Movie Marathon: 24 Hours to Watch Movies That Take Place in 24 Hours

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There’s something special about the movie plot that wraps up neatly within a fictional 24 hours. I love how fast I’m whisked into the alternate reality of the story. I love the deliberateness of each line of dialogue, I love how the writer is or isn’t able to create a believable character arc in such an accelerated amount of time and I love how exhilarating the story can be. The time restriction allows for some unique storytelling that helps answer the burning question: how much can really happen in one day? And where does each film fall on the Believability Scale, a fictional scale I created to rate movies where 1= no way, Jose and 10 = totally already happened and will again? These films are in a league of their own and they deserve special attention.

Sure, there’s a bevy of teen movies about that one totally awesome party in high school that probably doesn’t ever happen in real life, but there’s far more to the “24hr genre” than that. There’s a distinct artistry in executing the 24 hour movie well and the ideal way to showcase the best of the genre is with a nonstop 24 hour movie marathon, obviously.

I’m positive that curating a movie marathon is a lot like crafting a perfect mix tape; the order matters. It is 8:36PM on a Sunday night; therefore it’s a perfect time to dive on in, so here goes nothing.

Detroit Rock City, 8:36PM



You always want to start a mix tape with a ripping jam and the same goes for a movie marathon. This movie has to set the tone and pump you up for 24 solid hours of cinematic entertainment. Detroit Rock City is an excellent example of the 24 hour format working perfectly. The plot is set up quickly and we’re already rooting for the main characters to get what they want before the opening credits end. Four high school boys in love with KISS? Sure, no problem, we all wanna rock n’ roll all night and party every day, who doesn’t? Detroit Rock City is unique because though all four characters have the same goal and the same deadline, they take the "Choose Your Own Adventure" approach and follow each guy’s separate path to the same goal. This device spices up an uncomplicated storyline while a boisterous soundtrack of '70s classics keeps the audience hooked. In the end, they get what they want and that’s just what we wanted. The is the strongest way to kick off a movie marathon, the teen energy and happy ending are just what you need to stay pumped for the long haul. I am so ready for more!


Believability factor: 8 - Kids who love rock n’ roll will get into crazy adventures just to see the band they love, this has always been true.


From Dusk Till Dawn, 10:16PM


Now we’re getting cozy, all settled in and ready to kick it up a notch. Enter another anomalous script from Quentin Tarantino. The wilder the story the more I can’t look away. And Clooney with a throat tattoo? Yes, this is the kind of realness you need at 10PM on a Sunday. We’re in deep from the get-go, forced to keep watching as our curiosity gnaws away at our insides. What is going on here and why? Only the mind of Quentin Tarantino pairs a preacher and his children with a duet of hardened but dopey criminals at a viable den of inequity in rural Mexico. The juxtaposition between “good” and “evil” is pervasive, but not necessarily linear making for very interesting character development as the plot unfolds. It’s funny when the voice of reason is the person who just kidnapped you, right? Then, suddenly, it all makes perfect sense. It doesn’t matter why these people are in this place, but they are trapped here and their only goal is to survive. After all, they did just realize they were in an undiscovered vampire den (only open from dusk 'til dawn, I get it!). Remember, this was in the ‘90s before vampires were super sexy. Back then, they were just ugly, blood-sucking demons that had to be destroyed. There was no danger that they’d fall in love with your daughter (ahem Twilight ahem). Perhaps the most challenging aspect of the story is buying Harvey Keitel as an even-keeled God-fearing preacher man. It reminds of that time we were supposed to buy Ray Liota as not a gangster in that movie with Whoopi Goldberg.

Believability factor: 2 -Though I’d like to believe there is a dark underworld lurking just beneath the surface of our world, I’m not entirely sure that’s actually true.


Night of the Living Dead, 12:36AM


Just past midnight, the witching hour is upon us and it's the perfect time to view this 1968 classic. After a quick stretch of the ol’ muscles, I’m ready to settle in for another screening. Nowadays, almost everyone has a zombie contingency plan, but, back in the ‘60s, the idea of corpses rising from their graves was downright scandalous. I’m perfectly willing to accept the high scare factor of a slow-moving lumbering man because the scariest villains are always the slowest. It’s unclear why these zombies have chosen this time to rise from the dead or why these people all found themselves near this particular farmhouse but it doesn’t matter. It’s a story purely about survival (and special effects that were CRAZY for the time, especially on the film’s shoestring budget). While the character development is a bit flimsy, there’s no denying the cultural impact of this film. First, choosing an African American male as the heroic lead in 1968 was undoubtedly controversial (as well as unassailably cool). Night of the Living Dead set the precedent for all zombie flicks that came after it, including the modern day remakes of the same story and its sequels. The actions taken by the trapped people have become protocol for how to act in case of zombie attacks. They taught us that we have to stick together, find food, learn to use weapons and always have access to a radio. As an independently produced film in a time before the modern film rating system, you can bet that Night of the Living Dead was shocking and intriguing to just about everyone, a classic tale of survival that fits perfectly into the 24hr format.

