Movies or TV shows without a dull moment
July 13, 2020 6:57 PM   Subscribe

Since the start of the coronavirus shutdown, I've been riding an exercise bike regularly. I hate it, but I hate it less when I'm watching something riveting on my iPad. So I'm looking for gripping movies or TV shows that will hold my attention throughout the entire episode or movie.

I ride the bike for about 45 minutes daily. I've found that the time passes much faster if I'm engrossed in watching something on my iPad. On the other hand, boring movies are worse than not watching anything at all.

The movies or shows don't necessarily need to be action-packed adventures, thrillers, or horror movies. They can be any genre, as long as they don't have stretches where nothing significant happens.

I'm open to just about anything, but I don't tend to like things with a supernatural component, and I don't like movies with a lot of gory violence (so the Saw franchise is definitely out). For what it's worth, Breaking Bad is my favorite TV show of all time and would have been the ideal choice here if I hadn't seen it already. I have Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu.
posted by alex1965 to Media & Arts (47 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
The Americans isn't like...a punch a minute, but it's very gripping and there's a fair amount of action and there are five or six seasons of it. Some violence, I think less awful than Breaking Bad but occasionally I had to look away. It's on Amazon Prime. The best part is it's a show that had a planned end so it doesn't drag on and then have an ending slapped on. It concludes as it should.
posted by less of course at 7:08 PM on July 13, 2020 [8 favorites]

The Bourne Identity series is fun for this, and I recently rewatched Air Force One and was surprised at how well it held up—it is pretty non-stop with the action. I actually would imagine many of the Harrison Ford action movies would work well. Also, I love The Rock more than it probably deserves, but I do think it is a genuine good fit here.
posted by pie_seven at 7:13 PM on July 13, 2020 [3 favorites]

The Leftovers is riveting and dense. It's not for everyone but it is amazing television that I found utterly engrossing.
posted by 6thsense at 7:14 PM on July 13, 2020 [5 favorites]

Bodyguard: not the movie with Whitney Houston, but a British miniseries. This is SO INTENSE and hard not to binge watch.

Giri/Haji: British/Japanese co-production centred around a Tokyo detective who is sent undercover to London to investigate the death of a Japanese national.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 7:25 PM on July 13, 2020 [5 favorites]

Catastrophe. There are 4 seasons, 6 eps/season. A very biting comedy. I usually watch with subtitles because I can't stand to miss a really good barb or bit of dialogue.
posted by pdxhiker at 7:29 PM on July 13, 2020 [4 favorites]

Better Call Saul

posted by Ahmad Khani at 7:30 PM on July 13, 2020 [3 favorites]

I would say any space movie like "Gravity" or "Interstellar" would be nice. When there's nothing too much going on, at least you can look at some nice space shots.
posted by cowlick at 7:39 PM on July 13, 2020

Justified. Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins are perfect. On Hulu.
posted by CheeseLouise at 7:41 PM on July 13, 2020 [5 favorites]

The Fugitive remake with Harrison Ford.
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:45 PM on July 13, 2020 [2 favorites]

Casa de Papel / Money Heist is pretty action-packed and suspenseful.
posted by mekily at 7:55 PM on July 13, 2020 [2 favorites]

Legion. More happens in the first episode than in whole seasons of many shows.
posted by ArizonaJedi at 8:00 PM on July 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

Prison Break.
posted by Archipelago at 8:05 PM on July 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

Since you could handle the gore of Breaking Bad (I couldn’t after the first season!), The Wire is really gripping, though caveat...of everyone I know who eventually got very into it, it takes a few episodes to get there. Once that happens it’s a show that I would absolutely be excited to work out just to be able to watch if I was seeing it for the first time. You may also like Weeds, it reminded me a lot of Breaking Bad.

Grey’s Anatomy is a guilty pleasure and my favorite for the treadmill (and airplanes), most episodes are fast paced, though they do have some surgery scenes I avert my eyes from. It also becomes a lot less guilty pleasure and a lot more, “damn, they’re really tackling relevant social issues with nuance” in later seasons while retaining the soapy, drama filled storylines.

