I adore/abhor buying things for people. This isn’t because of my love language, because my love language is drunken, vulgar Esperanto. I adore it because giving someone something that makes them feel seen, known and heard is one of the purest expressions of empathy available to humans. I hate it because that, my friends, is a lot of pressure. If you’re thinking “Yeah, but he’s probably only that worried about presents for his closest friends and family,” the only way you could be more wrong is by sporting a Hateful 8 tattoo.

I say that as a caveat. I can’t promise you that these five gifts will produce the ugly crying I hope for at every birthday and holiday. I realize that makes me sound like some kind of emotional vampire, but I meant it in a good way? What I can promise you is that these are all very good, modestly priced gifts that movie lovers will actually want. That’s my least favorite thing about most gift guides: They seem to be written by people who had their butler do the typing. Pretty much everything here is less than half a hundy, because we got bills, yo.

5 Affordable Gifts for Movie Lovers

Streaming Services and/or Memberships

Let’s get this one out of the way first: Support yer local theaters, y’all. They need your help so, so much right now. If your movie lover is (understandably) plague averse and not yet venturing back into theaters on the regs, I promise you that they will eventually. Gift cards at cineplexes rarely expire. Include a note with it that says: “For when you’re ready.” I’m pretty sure virginity-until-you’re-married groups already sell wrapping paper that says that on it. A membership to Film Streams is also a phenomenal way to keep our local arthouse strong while allowing your present-taker to score cheap tix for remarkable films.

In addition, we are now at somewhere around 6.7 million different streaming services. Soon, we’ll all be assigned an individual streamer at birth, Truman Show style. In the meantime, consider gifting a subscription for a slightly-more-niche offering, like Shudder, The Criterion Channel, BritBox or FlixPlex. I made that last one up, but you didn’t notice because that’s how many streaming options there are now. Trying out a new service is a ton of fun for at least a month. Maybe do a tiny buffet, wherein you gift a few months for a handful of them! You may think that Netflix and Hulu is enough, but the only way you’d be more wrong is if you created Quibi.

Salbree Microwave Popcorn Popper and Popcorn Toppings

I do not know what dark alchemy the good people at Salbree used to make a popcorn popper this damned good. I have tried similar products and been burned. Scorched corn is no one’s friend. Salbree lays waste to all other mechanisms of popcorn popping. Please know that I have tried them all, from stovetop to a magnifying glass and sunlight. Without oil or any other lubricant/additive/magic, this little fella nukes your kernels to absolute perfection.

Some of the seasonings you can get now are mind-blowing. At-home popcorn is never going to achieve theater-level status, but if you want to throw some dill-sriracha-parmesan-flavoring at home, that’s between you and the Lord. The Lord, in this case, being Orville Redenbacher. Again, and I cannot stress this enough, buy this specific device, accept no imitations. Package that with some fixings carefully curated for your recipient like you’re some kind of savant popcorn sommelier, and I promise you they’ll tell you months later how much they still use that shit. You may think that a combo of a popper and toppings is a lame gift, but the only way you could be more wrong is by writing Big Bang Theory fan fiction.

Posters and Prints (within reason)

In general, I frown upon the practice of gifting large decorative items. You’re basically saying “Allocate to me a portion of the walls you live inside or I’ll know you don’t really love me.” If you know someone who either loves to change up their space or swap out framed posters, you can find so many cool and weird ones these days. Mondoshop.com has so many profoundly cool and weird ones. Like, just look at this thing:

Do you not want that on your wall, regardless of whether you’ve even seen the movie?! They have some for older movies, TV shows and random cool flicks. If that doesn’t do it for you, head to your local Etsy, where you can find some truly excellent prints. Those are ideal because they are much smaller. Thus, you are only demanding a tiny portion of your recipient’s home be kept as a shrine to your generosity.

You can find artists on Instagram and the other social medias who will do movie-based illustrations or cartoons that range from whimsical to wholly inappropriate. Get those commissioned early, if you do that, because those are actual humans who have to manually create things and then mail them to you using a postal system still somehow run by Louis DeJoy. You may think that most movie lovers have enough art related to their favorite films. The only way you could be more wrong is to continue to allow Louis DeJoy to run the U.S. Postal System.

Tie-In Board Games

Did you know there was a Labyrinth board game that includes a tiny figure of David Bowie’s Goblin King, bulbous crotchal region and all? There is a Die Hard board game, wherein I can only hope one of the challenges includes actual broken glass and bare feet. For the love of Leonard Maltin, mondoshop.com sells a Leonard Maltin board game that involves lying to imitate Leonard Maltin. It is called King of Movies, which is just the absolute sweet spot on the Venn diagram of hubris and entertainment.

The point is, there is a better than zero chance that a movie your movie lover loves has a semi-immersive gaming opportunity associated with it. I realize that not all cinephiles are parlor game fanatics. That is insane to me. What else do you people do when you gather in groups? Talk to each other? About life? With your mouths and faces pointed at one another? Gross.

From a Dune game to a Golden Girls version of Clue, whatever your gift target is into, there’s something for them. And for the record, everyone falls into “would play a Dune game” or “is irrationally excited for a Golden Girls version of Clue.” You either fall into one category, the other or both, but nobody is immune to the charm of one of those. You may think that a board game is a boring present that should be reserved for nerds. The only way you could be more wrong is to assume I’m on team Dune game.

Director/Actor T-shirts

Anybody can buy someone a T-shirt with a logo from a movie or TV show on it. A legend buys their beloved a Jodorosky shirt in the style of Judas Priest.

This brilliant gem is available from cinemetaltshirts.com, as are John Carpenter and Ingmar Bergman options. I also bought a friend a shirt with Jim Jarmusch as a cartoon on it from teepublic.com. Get creative! If your gift receiver is a fan of a specific writer/director/actor, I promise you they aren’t alone. If the internet has done one thing, it’s provided an exploitable method by which to spread misinformation and distrust. But if it has done two things, that second one is provide merchandise for crazy-specific interests. If you think a T-shirt isn’t a gift literally any human will appreciate, the only way you could be more wrong is to have created Facebook.

The methodology by which you can find clothing merch for gifting is pretty applicable to most movie lover interests. Use any search engine, even Bing, and enter a combination of “Thing Someone Loves” and “Object They Also Love,” and more often than not, you’ll get a hit. I’m not kidding, I tried “Ted Lasso” and “Candle,” and guess what…

That’s a Ted Lasso candle from illuminidol.com. If you can think of a better way to end a gift guide like this, well then you’ve given me the worst gift of all.  

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