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Desert Island DVDs: The Big 8

So you find yourself, in true “Lost” fashion, stranded on a desert island in the vast sea, with nothing but your wits, your wiles and your good looks to keep you company. (OK, so it sounds a little nonsensical. Life doesn’t always have to make sense, does it? Willingly suspend your disbelief, people.) Since there’s no sunscreen, the sun’s going to dispatch that lovely complexion right quickly. With no one to parlay to your thrust in verbal jousting matches, the wit will be the first to go. And since there are no objects of lustful desire, the wiles, well, they aren’t worth a fig.

But wait! Suddenly you remember that you had the forethought to pack not one, not two but eight DVDs before the terrible stranding went down! Because you, die-hard movie lover, unlike 98 percent of the world’s population, know what’s really important: not sunscreen or non-perishable canned goods or a first aid kit or even a chummy volleyball named Wilson, but films. A world without water is palatable, but a world without movies?

That’s just crazy talk, is what that is.

Here’s my humble list of eight movie-films — divided into what I deem to be eight “essential” categories or groups — I’d require to keep me entertained on this neverending island venture:



Why: Despite the a-changin’ times Bob Dylan crooned about, strong female action heroes remain in short supply in the world of film. And so James Cameron’s tense-as-hell, gripping, action-dense thriller stands apart because of Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), a fierce heroine who throws punches with the best of them yet retains that elusive quality — empathy — so little seen in action heroes. With Weaver’s iconic, brilliant performance, every viewing of “Aliens” feels like the first time.



Why come I picked this: You were expecting something a little “Holy Grail”-ier, perhaps? No offense to the Greatest Movie Ever Made, but there are times when British tomfoolery hits the spot and times when a desert island dweller wants to see that the world-at-large — poor people, with their dwindling IQs and those climbing Costco Law School prices — is far, far worse off than she is. Plus, there’s nothing like 10 seconds of “Ow, My Balls!” to clear those island doldrums riiiiight up.



Why: Back in his younger days, Marlon Brando wasn’t just a contender, he was THE contender — for coolest cat in any room, best method actor alive, name the category and he’d be fighting for a top spot in it. Though his career is studded with amazing and accomplished performances, his turn in “On the Waterfront” as one-time boxer Terry Malloy shows the actor in total command of his gifts. Pair that with a stellar ensemble cast (including heavyweights Lee J. Cobb and Karl Malden) and it’s a knockout. Every time.



Why: Some people like their thrillers fast-n-furious, with lots of explosions and a juggernaut soundtrack that drowns out any hope of character interaction. Me, I like a slower burn that takes longer to take effect but packs a whallop when it does. Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s beautiful film about 1984 Socialist East Germany, living under the thumb of the Stasi secret police, fits that bill and contains a stunning performance by the late Ulrich Mühe. This is a movie that will change your life.



Why: Cast aside all thoughts of the 85 remakes that followed John Carpenter’s low-budget 1978 classic that frightened viewers everywhere way, way down in their primal scare spots — they matter not. The original “Halloween” has no equal, for no other horror film has managed to create a character 1/16 as terrifying as Michael Myers, a masked force of evil that cannot be stopped. Carpenter outdid our imaginations in ways that still make us cry “uncle,” and that’s one hell of an achievement.



Why: Sometimes stories are compelling because the characters are extraordinary, or their deeds are, or their circumstances baffle or astound us. This is not the case with “The Station Agent,” an unassuming but enormously touching independent film about three wildly different people who, through nothing more than proximity and chance, stumble into one another’s company and discover they share one thing: loneliness. Never underestimate the power of simple human connection to touch the soul.


Romantic Comedy

Why: Love stories that don’t follow a traditional arch, that take bold risks and play about with our sense of time and space and memory, are rare, so when you find a good one the tendency is to hold on tight. Few romantic comedies manage to be as poignant, achingly bittersweet and unexpectedly funny as Michel Gondry’s “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” an unconventional tale of two lovers that suggests, gently but clearly, that sometimes love does not conquer all or end in smiles and rainbows.



