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To Catch a Thief (1955; Prime Video): Two weeks into lockdown, Spring Break 2020 was upon our family. Yippee. Desperate for programming, we organized a field day in my aunt’s yard (history will note that the girls’ team won bocce) and let each kid do a “bubble-bath spa hour” in the parents’ roomier tub. But ultimately, the most satisfying time-passer was what we called “Hitchcock 101,” a screening of Alfred’s French Riviera-set masterpiece To Catch a Thief. The movie stars a very tan Cary Grant as retired cat burglar John Robie and Grace Kelly as his love interest, the much younger Frances Stevens (though the film makes no mention of the 25-year age difference, there was a lot of conversation on the topic in our living room). When valuable jewelry goes poof, the thrills begin. Though I wouldn’t call it action-packed, there’s enough to look at—jaw-dropping scenery, pretty movie stars, incredible clothes, an unforgettable costume party in the final act—to keep everyone’s attention throughout: Not once during the hour and forty-five minutes did our oft-antsy kids appear restless.
The Great Muppet Caper (1981; Disney+): In the fourth-best Muppet film ever (behind only Muppets Take Manhattan, Muppets Most Wanted, and the hard-to-find, made-for-TV A Muppet Family Christmas), Kermit and the gang head to London to investigate a jewel robbery. The cast (TBP hall-of-famer Charles Grodin and Diana Rigg as the hoity-toity Holiday siblings) is superb, the fashion (hats! hats! fascinators!) is *chef’s kiss*, and the jokes and musical numbers are as weird and catchy as ever (“Happiness Hotel” really sticks with you). This movie is also perhaps Miss Piggy’s flashiest role, which is saying something. Here, our multitalented ham gets to preen as a fashion model and even star in a fantasy sequence as a synchronized swimmer.
Ocean’s Eleven (2001; HBO Max): For years, our teenager H.B. has confused Brad Pitt and Mark Wahlberg, to our perpetual delight. This movie finally straightened that out! But there’s more to love, of course: Whereas Speed was too violent and intense for our group, Ocean’s Eleven relies on style, banter, and clever plotting rather than gunfire and shouting to keep the ride going. Every time they correctly predicted a twist before the reveal, the kids were over the moon. The parents felt the same for picking such a crowd-pleaser.
The Italian Job (1969; Prime Video and Paramount+): Ed note: I couldn’t be convinced to watch this one, so I’m passing the mic to my husband, James, now. Somehow, I erred when pitching this movie to Rachel, who said she had no interest in watching “a bunch of British dudes duding around Italy.” Her dismissive summary was not entirely wrong, but still: Her loss! Don’t try too hard to understand all the build up to the outlandishly intricate robbery that gives the movie its name, which is followed by a rollicking chase scene that one imagines helped sell a lot of Mini Coopers to viewers of the era. In addition to sharing the stylishness and escapist settings of the other picks on this list, this movie also has one of the most-dissected endings of all time. I hope that at least some of you have seen the Wahlberg-led 2003 Italian Job, but not the superior original, so you can find out why.
Oceans 11 is one of my absolute favs and I rewatch it whenever it’s on TV or I’m feeling down. It never gets old. I haven’t seen Grewt Muppet Caper since it was in theaters! I need to rewatch!!
1. MUST WATCH ITALIAN JOB
2. The Muppet Caper is the best muppet movie by far