6 Movies That Are Better If You Skip the First Half

Some movies are so perfectly set up that you can’t skip a second without feeling totally lost or missing something vital to the whole experience. Films in this category include such gems as Inception, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Citizen Kane.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of movies with way too much padding and pointless scenes for their own good. You could practically skip the first half of them and you wouldn’t miss anything important. I’ve come up with a list of six movies that have disposable beginnings. These movies are either more interesting or have a completely different focus if you start watching them halfway through.

So let’s dive in and see if we can gain a new perspective on these films.

1. 2001: A Space Odyssey

Picture this: We see a massive ship heading to Jupiter. We don’t know what the crew’s mission is, but we get little details here and there that start to make us concerned for their well-being. The supercomputer that runs the ship (HAL-9000) becomes more paranoid as time goes on and he finally kills most of the crew before having a showdown with the final living crewmember David Bowman. It’s a classic man-versus-machine story.

I apologize to any Stanley Kubrick fans who may be reading this, but I have to point out that the first hour of 2001: A Space Odyssey is completely disposable. You could fast-forward all the way to the Jupiter Mission and not miss anything of any importance or lasting value. After Bowman disables HAL, he gets a complete recap of the first half of the film, anyway, so it was pointless to sit through those earlier scenes.

If you watch the movie this way, it turns into a two-character stage play – a battle of wills. We’re kept in the dark about the specifics of the crew’s mission, and coming in at this point actually adds to the mystery. 2001 would never find its way onto my list of the best movies ever made because it doesn’t even qualify as a movie. It has almost no story. By taking out the useless beginning and focusing on what little story it does have, this actually turns into a watchable film.

2. Alien

Imagine this: A man wakes up from a coma and starts talking with his friends. How long has he been in the coma? What caused it? Who is he? We don’t know. But suddenly he starts convulsing and screaming out in pain, and all of our analytical questions go flying out the window as primal fear grips us. We don’t care who this man is, we just don’t want to see him in so much pain. Out of nowhere, a nightmarish alien bursts through his chest, scaring the heck out of everyone on screen and in the audience. And we have our title character in grand fashion.

1979’s Alien deserves its reputation as an excellent science fiction/horror film. But there’s no denying its pacing is so slow it’s about on the level of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, which, coincidentally, came out that same year. I have to admit I sort of like the painfully slow buildup before something actually starts to happen in Alien. I’m not a fan of most gory movies, so this one is a rare exception for me. But I do find myself tapping my foot at times waiting for things to pick up as the characters wander through enormous sets and try to put together a puzzle they’ll never really solve.

Starting Alien right before Kane wakes up – but after the Face Hugger is dead – is probably the best way to watch it. Honestly, you hardly miss anything by doing this. The characters are all shallow and uninteresting, so their whole purpose is to be fodder for the alien.

Don’t believe me? Here are all the things we learn about the characters in the first 40 minutes or so:

  • Kane is curious (which is why he gets impregnated with the alien).
  • Dallas is a strong leader, though he can be brash and defer to Ash’s scientific point of view (which ultimately leads to his death).
  • Brett and Parker think they are being unfairly treated by the Company, and Brett says “Right” a lot in one scene (both of which lead absolutely nowhere).
  • Lambert is cowardly (which we see much more clearly later when she has a full-blown meltdown).
  • Ripley is smart, but no one listens to her until it’s too late (and we see this so many times during the next three movies that it’s perfectly fine if we miss a few instances).
  • Ash is eccentric and a bit of a troublemaker (but he fails to leave an impression until after the alien breaks loose and he tries to protect it).

Trust me, you’re not missing much if you skip ahead to the interesting parts where the story really picks up.