Why: Quentin Tarantino is a director who delights in messing with our heads, taking what we know of linear storytelling and throwing it in a Cuisinart; for him, originality is king. In that respect, “Inglourious Basterds” may well be his one true masterpiece, at once a tongue-in-cheek rewrite of World War II’s ending, a war film, an ensemble drama, a madcap comedy, a wild adventure. And now that I’ve seen it once, I can’t spend another second of my life without Christoph Waltz in it.


Complete Catalogue of Desert Island DVD Lists

  • Tara from 101 Goals in 1001 Days
  • Shawn from 7 Dollar Popcorn
  • Andrew from Andrew at the Cinema
  • Castor from Anomalous Material
  • Dylan from Blog Cabins
  • Nick from Cinema Romantico
  • Wynter from Cinemascream
  • Aiden from Cut the Crap Movie Reviews
  • The Mad Hatter from The Dark of the Matinee
  • Lady Hatter (posted on Hatter’s blog)
  • Sebastian from Detailed Criticisms
  • Elizabeth from Elizabethan Theatre
  • Andy From Fandango Groovers Movie Blog
  • Steve from The Film Cynics
  • Alex from Film Forager
  • Ripley from Four of Them
  • Ruth from FlixChatter
  • Marc from Go,See,Talk!
  • Jason from Invasion of The B-Movies
  • Caz from Lets Go To The Movies
  • Kai from The List
  • Olive from Movie News First
  • Darren from the mOvie blog
  • Travis from The Movie Encyclopedia
  • Heather from Movie Mobsters
  • Wendy from The Movie Viewing Girl
  • Paul from Paragraph Film Reviews
  • Phil from Phil on Film
  • Faith from Ramblings of a Recessionista
  • Nick from Random Ramblings of a Demented Doorknob
  • Ross & Ross from Ross v Ross
  • Meaghan from Wild Celtic
  • Mike from You Talking to Me?
  • 37 Responses

    1. Thank God you chose the “right” Brando. Excellent as it is, had you chosen A Streetcar Named Desire you just know you were going to be committing suicide on that island.

      • That movie’s all about Brando for me; Vivien Leigh gets annoying after awhile. Sad thing is I’d have to be creative about the chosen method of suicide; guess I wouldn’t be stranded with a gun.

    2. […] Meredith from M. Carter at The Movies […]

    3. some excellent choices MC. Idiocracy isnt very good but it is a loveable little film all the same

      • What?!? It’s AWESOME! The thing about it is that you think it’s just stupid — and it is — but underneath that there’s blistering satire. It’s no “Office Space,” but I love it just the same.

        • sorry Carter from Mars, but it puts the ‘miss’ in ‘hit and miss’. should have just taken Office Space on your island with you. everyone’s entitled to their opinion of course, im just pointing out to you that your’s is wrong.

      • I’m going to join the gang up on you for Idiocracy lol. I thought it was really terrible! But to each his own and good on you for putting it out there so we can discuss it! 🙂

    4. […] M. Carter at The Movies […]

    5. I’m with Ross on Idiocracy. Though I thoroughly hope the future contains a channel devoted strictly to ball shots. Great list M…. Love everything except The Lives of Others… I’m still pissed it beat Pan’s Labyrinth for Best Foreign Film!

      • I think we are two minds about that … I saw “Pan’s Labrynth” and liked it very much, but I always defer to movies about human connection in a contest between that and crazy-awesome visuals. C’est moi!

    6. Great list M! I attempted to do the different genres when picking my list but that did not happen for me as well as it did for you. Very good reasons on why you would take each film.

    7. Jeez a lot of hating on Idiocracy! I think it’s a pretty ok movie- not my favorite comedy by far but still enjoyable, with a lot of funny little details.

      Anyway cool list! I’m glad you covered all the essential food groups of movies, and I’m really glad you have Aliens in there! I was debating my own “strong female action hero” movie, and it came down to Aliens, Planet Terror, or Terminator 2.

      And thanks for reminding me that I still have to see The Station Agent.

    8. Cool, one for every genre. That takes some discipline, but I won’t have anything for the horror one as I don’t watch much of those. Somehow I knew you’d have Basterds on your list, well who doesn’t want to bring their movie boyfriend to the island? 🙂 If I weren’t too chickened out about violent stuff, I’d take that one, too!

