The Top 10 Hangout Movies: From the Works of Quentin Tarantino to Richard Linklater

by Nils Berg

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Tarantino’s cool, colorful number nine is, in my estimation, one hell of a film. Yet, while it’s certainly this year’s most groovy affair thus far, it can also be said that not a lot much happens during it. Everyone is just…kind of hanging out.

Up until the last act things happen but with little immediacy. This is no criticism! Tarantino wants us simply to observe late 60s L.A., the culture, the music, the moment. It makes it a great hangout movie — a term QT himself helped to coin. I for one love this kind of movie. Thin plots, brilliant characters, creating worlds that don’t necessarily grip you but you want to spend time in all the same. Without further ado, we’ll count down my top 10 favorite hangout movies!

Honorable Mentions

Boyhood (2014)

Everybody Want Some!! (2016)

Chasing Amy (1997)

A Hard Day’s Night (1964)

Pulp Fiction (1994)

American Graffiti (1973)

Friday (1995)

Half Baked (1998)

Wayne’s World (1992)

Swingers (1996)

#10: The Breakfast Club (1985)

When it came to teen movies, the 1980s was John Hughes’ decade. Alongside hits like Ferris Bueller, Sixteen Candles and Some Kind of Wonderful, The Breakfast Club became an instant genre classic. The Breakfast Club‘s premise is devastatingly simple: five kids all different wind up in Saturday detention with each other. With events unfolding largely in one room, the spotlight is thrust upon the characters. What follows is an intriguing and surprisingly deep deconstruction of High School archetypes.

#9: Pineapple Express (2008)

Pineapple Express has a plot: Seth Rogen’s character witnesses a murder and then becomes public enemy no. 1 to a criminal overlord who seems to only sell weed. But that plot is about as thin as a paper bag. Not much of it matters, with Seth Rogen headlining and James Franco in pajamas for the entire film, the movie knows what it is and doubles down. Essentially we’re just watching two guys hang out and get stoned while trying not to die. It’s as far as high-concept goes, and I’m totally on board. It’s also surprisingly well-made too thanks to David Gordon Green’s assured, competent handling.

#8: Rio Bravo (1959)

The original Breakfast Club? Following a shooting, an old western town is held under siege by hired guns after their leader is arrested. The town’s hardened sheriff, a drunk, a young cowboy and an old codger make a stand against the gang, holed up in the sheriff’s office that houses their prisoner. With the plot unfolding in such a small location, the characters are what make Rio Bravo. Hollywood veteran Howard Hawks knows this and he defies generic logic to slow the action down at times and let us reap the rewards of such strong characters — and performers. Memorable is the scene in which, during a lull, Nelson and Martin’s characters lead a chorus of western staples.

#7: Before Sunrise (1995)

Richard Linklater is the king of the hangout subgenre. To me, he’s every inch the dialogue writer as Tarantino, although in a very different vein. 1995’s Before Sunrise which saw an American Jessie and the French Celine meet on a train bound for Vienna. Sensing an immediate connection, the pair roam the Viennese streets together. They discuss life, love, and fate, with Jessie bound for a flight back to the States and Celine a train to Paris, come the morning. Like most of Linklater’s work, this is a very human film, characterized by minimal plot, with an emphasis on exploring the minutiae of human relationships. Before Sunrise and its two proceeding sequels account for the most critically acclaimed trilogies in film history.

#6: Easy Rider (1969)

While Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is set in the twilight of the decade, Easy Rider was made in ’69 and was part of a large new pool of movies and moviemakers ready to examine the social landscape through a cinematic lens. Two hippie biker (Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper) score big on a drug deal and use the proceeds to ride across the South to New Orleans’ Mardis Gras festival. That’s it. This movie could almost be a documentary. The bikers are framed against a stunning America but one that’s also in conflict with herself, torn between two versions of culture pointing in converging directions. Jack Nicholson’s breakthrough performance is vital as he, in part, embodies the viewer, there for the ride, just hanging out with the hippies.

#5: Jackie Brown (1997)

Tarantino’s third and most criminally overlooked movie is in part a peculiar choice for this list. Based on Elmore Leonard’s novel Rum Punch, Jackie Brown is laden with an interesting story. Yet the story is just a bit player in a film all about character. Leonard’s characters are brought to life in multiple career-best performances. QT’s signature dialogue is as sharp as ever as is his roaming camera movement. In this film, Tarantino’s camera tracks are at their best, extending shots most heist directors would have made as brief as possible. Jackie Brown’s ensemble includes a group of largely despicable, fascinating characters and QT wants us to hang out with them as much as possible.

#4: Slacker (1991)

Linklater’s first film is quite literally all hang out and no plot. With Slacker, Linklater’s lens occupies incredible freedom, intrinsically untethered to a single plot or person. It stays with a character or group of characters for one scene only before picking up and following someone else, often at random. The film proceeds like this over the filmic span of an entire day. It’s a hipster free for all and a whole lot of fun. He follows conspiracy theorists, anarchists, even a woman flogging Madonna’s pap smear. With Slacker, no conversation is too inane, no action deemed uninteresting. Linklater is pushing for a sense of realism that is almost to perfect to really put your finger on. The idea that movies can go that step further and sometimes posit life as happening everywhere, to everyone.

#3: Clerks (1994)

For anyone who’s ever worked in a dead-end service job, Kevin Smith’s Clerks should be your holy grail movie. Like Slacker, it delves into the realm of the usually unseen. It centers on the Quick Stop convenience store and neighboring RTS video and the disenchanted people that work and hang out there. Primarily, we follow Dante Hicks, a convenience store clerk and his friend Randall, the video store employee working next door. There is a general plot involving Dante’s crippling love life but mostly the film revolves around the employees hanging out. Smith focuses on the pointless conversations that take place in the store. One customer wants a dozen perfect eggs, another to sell gum. Best of all are the inane musings of the Clerks themselves. Were innocent construction workers blown up with the Death Star? Another of the greatest independent films of the 90s, Clerks is also a quintessential hangout fixture.

#2: The Big Lebowski (1998)

The quintessential cult movie, The Big Lebowski actually has a humdinger of a story, but we aren’t here for that. We’re here for Jeffrey Lebowski, commonly known as the Dude. A middle-aged slacker who only wants to toke and hang out at the bowling alley becomes caught up in uncovering an extortion-kidnapping caper after his favorite is unceremoniously pissed on. It’s a dynamite scenario and only pulled off via an electrifying Coen brother’s script. Jeff Bridges is now synonymous with his performance in this movie. It’s no surprise the film inspired an annual convention and even a quasi-religion. Between the bickering, the bud, the bowling, it’s the sort of film you never really want to end. And, thanks to the cult that’s grown around the movie, it kind of hasn’t.

#1: Dazed and Confused (1993)

Aimlessness and Adolescence. The two words are intrinsically entwined. It is upon this concept that Richard Linklater’s sophomore film, Dazed and Confused, is built. Like Slacker, the movie is set in Austin. This time it’s the last day of school 1976. Linklater’s script simply follows several groups of teenagers over a 24-hour period. It broods with the sense that anything could happen and yet nothing much ever does. Hazing rituals are observed, pool is played, and pot smoked. Aiming for as much realism as possible, Linklater offers to his audience tinned nostalgia, both for the 70s and adolescence in general. The period attention from cars to clothes is remarkable and this also means a brilliantly groovy soundtrack. This effortless 90s ode to the 70s is the perfect place to spend a couple of hours to hang out and romanticize the fading freedom of youth.

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