Whether being projected onto a big wall during a cocktail party, or played quietly in the living room during game night, a background movie can act as a conversation starter, art, music, and entertainment all in one. Plus it's easy to pop a disc in the DVD player or call up a title from Netflix. The only hard part, of course, is finding just the right background film.
The key to a great background movie is something with a stellar soundtrack and frame-worthy visuals, but without a complex story for guests to enjoy. Something guests can look away from and come back to without missing much. These 10 films fit the bill perfectly.
The Wall (1982)Synopsis: A troubled rock star descends into madness in the midst of his physical and social isolation from everyone.
Why it's great: The soundtrack, obviously. Based on Pink Floyd's 1979 album of the same name, the film features very little dialogue and is mainly driven by the music.
Airplane! (1980)Synopsis: An airplane crew takes ill. Surely the only person capable of landing the plane is an ex-pilot afraid to fly. But don't call him Shirley.
Why it's great: A hilarious classic and everyone knows it. As a parody of more serious disaster films, Airplane! moves quickly through slapstick comedy and absurd one-liners that even first-time watchers have heard.
Fight Club (1999)Synopsis: An insomniac office worker looking for a way to change his life crosses paths with a devil-may-care soap maker and they form an underground fight club that evolves into something much, much more.
Why it's great: It's visually stunning, and thoughtfully so. The narrator's scenes without Tyler Durden are bland, while scenes with Tyler are almost unpleasantly vivid.
A Hard Day's Night (1964)Synopsis: A 'typical' day in the life of the Beatles, including many of their famous songs.
Why it's great: The Beatles. Need I say more? Filmed at the height of Beatlemania, this black-and-white film combines cheeky British humor with The Beatles' music to create a "comic Fantasia."
Why it's great: The classic western of all westerns. This Italian Spaghetti Western features sweeping western landscapes, Civil War battle scenes, and one of film's most famous scores.
Moulin Rouge (2001)Synopsis: A poet falls for a beautiful courtesan whom a jealous duke covets in this stylish musical, with music drawn from familiar 20th century sources.
Why it's great: The cover songs. The best of modern pop music is drawn back and restyled for a 19th century Parisian nightclub.
Animal House (1978)Synopsis: Time: 1962. Place: college. Dean Vernon Wormer is determined to expel the entire Delta Tau Chi fraternity, but those troublemakers have other plans for him.
Why it's great: The laughs and party atmosphere. Spun off from National Lampoon magazine, it's one of the best comedies ever made and easy for anyone to follow.
Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)Synopsis: A high school wise guy is determined to have a day off from school, despite of what the principal thinks of that.
Why it's great: The sights. It's like taking a tour of Chicago—viewing Seurat at The Art Institute of Chicago, scoping out the observation deck of the Sears Tower, catching a ball at Wrigley Field—all from your living room.
Blade Runner (1982)Synopsis: Deckard, a blade runner, has to track down and terminate 4 replicants who hijacked a ship in space and have returned to Earth seeking their maker.
Why it's great: The dystopian science fiction scenes, even though the film is set in not-so-far-away 2019 in Los Angeles.
Across the Universe (2007)Synopsis: The music of the Beatles and the Vietnam War form the backdrop for the romance between an upper-class American girl and a poor Liverpudlian artist.
Why it's great: It's kind of like a really great, 2-hour-long music video. Covers of The Beatles' best songs are set against stunning imagery.
(Images: Daniel's Style Experiment; IMDB, as linked above)