I recently had a debate with a friend (for the record- this was a harmonious conversation- no one was called any names and no one was labelled) What was the debate about? Why are people’s favorite movies different from the movies they consider best.
My friend’s hypothesis was this: If something is your favorite, why wouldn’t it be the best?
I (shockingly) said that just because I enjoy watching something doesn’t mean it’s a great movie.
So what makes a “great” movie. I always think it’s when every aspect of the movie just works. The acting, screenplay, sets, soundtrack, editing and cinematography all work together to make a movie that is well rounded and sound. The director has assembled all the pieces of the puzzle and it is complete (also why I understand why the Best Director winner is often the Best Picture winner) When I think about a great movie, “The Godfather” comes to mind. I consider this movie as close to perfect as I’ve ever seen. I think it is a great movie. Yet, I don’t think I’ve watched it more than twice. I don’t think I’ll watch it again.
Because though I appreciate it as art, it doesn’t actually make me feel good when I watch it. It’s heavy. I don’t need to add more heaviness to my life. If I’m rewatching a movie at home on a weekend I want to be uplifted. I want light and easy.
But it’s more than just light, easy and uplifting that separates favorite from best. I think “Shawshank Redemption” and “Schindlers List” are first rate, solid movies. They end with a positive spin. Yet, I’ve seen each of them only once. I think they are two of the best movies ever made, yet I have absolutely no inkling to rewatch. Why? I guess I want the conflict to be light and easy. I don’t want to see struggles of WWII. I don’t want to see life in prison. I don’t want to go through the angst again. Great movies tend to be heavy on conflict. I am not a fan of conflict.
So what are favorite movies? Simply, these are the movies that I will watch if I see they are on TV. The conflict isn’t too daunting, the endings are happy, or at least uplifting, and they make me smile. Movies like “The American President”, “Dave”, “Raiders of the Lost Ark”. I have seen these movies too many times to count: I could karaoke to these films because I know the script so well. Yet I know there are flaws- I know they are not even close to being perfect. But there’s still something about them that makes me love them.
So: Take stock. Are your favorite movies also the ones you consider the best?