How To Find New Movies You Will Love
Some of you may be wondering why I took the time to write a post beating up on screenwriter Akiva Goldsman for being a consistent generator of cinematic rubbish.
Part of the answer is that it annoys me to see someone getting rich by churning out crap. But only part.
The bigger factor is that it amazes me how few people understand how to find movies that they’re actually going to like. This is because they don’t understand the factors that make good or bad movies good or bad, so they make choices based on secondary factors, then are surprised when those choices lead them to movies they don’t like.
So, rather than beat up further on Goldsman, I thought I’d take a moment to share Jason’s Foolproof Method for Finding New Movies You’ll Love.
It’s pretty simple:
- Make a list of five movies you’ve seen already that you loved. Your five favorite movies ever are a good place to start.
- Go to imdb.com and look up the director and screenwriter of each of the five on your list.
- For each director and screenwriter from your list, pick a movie that they played the same role on that you haven’t already seen, and rent it.
That’s all there is to it. Seriously. I guarantee that if you follow this method you will find more great new movies in less time than you ever thought possible.
Why? Because the two people who have the most direct influence over a movie are the director and the screenwriter. The screenwriter creates the skeleton on which the movie hangs; the director turns the skeleton into flesh and blood. Everybody else involved in making the movie is working in the service of these two people. Therefore, the two most consistent guides to how well a movie will match your tastes are who wrote it and who directed it.
Most people, when they are at the video store or are putting together their Netflix queue, seem (in my observation) to think instead that the best guide is whether the movie stars an actor or actress whose other work they have enjoyed. People say things like “I love Harrison Ford movies” all the time. But what is a “Harrison Ford movie”? Ford has acted in a ton of movies that are scattered across a range of themes and genres; some are great, some are not. Knowing that Harrison Ford is in a movie doesn’t tell you much about the movie, except maybe that it has a big budget (and thus can afford the services of Harrison Ford).
Directors and screenwriters are much better guides to quality, tone, and theme. Where talking about “Harrison Ford films” doesn’t tell you much, talking about “David Lean films” tells you exactly what to expect: epic stories in exotic locations (Lean directed Lawrence of Arabia, The Bridge on the River Kwai, and Doctor Zhivago, among others). Similarly, when you see that Joe Eszterhas is the screenwriter of a film, you know that it’s probably a cheesy exploitation film with a higher-than-average dosage of sex and violence (Eszterhas wrote Showgirls, Basic Instinct, and Flashdance, among others).
Like lavish fantasy movies? Check out anything by director Terry Gilliam.
Like gritty dramas salted with strong language? Check out anything written by David Mamet.
Like super-dark comedy? You’ll love anything from Neil LaBute.
So — if you’re interested in finding new movies to watch, and don’t want to waste your time and money on crap, start paying attention to who writes and who directs the movies you’re watching. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the results.