What to watch on the big screen?
September 1, 2020 2:02 PM   Subscribe

What movies are especially visually appealing when seen on a really large screen with decent sound in near-total darkness?

As part of our "build stuff to take our mind off 2020, plus we're all at home all the time" plan we now have a 16' x 9' projector screen in a DIY frame that we can deploy in our driveway with some socially distanced seating. We also have a really bright projector and a powerful set of speakers to go with it (stereo only, so no fancy surround sound). It's very dark, with no nearby neighbors - and the closest ones are usually hanging out watching stuff with us anyway. We were never big go-to-movie types, but now we find ourselves in possession of what is effectively a pretty nice movie theater. Open to ideas for all ages - as it starts getting dark earlier we might be able to squeeze in double features, one for kids early and another for adults. So far we've done Hamilton, a few of the Marvel movies (Dr. Strange, Thor Ragnarok, Black Panther), and have Inception and Mad Max Fury Road on the list. What else would you recommend?
posted by true to Media & Arts (75 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
 
Twister
Winged Migration
March of the Penguins
posted by Melismata at 2:04 PM on September 1, 2020 [1 favorite]


2001

I love this movie - absolutely love it. If I watch it on the big screen, I am absolutely riveted by the stillness. If I watch it on a TV, I'm fading out by the time they're headed to Jupiter.

I suspect Stalker also works better on a big screen than a small one because the stillness is captivating not dulling at scale.
posted by kokaku at 2:07 PM on September 1, 2020 [22 favorites]


Gravity
posted by mekily at 2:09 PM on September 1, 2020 [7 favorites]


Free Solo
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 2:22 PM on September 1, 2020


Came in to suggest Fury Road, see you've got it covered, so my second suggestion is Pacific Rim.

Hero from 2002 is a treat. A lot of the more classic martial arts films are also great on a big screen because you can appreciate the choreography of the fights better, although opinions on the best ones vary wildly.

Spiderman Into the Spiderverse takes full advantage of screen real estate and has an outstanding superhero plot.

Similary, Coco is a fabulous 3d CG movie for all ages about death. Some truly great images and the use of color is masterful. Lots of detail that will blossom open on a large screen.

From 1946, La Belle et la Bete by Cocteau is just breathtaking. I'm a huge Beauty and the Beast and folklore person in general and this one is just the best. Unforgettable visual poetry.

Also french and visually outstanding, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. It's a 60s film operetta starring Catherine Deneuve, what more do you want? The framing and use of color have stuck with me for decades.
posted by Mizu at 2:27 PM on September 1, 2020 [1 favorite]


I saw Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in the way you describe and it was excellent.

2nding Gravity.

And maybe Ready Player One?
posted by Calvin and the Duplicators at 2:27 PM on September 1, 2020 [2 favorites]


Seconding Hero.

Crouching tiger hidden dragon.
posted by SandiBeech at 2:28 PM on September 1, 2020 [6 favorites]


Samsara

Non-narrative documentary, which is greatly, greatly improved by a big screen because it is almost entirely about the images. There's no story or dialogue. Sometimes it's a bit heavy-handed, sometimes it's obscure, but I found it captivating the two times I've watched it on a decent-sized screen. And I really, really suck at sitting still for movies.

Actually, I'd recommend watching some of the recent BBC nature documentaries with amazing footage like Life or Planet Earth.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 2:28 PM on September 1, 2020 [4 favorites]


Contact
The Fifth Element
posted by JoeZydeco at 2:36 PM on September 1, 2020 [2 favorites]


Interstellar
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
My Neighbor Totoro (would be especially fun to watch this one outdoors)
posted by esoterrica at 2:45 PM on September 1, 2020 [1 favorite]


Tron!
posted by JoeZydeco at 2:47 PM on September 1, 2020 [6 favorites]


If you don't mind cheesy, Tank Girl is fun when it's larger than life. As is The Fifth Element.
posted by Candleman at 2:48 PM on September 1, 2020 [2 favorites]


The original Star Wars movie. The first Jurassic Park. Both would look and sound great with the set up you have!
posted by Calvin and the Duplicators at 2:50 PM on September 1, 2020 [4 favorites]


We have a similar setup and our surprise favorite type of film has been period pieces with elaborate indoor sets/sweeping high-def vistas, and fantasy with similar. The Favourite was really gorgeous, and I suspect most Austen films would make a good show.

