Movies where “nothing” happens are usually met with consternation by pessimists and for good reason. We want to see a movie that does something that goes somewhere. Even in film 101, we’re taught that a film is nothing if the plot doesn’t move. But we’d like to offer you this. Sometimes, films are a philosophical treatise that points the mirror at us and asks us how we feel about the subject. Some movies want to start a dialogue. Or, sometimes films are art pieces that aren’t meant to have a plot. Here are some great films where nothing happens.
Dante (Brian O’Halloran) is called in to cover a shift at his New Jersey convenience store on his day off. His friend Randal (Jeff Anderson) helps him pass the time, neglecting his video-store customers next door to hang out in the Quick Stop. The uneventful day is disrupted by news that one of Dante’s ex-girlfriends has died. After attending her memorial service, Dante muses over staying with current girlfriend Veronica (Marilyn Ghigliotti) or reuniting with ex Caitlin (Lisa Spoonhauer).
2. MULHOLLAND DRIVE
A dark-haired woman (Laura Elena Harring) is left amnesiac after a car crash. She wanders the streets of Los Angeles in a daze before taking refuge in an apartment. There she is discovered by Betty (Naomi Watts), a wholesome Midwestern blonde who has come to the City of Angels seeking fame as an actress. Together, the two attempt to solve the mystery of Rita’s true identity. The story is set in a dream-like Los Angeles, spoilt neither by traffic jams nor smog.
3. RESERVOIR DOGS
Six criminals with pseudonyms, and each strangers to one another, are hired to carry out a robbery. The heist is ambushed by police and the gang are forced to shoot their way out. At their warehouse rendezvous, the survivors, realising that they were set up, try to find the traitor in their midst.
Petty thug Michel (Jean-Paul Belmondo) considers himself a suave bad guy in the manner of Humphrey Bogart, but panics and impulsively kills a policeman while driving a stolen car. On the lam, he turns to his aspiring journalist girlfriend, Patricia (Jean Seberg), hiding out in her Paris apartment while he tries to pull together enough money to get the pair to Italy. But when Patricia learns that her boyfriend is being investigated for murder, she begins to question her loyalties.
5. TAXI DRIVER
Suffering from insomnia, disturbed loner Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) takes a job as a New York City cabbie, haunting the streets nightly, growing increasingly detached from reality as he dreams of cleaning up the filthy city. When Travis meets pretty campaign worker Betsy (Cybill Shepherd), he becomes obsessed with the idea of saving the world, first plotting to assassinate a presidential candidate, then directing his attentions toward rescuing 12-year-old prostitute Iris (Jodie Foster).
6. NAPOLEON DYNAMITE
In small-town Preston, Idaho, awkward teen Napoleon Dynamite (Jon Heder) has trouble fitting in. After his grandmother is injured in an accident, his life is made even worse when his strangely nostalgic uncle, Rico (Jon Gries), shows up to keep an eye on him. With no safe haven at home or at school, Napoleon befriends the new kid, Pedro (Efren Ramirez), a morose Hispanic boy who speaks little English. Together the two launch a campaign to run for class president.
7. DAZED AND CONFUSED
This coming-of-age film follows the mayhem of group of rowdy teenagers in Austin, Texas, celebrating the last day of high school in 1976. The graduating class heads for a popular pool hall and joins an impromptu keg party, however star football player Randall “Pink” Floyd (Jason London) has promised to focus on the championship game and abstain from partying. Meanwhile, the incoming freshmen try to avoid being hazed by the seniors, most notably the sadistic bully Fred O’Bannion (Ben Affleck).
8. SHE’S GOTTA HAVE IT
Beautiful Nola Darling (Tracy Camilla Johns) can’t decide what kind of man she wants to date, so she decides to date three at the same time. The first is Greer Childs (John Canada Terrell), a rich, handsome narcissist. Then there’s Jamie Overstreet (Tommy Redmond Hicks), a stable, overprotective alpha male. Finally, there’s Mars Blackmon (Spike Lee), a timid geek with a heart of gold. Unfortunately, while each suitor has his virtues, Darling just can’t seem to make up her mind.
9. THE STATION AGENT
The life of train aficionado and downcast little person Finbar McBride (Peter Dinklage) takes an unexpected turn when his boss dies and wills him a railroad depot in New Jersey. He decides to relocate to the small town, where he befriends talkative food vendor Joe Oramas (Bobby Cannavale) and unhappy wife Olivia Harris (Patricia Clarkson). As the trio’s interactions deepen, quirky conversations and outcomes ensue. McBride also gains insight from librarian Emily.