What’s Your Sure Thing?

Sneakers I enjoy watching the latest movies as much as anyone, but there are times when I just need to watch what I think of as a sure thing. A sure thing is the movie equivalent of comfort food — that is, a movie guaranteed to either match my current mood or provide just the right emotional payoff that I crave.

It should be no surprise that these are movies I’ve watched many times over. Some I’ve watched so often that I can quote long stretches of dialogue by heart. They aren’t necessarily movies that are critically acclaimed — in fact, I’m sure there are some on my list that other people might think are downright stinkers — but that doesn’t matter. What matters is what they convey to me.

bigtrouble They aren’t interchangeable; one isn’t as good as another in all instances. For example, when I’m feeling hemmed in by life and need to daydream about the possibility of a complete change, I might watch American Dreamer or Under the Tuscan Sun or Last Holiday. When I’m sick, I tend to watch really old movies — especially Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers movies or The Thin Man. If I’m in desperate need of a good laugh, Big Trouble in Little China, North to Alaska, and The Hallelujah Trail never let me down. And when I want my heartstrings tugged, I might turn to Apollo 13, Gettysburg or Secretariat.

My list of sure things won’t be the same as your list. And that’s as it should be. You have to have a personal connection to a movie — it has to touch you in some way — for it to qualify.

So, how about it? What movies do you count as your sure things?

My Top 20 Sure Things

  1. Sneakers (1992)
    “We got bupkis! We turn ourselves in now, they’ll give us twenty years in the electric chair!”
  2. American Dreamer (1984)
    “The important thing, kid, is that you’re doing something you like to do.”
  3. Big Trouble in Little China (1986)
    “Son of a bitch must pay.”
  4. The Hunt for Red October (1990)
    “The hard part about playing chicken is knowin’ when to flinch.”
  5. Under the Tuscan Sun (2003)
    “Any arbitrary turning along the way and I would be elsewhere; I would be different.”
  6. The Thin Man (1934)
    “The important thing is the rhythm. Always have rhythm in your shaking. Now a Manhattan you shake to fox-trot time, a Bronx to two-step time, a dry martini you always shake to waltz time.”
  7. Apollo 13 (1995)
    “So long, Earth. Catch you on the flip side.”
  8. Live Free or Die Hard (aka Die Hard 4) (2007)
    “You just killed a helicopter with a car!”
    “I was out of bullets.”
  9. Gettysburg (1993)
    “To be a good soldier you must love the army. To be a good commander you must be able to order the death of the thing you love.”
  10. That’s Entertainment! (1974)
    “Thank God for film. It can capture a performance and hold it right there forever.”
  11. High Road to China (1983)
    “The ox is slow, but the earth is patient.”
  12. Twister (1996)
    The Suck Zone. It’s the point basically when the twister… sucks you up. That’s not the technical term for it, obviously.”
  13. Secretariat (2010)
    “He leans back against the starting gate like he’s in a hammock in the Caribbean…”
  14. North to Alaska (1960)
    “You’re a pig-headed no-good and you always were.”
  15. The Hallelujah Trail (1965)
    “If it’s the last thing I do, I’ll have that entire band transferred to Alaska!”
  16. National Treasure (2004)
    “Who wants to go down the creepy tunnel inside the tomb first?”
  17. Independence Day (1996)
    “I picked a hell of a day to quit drinkin’.”
  18. Last Holiday (2006)
    “Next time… we will laugh more, we’ll love more; we just won’t be so afraid.”
  19. Shall We Dance (1937), but also Top Hat (1935), Swing Time (1936), and any of the other Astaire/Rogers films
    “Well, to tell the truth, I don’t know you well enough to tell you the truth.”
  20. Monty Python and the Meaning of Life (1983)
    “You are all dead. I am Death.”
    “Well, that’s cast rather a gloom over the evening, hasn’t it?”