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    For Black Friday, Let's Revisit These 21 Iconic Mall Moments In Movies

    I spy Hot Topic, Aeropostale, and Panda Express.

    Happy Black Friday to all who observe!

    Showtime / Via giphy.com

    And by "observe," I mean wrestle with strangers in the aisles of a Walmart for a discounted food processor. 

    It's that time of year again to start holiday shopping (if you haven't already, because...supply-chain issues).

    Paramount Pictures / Via giphy.com

    Or you could just use this as an excuse to buy stuff for yourself because HEY, YOU'RE AWESOME TOO!

    So whether you're looking for some shopping inspiration OR you hate shopping but want to feel some kinship with shoppers OR you're suffering from a bout of mall nostalgia, I've got some movies here to help.

    PAX / Via giphy.com

    My dear shoppers, here is a list of phenomenal movies featuring iconic shopping mall sequences for you to enjoy this Black Friday.

    20th Century Fox / Via giphy.com

    Just crawl your way over to a TV and press play. 

    1. Back to the Future (1985)

    Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd stand in a mall parking lot
    Universal Pictures

    Suburban shopping mall parking lots are magical places. You can learn to parallel park there, you can make out with your high school boyfriend there, and of course you can use your time-travel machine there. In the '80s classic, Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) and Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) meet up together in the Twin Pines Mall's parking lot. Marty drives the DeLorean time machine into the past, meets his parents as high schoolers, and must find a way back to the future (and the mall parking lot). This whole endeavor would have been MUCH more difficult in a Black Friday mall parking lot, though. 

    Watch it on Peacock

    2. Bad Santa (2003)

    Brett Kelly gets ready to sit on Billy Bob Thornton's (Santa) lap while Tony Cox looks on as an elf
    Dimension Films / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Another shopping mall tradition you're sure to run into this time of year is the mall Santa (or at least I assume that consumerism has pushed the employment window for mall Santas back into mid-November). In this black comedy (set mostly at a mall), Willie (Billy Bob Thornton) and Marcus (Tony Cox) dress up as Santa and an elf in an attempt to rob the mall. Not your typical heartwarming Christmas romance, but the perfect antidote for anyone who has had a little too much holiday cheer and wants a biting comedy. It will leave you wondering what kind of people they get to play Santa, though. Should you let your kids near them? A question to ponder. 

    Rent it on Amazon Prime Video

    3. Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989)

    Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter pose with Tony Steedman holding a skateboard
    Phil Caruso / Orion Pictures Corp. / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Perhaps the most excellent mall scene in all of history, dude, is the one in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. After the pair of slackers played by Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter travel back through time collecting famous historical figures for a school project, they end up leaving the posse at the San Dimas mall. Pure chaos ensues as Socrates, Sigmund Freud, Joan of Arc, Beethoven, and Abraham Lincoln struggle with the concept of a mall (and most everything in it). I watched this film for the first time during the pandemic, and it is A DELIGHT! The whole thing holds up remarkably well (which cannot be said for most '80s movies), and the mall scene is the cherry on top. Most outstanding!

    Watch it on HBO Max

    4. Certain Women (2016)

    Laura Dern eats in a food court
    IFC Films

    The first of Kelly Reichardt's three short films in this triptych anthology movie follows Laura Dern as a lawyer (named Laura). One of her clients, Fuller (Jared Harris), is contemplating legal action because of a workplace injury that left him unable to work. When he realizes that he won't be able to sue his employer, however, he begins to unravel, returning to the mall he used to work at and taking a security guard hostage. The climax of the film's first segment then sees Laura heading in to negotiate. Hopefully your Black Friday shopping is free of hostage crises, and you can just watch this one (along with the following two stories) from the comfort of your couch. 

    Watch it on Amazon Prime Video with AMC+/IFC Films Unlimited. 

    5. Clueless (1995)

    Alicia Silverstone holds a bunch of shopping bags
    Paramount Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

    "Carpe diem, okay? You looked hot in it." If those aren't words to live by, then I don't know what are. Cher Horowitz (Alicia Silverstone) tells this to her boyfriend Christian at the mall moments before her protégé Tai is almost dumped off the second-floor balcony. While only a few scenes of this '90s classic take place at the shopping mall, the whole film has a shopping mall energy. Cher loves to shop and look good and perform a makeover, and you'd be totally mistaken if you thought she wasn't a mall regular. She's here to tell you to just go ahead and buy it, already. Perhaps not the best film to watch before you go shopping if you're on a budget, but, like, if it looks cute...

