What makes a movie get 5 out of 5?


movie viewingThis is something I’ve been meaning to talk about for a while.  What makes a movie, at least for me score the full 5 /5 points on this blog?  It’s for one thing not about perfection.  Even the greatest movies you could pick issues with, no … to score such a score, a movie I think needs to first and foremost entertain, and then also surprise.  I sometimes go into a movie not expecting much and then can be pleasantly surprised when I enjoy it, or I can be hyped about a movie, love it and then discover it manages to throw something in I couldn’t have predicted – sometimes that’s an emotional feeling like a sad or heart-wrenching scene, or a feel good uplifting scene … or in the case of say a horror movie, managing to genuinely scare me when I’m a totally jaded horror fan (The Conjuring).

To score full marks a movie can be flawed, it can have some issues, but those issues must not annoy or distract from the overall experience.  I have so far given just one movie this year 5 /5 which had only been moderately hyped; Straight Outta Compton.  But it surprised me, had an effect on me I didn’t expect and entertained massively; doing it’s job well without throwing in anything that took away from the intended experience.  I love cinema, movies and the art of movie making so a movie that is both well acted and well made on a technical level scores a lot of points with me (Bird Man).

movie viewing 2

Yet giving this score is something I don’t do easily and often ruminate over whether that movie really deserves it.  I’ve been tempted to knock a movie down to a 4 in the past for exactly that reason, but then again I don’t think a 5 /5 is something to only be given to a tiny few.  It should be an award for a movie doing not just what it set out to do, but doing it well enough that it creates an experience that is both memorable and leaves the viewer feeling satisfied.  All the movies I have granted this score to have done that for me …. not all will necessarily hold up to that experience over repeated viewings, but … this blog is about first impressions, on seeing a movie for the very first time mostly, so I have to go with my initial reaction, even if that movie is either better or worse on a second viewing.  It can happen, and movies I’ve marked down improve when seen a second time.  But I also am a great believer in that a movie should do it’s job first time around, and if it needs to be seen multiple times to fully appreciate it, then there is something fundamentally wrong.  There are exceptions to this such as movies like The Usual Suspects or Mulholland Drive which are so intricate in their storytelling they’re actually difficult to get one’s head around first time.

movie viewing 3So a little advise for anyone just starting out in review writing, something I would never say I am an expert at but have been doing it as a hobby for many years enough to know what I like when I see it … Your enjoyment comes into the final score, Your taste can effect the final score, but always take into account what the movie is attempting to achieve – does it do this?  Does it do it well?  And most importantly if you are going to give it full marks – does it make you feel, think or experience anything you hadn’t initially expected it to?  If all of the above is a yes and your expectations were met, then that’s top marks, depending of course on your scoring system.

Above all else, enjoy movies, cinema and the whole experience.  Movies for me, are there to entertain and effect the viewer, to mean something or do a particular job.  If they fail to do any of those then I’ll score them appropriately based on their merits and what the movie was trying to achieve.  Happy movie watching everyone!

My reviewing thoughts


When I watch a movie, my main thoughts when considering the review is my enjoyment.  First and foremost.  I can dismiss bad acting or dodgy special effects if above all else the film was enjoyable.  Films I have scored full marks in the past are not necessarily PERFECT.  Perfection is a very difficult thing to come by in all walks of life, and especially in the film industry, and therefore if a film sets out to work as a comedy, thriller, drama or horror and is effective in its own subject matter, then it will score highly.  Good examples being Speed Racer and Switchblade Romance, films that have both scored 5 /5 but have their faults … but none of these faults distracted me from their overall impact.  They did enough things right to excuse minor problems, such as the silly story in ‘Racer, and the idiotic twist in ‘Romance.

visiting cinema

I also look for good acting, especially in films that require it, such as Oscar hyped dramas or films featuring talented actors that are already acclaimed for their skills.  I may knock a film for not showcasing an actor’s ability of which I may already be familiar with, such as Jody Foster in Inside Man or Michael Cain in The Dark Knight.  Then again I won’t be looking for good acting in say a Dario Argento film, and will score the film in this case down to the director’s known skills with camera work and panache for gory murders.

A knowledge of actors, directors and genre is a good starting point when considering how to review a particular film, and as a fan of horror, I can be more critical than say in the comedy genre, of which I don’t feel I have as much to say.  Also when mentioning a DVD or Blu-rays extra features or picture / sound quality in a review, this will never influence the final score.  That is left for the film itself.

So to conclude when I review film, I look at what the film is trying to achieve, and whether or not it succeeds in doing it’s job, regardless of whether its a sequel, a straight-to-dvd b-movie or a showcase for a particular actor.  Only then will it win my approval and score that coveted 5 /5.