The famous movie I never saw

Story highlights

Some movies are so ingrained in our culture, we assume everyone has seen them

But a small minority of adults never sat through "Titanic" or -- horrors! -- "Star Wars"

Here's a roundup of the big movies we missed, and why

CNN  — 

“I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse.” “You had me at ‘hello.’” “I’ll have what she’s having.” “Say ‘hello’ to my little friend!” “Nobody puts Baby in a corner.”

These lines from famous movies, along with many others, have transcended their source material to become part of the cultural lexicon. A friend drops one in conversation, and you nod knowingly and smile. “Ha! I get your reference. We’re bonding here.”

Unless you haven’t seen the movie.

Some movies are so ingrained in our culture we assume everyone has seen them. But a small minority of otherwise culturally fluent adults never sat through “The Godfather.” Or “Titanic.” Or even – horrors! – “Star Wars.”

Pity the infrequent moviegoer whose friends discover these sins of omission. “What?!? You haven’t seen “Star Wars”? Dude, what’s WRONG with you?!?”

And yes, even though we cover pop culture, we CNN folks also have missed our share of famous movies. (Don’t judge.)

So check out our cinematic confessionals below and let us know in the comments: What famous movie have you never seen, and why?

‘Star Wars’

We've heard of this movie. Is Han Solo the one in the middle?

I was 7, going on 8, when “Star Wars” first hit theaters. Like most every other kid in America, I was taken to see it. But here’s the thing: I didn’t really see it. Within about 10 minutes, I was sound asleep.

Fast forward 20 years. I was living in San Francisco when the film was re-released in 1997. Friends of mine became horrified, absolutely horrified, when I admitted I’d never seen it. They insisted I go with them and try again. I told them I only would if they paid and bought me snacks.

This time, I lasted five minutes before I passed out.

I have a theory about why “Star Wars” sedates me. I suspect, as a little girl, the sights and sounds were too much for me – an over-stimulation of sorts – and I just shut down. Why this happened in my late 20s, well … I don’t know. All I know is it’s the only movie I’ve ever slept through in a theater, and I did it twice. And at 45, I wear that fact as a badge of honor.

– Jessica Ravitz

‘Gone With the Wind’

Tomorrow is another day we won't see this movie.

Sorry, Scarlett O’Hara: I’ve never seen “Gone With the Wind.”

So I live in Atlanta, where “Gone With the Wind” had its premiere. So my wife is a Southern historian who owns a well-thumbed copy of the book. So I work at CNN Center, where my very newsroom was once a movie theater that showed “Gone With the Wind” over and over.

You can say my reasons are hypocritical. “GWTW” is long, but I have no problem with the equally long “Lawrence of Arabia” – and I adore the slow-moving “2001: A Space Odyssey,” which some people compare to drying wallpaper. It’s racist, but so are “Birth of a Nation” and “Triumph of the Will,” and I’ve seen both of those. (Film class, you know.)

No, finally, I think it’s just too much for me to take: too Old South celebratory, too Old Hollywood lush, too Old Hackneyed cliché.

You think I should change my mind? Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.

– Todd Leopold

‘Pulp Fiction’

We hear Travolta dances in this, but we already saw "Staying Alive."

My only explanation for not seeing “Pulp Fiction” is a kind of low-grade repulsion. I made an effort to watch the top movies of all time a few months ago but could never seal the deal on this one. It’s still at No. 14 in my Netflix queue; apparently even streaming capability hasn’t inspired me to watch it.

Why? Maybe it’s the imagery. The main thing I think of is John Travolta doing that dance with his fingers in V shapes over his eyes. To be honest, I don’t love that scene. And crime or gangster films have never been my bag. (“Reservoir Dogs” is wasting away unseen in my Netflix queue purgatory, too.)

I’ve heard about the creative storytelling structure of “Pulp Fiction,” which might be the one thing that gets me to hit the play button. Only time will tell. Not seeing this film probably makes me uncool, but I’m fine with that.

– Nicole Saidi


"My Heart Will Go On" ... to watch something else.

As an angsty teen in 1997, I was way too grunge to condescend to a sappy Hollywood blockbuster like “Titanic.” Instead, I used my fake ID to see “Boogie Nights,” still one of my favorite movies, and went straight to HMV the next day to buy the soundtrack. That’s the kind of stuff I was into.

Plus, I was sick of teen heartthrob Leonardo DiCaprio. It was that era when he seemed to have a new movie out every few months, and I was tired of his piercing blue eyes staring at me from magazine covers. I was also disappointed in James Cameron, the director of my favorite sci-fi movies (“Terminator,” ” Aliens”), for crossing over into what looked like sentimental territory.

So it’s really a matter of principle that’s endured to this day: I’m still not drawn to romances and still have no desire to see “Titanic.” I already know all the dopey memes. And, despite my best efforts, I somehow know all the words to “My Heart Will Go On.”

– Emanuella Grinberg


Looks like we're gonna need to see another movie.

I’m a mess each year during Discovery’s “Shark Week.”

