15 Essential Midnight Movies Every Film Fan Needs to See

Alejandro Jodorowsky and David Silva in El Topo (1970)
Alejandro Jodorowsky and David Silva in El Topo (1970)
Anchor Bay Entertainment

In the early 1970s, a new kind of moviegoing experience began to evolve in American repertory theaters, beginning in New York and eventually growing into a nationwide phenomenon: the midnight movie. Yes, people were watching movies at midnight well before then, and we certainly watch them from the comfort of our homes late into the night even now, but this wasn’t just about the time of night. It was about the experience of seeing something you wouldn’t find during a prime theatrical matinee or evening slot. This was a place for movies that fell between the cracks, because they were too strange or too campy or too experimental. So they were sent out into the night, and there they found their audiences.

Though movie theaters have changed a lot since then, along with our own attitudes about going to the movies, the midnight movie remains a particular kind of genre of misfits. No single midnight movie is like any other one, and each presents a unique theatrical experience. Some are horrifying, others are hilarious; some are defined by audience participation and others by intense critical study. As legendary distributor, programmer, and midnight movie pioneer Ben Barenholtz once put it: “You can’t make a midnight movie; the audiences make a midnight movie.”

In celebration of those films that were made into late-night legends by their audiences, here are 15 essential midnight movies.

1. EL TOPO (1970)

El Topo, Alexandro Jodorowsky’s bizarre “acid Western” full of unforgettable imagery and love-it-or-hate-it storytelling, is generally accepted to be the first “midnight movie” as we now define it: a film curiosity that’s not for everyone, which you have to go out in the dead of night to discover. It got this reputation not out of some weird copyright loophole or from being hidden away for decades, but from one theater owner’s fascination with it. After he saw a special screening of the film, Ben Barenholtz asked if he could begin running El Topo at New York’s now-legendary Elgin Theater (now the Joyce Theater). Barenholtz showed the film at midnight on weekdays and at 1 a.m. on weekends, and people (including John Lennon, who was a fan) started showing up in droves to see what all the fuss was about.

"By the end of the first week, we were selling out every seat in the theater—600 seats—every night and it lasted more than a year," Barenholtz told The New York Times.

It was the sense of discovering the film, and of being in on something that other, perhaps more “normal,” theatergoers simply didn’t get, that helped drive the interest in El Topo, and continued to drive the midnight movie business for decades.

2. THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (1975)

The Rocky Horror Picture Show is without question one of the most famous midnight movies in the world, not just because of the content of the film itself, but because of how the audience reacts to it. For more than 40 years now fans have arrived at midnight showings in costume, ready to shout at the screen, sing along, and use props. It’s a unique theatrical experience, and it’s one that initially grew out of boredom. The film’s famous midnight movie audience participation screenings began in places like the Waverly Theater in New York City in the mid-1970s. In 1977, Brian Thomson—the film's set designer—stopped by the theater to see what all the fuss was about.

“We thought it was pretty boring, and we thought if we yelled back [it would be more fun],” moviegoers told Thomson.

Another member of the Rocky Horror production team also stopped by the Waverly at some point during this period: Tim Curry, who was apparently kicked out of the theater at one point when staff believed him to be an “impostor.”

3. FREAKS (1932)

After releasing Dracula at Universal and helping to launch the talkie horror genre in 1931, director Tod Browning returned to Metro Goldwyn Mayer and started work on a pet project of his: a revenge tale about sideshow performers. Irving Thalberg, MGM’s head of production, hoped the film would be more horrifying than even Dracula, and Browning pushed the envelope as much as he could, including famously casting real deformed sideshow performers in the film. While not nearly as lurid to 2018 eyes as its reputation would have you believe, Freaks was savaged by critics and shunned by most audiences in 1932. Then, a 1962 Cannes Film Festival revival screening renewed interest in the film, and the counterculture of the 1960s helped drive it to the midnight movie circuit, where it became a cult classic in the 1970s and 1980s.

4. NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968)

When Night of the Living Dead first arrived in the late 1960s, it immediately gained some degree of infamy not for being shown at midnight, but for being shown in the middle of the afternoon. The film’s initial release came before the MPAA rating system, and at the time horror films were often shown as matinees to attract young audiences, but Night of the Living Dead’s brutal content was seen as far too extreme for young children who could in those days simply walk up to the box office and buy a ticket for anything. Critics including Roger Ebert (who liked the film itself) warned theater owners to steer clear of allowing children to see the film, which only enhanced its reputation among thrill-seekers. Because a copyright notice was missing from the title card upon release, the film also fell into the public domain, which made it a staple of the midnight movie circuit. Throw in a couple of key long-term engagements at places like New York City's Walter Reade Theater, and an icon was born.

5. PINK FLAMINGOS (1972)

If Freaks is a film with a shocking reputation that perhaps doesn’t shock modern audiences as much as it did upon its release, then Pink Flamingos is a film that shocks just as much now as it did in 1972. John Waters’s self-proclaimed “exercise in poor taste,” which centers on a competition to determine the most disgusting person in the world, wasn’t just made to shock you. It was made to threaten, to dare, and to challenge, and it did so in what remains an almost impossibly fascinating way. Ben Barenholtz thought so, too. And after he hit big with midnight showings of El Topo, he chose Pink Flamingos to be its successor in the late night slot at the Elgin. More than 40 years later, even as more moviegoers are watching it at home, it remains a unique theatrical audience experience.

6. ERASERHEAD (1977)

David Lynch’s imaginative, disturbing, and intensely compelling feature film debut is one of the most fully realized arrivals of a filmmaking voice you’re ever likely to see. And while it likely never would have caught on with a mainstream audience, the midnight movie circuit made it a fast cult classic. Once again, we can thank Barenholtz for this, who by the late 1970s was the head of film distribution company Libra Films. After seeing Eraserhead’s premiere at the Filmex festival in Los Angeles, Barenholtz convinced L.A.’s Cinema Village to begin running it at midnight. After success in Los Angeles, Eraserhead began migrating to midnight shows in other major cities, including New York and San Francisco, and it caught on with moviegoers and famous filmmakers alike. Stanley Kubrick considered it one of his favorite films; George Lucas loved it so much that he asked Lynch to make the film that would become Return of the Jedi; and Mel Brooks admired the movie—and Lynch—to the point that he hired Lynch to direct his 1980 production of The Elephant Man.

7. THE WARRIORS (1979)

Walter Hill’s now-legendary action movie about a Coney Island gang trying to get through one hellish night in New York City after being framed for the murder of another gang leader first gained notoriety, ironically enough, for gang violence breaking out at early screenings. It caused a problem early on, but its reputation has only improved in the years since, and The Warriors found life beyond that initial theatrical run as a midnight and repertory cinema staple. Looking back on the film in 2014, Hill summed up his own views on why the film endured in an interview with Esquire:

“It's probably not as apparent now, as half of today's movies are fantastical, but I think the most unusual thing about the film was the fact that it didn't present the gang and gang structure as a social problem. It presented it as simply a fact, the way things are, and not necessarily negative. It presented them from their point of view. Up until then, I think all of the movies had been more like, 'Let's look at the situation and figure out why these people are not turning out to be doctors and lawyers and dentists.' This was a movie that accepted their values and essentially understood that a street gang was a defensive organization rather than an offensive one. It didn't preach to them about middle-class values. And I think that's what made the movie unique. When you look at the movie, it's more like a musical than some grimly realistic thing.”