On a different note, Leverage is a very fun show and moves quickly.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 8:10 PM on July 13, 2020 [2 favorites]

Ozark might work for you. Violent, but no more so than Breaking Bad. On Netflix
Killing Eve might also work.
Veep is pretty action-packed for a sitcom - something is always falling to shit. And personally I love watching Julia Louis Dreyfus be hilariously mean to people in the world’s most impeccably tailored dresses.
posted by jeoc at 8:12 PM on July 13, 2020 [4 favorites]

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. Best of the series, IMHO, and one of the best action movies ever. The entire first two-thirds is an unbroken chain of highly entertaining and rewatchable scenes linking together some truly spectacular set pieces. It slows down only slightly in the last act, to the level of merely Very Good, and caps it off with one of the most dynamic and inventive fight scenes I've ever seen. And because it's directed by Brad Bird of Pixar fame (his first live-action film after directing The Incredibles), every scene has a visual flair and fluidity of motion that really catches your eye and makes even the most frenetic scenes easy to follow. Lots of well-timed comedy, too.
posted by Rhaomi at 8:29 PM on July 13, 2020 [2 favorites]

posted by runincircles at 8:34 PM on July 13, 2020 [4 favorites]

I had more ideas and didn’t want to abuse the edit window! I think this would be easier to answer with more examples of what you like and don’t like. With only the example of Breaking Bad, you’re likely to get a lot of stuff kind of like that. And I think people associate “gripping” with action, for better or worse.

The recent Watchmen series on HBO is a good bet if you have access. YMMV as to whether you consider any of it supernatural.
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Old Guard, new Charlize Theron action movie on Netflix is pretty action packed
If you haven’t seen some classic action movies, this might be a way to get them in: Die Hard, Terminator 2, Demolition Man, Minority Report, Total Recall, The Fifth Element (I have an obvious bias towards sci-fi action)

Many blockbusters are also action packed, so if you haven’t seen or haven’t seen in many years, those could be fun: Jurassic Park (original), Back to the Future, Independence Day, Pacific Rim (I don’t remember this one as well - it’s possible people are standing around yakking for a while)
posted by jeoc at 8:36 PM on July 13, 2020 [2 favorites]

The Vampire Diaries. Honestly! Each episode packs in like a season's worth of plot twists and ridiculousness, and there is no let up in the craziness. You miss five minutes and someone's been eaten by poisonous weasels.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 8:36 PM on July 13, 2020 [5 favorites]

I just watched Collateral, a 4-episode series. London detectives trying to solve a seemingly random murder with several intertwining stories that involve MI-5, refugees, politicians, the clergy and the army; with Carey Mulligan and Nicola Walker.

But the most gripping show I've seen lately is Succession (20 episodes so far). You might think you don't want to watch a show about a family jockeying for position in the family business but it is brutally funny and pathetic and fast paced.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 8:37 PM on July 13, 2020 [3 favorites]

Mysteries! Anything with a twist at the end. The twilight zone (60s or 80s), Dragnet, Murder, she wrote, etc. Bones might work, there's usually a big reveal at the end. Detective shows.
If you still haven't watched Orphan black, that will keep you in your seat.
posted by sexyrobot at 9:17 PM on July 13, 2020

I can’t believe no one has mentioned the series 24.
posted by Rad_Boy at 9:38 PM on July 13, 2020 [4 favorites]

The Great is fast-paced and every scene is packed with humour. It's very vulgar but you don't mention minding that. I find it hilarious and never boring
posted by hazyjane at 10:58 PM on July 13, 2020 [4 favorites]

I agree with the suggestion of Veep. It is awful and hilarious at the same time, but even on a rewatch I couldn’t second screen or do a puzzle because there are a billion jokes a second and half the jokes are someone’s subtle reaction to the appalling thing someone did a half second before.

Patriot (on Amazon Prime) is so much better than the title suggests and requires very close watching and keeping-track-of things. It is very smart and subtle and I was a little crushed it got canceled.
posted by charmedimsure at 11:43 PM on July 13, 2020 [2 favorites]

It’s been years since I watched it, so I may have forgotten some slower bits (even the fastest paced shows have them) but The Shield is probably the most gripping show I’ve seen. Everything’s always on the brink of going terribly badly. Very good.

Seconding Succession too. I doubted it could be as good as everyone had said, but it definitely was and it definitely keeps your attention. It made more sense when I thought of it as a black comedy than a drama.
posted by fabius at 12:42 AM on July 14, 2020

Sense8 seems like an obvious thing to try here!
posted by kalapierson at 1:35 AM on July 14, 2020 [3 favorites]

the manchurian candidate
posted by brujita at 2:02 AM on July 14, 2020

If competition shows are suitable, The Amazing Race is on Amazon.
posted by rollick at 2:44 AM on July 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

Seconding The Americans. Part of the reason being it has a great soundtrack, which enhances the tension and pacing. It has some violence but not more than Breaking Bad.