Believability factor: 2 – Only because I don’t want to totally rule out zombies as a real thing.


After Hours, 2:21AM


Until now, three is the maximum number of movies I’ve watched consecutively. I’m realizing this is going to be a lot more challenging than I had anticipated. A shot of energy juice and I’m ready to go. After all that zombie slaying, it’s time to relax a bit with this aptly named classic tale of the misadventures of an ordinary guy navigating the mean streets of ‘80s New York. Poor Paul Hackett was having a quiet evening at a café with a book when, after being casually seduced by an attractive stranger, he unknowingly embarks on an evening of darkly hilarious and inexplicably intertwined coincidences. We never know much about Paul, we just really want the uncomfortable torture of misunderstandings to stop and for Paul to get home from SoHo. It’s very interesting (and strange) that it will cost him $1.50 to get home on the subway (he only has $0.97) and he finds it almost impossible to come up with this additional $0.53. I guess the moral of this story is never depend on the kindness of strangers in New York City in the ‘80s because it will inevitably turn into an all night mess. The worst part is, the poor guy never gets to sleep and winds up back at his desk of another day of the same old grind. If this had gone on longer than 24 hours, it would have been much too much. But for one night and one night only, it’s magical.

Believability factor: 2 - He could probably find 50 cents on the sidewalk and what is the likelihood of encountering two sculptresses who deal exclusively in Plaster of Paris?


The Warriors, 4:23AM


My eyes are getting weary and I think my butt has formed into my chair, but I must forge ahead. The Warriors is another beautiful example of the 24 hour format at its finest. We don’t know a lot about these guys individually, but, from the credits montage, we learn that they’re just a rag-tag gang of multicultural buddies from a subway stop far far away. Naturally, they’re on their way to a meeting of all of New York City’s creatively named gangs where it is decided that there will be a citywide truce of all gangs so that collectively they can overthrow the police and take back the streets. Umm, awesome! That is until organizer Cyrus is assassinated and a sweaty guy loudly claims the Warriors are to blame (it was totally him though!). For some reason, everyone believes him. Oh, it’s on. As word spreads of the Warriors involvement with Cyrus’ murder, every other gang in NYC (and we’ve been told there are thousands) is out to get them. It’s a race against the time to get back to Coney Island and to clear the gang’s name. It’s just riveting and the movie is responsible for some of the best cinematic lines of the ‘70s. Can you dig it?


Believability factor: 1 - I’m sorry, but if I saw a bunch of guys in baseball uniforms with painted faces, I would laugh before I would run in fear.


Before Sunrise, 6:15AM


I made it through the night! Though exhausted, I just grab a bowl of oatmeal and keep on keepin’ on. It’s time to rise and shine with this classic tale; two travelers meet in transit, bond because of circumstance and know their relationship has an expiration date. It takes just a moment to get whisked into their easy breezy love affair. If you’re the romantic type, you can easily see yourself in a similar scenario. It’s clumsy and over too quickly, just like real life. The characters act like real people, talking about their lives, getting to know one anther and sharing stories until the clock runs out. It’s poetic in its simplicity and has given way to 2 sequels filmed the same way.

Believability factor: 9 - I bet 4 out of 10 study abroad students have had similar experiences, after all Europe does have a lot of trains.


Dazed and Confused, 8:00AM


Now that your heart is filled with romance, it’s time to whisk yourself back to the last day of high school. Dazed and Confused features an ensemble cast of soon-to-be stars on the last day of high school/first day of summer in 1976. Ahh yes, that angsty time in teenhood when one challenges the expectations set forth by overbearing adults. That time when we discover who we really are and who we really want to be. Though D & C is heavy on the substance abuse (and quotable moments), it’s a beautiful coming of age story that at least semi-accurately depicts the painful and hilarious elements of high school socialization. Dazed and Confused is definitely a great 24hr movie and the Dazed and Confused Full soundtrack is killer! I’m now halfway through my marathon and I’m definitely getting winded. I’ll be re-upping my gummi bear quotient for the next movie.