8. THE EVIL DEAD (1981)

Made on a shoestring budget by director Sam Raimi and producer Robert Tapert, The Evil Dead is a film that built its cult status at least somewhat gradually. After arriving in theaters to box office success, the film started to gain a word-of-mouth reputation, and its cabin-in-the-woods horror vibe made it perfect midnight movie fodder from the beginning. This, coupled with the film’s reputation as a “video nasty” as the era of VHS rentals dawned—it was not legally available on video in the U.K. for nearly 20 years after its initial home release—helped inspire a kind of infamy that’s only bolstered by the film’s manic, often comic tone (something the sequel, Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn, would embrace fully). Then, the film was successful enough to get a sequel with a higher budget, Evil Dead II, that was essentially a comedy-horror remake of the first film, which drove fans back to the original once again. Even now, when the film has inspired three films (including one remake), a Starz TV series, comic books, and more, The Evil Dead stands as the original, and therefore an essential piece of horror viewing. It might be viewed at home more than the theater now, but that’s the kind of status films tend to hold onto.

9. THE ADVENTURES OF PRISCILLA, QUEEN OF THE DESERT (1994)

The Rocky Horror Picture Show helped to establish an enduring foothold on the midnight movies circuit for films that relish camp, blur the lines of sexuality, and celebrate queerness, and by the time the 1990s rolled around Rocky Horror was joined by films like The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. The story of two drag queens (Hugo Weaving and Guy Pearce) and one trans woman (Terence Stamp) who head out across Australia on a battered tour bus to perform a drag show at a casino, the film is both an intimate portrayal of LGBTQ characters and a glitzy celebration of Australia, with a killer soundtrack headlined by ABBA and Gloria Gaynor to make everything extra entertaining. The film was a surprise worldwide hit, spawned a stage musical, and remains one of the most important landmarks in both LGBTQ and Australian cinema, but it’s also the perfect film to see at midnight so you can sing along to “I Will Survive” with everyone else in the theater.

10. THE HARDER THEY COME (1972)

The Harder They Come was the first major Jamaican feature film, and it was such an instant hit in its home country that star Jimmy Cliff could barely make his way to the theater where it premiered because of the crowds. In the United States, though, the film took a little longer to catch on. The crime drama about a young songwriter (Cliff) trying to find work was picked up for U.S. distribution by Roger Corman’s New World Pictures, and while it was not an instant box office success here, it began to gain traction on the repertory circuit. It became one of the film’s that followed El Topo in the Elgin Theater’s midnight slot, and it enjoyed similarly successful midnight runs around the country in the years that followed. What’s perhaps most interesting about the film though is that for all its cult status as a work of art on its own, its soundtrack was an even more influential release. An essential sampler of reggae sounds, The Harder They Come’s soundtrack album helped popularize the genre in America, to the point that film critic and essayist Danny Peary observed that many people bought and enjoyed the album without ever even seeing the movie.

11. THE ROOM (2003)

By far the most famous midnight movie of the 21st century so far, The Room is a film so bad that you can’t help but be compelled by it—whether you think it’s a secret masterpiece or you’re just dumbfounded for its entire runtime. It’s also a rare midnight movie that’s become a cult phenomenon with the direct participation of its creator: director, writer, and star Tommy Wiseau. Wiseau initially distributed The Room himself, for a two-week run at two theaters in Los Angeles. During that run, a screenwriter named Michael Rousselet wandered into a completely empty theater to see the film, and was so taken with its unique brand of disastrous intensity that he was calling friends to come see it with him again even before the credits rolled. Over the next three days, Rousselet claims he got “over 100 people” to see The Room, and many of them in turn emailed Wiseau to tell him how much they enjoyed it.

"That’s when I say, ‘Let’s just show The Room once a month, midnight screening,”’ Wiseau told Entertainment Weekly.

Since then, those midnight screenings have taken place nationwide, often with Wiseau in attendance, and have included audience participation that ranges from yelling at the screen to throwing plastic spoons. The film gained a new level of cult status in 2017 when James Franco released The Disaster Artist, a film dramatizing the making of The Room produced with Wiseau’s blessing and participation.

12. PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE (1959)

Plan 9 from Outer Space has the infamous distinction of being branded the “Worst Film of All Time” in Harry and Michael Medved’s book The Golden Turkey Awards, and audiences and critics alike have spent the nearly 40 years since the book’s 1980 publication finding ways to refute that reputation. Yes, Plan 9 From Outer Space is undoubtedly bad, but is it really “the worst”? Surely a film would have to be far more boring and unwatchable than Edward D. Wood Jr.’s legendary film about aliens resurrecting dead humans—among them Bela Lugosi, in his last film role (he was famously replaced in some shots by Wood’s wife’s chiropractor with a cape over his face)—with its endlessly quotable dialogue, repeated shots, and hilarious continuity shifts. Whether the film is really “the worst” or not, fans keep flocking to it, either to prove the film is better than its reputation or to simply be able to boast that they’ve seen it, and so the film has become a midnight movie staple, but also something more. With such an infamous distinction, Plan 9 From Outer Space was always bound to be the subject of greater scrutiny, and some critics have reappraised Wood’s film as far smarter and more subversive than the director himself was ever given credit for in his lifetime. Here’s Danny Peary on the importance of the scene in which the alien Eros (Dudley Manlove) brands humanity as stupid:

“Don’t let the fact that Eros is a maniac throw you off—at rare moments, he is as sound a visionary as is Preacher Casey in The Grapes of Wrath (1940). Wood just had to make Eros crazy to camouflage his political message so that he wouldn’t have trouble with censors. I believe that in this one scene (in the spaceship), in this one godawful, terribly made, poor excuse for a picture, Edward D. Wood is more critical of America’s government and military strategy (that calls for an arms buildup and further nuclear experiments) than any other director dared to be.”

13. REEFER MADNESS (1936)

Originally released as a propaganda film titled Tell Your Children, meant to frighten parents and families with a depiction of the supposed dangers of marijuana, Reefer Madness began its life as a cult film soon after it was released, when legendary exploitation cinema figure Dwain Esper recut and retitled it. Esper’s effort had some success, but then the film went dormant until the early 1970s, when a man named Keith Stroup bought a print for less than $300. Stroup was the founder of a group called NORML (National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws), and began showing his refurbished cut of Reefer Madness at pro-pot events to raise money for NORML’s lobbying efforts. It became a massive midnight movie hit thanks to its campiness, salacious themes, and the sense that the people who made it really had no idea what marijuana was or how it affected the user. So, a film meant to scare people away from pot became a midnight movie hit and a cult classic because of potheads.

14. ENTER THE DRAGON (1973)

Bruce Lee’s first major American film (he died shortly before its U.S. release, so never saw its success) is revered as one of the greatest martial arts films ever made, and was a massive hit upon its release in the summer of 1973. As such, it doesn’t have the “so bad it’s good” or “so weird you have to see it” reputation of so many other essential midnight movies. It’s just a fantastic kung fu film that’s fun to see at midnight. What it does have, though, is a place as a key influencer of later 1970s exploitation cinema. When Enter the Dragon became a hit, distributors began recutting and redubbing all manner of martial arts films for American audiences, creating an influx of cheap Chopsocky and Chopsocky-esque films that often featured Bruce Lee clones with names like “Bruce Li” or “Bruce Le.” So we got a whole generation of a certain kind of midnight movie because of Enter the Dragon’s success, and even if you don’t like those films, you can still always go back to the original and Lee’s legendary “emotional content.”

15. HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH (2001)

Though it does not have the same midnight movie reputation as many of the other entries on this list, and it exists at a time when many films can simply be enjoyed from the comfort of one’s couch, Hedwig and the Angry Inch is still a kind of spiritual successor to both Rocky Horror and Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Like the former, it’s the kind of film that encourages costumes, quote-alongs, and sing-alongs (at one point during the musical number “Wig in a Box,” the film itself practically demands it), and like the latter, it’s an intimate, funny, and moving celebration of its LGBTQ characters. The film began its life as a musical, and has since had renewed, Tony Award-winning success on the stage, but creator John Cameron Mitchell’s screen version still resonates, and is still begging to be seen with an audience. If you’re a Hed-head, it’s hard to imagine a better feeling than going to this movie at midnight and, two hours later, belting out “Midnight Radio” with everyone else in the theater. If Hedwig and the Angry Inch isn’t already an essential midnight movie, then we should be fighting to make it one.

