Top 6: Surprisingly Good Movies

Posted in Top 6 at 4:59 am by Sam

Our Top 6 list for Episode 7 is about movies you thought would be bad but turned out to be good. Unlike prior Top 6 lists, this topic says not so much about the movies themselves as our expectations for them.

What movies did you think were going to be terrible and wound up being a pleasant surprise?

As always, we recommend listening to the episode before reading further.

  1. Singin’ In the Rain (1952)
  2. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
  3. The Seventh Seal (1957)
  4. Sin City (2005)
  5. Batman Begins (2005)
  6. The Sixth Sense (1999)
  1. Funny Bones (1995)
  2. The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980)
  3. The Matrix (1999)
  4. Holes (2003)
  5. School of Rock (2003)
  6. Pleasantville (1998)


  1. Dave (130) said,

    November 15, 2006 at 1:07 pm

    What, no “Elf”?

  2. Sam (405) said,

    November 15, 2006 at 2:04 pm

    Hehehe. I considered it, yeah. Elf certainly took me by surprise. But I liked the six I picked more, so they were all the more surprising.

  3. Maryam (14) said,

    November 15, 2006 at 2:32 pm

    I LOVE The Gods Must Be Crazy. It (and the sequel, TGMBC II) are definitely different from most of the movies out there, but still very funny and worth watching. It always makes me contemplative, too — do we really NEED all this fancy technology and crowded society and all the headaches that come with them?

    Ok, yeah, I do. But I still wonder a bit.

    Back to the topic, the movie that popped into my head when I saw the topic was Legally Blonde. I first saw it on an airplane ride, and I was prepared to hate it (but I was still going to watch, because it’s much easier to focus attention on movies than anything else on a plane ride). Though certainly not a movie of any substance, it doesn’t claim to be, and it turned out to be very likeable and entertaining.

    On another note, I had the opposite experience going the other direction on that round trip. The movie showing then was Bridget Jones’ Diary, which I thought I was going to like fairly well since it seemed to be a standard romantic comedy. I ended up hating it, though. Life is funny.

  4. Sam (405) said,

    November 15, 2006 at 2:40 pm

    Maryam: Wow, yeah, Legally Blonde would have been a good pick for me, too. As with Elf, I think I still like the six I picked more, but it caught me by just as much surprise. A comedy about a ditzy blonde girl in the legal world? OH YAY. But it turns out to be not just funny but about genuine characters.

    That movie was in theaters the same time as another comedy that I’ll talk about in the next episode, but basically we wanted to see a movie, and we had to choose which to see, and we picked completely the wrong one.

    I also didn’t think very highly of Bridget Jones. I’m not really sure what all that hype was about.

  5. siochembio (82) said,

    November 15, 2006 at 5:51 pm

    Totally agree on “The Seventh Seal.” I was so nervous about seeing it because I thought it was going to be obscure and pretentious, a film easy to appreciate but impossible to love.

    I was shocked at how entertaining it actually is. Yes, it’s incredibly deep and asks very difficult questions, but manages to do so in an extraordinarily compelling way. Plus it just looks beautiful.

    I was actually so moved by “The Seventh Seal” that I unexpectedly burst into tears at the end. I wasn’t sad about characters dying, I was simply moved by the film, in an intellectual and philosophical rather than emotional way, but still, deeply moved.

    It’s one of my favorite films ever for that very reason.

  6. Stephen (221) said,

    November 15, 2006 at 11:35 pm

    Actually Legally Blonde sucks. I avoided it, then I heard all this, “No, it’s much better than it seems!” hype, and then it turns out to be a lame comedy just like it appearaed — only slightly different.

    But siochembio is completely right about Seventh Seal. It’s such a wonderful film if you’re feeling at all introspective, and every time I see it I’m amazed at the number of levels on which it works.

  7. Dave (130) said,

    November 16, 2006 at 2:31 am

    Ah, Stephen, thank you for dismissing Legally Blonde so that I don’t have to see it. A lot of times I think you’re just being an idiot when you make such proclamations, but since this time you’re affirming my own conceptions of the movie, you must be right!