Action films in general are better outside on the biggest possible screen.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:51 PM on September 1, 2020 [1 favorite]


Ferris Bueller's Day Off
posted by niicholas at 2:52 PM on September 1, 2020


Oh - the Jurassic Park films are also great outside. Most of the big jumpy scares come in outdoor scenes, and there's something about being outside in the really-dark-dark to give you a sort of Surround Scare.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:54 PM on September 1, 2020 [6 favorites]


A list of 4k to 8k transfers of 70mm and Cinemascope films may be useful to thumb through, esp. with a very high-resolution, high-contrast-ratio projector. 2001 and the snowy The Hateful Eight come to mind. Branaugh's Hamlet was colorful. Would also recommend Blade Runner and Fury Road, for sheer spectacle.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 3:03 PM on September 1, 2020 [1 favorite]


Alien is really made for the big-screen, high contrast. Aliens would be a great follow-on (you can stop there, though).
posted by rikschell at 3:05 PM on September 1, 2020 [5 favorites]


Ryan's Daughter (and other movies which have won awards for cinematography).
posted by mulcahy at 3:07 PM on September 1, 2020 [2 favorites]


Recently, I've ben visually/aurally stunned by Ad Astra, Bladerunner 2049 and 2001.
posted by furnace.heart at 3:08 PM on September 1, 2020


Wizard of Oz.
posted by bonobothegreat at 3:10 PM on September 1, 2020 [5 favorites]


I would like to heartily second Close Encounters of the Third Kind
posted by phunniemee at 3:12 PM on September 1, 2020 [1 favorite]


For the kiddos, but entertaining enough to keep adults engaged: The NeverEnding Story (1984)
posted by jeremias at 3:14 PM on September 1, 2020 [3 favorites]


Spirited Away
Princess Mononoke
posted by bettafish at 3:19 PM on September 1, 2020 [4 favorites]


Anything by Fricke, especially Baraka.

Seconding 2001 (I saw it at the Castro Theater a couple years ago, and the two stoned teens behind me couldn't stop saying, what the fuck is this, like, nothing's happening? I can laugh about it now--it was infuriating at the time--especially since they both eventually just fell asleep).

Also seconding Gravity. I saw this when it came out at one of the big screen theaters in Los Angeles. I was so tensely curled up in my seat that I left with a first-in-my-life muscle cramp in my neck/back that hurt so bad that I couldn't sleep and finally went to the doctor after 2 days. An extremely hot compress worked wonders, as did a muscle relaxer, but I still say that that's one of the highest forms of praise I can offer a filmmaker--your big screen movie tension literally paralyzed part of my body. Bravo!
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 3:23 PM on September 1, 2020 [4 favorites]


This list of 1950s-70s roadshow pictures might be a good starting point - these were meant to be Big Event Movies on Big Screens and even the bad ones can be kinda fun.

I'll definitely second 2001: A Space Odyssey. One of my last public outings before COVID hit was seeing that on 70mm at a 1920s movie palace. I don't think there's a better movie experience than when that Richard Strauss hits at max volume.
posted by theodolite at 3:23 PM on September 1, 2020


Free Solo

Also in climbing movies, Touching the Void; has one specific scene which really benefits from seeing it in a very darkened environment.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 3:26 PM on September 1, 2020 [4 favorites]


How has no one mentioned The Fall yet?

The Fall. From 2006. Shot in 24 countries, zero CGI. Stunning.
posted by mochapickle at 3:33 PM on September 1, 2020 [15 favorites]


Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. I mean, it's not the greatest film in the world. It doesn't do much credit to the source comics either. But visually, it pushes most of the same buttons as the Fifth Element, in an even more colourful way.
posted by pipeski at 3:35 PM on September 1, 2020 [4 favorites]


Apollo 13 !!
posted by MelissaSimon at 3:36 PM on September 1, 2020 [2 favorites]


Oh! Moulin Rouge is spectacular on a big screen --
posted by mochapickle at 3:44 PM on September 1, 2020 [7 favorites]


If your projector is really bright, I would say to go with bright, colorful films: "Big Hero 6," "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," "Mirror, Mirror," the Incredibles movies, and the like.

