The working week has come to an end. As you slump through the front door, drained from the demands placed upon you, you need to find something to ease the tension out of your body and help you unwind. After reaching for the nearest alcoholic drink and finding a comfy chair to sink into, the only thing to do is place an order for a takeaway and find a good film to watch alongside it.
But it must be the right film: the perfect Friday Night Film. This is the night for entertainment, for old favourites, for familiar stories that make you laugh, cry, feel an adrenalin rush and send you to wonderful new worlds. Friday night is an occasion for the re-visit, the re-watch, the wallow in nostalgia. It’s a treat for you to enjoy, especially if a Friday Night Film is a rarity with family duties, social commitments and household chores to distract you. So if you get the chance, grab it, just like you grab that cold beer or hot slice of pizza, and escape for a couple of hours.
The question of what to choose for your Friday Night Film will, of course, be answered by your personal tastes. Perhaps some of these films can be found here or there could be a film you’ve forgotten about that’s ripe for re-discovery.
For a good slice of action, James Cameron’s The Terminator (1984) is a great way to spend your evening, with high-concept sci fi meeting strong storytelling. It’s all brought together by a high-stakes, hunter vs hunted concept where the chase is on from the beginning and doesn’t let up until the final reel. And it’s got Arnie in it.
A good martial arts flick might be what the doctor ordered and they don’t come any more iconic than Enter The Dragon (1973) where Bruce Lee is showcased at his prime, exhibiting some astounding speed of movement: the components of pace, power and precision were never better encapsulated than they were in Lee. Another martial arts superstar is Yuen Woo-Ping, best known for his choreography on The Matrix (1999) but his own directorial effort Iron Monkey (1993) has a directness of story, coupled with stunning fight sequences, that really get to the meat of the Friday Night Film. Jaw-dropping stunts, simple but strong plotting, likeable characters and, like Enter The Dragon, it will kick your working week into touch.
John Carpenter’s Big Trouble In Little China (1986) affectionately riffs on the martial arts film while providing plenty of high-kicking and fast-punching action of its own. A great genre mash-up, with that all-important, crucial sense of fun to send you into the weekend, thoroughly entertained and with a smile on your face. It’s all in the reflexes.
Time To Have Some Serious Fun.
If superheroes are more your thing, there’s nothing as nostalgically pleasing as Tim Burton’s Batman (1989). With the legendary Jack Nicholson as The Joker and Michael Keaton delivering the most eccentric, unlikely and captivating Batman-Bruce Wayne portrayal yet to be incarnated on the big screen, it boasts big performances against a gothic backdrop that is so indelibly Burton. For sheer comic book thrills, Burton found the perfect match-up of seriousness and fun.
This combination is a common theme in picking a Friday Night Film. Jan de Bont’s Speed (1994) does this equally as well as Burton’s Batman, effecting the race-against-time concept to critical levels, mixing a sense of real peril with exaggerated action sequences and daft but meaty dialogue. If you like your thrillers more serious, Luc Besson’s Nikita (1990) goes there and back again: the story of a delinquent turned assassin is tough, unyielding, relentless and affecting in equal measures.
Cult survival thriller Southern Comfort (1981) follows a group of National Guards as they fall prey to the violent intentions of backwoods locals – a less intense version of Deliverance (1972) and would be a good bit of prep for that film on Saturday night. Kurt Russell is also hunted by hillbilly types in the lesser-known Breakdown (1997) which moves on rails through a threatening desert landscape.
Antonia Bird’s Face (1997) is an interesting and underrated gangster film that achieves the fine balance between the soft and hard edges of the thriller. More broadly comic but still with an edge, Snatch (2000) cracks out the one-liners effortlessly, while making a fairly complicated plot easy to follow and very entertaining.
Scare Yourself Silly.