    Seriously, I haven’t seen this movie, and haven’t yet been convinced I should. So many people keep saying “Oh, it’s really good, it’s not awful like you’d think!” but I can’t even begin to think of how that’s possible. I like Reese Witherspoon well enough, but her being cute and perky isn’t enough to make a movie good. I can’t figure out how this movie can possibly be anything other than stupid drek like I’ve always assumed.

  8. ThePhan (128) said,

    November 17, 2006 at 5:02 pm

    I agreed with nearly all the ones of these that I’d seen. (The one I really didn’t was Batman Begins. I didn’t get into that for some reason. I don’t know WHY. I like the Batman character, I like Christopher Nolan, I like Christian Bale… so I’m not sure what failed to gel for me.)

    School of Rock I *only* saw because my then-favorite musical theater guy Adam Pascal is in it for about a minute. He even gets to sing, hurray. But I ended up getting kind of caught up in the story and really enjoyed it.

    Holes is one of the best book adaptations I have ever seen. I was scared stiff that they’d dumb it down and make it some sentimental Disney channel-type flick about Stanley just wanting to be loved and prove himself or something, but it wasn’t like that at ALL. All the crazy connections were left in there, the zany plotline… Loved it.

    Shawshank Redemption was recommended to me by a friend whose opinion on movies I usually don’t trust, but I saw it and loved it, even though it’s the *kind* of movie I would usually hate.

    Two other movies that were that way for me:
    -Shrek. I was at first immediately turned off by the pop culture references inside a fairy tale story. (One of my pet peeves.) It actually wasn’t until the very end that I decided even though I thought I was going to hate it, I really didn’t. It’s currently one of my favorite animated flicks.
    -Donnie Darko. I’d heard too much about it being impossible to understand and thought it was going to be this totally incomprehensible symbolic David Lynch-type movie, all of which kind of annoy me because even if there’s no chance I’m ever going to figure out what’s going on, I like to at least FEEL like I could figure it out. :-) Which is what happened with this movie. As well as the fact that everything else in the movie really made me interested in the story. It *was* a story, instead of being just a series of symbols that are just too frustrating to interpret. And consequently I liked it quite a lot.

  9. Stephen (221) said,

    November 18, 2006 at 2:09 am

    ThePhan: Which version of Darko did you see? The director’s cut available on DVD is apparently a lot easier to follow than the theatrical cut (I saw the theatrical cut and didn’t care enough about it to bother watching the director’s cut).

  10. Eric (44) said,

    November 18, 2006 at 5:41 am

    Shrek is an interesting mention. I loved Shrek the first time I saw it, but the second time, and subsequent times, I can’t stand it. It feels so slow, and the jokes have gone from hilarious to totally unfunny over the course of just one viewing. I don’t even understand how this happened.

  11. ThePhan (128) said,

    November 18, 2006 at 12:37 pm

    Stephen: I did see the director’s cut, which probably made a difference, although it still would have been impossible to figure out the ending with that cut.

    Eric: Really! That’s interesting. It was sort of the opposite for me. Although I’d decided by the end of the first viewing I didn’t hate it, it was only after my siblings had watched it about four more times that I decided I really liked the movie a lot. (Initially, the same thing happened with Finding Nemo and Toy Story 2. That’s probably a good thing, that animated movies improve for me on second viewings, given how ofetn we watch them at our house.)

  12. Gharlane (12) said,

    November 18, 2006 at 11:13 pm

    The movie I thought of when I read the topic was Martin Scorsese’s “After Hours”; a comedy by Scorsese? I figured it might be OK, but I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. It’s a really dark comedy that improves with viewing.

  13. Darien (88) said,

    November 20, 2006 at 1:06 am

    I think my numbers one and two, anyhow, I can list. Number two could only be the original Austin Powers movie. I don’t like Mike Myers, I’d seen the ads for the film and was repulsed, and I basically couldn’t think of one single reason why I’d ever want to see this film. Then I got trapped on a bus with it at one point and watched it because, hey, what are you going to do? And I really enjoyed it.
    As for my number one, I pick Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame, which is easily my favourite of the “modern” Disney cartoons and one that I thought would be horrible. I mean, there’s no way a *Disney* cartoon could possibly do justice to this story, right? And it was in poor company, coming (I believe) immediately after Pocahontas. But, as above, I got stuck on a bus with it, and quickly changed my tune. An excellent film through-and-through.

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