3. Die Hard

Think about this: A lone gunman (wearing only a wife beater and slacks) is running up an elevator shaft when he comes across another group of gunmen who are threatening a Japanese businessman. The businessman refuses to help them, so they shoot him point-blank. We have no idea what’s going on, but we’re suddenly put on edge by the senseless murder of this unarmed man. We don’t know the stakes or who the main character is, but we just know he better get out of there fast. Now that’s an intriguing way to stumble into one of the greatest action films of all time.

This is actually the film that inspired this blog post. A little over 10 years ago, I was flipping through channels one night when I found Die Hard already in progress on TNT. It was at the scene I described above, so I was very confused about a lot of things. But I was intrigued enough to stick with it to the end.

Die Hard is different than many of the other movies on this list because every part of it could be seen as irreplaceable. To understand why John McClain is barefoot, you need to see the first scene where his plane lands and he is told by a fellow passenger to get rid of his anxiety by doing barefoot exercises. To understand John’s dilemma with his wife, you need to see them argue before the terrorists arrive.

However, you can piece together these plot points over the course of the film and still enjoy it just fine if you come in a little late. I had fun trying to figure out who “Roy” really is. It actually added to the suspense for me to be just as in the dark as the terrorists about his identity for a large part of the film. I definitely had to go back and see it the whole way through, and doing so only increased my respect for this movie.

4. Groundhog Day

Consider this: A man is sitting outside on a cold winter day. He predicts when the wind will blow against his face, a dog will bark in the distance, and an armored truck will arrive at the bank across the street. He continues to describe everything in detail as he walks toward the armored truck, counting down all the events that will take place before the perfect moment, when everyone is distracted, to steal a bag of money. We don’t know how this guy knows so much, but we can’t wait to find out.

Did you know that this is how the writer Danny Rubin originally wrote the script for Groundhog Day? I don’t know which beginning I like better. Bill Murray does such a fantastic job of playing a likable jerk that he makes it enjoyable to see the character’s full arc, starting the day before Groundhog Day and ending decades (or maybe even centuries) later.

If we continue watching Groundhog Day from the scene above, it takes a little while to figure out that Phil Connors is a weatherman and that he’s repeating the same day over and over. We mainly see him learning about his producer Rita Hayworth and unsuccessfully trying to get her to fall in love with him. We sort of have an inkling of what a jerk he is, but he seems to be attempting to be nice. The focus of the film is no longer how a totally rude man becomes a selfless one; it’s how a man with seemingly all the knowledge in the world decides to put all that knowledge to good use helping others rather than himself. It’s a subtle difference. If we start a little later in the film, we don’t have the context of how Phil acted before he got into this situation. He could have been stuck here his whole life or be precognizant (like Nicholas Cage in Next) and we wouldn’t be able to tell exactly.

If you don’t mind not being filled in on Phil’s whole backstory, this is a great way to experience Groundhog Day.

5. The Pelican Brief

I’m not even going to bother setting up the scene like I did with the first four because it’s just too complex in this case. The Pelican Brief (based on John Grisham’s book) is deeply flawed by the fact that it takes forever for its two stories to get anywhere close to intersecting. We see Denzel Washington receiving cryptic phone calls from an employee at some law firm while Julia Roberts plays a law student who writes a legal brief that implies the President of the United States is connected to the assassination of two Supreme Court Justices. Those two stories don’t seem to have anything in common, but it turns out they do in the mother of all coincidences.

It all sounds pretty far-fetched, but I have to give the film credit because it surprisingly manages to hold my attention the whole way through. It just feels like the movie is spinning its wheels for the first hour as the two main characters go from one contrivance to the next.

It’s only after Roberts meets Washington and explains everything in her brief that we start to figure out what’s going on. But it takes way too long to get to that point. In that scene, they sum up everything that happened in the first half of the film, so there’s no need to go back and watch everything that came before. You still get to know the characters enough to be invested in their wellbeing without having to see everything they’ve gone through.

