a few iconic quotes.

Just like a child will watch the same thing over and over again until it drives their parents crazy, even adults seek out the same entertainment time and again, because there's comfort in predictability. As Derek Thompson writes of this tendency in The Atlantic, "One of the nice things about old movies is that they can't surprise us. We know how they end, and we know how we'll feel when they end ... Old movies never disappoint us: We get older, they stay the same age."

My latest hobby is a little different. Yes, I've seen these movies before, multiple times. But I haven't watched them in years, and I am notoriously bad at remembering movies and TV shows unless I revisit them on a regular basis. I may recall a few famous lines or scenes, and I'll definitely remember whether or not I enjoyed them, but otherwise, it's practically a blank slate. 

So when I watch them again, I get the best of both worlds. I have the comfort of knowing that I'll enjoy them, but in some ways it's almost like I'm watching them for the first time again. Of course, it's usually less of an "Oh my God, I can't believe that happened!" response, and more of an "Oh my God, I can't believe I forgot that happened!" Either way, I'm pleasantly surprised. 

But it's not just about rediscovering things I had forgotten. It's also about examining them from a new point of view — in many cases, an entirely different era. Watching The Truman Show today, in a culture saturated with reality television and social media that allows us to peek into the everyday lives of friends and strangers, the story took on an entirely different meaning to me than it did in 1998. 

The Atlantic cites a 2012 study on "reconsumption" by Cristel Antonia Russell and Sidney Levy that states, "Reengaging with the same object, even just once, allows a reworking of experiences as consumers consider their own particular enjoyments and understandings of choices they have made." Derek Thompson calls it "an old memory, overlaid with new perspective."

There's another word I've avoided until now, and that's nostalgia. The concept seems to have developed something of a bad rap in recent years, especially as it relates to the millennial generation's constant rehashing of childhood pop culture, whether through online listicles or rebooted franchises. In a 2016 piece for the New York Post, Reed Tucker criticized this phenomenon by declaring that "'90s culture was awful — and all the nostalgia is nonsense."

I'll admit, I've been known to roll my eyes at the constant stream of sequels and remakes and reunions, wishing I could just watch something original for a change. But I'd be lying if I said I didn't sing along to classic Disney songs when I hear them or clutch my heart when actors from my favorite movies pose for photos together. 

Watching movies I haven't seen in a while brings back memories I haven't explored in a while, and that's nice — even if I sometimes tend to view the movies themselves through rose-colored glasses. (I was outraged, for example, to discover that The Mummy only has a 56 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. Unacceptable!)

I know there are plenty of new things to discover and old things to catch up on, especially in the age of Netflix and Hulu. Watching things you've seen before can sometimes seem like a waste of time. But it can also be therapeutic to stop treating pop culture like an endless to-do list, and occasionally come back to something you know and love.

So the next time you have a free evening, make something old new again by looking through your DVDs or VHS tapes and picking something to rewatch. That's why you bought them in the first place, isn't it?

Cover image: Vasilyev Alexandr / Shutterstock.com


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