Movies + TV

How to Run a Movie Marathon

Don’t let anyone tell you this isn’t a perfectly legitimate use of your time.

For your Loose Interpretation of Classic Books night. Clockwise from top left: Clueless, 10 Things I Hate About You, Easy A.

Let’s be honest, the movie marathon is primarily a means to be lazy and zone out for hours on end. But to justify getting sucked into the Sunday vortex that is ABC Family’s Harry Potter Weekend, I could also make the argument that it’s a legitimate way to study various art forms all at once: cinematography, set design, music, writing, acting, costume design, makeup, special effects, puppetry, and so on. Either way, they’re fun and if you want to throw one, you have to pick a theme—as generic or as specific as you please. It can be as vague as “romantic comedies” or as explicit as Films That Feature a Villain Who Wears Shoulder Pads. Here are some pointers to help you curate:

Stick to a Series

The easiest way to throw a movie marathon is to pick a series and commit to it: Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Back to the Future, and, yes, The Twilight Saga will provide you with hours of escapism before you fall asleep with visions of Hobbits and vampires dancing in your head. Should you prefer nightmares to dreams, any number of horror franchises, like Friday the 13th and Scream, will do as well. (Should you desire hilarious dreams, watch a Twilight marathon followed by a Friday the 13th marathon and fall asleep to the vision of Jason Voorhees casually showing up to a game of vampire baseball, causing Bella to fall in love with him while Edward yells, “Oh, come on! He doesn’t even drive a Volvo!”)


Asking each of your friends to pick a movie for a sleepover can lead to a mix of genres. It also gives you and your friends an opportunity to share something you really love and to (hopefully) find new favorites in the process. As a backup, keep a copy of something all of you like on hand, just in case you hate one another’s picks and would rather watch Mean Girls for the 920th time instead.


Make your English teacher proud and spend the night watching modern-day adaptations of classic literature, like Clueless (Emma), 10 Things I Hate About You (The Taming of the Shrew), and Easy A (The Scarlet Letter). Should you want to watch a certain pair of star-crossed lovers have their story told in various ways, try William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, West Side Story, and—mostly for the glory that is young Nicolas Cage in faux-punk mode—Valley Girl.

Pop Star-Flop Festival

The critics were none too kind to Britney Spears’ Crossroads, Christina Aguilera’s Burlesque, Mariah Carey’s Glitter, Madonna’s Who’s That Girl or the Spice Girls’ Spice World, but that makes them perfect for a movie marathon. Over-acting, time-capsule costumes, goofball adventures, and solid soundtracks are what dumb/fun movie nights are made of.

Career Retrospective

Pick a number of films by the same director or starring the same actor and watch their whole body of work. For example, you may want to watch every movie starring Ryan Gosling or directed by Mira Nair. You could also load up on Johnny Depp Films Not Directed by Tim Burton (likewise, Tim Burton Films Not Starring Johnny Depp).

Whatever You Say

There are no rules here! If you can find order amidst cinematic chaos, go for it. Off the top of my head, I can think of: Mistaken Identity Movies, Movies That Involve Makeovers, Musicals, Movies Where Everything Is Solved by Dance, Movies Where People Should Double-Check to Make Sure the Killer Is Dead, Vacation Movies, Roller Skating Movies, Dated-Slang Movies, Creepy Inbred Movies, Movies Where Everything Happens at One Big Party, Movies About Talking Animals, Underdog Movies, St. Bernard Movies—when is someone going to write a movie about a St. Bernard with decent manners?!—and on and on and on.

The Marathon of Obligation

Dun dun dunnnnnnnn. You know all of those movies you have in your Netflix queue that you swear you’re going to watch someday not because you want to, but because you feel like you have to, either because everyone else is talking about them, or because they’re IMPORTANT? The time has come to start clearing that queue, my friend. If you get so bored that you fall asleep during the first movie, at least you tried! And if you make it through, you will feel a sense of accomplishment that I imagine is somewhat similar to finishing an actual marathon. Congratulations! You can now move on with your life and rewatch the last two seasons of Parks and Recreation just like you wanted to do all along.

