Movies come in all shapes and sizes, offering heartwarming comfort, iconic scares, big laughs and pulse-pounding suspense. Some of them change the world, becoming cultural touchstones or milestones, while others transcend genre to become the best of their kind – a universally acknowledged benchmark of cinematic achievement. But what makes a movie one of the best ever made? It depends on a wide range of factors.
A movie’s content, for example, can include plot points, characters and setting, as well as how the director’s style contributes to the film’s overall success. A discussion of cinematography could also be important, considering things like how a camera’s angle and distance to the subject influences its effect, or how a scene’s lighting choices create a sense of drama or tension.
It also helps to think about the movie’s message, whether it tackles a topic of social concern or simply seeks to entertain and engage its audience in a unique way. In addition, it’s helpful to consider whether a film has any historical resonance or relevance.
For instance, William Friedkin’s 1973 horror masterwork The Exorcist has earned a reputation as a gore-fest with memorable scenes such as pea-soup vomit and crucifix abuse, but it’s the bleak portrayal of humanity’s nastiness that gives the movie its enduring chills. Similarly, Daniel Plainview’s milkshake-drinking vampire incarnation in Paul Thomas Anderson’s cult classic is terrifying on a visceral level, while its deeper exploration of human mortality and morality keeps it from being merely exploitative.