What is a good movie?

Marilyn’s comment got me thinking- I admit to liking a lot of bad movies, but never really define what a good movie is.  I probably do the same with music.  I’m not a huge movie buff or all that knowledgeable about film (that would be my rarely seen co-blogger), but I would guess that a good movie would have to include the following:

  • A plot that has a noticeable arc, is internally logical and has a satisfying ending
  • Is well shot
  • Has characters with depth

That’s pretty much it, right?  I was going to say is original but I don’t actually believe this.

How much I like a movie is independent of these things.  For instance, lots of people cite Shawshank Redemption as a great film that they love.  I agree it’s a great film.  I don’t love it though.  It’s OK.  It just doesn’t speak to me.  But plenty of movies that I love are definitely NOT great films.  Here’s a few I’ve seen recently that I love

  • Starship Troopers- wooden acting, not really clear to most viewers if it’s fascist propaganda or satire*
  • Rock and Roll High School- bad acting, dumb jokes
  • The Harry Potter series- my dad asked me after watching it why Snape went through everything he did.  I don’t know.  It still doesn’t make sense to me.  Also, the only really good actor of the kids in the first few movies was Rupert Grint.  The other two are not that great.

So what are some movies I have seen recently that I liked and also think are great films?  First- recently means “in the last few years” because I don’t watch that many movies.

The Kid


I LOVE Charlie Chaplin movies.  We were on a kick of watching them for months, me and my son.  This is my favorite.  Chaplin was a genius and a brilliant actor and while silent films tended to have some overacting, when the authorities come for Charlies adopted son it looks real.  Chaplin had his own difficult childhood and it seems like he was drawing on that.  I really love this film.



I watch a lot of kid’s movies and this was one that I would even watch on my own.  I’m not actually sure it is a kid’s movie.  I get sooooo tired of kids movies that try to pander to me with snarky, ironic humor.  I appreciate that in movies made for adults, but in a kid film it just makes me feel like an asshole for laughing.  Also- toilet humor.  I love toilet humor, but in kids films it is rote and not funny half the time.  Rango is pretty sparing with that.  The depictions of the desert are beautiful and the story it tells is engaging and timely.

Land of the Dead


Yeah, it’s very left-leaning, bordering on heavy-handed.  If you can get past that it’s a great film.  The characters have different motives, and everyone besides Dennis Hopper’s asshole HOA president has different, realistic motivations.  Asia Argento is a badass actress.

Karate Kid


I don’t care what anyone says, this is a great film.  The best part is the relationship between characters- Daniel and Mr Miyagi, Daniel and his mom, Daniel and Ali.  OK, the crane is the most telegraphed kick ever invented, but when he wins at the end, WOW, it still feels so good.

Some other movies that I haven’t seen in a while but I remember being really good quality films-

The Wild Bunch, Spirited Away (more animation), Pretty in Pink, Duck Soup.  The Shining.  Hmm, drawing a blank now, you see I’m really not a film buff.

I’d probably have a long list if I went with movies I enjoy, but wouldn’t say are good films.

What do you think is a good movie?

*It’s very clearly satire to me.  It’s also AWESOME



  1. I loved Avatar. I loved when the animals beat up the bad guys. I thought the CGA was great. I though giving the Oscar to The Hurt Locker was pure snobbery … and it was indeed the lowest grossing movie to ever win best picture. Because in the end, if it isn’t ENTERTAINING, how can it be a good movie? If the “job” of a movie is to be entertaining and it’s not, no amount of socially redeeming content or good cinematography or whatever will make me watch it. I like Karate Kid too. The reason it has become a cliche is because it’s been copied so many times. My favorite movies are favorites because I like them. I don’t care what the Important (self important?) critics say.

    I remember when my kid was young. I don’t think I saw an adult movie for 10 years.

    1. the effects in Avatar were incredible and I feel like it’s hard to dazzle people with those anymore. My dad met one of the biologists that James Cameron consulted on the plants so for what it’s worth they were somewhat realistic.

      I never saw Hurt Locker- again watching tons of kid movies. Plus I like to be entertained too. It’s not so much that I think about what other people think when determining if I like something so much as thinking about whether or not to recommend something to others. I figure if someone asks about what I think about a movie I should consider their taste when describing it. Or at least think about it in a way a “normal” person would. I know I tend to have odd taste and don’t want to bum people out with my recommendations.

      1. I have a feeling you are more main line in your tastes than you might think. That’s why I wonder if what we think is “good” maybe isn’t what movies are really about. I know some stuff I like is not everyone’s cuppa tea. I like some pretty weird movies and probably over-value cleverness and wit … and for me, the script is really more important than anything else. But I figure people who read me and/or know me get that about me. Not like I’m hiding something 🙂

  2. I’m not knowledgeable about films but I DO consider myself to be a film buff. I consider some of my favourite directors to be artists in the true sense of the word. Some of the movies that have influenced me and have stayed in my subconscious forever are: Goodfellas, Taxi Driver, Moneyball, Glengarry Glen Ross, Up in the Air, The Color of Money, Pulp Fiction, Dog Day Afternoon, to name just the tip of the iceberg. And The Shining? I believe the hallucinating dialogues between Nicholson and the bartender, not to mention the one with the waiter/butler in the toilet, to be some of the best of Jack’s films.

    1. Those are some great movies, though I’ve only seen the famous Coffee is for Closers scene in Glengarry Glen Ross. Pulp Fiction was such a clever movie and so ahead of its time I feel like it could come out right now and still be great. Tarantino makes such cool movies, though my favorite by him was True Love, which he just wrote. The scene where his dad refuses to give up his son is really cool- maybe parenthood makes these kind of scenes more poignant?

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