Additional Sources:
Cult Midnight Movies by Danny Peary (2014)
The Rocky Horror Double Feature Video Show
Cultographies: The Evil Dead by Kate Egan (2011)

10 Clever Moments of TV Foreshadowing You Might Have Missed

Gene Page, AMC
Gene Page, AMC

Spoiler alert! Sometimes TV shows shock their audiences with mind-blowing twists and surprises, but the writers are often clever enough to foreshadow these events with very subtle references. Here are 10 of them.

**Many spoilers ahead.**

1. The Walking Dead

During season five of The Walking Dead, Glenn (Steven Yeun) picks up a baseball bat a few times in the Alexandria Safe-Zone. He was also almost killed by one at Terminus at the beginning of the season. Two seasons later, Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) brutally kills Glenn with his barbed-wire baseball bat (a.k.a. Lucille) during the season seven premiere.

2. Breaking Bad

In Breaking Bad's second season finale, a Boeing 737 crashes over Albuquerque, New Mexico. While the event was hinted at throughout the season during the black-and-white teasers at the beginning of each episode, the titles of certain episodes predicted the crash altogether. The titles “Seven Thirty-Seven,” “Down,” “Over,” and “ABQ” spell out the phrase “737 Down Over ABQ,” which is the airport code for the Albuquerque International Sunport.

3. Game Of Thrones

In “The Mountain and the Viper,” a season 4 episode of Game of Thrones, Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish (Aidan Gillen) tells his stepson, Robin Arryn (Lino Facioli), “People die at their dinner tables. They die in their beds. They die squatting over their chamber pots. Everybody dies sooner or later. And don’t worry about your death. Worry about your life. Take charge of your life for as long as it lasts.”

Throughout that same season, viewers see King Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson) die at a dinner table during his wedding and watch Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) strangle his former lover, Shae (Sibel Kekilli), in bed, before killing his father, Tywin (Charles Dance), while he’s sitting on a toilet.

4. Arrested Development

Throughout seasons 1 and 2 of Arrested Development, there are a number of references that foretell Buster Bluth (Tony Hale) losing his hand. In “Out on a Limb,” Buster is sitting on a bus stop bench with an ad for Army Officers, but the way he’s sitting hides most of the ad, so it reads “Arm Off” instead. Earlier in season 2, Buster says “Wow, I never thought I’d miss a hand so much,” when he sees his long lost hand-shaped chair in his housekeeper’s home.

5. Buffy The Vampire Slayer

In season 4 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Willow (Alyson Hannigan) comes out as gay and begins a relationship with Tara (Amber Benson). However, in the episode “Doppelgangland” in season 3, a vampire version of Willow appears after a spell is accidentally cast. After Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and Angel (David Boreanaz) capture the vampire Willow, the real Willow takes a look at her vampire-self and comments, "That's me as a vampire? I'm so evil and skanky. And I think I'm kinda gay!"

6. Futurama

In the very first episode of Futurama, "Space Pilot 3000," Fry (Billy West) is accidentally frozen and wakes up 1000 years later. Just before he falls into the cryotube, in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment, you can see a small shadowy figure under a desk in the Applied Cryogenics office. In the season four episode “The Why of Fry,” it was revealed that Nibbler (Frank Welker) was hiding in the shadows. He planned to freeze Fry in the past, so that he could save the universe in the future. According to co-creator Matt Groening, “What we tried to do is we tried to lay in a lot of little secrets in this episode that would pay off later.”

7. American Horror Story: Coven

American Horror Story: Coven follows a coven of witches in Salem, Massachusetts. When Fiona (Jessica Lange), the leader of the witches, is stricken with cancer, she believes a new witch who can wield the Seven Powers will come and take her place. Fiona then begins to kill every witch she believes will take her place until the new Supreme reveals herself.

