“What’s your favorite scary movie?” This famous quote by Ghost Face in Wes Craven’s Scream is pretty much a common conversation starter. (Obviously, it’s not the question itself that makes this quote so famous but the way in which it is said.)
Amused, Casey answers the question as she leans against her kitchen counter. She says, “I don’t know,” to which Ghost Face responds, “What comes to mind?” She picks John Carpenter’s Halloween and immediately picks up a knife from a knife stand—by the way, a nifty foreshadowing technique. But, of course, I will spare you my dissertation on what makes Scream a great film. [If you’re interested in a brief overview, though, check out my Tumblr post on my top 10 horror films—I’ll eventually post up something more extensive on Indies Unchained!].
So, I’d like to broaden it up to something even more standard: what’s your favorite film? When asked this simple question, a lot of people get stumped. The immediate response is almost always a hesitation, unless they’ve been asked this question many times before and know just how well to defend their choice. Some people answer in terms of genre, others distinguish their favorites by time frame, and some even differentiate by the people associated with the films. The answers vary infinitely – The Godfather, Mean Girls (yes, I know), Pulp Fiction, Big Fish, Titanic, Toy Story, The Exorcist, etc. Many film buffs actually answer with a top 10 in mind or a list of some kind. And others stay baffled. “Ugh, well—Umm…I don’t really have one in particular.”
Why the hesitation? Shouldn’t you inherently know what movie you’re able to watch countless of times and what movies inspire you, challenge you, motivate you, stir you, and thrill you? Aha! You see, therein lies the dilemma. There are countless of films at your disposal. So how do you just choose one?
As a student who studied cinema production in college, I was always asked during our first week’s icebreaker games, particularly in film production and theory classes, what my favorite film is. I always responded with Speed. And this surprised people because for some reason the answer always has to be something profound or cinematically posh. But no, when I think of what my favorite film is, I think of the movie that I still sit on the edge of my seat for, whether I’m with my friends on a Saturday afternoon or if I’m alone catching it on my computer. It’s the movie that has enough flaws that they’re easy to overlook once you’re hooked right in. It’s magic, really. I’m the first to point out all the flaws in a movie. I’ve been jaded after four years of continuously dissecting and analyzing films in an academic setting—and taking it seriously, too. But Speed seems to defy that somehow.
If I have to break down the elements on what makes a great film, I’ll probably end up with a different film for each category. Crazy to think, right? It’s almost even hypocritical. But no movie has the best of all worlds. And, you know, that may not be such a bad thing after all.
Where do YOU draw the line? When asked what your favorite film is, will you answer based on best writing, directing, acting, or cinematography? Or are you choosing based on your gut feeling? I mean, this works differently for absolutely everyone. And at the end of the day, that’s what makes film so damn great. Don’t you think?