On Easter Sunday, many people watch the old religious film favorites. Just look at today’s TCM schedule to see the epic staples programmed, like King of Kings, The Robe, The Greatest Story Ever Told and Ben-Hur (which Neil highlighted for Scenes We Love last year). They’re also showing the obviously appropriate musical Easter Parade. But there are a lot of other movies that aren’t recognized enough for either being Easter movies or including memorable Easter scenes. Did you know Altman’s Cookies Fortune takes place over Easter weekend? And major events happen on the holiday in such films as Chocolat, Steel Magnolias and Resnais’s The War is Over. Quite suitably, Charlton Heston’s first movie, Dark City, opens with him carrying a gift box with an Easter bunny inside.
Six other movies selected here are rarely thought of as Easter movies, if they’re thought of at all. Consider them like hidden eggs ready to be discovered or re-discovered. They’re personal favorites, and we’d like to share them on this holiday to be enjoyed along with your Peeps and jelly beans.
Crites Kill the Easter Bunny in Critters 2: The Main Course
With the first Critters movie ending with a shot of Crite eggs, the sequel just had to be plotted around Easter. Not that it makes sense for anyone to find a batch of strangely textured, almost reptilian eggs in a barn and just mix them in for small kids to paint on Easter morning. After one of them breaks open, revealing an oozy inside that will keep you away from Cadbury creme for a while, a new alien hedgehog is born. And he immediately attacks a man wearing an Easter Bunny suit, chomping away at his manhood first and ultimately causing him to smash through a church window during mass. Even though not originally a copycat of the more famous little monsters movie, the Critters franchise took to Easter as Gremlins did Christmas.
Jay and Silent Bob Attack the Easter Bunny in Mallrats
Kevin Smith’s sophomore effort takes places two days before Easter (and one day before Clerks, which places that film on Easter weekend as well). There’s not much to this, story-wise, but it’s appropriate for a movie set in a mall about much of the mall experience to have some equivalent of a mall Santa. Timing Mallrats around Christmas would likely have been too distracting, so a mall Easter Bunny is the next best thing. Also, as we’d already seen in Critters it’s funny seeing the Easter Bunny get it, whether by the teeth of a nasty alien or the hands of some nutty drug dealers.
Dinner at the Halls in Annie Hall
This is one of the most famous scenes in Woody Allen’s most beloved film, but how many people remember that it’s set on Easter? That’s the occasion for which Alvy accompanies Annie home to Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, to meet her family. They’re very WASP-y, which is a major contrast to his Jewish identity, especially when Grammy Hall is picturing him as an orthodox Hasidic rabbi complete with hat, beard and payot (see Soul Man for one movie influenced by this bit), and even more directly when we get a glimpse of his family’s holiday dinners. The best part of this Easter evening, though, is Christopher Walken and his suicidal confession. But the ham dinner is far more relevant, so watch that below. And then watch the Walken bit here if you must (of course you really must).
Shipping Off On Easter in 1969
Ernest Thompson’s nostalgic film set in the most nostalgic-iest years is not that great, even if you really want it to be since it stars Robert Downey, Jr., Kiefer Sutherland and Winona Ryder on the road to Canada to dodge the draft. But it’s a guilty pleasure from youth (the days of hard crushing on Winona), and it opens during Easter with Downey and Sutherland hitchhiking their way back home from college in time to interrupt an outdoor mass. Later in the day, Sutherland’s character’s brother, Alden, is taken to the bus station to ship off to Vietnam and everyone goes with him except for his mother, obviously too scared to say goodbye since it may be the last time. What follows is kind of cheesy but it’s still really wonderful and heartbreaking. Alden spots his mother jogging from the window of the bus, and she waves to him. The bus stops. He gets out. They say their goodbyes with distance and noise between them, and she shouts, “Don’t die!”
Introduction at the Police Station in Rebel Without a Cause
How many of you are aware or recall that this movie opens on Easter? Technically, it’s the day after since it’s after midnight, but it’s still basically Easter night. Many have written on the relevance, that Rebel Without a Cause deals in themes of resurrection and rebirth and crucifixion. Regardless of the significance of the holiday, it’s a terrific sequence and start to a classic drama. We’re introduced to the three main teenage characters, all of whom have been brought into the police station. We can only share a bit of the sequence, the scene after Jim’s parents arrive and the kid tries to explain his family life to Officer Ray. It’s got the famous line, “You’re tearing me apart!”
“My Name is Anthony Gonsalves” in Amar Akbar Anthony
If you’ve never seen a proper Bollywood movie, this is the best to start with. Like many Indian classics of the period, it tells an overly metaphoric story representing the identity of the nation. Three young brothers are left at the base of a Gandhi statue and wind up separated, each adopted by someone following a different one of the country’s three major religions. Mega-star Amitabh Bachchan plays Anthony, the brother raised Christian, and there’s nothing more blatant about this distinction than having him pop out of a giant Easter egg. He then sings a song (the vocals are by playback singer Kishore Kumar), and you can join in for the opening English lyrics: “You see, the whole country of the system is juxtapositioned by the haemoglobin in the atmosphere because you are a sophisticated rhetorician intoxicated by the exuberance of your own verbosity.” If you don’t love or at least want to learn to love Bollywood after this, you never will.