During the opening credits of each episode in season 3, Sarah Paulson’s title card appears with the Mexican female deity Santa Muerte (Holy Death), the Lady of the Seven Wonders. And as it turned out, Paulson’s character, Cordelia, became the new Supreme witch at the end of the season.

8. Mad Men

At the end of Mad Men's fifth season, ad agency partner Lane Pryce (Jared Harris) committed suicide by hanging himself in his office. While it was a shock to the audience, the show's writers hinted at his death throughout the entire season.

In the season 5 premiere, Lane jokes "I'll be here for the rest of my life!" while he’s on the telephone in his office. Later, in episode five, Don Draper doodles a noose during a meeting, while Lane wears a scarf around his neck in a bar to support his soccer club. Early in episode 12, Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) mentions that the agency’s life insurance policy still pays out, even in the event of a suicide.

9. How I Met Your Mother

In How I Met Your Mother's season 6 episode, “Bad News,” Marshall (Jason Segel) and Lily (Alyson Hannigan) are waiting for test results that will tell them whether or not they can have children. While we’re led to believe the title of the episode reflects their test results, it actually refers to the news that Marshall’s father, Marvin Eriksen Sr. (Bill Fagerbakke), had passed away after suffering a heart attack.

Keen-eyed viewers knew this news already because the writers of How I Met Your Mother foreshadowed the death two seasons earlier in the episode “The Fight.” At the beginning of the episode, Marshall said that lightsaber technology is real and will be on the market in about three to five years from now. By the end of the episode, a flash forward reveals what Thanksgiving looks like at the Eriksen family’s home in Minnesota; Marshall’s father is not shown or referenced during the holiday meal.

10. True Detective

During season 1 of True Detective, detectives Rust Cohle and Marty Hart are trying to solve a murder investigation, as they try to identify the mysterious “Yellow King.” The color yellow is used when the detectives are on the right track, but the detectives already met the killer in episode three, "The Locked Room."

When the pair went to the Light of the Way Academy, posted on the school’s sign was a very clever hidden message that read “Notice King,” which pointed to the school's groundskeeper as the killer.

This article has been updated for 2019.

15 Surprising Facts About David Tennant

Colin Hutton, BBC America
Colin Hutton, BBC America

Though he’s most often linked to his role as the Tenth Doctor on the legendary sci-fi series Doctor Who, David Tennant is much more than that, as audiences around the world are beginning to discover. Born David John McDonald in West Lothian, Scotland on April 18, 1971, the man who would become David Tennant has spent the past 30-plus years carving out a very particular niche for himself—both on the stage and screen in England and, increasingly more, as a Hollywood staple. To celebrate the Good Omens's star's birthday, here are 15 things you might not know about David Tennant.

1. He took his name from the Pet Shop Boys.

As a teenager, the budding actor learned that because there was already a David McDonald in the actors’ union, he needed to come up with an alternate moniker to pursue a professional acting career. Right around the same time, he read an interview in Smash Hits with Neil Tennant, lead vocalist for the Pet Shop Boys, and "David Tennant" was born.

Today, he legally is David Tennant. “I am now actually Tennant—have been for a few years,” he said in 2013. “It was an issue with the Screen Actors' Guild in the U.S., who wouldn't let me keep my stage name unless it was my legal name. Faced with the prospect of working under two different names on either side of the globe, I had to take the plunge and rename myself! So although I always liked the name, I'm now more intimately associated with it than I had ever imagined. Thank you, Neil Tennant.”

2. He became an actor with the specific goal of starring in Doctor Who.

While a lot of young kids dream of growing up to become astronauts or professional athletes, Tennant set his own career goal at the tender age of three: to star on Doctor Who. It was Tom Baker’s version of The Doctor in particular that inspired Tennant to become an actor. He carried around a Doctor Who doll and wrote Who-inspired essays at school. "Doctor Who was a massive influence," Tennant told Rolling Stone. "I think it was for everyone in my generation; growing up, it was just part of the cultural furniture in Britain in the '70s and '80s.”

