What is the greatest movie ever made?
What is the stupidest question I have been asked this week?
I’m not sure the first question has an answer, but do believe the first question is the answer to the second question! There are those who will tell you Citizen Kane is the greatest film ever made, others will suggest it is The Godfather, but is The Godfather as good as its own sequel? The Shawshank Redemption has been the top rated film on IMDB for as long as I can remember, as good as it is, I’m not convinced it is the best film from 1994 let alone the greatest of all time. Number nine on the same list is currently The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, it isn’t even my favourite movie in the trilogy. I am not saying the people who have voted for these movies are wrong, but the concept of ranking is wrong. We all have our opinions, but we are all different, it isn’t even a matter of personal favourites, a film can be better or worse depending on personal prospective. Like music, movies are more readily available than ever before and than any other art form, and like music there is some strange human desire to rank them.
So what is the obsession with ranking? It works in some things, if you are putting together a sporting team or squad, you only have an set number of places so you want the best. The same could be said for a job or a university entrance but art and media, what sense does that make. Take the idea further, or more accurately look at a small part of it under a microscope. The Oscars pick “the best…” in a selection of categories each year, but who ever agrees with the result. Award ceremonies are the worst offenders when it comes to ranking and they encourage discussion on the subject, but it isn’t even a simple matter of good, to win an award you have to be worthy and within the current zeitgeist. There are no universally accepted rules that conclude in a film being described as great or the greatest. Some are financial successes others are flops. There is a school of thought that suggests it is an artistic statement to declare something great when it can not be qualified or quantified. There is even merit in the idea that if you could quantify it, it would detract from the brilliance.
I have another idea on the subject, it goes back to something from the most list-centric book/movie High Fidelity: “It’s what you like; not what you ARE Like, that really matters”. just like showing off a physical attribute or sporting prowess a list is a message to anyone who is interested in listening or reading, a message the cuts to the heart of not just what we like, but what we are like. We have all done it, formed or changed an opinion of an individual based on there taste. But this is drifting away from topic. This in itself creates a question, how many people have to think something before it becomes true? Personally I prescribe to the theory that numbers don’t matter and it is all just opinion. Every year I produce a top ten movies of the year and a ranking of the hundred or so movies I watch at the cinema in the year. These are my favourite movies of the year, MY top ten, MY favourite, not THE best movies. It is easy to fall into the collective view and justify something’s greatness because it is in the IMDb Top 250 or Empire magazine’s 500 Greatest Movies Of All Time. With this in mind it is refreshing to think there is someone out there who believes Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is the greatest movie of all time. I reserve the right to believe that, that person is an idiot with no taste but I also believe their opinion is no less valid than people who love Citizen Kane or The Shawshank Redemption. Look at it this way, Michael Bay’s movie has better action, better robots and better CGI than Kane and Shawshank, and if you judge a movie by those criteria you may have a point.
Next time someone asks you what is the greatest movie ever made? Don’t answer the question, just think how dumb the question is.