Achilles’ Heels: The Genres and Storylines I Can’t Resist

As you grow out of childhood and are exposed to more and more movies, you start to learn your likes and dislikes. Obviously, tastes change- part of the beauty of being human is that we grow emotionally and intellectually- and things we may not have liked at younger ages become the kinds of movies that we enjoy later. But there are always certain staples in movie tastes. These are the genres and storylines that make up the foundation of your movie tastes. There are some genres and storylines that I just can not resist. Even when they’re bad- even when I KNOW they’re going to be bad- I watch anyway. Here are my achilles’ heels:

I go bonkers for surrealist films. If you want to know how much I enjoy surrealist film, look no further than the TDYLF masthead, which playfully features Luis Buñuel’s Un Chien Andalou. It doesn’t matter who’s putting it out there, either. Buñuel is obviously a favorite but there’s also Guy Maddin, Alejandro Jodorowsky, the more eclectic works of Alain Resnais… Name any surrealist director and I guarantee that I don’t hate them.

Mafia movies are an offer I can't refuse.

The Mafia
Goodfellas (1990), the first two Godfather films, Scarface (1932), White Heat (1949)… the list could go on and on. They’re some of my favorite movies. I can’t resist the mob. How much do I enjoy films about La Cosa Nostra? I even make it a point to see things like Made (2001).

Universal Creature Features
Specifically, I love the Wolf Man, Frankenstein, Dracula, the Invisible Man, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, and The Mummy. I’ll defend every one of those originals as legitimately damned good movies. But it doesn’t just stop there. Even though I know that the loads of sequels are mostly garbage (exception: The Bride of Frankenstein), I’ve watched and enjoyed most of them as well. It taps into the child-like wonder that you had the first time it was Halloween and you saw Boris Karloff’s ugly mug on the screen. More specifically…

Werewolf Movies
I love werewolves more than any of the other horror monsters. It’s a really neat built-in character arc. The character starts as a regular schmoe and ends up a monster. It’s something everyone can relate to because we’ve all flown off the handle at one time or another. Admittedly, this is a relative newcomer to this list. It’s only been a few years that I’ve felt this way about werewolf films. And making matters worse, there really aren’t very many good werewolf movies. No problem. It makes the genuinely good ones that much better when you find them.

I get the D.T.'s when I don't get to watch movies about alcoholic writers.

Alcoholics, Writers, and Alcoholic Writers
Either alcoholics or writers fascinate me to begin with. Put the two together and you’ve got movie magic, my favorite genre out there. It’s extremely clichéd by now but that certainly doesn’t mean it can’t be handled the right way. Somewhat similarly…

Insanity and the descent into insanity
It was this article specifically that prompted me to create this list. As I checked off all of the movies, I realized that seeing people go crazy on screen intrigues me a great deal. I can trace where this particular achilles’ heel started. It was when I was a high school senior taking an A.P. course in psychology. We watched One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975). Ken Kesey’s galaxy of goofy characters, brought (loosely) to life by Milos Forman, were a real eye-opener.

Beatniks and/or hippies
I don’t know that anyone would confuse me with a hippie but the spirit of the 50’s and 60’s counterculture has a lot of heart. It resonates for me, even if I don’t live their crazy lifestyle. It was a fascinating time in American history and when it’s brought to life in a movie, I have to see it.

I can’t think of a single baseball movie I won’t watch. Of all the achilles’ heels that I have, this is the strongest. There isn’t a single one of the lot that I’d rule out seeing at some point.

Yeah, and then I confessed to enjoying these.

Nazi zombies
I think the genre name speaks for itself. Holy shit, what could be more scary than an undead creature who covets your brains? How about an undead creature who covets your brains BUT ALSO WAS A NAZI WHEN IT WAS ALIVE?!?! Nazi zombie movies are some of the crappiest viewing fun I’ve ever had.