    Watch it on HBO Max

    6. Dawn of the Dead (2004)

    Jake Weber, Sarah Polley, Mekhi Phifer, and Inna Korobkina run through a mall
    Universal / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Typically when you're running in a mall, you're racing for a new Toshiba flat screen or the newest Apple Watch, or there's a sale at Aeropostale and your friend texted you and said they only had one lime-green polo left in your size (maybe that's just high school me?). Typically you are not running from an angry horde of zombies, but such is the case in Dawn of the Dead, Zack Snyder's remake of the 1978 classic film. When a zombie outbreak takes Milwaukee by storm, a group of survivors band together in a shopping mall to fight for their lives. If I've said it once, I've said it a million times: I'd like to die (and then regenerate as a flesh-eating menace) in front of a Sbarro. 

    Watch it on Amazon Prime Video with AMC+.

    7. Eighth Grade (2018)

    Elsie Fisher sits at a food court table with Fred Hechinger, Daniel Zolghadri, Emily Robinson, and Imani Lewis
    A24 / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Speaking of Sbarro, one of the shopping mall staples (man, I want one of their breadsticks) is clearly visible in the background of this scene from Bo Burnham's directorial debut. Kayla (Elsie Fisher, who SHOULD have been Oscar nominated for this) is an awkward fish out of water in middle school and struggles to make friends. When she's paired up with a cheery ninth-grader for high school orientation, however, she thinks she may have finally found her people. She joins the older kids for a food court hangout, nodding along as they discuss feet pics, dead classmates, and other such semi-inappropriate topics as only 15-year-olds can. The scene is the perfect setup for what's to follow as Kayla reluctantly lets down her guard with the "cool kids," only to have it backfire. White Lotus fans will recognize rowing enthusiast Fred Hechinger here pontificating over a bottle of Mountain Dew Voltage. 

    Watch it on Amazon Prime Video with Showtime.

    8. Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)

    Robert Romanus and Sean Penn stand at a checkout counter
    Universal / Courtesy Everett Collection

    If you'd like an homage to the splendor of the '80s shopping mall, then look no further than the opening sequence of Fast Times at Ridgemont High. The montage, set to "We Got the Beat" by the Go-Go's, immortalizes the double-decker mall in all its splendor while the film's cast members crisscross their way through it. Fast Time, which follows multiple Ridgemont High students through the chaos of their lives, is an ensemble movie with the plots effortlessly weaving in and out of one another. They'll return again and again to the shopping center, clearly the hub of life in the '80s, and where Robert Romanus, Sean Penn, Judge Reinhold, and Jennifer Jason Leigh work, play, and fall in love.  

    Rent it on Amazon Prime Video

    9. Good Time (2017)

    Benny Safdie and Robert Pattinson run through a mall
    A24 / Courtesy Everett Collection

    A second film in the Jennifer Jason Leigh Shopping Mall Extended Universe (JJLSMEU for short, obvi). She shows up here as the girlfriend of Connie (Robert Pattinson), who is on the run from the police for robbing a bank with his mentally disabled brother, Nick (one of the film's directors, Benny Safdie). In a particularly memorable chase scene, the pair of brothers try to lose the police in Queens' New World Mall. The location perfectly embodies the claustrophobic, gritty vibe of the film as a whole and sets up the messy, chaotic game of cat and mouse that is to come. A lot more sprinting through malls in these movies than there is in real life. 

    Watch it on Netflix

    10. Hustlers (2019)

    Jennifer Lopez and Constance Wu walk into a mall followed by other strippers
    STXFilms

    It pains me to write about this film because Jennifer Lopez — who should have WON the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in 2019 — wasn’t even nominated. Sometimes I wake up at 3 a.m. in a cold sweat thinking about it. But pushing that grievous error by the academy out of my mind, this film is another one with BME (big mall energy). While only a few scenes (including some shopping montages and a new-girl initiation meeting) happen in the mall (where we also get an Orange Julius reference), the film is rich with new clothes, credit cards, and former mall rats moved to the big city. It should also be noted that while it's technically not a mall, J.Lo does work at an Old Navy, which is also BME. Nothing says "shopping mall" more than haggling with your manager in the tiny office in the back of a retail establishment. 

