“IMDb Top 250 films? Top POO 50 more like!”
or: “How I learned to stop worrying and love the mainstream”

I don’t mean that. Believe it or not, that awesome yet juvenile post title was quoted from one of the many extremely eloquent users of the IMDb forums. I’ll explain.

In my quest to become a bona-fide cinephile and wannabe film-snob, I needed somewhere to start. Other than seeing what a select few people on whatthemovie posted, I didnt know where to look. A couple of my friends who were also into film a little, were working through the IMDB Top 250 film list. “Ha!” I thought. By that point I had read enough text about arthouse and indie cinema to know that anyone who watched such mainstream nonsense from the imdb top 250 were no better than personal injury lawyers, and those weird people who stand in the high street shouting swear words for no reason. I had begun my release from mainstream pop culture into the little known realm of world cinema, classic film and arthouse productions. I would NEVER sink so low as to use the imdb top 250!

And then a few weeks later… in a moment of clarity…. I realised…..

I had become a twat. A big fat movie-snob twat.

What forced this realisation upon me, was the moment I happened upon the IMDb top250 list again. I realised that many of these classics I had seen were on there! I had discovered Fritz Lang and Murnau by this point, and immensely enjoyed the films I had seen. M was a masterpiece in my eyes, as was Metropolis. Both of these are on the top250 list, respectfully placed in fact. Sunrise, one of my favourite Murnau films, was also there. “Hang on… ” I thought… “there are fucking Bergman and Fellini movies on this list! And bloody Truffaut!” Could all the harsh words I had heard about the IMDb 250 be absolute bollocks?

Well, yes and no. But largely yes.

While the list has plenty of over-rated mainstream filler, it is actually a really good list to follow if you are a novice trying to learn a little about film. Yep, I said really good. The current ranking is pretty bad (Shawshank Redemption at number 1?) but every flavour of cinema is covered in some way. Even though the list leans way over towards the popular end of the spectrum, it still manages to capture some great artistically important film. Granted, the films from the great pioneering arthouse and new-wave and realist directors were their more accessible works (Fellini’s La Strada, Truffaut’s 400 blows etc..),  but is that such a bad thing if it helps introduce people to their films?

So I worked through it. I forced myself to watch all the things I said I wouldn’t, and so far I am at 210/250. Aside from a few shitty moments I’ve bloody loved it. It hasn’t stopped me from watching some more obscure films, but it has been nice to have some focus, and a goal to obtain. It has guided me to discover some new personal favourite films regardless of their so called importance and critical acclaim (The Third Man, Nuovo Cinema Paradiso, Manhattan, Il Postino, La Vita e Bella, Sleuth to name a few) . It made me discover and fall head-over-heels in love with Chaplin. It made me want to seek out and watch every single inch of film Billy Wilder has ever shot. Most importantly it has also forced me to watch films I simply wouldn’t have bothered with in my earlier movie-snob mindset.

The list has also reminded my why I loved films to start with. When I was a kid, craning my neck to look up at the huge silver screen, you can bet your life I wasn’t contemplating the montage ability of Eisenstein, or the philosophical narrative of Tarkovsky. No, I was pissing my pants with excitement when E.T made Elliot’s bike fly over that tree, scared shitless and loving every second of Critters and Gremlins on pirated VHS, and rolling on the floor laughing at Richard Pryor on a subway train in See no evil, hear no evil (“I’m black!?”). The films may not have had artistic worth but they were goddamn fun (although if anyone criticizes E.T for anything I’m afraid I’m gonna have to lay a sucka down foo’).

So now I watch anything. I still prefer to study film, reading about film history and the technical process behind shooting, and my heart is still rooted deep in the golden age. I still prefer to seek out little known movies, world-cinema, and arthouse. If I like, I can be analytical of a film’s narrative, its structure, the cinematography, the dialogue. However now, I realise that it doesnt mean I can’t just enjoy a film. I can turn all that learned wankery off and just try to soak up a film for its entertainment value only. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to go and buy Alvin and the Chipmunks on DVD, but I will happily cheer with the masses watching a summer action, entertainment specacular like Kick-Ass, and then go home and try to fathom a Gaspar Noe or Béla Tarr.

One piece of advice I would pass on after this journey, is don’t let people tell you what to like and watch. Heard Transformers is shit but still fancy watching it? Then watch it and make your own mind up! (It is shit by the way – but don’t take my word for it!) Watch what you want, when you want, and state your own movie opinions proudly and loudly, and screw everyone else (although not at the cost of dampening friendly debate, which is one of the more enjoyable aspects of cinema).

So thank you IMDb top 250 for reminding me what movies are all about. Thanks for introducing me to some great movies, and thanks for at least trying to introduce new people to cinema other than the mass-produced.  I don’t think you are poo, you’re OK by me.

Oh, and a big fuck you for making me watch District 9.

them00ch's iCheckMovies.com Top 250 widget

Related links:

IMDB top 250 : Go on, it isn’t as bad as you’ve heard I promise. Just ignore the order.

iCheckMovies : More lists than you can shake a Phased plasma rifle in the 40-watt range at.