    9. Loved “The Lives of Others” too; so glad it won the Oscar.

    10. Bless you, bless you, bless you for taking Idiocracy. It was on my very short list, but at the very last second didn’t make it. A bonus with it is that there’s a ton of shit in the background to keep you busy on repeat viewings.

      You and I share very similar tastes, obviously. Aside from a few swaps in some of the genres (were I to structure my list like you did), such as Amelie in place of The Lives of Others and perhaps Point Break in favor of Aliens, I’d be quite happy with your list.

      • There’s loads of little details that I find every time I watch “Idiocracy.” People dismiss it as a dumb comedy but actually it’s very sharp and very funny. One could watch it just for the names alone, like “Formica.”

    11. Basterds is a perfect film, so it makes it a perfect choice to bring to the island:) But you get major props for brining Aliens…you are a woman after my own heart.

      Also, had a feeling Halloween might make your list…but what, not bringing The Killing Room:P

    12. Idiocracy…bad? This is madness!

      It may appear to be assinine, but it is a fairly effective satire of the 00’s.

    13. Man did I ever consider putting Inglourious Basterds on my list. I love it that much. It’s a real paean to cinema, something that I would feel remiss to leave behind in the event of desert island marooning.

      And what’s with the Idiocracy backlash?! Madness!

    14. Eternal Sunshine is on so many peoples lists and such a good movie. It will always have a special place in my heart.

      Of course you are awesome and included Aliens and Halloween, not to mention Inglourious Basterds on your list.

      You rule Meredith!

    15. […] I have tagged in my blog roll, so head on over and peruse the wonderful blog lists from Castor, Meredith, Darren, and many […]

    16. Idiocracy is an awesome movie. It is an excellent commentary on the prevalence of corporatism, consumerism, and reliance on technology and the inability to use that technology correctly. Case in point: when he is at the doctor’s office and he has to stick the three tubes into different orifices and the nurse gets confused as to which one goes where, but only after indicating to Joe that the one that really goes in his mouth should go in his anus. And the fact that Starbucks is a sex store is hilarious to me.
      “Brought to you by Carl’s Junior.”

    17. You have stumped me; I have never heard of let alone seen Idiocracy. All the others are great choices.

    18. Love that you picked INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS (even though it has forever ruined my ability to spell “glorious” and “bastards” right on the first try for ever). I might have to swim over to your island and watch that one with you from time to time.

      THE LIVES OF OTHERS is fantastic, too, of course. Hard thing about picking favorites — do you pick the best, or do you pick the ones you enjoy most? Anyway, awesome list, as I’d expect from you! 🙂

    19. Like others, I quite liked the genre breakdown – it was a neat (and more than a little thoughtful) way of doing things.

    20. yeah, Basterds is perfect.
      apart from..
      Eli Roth being in it
      the stupid scene with Mike Myers
      the last 25 minutes
      but apart from that, yeah,perfect.

      • The truth? The whole time Mike Myers was onscreen I kept waiting for him to say:

        a) “Get in my belly!”
        b) “You’re the Diet Coke of evil — just one calorie, not evil enough.”
        c) “I put the ‘grrr’ in ‘swinger,’ baby!”

    21. Really cool list! A number of films I’ve actually never seen, but now must add to my list (contingent on you actually adding LA Confidential to your own list). Adding in where you are coming from on each title will actually help guide me along with that, and I suppose that’s really what these lists are for more than anything else.

      “Another glorious day in the Corps. A day in the Marine Corps is like
      a day on the farm; every meal a banquet, every paycheque a fortune,
      every formation a parade. I love the Corps!”

      Love it!

    22. Impressive list! Love how you have Aliens, Lives of Others, and Inglourious Basterds. Some of my favorites!

    23. […]  FlixChatter  Go,See,Talk!  Invasion of The B-Movies  Lets Go To The Movies The List  M. Carter at The Movies  Movie News First  the mOvie blog  The Movie Encyclopedia  Movie Mobsters  The Movie […]

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