I've been staying in hostels for going on 16 years now, and have stayed in nearly 300 of them. I've seen how they've changed and grown; they've been getting better and better worldwide, to the point that I would much rather stay in most hostels than some of the hotels I've seen. In South America, for example, most of the hostels I stayed in had comfortable beds, clean bathrooms, fully-stocked kitchens, and extremely knowledgeable and friendly staff. They also, always, had a TV, either in a separate TV room or in the main lounge.
Through Europe and South America, Australia and Asia, I've watched countless hours of movies in hostels. I love watching movies when I travel - sometimes, it's great just to relax and have a night in, but more often than not, you'll end up talking to the people you're watching the film with. I've made so many friends by chatting with people in the TV lounge. Keeping that in mind, the kinds of movies you always find in hostels are popular ones, ones that people have most likely seen before, ones that it doesn't matter when you walk in and start watching, ones that you can talk throughout.
It comes as no surprise, then, that the same movies keep showing up in hostel DVD collections around the world. I can't even tell you how many times I've seen some of these movies, only that, in many cases, it's far too many. Here are the 10* movies I've seen represented all over the world, whether they are playing on the TV in front of me or collecting dust on the DVD shelf.
1. The Dark Knight
This is one of the only films on this list that I would happily watch again and again. In fact, I was inspired to write this post because I watched it yesterday, nursing a hangover. I realised I had probably watched it a dozen times or so over the past few years, and it is always a hit in hostels; I imagine that The Dark Knight Rises will soon be just as popular in TV lounges across the globe. Actually, you could put any Christopher Nolan film on at any time and I will stop everything to watch it.
I remember watching this movie years ago and thinking, yeah, OK, cool cinematography, fairly skewed version of things, but...entertaining enough. I swear to God, though, if I have to see Gerard Butler's massive mouth screaming about Sparta one more time, I may just chest-kick someone into a pit myself. Guys always seem to put this movie on; fair enough, as it has some pretty adrenaline-packed fight scenes. It also has 300 ridiculously fit men parading around in little more than a loincloth, so I try to just suck it up and imagine I'm watching the movie on mute. I'm a huge fan of Frank Miller, but I'd rather read this story again than watch it.
I often meet Australians who are shocked I've ever even heard of Chopper. To be fair, they're also usually shocked I've heard of AFL, too, or that I know what a doona is. I find this quite funny, as any hostel with an Australian owner or any hostel with an Aussie employee or even any hostel that has ever had an Aussie guest has a copy of Chopper in the DVD collection. I once stayed at a hostel in Portugal with a giant poster of Eric Bana as Chopper in the lounge area (not the most relaxing of images). While I think this movie is great, it is hardly one I want to see over and over again due to its graphic nature. Ear-slicing: not the conversation starter you'd hope it to be.
4. Sex and the City 2
Ugh. First Sex and the City (the first movie) was in every hostel, and now it's this one. I admit that I actually went to see this in theatres when I lived in Japan, just because I was so darn intrigued by all of the terrible reviews. I quite enjoyed the TV show but the movies just make my skin crawl. This post is not the place for me to start ranting about why I dislike this movie so much, but if I never see this movie again it will be too soon. Kerri and I actually watched this in Peru out of sheer desperation - some evil warlock had jinxed us so that every single DVD we were trying to watch was either missing or scratched. Finally, throwing our hands up in the air, we relented and put SATC2 on. I remember thinking, "It can't be that bad. I must be exaggerating how truly awful it is in my head."...Nope.
5. The Beach
"Whoa guys, we're in Thailand. How totally cool would it be to watch The Beach right now?" It's a shame, because I love this book and, despite that, I didn't mind the movie (this probably has something to do with my undying love for Leo). There was actually a hostel bar in Koh Phangan that played this movie every single day.
This movie has its moments (particularly any moment with Vinnie Jones in it) and it has some beautiful shots of Europe, despite the fact that it was almost entirely filmed in Prague. It is indeed a good movie to have on the background, as it's funny enough and even if you missed the first half, the entire plot can be summarised like this: "Bunch of kids go to Europe. One wants to meet up with a girl in Germany. Funny stuff happens. Well, kinda funny stuff." I don't even think I've ever seen the entire thing from start to finish, only clips of it here and there in hostels.
7. 21 Jump Street
I say 21 Jump Street, but I really mean any popular funny movie that came out within the last year or so of the viewing. I've seen the rotation of Superbad, Knocked Up, Pineapple Express, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Wedding Crashers, Bridesmaids, Forgetting Sarah Marshall...they are all staples of hostels now. I'm totally fine with that, as I find all of these movies funny. In fact, I find they are good indicators of how well I'll get along with my fellow couch mates. If I pull out a copy of I Love You, Man, and somebody says, "Nah, I really didn't like that movie," I probably won't have much in common with that person. If you don't like the combination of Paul Rudd and Jason Segel you probably have a black heart anyway.
8. Quantum of Solace
While I think Daniel Craig makes a fantastic Bond, I'm always disappointed when someone suggests this movie. For some reason, I can never find Casino Royale among the DVDs at hostels, but there is always a copy of Quantum of Solace. I've seen it too many times already, and I didn't even like it the first time around. I can only pray that it will soon be replaced by Skyfall, therefore saving the next generation of hostel-goers from, in my opinion, one of the dullest Bond movies (even with the inclusion of Pierce Brosnan's efforts).
9. The Shawshank Redemption
I'm not joking when I say that every single boy I met in first-year university listed either this or Goodfellas as his favourite movie. It stands to reason, then, that every hostel would have a worn copy of this floating around somewhere. And even after all of those viewings, I still love this movie, I still cry, I still feel inspired, I still get chills, and I still want to be on that perfect beach with the turquoise water, building a boat with Andy and Red. Again, this is a great movie for hostels, as nearly everyone has seen it and nearly everyone likes it. It's one of those movies that reminds you of being home on a Sunday afternoon, curled up on the couch with your family dog. Perfect for homesick backpackers.
I struggle with this movie. It plays all the time in hostels and while I see its strong points (good action sequences, the fantastic Liam Neeson), it perpetuates an idea that women shouldn't travel, the stereotype that women who travel are vulnerable to attacks and kidnappings. Well, yes, we are, but we are also vulnerable to violence in our own countries, too, even more so. And studies have shown that men are even more vulnerable than women to attacks when they're abroad. Every single time I've seen this playing in a hostel, some knucklehead will turn to me and say, full smile on his face, "Bet this makes you feel super safe travelling on your own," and then drink ten beers and stumble off into the night with his passport and iPhone hanging out of his pocket. Taken never scares me, but Brokedown Palace continues to haunt my dreams.
So there you have it: ten movies I have seen multiple times all over the world, ten movies that seem to be found in every hostel's DVD collection. I stayed in a few hostels recently that had scrapped their DVDs for a hard drive full of films; hopefully this will start to catch on, as I can't tell you how many times I've been excited to watch a particular film only to realise it is either missing or scratched beyond watching. Oh, and the day I find a hostel with a copy of Some Like It Hot is the day I've finally found home.
*Honourable Mentions: Snatch, Borat, Jurassic Park, Chocolat, the Godfather movies, the Austin Powers movies, the Bourne movies, and the Mission Impossible movies. A very special honourable mention goes to Hostel, which I actually watched for the first and only time in a hostel in Slovakia. To be fair, some hostels are the place where most of my darkest, sickest fantasies are in fact possible (thanks, Milhouse! Thanks, Loki!.)
Which movies do you always see in hostels? Which movie would you love to see in a hostel?
Edit: I just found this article on Matador - turns out I'm not the only one who has found these same movies in hostels!