Whether it’s about superheroes beating aliens, a feuding couple, or even one person struggling with himself, most stories would cease to exist without some sort of conflict. While every film has that element to some degree, there are many that care far less about their conflict than simply spending time with their characters.
No subgenre of film shirks its responsibility to tell a traditional story better than the hangout film. While the ’90s saw a big wave as a result of the Gen X malaise, Hangout movies were around long before that and are still around today. The following are some of the best examples of movies that are in no rush to get to the plot. So sit back, relax and have fun with these smooth movies.
‘Empire Records’ (1995)
As a record store clerk (Rory Cochrane) gambled away the store’s earnings, manager Joe (Anthony LaPaglia) is unable to save it when it threatens to be bought out by a major chain. When the rest of the employees find out about this, they band together to find a way to save Empire Records before it’s too late.
Probably the 90’s movie ever made Empire records spends a day in the life of lost teenagers finding a second home in their favorite place. The aimless nature of the plot allows us to get to know the lovable characters who grapple with depression, identity and sexuality. It all comes in a charming and surprisingly cute package, tied together with an excellent soundtrack.
“American Graffiti” (1973)
In 1962, high school graduates Steve (Ron Howard) and short (Richard Dreyfuss) go to college in less than 24 hours. They spend this time getting involved in all sorts of hijinks, including street racing and police car vandalism.
Before Star Wars, George Lucas came up with this poppy coming-of-age story. Every frame of the film is steeped in ’60s nostalgia, made all the more infectious by a classic rock soundtrack and an engaging cast of talented young actors. We’re even treated to a pre-Han solo performance by the great Harrison Ford.
“Dazed and Confused” (1993)
The year is 1976 in Austin, Texas, and a group of teenagers are just out of high school. Now they have the night to party, attending keg parties, hanging out outside the local pubs and pondering what their future will hold.
Dazed and confused is a showcase of what director Richard Linklater does best by emphasizing naturalistic dialogue and subtle character work. The film avoids focusing on a teenager, instead following multiple social circles and offering perspectives from almost every clique in the gorgeous cast. As an added bonus, early appearances make the film stand out Matthew McConnaughey and Ben Affleck.
The Fighting Writer Miles (Paul Giamatti) takes his engaged best friend Jack (Thomas Hayden Church), on a last trip to the wine country as a bachelor. However, things get complicated when they meet two women and Miles soon realizes that he and Jack expect other things from their vacation.
While most hangout films focus on the angst and journey of self-discovery of teenagers and twenty-somethings, Sideways brings the midlife crisis into the genre. During late nights in pubs, long drives and wine tastings, Miles and Jack have revelations about themselves and their friendship. Focusing on excellent chemistry between Church and Giamatti, the film is an introspective journey that suggests it’s never really too late to grow up.
Craig (ice cubes) just lost his job because of crate theft and needs money. Luckily he and the drug dealer Smokey (Chris Tucker) have a whole Friday ahead of them while smoking weed, people-watching and the beatings of neighborhood alpha Deebo (Tommy Lister Jr.) while trying to make enough money to survive the day.
Friday leisurely spends most of its runtime on the front lawn, cycling through interactions with a cast of eccentric characters. Tucker often steals the show, but Cube plays the straight man well and even shines in some serious moments. While some of his gags haven’t aged well, Friday is still a cultural landmark and a fast and fun everyday classic.
“Only Lovers Live” (2013)
Adam (Tom Hiddleston) is a depressed century-old vampire and musician who secretly lives in Detroit. eve (Tilda Swinton) has been his partner for ages and is currently living in hiding in Tangier. When she calls Adam and senses that he is not well, she travels to Detroit to be there for him.
Only lovers are still alive takes the slack pace of a hangout movie and deftly fuses it with the existential yearning of immortal vampires. Hiddleston and Swinton squeeze every ounce of melancholy and black humor from their core hipster vamps. This unique blend of tones is further enhanced by gritty cinematography and an atmospheric soundtrack, creating a hangout film unlike any other.
‘Cleo from 5 to 7’ (1962)
Aspiring singer Cleo (Corinne Marchand) receives grim news from a tarot card reading while awaiting the results of a biopsy. To pass the time, she strolls through the streets of Paris and accidentally meets new and familiar people.
A rare director of the French New Wave, Agnes Warda brings down-to-earth emotion and a pinch of surrealism to this leisurely character study. The film plays with perspective as the first half is almost judgmental and distant from Cleo, while the second brings us closer to her as she gains perspective on herself and those around her. At first glance a little experiment, a film that slowly and subtly creeps into your heart.
“The Big Lebowski” (1998)
Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski (Jeff Bridges) just wants to live a life of leisure, bowling with his friends and drinking White Russians. If he’s mistaken for another Jeffrey Lebowski (David Huddleston), but his daily routine is disturbed. He is now forced to solve an evolving mystery so he can return to his carefree life.
No single character in film history makes a better mascot for the Hangout film than Bridges’ The Dude. His mixture of boastfulness and annoyed apathy towards those who make his life miserable makes him an icon of cinematic rebellion. The movie would be entertaining enough if it were just The Dude starring with the weirdo Walter (John Gutman) and Donnie (Steve Buscemi), but directors Joel and Ethan Coen Find lots of absurd scenarios to wrap up this trio of lovable weirdos.
Dante, employee of the supermarket Quick Stop (Brian O’Halloran) is ready to spend his day off sleeping in and playing street hockey. Unfortunately, he’s called to work, where he and video store clerk Randal (Jeff Anderson) get through the day by arguing about it war of starsPlaying hockey on the roof and harassing customers.
After its release Kevin Smiths The budget classic took the indie world by storm. Even by Hangout movie standards, there’s very little plot or character development. Though lacking in narrative convention, employee deserves its cult status with its ruthlessly funny dialogues and its offbeat humor. It also deserves bonus points for letting us see Slacker icon Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (played by Smith himself).
‘Before Sunrise’ (1995)
After a pleasant chat on a train in Europe, Jesse (Ethan Hawke) asks Celine (Julia Delpy) getting off the train in Vienna and then walking with it through the streets of the city until the next train comes in the morning. Celine agrees and they spend the night talking about life, death and love while forming a surprising connection.
Director Richard Linklater seamlessly blends romance with the conversational hangout formula that would go on to lead to one of the most beloved trilogies of all time. Although the film has a tight script, it has a quirky and improvisational tone. It helps, of course, that Hawke and Delpy play each other perfectly, creating flawed but endearing human portraits from their respective roles using only thoughtful conversation and mannerisms.
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