6. Star Wars

This is a little bit of a cheat because in this case I’m not talking about Star Wars: A New Hope or any individual Star Wars film, for that matter. I’m talking about the whole Star Wars saga. If you have never seen a Star Wars movie before, for the love of everything that is holy, please stop reading this right now, buy a non-Special Edition copy of A New Hope, and prepare for one of the best cinematic experiences you’ll ever have. If you’re one of the 99.9 percent of the civilized world that has seen them all multiple times, please continue.

There’s a really good reason why George Lucas started with Episode IV, not Episode I, in 1977. Episode IV is where the story finally gets good. Everything that comes before it is either boring or unremarkable in comparison to everything that comes after it. I know that sounds audacious, considering the fact that the Clone Wars, the fall of the Old Republic, and the creation of Darth Vader all occur in the Star Wars prequels. But none of those events can match the Battle of Hoth, the destruction of both Death Stars, or the redemption of Darth Vader in terms of emotional resonance and pure spectacle.

Star Wars is the ultimate example of a film that is meant to be viewed from the middle, not from the very beginning. Seeing the origins of Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Darth Vader, Obi Wan Kenobi, the Emperor and Yoda completely destroys all the mystery in Episodes IV through VI. The prequels manage to lessen the impact of the original trilogy. That is a shame. Anyone who wants to experience Star Wars properly must start with A New Hope and continue with The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi before doubling back and seeing the prequels.

What more can I say? Anyone who disagrees, I would love to hear your opinion in a comment below.

This is the Deja Reviewer bidding you farewell until we meet again.

The photos from 2001: A Space Odyssey, Alien, Die Hard, Groundhog Day, The Pelican Brief, and Star Wars: A New Hope are the copyright of their respective owners.

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About Robert Lockard, the Deja Reviewer

Robert Lockard has been a lover of writing since he was very young. He studied public relations in college, graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in 2006. His skills and knowledge have helped him to become a sought-after copywriter in the business world. He has written blogs, articles, and Web content on subjects such as real estate, online marketing and inventory management. His talent for making even boring topics interesting to read about has come in handy. But what he really loves to write about is movies. His favorite movies include: Fiddler on the Roof, Superman: The Movie, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Back to the Future, Beauty and the Beast, The Fugitive, The Incredibles, and The Dark Knight. Check out his website: Deja Reviewer. Robert lives in Utah with his wife and three children. He loves running, biking, reading, and watching movies with his family.
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16 Responses to 6 Movies That Are Better If You Skip the First Half

  1. Simon Brand says:

    Without the first half of 2001 some of the context which helps the viewer understand the ending is completely lost and the start of many of the film’s central themes are missed. This of course is disposable if you want to just watch the film for the story and miss the point entirely, but go ahead.

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    • Simon,

      Thank you for your comment. The ending isn’t meant to be understood, as director Stanley Kubrick himself has said. There’s really no need for the ending at all, really, since it’s just a bunch of random shots that could mean anything to anyone. I highly recommend you watch Confused Matthew’s take on 2001: A Space Odyssey for a bit more context about what I mean. You’ll start to see why this movie isn’t as good as many people have made it out to be.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Simon Brand says:

        That’s completely outrageous. If you are referring to the flashing lights and journey part then I can sort of see where you are coming from, but the White Room and the Star Baby have a lot of meaning to them. When watching films do you even stop to consider the underlying themes, the symbolism and subtexts? I assume not, as cutting the first half out of any film with a hint of artistic merit rips out half the thematic development and destroys any understanding of the film past “It had a pretty cool story”. If you just watch films for the story, then that’s obviously fine, but don’t go picking on masterpieces because you don’t understand the purpose of them.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Simon,

        I apologize if I offended you with my judgment of 2001: A Space Odyssey. I am troubled when I see so many people who think there is something sacred about classic movies like this. It’s perfectly all right to question them and see if they are actually as good as people claim they are. I honestly don’t think 2001 is a very good film. Even Francis Ford Coppola called his first Godfather movie boring years after making it. It’s okay to criticize classics. I encourage you to be a little more open-minded about things like this. I’m sorry if that sounds condescending. I’m just trying to help. Thank you for having the courage to share your thoughts with me.

