The silver screen blues

Intro (spoiler alert):

Going to the movies is an unrivaled experience in a lot of ways, but it also costs a pretty penny.  How much would you save if you stopped going to the movie theater and watched them at home instead?  Answer: about $740 over ten years!

So I’ll admit that this post was originally just more of an excuse to share some movie recommendations and hear back about some of your favorites as well, but the savings actually warranted a little discussion of their own. So without further ado, our main feature…

The numbers:
  • 10 Year NPV: $737
  • 10 Year ROI: 7368%
  • 10 Year Payback: 0.0 years
chart - don't go to movies
chart – don’t go to movies

 Now you want to know what the assumptions are right?  Well, I assumed you have to drive 15 minutes and 10 miles to the theater, with a per-mile cost of $0.50 and a time-value of $10 per hour.  I assumed you’re like the typical American and see 4 movies per year at the theater for about $8.00 each, and I assumed you already have a TV and a Netflix subscription or some suitable alternative because cable is such a bad deal.

Keep in mind that this is just for one person.  So a family of four could save even more, probably somewhere around $3,000 per decade. Now on to the fun part…

Some of my favorite flicks:

I like regular movies, but I also really like eclectic stuff as well. And I think the eclectic stuff is my value-add here.  I’ve left off the normal stuff that there is a good chance you’ve probably already seen (Pineapple Express, Hurt Locker, Life Aquatic, True Detective, GOT, etc.) and included the stuff that might be a little more avant-garde, and yes, I am breaking the rules and listing some TV shows too.

My goal is to give you at least a few films/tv shows that you might not have come across in the past, something a little different.

Films that make me wish I had more time to spend outdoors:

  • Ken Burns National Parks (Documentary) – Long but good.
  • River of No Return (Documentary) – Couple backpacks in Idaho for a year to study wolves on their honeymoon.  Gorgeous.
  • Happy People (Documentary) – A year in the Siberian Taiga with trappers.  Serene.  By Werner Herzog
  • 180 Degrees South (Documentary) – A laid back boat trip to Patagonia.
  • Alamar (Documentary) – A slow-paced film about a son visiting his Caribbean fisher father that lives a super simple and beautiful life.
  • Mile… Mile and a Half (Documentary) – Don’t love this movie about through-hiking the Muir Trail, but it does inspire me to have these kinds of adventures myself.  This is the kind of stuff I’d like to do when I p/retire.

Beautiful films:

  • Pina (Documentary) – Amazing modern dance choreographer
  • Sweetgrass (Documentary) – Slow-moving documentary about sheep herders in Montana.
  • Nostalgia for the Light (Documentary) – Tragic and majestic about stars and Chilean political mass murders
  • Still Life – Chinese picture about building of the Three Rivers Dam and a love story
  • The Great Beauty – Italian film about an aging and privileged socialite author
  • Post Tenebras Lux – Just the opening scene (linked) with the little girl in the pasture… amazing

Surf films for a rainy day:


  • Pierrot Le Fou – A classic from the French legend Goddard, although his newest one and Cannes was supposed to be great too.
  • Holy Motors – A celebration of cinema, although no compelling narrative.
  • Sans Soleil – Experimental essay film


  • Upstream Color – wonderfully wackadoodle film about radioactive pollen, love, and pig spiritual soul-mates among other things.
  • Pan’s Labyrinth – Spanish Alice in Wonderland for grown-ups according to google
  • Winter’s Bone – An Indiana meth drama… J Law’s breakout film
  • Spring Breakers – James Franco is amazing, and Disney Channel child stars continue the sexy graduate rebellion syndrome in this sexually explicit film about spring break gone wrong. Dark humor, satire, and maybe a little sincerity.
  • Much Ado About Nothing – A whimsical modern take on Shakespeare
  • A Prophet – A graphic mafia/prison drama

New York You’re Perfect, Oh Please Don’t Change a Thing:

  • Style Wars (Documentary) – The original hip hop documentary with graffiti, beat-boxing, break dancing, and everything.
  • Do The Right Thing – Spike Lee classic about race relations on a hot summer day in Brooklyn.
  • The Warriors – Cult classic about warring gangs of New York.
  • Downtown 81 – Jean Michel Basquiat’s beat film, set in New York.  This guy is one of my favorite artists and has become wildly popular with the rap set over the years (Kanye, Jay-Z, Danny Brown, Frank Ocean…), but don’t let that deter you.  Lots of music in this one.

Not So Indie TV Shows:

  • Top of The Lake – Sort of dark, but funny and beautiful New Zealand detective drama with Peggy from Mad Men as the lead.
  • Bored to Death – HBO comedy about a NY writer posing as private investigator on Craigslist. Ted Danson is great in this.
  • Treme – From the creators of the Wire.  New Orleans post-Katrina music drama.  So good.

So that’s my list.  It’s a little light in romance and comedy… my bad.  Any recommendations of your own to share?  If not, I hope you found something interesting, or maybe just thought harder about how often you want to go to the movies from now on. Happy viewing.

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