Best Of 2023 - Going To The Movies Is An Experience Both Magical And Unmatched

The movie-going experience is absolutely incredible. Yes, even a magical one.

Let that be the first thing that I say here.

Yesterday, a fellow Barstool personality, Chris Castellani, wrote a blog saying, "We Need To Stop Pretending That Going To The Movies Is A Magical Experience." I need to be clear that this isn't an attack on Chris, and I don't want people to gang up on him, as he's fully allowed to have this opinion. In fact, I didn't even want to say anything… until I saw people sharing the blog & tweet, lumping in all of Barstool with his opinion. I couldn't stand by as people shared that blog and assumed people at Barstool don't like movie theaters.

As a host of a movie podcast, and a big part of the corner of the Big Time Movie Boys & Girls at Barstool, I just felt as though someone should share why going to the movies is quite possibly greater than "magical."

It doesn't matter where you see your movies, in big cities or small cities, with a huge crowd or by yourself, in reclining seat theatres or old theaters, with Coca-Cola or Pepsi, or anything in between: there are few things that match the escapism of seeing a movie in theaters.

Maybe I am not the best party to trust here, as I sit on the extreme end of movie-going. I'll see anything and everything, and quite often my favorite things multiple times. I saw 'Dune' fives times in IMAX, 'Blade Runner 2049', 'Mad Max: Fury Road' and 'Birdman' all three times in theaters, I raced back to the theater to see 'The Force Awakens' (I saw that movie in New York, New Jersey, Texas, Pennsylvania, and California) and 'Infinity War' & 'Endgame' multiple times, and already have tickets to see 'Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part I' two more times in theaters. Whether it is seeing the latest big event Blockbuster, or seeking out the smallest of theaters to see the 'Aftersun' and 'Decision to Leave' type releases of the world, I can't get enough of it.

If you boil it down to a black & white, simple view of the world, sure, I guess seeing a movie on the big screen in a theater compared to on a television in your living room isn't different on the surface. You still get the same story and characters, no matter how you watch it. But then add in the screen, the audio, and the lighting. Then, on top of that, add the audience, their reactions, and the energy of watching the movie with other people. There is truly no comparison when you add all of the elements together.

I'll never get enough of the experience, from the wave of anticipation as the lights dim, to that incredible moment as you get up from your chair absorbing and processing what you've just seen. Feeling a movie, and experiencing the ups and downs, are the things I live for when it comes to this form of entertainment. I always talk about the reaction of the crowd after the first time I saw UNCUT GEMS (AMC Lincoln Square - New York) in theaters. People were shocked, their adrenaline was pumping, some were appalled, and many were just blown away, but everyone feeling the emotion and chaos of that movie, and couldn't help but discuss, debate, tweet, and soak it all in. The same exact feeling buzzed through the entire theater and spilled into the streets, after seeing GET OUT (AMC Lincoln Square - New York) in theaters, as well.

That is what I go to the movies for, right there.

(Also, the popcorn… man do I fucking love popcorn… popcorn just hits different at the theater!)

As I said, no matter where you are, where you sit, or the size of the crowd in your theater, going to a movie is an unmatched experience.

While I did see 'The Lion King' in 1993, the first core memory movie theater experience I have is, alongside my cousins, seeing TOY STORY (Showcase Cinemas - Berlin, CT) in 1995. A true spectacle for a kid my age, an animated wonder with characters I'd love for years to come. For some reason, I also remember going to Burger King in Plainville, CT, and getting these Toy Story puppets after loving this classic 1990's commercial…

Speaking of food, remember the ad campaign for GODZILLA (Showcase Cinemas - Berlin, CT) in 1998?


I'll always remember it for the Taco Bell commercials, Edy's ice cream, and being the loudest movie I've ever seen in theaters.

Anyway, after 'Toy Story', it was two years later, however, that I can say I went to a movie theater and had a life-changing experience…

Alongside my dad, Uncle, and cousins in 1997, I got to experience STAR WARS (Loews Bristol 8 - Bristol, CT) for the very first time… and got to do so on the big screen. I wish I could say I saw those movies when they first came out in the 1970's & 1980's, but to experience that saga in a theater for the first time is one I am thankful for having. The atmosphere for all three of those original movies, each time we stepped foot into a theater, is something I will never forget. Seeing that giant ass Star Destroyer slowly crawl across space and the silver screen… just breathtaking.

The combination of me, my dad, uncle, and two cousins didn't see a ton of movies together after childhood, but we've only really ever seen bangers together. We all saw THE DARK KNIGHT (AMC Indian River 24 - Vero Beach, FL) together back in 2008, and I know that is a movie-going experience many my age call the best in their life. I am curious what part of the movie got the biggest reaction from your theater. For us, Batman flipping the truck in his chase with the Joker made our audience shake. Everything from the stunning opening bank heist to the "magic trick" during the mobster meeting made that one unforgettable time at the cinema.

