I’m a stereotypical girl in my love of Lifetime movies, and, of course, my Recasts partner in crime Dennis groans when he enters the room and sees the tiny Lifetime logo on the bottom right corner of the television.. But what exactly is a Lifetime Movie? In its purest definition, it would be a movie that shows on Lifetime. According to UrbanDictionary.com, a Lifetime movie is “Misandristic propaganda potboiler films aimed at teaching women that all men are abusive rapists. The protagonist usually is a female who wishes to escape from her drunken husband or a young adult who is kidnapped and raped. There are many different lifetime movies, but all have a the same plot.” (The grammar stickler in me wants to point out that Misandristic isn’t technically a word, but that’s beside the point.) This definition is one worth noting, as it rings true in many cases.
But I think there is an unidentifiable quality in Lifetime movies that breaks past the stereotypes and sometimes simple plots to create a fun viewing experience for both women AND men. I also would like to inform you non-regular Lifetime viewers that Lifetime is branching out to include many movies that weren’t made for TV. For example, I caught Reservation Road the other week, starring Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Ruffalo, and Jennifer Connolly. This fantastic 2007 film was written and directed by Terry George, whose name you might recall from his work on Hotel Rwanda (which you all know was highly acclaimed). To help get you started as you begin your journey towards Lifetime-movie love, I’ve compiled a list of my top ten favorite Lifetime movies.
#10 The Hunt for the Unicorn Killer
This is one of the first Lifetime movies I remember seeing. Based on the true story of Ira Einhorn who killed his girlfriend then fled the country, Naomi Watts provides a memorable performance as Holly Maddux.
#9 Gone in the Night
Kevin Dillon and Shannon Doherty play the Dowaliby parents, who experience their worst nightmare when their daughter disappears from her bedroom in the middle of the night. As the parents are accused of murdering their own daughter, the investigation fails to keep its course towards finding the real killer. Ed Asner is also a nice surprise.
#8 She’s Too Young
A new favorite of mine. I didn’t switch the channel when I realized Alexis Dziena (who I knew and hated from Entourage) was playing the lead. A high school girl contracts a sexually transmitted disease. The discussion of STDs as a true epidemic, even in the supposed-to-be-perfect middle class realm, is actually insightful.
#7 Mother, May I Sleep with Danger?
Though this isn’t a movie I’ve watched multiple times like many of the other films, this is an “Oscar-winner” of Lifetime movies. This is the kind of role that kept Tori Spelling famous in between 90210 and her popular reality show Tori and Dean: Home Sweet Hollywood.
#6 See Jane Run
When I first watched Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, I found myself yelling at the screen, “Who is Lex Luther? Where do I know him from?” This is it. Joanna Kerns (of Growing Pains fame) and John Shea are the leads here. Jane comes to, amnesiac and covered with blood. There’s no way I’m spoiling all the twists and turns in this movie. You’ll never see it coming.
#5 The Face on the Milk Carton
I’d read the book by Caroline B. Cooney when I was in middle school, and the movie almost lives up to the book. The premise is this: What happens when you realize YOU are that face on the milk carton? And what happens when you try to figure out who you really are? Life obviously becomes increasingly complicated. Kellie Martin (my favorite Lifetime actress of all time) is wonderful as the red-headed lead.
#4 Stand Against Fear
A sentimental favorite. The premise is simple, football players sexually harass cheerleaders. Yes, I’ll acknowledge that this is the kind of plot that makes you non-Lifetime watchers cringe. But the acting here is really what stands out. Sarah Chalke (Roseanne’s part-time Becky and more popular in Scrubs) and Lochlyn Munro (Night at the Roxbury, Dead Man on Campus, and Freddy vs. Jason) are excellent rivals.
#3 Face to Die For
I just watched this one again today, and it bumped its way up the countdown. Yasmine Bleeth plays a woman who was terribly injured and scarred as a child in a freak car accident. Her facial scars and emotional scars are evident, as she’s manipulated by a man who wants to rob the antique store she works in (enjoy Seinfeld’s Mr. Pitt as her boss!) After she’s jailed and receives reconstructive surgery, the only thing on her mind is revenge! Hilarious and sad all at the same time.
#2 On the Edge of Innocence
I love this movie, haven’t seen it in years, and would LOVE to have this on DVD. Two mentally ill (one with bi-polar disorder and one with uncontrollable anger) teens meet and fall in love in a mental institution. Here’s the time for name dropping: Kellie Martin, James Marsden, Terry O’Quinn, Jamie Kennedy, Joshua Jackson, Clea DuVall. I guarantee you there are even more recognizable faces in this giant cast.
#1 No One Would Tell
The most famous Lifetime movie of ALL time. Fred Savage plays an abusive boyfriend and Candace Cameron his helpless victim. This movie was made at the right time (1996), when both Savage and Cameron were still close enough to The Wonder Years and Full House to make us really get into this movie. Nostalgia still holds true today, nearly twenty years later. Though arguably this movie has a few plot holes and pacing issues, this is a movie that can stand multiple viewings, both by yourself and with a group.