According to legend (which is at least “substantially true,” according to people who knew her) film critic Pauline Kael only watched movies once. Even if she loved a film, she didn’t revisit it. She watched something, she wrote about it, she moved on to the next subject.
Kael was an amazing writer and critic, but if you ask me, that’s no way to live — or to watch movies.
Besides the fact that it’s simply a pleasure to return to a movie you love over and over, in some cases, favorites actually demand multiple viewings, whether that’s to fully appreciate the film’s nuances or buried themes, or simply because it includes a shocking twist that changes the entire story’s meaning and gives a second watch a totally different flavor.
Below, we’ve chronologically listed some movies that are strongly enhanced by multiple viewings. Also: A full third of the list was released between the years of 1999 and 2001. Is that a coincidence or was something going on during those years that inspired a wave of densely plotted films? (My personal guess: The rise of DVD — along with its easy ability to rewind, skip ahead, go frame by frame, and own a copy of a film forever — inspired some directors to indulge their passion for complex narratives that reward ultra-attentive repeat viewership.)
Here are 15 films that don’t just warrant multiple viewings — they practically demand them.
Movies You Need to Watch More Than Once
These movies are so good and so complex, that a single viewing just isn’t enough. (There may be some slight spoilers below, but we’ll try our best to avoid anything major.)