What Does Your Favourite Film Say About You?

The film (and the book, but this is a film site) High Fidelity spends a lot of time discussing Top 5 lists and certainly something about obsessed fans and nerds ranking the things they love rang true. For me the reality is probably that I can’t pick a favourite film, or even a top-five, there are too many variables, too many things to consider. Is Life of Brian better than There Will Be Blood? Is The Dark Knight better than Toy Story? Nevertheless, I have an official answer on hand if for no other reason than to be able to give a simple answer. But this answer has changed over the years. I think when you choose a favourite film, or book, or album, you are choosing how you see yourself, how you want others to see you.

The Empire Strikes Back – The Blockbuster Fan & Sci-Fi Nerd

The Empire Strikes Back
The Empire Strikes Back // Credit: Lucasfilm LTD

The first film I can clearly remember stating was my favourite film was The Empire Strikes Back. This was back in secondary school and I was – and still am – a massive Star Wars fan and as is pretty much an accepted fact now – The Empire Strikes Back is the best one. This is probably the choice with the least artifice – I just loved this film and Star Wars. Already the words nerd and geek were firmly attached to me and Star Wars is great starter nerd starter kit. The Empire Strikes Back has spectacle on a scale rarely seen and to this day I still watch the final duel between Vader and Luke and hope it ends differently. I suppose there was an element of finding your group with this selection – firmly putting myself in a club that would rather than talk about light sabres than the offside rule.

Dr. Strangelove – I’m An Intellectual

Dr. Strangelove
Dr. Strangelove // Credit: Columbia Pictures

In sixth form college I began to seek out more and more films and already interested in The Cold War I watched Dr. Strangelove. A brilliant darkly comic film about the ridiculousness of the arms race (and much of politics and war) it is considered a masterpiece of cinema. When I saw this film it was already forty years old and I don’t think I’d seen anything this clever. This was the first Kubrick film I watched and couldn’t believe how good it was and how something so dark in tone could also be so funny. Clearly, there is something being said when you change your favourite film from special effects blockbuster to a black and white film from the 60s satirising Mutually Assured Destruction. I was no longer just someone who enjoyed movies – I watched films, I appreciated cinema, and attaching yourself to Kubrick is a good way to announce that to the world.

Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid – I Prefer The Old Hollywood

Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid
Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid // Credit: 20th Century Fox

A few years on from Dr. Strangelove I saw Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and loved it. A western but a western like no other, built around the friendship of these two characters and one of the greatest scripts of all-time. It was written by the legendary William Goldman who also wrote The Princess Bride, All The President’s Men, Chaplin and more. It also has one of the greatest final scenes and indeed final shots in all of cinema. It could be seen as a step away from my intellectual choice of Dr. Strangelove but I think I was going for an older version of Hollywood and picking a film that contained two move legends – not just huge stars but tremendous actors. I had a creeping disdain for many of the more successful films of my present and looked back at the sixties when films like this were the most successful ones (this was literally the highest-grossing film in America for 1969).

The Big Lebowski – The Modern Alternative

The Big Lebowski
The Big Lebowski // Credit: Universal Pictures

Effectively shamed into watching this film by outraged friends it soon became one of my favourites and then the favourite. To simply be the best Coen Brothers movie is a tremendous accolade – a collection of their films would serve wonderfully well as a desert island movie library in terms of quality and scope. A case of mistaken identity sends the Dude down a labyrinth of fake millionaires, pornographers and nihilists. The Dude’s porn film dream sequence alone makes this film wildly inventive. This was the first time my favourite film went through a sort of probationary period – I saw it, loved it, but wanted to give it time. People loving The Big Lebowski has become something of a cliche (the tv show Preacher has a character who can’t stop going on about his hatred for the film and this leads to every other character arguing with him) but it is great. Choosing The Big Lebowski was perhaps an attempt to move to a more modern great, the Coen Brothers are still making great films now and could show I wasn’t just stuck in the past.

The Shining – Appreciate Art

The Shining
The Shining // Credit: Warner Bros

And we’re back to Kubrick. For a long while horror was a neglected genre for me, never a fan of slasher horrors films I simply didn’t want to watch more films. It was my love of Kubrick that brought me back to horror with The Shining (and incidentally horror is a great genre of film). It’s easy to get lost in Kubrick’s films – the obsessive details, the layer upon layer of stories being told, the arduous filmmaking process and to marvel at his talent and determination. But irrelevant to all of that The Shining is simply phenomenal. I have never seen another film like it – a central cast of three people who are all brilliant, ingenious and creative uses of music, sound, editing techniques and more, an ability to create such a feeling of unease, which builds to fear, which builds to outright horror. This became my favourite film only very recently, again, I saw it years ago and my appreciation has been slowly building and I watch it around every Halloween. So what does choosing The Shining say about me? I’ve picked a director hailed as a visionary and genius and a film which is celebrated not only for being great art but an intense experience. I am interesting, have sophisticated tastes but not too much of a snob to say something like Jules et Jim, I am clever enough to “get” The Shining – or at least I’m trying to say I’m all of these things.

It’s important to say I genuinely love all of these films and my analysis of why they’re my favourite is that they were always a contender and perhaps the deciding factor in my “official” favourite was also about an image of myself. What is your favourite film and what does it say about you?

Also Read: Great Dance Moments In Non-Musical Films

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Posted by
Richard Norton

Gentleman, podcaster and pop culture nerd, I love talking and writing about pretty much all pop culture.