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      • kirksroom says:

        I have watched Confused Matthew’s full review of the film. I think it is an embarrassment that only serves to illustrate all his failings as a critic. He has far too limited an idea of what a film can do and has no desire to even attempt to derive meaning from something that does not make its meaning clear.

        I told my sister not to bother watching any of his unconventional film reviews, 2001, No Country for Old Men, Lost in Translation, Cloud Atlas, Mulholland Drive because they are all the same and as a Mortimer Adler-loving Aristotelian philosophy major, he would cling to a specific style of expressing ideas and reject anything else as obscurantism along the lines of Jean Baudrillard. He himself recently admitted on Facebook “Going back and looking at some of my old reviews. Is it against some rule for me to criticize my own work? Because I’m looking at my No Country For Old Men review … and I actually think it’s completely obnoxious and stupid. I mean even among my more complain-y reviews there is at least some thread of reason for it. … What is this? I mean, seriously, what was I thinking with this one? Ugh! Just FYI – I have no intention of re-doing a review of No Country For Old Men. I can’t even recall why I did the first one. This is nothing more than a movie that got on my nerves, and I typically make it a rule not to talk about a film if all I have to express is simply that. Really, no idea why I did this one in the first place.”

        Aside from the ending, 2001 came off as pretty straight-forward to me.

        Given the first part is actually called The Dawn of Man and opens with the apes, it seems fairly clear to me what the movie’s grand philosophical statement is. We get shots of barren landscape the barely surviving apes have no control over to contrast with man’s total control of outer space, the world beyond our world’s limits. Kubrick holds those shots for so long to inspire our awe in what we take our granted and make us realize and contemplate humanity’s considering place in the universe.

        If 2001: A Space Odyssey appears not to have a story, it is only because you are meant to be absorbed into the film’s universe and wait for the ending to understand the big picture and the grand story that has unfolded.

        When one has taken this into account and followed Kubrick’s vision, the ending is an amazing, miraculous, powerful piece of cinema that dares so much and realizes so much of the film’s ambition. It just leaves me breathtaken at how far the film was willing to go with its idea and its grand philosophical statement, in imagining the potential next step that we could gather would logically follow at some point. The bizarre sequence of colors and images is an attempt to visualize Bowman’s experience. If the audience has put themselves in the position of humanity, they are being overwhelmed and struggling to make sense of what are humanity’s mysteries at this point. Clarke described in his novel the vague impressions of alien landscapes and ancient civilizations Bowman was able to make out. Once he was dragged through the universe, he was placed in a setting he could understand more easily and the aging process was rushed by the aliens from there to get him to the point he could become the Star Child.

        People disagree over the specifics, but when you look at what Kubrick and Clarke actually did write and say about the ending, this general meaning is the only one that makes sense.

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  2. Simon Brand says:

    I’m perfectly open minded about criticising classics if the criticism is well thought out and takes into account the elements of the film which its status is actually based. For example, I find the cinematography in Citizen Kane to be largely derivative of German Expressionist cinema, whereas a great number of people applaud it for its innovative techniques. 2001 is not regarded as one of the best films of all time just because of its story, it’s the combination of all the different elements, such as the editing, camerawork, mise en scène, music, etc. which go together to ask us questions, develop themes and make us think. You have taken literally none of that into account with your criticism. I would encourage you to develop a greater understanding of film theory before writing other such articles.

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  4. Quinn Abelson says:

    Hey man, I really think you should read the book ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’. To be honest, I didn’t really like the movie the first time I saw it (I actually fell asleep during the beginning). THEN I read the book, which was written by Arthur C. Clarke and released in 1968. Kubrick and Clarke wrote the novel/script together, bouncing ideas off each other and such. The book was fantastic, and immediately after finishing it, I went to watch the movie again. I now consider it to be my favorite movie ever. Ever.