Ghost stories
I should probably note that this excludes J-horror. There are a few good J-horror ghost stories, no doubt, but I don’t have nearly the compulsion to watch them the way I do a classic ghost story. I can’t even begin to describe this compulsion but it’s very real (unlike ghosts themselves). And like some of these other genres, most of these films are mediocre or bad. The truly good ones, though- The Sixth Sense; The Others; Poltergeist; The Changeling– are like crack for me.

1970’s Cop movies
I love these because they’re such a neat little sociology lesson. They were the backlash to the aforementioned lawless hippie anti-heroes of late 60’s and early 70’s movies. It’s through these movie cops that we get an entertaining Moral Majority-eye view of society. I love it. And they’re a lot of fun to boot.

Samurai movies
They’re like the classic American western but steeped in greater history and tradition. I can’t think of many samurai films that were truly bad, and that’s a noteworthy accomplishment.



Filed under Movies

38 responses to “Achilles’ Heels: The Genres and Storylines I Can’t Resist

  1. I’m with you on every one, except Zombie Nazi films. 70s crime films/surrealism are on my list for sure.

  2. Kelly

    I’m a sucker for character studies. A strong plot just gets in the way sometimes. I also prefer non-musical animated features, stoner comedies, Tim Burton films and Bill Murray.

    • SNL comedies in general are definitely a weakness for me, especially if we’re talking about movies from the 80’s and 90’s. I don’t really care much for the current crop (or any of the SNL casts since the mid 90’s), but up until then, I’d watch just about anything from that era starring Murray, Sandler, Farley, Steve Martin, Chevy Chase…

  3. Nice list John! I like that you mentioned “Made” in your list of Mafia films. I absolutely love that film! The story, dialogue, music, and even the cinematography are great. Talk about an underrated film.

  4. Darah

    Whether its blockbuster madness like Star Wars, do gooder moralising like Trek, or the off the wall stuff like Equilibrium or Moon.
    Love it all.

  5. Werewolf movies.

    You mean, like ‘Twilight’?

    • Damn, that was low.

      I think the closest I’ve come to werewolf-related and similar to Twilight was a crappy teen werewolf movie starring Agnes Bruckner, called “Blood and Chocolate”. It was pretty freakin’ bad.

  6. The guy who met Kevin Meany

    I don’t understand why the Godfather Part III is considered to be one of the biggest steaming piles of shit in the history of cinema. Does it live up to the Godfather Part 1 and 2? No, it doesn’t, but it was not that bad. It does have its faults. Sofia Coppola could have been a better actress. It would have been nice to see Tom Hagen instead of George Hamilton. A larger body count would have been nice. But otherwise, it had some positives. Andy Garcia playing Sonny’s bastard son, Vincent, Connie taking up the mafia hitman business via canolli, the assassination of Joey Zasa was a memorable scene, the mass carnage of half of organized crime at the casino, etc. I also love the Mafia genre and I have no problem with Godfather Part III being a second tier addition to my list.

    • I agree with everything you just said. I always compare it to the Kennedy brothers. JFK and RFK are The Godfather 1 and 2. Godfather 3 was Teddy. I swear, I mean that as a compliment to the movie.

      I think it’s pretty cool that Joey Zaza was based on John Gotti.

  7. This is cool, I always like insight into what other movie lovers are into. I’d have an entirely different list than you as I prefer um, lighter fares. Perhaps I’ll do a similar list like this in the future, thanks for the inspiration, John.

  8. Thanks for the pingback!

    My biggest weakness is quiet dramas “where nothing much happens”, such as The Seventh Continent, The Brown Bunny, Gerry, Somewhere, Eyes Wide Shut, and the list goes on. But yeah, the whole descent into insanity genre is strangely alluring. By the way, does surrealism include David Lynch? Because one of his films, Inland Empire, fits into that genre perfectly.

    • I’d definitely include Lynch in that surrealist category. Granted, I haven’t enjoyed him as most others but I haven’t flat-out disliked him either.

      • The guy who met Kevin Meany

        I still think Lynch’s best work was Twin Peaks (which was a TV series). Mulholland Drive and Lost Highway were great except this was his era of non-linear storytelling and my head exploded trying to process it all.