Obviously, the entire endeavor is designed for a good time (well, save for the obligatory Netflix thing). If you find yourself slowly Golluming out on the couch, forgetting the taste of bread and the sound of trees or whatever as you drool into a half-eaten bag of kettle corn and wonder where the last few hours of your life went, it is probably best to go outside. Or at least go on the internet and brag to everyone that you just watched six straight hours of silent films with no ill effects aside from really needing to talk. ♦


  • Laia January 11th, 2012 3:07 PM

    the first paragraph in “the marathon of obligation” is my life, basically.

    also i really hope you can make “golluming out on the couch” catch on.

  • mangachic January 11th, 2012 3:08 PM

    I loved Easy A so much!! And clueless and 10 things I hate about you. And of course Mean Girls is the most perfect movie in the world (HP excluded because that just unbalances the list) but none of my friends here like it. It’s really depressing, I made them watch it and even made a ton of popcorn but at the end instead of fangirling over it they were like ‘that’s cute’ and started talking about something else. YOU PEOPLE JUST CRUSHED MY DREAMS WITHOUT EVEN REALIZING.
    Anyways.I’m going to do an HP marathon in a few weeks with someone else. Any ideas for how to stay awake and make it interesting and not just us zoning out and wondering when we can quit without offending the other person?

    • Marguerite January 11th, 2012 4:33 PM

      if ur all like super big fans, turn it on mute and try to act it yourselves… hilarious fun stuff!

    • Veganpop January 11th, 2012 9:16 PM

      Only speak in British accents the entire time you’re together. Only speak in quotes of the movie. Take ten minute Eating-Food-That-People-In-HP-Might-Eat breaks between each movie (ex. foods with pumpkin in them, tea, anything British-y, etc). Watch all of the Quidditch scenes while sitting on brooms. Do a specific dance every time Ron says “Bloody hell!”

  • FashionHauties January 11th, 2012 3:10 PM

    Ah, I wanna have one of these so bad! Clueless please! :)

  • Naomi January 11th, 2012 3:28 PM

    I like adaptation-a-thons best. really good with like austen or dickens adaptations. if you watch too many you might actually start worrying about finding a suitable husband as soon as possible; ten thousand a year please, with a london address as well as a country estate and a good piano forte.
    also ryan gosling-a-thons.

    • timelady January 13th, 2012 6:26 AM

      This is my concern whenever I watch anything Austen. Especially the 2005 Pride and Prejudice. I’m convinced I’m going to be a spinster because guys like Mr Bingley and Mr Darcy aren’t real and I have very high expectations. Thanks a lot, Austen.

  • Stephanie January 11th, 2012 3:38 PM

    Don’t forget the good movie, increasingly worse sequel marathon. My friend and I just did that with The Lost Boys. I’m sure there are other examples of it. It was fabulous torture!

    • Ruby B. January 11th, 2012 5:09 PM

      The Matrix?

    • missblack January 11th, 2012 10:06 PM

      High School Musical. The first one was great (so cheesy, so fun!) but the second and third are just like big vomit bags of glitter and hot-pink prom dresses.

  • Susann January 11th, 2012 3:46 PM

    Great ideas! I have to see “Clueless” as soon as possible!

  • Motherfunker January 11th, 2012 4:23 PM

    um, one thing, on the ‘movies where everything is solved by dance’ i think you kindaaa forgot napoleon dynamite. one of the greatest dance resolution scenes. ever. lolol.

    • Phoebe January 11th, 2012 4:25 PM

      That was Pixie’s other suggestion for a scene! We just chose between the two (but perhaps we should have done both!)

    • Marguerite January 11th, 2012 4:30 PM


  • Marguerite January 11th, 2012 4:30 PM

    “oh come on! he doesn’t even drive a volvo!”

    heh heh heh

  • sedgwick January 11th, 2012 4:34 PM

    before the last harry potter came out, a friend and i watched the whole series over two days and saw the new movie at midnight (and stayed awake!). And we owe it to drinking lots of water the whole way through. I think it helps replenish your crumby, dried out eyeballs. So i recommend drinking several bottles of water at your next marathon.

  • Sahara4895 January 11th, 2012 4:50 PM

    My friends and I have had two Harry Potter movie marathons and this weekend we’re having a Channing Tatum Appreciation Movie Marathon.