    Rent it on Amazon Prime Video

    11. Jackie Brown (1997)

    Bridget Fonda and Robert De Niro shop together in a mall
    Miramax / Courtesy Everett Collection

    When it comes to replicating the mall experience, Quentin Tarantino's crime caper has everything: eating at the food court, impulse-buying a new suit, loitering around while you wait for a friend to finish shopping, and of course not remembering where the hell you parked your car. When Jackie Brown (Pam Grier) attempts to swindle the police and an arms dealer out of thousands of dollars, she uses the local mall as the perfect setting for the money drop and plenty of subterfuge. The whole cast arrives, and what ensues is a messy exchange that goes terribly awry. The sequence with Bridget Fonda and Robert De Niro is perhaps the best scene in the entire film, and a reminder to remember which side of Sears you parked on. 

    Rent it on Amazon Prime Video

    12. Jingle All the Way (1996)

    Arnold Schwarzenegger runs through a mall
    20th Century Fox / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Nothing says "Happy Black Friday" like a mad scramble for an elusive toy that your child HAS TO HAVE but is nowhere to be found. Howard (Arnold Schwarzenegger) finds this out the hard way in this Christmas comedy about a father trying to prove his love for his kid by getting him the sold-out Turbo Man action figure. Howard spends plenty of time scouring toy stores before ending up at the mall (shot in the actual Mall of America), where he is desperate to win a lottery for one of the few remaining toys. Reminds me of when my entire family was driving around Michigan trying to buy the McDonald's Beanie Baby toys. Woof. 

    Watch it on Amazon Prime Video

    13. Kajillionaire (2020)

    Gina Rodriguez and Evan Rachel Wood go shopping in a grocery store
    Matt Kennedy / Focus Features / Courtesy Everett Collection

    I've never been in one of the eyeglass stores at the mall, but I've certainly walked past them a thousand times. And the oft-overlooked spectacle emporiums take center stage in this indie con man caper about a family whose members lie, cheat, rob, and scheme for everything they've got. When they meet Melanie (Gina Rodriguez), who works at the mall's vision center, they agree to rob her elderly, trusting, senile clients. After witnessing this family cheat an 80-year-old out of her family heirlooms and writing themselves into her will, you might think twice before referring to that half-off television from Best Buy as "a steal." 

    Watch it on HBO Max

    14. Last Holiday (2006)

    Queen Latifah working as a sample cook at a department store
    Paramount Pictures

    Okay, I'd like to begin by saying that as much as I love malls, I would never trust a CT scan machine that is just chilling in the back room of a department store. Why is it there? How reliable is it? Where did it come from? Can it somehow turn me into a mutant? So many questions. Queen Latifah's character, Georgia, asks none of these questions in this underrated holiday film. Instead, when she bumps her head on the job as a sales demonstrator at the department store, she has a go in the storage room CT scan, which promptly tells her she's dying. Thus, this will be her last holiday, and she's got to live it up. Off to Europe we go! (I would like to clarify that while I'm anti–CT scans at malls, I am very pro–meeting LL Cool J at the mall and having him fall in love with me.)

    Watch it on Amazon Prime Video with Showtime. 

    15. Mallrats (1995)

    Jason Lee and Jeremy London look at the camera from behind a rabbit display
    Gramercy Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

    I believe this is largely a phenomenon of the past (correct me if I'm wrong), but there used to frequently be competitions, contests, and pageants held in shopping malls. That is the backdrop for this buddy film from the Jay and Silent Bob universe in which T.S. (Jeremy London) is trying to sabotage a dating game show at the mall because his girlfriend is participating in it and he wants to propose. The cast, therefore, spends plenty of time wandering around the local mall involved in a variety of hijinks and harebrained plans. At least one person reading this must have met their significant other on a mall-hosted dating show, right? Message me. I'm intrigued. 