I can probably recount every single movie I saw with my dad in theaters. From the amazing such as THE LORD OF THE RINGS TRILOGY (Loews Plainville - Plainville, CT) in the early-2000's that made him declare it the best trilogy of all time, to the dull like THE MULE (AMC Indian River 24 - Vero Beach, FL) in 2018 that had him turn to me and say, "that was the most boring shit I've ever seen," that shared experience with family and friends is one you should never take for granted. The amount of laughter when my family and I saw MR. DEEDS (Loews Plainville - Plainville, CT)? Infectious. The last movie I saw with my dad in theaters before he passed was SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME (Cinemark Cedar Park - Cedar Park, TX), a movie that we enjoyed with a crowd, young and old, that cheered & screamed at every cameo and wild moment as if it was a sporting event. Funny enough, I recall my dad saying, "I am not sure how much I love the multi-verse stuff." Oh, Dad, if you could only see where we are now with multi-verse movies…

There was nothing quite like being a stupid immature kid or teenager seeing movies alone with your friends. THE HAPPENING (Regal Gateway - Austin, TX) is one of the worst movies I have ever seen in my life, but my friends and I will never forget watching a man a few rows ahead of us stand up and hurl his entire large drink at the screen as the credits began to roll. Why do I remember my friend yelling "oh, what a twist!" when the Matrix of Leadership disintegrates in Sam Witwicky's hands during TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN (AMC Plainville - Plainville, CT)? Because the entire theatre laughed at his joke amidst that ridiculous movie. Sitting in the front row is pretty horrible in my book, but seeing THE HANGOVER (Cinemark Cedar Park - Cedar Park, TX) in the worst seat in the theater with my friends as a packed house behind me erupted in constant laughter is an experience I'd never trade-in. Luckily for SUPERBAD (AMC Lakeline 9 - Cedar Park, TX) and BORAT (Alamo Drafthouse - Cedar Park, TX) the laughs and roar of the audience were accompanied by better seats.


I could go on, and on about the memorable experiences when it comes to going to theaters.

So, I will for a few more instances.

  • The old couple behind myself and my podcast co-host KenJac leaving the theater with an appalling gasp as Stalin dies and pisses himself as they realize THE DEATH OF STALIN (AMC Lincoln Square - New York, NY) is not a biopic
    • Also, someone fell down behind us when we saw ISLE OF DOGS, and the world's loudest fart was ripped in our theater during I FEEL PRETTY (AMC Lincoln Square - New York, NY)
  • Looking down the row and seeing tears in the eyes of co-workers Robbie Fox, Fran, and Coley Mick during separate showings of AVENGERS: ENDGAME (AMC Lincoln Square - New York, NY) as the portals began to open
  • The guy holding a power drill in his lap for the entirety of TED 2 (AMC 34th Street 14)… okay that's not a good one
  • Dragging my entire family to see THE FORCE AWAKENS (Regal Edwards Aliso Viejo - Aliso Viejo, CA) for my fifth showing of that movie, only for Star Wars around Christmas to become a new family tradition
  • The collective cries in COCO or A STAR IS BORN, and laughter for THE DISASTER ARTIST or THE BIG SICK (AMC Lincoln Square - New York, NY)
  • My grandfather walking out of an energized theater for both THE DEPARTED (AMC Barton Creek Square 14 - Austin, TX) and INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS (Cinemark Cedar Park - Cedar Park, TX) and telling me he had just seen one of the best movies of his life
  • The same thing I said to him after seeing my favorite movie, OCEAN'S ELEVEN (AMC Indian River 24 - Vero Beach, FL), for the very first time in 2001
  • Skipping school the day after seeing the midnight release of STAR WARS: REVENGE OF THE SITH (AMC Barton Creek Square 14 - Austin, TX) with my dad
  • The surprise perfection of 21 JUMP STREET (Premier Theaters - State College, PA) and the jaw-dropping story of INCEPTION (College 9 Theater - State College, PA) with my college friends
  • Seeing kids run up and down the aisles before and after BLACK PANTHER (AMC Lincoln Square - New York, NY) dressed up as their new favorite superhero
  • The eruption of the IMAX audience as Benji pulls of the Wolf Blitzer mask in MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - FALLOUT or Maverick completing his test-run in TOP GUN: MAVERICK (AMC Lincoln Square - New York, NY)
  • Seeing movies with random co-workers, like HOLMES & WATSON with Nate, one of the worst things I've ever laid my eyes on, or WIDOWS (AMC Lincoln Square - New York, NY) with Francis, who arrived 45 minutes late in a flop sweat after biking the length of Manhattan due to his subway getting stuck

Okay, I'll stop.

Now, if you made it this far, you might be wondering. Sure, I could have watched all of those movies at home. But would I really have remembered all of these movie moments if I hadn't walked into the theater, smelled the popcorn, sat down next to friends & strangers, and had those lights turn down before being lost in a world of endless possibilities and wonder?

No, not a fucking chance.

Leaving MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - DEAD RECKONING (Regal Irvine Spectrum - Irvine, CA) the other night was just my latest unforgettable movie-going experience. Right when those credits rolled and the title card hit the screen, I left the theater like the groundskeeper in Rudy…

Another few hours of my life where I could escape reality, and be dazzled by everything the cinema has to offer.

So, if you go to the theater now, keep going, and if you haven't been in a while, give it a try again. I know we hear all the time about "unoriginal ideas," or how "everything is a superhero movie." But trust me when I say there are tons of new, amazing movies released every year, both big-budget and small-budget. Seek them out, but most of all, seek them out and go experience them the way they're intended to be experienced.

Going to see a movie in the theater isn't just magical, it's, quite often, unforgettable.