    • The guy who met Kevin Meany

      One small caveat to “nothing much happens” in The Brown Bunny–something did happen for about 3 to 4 minutes of the movie.

      • Reminds me of one of my favorite Netflix viewer reviews ever, and it was for Brown Bunny (which I haven’t seen):

        I fell asleep after the first 4 hours of Vincent Gallo driving around – looking really intense. Then, I think I woke up to see Chloe Sevigny eat a salami. Then I fell asleep again.

        • I can’t recommend that movie enough, not necessarily because it’s great, but because it’s almost impossible to tell what people will think of it: some hate it, some love it. What gives? Same rules apply for Lars von Trier movies.

  9. I don’t know why but I can’t resist sci-fi/romance movies like The Adjustment Bureau or The Time Traveler’s Wife. And war movies, I will check those out no matter what.

    • War movies are definitely hard to pass up, especially World War II movies. At least for me. But it’s definitely not limited to that. Think of all of the great 80’s Vietnam movies.

      • The guy who met Kevin Meany

        My all-time favorite Vietnam movie was Apocalypse Now. Platoon and the Deerhunter were also masterpieces. There is something about Vietnam that made a great movie…really the first war that 98% of the US wasn’t supportive of.

  10. Nazi Zombies I would watch in any film!!


  11. When I read the title of the article I immediately thought, samurai movies! So I’m reading…..reading….reading….BOOM! There it is at the end of the article. I exhaled a sigh of relief. There’s omething about their dedication and the honor that goes with the title of samurai that intrigues the hell out of me.

    My own personal Achilles heel, besides the aforementioned, would be military resistance flicks (a la “Army of Shadows” and “The Battle of Algiers”), Police procedural (“High and Low”, “The Wire”), Zombies (haven’t seen a Nazi zombie yet, hoping to soon), and Western Gunslingers (Sergio Leone films).

  12. Vladdy

    It used to be vampire movies until there were so many. I’ll watch any musical, even though 90% of film musicals are rotten movies. (But that other 10%!) Like akiramifune, I like resistance films, too (the ones he mentioned are two of my all-time favorites). One thing about samurai movies: of course it seems like they’re all good–the bazillions of crappy ones don’t get international release!

    • This last round of vampire movies has really destroyed the genre. I guess you could say it’s “evolving” or something to adapt to a new audience but it’s lacking teeth. Pun intended.

  13. Stu

    I’ve seen some sleeper samurai pictures. Honestly, though, even the bad ones can’t compare with some of the craptacular westerns I’ve come across. I’m assuming that has to be largely because the truly bad ones don’t get ported as often.

    Any movie, however bad, with a sharp-looking practical creature in it will get a sit-down from me. Honestly, I’m a sucker for most any sci-fi.

  14. Love, love, love Alain Resnais – was introduced to his films in my uni course French National Cinema. Thought it would be dull as hell but turned out to be one of the best ones! As for genres – 80s movies but specifically teen/coming-of-age types, sci-fi (all kinds) and I suppose what can loosely be described as alt Hollywood or quirky comedies (Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, etc).

    • Coming of age movies, ironically, is one that I’ve grown out of a bit. I still like them but I no longer feel the need to see them all.

  15. The guy who met Kevin Meany

    Also, I cannot resist romantic comedies–the two attractive people who start out either 1. Hating each other or 2. Having a big misunderstanding. I really love the race through the airport at the end that leads to the part where the one person is able to talk his/her way out of the shit that he/she got into in the first place. Bonus points if Katherine Heigl is in it–she is always delightful and definitely not a huge, high-maintenance bitch that was born with hooves. Also, I’m thrilled if Sarah Jessica Parker is in it. She is always charming and exhibits the classic sex appeal of Marilyn Monroe or Catherine Deneuve. She doesn’t at all have a striking resemblance to the Crypt Keeper. Also, as far as leading men go, a good Rom-com needs someone who oozes masculinity such as Hugh Grant.

  16. Julie

    I did a post on some of mine, including suburban unrest, challenges to masculinity, and bittersweet endings:

    I could easily do a sequel or twelve though, since I only covered themes as opposed to subjects.

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