Why We Love Rewatching Movies
It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but for some, watching a favorite movie for the fifth time can be more appealing than watching the latest big release. There are movies designed for multiple watches. Those with intricate plot details or big twists at the end reward repeat viewing as you have an entirely new perspective the second time around. For example, Christopher Nolan’s Tenet is possibly his most complex movie yet, and is difficult to wrap your head around with only one viewing. In an interview with NPR, Nolan discusses how he thinks it’s “kind of fun” to watch a movie and “come out feeling like maybe there are things I didn’t understand that I should go back and take a look at.”
But a movie doesn’t have to be an intensely complicated thriller to be rewatchable. Comedies and love stories are equally, if not more, enjoyable upon rewatching as something with a big twist. So, if you’re someone who watches Mamma Mia! over and over again, don’t worry because you’re definitely not alone. There are several reasons people love rewatching movies and though it varies from person to person, here are the big points.
A Sense of Comfort
If you asked someone why they rewatch their favorite movies, most people would probably give the answer that they find it comforting. The app Letterboxd — which allows you to catalog all the movies you watch — released stats on the movies that its users rewatch the most. As of 2020, the top five positions on this list were occupied by What We Do in the Shadows, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again, Mamma Mia!, and Love Simon. The fact that these are all comedies or romantic comedies speaks volumes. They are all feel-good and heart-warming, the kind of movie you’d watch after a bad day. On top of the uplifting content of these films, once you’ve already seen them, you can be sure you won’t be surprised by an upsetting turn of events. In this way, the familiarity of repeat viewing adds value to a movie rather than taking from it.
They’re Just That Good
Another reason we love to rewatch movies, perhaps obviously, is that some of them are just that good. On a very simple level, if you enjoy a story enough the first time, you’re going to enjoy it again. It’s easy to over-exaggerate the importance of not knowing where a story is going, but this idea doesn’t apply to other concepts. For example, we listen to the same songs repeatedly, and no one would argue that it’s strange to eat a meal you love several times.
No matter where your taste might lie, most people would argue that their favorite movies have depth and nuance. As a result of this, when you watch them repeatedly, you can uncover new details you may not have noticed previously. This doesn’t just apply to thrillers and dramas with intricate plots like Parasite. In comedies, there are smaller jokes to pick up on. Or in a romance, you might notice a subtle glance between the love interests. Since it’s a visual medium, every film is full of rich detail if you look for it.
They Gain Meaning Over Time
Another way that rewatching movies can increase their value or significance to you is that you and your tastes change over time. On one level, you enjoy different things at different points in life. It’s likely that something you loved as a child wouldn’t hold water through adult eyes. Equally, you might watch something earlier in your life and hate it, only to enjoy it upon a second viewing after some years have gone by.
Moreover, even if you loved something immediately after watching, it can still change in your eyes over time. It can be an interesting tool for reflection to notice how you respond to a movie you love over time. Consider something like It’s a Wonderful Life, a movie that is widely agreed to be great. If you watch it for the first time as a teenager, you may identify more closely with the children than with George the protagonist. Later, however, if you become a parent the story could take on a whole new meaning for you and become even more poignant.
On the other hand, rewatching movies can also have a somewhat opposite effect. Sometimes it can be exciting to watch movies yearly because they can produce the same atmosphere. Seasonal movies do a great job of creating anticipation for a holiday or setting the mood when it rolls around. Henry Selick’s movies The Nightmare Before Christmas and Coraline are favorites around Halloween. Their stop-motion animation style gives them a timeless quality which allows the movies to be watched year after year and not lose any of their charm. Additionally, seasonal-specific movies can be used to conjure the feeling of another season entirely. In the midst of a miserable winter, watching a sun-soaked movie like Call Me By Your Name can provide a sense of relief for a few hours.