Movies + TV

Literally the Best Thing Ever: Lifetime Original Movies

I love watching Tori Spelling, Tracey Gold, and Kellie Martin repeatedly lose their shit to a faux-grunge guitar soundtrack.

A scene from "Death of a Cheerleader."

A scene from “Death of a Cheerleader.”

There are two types of people in this world: Hallmark Movie Channel people and Lifetime Movie Channel people. Hallmark Movie Channel people are nice people who enjoy uplifting stories about love and families and wildflowers on the plains being tousled by a gentle breeze. I mean:

There’s nothing wrong with liking that, if that’s what you’re into. Meanwhile I’ll be parked in front of the Lifetime channel, watching made-for-TV-movie queens Tori Spelling, Tracey Gold, and Kellie Martin repeatedly lose their shit to a faux-grunge guitar soundtrack.

The implication that a lot of these stories—about murder, revenge, or (gasp!) internet addiction—are “based on a true story” has always made me feel a little icky while watching them, but then I think about the Simpsons episode “Bart the Murderer,” wherein Bart Simpson watches his own life become fodder for a scandal-of-the-week pic titled Blood on the Blackboard: The Bart Simpson Story. The movie is hilariously stupid and has little basis in reality (Neil Patrick Harris plays a bloodthirsty Bart, for example), and all the family can do is watch as Bart’s “true story” is played out for an audience of millions. “Hey, when do we get the check for this?” Homer asks Marge, who replies, “Well, they said they changed it just enough so they don’t have to pay us.” D’oh! If you tripped and stubbed your toe tomorrow, Lifetime would probably immediately obtain worldwide rights to “Toe No: The Suzy Smith Story,” and suddenly your stubbed toe would be filled with nails and able to communicate with spirits from the past. And it would commit murder. Toe murder. But maybe not until the sequel: “Toe No Two: Blood, Sweat, and Toe.” Basically I’m telling you not to stub your toe tomorrow, OK? Just…beware.

Lifetime Original Movies are my horror movies. I can’t do regular horror movies, as I am scared of everything. No gore or monsters for me. But I love drama and suspense almost as much as I love soap plot twists, corny writing, and questionable wigs, so movies like these are perfect:

When horrible things (like MURRRRDERRRR) are blown up to such melodramatic heights, they become to absurd to be afraid of. That’s part of why I love Lifetime so much—it almost feels like some sort of therapy, where I’m exposed to scary stuff in a way I can tolerate and even enjoy, so that the world may eventually seem like a less scary place overall.

I almost said that with a straight face! Don’t worry, I’m not gonna try to find Important Life Lessons in the world’s cheesiest form of entertainment. I will try to persuade you to watch a few of the best Lifetime movies, though. Here, then, a short list of favorites:

1. Face of Evil (1996)

As far as I know, this movie isn’t based on reality in any way. It stars Tracey Gold as a psychopath who kills people and then steals their identities. It’s one of those movies where you alternate between laughing hysterically and screaming, “What?!” and “How could you be so stupid?!” at the screen. It is glorious.

2. Death of a Cheerleader (1994)

Kellie Martin once again plays a murderer, this time one who’s obsessed with a popular classmate played by Tori Spelling, who is so fantastically bitchy in this role that I still love to watch it even though it’s the only Lifetime movie I know of that seems to have stuck pretty close to the facts of the totally awful case it was based on.

3. Mother, May I Sleep With Danger? (1996)

Tori Spelling has a creepazoid boyfriend who is a danger that her mother will not give her permission to sleep with, I guess? This certainly wins hands-down for best/worst movie title ever. What does it meeaaannn? (Big surprise: her mom was right.)

4. Her Last Chance (1996)

It stars Kellie Martin, Jenna Elfman, Patti LuPone, and Sharon from My So-Called Life and features sex and drugs and, of course…murder! Pretty much everything you like in your Sunday afternoon entertainment.

5. Friends ’Til The End (1997)

A Single White Female rip-off that stars the original 90210’s Shannen Doherty and revolves around the fakest ’90s band of all time. The title’s a little misleading here—if Shannen Doherty is playing your main character, you can already be pretty certain that the titular friendship is as good as fucked.

No one is ever trying to be subtle in any of these movies—bitches are truly bitchy, romances are super intense, and every single issue is played as though it’s the end of the world. Everyone is constantly trying to out-act everyone else, which leads to a great deal of screaming and sighing, and everyone—save the hero or heroine—comes across as totally unstable. Everything is just so intense, all the time! It’s sort of like stepping into a Sweet Valley High book, only the Wakefields are psychopathic bank robbers, internet addicts, heroin dealers, and one of them was seen pushing Lila Fowler off the roof of the Dairi Burger, or something.

Whether you want to enter this sordid TV world of mystery, intrigue, and unfortunate sweater sets is really up to you. Unless you stub your toe and it becomes possessed and starts doing crazy shit all the time. Then you have no choice: you have to call Kellie or Tori or Tracey and offer her the role of a Lifetime. ♦


  • gretagreta February 20th, 2013 1:32 AM

    Ohemgee. I just totally spammed my library account with all of these! (I guess it’s for the best…I should stop hogging every single Wes Anderson dvd in the system hehe) I have definitely only been exposed to Hallmark in my life- SO deprived of psychopath-centered story lines.

