I believe we have categories that we put movies into, subconsciously, related to the way we talk about them to other people. First and foremost, there are the movies that we recommend to anyone and everyone because we love them so much and feel like we must shout out to the world about their greatness. These are the movies that all of our friends know we like if they have known us for more than a few months because we have inserted them into many different pop cultural conversations. Perhaps we have tweeted about them or Snapchatted about them or maybe we have invited our friends over for a movie night to watch them. I remember the first time I saw Christopher Nolan’s Memento: I watched it two more times within five days just to watch the reaction of new friends while they watched it. It has long since been in my “recommend to everyone” category. The movies in this category are a part of our souls. (If anyone knows me and doesn’t know of my love for Children of Men, do they REALLY know me?)
Another category is movies that we recommend only to people we trust. These might be movies that are too weird to recommend to everyone, so we break them out in quieter conversations or with friends whose tastes are calibrated to ours. Sometimes one friend will get a recommendation that another friend doesn’t because we know them both well enough to understand that that particular movie will only work for one of them. These movies might be a huge part of our identity too, but not in the way where they must be shouted from the rooftops. These feel like they must be treasured and guarded and not cast before swine. The style of these movies may be a little odd or perhaps the story meanders in a way that some might find unsatisfying or some aspects of it may be “out there” and we cannot let just anyone watch it and then trample it under their uninformed opinion! Absolutely not! One movie that slots into this category for me is Nurse Betty, written by John C. Richards and James Flamberg, directed by Neil Labute, and starring Chris Rock, Morgan Freeman, Renee Zellweger, and Greg Kinnear. I have recommended it to maybe four people total in my life and yet I greedily watch it if I ever have occasion to travel by myself. It delights me. (Also in this category: Swiss Army Man.)
Another category are movies that we judge other people by. These are the movies we will sometimes recommend, but as a means of finding out if the other person is someone worth staying friends with or as a way of not-so-subtly pointing out to other people that they have bad taste. We might sometimes hesitate to recommend these movies to close friends, but somewhere, deep down, we ultimately know that those friends will like them because that is how they became one of our closest friends. These movies definitely have some quirkiness associated with them, no doubt, but in a way that perfectly speaks to our sense of humor or our outlook on life. When someone jumps into a conversation we are already having to say what a “stupid movie” we are talking about, that interruptor immediately becomes an enemy for life, never to get into our good graces again. For me, this category is ruled over by Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Edgar Wright’s brilliant adaptation of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s graphic novel. I can be civil with you if you did not like Scott Pilgrim, but you can also know that I will be judging you until you die for it.
The second-to-last category is movies that we don’t like to admit we actually enjoyed, but we will. This is the category of movie we feel sheepish about. We have declared anger and disgust for romantic comedies or indifference toward empty-headed blockbusters but then one of those sneaks up on us. We are sitting in the theater, ready to snark bitterly during the stupid film we were forced to see when something weird happens: its rhythms sync up with ours and we find ourselves smiling, laughing, and crying. The movies in this category are not necessarily better than other movies we hate, but something happened and it broke down our defenses and we eventually just gave in. These are the movies that we won’t readily admit we like in a conversation unless we are in a cheeky mood or our hand is forced. (Like if someone misquotes it or says the wrong name of an actress or actor in it or misremembers plot points and we have to step in to correct them.) We might feel embarrassed that we somehow “fell” for a movie of its quality, but that doesn’t mean we will lie about it. We will own up to it if we have to. A movie I enjoyed that falls into this category is Speed 2: Cruise Control, which I saw TWICE in the theaters as a teenager. Two. Separate. Times. (My teenage crush on Sandra Bullock ran deep, my friends.)
Finally, the category that lends its title to this article: that one movie that we won’t actually admit to anyone that we like. This is the movie (or movies, if you have lived a terrible life) that we don’t really want to admit even to ourselves that we actually liked. This could be a movie that was so terrible, so poorly acted and written and shot, that it moved past horrible and into unspeakably bad. And we are not talking “so bad it’s good movies” because those are easy to defend. With those, we just say, “Hey, I know this is not a good movie, but it makes me laugh because of how bad it is.” No, this is the movie that we pretend we’ve never heard of when it gets brought up in public. Perhaps we have never even admitted to our wife, girlfriend, husband, boyfriend, lover, sister, brother, mother, father, or best friend that we have seen it. It sits somewhere deep in the recesses of our mind, quietly taking up space, haunting us with its ineptitude and making us feel that perhaps we are not worthy of love if we actually enjoyed it. This is the only film we have ever seen that makes us question our tastes as a movie-watcher. In fact, it may be buried so deep in our subconscious that we are denying even now that we liked it. (“Hahahaha. I have never even seen that movie so how could I like it? Ha. Ha . . .”) The humiliation and shame runs deep enough that I cannot even admit it here, at the conclusion of this publicly posted article. But, consider what movie you are thinking of right now and feel bad. You deserve ridicule for liking whatever piece of garbage is floating through your head right now. Make better choices.