If it's a high-res projector, then some of the BBC Planet Earth stuff would be coooool.
posted by wenestvedt at 3:58 PM on September 1, 2020 [1 favorite]


ooh, I'd want to watch Tarantino's Hateful 8 on the big screen again. It was made for it.

Also I have no idea how it holds up, but I always wanted to watch Dances With Wolves on the big screen.
posted by hydra77 at 4:00 PM on September 1, 2020


Pink Floyd - The Wall

and more music would be

https://www.girlwalkallday.com/chapters-page
posted by I shot a fox in Skyrim and it made me sad at 4:02 PM on September 1, 2020 [1 favorite]


Days of Heaven!!

Microcosmos

Portrait of a Lady of Fire.

A series? The Great.
posted by beccaj at 4:11 PM on September 1, 2020 [2 favorites]


I have exclusively used a giant projector screen for a TV for years! So I feel quite qualified to answer this one.

HARD SECOND to:

The Fall
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Hero


Not suggested yet:

Any BBC nature documentary (Planet Earth, etc). It's a completely different experience, literally breathtaking at points.
Speed Racer, the Wachowski one. No, really. It's so fun and would be utterly wasted on a smaller screen.
Lawrence of Arabia. Even if you've seen it before, if you haven't seen it in a theater. Those shots of the desert really deserve to be viewed several yards wide.
posted by showbiz_liz at 4:19 PM on September 1, 2020 [9 favorites]


Seconding Speed Racer. It’s not what you would call a good movie, but if you loved it as a kid and watch it in that spirit it really delivers.
posted by sjswitzer at 4:28 PM on September 1, 2020 [1 favorite]


Brazil, or anything directed by Terry Gilliam - he loves to add detail in every inch of frame, so there's a lot of stuff that you just won't see until you watch it big.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 4:36 PM on September 1, 2020 [1 favorite]


Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy
posted by fingersandtoes at 4:39 PM on September 1, 2020 [5 favorites]


Blade Runner. That movie is gorgeous.
posted by wemayfreeze at 4:41 PM on September 1, 2020 [2 favorites]


Portrait of a Lady on Fire is one of the most beautiful films I've ever seen
posted by OHenryPacey at 4:46 PM on September 1, 2020 [3 favorites]


Batman Returns: Limited colors almost feels like it is in vibrant black and white. It is not dingy and washed outlooking like so many current action movies. The makeup still looks great and the score is fun.

Spiderman Into the Universe: Great comic book movie that looks and feels like a comic book. Good action sequences. One of the few American animated movies with a wide range of skin tones for lead characters.

American in Paris: Minnelli uses all the colors in existence in this musical. Great songs and costumes.

Coco: Uses every color in existence and the underworld scenes have a lot of details you might miss while wandering in and out of the living room at home. Great songs and plot too.

The Descent: This is a horrifying movie that begs for the big screen and paying close attention to the visuals. It takes place outside and the sound design is great. Too afraid to watch it at home.
posted by Freecola at 4:56 PM on September 1, 2020 [1 favorite]


Koyaanaqatsi, the original, the Yggdrasil root tree of Baraka and Samsara and all the other kaleidoscopic wordless documentaries that are its children. I saw it for the Seattle Film Festival at a screening at The Egyptian way way back when with about five other people in the theater, a benefit from writing for The Rocket. All of us watching a falling burning giant rocket engine slowly spin on a giant screen at the end. Truly the best way to see movies, they were. God, I miss going to screenings.
posted by y2karl at 5:08 PM on September 1, 2020 [4 favorites]


Like Water For Chocolate
posted by sjswitzer at 5:28 PM on September 1, 2020 [2 favorites]


Babies is actually a really great movie and this review is the best.
posted by sjswitzer at 5:34 PM on September 1, 2020 [1 favorite]


