The 10 Best Mall Movies

Monday, September 14, 2009 at 11:58 pm
By Shane Rivers

Observe and Report starring Seth Rogen, Anna Faris and Ray Liotta will be hitting theaters on April 10th, and this inspired me to come up with a list of the 10 best mall movies ever made. While movies set almost entirely at a shopping mall were given greater consideration, I also included films featuring only one or two scenes in those massive temples to consumerism. Hopefully, this list inspires you to see some new movies, or at least to run down to the Gap and buy a new pair of jeans.

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Night of the Comet (1984) – Regina and Samantha Belmont are just a couple of run-of-the-mill teenage valley girls. But when the Earth passes through the tail of a comet and turns most of the survivors into zombie-like creatures, they’re forced to rely on survival skills learned from their Army officer father.

Apparently, part of the procedure for surviving the apocalypse is to go shopping, as the girls raid the local mall without having to worry about long lines. They set aside their Uzis and try on a dizzying array of designer dresses and fur coats as Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” blares in the background. But the fun comes to an end when they’re attacked by zombie employees demanding payment for the items they’ve taken. Girls, zombies, gunfights and the latest ‘80s fashions–how could this movie not make the list?

10 Best Mall MoviesTerminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) – They thought they’d stopped Skynet at the end of the first film, but those damned machines just won’t give up. In this blockbuster sequel, a newer model (played by Robert Patrick) is sent back through time to kill future resistance leader John Connor. But the good guys aren’t going down without a fight, and they send a reprogrammed Model 101 (Arnold Schwarzenegger) back to protect the teenager.

The first fight occurs at a Los Angeles mall. While the T-1000 skulks about dressed like a policeman, Arnold wears biker leathers and carries a box full of flowers (that doesn‘t sound the least bit gay). Like any teenage delinquent, Connor runs from the cop and ends up in the back corridors of the mall. Arnold arrives with only seconds to spare, revealing that he’s also got a shotgun hidden in that box. Sadly, the “Hey, you’re not supposed to be back here” guy doesn’t make it.

Back to the Future (1985) – In case you’ve forgotten, the parking lot of the Twin Pines Mall figures prominently into this time-traveling sci-fi tale. That’s where Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) meets up with Doc Brown and his modified DeLorean. After Libyan terrorists kill Doc, Marty jumps in the car and soon finds himself transported to 1955. When he returns at the end, Marty once again shows up at the mall (seemingly too late to save poor Doc). While they never quite make it inside, this still qualifies as one of the 10 best mall movies ever made.

The Blues Brother's (1980)The Blues Brothers (1980) – After attending a soulful church service (presided over by James Brown), Jake and Elwood Blues (John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd) decide to reform their R&B band and raise the $5,000 needed to save the Catholic orphanage where they grew up. But as they’re headed home to launch their scheme, Elwood’s less-than-subtle driving gets the notice of a pair of Illinois State Troopers (can‘t get enough of those cop cars from the ‘70s). The chase is on, and the high-speed pursuit quickly winds up inside a shopping mall.

The throwback brothers marvel at the size and convenience of the structure (“Lots of space in this mall.”); meanwhile, shoppers flee for their lives as stores are demolished all around them. Movies like Crank have also taken car chases into the mall, but this film was one of the first–and best–to do so.

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989) – The future of the planet depends on the music of the band Wyld Stallyns. Unfortunately, its two members, Ted “Theodore” Logan (Keanu Reeves) and Bill S. Preston, Esquire (Alex Winter), are in danger of failing high school history and being split up. To prevent this from happening, a dude named Rufus (George Carlin) travels from the future in a time machine disguised as a phone booth.

It’s not long before Bill and Ted get the idea to travel through time and enlist the aid of important historical figures. And what better way to introduce them to the modern world than by dropping them off at the mall? Before long, Joan of Arc hijacks an aerobics class, Mozart puts on an impromptu concert, Genghis Khan battles mall security, and Billy the Kid and Socrates try to put the moves on a couple of young women (until Sigmund Freud shows up and ruins the whole thing).

Looking back, it’s amazing to think that this film helped launch Keanu Reeves towards superstardom. Only a year later, he’d be starring alongside Patrick Swayze in Point Break. Somewhere, poor Alex Winter has to be banging his head against a wall.

Dawn of the Dead - Mall MovieDawn of the Dead (2004) – This Zack Snyder remake of the George Romero classic strips away much of the social commentary and opts for balls-to-the-wall action. That’s fine with me, and I personally prefer this film to the original. The majority of the movie takes place inside the Crossroads Shopping Mall as a desperate group of survivors try to fend off zombies and wait for a rescue which will never come. Bullets fly from their chambers in slow motion, the undead run like track stars, and a zombie baby is guaranteed to gross everybody out. The soundtrack is also a standout, featuring the apocalyptic “The Man Comes Around” by Johnny Cash and a lounge version of “Down with the Sickness.”

Police Story (1985) – Of all Jackie’s Chan’s action movies, this is the one which he lists as his best. It’s easy to see why, too, especially during the high-energy climax set inside a mall. While trying to protect a woman and her briefcase filled with valuable evidence, Chan uses escalators, clothes racks, and every other part of his surroundings. But this is no Steven Seagal movie, as Chan gets the hell beat out of him while facing multiple opponents, and the women in his life don’t fare any better. One scrappy Asian lady is thrown through a glass display case, while another is tossed down a flight of stairs. They must grow ‘em really tough in China.

Bad Santa Mall MovieBad Santa – Billy Bob Thornton plays a mall Santa who drinks like a fish and has a thing for anal sex with fat chicks. Every year, he and his dwarf friend, Marcus (Tony Cox), work a mall and then rob its safe filled with holiday profits. But this Christmas, the two thieves will have to face the combined suspicions of the mall manager (John Ritter) and the head of security (Bernie Mac).

If you wanna see a really messed-up mall movie, then grab a copy of Bad Santa around the holidays. It’s crude and rude, but still somehow manages to be touching by the closing moments of the film. Standout moments include Willie showing up for work drunk in his Santa suit and traumatizing the children, and Willie engaging in anal sex in the dressing room of the Women’s Big and Tall section.

Mallrats – This Kevin Smith movie has it all: sexual advice from Stan Lee, Magic Eye posters, a security guard patterned about a character from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and even Ben Affleck as a fashion-conscious villain. The film also marked the first major role for professional skateboarder-turned-actor Jason Lee.

Most of the movie centers around T.S. (Jeremy London) and Brodie (Lee) and their efforts to get back together with their recent ex-girlfriends. The action takes place at the local mall, and ever-present drug dealers Jay and Silent Bob lend some of the more surreal moments to the film (such as when Silent Bob dons a Batman costume and unsuccessfully attempts to glide). If you’ve ever been young–and this applies to most if us–then you owe it to yourself to see this comic gem.

Dawn of the Dead (1978) – It may not look as good as the 2004 remake, but this George A. Romero classic is still the best mall movie ever made. As the zombie apocalypse begins to intensify, three men and one woman seek shelter in the Monroeville Mall. Things are pretty good at first, and their every whim as consumers can be satisfied at a moment’s notice. But nothing lasts forever, and an eventual biker attack brings an unpleasant end to their self-contained utopia.

A great deal of attention is paid to the message of consumerism run rampant, and numerous shots are dedicated to wide-eyed zombies desperately trying to reach human beings and material goods alike. The ideas discussed in the film are still relevant today, and that’s why Romero’s apocalyptic masterpiece continues to be talked about and emulated. That, and the fact that zombie brains get splattered everywhere, and unlucky victims get eaten alive by the undead.