5 Great Movies That I Probably Never Would Have Watched If Not For Blockbuster

The Last Blockbuster
(Image credit: 1091 Productions)

Nowadays, Blockbuster Video is seen as a joke; a punch-line. What else would you call it when they now make comedies based on Blockbuster (which, I might add, is a Netflix series that “isn’t worth a free rental” apparently)? Once the end-all, be-all when it came to how you might have spent your weekends, Blockbuster is now on the verge of complete extinction, with only one left in Bend, Oregon.    

But, back in the day, it was no joke. In fact, there are several great movies that I probably never would have watched if not for the video rental chain. For example, it's how I watched every Coen Brothers movie, and I started with the bizarre film, Barton Fink, as I was drawn to its cover with John Turturro looking paranoid. 

This store is also how I found my love for knock-off films. You know about Snakes on a Plane? Well, how about Snakes on a Train? Or Transmorphers! The original AND Transmorphers: Fall of Man. The fact is, without it, I probably wouldn’t have discovered my love of film in the first place, and so I’m grateful for the store. Streaming services like Netflix and Disney+ just aren’t the same. So, here are five great movies that I likely never would have watched if not for Blockbuster. The GOAT!         

A werewolf in Dog Soldiers

(Image credit: Pathe)

Dog Soldiers (2002) 

Directed by Neil Marshall, and starring Sean Pertwee, Emma Cleasby, and Liam Cunningham, this British horror film took me completely by surprise back when I saw it in 2002. The story is about a special ops team that is being cornered by werewolves at a farmhouse. And, while I wouldn’t call it one of the best horror movies of all time (or even one of the best movies or shows about werewolves, for that matter), I think what it lacks in scares, it makes up for in kick-ass action, since Dog Soldiers definitely kicks. Ass. 

In a lot of ways, the much more recent Max Brooks book, Devolution, which is about a Bigfoot family that surrounds a house, is kind of similar, in that the soldiers in this movie have to rely on their wits if they are going to make it to the morning. The werewolves themselves look awesome, and the action is balls to the wall. What more could you possibly want?   

Poor souls in Cube

(Image credit: Cineplex Odeon Films)

Cube (1997) 

Directed by Vincenzo Natali, and starring Andrew Miller, Nicole de Boer, and Quentin McNeil, Cube is like a rich man’s Saw. In the film, a number of strangers end up in a weird, trap-laden labyrinth, and they have to get out, preferably alive. The great thing about it though is all the paranoia and intrigue layered within the film. Throughout the movie, you’re wondering how they got there in the first place, and more importantly, why, and it’s just thoroughly compelling all the way through. 

Not only that, but it’s a pretty great series, too. The sequel, Cube 2: Hypercube, isn’t as good as the original, but at least it’s unique, and the prequel, Cube Zero, might even be better than the original. There has also been a Japanese remake that I still need to see. Like Dog Soldiers, I likely wouldn’t have even seen the first Cube if not for just wandering down the aisles of Blockbuster, picking up boxes off the shelves.  

Forest Whitaker in Ghost Dog

(Image credit: Artisan Entertainment)

Ghost Dog: The Way Of The Samurai (1999)  

Directed by Jim Jarmusch, and starring Isaach De Bankole, Henry Silva, and Forest Whitaker as a freaking samurai hitman, Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai is a movie that I’ve wanted to talk about here for a long time. One of Whitaker’s best performances, it's one of those movies that is easy to describe, but hard to explain. 

So, let me, er, explain. You see, Ghost Dog works for the Mafia, and he follows the way of the samurai. He performs a hit on somebody, but then spares somebody else’s life at the scene of the hit, and so, the mafia is out to get him. Simple, right? 

Well, yes, but that description doesn’t explain the overall tone of the film, which is both meditative, but also very exciting. It creates an overall vibe that I’ve never seen in any other movie before or since, and I likely never would have seen it if I hadn’t been roaming the aisles since all of the copies of The Matrix were already rented out. 

Michael Rooker in Henry

(Image credit: Greycat Films)

Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer (1986) 

Nowadays, everybody talks about how disturbing Dahmer is on Netflix, and I’ll have to take their word for it, because I haven’t watched it. But, I will tell you this. Nothing has disturbed me more than watching Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer back when I was around 17. 

Directed by John McNaughton, and starring The Walking Dead's Michael Rooker, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is basically what the title says—a story about a serial killer. But, here’s the thing about Henry that’s super disturbing, it’s not a film that makes his murdering look bad. The story is really hard to digest, and its tone is so grim that you feel dirty after watching it. Especially since there’s no real catharsis. I wouldn’t recommend this to most people, and I’m kind of shocked that Blockbuster had something so extreme on its shelves, but I rented it, and I’ll never forget it.  

The gang in Blood In Blood Out

(Image credit: Buena Vista Pictures)

Blood In Blood Out (1993) 

Lastly, I always hear people talking about Scarface, or Boyz n the Hood, or Goodfellas, but I very rarely ever hear anybody talking about Blood In Blood Out, even though I think it’s just as good as those aforementioned films. Directed by Taylor Hackford, and starring Damian Chapa, Benjamin Bratt, and Jesse Borrego, Blood In Blood Out is about three men who consider themselves brothers who start out in a gang together, but then go on to have very different lives that diverge, but also intersect. 

Blood In Blood Out is a crime epic that has one of the scariest depictions of prison that I’ve ever seen next to the HBO show, Oz. It’s a movie that’s highly quotable, and also very distressing at times with the way events play out. And, if not for Blockbuster, I definitely wouldn’t have seen this movie, since I’ve never seen it on regular cable, and, as I mentioned earlier, a very select few have ever heard of it when I bring it up in conversation. So, thank you, Blockbuster, for introducing me to this cult classic film. Vatos Locos forever. 

Do you have any great Blockbuster memories? For more news on all things cinema, make sure to swing by here often.

Rich Knight
Content Producer

Rich is a Jersey boy, through and through. He graduated from Rutgers University (Go, R.U.!), and thinks the Garden State is the best state in the country. That said, he’ll take Chicago Deep Dish pizza over a New York slice any day of the week. Don’t hate. When he’s not watching his two kids, he’s usually working on a novel, watching vintage movies, or reading some obscure book.