On April 16, 2004, just two days before his 34th birthday, Tennant achieved that goal when he was officially named The Tenth Doctor, taking over for Christopher Eccleston. “I am delighted, excited, and honored to be the Tenth Doctor,” Tennant said at the time. “I grew up loving Doctor Who and it has been a lifelong dream to get my very own TARDIS.”

3. Though becoming The Doctor was a lifelong dream, there was some trepidation.

Though landing the lead in Doctor Who was a lifelong dream come true for Tennant, the initial excitement was followed by a little trepidation. When asked by The Scotsman whether he worried about being typecast, Tennant admitted: “I did remember being thrilled to bits when I got asked and then a few days later thinking, ‘Oh, is this a terrible idea?’ … But that didn't last very long. Time will tell. The only option is you don't take these jobs when they come up. You've got to just roll with the punches.”

4. He made his professional debut in a PSA.

While most actors have some early roles they’d prefer to forget, Tennant’s first professional gig didn’t come in some otherwise forgettable movie, TV series, or play. When he was 16 years old, he booked a role in an anti-smoking PSA for the Glasgow Health Board, which played on television and was shown in schools. Thanks to the power of the internet, you can watch his performance above.

5. He married the Fifth Doctor's daughter, who once played the Tenth Doctor's daughter.

Confused? In 2011, Tennant married Georgia Moffett, who played his artificially created daughter, Jenny, in the 2008 Doctor Who episode “The Doctor’s Daughter.” In real life, Moffett really is The Doctor’s daughter; her father is Peter Davison, who played the Fifth Doctor from 1981 to 1984.

6. His first movie role had him acting opposite Christopher Eccleston.

In 1996, Tennant landed his first movie role in Michael Winterbottom’s Jude, where he played the very descriptive “Drunk Undergraduate.” His big scene had him acting opposite Christopher Eccleston—the man who, less than a decade later, would hand over the keys to the TARDIS to Tennant.

7. He avoids reading reviews of his work.

While it’s hard to imagine that Tennant has ever had to deal with too many scathing reviews, it doesn’t really matter to the actor: good or bad, he avoids reading them. When asked during a livechat with The Guardian about one particularly negative review, and whether he reads and reacts to them, Tennant replied: “The bad review to which you refer was actually for a German expressionist piece about the Round Table called Merlin. It was the first extensive review I'd ever had, and it was absolutely appalling. Not that it's scarred into my memory in any way whatsoever. I try not to read them, these days. Reviews aren't really for the people who are performing, and—good or bad—they don't help. You always get a sense if something you're in has been well received or not, that's unavoidable. But beyond that, details are best avoided.”

8. He hosted Masterpiece Theatre.

In 2007, Masterpiece Theatre reinvented itself. In addition to dropping the “Theatre” from its title, the series announced that it was splintering into three different seasons—Masterpiece Classic, Masterpiece Mystery!, and Masterpiece Contemporary. Unlike the days of the past, when Alistair Cooke held court, each of the new series had its own host, Tennant among them. (He was in charge of Masterpiece Contemporary.)

9. He got a lot of younger audiences interested in Shakespeare.

Tennant has logged a lot of hours with the Royal Shakespeare Company over the years. In 2008, while still starring in Doctor Who, he took on the role that every actor wants in the RSC’s production of Hamlet, which ended up being one of London’s hottest (and hardest to get) tickets. The Guardian reported that hundreds of people were lined up to buy tickets, with some even camping out overnight outside the West End theater. Within three hours of the tickets going on sale, all 6000 of them were sold out.

Hamlet is a very popular play,” a RSC spokesperson said at the time. “It's the most famous. But obviously there's the factor that David Tennant is in it and the good news is that he's bringing a lot of younger audiences to Shakespeare."

