Some of the folks featured in The Movies, the doco-series that is available on TVNZ on Demand now.

The star-studded TV series that will make you a movie genius 

The Movies, a documentary series that celebrates movies and their impact on culture, is available on TVNZ OnDemand today. Sam Brooks pulls some of the best quotes from its galaxy of stars.

Ever wanted to get a snapshot of cinematic history without leaving the comfort of your couch, or even your bed if you want to do some sneaky streaming? I’ve got you covered.

The Movies is a 12 part docu-series that, with the help of some people both famous (Julia Roberts, Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg, you might have heard of them) and informative (a whole lot of critics and journalists, you might not have heard of them), aims to give you a snapshot of movie history and culture. It’s entertaining, brisk, and covers a lot of ground without ever skimping on depth.

If you want to know how Spielberg came up with E.T, or hear Edgar Wright gush over the Mad Max series, this is the show for you. What I’ve collected for you below is just some of the goodness that The Movies provides – it’s one of those documentaries where you want to pause to write down what people are saying and hold it close to you. 

Here’s some of the key things I learned, and you better be sitting down, because some of these rattled me, devoted cinephile, to my core:

John Wayne, defiantly wearing a shirt.

1) Nobody took their shirt off before 1980

Not too long into the first episode of The Movies, journalist Stephen Metcalf drops this truth bomb on us: “I don’t know if prior to 1980, anyone would’ve had a firm visual image of what their favourite actor looked like with their shirt off. Can you close your eyes and imagine Jimmy Stewart, Montgomery Clift or even John Wayne without their shirt off?”

Reader, I closed my eyes at my desk and imagined. And I could not for the life of me imagine what any of these men looked like with their shirts off. To bastardise Keke Palmer, sorry to these men and their upper-front quadrants. 

This is what Sean Penn used to look like.

2) Sean Penn wrote his own ‘awesome’ and ‘gnarly’ lines

To me, Sean Penn is famous for being the yelly guy from Mystic River, the guy who sank his own boat or for being Madonna’s extremely problematic ex-husband. But now, he’s most famous for being the man who changed up the script of Fast Times at Ridgemont High to include ‘awesome’ and ‘gnarly’. According to Amy Heckerling, director of this very film, Sean Penn would change words like ‘bitchin’ – which is a word we were allowed to use, apparently – to ‘gnarly’ or ‘awesome’. Good on you, Sean Penn, for this bitchin’ erasure.

Richard Gere and Julia Roberts, apparently just being funny in Pretty Woman.

3) Pretty Woman kind of… just happened?

Julia Roberts, who is a huge get for this documentary, tells the story of what it was like working with director Garry Marshall on Pretty Woman, which was originally written as a gritty drama before being rewritten as the romantic comedy we all know and love.

“I remember meeting Garry (Marshall) for the first time and being so nervous. Making this movie with him was hysterical, we didn’t really have a complete script. I remember one day looking at Richard (Gere) and going ‘What are we doing? What scene are we doing?’ And he goes, ‘I don’t know.’ So I go, ‘Garry, what are we doing?’ And Garry goes, ‘Be funny! Action!’

Nora Ephron, genius.

4) Nora Ephron is a goddamn genius

Okay, so this documentary shouldn’t teach you that. You should already know that. Her film scripts – Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail, When Harry Met Sally – should confirm that. Her many books of essays should confirm that. The fact that she knew who Deep Throat was before anybody else should confirm that.

But in case it doesn’t, here’s immortal legend and volleyball fan Tom Hanks turning on the kettle and serving you the tea:

“The great thing about Nora is when she was talking about the dynamics between men and women who are attracted to each other or need each other or are searching for each other and don’t really know. She was a genius.”

Blade Runner, shot in the rain at night.

5) Because that’s how Ridley Scott wanted it

During the Blade Runner section of The Movies, Ridley Scott delivers a line that I want to tattoo on my body: “I was constantly beaten up every day. People saying, ‘Why is it raining? Why do you want it to be at night?’

“‘That’s because it’s the way I fucking want it’.”

Run, don’t walk away from that explosion, Pierce!

6) It’s not the fireball, it’s the person running away from the fireball.

Discussing the Die Hard series, director Brad Bird muses on what makes a great action star. Is it muscles? Is it how shiny their head is? Is it the number of abs? No, what Brad Bird thinks makes a great action star is how much you care about them when they run away from a fireball.

“A lot of action stars think it’s cool to show no fear. To me, that’s not a courageous person, that’s a stupid person. The courageous person is one who has fear and goes for it anyway. It isn’t the size of the fireball, it’s how much you care about the person running from the fireball.”

Look, Brad Bird would know. He directed The Iron Giant. He directed Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. Those are films with lots of fireballs in them, you guys!

Pictured: The man who owned July 4th.

7) July 4th weekend is Will Smith Weekend

At some point during the 90s – probably after he became famous, that’s a fair assumption – it became a given that July 4th would be blocked out for a Will Smith film. That’s how huge he was. Men in Black? July 4th! Independence Day? July 4th. Wild Wild West? You got it. I, Robot? Block out that day in your diary. Hancock? The whole weekend.

Gemini Man? Uh, we’ll keep you posted. Leave July 4 free, just in case.

Pictured: An alien in need of a divorce!

8) E.T is about Steven Spielberg’s parents’ divorce – kind of

That’s right! The wholesome movie about Drew Barrymore and some other non-famouses aiding and abetting an alien in their house actually came from an idea that Spielberg was writing about his parents’ divorce.

To quote the shark-hating, alien-loving man himself:

“I was gonna write about how the divorce between my Mom and Dad affected me and my three sisters, and so I combined that with one about an alien who himself is divorced from his own species and is three million light years from home.”

I would love to get my hands on the lawyer capable of handling the divorce between E.T and three million light years worth of space. Bet that never happened on The Good Wife!

Robert De Niro, in a place he is not afraid to go.

9) Robert De Niro is not afraid to go to Those Places

Martin Scorsese has this to say about Robert De Niro, unarguably one of the greatest actors of all time:

“He’s not afraid of the negative character – he’s not afraid to go to those places.”

Speaking of Those Places, you can currently see Robert De Niro in Joker (2019).

Pictured: A father.

10) Darth Vader is Luke’s father!!!

Lawrence Kasdan, the co-screenwriter of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back sees fit to drop this bombshell on us, just as he’s casually talking about the writing process behind this film:

“George says to me, ‘Darth Vader is Luke’s father.’ … No shit.”

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I am, as they say, shook. He then goes on to say that Star Wars is all about fathers and sons, which is complete nonsense. We all know it’s about Carrie Fisher choking a space worm to death.

This trivia, and more, in The Movies.

You can watch The Movies on TVNZ OnDemand right here.


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