    Greta xoxo

  • cicconeyouth February 20th, 2013 1:46 AM

    Death of a Cheerleader is one of my faves of all time! I squealed when I saw you mention it. I randomly found a copy of the DVD at Big Lots for $1 a few years ago and proceeded to watch it like 200 times. I still feel mad when I think about the ski trip – Tori, no need to be so catty!

    • CorduroyMagic February 20th, 2013 8:47 PM

      Is it possible to have a favorite movie you’ve never seen? It’s Killdozer and I just know I am destine to find a copy of the 1974 made for tv movie somewhere. It haunts me. It’s basically like having an all-consuming crush on someone you never met only this person is a possessed bulldozer on a killing rampage.

  • Emily February 20th, 2013 3:17 AM

    Oh sweet baby Jays thank you;

    Every time I go out to or end up somewhere sketch-a-mundo I recount it to my friends and end with something like;
    “Oh I am so glad I didn’t become a LIFETIME MOVIE!”

    Which one, Is somehow the best way to describe somewhere where you’re like “Oh wow I am amazed I wasn’t kidnapped!” but two, also simultaneously sounds like the kind of thing someone in a lifetime movie would say.

    Go, fabulous ladies, and use this phrase.

  • decemberbaby February 20th, 2013 12:31 PM

    When I was little I used to hang out with my mom while she used the treadmill in our playroom/basement, and she would always turn on some Lifetime movies about parents and children being separated. So when the vulnerable single mom went to have a C-section alone and got her baby stolen, my mom would be like “that’s why you NEVER go to the hospital alone. Always take your husband.”

    Or when the kid got kidnapped and raised in a different family — “that’s why you NEVER go with a stranger, even if he has PIZZA.”

    I basically learned all my childhood paranoias from Lifetime.

    • Anaheed February 20th, 2013 3:03 PM

      “that’s why you NEVER go to the hospital alone. Always take your husband.”
      “that’s why you NEVER go with a stranger, even if he has PIZZA.”

      I am laughing so much right now. One of my favorite comments ever. Up there with the simple and eloquent “I would fuck Edward Cullen’s brains out”

    • Manda February 20th, 2013 8:54 PM

      J. Walter Weatherman and Lifetime Original Movies have taught me so much.

  • sarahcfoy February 20th, 2013 1:16 PM

    I love Lifetime movies! I had a sub in the 7th and 8th grade who would show us the ones about addictions and whatnot to teach us a lesson. She was the BEST.

  • CorduroyMagic February 20th, 2013 8:42 PM

    I LOVE Lifetime movies. (check this out: I love bad, cheesy, low-budget, soapy movies all the time and Lifetime is, well, my life. What’s with all the movies happening “at 17″ (dead, accused, betrayed…)?

    However, you should follow this article up with what is LITERALLY THE BEST THING EVER:The sci-fi channel (or “syfy as I believe they are now calling it). I love me some yetis, mutants, snow globes, and science experiments terrorizing peaceful ski vacation towns (am I the only one who noticed ski vacation towns are often targeted by mutants? anyone? anyone? just me?!).

    I’m also a SUPER FAN of horror movies on TCM (Beast From Haunted Cave anyone?

  • Laia February 21st, 2013 3:50 PM

    this is glorious in every.way. my favorite ones are NO ONE COULD TELL where Fred Savage murders Candace Cameron and also From Homeless to Harvard.

    thank you high school Guidance office for offering up these movies as um guidance.

    • Tulip February 21st, 2013 8:52 PM

      I love Homeless to Harvard and No One Would Tell too!

  • Tulip February 21st, 2013 8:50 PM

    I love lifetime movies! Death of a cheerleader is great, there’s so many good ones.

  • wanderlusted February 22nd, 2013 1:19 PM

    Oh yeah. Guilty pleasure that I always enjoy with my mom and sisters. #1 trend? STALKERS.

    We totally watched several in health class – favorite being the cautionary tale about bulimia, starring the pink Power Ranger!

    • LuneSirene March 1st, 2013 3:53 AM

      Cheerleaders are right up there with stalkers on the Lifetime movie radar. :D

  • morganosaur February 22nd, 2013 9:33 PM

    ‘Mother, May I Sleep With Danger?’ is one of my personal favorites. The last 1/2 hour is hilariously cheesy while also making me a bit nauseous… great way to spend a sunday afternoon! lol

  • Jessie February 25th, 2013 1:27 PM

    Watched the trailer for these,and they all look awesome!I watched one last year which was probably a Lifetime film (just on a different channel,as we don’t have lifetime in the UK),and it was about a ballerina who’s teacher got murdered,and the new teacher started stalking her.Pretty intense stuff,man.

  • LuneSirene March 1st, 2013 3:52 AM

    Exactly. I moved out with my husband to our first place last July, but when I go over to my parents’ to visit, my mom and I watch Lifetime movies together, just like we did when I still lived there. Best bonding ever.