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A Simple Trick for Never Asking "What Should We Watch?" Again

Save your decisions for the popcorn toppings.

No surprise here, but I've gotten reeeally into watching movies. Maybe it's the fact that they anchor me to what life looked like pre-COVID (anyone else instinctively flinch when they see characters hug?) or the fact that we have *literally* nothing better (or safer) to do at night, but Jonah and I have become full-on cinephiles.

We make popcorn then plop down into a cozy nest of couch cushions and blankets with our cat, remote aimed and ready. We have so many streaming services! The movie world is our oyster! But then it happens: "Sooo, what should we watch?"

The question is a new one for us. Pre-quarantine, we watched TV sparingly enough that it felt like we were always catching up on both must-see shows and movies, so the path was clearly laid out before us. But once we'd bulldozed our way through half of Hulu and Netflix, and signed up for three new streaming services, the options became limitless and less obvious. We'd spend hours watching trailers and cross-checking them against Rotten Tomato reviews. By the time bedtime rolled around, we'd be far more educated on Paul Rudd's questionable '90s roles but no closer to a decision.

It became clear that we needed a strategy—for the sake of our sanity. Here's how we ended the "What should we watch?" curse:

Jonah had an existing "to watch" list, which we started adding to in earnest in a shared iPhone Note. Every time one of us came across a trailer or review that looked interesting, we added it, along with movies we remembered and wanted to rewatch. I'll often add movies I consider "must watches" that Jonah hasn't seen (Goodfellas, E.T.) and he'll do the same for me (The Matrix, Searching for Sugar Man), and add little notes so we don't forget.

Each movie is assigned a number in the list, so when we sit down to watch, we use a random number generator to select three, then go to the corresponding movie: 21. Boogie Nights, 95. 20 Feet from Stardom, 37. Beasts of the Southern Wild. This limits our options—so we don't have the entire oeuvre of film to choose from—but still gives us some flexibility, based on our mood.

If we aren't inspired by any of the three, we select the one we're most interested in and commit to watching eight minutes of it. If we're still disengaged eight minutes in, we remove it from the list and skip to the next! The concept is simple, but it's a relief to have one less decision to make during the day—and has turned movie nights into a sort of spontaneous surprise! (It's the little things, you guys.)

You could do the same for TV shows (I think it helps to have a separate list for shows and movies, but you do you!) and this works just as well whether you have a T.V. buddy or are watching solo! If you have a spouse/roommate/sibling/pet, then just be sure that there's a relatively equal addition from each of you in the list to keep things "fair." I've pasted our (fairly random, all-over-the-map) list below to inspire or incite judgement of our questionable movie taste. Reader's choice!

  1. Malcom X
  2. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
  3. Quiz Show
  4. Reality Bites
  5. A River Runs Through It
  6. Se7en
  7. Fight Club
  8. True Romance
  9. Taxi Driver
  10. American Psycho
  11. Chinatown
  12. Raging Bull
  13. Vertigo
  14. Rear Window
  15. E.T.
  16. All About Eve
  17. Alien
  18. Some Like it Hot
  19. Spinal Tap
  20. Network
  21. Boogie Nights
  22. The Hateful Eight (too scary for L?)
  23. The Infiltrator
  24. Goat
  25. American Sniper
  26. Free State of Jones
  27. Lucy
  28. Where to Invade Next
  29. Inside Job
  30. Good Will Hunting
  31. Shawshank Redemption
  32. Silver Linings Playbook
  33. Get Out (rewatch!!)
  34. The Square
  35. Margot at the Wedding
  36. Philomena
  37. Beasts of the Southern Wild (*J dying to watch)
  38. Winter's Bone
  39. A Serious Man
  40. Precious
  41. Mystic River
  42. Gangs of New York
  43. Capote
  44. Doubt
  45. Toni Erdman
  46. Fruitvale Station
  47. Medicine for Melancholy
  48. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
  49. Ingrid Goes West 
  50. American Honey
  51. Blue Valentine
  52. Place Beyond the Pines
  53. Primer
  54. Swiss Army Man
  55. Lucy in the Sky (*not great reviews, but Nathalie!)
  56. Earthquake Bird
  57. Shirkers
  58. Shoplifters
  59. Biggest Little Farm
  60. First Man
  61. Mid90s
  62. The Kill Team
  63. Mary Queen of Scots
  64. The Irishman
  65. A Hidden Life
  66. Synonyms
  67. Transit
  68. Atlantics
  69. Dark Waters
  70. Honey Boy
  71. Man on Wire
  72. Muscle Shoals
  73. Valley Uprising
  74. One Child Nation
  75. The Edge of Democracy
  76. Honeyland
  77. The Innocence Files
  78. Walk the Line
  79. Ray
  80. Crip Camp
  81. Never Rarely Sometimes Always
  82. Cadillac Records
  83. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
  84. The Making of Motown
  85. Maggie's Plan
  86. The Family Fang
  87. The Wedding Singer
  88. He’s Just Not That Into You
  89. Pride and Prejudice (*Leslie's fav)
  90. Icarus 
  91. Paterson
  92. Love and Friendship
  93. Fantastic Fungi
  94. Saving Face
  95. 20 Feet from Stardom (rewatch!!)
  96. Dan in Real Life
  97. Anomalisa
  98. The Nest
  99. Stepford Wives
  100. Da 5 Bloods
  101. On the Rocks
  102. Contagion
  103. Border
  104. Father Soldier Son
  105. Short Term 12
  106. Search for Sugar Man (L,you would love)
  107. Boys State
  108. The Devil All The Time
  109. The Trial of the Chicago 7
  110. Dune
  111. Save Yourselves
  112. The Father (*note to self: Leslie liked the trailer a lot)

What movies should we add to our "to watch" list? Want to know the movies we've already watched (we have a list for that too!)? Did I use the word oeuvre correctly? Tell me in the comments below!

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