10. He was on a Royal Stamp.

In 2011, the Royal Mail paid tribute to Royal Shakespeare Company’s 50th anniversary with a series of stamps featuring images from a handful of the RSC’s productions, including Tennant as Hamlet.

11. He almost played Hannibal Lecter.

Though it’s easy to see why Bryan Fuller cast Mads Mikkelsen in the title role of his television adaptation of Hannibal, Tennant came pretty close to playing the fava bean-and-chianti-loving, flesh-eating serial killer at the heart of Thomas Harris’s novels. Fuller was so impressed with Tennant’s dark side that he tried to make a guest appearance happen during the series’ run.

“I’m a huge fan of David Tennant, and we’ve been trying to get him on the show for quite some time,” Fuller said. “He’s such a spectacular actor. He brings such an effervescence to every performance. I would love to have David on the show. Or just write for David! I would kill and eat somebody to work with David! He’s my favorite Doctor.”

12. He is Jodie Whittaker's favorite Doctor.

David Tennant stars in 'Doctor Who'
Adrian Rogers, BBC

Fuller isn’t the only one who puts Tennant at the top of their Favorite Doctor list. Jodie Whittaker, who recently made her debut as the Thirteenth Doctor—and is the first woman to take on the role—told The Sunday Times that “David [is my favorite Doctor] of course, because I know him.” (The two spent three seasons co-starring in the British crime drama Broadchurch.)

When asked about Whittaker’s casting at the New Orleans Wizard World Comic Con, and whether he had given her any words of advice, Tennant said that, “We had a wee chat, yes. It is quite a unique job, because it's a show that has so much history to it. And it has a reach that's quite unlike other things. It's a bit of a kind of cultural thing—Who's going to be the Doctor?—it's a news story, really. So to find yourself in the middle of that is a bit overwhelming. I think inevitably, you sort of look to people who'd been there before to go, 'What is this like? What is this madness I entered into?' And that's certainly been the case with Matt and Peter, and now with Jodie. I know that Jodie's talked to Peter, and she's talked to Matt. You just for a little support group. You go, 'What is this madness? Tell me about it.' And of course, you know, she's a little trepidatious, but she's basically really excited. She's such a fantastic choice for it. You see it in just those 30 seconds that she did at the end of the last episode. You just go, 'Oh my god, she's all over it. Brilliant. It's great.’”

13. He's dying to work with Aaron Sorkin.

When asked by Collider if there’s ever been a television show he’s watched and wished he was a part of, Tennant copped to being a huge fan of The West Wing.

The West Wing is finished now [but] that’s the one that I would have loved to have been part of," he said. "I’d love to work with Aaron Sorkin on something. Just the way he writes, he has no fear in writing people that are fiercely intelligent, and I love that. I love the speed of his stuff, and the way people free-associate and interact. That kind of writing is very exciting. It’s hard to have that kind of clarity of voice, especially in a world where there’s a million executives listening to everything you do and having an opinion and trying to drive everything towards the lowest common denominator because that’s what happens when things are made by committee. So, to have someone who’s got a strong individual voice that is allowed to be heard is quite increasingly rare. These people need to be cherished.”

14. He has earned a lot of fan accolades, including "Coolest Man on TV."

David Tennant in 'Jessica Jones'
Linda Kallerus, Netflix

In addition to his many professional acting accolades—including a couple of BAFTAs and a Daytime Emmy and an Olivier Award nomination—Tennant has earned a number of less official “awards” over the years. In 2007, a Radio Times survey named him the Coolest Man on TV. The National Television Awards named him Most Popular Actor of 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2010. In 2008, he was one of Cosmopolitan’s Sexiest Men in the World. In 2012, British GQ readers named him the third Best Dressed Man (behind Tom Hiddleston and Robert Pattinson).

15. the royal shakespeare company sold his pants.

On April 17, 2018, as part of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Stitch in Time fundraiser, the organization auctioned off more than 50 original costumes worn during RSC performances. Among the items they had on offer? The black trousers Tennant wore in Hamlet, and the white robe he wore in Richard II.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER