My Movie Quest

I’m on a quest, ladies and gentlemen. Not an interesting or heroic quest, like bringing about world peace or finding the Holy Grail (because strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government).

No, I’m on a quest to watch movies. Not every movie ever made, because that would be impossible and also a colossal waste of time. I want to watch every movie that matters.

Now, of course you’re wondering what I mean by that, but put simply I want to watch every movie that people might ask me if I’ve seen. You’ll understand what I mean by that if you’ve ever been annoyed by someone saying something that you don’t understand, until they explain its a line from a movie (a prime example being not understanding the line at the top of this post if you haven’t seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail). Or, someone mentions a movie and you say you haven’t seen it, and they look at you like you’ve just slapped them in the face.

Those are the movies I’m seeking out. I’ve made a list of movies I haven’t seen that range from classics that I’ve never got round to watching, to movies that aren’t necessarily good, but are widely known and referenced. What I’m essentially trying to do, then, is expand my knowledge of popular culture.

I understand this is an odd sort of goal, but I’ve always felt that while more traditional knowledge, like science, arts, humanities etc. will prove useful, it’s pop culture that makes dealing with other people easier, something that I struggle with. One of the most frustrating things about this is that I often feel like my age hinders me. I frequently spend time with people older than me, and these people will have a solid working knowledge of pop culture because they lived it, whereas I feel like I’m forever playing catchup. Just in terms of movies, I didn’t really get into them until I was about 16, which would have been about 2007. Just think about what I’d be missing out on if I didn’t go back to watch old films; my entire concept of film would be based on the last ten years.

Now of course pop culture isn’t just movies, but movies are the easiest way to tap into it for any particular time period. If I want to get an idea of the 80s, I can listen to specific music or read about current events of the time, but the information feels second-hand and often mediums like music differ too much to give an accurate representation of a time period (for example, a band like the Red Hot Chili Peppers has a recognisable tone through all their music, through several decades. Listening to their songs from the 90s doesn’t immediately give insight into that decade).

Movies, on the other hand, perform this service beautifully. Movies are not only a symbol of the time they were made, showing a view of what the world actually looked like at the time, but they also act as cultural touchstones that impacted on the people watching. I mean, how many people born in the 60s/70s would say that Star Wars had an impact on them? I can’t relive most experiences people went through in these time periods, but I can still watch the movies.

That all sounds a little complicated, but basically it boils down to wanting to be on the same level as everyone else. Understanding references, getting jokes, finding talking points. If someone tells you their favourite movie, and you’ve seen it, you instantly know more about that person’s character. That’s the power of film.

So what’s on my list? Well, over a hundred films that I’ve slowly started chipping my way through. I won’t attempt to give you the whole list, but some of the first ones on it that I’ve now seen include Godfather parts 1 and 2, Goodfellas and a bunch of other Scorsese movies, the original Superman films, Citizen Kane, Casablanca… you get the idea.

But this quest isn’t without its problems (other than finding enough time to watch everything). Even though not all of the films on my list are great, a lot of them are considered the ‘best’ films ever made. And I’m worried, because I think watching movies like this in quick succession rather than spaced out over many years could be a bad idea. For example, I watched The Godfather, The Shawshank Redemption and Goodfellas in the same week, and I wasn’t that impressed by Goodfellas, despite the fact that everyone raves about it being Scorsese’s best film. I’ve gone on to watch and enjoy films like The Departed and The Wolf of Wall Street, so was my lack of enthusiasm down to the fact that I watched two incredible films before I got to it? Perhaps I need to space out the ‘best’ movies amongst others than I’m not expecting to enjoy.

Regardless, I shall continue. What do you think of the quest? Is it a good idea, and are there movies that you love that you think may have slipped past me when making the list? Leave a comment and let me know.

/end rant

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