For horror fans, Friday night seems made for the genre and there are plenty of great chillers to choose from. You could choose to go back to the classic J-horror era of the 90s with Hideo Nakata’s Ringu (1998) to really up the chill factor. Turn off the lights, pour a whisky and hide behind your pizza box as the curse spreads to your old VHS player and Sadako comes for you…
David Cronenberg’s The Fly (1986) balances the key ingredients of great story, great performances and fascinating ideas with visceral creature effects that might be best paused until the pizza is done. The Shining is another classic horror that finds its true place on Friday night, intensely creepy and compulsively watchable in the same breath. Stanley Kubrick didn’t ignore the sense of fun horror can possess, mainly found in Jack Nicholson’s wry performance, and Scream (1996) takes this further by offering a riotous busting of genre tropes, while effectively creating some very suspenseful scenes in its own right.
The Healing Power Of Laughter.
It really comes down to having a good time: fun is the name of the game when selecting your Friday Night Film. But what makes a film fun? Profound entertainment comes from all the ingredients being cooked to perfection so you’re looking for good story, strong dialogue, great performances, palpable atmosphere and clever camerawork. Watch Rocky (1976) to see how it’s done. But maybe you just need a good outright chuckle and this selection of comedies will certainly provide the cheering up you need after a long week at work.
Reiners Carl and Rob are first up with their films The Man With Two Brains (1983) and This Is Spinal Tap (1984) respectively: the first film follows Steve Martin’s brilliant but love-starved brain surgeon who first falls victim to scheming femme fatale Kathleen Turner in the wake of his wife’s death and then falls in love with a disembodied brain. In This Is Spinal Tap, a rock band are documented by a filmmaker in one of the first mockumentaries to be produced. It’s a great commentary on the egos and pretension of the music industry and, like The Man With Two Brains, has laughs a-plenty.
And it’s impossible not to be amused by the endearingly daft Lieutenant Frank Drebin, wonderfully played by Leslie Nielsen in The Naked Gun (1988), with the inspired sight jokes and infectious silliness resulting in prime entertainment.
Catching The Big Fish.
Finally, there are the crowd-pleasers: those films that most everyone loves and, should you choose to get some friends round or snuggle up on the sofa with the family, these classics should tick all the boxes.
Who doesn’t enjoy the daring escapades of Indiana Jones with Harrison Ford at his best, whip-cracking and wise-cracking across the globe in pursuit of rare and mythical artefacts? There are few better ways of spending your weekend nights than staggering the full trilogy (we’ll pretend Kingdom of the Crystal Skull doesn’t exist) starting with Raiders of The Lost Ark (1981).
On the right side of challenging is Pulp Fiction (1994) with its twisty, non-linear plot acting out over violent vignettes, eminently quotable dialogue and a delicious soundtrack. The magnificent cast complements the best writing of Tarantino’s career and it’s proved a film that appeals to many, despite its art-house influences.
If you’re in the mood for a Western, A Fistful of Dollars (1964) should do the trick. Sergio Leone’s affectionate and respectful re-make of Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo (1961) started The Man With No Name trilogy and features Clint Eastwood at his one-lining, lip-curling best. Great shoot outs, great tension and with a spare and rigorous design. Leone was a great conductor of cinema. Every movement is controlled, and then delivered, with precision.
Perhaps the king of Friday Night Film though is the creature feature to end them all: Steven Spielberg’s Jaws (1975).
The film proclaims it’s not safe to go back in the water but yet we do, again and again. The joy inherent in this film is its very human aspect of a town threatened by an unseen, malevolent force, present in the faces and minds of the populace. We can feel Brody’s fear of the water, flinch at Quint’s roughness and arrogance and share Hooper’s exasperation at the local rejection of his knowledge and research. No wonder then that we experience the tension as that boat sails out to meet the shark head on…we all know it’s not quite big enough…
What Will You Watch?
As Friday comes around, we hope you enjoy our selection and reflect on your own favourite films for unwinding to. There are plenty to choose from and, just maybe, we’ve suggested something you haven’t seen or considered before.
Which films kick-start your weekend? We’d love to know. And if you fancy some more suggestions from the Outward team, why not check out our specially curated lists for the big streaming services:
Amazon Prime: https://youtu.be/EjNp5eqIrPw