  • katie January 11th, 2012 5:28 PM

    my friends and i always watch ‘my girl’

  • sneakybacon January 11th, 2012 5:28 PM

    what about really awful films!? me and my friends watched The Room and Sharktopus back to back, brilliant

  • HeartPlant January 11th, 2012 5:31 PM

    I have recently completed a Harry Potter marathon, and it was probably one of the most intense experiences of my life. I think I stopped watching after about the fifth film because it’d been more than fourteen hours and I wanted to sleep finally. But definitely worth it just to see the progression through the films. I couldn’t manage it all in one go, but then perhaps I just don’t have the stamina ):

  • Danaa January 11th, 2012 5:32 PM

    The Harry Potter club at school had a movie marathon night in our drama theater with about 100 other members. We even had all the movies because someone had a bootleg of part 2. ;)
    It took us from 5pm on a friday to 10am the next morning…

  • DanielleRosni January 11th, 2012 5:35 PM

    This was sooo good. Great suggestions!

  • Jodie January 11th, 2012 5:41 PM

    I bloody love Britney Spears in Crossroads! One of the best films ever… EVER. Me and my next door neighbour made a friend capsual like they did at the beginning of the film. Ah the memories :’)

  • caro nation January 11th, 2012 6:58 PM

    I like marathons where the director is the focal element; I had both a Woody Allen and an Ed Wood marathon over winter break, and recently a Coen brothers marathon and a Christopher Guest marathon, and way back when a (transient) Tod Solondz marathon. It gets all those groundbreaking films out of the house and into the I’ve-Seen-That-ahahahahaha shelter in one taxing gulp, and then you can engage in all the cinematically sanctimonious bragging you want.

    • calliegirl January 11th, 2012 10:00 PM

      woody allen marathons are the best! although i’ve only got four down and some thirty odd left to go? what’s your favorite? so far i love manhattan… he couldn’t of picked a better actress for tracy, and who knew meryl streep was once that beautiful! also the wit of annie hall is very spot-on to mine so it’s a fave too

      • missblack January 11th, 2012 10:03 PM

        Woody Allen marathon sounds AMAZING
        and also Meryl Streep is still beautiful
        and btw so are her daughters.

      • calliegirl January 11th, 2012 10:05 PM

        aw i didn’t mean to say that she wasnt still beautiful (no hate meryl!!) (because meryl streep totally comes on here in her free time)

      • caro nation January 29th, 2012 2:01 PM

        Manhattan is ALWAYS THE BEST.

        I spent an entire weekend looking up all the references in it once, my favorite being “The Zelda Fitzgerald Emotional Maturity Award.”

        And Annie Hall reminds me of my sister.

        I really love Crimes and Misdemeanors (just for that one scene where he find Anjelica Huston’s body on the floor), but my favorite is Zelig, definitely.

        And new Allen is good too: Midnight In Paris was spectacular.

        And NOW that you’ve got me rambling about Woody Allen, I shall never stop.

  • emilyelizabeth January 11th, 2012 7:39 PM

    After watching The West Wing in it’s entirety, my best friend an i became a little obsessed with Allisen Janney and watched all the movies she’s been in (all the ones we could find at blockbuster anyway). It was a lot of fun! We also attempted to watch all three Lord of the Rings extended editions in one day, but we could only get through two before we started to Gollum out

    • Tavi January 11th, 2012 7:59 PM

      I LOVE HER. that is a genius marathon idea. drop dead gorgeous! 10 things! away we go! she is the bestest.

      • bedazzledbandannas January 11th, 2012 10:32 PM

        I realise that this is probably not what you had in mind when you mentioned an allison janney marathon, but let it not be forgotten that she was also in finding nemo! (only as a voice, obviously, but it STILL COUNTS.)

  • lxa January 11th, 2012 8:57 PM

    Oh and of course a John Hughes marathon! Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Breaksfast Club, etc.

    • missblack January 11th, 2012 10:02 PM

      YES! Also the brat-pack movies – St. Elmo’s Fire, About Last Night, etc.

  • sophiew January 11th, 2012 9:16 PM

    yes. exact.
    also, movie trailer marathon.
    must have coiled notebook and pen,
    to write down the good ones.
    this is what makes apple tv worthwhile,
    trailers on the big screen.
    best ever.

  • sophiew January 11th, 2012 9:18 PM

    oh and how dare we forget
    the wes anderson marathon!
    bottle rocket, rushmore, darjeeling limited, fantastic mr fox, royal tenenbaums, life aquatic with steve zissou!