Believability factor: 8 – I don’t know about you guys, but I’d like to go to a party at the moon tower.


Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? 10:06AM


With my “second wind” successfully achieved via sugar high, I’m ready for the next movie. If Dazed and Confused left you feeling relaxed and content, this film is here to jar you back to reality. Unlike other films of the 24 hour genre, this is just a small glimpse of the character’s daily life. Martha and George are an unhappy couple whose alcohol-fueled arguments know no bounds. They don’t think twice about inviting guests over and then theatrically duking it out right in front of them. Though rather extreme, I think almost anyone can relate to the intense discomfort of having to be polite around a dueling couple. Even if somehow you can’t relate to that, you probably know what it feels like to have a very poignant conversation with a person you’ve just met (think of every “new best friend” you’ve made after too many martinis). Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf isn’t delicate. It’s jarring and abrasive and sometimes very unpleasant, just like life. Everyone has had a night like this, at least in some regard.

Believability factor: 10 – The wine goes in, the truth comes out.


Clerks 12:42PM


After the brashness of the last flick, it’s time to relax for a bit of light-heated ‘90s comedy. This, too, falls into the 24 hour category by happenstance. Just a day in the life of Dante and Randall and all its mundane peculiarities and campy shenanigans. But at its core, it's a story about friendship, being yourself, and appreciating those around you who love you the most. It’s also an excellent independent film that paved the way for many young weirdos to make their own movies. I’m exhausted, to be honest, but this research is imperative. Another 5 Hour Energy and Thai food delivery arrive to carry me through to the end.

Believability factor: 5 – While the friendship is real for sure, I just cannot get over the dead guy in the bathroom.


Dog Day Afternoon 3:00PM


As the day wears on and my hours of awakeness continue adding up, I think I might snap, which means I’m in the perfect mindset to dissect this cinematic opus. Tense from the start, we’re automatically thrust into Sonny’s haphazard and sinister plot. His execution of a simple bank robbery is so clumsy it’s embarrassing. No one takes him seriously, yet at the same time he gets major attention.  Here is a man at the end of his rapidly fraying rope. Every decision he makes winds up hurting someone that he loves because he lacks foresight. The film explores themes of anti-establishment, media sensationalism and even mental illness. Though Sonny believes he is in control of the situation, it is completely out of his hands. When the police fetch Sonny’s wife, a recently institutionalized pre-op transgender named Leon, Sonny inadvertently ignites a boisterous conversation about homosexuality in America. That’s pretty heavy stuff for 1975. A gripping story that is surely one of the decade’s finest cinematic achievements.

Believability factor: 10 – The film is loosely based on a true story. Plus, when people snap, this is exactly the kind of thing they do. I know because I watch a lot of Investigation Discovery.


Do The Right Thing, 5:15PM

It’s evening now and time to get serious. After that last picture, it’s pretty obvious that the heat can bring the worst out in people. The smoldering racial tensions of a Brooklyn neighborhood finally come to a head when, on the hottest day of the year, the haters just can’t play nice anymore. Unfortunately, the peaceful voices in the crowd are far overshadowed by the angry, vengeful ones as neighborhood stress reaches a tragic boiling point. Touted as one of the finest films and social commentary pieces ever produced, this story truly shows the power one day can make.


Believability factor: 10 - We’ve seen the power of an angry mob and we unfortunately continue to see the impact of small-mindedness and discrimination every day.


Can’t Hardly Wait 6:50PM


Like the cherry on the top of a long awaited sundae, I’m coasting into my 24th straight hour of movie watching with one of my high school faves. Ok, so here’s that huge high school party that I said never actually happens. Turns out, the whole movie is set at the party, but this time it works beautifully. Can’t Hardly Wait has all the elements of a perfect 24 hour film and teen movie: unrequited love, unsupervised teens and an expiration date. The last day of school is your last chance to finally say what you never could before. As the party rages on, we cross our fingers that Amanda notices Preston before it’s too late. The cast is chock-full of burgeoning stars, amusing repartee and regrettable fashion choices. Any movie named after a Replacements song is A-OK by me!

Believability factor: 6 – While the sentiments are definitely believable, I still don’t buy that party.


There are 1,440 minutes in a 24-hour period. I used 1,267 of mine to watch 12 movies whose stories take place all within 24 hours. Though bleary-eyed and longing for bed, I can still say the 24 hour film remains one of the most distinctive storytelling devices and, when executed well, it's still one of my favorites. If you had to plan a 24 hour movie marathon, which films would you include?