Desert Island

People call those imperfections. But no, that’s the good stuff. — Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting


Last week, I rewatched Good Will Hunting for probably the 14th time—the first time in 18 months— and was so moved, so smitten, so inspired to get back on the screenwriting train, so wonderfully wrecked by it all that I had to revisit THE timeless movie question: If you were stranded on a desert island and could only bring three movies, what three movies would you bring?  (The Office proposed FIVE back in Season Two, but we’re keeping it simple here and going with a tight three).

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I couldn’t contain my giddy excitement. I texted friends and family what three they’d bring (“It’s Complicated, Definitely Maybe, and Little Women,” replied my big sister who’s a big fan of low-stakes, Ryan Reynolds rom-coms). I asked friends at a Friendsgiving on Sunday (“Mrs. Doubtfire, Sophie’s Choice, and Bridesmaids to balance the somber with pooping in wedding dresses.”). I talked with my very patient, very film-crazed roommate, Schmidty, for hours about his and how he got there (It’s a Wonderful Life, North By Northwest, Ratatouille). I talked with a random 81-year-old lady named Sylvia while waiting for the T at Porter Square, and naturally the question came up (and was answered: Casablanca, The Wizard of Oz, Sleepless in Seattle). I was really curious about everyone’s responses—even though I already had my three picked.

My three aren’t my favorite three movies (except the last one on this list. That is my favorite movie.). They’re not even totally my three most rewatachable. They’re the movies that most fully embody the three genres that most sustain me: uplifting drama, Pixar (as its own genre), and dramedy.

THE UPLIFTING DRAMA: THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION (1994) I mean, there’s a reason why Shawshank is the #1 user-rated movie OF ALL TIME on IMDB. It beats you up then gives you hope. It beats you up while giving you hope. It beats you up then reminds you how interconnected we are. Then it beats you up some more and gives you more hope than you ever thought you could get from looking at a screen for two and a half hours.

Also, it has Morgan Freeman’s voice which would be soothing white-noise on this island.

Honorable Mentions:

  1. Rain Man (1988)
  2. Forrest Gump (1994)
  3. Cool Hand Luke (1967)


THE PIXAR: INSIDE OUT (2015). I first saw Inside Out on a Sunday night its opening weekend in theaters in June 2015 with Melake, my mom, and my brother-in-law’s brother, Brett (who had already seen it earlier that weekend). The next morning I was leaving Denver to move back to Boston, and the Inside Out-ing became this funny enigma: watching a movie about the emotions of moving while consumed in my own emotions about moving. I was sad, hopeful, scared. I saw these emotions on screen—voiced by Phyllis Smith, Amy Poehler, and Bill Hader—and felt them in my head. It was a lot.

A few months ago,  I had Inside Out at #3 for my favorite movies of the 21st century—but even since then my love and appreciation for it has only grown. The first time I saw it, in Denver, it was a poetically fitting, 95-minute, emotional wrecking ball. When I saw it again last year, I was even more floored by the animation. When I saw it again last week, it forced me to re-think which emotions/characters are in control at my brain’s headquarters (I think right now it’s 40% Bing Bong, 35% Joy, and 25% Fear).

If I’m stuck on this island forever, I need a Pixar. Up makes me cry the most. Toy Story makes me most feel like a buoyant 5-year-old again. Monsters, Inc. is the most frighteningly accurate look at my nightmares as a 4-year-old. But if it’s forever, I need Inside Out. For me, it has the most legs—even when they’re stuck in ice.

Honorable Mentions:

  1. Toy Story (1995)
  2. The first and third acts of Up (2009)
  3. The first-half of WALL-E (2008)


THE DRAMEDY: GOOD WILL HUNTING (1997) This has everything—everything— I need in a movie now and probably forever. The real desert island question, for me, is what three scenes from Good Will Hunting I would bring:

  1. It’s Not Your Fault I need atleast one Matt Damon/Robin Williams scene. The park bench in the Public Garden is beautifully-paced and wise and calm, but it’s too much Robin and not enough Matt (which is sort of the point of the scene—for counselor to talk at counselee). It’s Not Your Fault has more weight, more compassion, and more catharsis. Holy shit.

    2. Gotta Go See About A Girl Truly a perfect movie ending: ties the gotta-go-see-about-a-girl knot but never shows him in California.

    3. I Could Just Play  Every time I see Minnie Driver’s facial expressions from :59-1:10, I become a little more infatuated with her.

Honorable Mentions:

1A. My Boy’s Wicked Smaht/How Do You Like Them Apples?
The Original Gotta Go See About A Girl

Thanks for tuning in. Feel free to send me your three movies and/or your favorite Good Will Hunting scenes.

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