I’ll admit, I’ve spent many Saturday nights sucked into cheesy Lifetime movies. The overacting! The insane dramatics! The random AF casting choices! (Need I bring up the Aaliyah film from last year? Let’s just swerve on that topic.) Sometimes, all you need in life is a good melodramatic monologue, and Lifetime is A+++ for that. However, every now and then, an actual decent film emerges from the saccharine clutter. Some of them are even pretty great. Don’t believe me? Well—what’s this?!—I happen to have a handy-dandy list of seven prime Lifetime movies to put on your acceptable cinema radar. It’s like I had this planned the whole time….
Flowers in the Attic (2014)
With so many versions of this story in the world, I rolled my eyes when I heard Lifetime was adapting it. However, I quickly bit my tongue. Heather Graham floored me as the disgustingly selfish mother who makes her four children live in their grandmother’s attic to gain back family respect. (And other things, as you find out if you watch the film.) Plus, Ellen Burstyn’s take on Olivia Foxworth is too haunting for words. If anything, check out this picture to see the dynamic energy between the two women. So damn good.
Before you sharpen the pitchforks on this one, hear me out. After a string of terrible biopics in 2014 (Brittany Murphy, anyone?), Lifetime came out with this Angela Bassett-directed film at the beginning of the year. And my prayers were answered. Whitney is actually tasteful, well-acted, and completely respects the legacy of its main subject. Yaya Dacosta gives a great performance as Whitney Houston and manages to chart into “No wire hangers!” territory only three or four times. It’s worth revisiting.
Call Me Crazy: A Five Film (2013)
This still remains one of Lifetime’s most important projects to date. Produced by Jennifer Aniston, this anthology series explores the stigma and effects of mental illness. It features a super talented cast—Jennifer Hudson, Sarah Hyland, and Melissa Leo appear—which explains why it stills holds up today. JHud’s portrayal of Maggie, a veteran coping with post-traumatic stress disorder, is haunting.
A Friend to Die For/Death of a Cheerleader (1994)
Empress Tori Spelling plays the queen betch cheerleader who gets (SPOILER ALERT) stabbed by the meek church-going nerd who idolizes her. It’s ’90s AF, which is why the film never feels tepid. It fits perfectly with the 90210 fare of the era—with the volume turned way up.
Imaginary Friend (2012)
Lacey Chabert, A.K.A. Gretchen Weiners, stars as Emma, an artist who turns to her childhood imaginary friend to cope with her problems. But when her delusions become out of control, things get crazy. Lacey’s performance is pointed and unwavering, which keeps this flick at just the right level of absurd.
The Pregnancy Pact (2009)
Lifetime is notorious for taking real-life stories and turning them into films. The Pregnancy Pact, about a group of teens who plan to all get pregnant and raise their kids together, stands out because of the sheer novelty of the situation. The film seems ridiculous at times, but only because these absurd events actually happened. Lifetime didn’t have to pepper this with its usual soapy seasoning. The story does that enough on its own.
Kristen Stewart stars in this from-the-vault tale of a rape victim who can’t find the courage to speak about her trauma. Kristen gives a rare good performance as Melinda, evoking feelings that will tug at your heartstrings and won’t let go. You’ll cry. Several times.