    • calliegirl January 11th, 2012 9:55 PM

      the life aquatic has to be the most creative/inventive movie i’ve ever seen… and bill murray… it can’t get better than that!

  • calliegirl January 11th, 2012 9:54 PM

    totally read my mind with the parks and recreation comment… and being a film (and filmmaking) enthusiast, i always want to slap my self of the wrist for choosing to watch the office or parks and rec for the 50739587t8594430th time (yes, i realize there’s a “t” in there… it’s a really really big number, okay?) and neglecting my inner film-appreciator-ness. i would also like to write a complaint to netflix for not having movies such as 10 things i hate about you on instant; some of us live in small towns with only one non-chain movie rental place left!!!! okay… my rant is over.

  • missblack January 11th, 2012 10:00 PM

    First of all, HARRY POTTER WEEKEND. sucks me in every time.

    Second, SPICE WORLD. I watch it every time it comes on TV.


    • sophiew January 12th, 2012 11:58 AM

      spice world gave me nightmares, i want to see it again now.

  • MeeMoo January 11th, 2012 10:38 PM

    So many great ideas here! Definitely second the adaptation-a-thon and Wes Anderson-thon! Over the holidays, I had an eccentric genius artist documentary-thon which included Crumb, The Devil and Daniel Johnston, and American Splendor (not totally a doc, but close enough.) Very inspiring! :)

  • CariStereo January 11th, 2012 11:45 PM

    Roller Skating Movies! I am an aficionado!
    Xanadu, Roller Boogie, Skatetown, U.S.A. (only time I ever thought Patrick Swayze was foxy), Solar Babies, Roll Bounce, Whip It, Rollerball… YES. So cheezy good!

    Related Fact: When I was little, I wanted to be Tootie.

  • Elkie January 12th, 2012 3:31 AM

    Like the article, but not the last paragraph. I know it’s meant to be tongue-in-cheeck, but it only reinforces the image of old/foreign/intelligent movies being boring. I recently tried to get some friends watching Good Night and Good Luck, but they didn’t want to, because it’s black and white and so naturally must be dull. Not George Clooney could persuade them. I used to think likewise, but I’m glad I got over it. There’s so much to discover! I love old romantic comedies (like The shop around the corner) – the intrigues and dialogues easily kick recent chick flicks’ asses.

  • timelady January 12th, 2012 3:56 AM

    Wow. I just watched 10 Things I Hate About You and Easy A. It’s like Rookie writers read our minds.

  • Cruicked January 12th, 2012 11:25 AM

    I watch the Scream films ALL THE TIME. So often. The films I always fall back on to watch marathons of are the Scream films and comedies; I’ll watch Easy A, Mean Girls, Clueless, Bridesmaids, Miss Congeniality etc. They seem to tend to be like funny lady comedies because I love them all so much. I actually never tire of these films.

  • Maggie January 12th, 2012 5:01 PM

    Broad themes can be very rewarding. “Feelings,” colors, etc. My favorite marathon:


  • Bean January 12th, 2012 7:48 PM

    I love who’s that girl?!!!!!!!!

  • sabrina January 13th, 2012 12:42 PM

    a ryan gosling movie marathon, now thats something I could stay awake through

  • loonylizzy January 16th, 2012 6:52 PM

    harry potter marathons are always my go-to, but i am totally up for a pop star flop-a-thon. like, now.

  • me.aswellasmysara January 20th, 2012 2:24 AM

    No! Not Twilight! Please, please, everything else was lovely and then just… It’s so sexist! Here; watch this video. You would love her entire channel:
    and if the link didn’t work, just type in Laci Green Twilight on Youtube. But honestly; did not expect that…

  • Tori January 20th, 2012 3:22 AM

    I honestly think Tim Burton has some sort of man crush on Johnny Depp.

  • illonablyton January 25th, 2012 9:50 AM

    Movie-marathon with friends, here I come!

  • EmmaAmerica January 29th, 2012 6:46 AM

    Loosely adapted classics please. Although we watch them all the time in English (Please, miss, it’s totally relevant. I mean, Easy A is *so* similar to the scarlet letter, which we aren’t even reading but whatever.)