    Also, if you read the book, you will no longer think the beginning is pointless. I don’t mean to offend, but the beginning of the movie is REALLY important and for you to go and say something outlandish like that makes you seem REALLY ignorant. I know that you just didn’t understand what was going on, etc, but if you think that Dr. Bowman vs. HAL is the main and juiciest part of the story, then you’re painfully mistaken. Just read the book. You’ll agree with me, I promise you that.

    Other than that, though, I thought this article was awesome. I love your take on Alien and Groundhog’s Day!!!

    Like

    • Quinn,

      Thank you so much for your comment. Actually, I read the book when I was 12 and then I promptly read ‘2010: Odyssey Two’ and ‘2061: Odyssey Three.’ I didn’t read ‘3001: Final Odyssey,’ but I heard good things about it. Ironically, I think that reading the book first is what ruined the movie for me. The book did such a great job at talking about the otherworldly beings patiently working with the apes to help them learn rudimentary facts, and it hinted that the aliens left the monoliths as markers for humanity’s progress. The movie, on the other hand, felt like a mess, even though I was armed with plenty of knowledge from the book. It had some of the ideas from the book, but they all felt half-baked and underdeveloped. The book certainly wasn’t a thrill ride. I remember long passages describing vehicles and tools. But there was always something to hold my interest and to think about. The movie has pretty visuals, but I didn’t get any depth from the story, characters or ideas for that matter.

      It was probably a bad idea to give ‘2001’ such a cursory mention in this article. I was focused on cramming a lot of good stuff in it, and 2001 actually came to me after I had already thought of the other 5 films and had written about most of them. It was a snap decision to include it, and I’m glad you took the time to point out that I probably wasn’t fair to it. To make up for that, I plan on doing another article about ‘2001’ comparing it to ‘Star Trek: The Motion Picture.’ There are actually a lot of similarities between those two films not only in their pacing and focus on special effects, but on their core stories and themes. That will give me a chance to explore more of what makes ‘2001’ tick.

      By the way, if you’d like another interesting take on ‘2001,’ check out ‘The Lost Worlds of 2001’ by Arthur C. Clarke. That gives really cool insights into the making of the book and the film, which were both done at the same time. Plus, it helps explain a lot of things that even the book left open to interpretation.

      Thanks again for your helpful comment. I really appreciate your feedback. Have a great day!

      Sincerely,
      Robert

      Like

      • Quinn Abelson says:

        I look forward to reading that article. Thanks for the lengthy and well thought out reply, I hope you didn’t think I was being too harsh because I really agreed with you on a lot of points. I guess the movie really isn’t for everyone…and at least you weren’t like ConfusedMatthew, going as far as saying that 2001 isn’t a ‘real’ movie and should never have been made. You definitely have a lot of good takes on movies, and you can trust that I’ll be visiting this site for pleasure and information (I want to write reviews myself one day, once I get a better grasp on writing and a better understanding of movies in general). Keep up the good work.

        Cheers, Quinn

        Like

      • Quinn,

        You’re awesome! I didn’t think you were harsh at all; just honest and thoughtful. Thank you for taking the time to say what you liked about my article as well as what I could improve in it. I sometimes hear a lot of negative feedback, so it’s such a relief to hear your kind words. I’m so glad you’ll be returning to read my work. That’s a great compliment. I’ll see about writing my 2001/Star Trek article in the next few weeks, and I promise to be a bit more fair than Confused Matthew. 🙂

        I wish you the best of luck in your own writing. I’m at your service if you’d like any advice or help when you’re ready to get started reviewing films.

        Sincerely,
        Robert

        Like

      • Quinn,

        As promised, I published my article on Star Trek: The Motion Picture vs. 2001: A Space Odyssey today. Feel free to check it out and let me know what you think of it. Thanks!

        Sincerely,
        Robert

        Like

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