Movies I Thought I’d Seen… But Hadn’t

November 5, 2011 — 10 Comments

Last night I make the trek down to the beautiful TIFF Bell Lightbox to watch a 35mm print of Say Anything… It was a “one night only” screening and the house was packed. I was excited to see it not because it’s a favourite of mine, but because I had just realized earlier that day that I’d never seen it before. Say Anything… is a movie that’s been played on TV so many times, and I’d seen so many different scenes from it that I had somehow convinced myself over the years that I had actually seen it from start to finish. It’s another case of my mind playing tricks on me. In fact, I had never actually watched the film before. Some key scenes from throughout the film and that’s it. When this dawned on me I realized I could not turn down to see it on the big screen.

But has this phenomenon ever happened to you? Are there films you’ve thought that you had seen, but really hadn’t. I’m not talking about movies you pretend to have seen just to seem cool in front of other cinephiles. That’s a whole different ballgame. I mean movies that you were convinced that you had seen, and maybe even enjoyed, only to find out it was all an illusion?

It’s happened to me once before. It was another movie from the 80s. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. I first saw the film when I was in high school. And late into high school at that. But before I finally sat down to watch it from beginning to end I was sure that I’d seen it before. Of course, it turns out it was another case of delusion based on the fact that TBS used to play the film endlessly. When I did really watch it there were tons of scenes I knew already, but I realized that I had never before seen them in their proper context.

I think the iconic quality of some of these films, combined with their endless airings on TV has created this syndrome. A movie becomes so ingrained in the culture and its most memorable images and scenes become such a big part of the collective consciousness that even those who have never seen them before become convinced that they have. It’s like a form delusion-by-ubiquity. Maybe somebody out there who has never watched The Matrix thinks that they have. Or maybe there are adults out there who were deprived of The Wizard of Oz, but don’t know that’s the case because they can remember certain famous scenes. Or maybe I’m just crazy. Maybe I’m just alone in having this happen. So let me know, does this sort of thing happen to you with movies (or books or songs or TV shows)?

PS. Now that I have actually seen it, I can say without reservation that Say Anything… is a great movie and Llyod Dobler is the man!


10 responses to Movies I Thought I’d Seen… But Hadn’t


    Glad you liked Say Anything… One of my favorites.

    I’ve had moments where I’ve watched a film and suddenly noticed I didn’t remember some of the scenes, but I don’t think that was because I hadn’t seen it before.

    I’ve never fully watched Catch Me if You Can or The Terminal, but I feel like I’ve seen enough of them to have a somewhat coherent picture of what the film is in my head. Once I bother to watch them all the way through, I will probably find that is not the case at all.


      I think you might have got at what really causes this. I had seen enough of Say Anything.. to convince myself that I’d gotten the gist of it without actually watching it all the way through, and eventually it just got checked off in my mind as a movie I’d seen.


    I totally get it. I watched Grey Gardens (2009) and went to check it on iCheckMovies only to find that I had already checked it. I realised that I had thought that I had already seen it and checked it, only to forget that I thought this and watched it. I had seen scenes here and there before so maybe that’s why I thought I’d already seen it.


      I guess it was a little momentary self-delusion, and I feel like I’ve probably had that happen as well, especially going through sites like iCheckMovies and Flickchart. You go through the movies so quickly that sometimes you just check something off without actually stopping to think if you’ve seen the whole thing before.


    Great post, Corey – (and really happy to hear that you do, after finally fully seeing it, love Say Anything!).

    Not sure there are any films like that for me (though, who knows, maybe there are – part of the problem is we think we’ve seen them but we haven’t, right? I could be just unenlightened about my ignorance). I do think, along with films like Wizard of Oz, It’s a Wonderful Life is one of those that people think they’ve seen, but haven’t really; the final scene is often what they think film is, and thus, tragically, many feel annoyed by the film as a whole. It’s one of my missions in life to urge people to watch the whole thing!


      Thanks, Melissa! It really is a wonderful film. I saw it with some other people afterward and a couple of them were talking about how disappointing it is that there are basically no guys as perfect as Lloyd Dobler. And then it hit me, Lloyd Dobler isn’t really a representation of a woman’s fantasy guy. He’s the guy most romantic guys wish they were or think they are. What a great character. And seriously, if I was a woman or gay, Lloyd Dobler would totally be on my radar.

      And yeah, I think you’re right about certain iconic scenes. People know the scenes and even though they know they haven’t seen the whole movie, they decide they don’t really need to. Like they’ve got the basic idea. Which, of course, leads me to support you mission in life to get people to watch It’s a Wonderful Life.


        You’re right; Lloyd Dobler is totally perfect -and that film started my lifelong fixation on John Cusack, as ridiculous as it is to conflate so completely Dobler and Cusack. The Dobler fantasy is a powerful one.

        And I’m happy to hear I have a partner in my mission! Christmas is coming; time to ramp up my efforts. IaWL be playing for two screenings at the indie cinema here – I’m going to see it for sure (have never seen it on the big screen – so excited!) – and I’m hoping to drag some people along with me. (They’ll thank me later.)


      Kudos to you! I hadn’t thohugt of that!


    Corey, this has definitely happened with me. I realized pretty recently that even though I’d seen the toga clip, I’d never actually seen Animal House. Another one that’s more surprising is Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, which people reference constantly. I’m familiar with it because of that and some clips, but haven’t ever sat down to watch it. I plan to remedy both of these in the near future.

    Glad you got to see Say Anything, which is a great movie. There’s a lot more to it than the few big moments.


    I had the same disillusionment lately– Watching The Good, the Bad and the Ugly recently, I found I had never seen it, although I had always thought I had seen it in high school. Hmmm… maybe it’s something about films in high school. Maybe I’ve never seen Buckaroo Bonzai Across the Eighth Dimension…

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s