The best movies ever

If you google the best movies ever, the results will be quite diverse. Some best movies lists are made for or by audiences, like the box office top earners or the movies with most viewer votes. Other lists are made by critics or movie professionals, like winners of some types of awards (like the Oscars), or critics associations lists of best movies ever. And there is far from full agreement between the two types. It is not unlikely to hear sentences like “adored by audiences and critics alike” when talking about a movie. We all accept and know that this difference exists, that there is two types of best movies.

There doesn’t seem to be the same kind of discrepancy when it comes to TV-shows. (It seems we all agree that “The Wire” is the best TV-show ever. I certainly do.) But finding an equally ubiquitous answer about the best movie ever, is not as simple.

So when I tried to find the best movies ever, google could just as well have answered me “Do you mean critically acclaimed, or do you mean popular among audiences?”


The installation artwork “Words: The Press Conference Room” by Muntadas made oddly funny lately thanks to the efforts of Sean Spicer. Photo by Edharary (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

It seems critics and audiences want movies to be something different. Maybe critics want them to be art, an experience, an expression of us as humans, something that stirs the viewer. Or maybe they want something entirely different. And audiences might just want an evenings entertainment.

Naturally this doesn’t mean that every critic disagrees with audiences and that every audience member that isn’t a movie professional or a critic just want entertainment, at least not all the time. But there is a definite trend in this direction.

Then what does the ordinary audience member, like myself, think about these critically acclaimed movies.

Surely they are not boring, at least for the most part. Perhaps they just don’t fill the need for some light entertainment and escape, or is there something else, something more.

Maybe what makes the critics pic the favorites that they do stems from education in and reading about movie theory, movie history, knowledge about how movies are made. A kind of schooling in what a movie should be. And when they sit down to watch a movie they make a little bit of an occasion out of it, they are prepared to be emotionally stirred. While the rest of us just plop down when we have nothing better to do, or when we are bored, and expect some entertainment.

Or maybe time is part of the explanation. A long movie to make a point is not as interesting as a meme. We want quick fixes of entertainment, and the movies critics want to see simply take to long to make the point. Like the installation on the picture, we want to get to the point quickly and move on to the next thing. We might not have the attention span for art movies. And that is maybe not just a new thing. I have fallen asleep a dozen times over the years trying to watch the docking scene in “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968).

My favorite movies over the years have been, among many others, “The Goonies” (1985), “Dirty Dancing” (1987), “Weekend at Bernies” (1989) and “Sev7n” (1995), witch might say more about my age and where I’m from, than any objective measure about these movies. However, only the last of these usually make the kind of lists that boast best movies ever, and the movies really were my favorites.

I mean, how can anyone not love “The Goonies”?

If I want to appreciate or understand the movies that critics love, I could just read a bunch of books on the subject. Imagery in movies, the history of movies, movie criticism, the use of colors in movies, and so on. Maybe I could take a few classes on these subjects as well. And that is a possibility, naturally.

But what I want is to see if there also is a more habitual and situational reason for loving the movies that critics recommend.

If I get used to seeing more of the best movies ever as determined by critics and movie professionals, will that get me used to and teach me enough about these movies to appreciate them, the way they do, or will I still just want some easy viewing?

So I thought, what if I watch a movie a day for a year. Many of them from critics lists of best movies ever, and about half from the lists of most popular movies with audiences. Will I then, after the year is up, still feel the same way about movies, or will I want something different?  Will a kind of osmosis of movie excellence make me want to watch different movies afterwards?

In order to measure any change I will have to record my opinions about the movies I watch. At the end of the experiment, I can then go back and see if my earliest opinions are naive, dumb or uneducated, or if I still agree with my former self.

Just a small experiment about learning, movies and development.

And if you think this is just an excuse to lazily sit and watch a movie every day, well you’re not entirely wrong. I think it might be a little bit of that too.

Photo at the top of the post shows Ohio State Reformatory where parts of “The Shawshank Redemption” was filmed. “The Shawshank Redemption” is the top rated movie on IMDb. Photo by Brenda GottsabendOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0

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