Chances are most of you have an answer to that question, probably because it's so singular, and probably because you've built the answer into your mind as a quick response. That's not to say the answer you give is incorrect, but think about this for a moment, if you were to be asked your Top 5 movies of all time, could you do it as quickly? Again, chances are, there are probably five off the top of your head that you could rattle off, but chances are a few minutes later you'll remember another film that you think to yourself "Oh, I should've put that in there instead of (blank)!" Now, again, you're asked for your Top 10 movies of all time, and suddenly you need a minute, you have to sit down and think about this properly, as this list is nothing something that is to be taken lightly...
There is something oddly personal about the revelation of your favourite movie, almost as if it would reveal your personality at its most basic. It calls to mind the episode of Friends when Rachel tells people that her favourite movie is Dangerous Liasons (sexy, intelligent, proper) but her actual favourite movie is Weekend At Bernie's (crazy, stupid, funny). But there is something to be found within that thought, that there is a big difference between people's favourite movies and what they think are the BEST movies.
This year alone, until quite recently, this reviewer's top movie of 2013 was Lincoln. Fantastically made, brilliant acting, amazing screenplay... but there is no desire to watch it again in a hurry. Same for last year, the movie I picked as the best of 2012 was Shame, and again it had outstanding direction and acting, but it's not something that would be rewatched over and over again. These are what should be rightfully called the Best Movies, but very few people would call them their favourite Movies.
The recent Sight & Sound Poll listed the following ten movies as the greatest movies ever made:
- Citizen Kane
- Tokyo Story
- The Rules Of The Game
- 2001: A Space Odyssey
- The Searchers
- Man With Movie Camera
- Passion Of Joan Of Arc
- 8 ½
As a film lover myself, I have no shame in saying that I haven't seen half the movies on that list, and in all likelihood, most people would be in the same boat. These would be considered the Best Movies, and of the movies on the list I have seen, yes they are by and large fantastically made, but having seen them once, there's no great desire to see them again.
There are two primary "median" review sites online, one is called Metacritic and the other, more popular one, is known as Rotten Tomatoes. Metacritic takes every single score, adds them together, divides that number by the number of critics, to reach the average score that it then assigns to the movie. According to Metacritic, this is the top ten movies of all time:
- Lawrence Of Arabia
- The Wizard Of Oz
- Voyage To Italy
- The Godfather
- The Leopard
- The Conformist
- Sweet Smell Of Success
- Fanny & Alexander
Personally, I've seen even less of that list that I had of the previous one, and there are some movies on there that I'd never even heard of before. Film critics can sometimes be accused of film snobbery, and sometimes we can be a difficult group to defend when someone says their favourite film is "the story of a mistreated Donkey and the people around him" (which, by the way, is the plot synopsis of Balthazar).
Rotten Tomatoes on the other hand deals with its scoring differently: if a movie receives a positive review, which is considered to be a minimum of 3 out of 5 or 60%, then it goes on the "Fresh" pile. What this means is if a movie receives a 3 out of 5 from every single film critic, then it could potentially end up with a 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes. Their top ten list looks like this:
- Toy Story 2
- Man On Wire
- Taxi To The Dark Side
- The Interrupters
- The Godfather
- Toy Story
- Deliver Us From Evil
- Waste Land
- Citizen Kane
- Dr. Strangelove
Now that's more like it! I've seen almost all of the movies on that list! This would be closer to what we might call our "Favourite" movies, as there are some on here that are far more likely to be rewatched over and over again. This might be the problem that Rachel was avoiding in Friends; she may have genuinely thought that Dangerous Liasons was the best movie she'd ever seen, but Weekend At Bernie's was her favourite.
Are we all secretly ashamed of some movie or another that we really enjoy watching over and over again, but when it comes to our favourite / best movie lists, we'd never in a million years even THINK about putting it on there. As a small example, the Disney movie I've seen more times than any other is The Emperor's New Groove (because it's absolutely hilarious), but people ask for my favourite Disney movie, I'd probably answer The Lion King (which I haven't watched in years).
You may have noticed that on the above "Best Movies" list from Sight & Sound and Metacritic, they're mostly heavy dramas, with little or no entries from comedies or horror or sci-fi, not to mention the complete absence of animated movies, which is interesting as comedies, horror, sci-fi and animated movies are the movies that everyone seems to enjoy going to see in the movies. None of the top ten grossing movies of all time - whether you use the actual numbers or the adjusted for inflation numbers - are in the Sight & Sound and Metacritic's top ten movies of all time. Is there no room for a crossover between "favourite" and "best" movies?
Well... there may be. Next time you're thinking about asking someone what their favourite movie of all time is, don't. Instead, ask the following: What's your favourite sci-fi movie? Drama? Comedy? Horror? Animation? Etc. The answers you get will be honest as it won't be the gut-reaction "Dangerous Liasons!" as they'll actually have to put a second's thought into it.
Oh, and if you were interested at all, my favourite movie is Aliens.