As a little girl, the poster for “Jaws” frightened me to tears. The image of a massive great white shark rising from the deep to chomp on a hapless swimmer had me convinced that the toothy predators could be lurking anywhere – including our family bathtub. And don’t even get me started on that creepy music from the movie.

My mother insisted I need not worry, because a shark would never come near our Baltimore home. (Guess what, Mom: A big great white was recently tracked near Ocean City, Maryland, so you got that one wrong.)

Because of my fear, I’ve never watched the movie or any of its sequels, and I’ve studiously avoided airings of it on television.

And I’m so OK with that.

– Lisa Respers France

‘The Sound of Music’

The hills are alive ... unless you never saw this movie, in which case they're just hills.

Let me start by saying I have nothing against Julie Andrews, or musicals.

Usually, when you put Andrews and “spontaneous eruptions of song and dance” into the same sentence, you get “Mary Poppins,” and I’ve always loved that movie. (Mental note: Is that on Netflix? If so, add to queue.)

But when it comes to “The Sound of Music,” my interest level just … flatlines. It may be because I somehow wasn’t introduced to the movie as a kid. (I was of legal drinking age before I even learned that “Do-Re-Mi” is from the film.) And as an adult, “The Sound of Music” has always looked – let’s just be honest – cheesy and boring.

Really, we can blame everything on the movie poster: Does she just stand in a field and sing the whole time? Pass.

I’m sure most of the movie’s fans like it because it brings back warm and fuzzy memories from childhood. I missed out on that nostalgia, and I’m perfectly OK to go on without it. Besides, I’ve got Dick Van Dyke and those dancing penguins to hold on to.

– Breeanna Hare


Guys, you're going to need some better weapons.

I obsessively see all the best picture winners, but somehow I missed this one.

I’m still not sure exactly why. I think it has to do with the prospect of watching men in kilts and medieval armor pummel each other with axes for three hours. (Hobbits, dwarves, elves and Orcs are a different story.) And I’ve read enough Scottish history to know how it ends.

“Every man dies. Not every man really lives!” Yeah, yeah. Settle down.

I’ve seen NBA arenas play snippets of Mel Gibson’s battle cry to fire up fans. But I don’t think missing the movie has left a cultural void in my life. When was the last time “Braveheart” came up at a party? After 20 years, and Gibson’s many intolerant rants, I’m in no hurry to watch it now.

Did I mention it’s three hours long?

– Brandon Griggs

‘It’s a Wonderful Life’

Every time a bell rings ... someone else skips seeing this movie.

I never set out to avoid this holiday classic. I have nothing against Christmas movies in general, and I think Jimmy Stewart is dreamy. But I do have a mild “twee sentimentality” allergy, so it’s not exactly at the top of my Netflix queue. Of the pantheon of holiday movies, I’d rather watch “Bad Santa” again.

I can’t say this omission has affected my life in a meaningful way. My friends haven’t excluded me from annual watch parties (OR HAVE THEY?). I’ve absorbed enough of the story through osmosis to get most references: Stewart is married to Donna Reed and is having a crisis around Christmas and wishes he’d never been born or something, and so an angel pops in to show him how much worse everyone’s life would be without him. Right?

And “every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings,” and “God bless us, every one.” I might have a little Dickens cross-contamination there. Close enough.

– Katherine Dillinger


Hey, we know that guy on the right! Wasn't he in "Zombieland"?

This seems impossible for a child of the ’80s and a Bill Murray fan, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen “Ghostbusters.” Or have probably never seen “Ghostbusters.”

I say “probably never” because … who knows. The ’80s were a long time ago. I was little. I forget stuff. Don’t Brian Williams me on this, childhood friends. Maybe I saw it at a sleepover and slept through it or something. Maybe it was on in the background. But I definitely never really, truly registered this movie. I don’t know how it ends. Or really what happens. There are ghosts. (Right?) There’s Bill Murray.

I do know what the Ghostbuster suits look like. I know when it’s appropriate to say “I ain’t afraid of no ghosts.” I know there was some Marshmallow Puff Person or whatever it’s called. (Is he the bad guy?) I remember playing with those toys. And I remember Slimer (is he a ghost?) and his Hi-C “Ecto Cooler” drink, which was totally amazing. So Ecto Cooler, at least, made an impression.

So maybe the moral is this: All you need is product placement. Forget movies. Just go with toys and sugar. I’ll know for sure after I see “Ghostbusters.” Because now I really want to.

– John D. Sutter

‘Schindler’s List’

Not sure how we missed this disturbing historical drama that's more than three hours long and in black and white ...

I have every intention of watching “Schindler’s List.” I just haven’t done it yet.

I’ve been semi-consciously avoiding it for more than two decades. While my tolerance for fictional depravity is high, this 195-minute film feels like a big hurdle.

“Schindler’s List” hit theaters while I was in high school, and a grim, black-and-white drama about the Holocaust wasn’t at the top of my viewing list. I wanted lighthearted escapes from the struggles of being a shy teenager. I did intend to see it, just like I’ve intended to rent it for the past 22 years.