Years and Years might also work but it’s extremely depressing (while fast-paced).
posted by sallybrown at 4:02 AM on July 14, 2020

Alias, which is gripping for the first two or three seasons. Then it stops making sense.
posted by Ollie at 4:27 AM on July 14, 2020

If you haven’t watched Arrested Development, it might be a good choice. The amount of jokes & plot crammed into 22 minutes is pretty impressive.
posted by Johnny Assay at 4:49 AM on July 14, 2020 [2 favorites]

Some of these movies are great, some are not so great, but they all succeed in always having activity:

Oceans 11 (the George Clooney one)
(and all of the subsequent Oceans movies)
the National Treasure movies
the Jumanji movies (both new and old)
Lucky Number Slevin
Con Air
Air Fore One
The Sting
the Fasts and Furiouses
The Mummy (the Brendan Fraser one)
posted by phunniemee at 5:25 AM on July 14, 2020 [2 favorites]

Here are some of the shows I’ve watched and enjoyed while riding indoors are:

Black Sails
Jack Ryan
The Expanse (I watched this one again while not biking since I thought I missed some things watching on the bike)
Safe (Netflix)
The crown S1

I much prefer episodic TV to movies while biking as I can go weeks without wondering what to watch if I find a good series. I also like shows where missing a minute isn’t crucial if my attention wanders, though some of the shows on this list clearly benefit from close watching.
posted by jeffch at 5:54 AM on July 14, 2020

Run Lola Run
posted by sol at 6:15 AM on July 14, 2020 [3 favorites]

Okay, you know how lots of Hollywood films begin with an action sequence to draw you in before slowing down? District 13 (NOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH THE SOUTH AFRICAN ALIEN FILM, DISTRICT 9) begins like that and keeps going till the end, by which point you're exhausted.

I can't imagine what riding an exercise bike at the same time as watching this film would do to your heart but that's your concern!
posted by fishingforthewhale at 6:24 AM on July 14, 2020

If you are open to subtitles (or speak German), the Netflix series "Dark" just wrapped up it's 3 season run, and it's super gripping and by the end requires your full attention to even follow what's going on. It starts with a fairly standard "kid in a small town goes missing" trope, but expands out to include much, much more.
posted by Lazlo Hollyfeld at 6:52 AM on July 14, 2020

The Right Stuff
State and Main

posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:32 AM on July 14, 2020

I thought the movie "The Edge of Tomorrow" with Tom Cruise kept up a good tempo,. and mixed action and amusement and some drama together well.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:49 AM on July 14, 2020 [2 favorites]

Dittoing The Expanse, at least after the first season. I couldn't believe how the pace never slowed down and the writers kept introducing one complication after another. (To a fault, maybe, but possibly it's ideal for this situation!)
posted by wintersweet at 8:37 AM on July 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

There's not much of it, but Into the Night on Netflix would be perfect. If it ever slowed down to give you a chance to think, it would collapse under it's own ridiculousness. So it quite wisely never slows down.
posted by Naberius at 10:50 AM on July 14, 2020

The new Watchmen series.
posted by nosila at 11:01 AM on July 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

Others have already recced Justified and Edge of Tomorrow (don’t let the Tom Cruise thing deter you, this movie is awesome) , so I’ll mention Captain America:The Winter Soldier if you haven’t seen it, as well as the Charlize Theron movie The Old Guard. Inside Man is on Netflix, as is the wonderful Spiider-Man Into the Spiderverse and Snowpiercer.

There’s also The Losers, Haywire, Brotherhood of the Wolf, Layer Cake, and The Limey for gripping movies and for TV shows, the Canadian show Flashpoint is good, the short-lived (2 seasons) show Life starring Damian Lewis and Sarah Shahi, and the first couple seasons of Veronica Mars, among others. Ripper Street starts out great but sort of fell apart toward the end. I didn’t like Altered Carbon as much as some but it’s interesting. Travellers might scratch that itch as well.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 2:39 PM on July 14, 2020 [2 favorites]

IIRC Stranger Things moves pretty fast. Each season is a fully wrapped up story and each is only 8/9 episodes. Season two does have a somewhat odd sideplot that might not feel as fast though.
posted by jclarkin at 2:47 PM on July 14, 2020

Spring for a month of Apple TV+ and watch Tom Hanks' Greyhound. Except for the first five minutes, it's almost non-stop, action-packed tension as a destroyer tries to defend a convoy against U-boats. No gore, little swearing, and a tour-de-force for Tom Hanks, who can say more with a twitch of his eyelid than many actors.
posted by lhauser at 5:55 PM on July 14, 2020

Veronica Mars Veronica Mars Veronica Mars
posted by tzikeh at 6:24 PM on July 14, 2020

I have a fairly limited tolerance for cop shows, but I have been impressed by the amount that gets packed into each episode of The Rookie - never a dull moment.
posted by HiroProtagonist at 8:00 PM on July 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

If you want a gasp per minute try "Apocalypto." It's bonus points if you can speak a Mayan dialect, but even so, you don't even need to read the subtitles to follow the action.

Or, King Kong, the one with Adrian Brodie and Jack Black.

Either one of these will probably make you pedal faster.
posted by mule98J at 8:30 AM on July 15, 2020

Maybe "24", the whole premise is that there is no time to lose.
posted by tracer at 2:48 PM on July 15, 2020

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