If I see a film and love it or if I really enjoy a TV series I am almost certainly going to add it to my extensive “Watch Again” list. Whenever I play a game, a certain part of my mind is always centred on what decisions I could make differently when I inevitably play it again. Oftentimes, I find that consuming something for the second time is an entirely different experience from the first. I’m a firm advocate that everyone should watch their favourite films again and again, read their favourite books until the spine is falling apart, and play their favourite games until they’ve seen every possible choice and heard every line of dialogue. The joy that you can get from consuming media repeatedly should never be undervalued.
A huge reason why I think people come back to the same things to consume over and over again is because of the strength of nostalgia. We attach memories, feelings and time periods to films, songs and games. To go back to them is, in its purest form, a desire to return to those earlier positive experiences. There’s a reason why franchises like Pokemon and Zelda are still so popular and I think it’s because so many of us grew up with them. I remember being little and watching my dad play Ocarina of Time before I was old enough to even really understand a game console. To this day, the soundtrack of this game conjures up such specific emotions and memories. Whilst the game has by far seen better days, it remains one of the most popular of all time because so many people share connections like this.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is both the first game I ever played properly and also the game I have replayed the most. In a way this is completely unsurprising: the nostalgia the game holds for me is immense. Starting a new game and hearing those all-too-familiar opening lines is its own special moment. At this point, I must have played through almost every side quest, explored the entire map, and completed the main storyline in every way possible. I’m almost embarrassed by the number of hours that I’ve racked up traipsing across Skyrim. Moreover, I’ve consciously decided never to mod the game. The now-dubious quality of the graphics and leftover clunkiness is all part of the experience I love. It’s not about finding new parts of the game or improving the playthrough experience: it’s about reliving my favourite moments and reconjuring those basic emotional responses to the successes and losses of the character.
I think this is representative of the ways in which certain media holds a special value for each individual. Whether it’s your favourite film that you’ve seen enough times to be able to recite in your sleep or a book whose cover is practically falling off from wear and tear, most people will be able to identify something that they’ve seen or read again and again. My to-play game list is extensive but rather than start a new one I always find myself toying with the idea of starting Skyrim run-through. I adore the game but more than anything I adore my history with the game.
However, it’s undeniable that there are things that we rewatch because we want to know every single detail about it. The desire to find the easter eggs dotted throughout, to understand the cinematography, or to learn more of the lore. Whether you’re a film buff who wants to be able to talk about Wes Anderson’s use of colour palettes or a Marvel fanatic who wants to be able to talk fan theories based on potential insights from the films or TV series, many people rewatch things to just be a geek.
For me, The Lord of the Rings series is the ultimate film trilogy to rewatch for this. With over eleven hours of film altogether in the extended edition (the only edition worth watching), it really does need to be watched multiple times for you to fully comprehend it. The series contains everything I love in films: beautiful cinematography; the way in which you invest so deeply in so many complex characters; the multilayered and high-stakes plotline. Yet, the soundtrack is ultimately the thing for me that the franchise did best. I listen to the opening few bars of The Shire theme and am immediately transported to a little cottage in Hobbiton.
Despite having seen this trilogy more times than I care to admit, I still feel the full spectrum of emotions when I see it again. I still sob when Boromir takes arrow after arrow to defend Merry and Pippin. The beauty of the shot, the simplicity of the music, the emotion in Sean Bean’s portrayal. Not only is it timeless, but it is also so laden with detail that it only gains more meaning upon rewatching.
When you know the basic outline of the plot after seeing a film for the first time, it means that you are freer to focus on the background details the next time. You gain different things with each time you watch a film as beautifully constructed as The Lord of the Rings and I think a film like this is designed and deserves to be rewatched.
Perhaps linked to ideas of nostalgia, I find that I always come back to the same TV Shows whenever I want comfort. Whenever I find myself sinking into a difficult time, I put on the same shows again and again to provide that comfort. Whether it’s Friends for its predictable comedy and comforting portrayal of early adulthood or Doctor Who for the plots that I know so well, rewatching shows for comfort is a perfect expression of the ways in which media can feel like a safe place to take time out from the real world.
The escapism that media offers means that you can invest yourself in different characters’ dilemmas and achievements for a brief period of time. I think the reason why so many of us have a “comfort TV show” is because the predictability of something you’ve seen before means that you have the pure joy of knowing that the resolution is coming, so you can sit back and enjoy the full plot arc.
Oftentimes as well it’s because you’re too tired to start investing in a whole new series and a new set of characters. A common line about many TV series is that you just have to put up with the pilot because they’re never as good as you know the show is going to be. Obviously, that is in part due to the fact that the writers, directors and actors are still getting used to the project but I think it is also because you as a consumer are building fresh connections and investments. Frankly, I don’t always want to have to spend that energy investing in a new show or film. To rewatch old favourites is definitely easier.
I find it so concerning when people honestly admit that they don’t really rewatch films or that they’ve never seen their favourite TV show more than once. You can get so much out of watching something for the second time even if it is just to relive some of your favourite moments. The joy of consuming something again and again is something I think everyone can experience and should relate to.
Illustration: Liza Vasilyeva