5 Movies to See After You Watch ‘The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies’

By  · Published on December 19th, 2014

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.

This week’s edition of Movies to See is shorter than usual. I figure it’s the holiday season, we’re all busy with shopping and spending time with family. Also, if you’ve just watched The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, you’ve already used up a good amount of your precious December hours staring at the hobbits, dwarves, trolls, elves, orcs, wizards and a dragon all fighting each other over a mountain full of riches.

And that’s it. There’s not much more to the third part of Peter Jackson’s overlong “The Hobbit” adaptation besides the titular battle of five armies over a ginormous treasure. There’s not a lot I can do with that here. So, I’ve limited the recommendations to as many movies as there are armies in the film at hand. And they’re all pretty much various on the same theme.

It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963)

The prime example of an epic comedy, this star-studded classic is actually longer than any of the three Hobbit installments by themselves (depending on which cut you have – and that goes for this movie, too). Various teams of treasure hunters are formed after five men help an ex-con who’s been in an accident, and just before he dies he tells them each where to find a huge stash of money. The next couple hours consists of them all racing to the site in hilarious fashion. Along the way we get Buster Keaton AND the Three Stooges, Don Knotts AND Norman Fell, Sid Caesar AND Milton Berle, Ethel Merman AND Edie Adams, Jimmy Durante AND Spencer Tracy AND Peter Falk and many, many, many, many more.

McKenna’s Gold (1969)

You can’t not have a Western version of this premise, because lost treasure is all about the wild frontier. And pirates, of course, and I’m sure I’m forgetting a great example of a pirate movie where there are multiple parties after the same booty, but also the Old West. In this one, Gregory Peck gets his hands on a map to a legendary canyon full of gold, but before he can get to it by himself he’s ambushed by Omar Sharif and his band of outlaws who want him to lead them to the fortune. As the movie goes on, more and more characters join in the journey, including parts played by Eli Wallach, Edward G. Robinson, Lee J. Cobb and Burgess Meredith, and eventually it’s every man for himself when the surviving members of the search party find the goods. But there are also Indians and Apache spirits and a cavalry led by Telly Savalas in the mix.

Scavenger Hunt (1979)

Every generation should have its own knock-off of It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, even if – especially if – they’re not that good because then they’ll better appreciate the original when they later see it. I know people who loved Rat Race growing up, but that was too late for me. Instead, I had a combination of Midnight Madness and this dumb but harmless ensemble comedy, both of them consisting of five teams on a scavenger hunt (and both of them featuring Stephen Furst). Midnight Madness is disqualified from this list due to its lack of a huge financial MacGuffin. Plus, Scavenger Hunt has a better cast, including Ruth Gordon, Cloris Leachman, Cleavon Little, Richard Mulligan, Richard Benjamin, Vincent Price, Roddy McDowall, and Arnold Schwarzenegger in an early cameo role. It’s not great, and I actually think they should remake it, because I don’t think the present generation has had their take on this premise yet – I’m not counting The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, because it’s not silly enough.

Hands on a Hardbody (1997)

For my obligatory documentary selection, here’s a film about a true treasure being fought for by multiple parties. That treasure is a pick-up truck, and those parties are not so much battling as competing in a contest of patients and stamina. There are 24 individuals at play, each of whom tries to keep a hand on the hard-bodied vehicle longer than anyone else can. The last one standing and touching the truck wins it. The doc has been turned into a stage musical with songs co-written by Trey Anastasio of Phish. It was also going to be adapted for a narrative feature by Robert Altman, who was in pre-production on the project at the time of his death. Maybe one day Paul Thomas Anderson will follow his idol’s lead and make it happen.

Princess Mononoke (1997)

In this animated feature by Hayao Miyazaki, the treasure is a forest, and for some of the parties at play that’s land that can translate to a lot of money if they can clear it. Those would be the human locals, who want to mine the area for iron. They’re opposed by the various animals and gods and spirits who dwell in the forest, of course. Then there’s also a mercenary who is after, not the forest, but the forest spirit. It’s head, really. As should always be the case, do seek out the subtitled version. Billy Bob Thornton should not be voicing Japanese animated film characters.

Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.