    Watch it on Peacock

    16. Mean Girls (2004)

    Lindsay Lohan, Amanda Seyfried, Lacey Chabert, and Rachel McAdams walk together through a mall
    Paramount / Courtesy Everett Collection

    "Get in, loser. We're going shopping." And if you're going shopping in 2004, you're probably doing that shopping at the mall. And if you're Cady Herron (Lindsay Lohan) or Regina George (Rachel McAdams), then that mall is probably Old Orchard Mall. Cady, forever the anthropologist, really gets into the nitty-gritty of the evolution of mall culture for our benefit, showing us how we are just evolved versions of African wildlife. The mall fountain (with all my childhood wish pennies) is nothing but a sophisticated watering hole, and we are nothing but gazelles and rhinos. The film isn't set largely at the mall, but Cady's new wardrobe comes from there, and you get the sense that Regina, Gretchen, and Karen have put in their 10,000 hours in shopping. 

    Watch it on Paramount+

    17. Paul Blart: Mall Cop (2009)

    Kevin James plays Guitar Hero in a mall arcade
    Sony Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

    And on the complete opposite end of the shopping mall spectrum, we've got Kevin James' oft-maligned doofy comedy. I somehow saw this twice in theaters (I blame my family), and while it is obviously a horrible movie, it might also somehow be a good one? Despite tragic reviews, those Segway montages, and a ludicrous plot involving mall hostages and climbing through air ducts, the film made a hefty chunk of change in theaters and earned a sequel. It's incredibly dumb. It's not something I'd tell my friends I'm watching. And yet here we are...probably gonna watch it again. 

    Rent it on Amazon Prime Video

    18. Superbad (2007)

    Martha MacIsaac, Emma Stone, Michael Cera, and Jonah Hill talk in a mall
    Columbia Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Ugh, the universal torture that is shopping for jeans. You know it. I know it. Jonah Hill knows it. The iconic R-rated comedy about best friends trying to lose their virginity at a party sees its heroes return to the mall several times, once with the intent of buying jeans. Even if you're not trying to serve "college poses" or give "male camel toe," shopping for denim can be a nightmare, and the different trends and cuts don't help. Shopping for comforters or eye makeup is much easier and more enjoyable (especially when you can flirt the entire time with a crush).

    Rent it on Amazon Prime Video.

    19. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

    Arnold Schwarzenegger lays on the floor of a mall while shoppers look on
    TriStar Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

    I sincerely hope that your holiday shopping is not interrupted by a pair of assassin robots from the future doing battle in your mall. Would suck to be sniffing Yankee Candles just to have a man with a metal stabby arm impale you. In the sequel to The Terminator, Arnold Schwarzenegger's robot is sent back to protect John Connor from the T-1000 (Robert Patrick). One of their many face-offs is at the Galleria, where John is trying to have a fun go at the arcade before being interrupted by the robots. Makes me nostalgic for the days when you could pop in and play a round of Cruisin USA in between trying on khakis for school. 

    Rent it on Amazon Prime Video

    20. Under the Skin (2013)

    Scarlett Johannson walks through a mall
    A24

    Speaking of otherworldly creatures wandering around malls, here's the Scarlett Johansson rendition. In this indie sci-fi (and early A24) film, Johansson plays some kind of alien — ghost? demon? — who has inhabited the body of a woman and goes around Scotland sucking men into some kind of void. Early in the film, this creature ventures into a shopping mall, where she purchases clothes and makeup to help blend in with the people around her. Makes you wonder if the people around us are actual humans or just succubus energy forms/terminator robots/historical figures transported through time in a phone booth. 

    Watch it on Amazon Prime Video with Showtime. 

    21. Wonder Woman 1984 (2020)

    Gal Gadot flies through a mall
    Clay Enos / Warner Bros. / Courtesy Everett Collection

    After her initial world-saving foray during World War I (read: no malls), Wonder Woman returned to do battle in this sequel set in the '80s (read: malls). While the film as a whole is a bit long and sluggish, the early scene in which she foils a jewelry store heist at a VERY '80s mall is a fun little romp. Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) doesn't even break a sweat as she's saving kids and stopping baddies with her lasso. Also peep the Waldenbooks in the background. RIP to my childhood. 

    Watch it on HBO Max