Exactly just how bad does a movie need to be before you just can’t take it anymore? In this week’s Roundtable, we’d like to know whether (or how often) you’ve walked out of a movie that you paid to see in the theater.
We’d like to restrict this topic to theatrical walk-outs. Turning off a movie early on DVD or Blu-ray doesn’t have quite the same sting to it.
I pride myself on the fact that I never walk out of movies. I’ll often see a film or two at Sundance that cause me to want to walk out, but I don’t. I even stayed through the entire Sundance screening of ‘The Informers‘ and that was a chore. Mark Pellington’s ‘I Melt with You‘ was another Sundance film where I could’ve walked out, but instead stayed until the extremely bitter end.
However, that all changed this past Sundance. I sat down for a Japanese film called ‘R100’ about a guy who joins a weird dominatrix sex club. The premise is that the women brutally assault him during the day. He doesn’t know when it’s coming, so that when it happens, it’s even more exciting for him. The first 30 minutes of the movie are darkly comedic enough. There’s even a strange little heartwarming tale between the man and his young 8-year-old son. It was all going fine for a while. Although really bizarre, that’s the norm at film festivals.
To provide some context, the beginning of ‘R100’ starts with a warning that states that all of god’s creatures were treated with respect, and that animatronics and makeup effects were used during the filming. So, the movie continues on and gets weirder and more disgusting. Then, at one point, one of the sadistic matrons from the club involves the man’s kid in some crazy bondage routine. That’s the point where I threw up my hands and walked out. In Roger Ebert’s book ‘Life Itself’, he talks about having a moral line which is a personal preference. His moral line was crossed during ‘Blue Velvet’. Mine was crossed during ‘R100’. I don’t care if the kid who was tied up and gagged was actually a robot. That’s where my line was drawn.
Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)
The only time I can remember stomping out a theater early was during Spike Lee’s ‘He Got Game’. It didn’t have anything to do with the movie itself, though. I was just trying to kill a certain amount of time and left afterwards. Eh, it was only a buck.
Killing time at discount theaters is a recurring theme here. I’d suffer through dreck like ‘Wing Commander’ and ‘Bats’ in my sleepy little college town when I’d finish exams early. I remember being the only person in the theater subjecting himself to Don Johnson’s rightly forgotten ‘Goodbye Lover’ during a particularly boring summer where I’d trudge over to the dollar theater on a near-daily basis. Even with as dreadful as so many of those movies were, I always felt honor-bound to stick it out till the end.
Chris Boylan (Big Picture Big Sound)
I’ve walked out of a film only once: David Lynch’s ‘Eraserhead‘. This was early in college when the film was screening at our on-campus theater. I think it may have been just after the chicken dinner scene. I mean, seriously, WTF?
I have since learned to appreciate Lynch’s offbeat sense of humor and style. In fact, ‘Twin Peaks’ was one of my favorite TV series of the ’90s and ‘Blue Velvet’ remains one of my favorite indie films. I’m sorry to say that I still haven’t developed an appreciation for his take on ‘Dune’, though. I still have no idea what Josh sees in that movie.
Whenever I think about walking out of a movie, I think about economics class and the concept of “sunk costs,” which is defined as a past cost that has been incurred and cannot be recovered. The theory applied to movies is that if the movie is bad, you’ve already paid your money (sunk cost), so you might as well walk out and gain back your time. However, many people subscribe to the fallacy, “I’ve paid my money, so I need to sit through this torture.” Even knowing that I’d be wiser to gain back my time, I’ve only walked out of two movies. I walked out of ‘The Matrix‘ because I could not sustain my disbelief to allow Keanu Reeves to be a messiah figure. Dude, seriously? I also walked out of ‘Mission: Impossible III, but that was only because my date had passed out from two Mai Tais too many and his snoring was drowning out the movie explosions.