BBC nature documentaries yes, but especially Planet Earth II. Ultra high def. Riveting and visually stunning. There’s a part with a bird of paradise that I still think about regularly - I literally shouted “WHAAAT” at the TV when I first saw it.
posted by somedaycatlady at 5:46 PM on September 1, 2020 [3 favorites]


I'm really surprised nobody has mentioned Jaws yet. Get it in before Summer is over!
posted by Ufez Jones at 5:58 PM on September 1, 2020 [2 favorites]


Pan's Labyrinth.
posted by Candleman at 6:02 PM on September 1, 2020 [3 favorites]


Did someone say "The Fall". Yep. And I'll say it again, because it's the rare genuinely amazing artwork that changes everything we think about film and storytelling.

The Fall

Tarsem...has made a movie that you might want to see for no other reason than because it exists. There will never be another like it.

Catinca Untaru, then 8, plays the little girl in Tarsem's visual masterpiece "The Fall," and is told legends by a wounded soldier which she translates into her own fantasies. She embodies a purity, a naiveté and an affectlessness beyond description. You can't understand why she is so perfect. Then you discover that she didn't even speak English and is speaking after phonetic coaching. Her impact transcends language.

posted by j_curiouser at 6:03 PM on September 1, 2020 [6 favorites]


I bet that B&W redo of "Raiders of the Lost Ark," called "Raiders," would be very cool seen like that. A famous director did it...Soderbergh, I think. PM me if you need the link; I am on my phone.
posted by wenestvedt at 6:09 PM on September 1, 2020 [1 favorite]


Lawrence of Arabia

Gojira (original Japanese Godzilla - not the American version)
posted by FencingGal at 6:21 PM on September 1, 2020 [2 favorites]


So many good recommendations already, I'm tempted to just +1 to all of them.

Stuff that hasn't been mentioned yet:

- Just about anything by Pixar or LAIKA
- The Nightmare Before Christmas
- What Dreams May Come (I remember it being quite distinctive, but I haven't seen it in years)
- Cloverfield (if you're not averse to shaky cam)
- The Matrix
- Any films by Miyazaki, del Toro, or Nolan not already listed
- Moon
- 300 (not a great movie, but it's stylish as hell)
posted by xenization at 6:23 PM on September 1, 2020 [4 favorites]


Arrival
posted by matildaben at 6:27 PM on September 1, 2020 [1 favorite]


Titanic
Brokeback Mountain
posted by yawper at 6:28 PM on September 1, 2020


Nthing Baraka (and/or any of the -qatsi movies)
Also Nthing The Fall, Blade Runner, and Brazil.

House of Flying Daggers
Kung Fu Hustle
Sleeping Beauty
Ran
Kurosawa’s Dreams
The King
Pilgrimage
Night Watch
Big Trouble in Little China
The Matrix
The Duellists
posted by Mister Moofoo at 6:33 PM on September 1, 2020 [2 favorites]


I never quite “got” the movie version of West Side Story until I saw it on the big screen. It was a complete revelation.

And anything directed by Vincente Minnelli just goes to a whole ‘nother level. Meet Me in St. Louis, OMG.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:35 PM on September 1, 2020 [4 favorites]


Two more that occurred to me: Moana and The Lego Movie. They both have such vivid colors that I imagine they'd look pretty good on a big screen. Frozen, Tangled, and The Lego Batman Movie might also be good candidates.
posted by xenization at 6:40 PM on September 1, 2020 [3 favorites]


Nthing 'Portrait of a Lady on Fire'. Not for all age groups or audiences. Fanfare.
posted by j_curiouser at 7:24 PM on September 1, 2020


Came for Akira Kurosawa movies, Dreams and some of his color samurai movies would be awesome if your audience can deal with subtitles. Ditto on some of the animation things mentioned but I didn't see Akira (1988 film) which is worth the big screen.
posted by zengargoyle at 7:39 PM on September 1, 2020 [3 favorites]


The Adventures of Robin Hood
Ben-Hur
Lawrence of Arabia
The Sound of Music
The Last Emperor
The English Patient
The Martian
Master and Commander
The Aviator
The Right Stuff
posted by mogget at 8:39 PM on September 1, 2020 [2 favorites]


Tarkovsky movies are always better the larger the screen. Andrei Rublev in particular is spectacular on a large screen and indecipherable on a small one. Not for kids though; not so much because of some violence as because of very leisurely narrative pace.

