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The Best Movies Where Nothing Really Happens

Updated April 3, 2020 141.9k votes 26.0k voters 1.1m views28 items

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It’s not like absolutely nothing happens in these movies; it's just that there are no big displays of action, obvious plots, gut-wrenching excitement, or character arcs that seem larger than life. These movies (most of them independent films) feature no discernable story or plot points, but rather offer a more abstract approach to filmmaking. So, even though the meaning may not be obvious, you may enjoy them because it's all about the feel of it, right? Right. These are the best movies where nothing may happen, but they will entertain you anyway. 

Most theatrical releases feature at least one main plot that drives the narrative forward to achieve a single goal. Every scene, bit of dialogue, and character is placed to progress towards the movie's climax and subsequent ending. That goal may be to find the gold, win the big game, solve the case, make it off the island, finish the musical to a standing ovation, or save the day.

However, there is a small set of films, usually independent, that defy this formulaic Hollywood structure. The films on this list are not defined by one single plotline or result that achieves a singular goal. They are not interested in the same generic stories shown repeatedly in cinema. Rather, this list is full of movies that examine abstract concepts, such as exploration of the human condition or the deconstruction of complicated interpersonal relationships. 

Even though several movies on this list are critically acclaimed films, they did not see the big box office grosses of blockbuster hits despite all the awards and positive buzz. So, how does a film with so much hype under-perform in theaters? It's simple - there's not enough meat to bring in large audiences. There are no major catastrophes, there is no case to solve, and there is no evil villain. Many indie films are made for audiences that appreciate depth over destruction.

This list represents the best movies where high-octane effects aren't necessary. The moviegoers that enjoy these flicks instead look for the inspiration, the underdog's storyline, and the representations of real life. These movies are relatable and reflect deeper experiences outside of the action-packed Hollywood format. 

Upvote the best movies in which nothing happens below and start the discussion about these films' themes and ideas in the comments section.

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  • This 1993 coming-of-age comedy is set in 1976 and follows a group of Texas teenagers on their last day of school. There is some hazing, smoking (and not just cigs), and a ton of drinking. The film is a simple day-in-the-life tale of high school students celebrating the start of summer. And yes, "it would be a lot cooler if you did."

    • Directed by: Richard Linklater
    • Actors: Ben Affleck, Milla Jovovich, Matthew McConaughey, Renée Zellweger, Parker Posey
    • Released: 1993
    11,833
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  • There are plenty of pointless debates about Star Wars and career goals between a minimum wage worker and his friends. They stream in and out of the Quick Stop convenience store where character Dante works throughout the day.

    Kevin Smith's black and white, uber-low budget comedy has no plot, but its familiar dialogue makes you feel like your part of the clique in the movie. 

    • Directed by: Kevin Smith
    • Actors: Kevin Smith, Jason Mewes, Scott Mosier, Brian O'Halloran, Walt Flanagan
    • Released: 1994
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  • Sure, there is a bank robbery gone wrong, but it's not the kind a big-budget action scene that features a high-speed chase after the heist. Rather, Quentin Tarantino's first successful feature film is a classic because of the banality of various scenes. This includes the point at which the wiseguys sit around and discuss the dos and don'ts of restaurant tipping. They also espouse the virtues of Madonna's hit song "Like A Virgin." 

    Fans can't forget Mr. Blonde's take on the pop song's meaning: "It's about a girl who is very vulnerable. She's been f*cked over a few times. Then she meets some guy who's really sensitive."

    • Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
    • Actors: Quentin Tarantino, Steve Buscemi, Tim Roth, Harvey Keitel, Michael Madsen
    • Released: 1992
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    2,660
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  • George Lucas is best known for the Star Wars franchise. However, before Ewoks and Luke Skywalker, Lucas gave the world American Graffiti. This comedy follows a group of bored teenagers hanging out - and it revered as brilliant.

    It infuses a sense of nostalgia and takes audiences back to a time when it was socially acceptable to hang out at the diner all night, cruise the strip, and listen to great tunes. 

    • Directed by: George Lucas
    • Actors: Harrison Ford, Ron Howard, Suzanne Somers, Richard Dreyfuss, Mackenzie Phillips
    • Released: 1973
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