Remote Killer Movies


You know the situation all too well. You're watching TV, just flipping aimlessly through the channels. Suddenly you come across a film you have seen a million times before. It's already in progress. You're thinking "I'll just watch the next scene, then I'll move on." An hour or two later, when the credits roll, you suddenly snap out of your hypnotized state, and realize you have seen the whole rest of the film.

You have just been subjected to a Remote Killer Movie.

If you got it really bad, you'll also realize that your arm is hurting, because your hand was poised with the remote ready to zap, the whole time you were watching.

Remote Killer Movies are a special breed of movies. They are not necessarily your favorite movies (though they can be), they may not even be movies that you like particularly much. That's the strange irony of the concept.

Let me give you some examples:

The complete opposite of a Remote Killer Movie for me would be my favorite film, Se7en. I would never watch a frame of it out of context. I want the whole experience when I watch it, and don't want to delude any particular scene. I will cover my eyes with my stuffed penguin until I manage to hit that "next" button, rather than see any bit of this masterpiece on TV. On the other end of the spectrum we find a film like Contact. I don't even like this film all that much, and yet I find some of the scenes impossible to zap away from. (Then of course we hit the fluffy beach scene near the end, and suddenly the film has no power over me anymore, which is why it's not on this list.)

So anyway, I sat down and thought carefully about this, and came up with a top 5 list of my own personal worst Remote Killer Movies. Films I find it absolutely impossible to zap away from if I happen to come across them on TV.

Here goes...



1) Where Eagles Dare (1968)

"It was riddled with machine-gun holes. British machine-gun holes. But what the hell, a hole is a hole is hole, as they say."

A team of Allied soldiers must travel behind enemy lines to the impenetrable Schloss Adler, ostensibly to save a captured US general, before he reveals the plans for D-Day to the Germans. The reality, however, is far more dangerous and complicated. So complicated that the whole thing doesn't really make any sense by the end, but who cares? This is precision film-making at the highest level, and Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood are brilliant in the leads.

Must-watch scene(s):

Almost any scene, but particularly the almost wordless sequence where Burton and Eastwood set up for their eventual escape, meticulously planting bombs and getting equipment ready, without a hint of an explanation to the audience.

2) 2010: The Year We Make Contact (1984)

"You just read that report? Took you this long to steal our secrets?" "How long does it take for your people to steal ours?" "Same amount of time."

A followup to Stanley Kubrick's classic 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), written, directed and shot by Peter Hyams. Roy Scheider plays the man responsible for the first film's failed mission, who must hitch a ride on a Russian spacecraft, to figure out what the hell went wrong. The film ditches almost all of its predecessor's mushroom-induced metaphysical elements, in favor of a straightforward science-fiction action approach, and is all the more enjoyable for it.

Must-watch scene(s):

The Aerobraking scene. The moment where the Russian technician crawls into Roy Scheider's bunk, so he can hold her, while the spaceship enters the atmosphere using an experimental technique. Also, the opening dialogue between Scheider and the Russian representative (played by MacGyver's boss Dana Elcar).

3) The American President (1995)

"We had a nice couple of minutes together. She threatened me, I patronized her. Didn't have anything to eat, but I thought there was a connection." 

Michael Douglas plays a widowed president, who courts an environmental lobbyist, played by Annette Bening. A situation that begins to threaten his political future. A smart and funny, but also poignant, dramady from director Rob Reiner and writer Aaron Sorkin.

Must-watch scene(s):

Michael Douglas' speech at the end. Almost makes me cry, and I would SO vote for that guy. Also, all the scenes with the president and his staff, played by Michael J. Fox, Martin Sheen, and David Paymer, among others.

4) Apollo 13 (1995)

"Let's look at this thing from a standpoint of status. What do we got on the spacecraft that's good?"

This is perhaps the best example of a Remote Killer Movie, because I don't really like the film. Director Ron Howard has put together an effective and precise film, detailing the events surrounding the space catastrophe that was the Apollo 13 mission, but it's so mechanic and soulless. It's too American, and there's nothing new under the sun if you're familiar with the real story...

Must-watch scene(s):

.. And yet any scene in mission control on Earth can kill my remote, but one in particular: The "square filter, round hole"-scene where the technicians have to get really creative to give the astronauts something to breathe. Also, Ken Mattingly (Gary Sinise) trying to put together a start-up list for his buddies in the simulator on earth.

5) Runaway Train (1985)

"You're an animal!" "Worse! Human!"

What starts as a prison movie quickly turns into something quite unique, as hardcore criminal Manny, and a young inmate who idolizes him, escape from a remote Alaskan maximum security facility, only to find themselves trapped on a massive train with no driver! Jon Voight, Eric Roberts, and Rebecca De Mornay deliver career-best performances, and the sight of that steel beast thundering through the snow-covered landscapes is beyond breathtaking.

Must-watch scene(s):

Every scene from the moment the train-driver dies to the cold and bitter end. Ironically, when I get on that train, I just can't get off.



I believe this is an accurate list of my own worst offenders, in terms of Remote Killerness. I considered a few other titles as well: The Fugitive with Harrison Ford, F/X Murder by Illusions, which I've seen a trillion times, Life of Brian or The Holy Grain by Monty Python, and the previously mentioned Contact. Perhaps you've got some suggestions of your own? That's what the comments are for.

Before we wrap this up, let me answer the burning question on your mind: How can I fight a Remote Killer Movie? Is there nothing I can do? No antidote? No Kryptonite? Let me put this as plainly as I can: No, there's nothing you can do. You must sit there and watch the movie till the bitter end.

Well, actually there is one thing that can help you, but it requires that you've stumbled over the film on a particularly nasty type of channel. You see, the only thing that can effectively end a Remote Killer Movie is... A commercial break.


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