And no chance like this should be missed for watching the in-every-way supremely excellent Miyazaki films. (Streaming on HBOMax) Howl's Moving Castle is probably the most visually brilliant, but Kiki's Delivery Service is my favorite.
posted by bertran at 8:57 PM on September 1, 2020 [1 favorite]


Oh, yeah, definitely The Sound of Music! Those panoramic shots of the mountains are staggering.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:07 PM on September 1, 2020 [2 favorites]


Omg, bertran. I didn’t realize until now how much I would love Nausicaa on a big screen.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 9:16 PM on September 1, 2020 [2 favorites]


Dunkirk and 1917 were both stunning on the big screen
posted by crocomancer at 1:13 AM on September 2, 2020


Tron Legacy. Great visuals and probably my favourite OST of all time.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:00 AM on September 2, 2020 [2 favorites]


I believe it is incumbent upon everyone to watch Jupiter Ascending once in this kind of environment. That way your expressions of horror/concern/occasional amusement can be mostly hidden during the viewing process.
posted by Kitchen Witch at 2:49 AM on September 2, 2020 [1 favorite]


Hugo
Polar Express
CoCo
The Aristocats
I hate to say this, but most of the movies that are connected to J K Rowling.
Black Panther - I’m not superhero movie fan, but I loved this one on a huge screen.
Most things by Tim Burton.
posted by MexicanYenta at 4:33 AM on September 2, 2020 [1 favorite]


Documentaries by Jennifer Baichwal and Edward Burtynsky, for example Watermark.
posted by Poldo at 4:59 AM on September 2, 2020


I watched 1917 after it came out on dvd, and my first response was that i should have seen it in theaters. The small screen doesnt do it justice. Also its a good movie. But the wide vistas need a large screen.

Enjoy your theater setup!
posted by TheAdamist at 5:04 AM on September 2, 2020


Triplets of Belleville
posted by Weftage at 6:04 AM on September 2, 2020 [1 favorite]


Response by poster: Thanks everyone! So many good answers...
posted by true at 8:08 AM on September 2, 2020 [1 favorite]


Lawrence of Arabia. Even if you've seen it before, if you haven't seen it in a theater. Those shots of the desert really deserve to be viewed several yards wide.

Came to recommend Lawrence, as well. It was made to be seen big.

Really, though, any well-made movie shot before video distribution or streaming was a concern will probably impress when shown as intended...big. And, they don't have to be special-effects bonanzas.

For instance, The Godfather and Godfather 2 are two gorgeously-shot and composed films that really benefit from being seen in a theater-like environment. Similarly, Apocalypse Now really should only ever be seen on the big screen. Again, the photography and composition need to be experienced up big.

And, while I'm on a Coppola kick, you definitely should see One From The Heart on the big screen. It's such amazing eye candy, and all done on sound stages using practical effects.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:13 AM on September 2, 2020 [2 favorites]


I didn’t realize until now how much I would love Nausicaa on a big screen.

Post-covid, when theatres reopen, look for Ghibli-fest. It's an ongoing cyclical cinematic rerelease of the classic films. Don't blink or you'll miss it. Usually, it's only two nights at selected theatres: one subs, one dubs.

Nausicaa was truly amazing.
posted by j_curiouser at 11:56 AM on September 2, 2020 [4 favorites]


I saw Sunshine at the Arclight in LA when it first came out and it was BREATHTAKING. It's an amazing film until the last 10 minutes....
posted by lalochezia at 1:31 PM on September 2, 2020 [1 favorite]


Dropping in late to add Psycho to your list. I frequently put this movie on without sound for background art because the cinematography is just so beautiful. In my opinion, aesthetically speaking, it's one of the perfect black-and-white films.

(I just realized that I've never really liked the story all that much; I find it slow and sort of boring—but, as a work of visual art, it's damn near unparalleled.)
posted by heyho at 3:00 PM on September 8, 2020 [1 favorite]


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