A few nights ago, I was watching Mallrats with some of the writers for The Grid. As the movie ended and the credits rolled, one of us remarked, “That was a good movie!” From another came the response, “No, it wasn’t.” Mind you, both people in question enjoyed the movie. So why was it not a good movie? Was it a bad movie? An opinion on what is a good movie and a bad movie varies from person to person. However, there is a phenomenon of bad movies getting far more attention than they should, whereas good movies tend to be box office flops that may eventually gain a cult following on a home video release. Before analyzing this phenomenon, it is important that one must first define a bad movie.
What Is A Bad Movie?
A bad movie is simply defined as a movie with very little redeeming qualities. The plot is poor, the acting is poor, the characters are poor, everything is poor. There might be more than one attribute that was good about this movie, but, otherwise, this movie is bad… Allow us to look at an example, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.
This film suffered from a plethora of problems. First, the main character was not likable. He was young, arrogant, and the audience very much wanted him to lose his races. Second, the plot was ill-contrived. In this movie, the main character, a high school student no less, is sent to live with his father in Japan after having one too many criminal incidents involving driving (racing, in particular). Once there, he goes straight to the streets of Tokyo to race again. Not only is this a poor excuse to land in Tokyo, but this film sees almost no development from the main character. All in all, Tokyo Drift was a bad movie in all of these aspects and a flop at the box office. It nearly spelled certain doom for the franchise despite having one redeeming factor, Han.
Han was a street-smart racer who helped our main character learn how to drift and race in Tokyo. His character was clearly popular with someone (producers, writers, or audiences) because he appeared in the next three Fast and the Furious sequels. However, despite Han’s presence, Tokyo Drift is our definition of a terrible movie.
What Is A Good Movie?
Defining a good movie is much trickier than defining a bad movie. A good movie often depends on the person. Many people would consider Clerks and Mallrats to be good movies, but the Academy Awards would never offer such movies a nomination. So what is a good movie? Is it box office numbers? Is it plot? Is it acting? There are movies that have all of these attributes that never get noticed for an Academy Award outside of visual effects, best costumes, or set designs (superhero movies, for example). Well, then, is it a movie that wins awards? Lincoln was nominated for a lot of awards but was still hated by quite a few people.
My definition of a good movie may vary from others’ definitions, but it is necessary to pursue such a venture to avoid confusion. A good movie is a movie that forces one to think beyond just being entertained. It has a compelling plot, relatable, and round characters (those are characters who change throughout the movie). Sometimes, good supplemental features (albeit music, cinematography, set design, costumes, etc.) can also help a movie, but these aren’t always necessary to make a good movie.
An example of a good movie would be one of Christopher Nolan’s early films, Memento. MINOR SPOILERS TO FOLLOW OF SAID MOVIE! This movie follows Leonard (played by Guy Pearce) as he tries to find the man who murdered his wife. However, with any Nolan film, there is a twist. Leonard no longer has the ability to form long-term memories. Instead, he can only remember things for about fifteen minutes. The film takes advantage of this by giving us the story backward. We start at the end of the movie and then gradually, within varying increments, make our way to the beginning. We see people take advantage of Leonard and, even more incrementally, we find out the truth about Leonard’s past and what he does to deal with it.
So why is this a good movie? This movie forces us to think about our past mistakes and the measures we would take to numb ourselves to the pain of our actions. In short, this is a movie that forces us to think beyond our entertainment.
The Fun Movie
Not all movies are so cerebrally deep. But does that make them bad movies? Well, these movies still draw audiences and continue to pump out sequels. Clearly, they’re doing something right. These are the action movies, the romantic comedies, and summer blockbusters. These include films like The Fast and the Furious movies, which have struck to a formula of fast cars, girls, and likable characters (with the exception of Tokyo Drift). They also include the mindless explosions of the Transformers franchise, which, for reasons beyond myself, continue to draw large crowds.
However, the fun movie is not always an action movie or a summer blockbuster. I mentioned Clerks and Mallrats, which are satirical and entertaining movie comedies of ’90s culture. In the case of Clerks, it has elements of our definition of a good movie, with the character of Dante trying to figure out what he really wants in life.
Fun movies have their place and can often be the most hotly debated between being good and bad among moviegoers.
So when you get into a debate with a friend over whether a movie is good or bad, remember that there are also fun movies. Fun movies are most often mindless. These movies make people forget about their problems, can sometimes be deep, but are most functional as just a form of entertainment. For some reason, your friend may like that movie that you absolutely abhor. Be open to their opinion and keep in mind that you probably like fun movies for reasons your own friends can hardly fathom.
What makes your list of bad, good, or fun movies? Comment below and let us know if your definitions vary.