Instead, I’ve learned about the Holocaust in other ways: through visits to the Amsterdam attic where Anne Frank spent her last years and to the Dachau concentration camp in Germany.

Still, I feel twinges of guilt about skipping the movie. Maybe it’s time to stop waiting for a right time to watch it.

– Marnie Hunter

The ‘Harry Potter’ series

This is from the 5th movie. Or maybe the 7th. They all run together -- unless you haven't seen any of them.

I missed the “Harry Potter” movies. All eight of them.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I watched about a third of “The Half-Blood Prince” after a holiday meal before zonking out on the sofa while everyone else was riveted to the screen. Fantasy movies generally don’t hold my attention; all the endless quests, flying dragons and prosthetic noses leave me studying my fingernails and waiting for the credits.

Also, the timing was wrong. J.K. Rowling’s first “Potter” book came out just after I graduated high school. At that point, I was busy trying to act older than I was, not snuggling up with a kids’ book – though I’ve repeatedly been informed that the series knows no age limit.

The movies held even less allure. So even today, I don’t know a Muggle from a Squib.

– Melonyce McAfee

‘The Graduate’

We hear the soundtrack is great, but the movie has  not seduced us.

I can sing the lyrics to “Mrs. Robinson.” I thought it was maudlin-funny when Grandpa Simpson pounded on the church window in that “Simpsons” episode. I brushed it off when someone would ask about life after graduation and an uncle would chime in, “Plastics!”

Only much, much later did I understand they all were references to “The Graduate.”

I was too young for this 1967 film when it was still buzzy, and by the time I might’ve watched it, I’d absorbed enough of the references to feel like I had the gist. I’d try to sit down and watch it, but, oops — it made its exit from Netflix streaming a few months ago.

At this point, I’m not going to try any harder.

– Jamie Gumbrecht

‘The Shawshank Redemption’

Morgan Freeman narrates this? OK, we'll see it.

“The Shawshank Redemption” was that “other” 1994 best picture nominee in a year that boasted “Pulp Fiction,” “Forrest Gump” and one of my favorites, “Quiz Show.” The movie had a strange title, and wasn’t a big hit when it came out. I was 17 at the time and had little interest.

It wasn’t until “Shawshank” became a cable TV mainstay that it was discovered by mass audiences. Years later, it’s considered a classic, consistently ranked by IMDb users as the top film of all time.

I first noticed this when friends started talking about how great the movie was in the early 2000s. It also took me a while to get the references, and jokes, about Morgan Freeman’s prolific voiceover narration.

I see a lot of movies and TV, but for some reason I’ve never found the time to sit down and watch “Shawshank.” Anyone know if it’s on Netflix?

– Henry Hanks

‘The Godfather’

We took the cannoli. We skipped the movie.

When people hear I haven’t seen this movie, they look at me like there’s something wrong with me. I simply shrug and move on with my life.

I’m not bothered because I get some of the cultural references, like Italian mobsters sitting in dark rooms and saying threatening things to each other. They remind me of when my dad used to take me to an Italian restaurant in downtown Chicago that he says was a Mafia hangout. If I didn’t know any of this, I’d be more compelled to watch the movie to become socially relevant.

People have always made fun of me for missing out on “The Godfather” and other classic films. But will I ever see it? Probably not.

– Christina Zdanowicz

‘The Lion King’

Can you feel the love tonight? No, not really.

Snow White and Minnie Mouse are among my personal style icons. Several of my world views – including that it’s rude to lurk in doorways and life is the bubbles – come from “The Little Mermaid.” So you’d think this Disney classic would be right up my alley. But I’ve never seen it.

When it came out in 1994, I was a teenager who listened to underground hip-hop and riot grrrl music. I quoted “Reality Bites” and “Serial Mom.” I was alternative, dammit, and definitely not interested in the most wholesome, mainstream movie of the year.

Thankfully, some things have changed since then. But I’m still not that eager to see “The Lion King” based on what I know about it: Animal death (cartoon, but still). Elton John power ballads. That scene where a monkey on a rock holds baby Simba up over his head. And not one female character with a ribbon in her hair.

Maybe I’ll get to it one day. If not, you can find me watching this. Hakuna Matata.

– Abbey Goodman

‘The Silence of the Lambs’

We LOVE the new "Mad Max"! Oh, wait ...

Never mind that I hear no one actually eats anybody else onscreen in this movie: I’m not interested in watching Anthony Hopkins looking hungry as the cannibal Hannibal Lecter. Just thinking about it gives me the heebie-jeebies.

I know Hopkins gives a masterful performance and that everyone associated with the movie seems to have won an Oscar for it. And I’m glad that Jodie Foster’s character has bars between herself and Lecter (I’ve seen pictures).

If you put Hopkins in a British period drama where he talks with a refined accent and implies a hidden longing for, say, Emma Thompson, I’m there. I love movies where people talk a lot and grapple with life’s challenges without snacking on each other.

You’ll have to enjoy the liver and fava beans without me.

– Katia Hetter

What have you missed? Why?