I’m a huge fan of ‘Major League’, yet one of the only movies that I have ever walked out on was ‘Major League II’. To this day, I’ve never seen it to the end, since it just shamelessly fails at doing anything enjoyable with the returning cast. Even worse (because it was way too long) was ‘Any Given Sunday‘. I went with eight people, bought two expensive tickets, and then was continuously begged by the majority of the group to leave what was a beached whale of a movie early. As I stubbornly refused to leave, Oliver Stone seemed to be trying to prove that the hopelessly meandering story could say something about football if only it ever ended.
The only movies I’ve actually walked out of were for reasons other than the films themselves. I remember leaving ‘Born on the Fourth of July‘ because I had developed a killer headache. I left a screening of ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring‘ because two annoying girls behind me were giving away plot points right before they happened on screen. (I gave them the “half turn,” then the “full turn,” then I just got up and left.) Finally, I ditched a screening of ‘Joy Ride‘ because the theater had the wrong lens on the projector, causing the anamorphic picture to be elongated. The projectionist had no idea what I was talking about, so I just left and got a refund. To date, I have still not seen ‘Joy Ride’. Any good?
However, one movie that I did stay through to the end and wished I could have been anywhere else was ‘The English Patient‘. Yes, I realize that this is a Best Picture winner and highly rated by many, but I couldn’t stand it. I cared nothing about the characters, nor their fates. I just remember feeling that the audience was suffering far more than the burn victim we were watching up on the screen.
I’ve only walked out of two movies in my life, but the first shouldn’t really count because of the circumstances. When I was a kid, my mom took me to see ‘Alive’ in theaters because I’d read and loved the book. Being my first theatrical R-rated movie and having an uncle who died in a plane wreck, the crash scene was way too intense for me. Little Luke couldn’t handle it, which ended up being a good thing because my mom recently told me that she couldn’t handle it either. (It was her brother who died in a plane crash.)
The second movie I walked out of came much later in my life. In my early 20s, I took a promising date to see Harrison Ford and (then) up-and-coming actor Josh Hartnett in ‘Hollywood Homicide‘. I don’t remember a thing about that movie other than wanting to die because it was so stupid. At some point, probably halfway through the picture, it dawned on me that I have free agency and the option to do as I please. Having recognizing that blessing, it pleased me to get the hell out of there immediately. I’ve only felt that amount of liberation a few times in my life. Boy, did it feel good to shake that one off.
Like many on our staff, I’m wired to stick it out to the end even during bad movies. Mrs. Z and I came very close to walking out of Joel Schumacher’s piece-of-shit adaptation of John Grisham’s piece-of-shit novel ‘A Time to Kill‘ (featuring two of this year’s Oscar-nominated actors!). The film is populated with offensive racial caricatures, and the sole purpose of its idiotic storyline is to legitimize and glorify vigilante violence. We found the movie insufferably awful. Unfortunately, we were there with a friend who was enjoying the thing and we had to be polite about it.
I fell asleep (another thing I never do at the theater) during Krzysztof Kieslowski’s pretentious and wildly overrated ‘Three Colors: Blue‘, but I was there when the end credits rolled. I later gave that another shot on DVD and had to repeatedly slap myself in the face to stay awake.
At the risk of giving away TMI, I’ll tell you that I was forced to walk out of a repertory theater double-bill screening of Chow Yun-Fat’s ‘God of Gamblers’ and its sequel that I’d paid for. The dinner I’d eaten beforehand badly disagreed with me, and I was overcome with digestion issues during the opening credits of the first movie. I ran to the theater bathroom and spent about half an hour in there. By the time I’d recovered, I’d missed too much of the movie and was in no mood to be out in public anymore. Later, I bought the movie on DVD, only to find that it was a defective copy that froze and wouldn’t play past the same scene where I’d left earlier. That seemed like an omen to me. I’ve still never seen the movie.
Are you the sort of person who suffers through movies no matter what, or do you get up and leave if you aren’t enjoying yourself? Tell us your stories about theatrical walk-outs in the Comments below.