Since the beginning of man, civilizations have told stories to entertain and inform of customs and traditions.
Today, storytelling takes on many forms; one of the most notable being film. Dating as far back as 1896 with Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat (supposedly the first film shown to an audience), people having been making film to tell a story. While these short pieces of film were silent, the movement of the actors and the musical score told the story of the show.
It wasn’t until 1927 with Gordon Hollingshead and Alan Crosland’s film, The Jazz Singer, that sound film — or “talkies” — became popular at theatres. Today, the dialogue of films have become a crucial part of storytelling. The dialogue of a movie, as well as how it is portrayed can determine the success of the film.
One of the greatest movie– especially when it comes to dialogue — is The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Not only is the acting in the movie superb, but the dialogue is unique: there isn’t a lot of it. Lines are few and far between, and when there are lines, they are normally pretty short. Each and every line contributes to the background of each character or developed the plot in some way, but in any case no line is thrown away.
One element important to the overall quality of a film is its cinematography. Framing the shot in a certain way convey more than words or facials expressions could. One of the greatest films containing superior cinematography was The Revenant. Not only was this Leonardo DiCaprio’s first Oscar-winning performance, but just a genuinely beautiful masterpiece straight out of a National Geographic magazine.
But above all, people want a good story. The dialogue and cinematography keeps the ever-shrinking attention span of the audience engaged, but storytelling is what truly makes a movie great. For example, most superhero movies are the same: a normal citizen acquires extraordinary powers, overcomes adversity/ villainy, and gets the girl. This trend has stayed pretty constant for most movies, but if it wasn’t for the spectacle of the film no one would view it.
In short: Spectacle and story don’t have to go together to make an adequate/ good film (with a story carrying more weight that spectacle), but to have a great film you need both. Most films that have become timeless normally incorporate something never done before.
*In the following list spectacle can be anything CGI, theme, or “out-of-this-world”*
Top 5 Movies with spectacle but a not-so-great story
- Transformers– The Transformers series is great for kids who just want to see robots blow up, but everything else really falls flat
- Snow White and the Huntsman– Having an intense retelling of a classic children’s story can be a great idea, but it is all about execution. Snow White and the Huntsman just crams the film with cool fight and action scenes, with complete disregard for the story.
- Star Wars (I-III)– the spectacle and large battles of the new Star Wars trilogy was pretty cool, but the dialogue and overall acting was subpar.
- Pan– see the review for Snow White and the Huntsman. When the Lost Boys start singing “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana, that is a clear sign of a movie begging for viewers and their attention.
- American Ultra– Lots of explosions…. That’s pretty much it.
Top 5 Movies with a great story but low quality spectacle/ no spectacle
- 12 Angry Men– While it was a fantastic film (acting and story wise), the film only had 12 jurors in a conference room. Great film with plenty of suspense, but certainly no spectacle.
- Rear Window– While this was one of Alfred Hitchcock’s greatest suspense films, there was very little spectacle. 90% of the film takes place in one apartment with very little action and lots of snooping.
- Animal House– The classic John Belushi film was one of National Lampoon’s greatest stupid comedies. It certainly deviates from the norm, but there is nothing special about it cinematography or technology wise
- The Big Short– This movie is all about talking and interaction. While there’s not a large “wow” factor, it’s a fantastic movie.
- Psycho– Another great Alfred Hitchcock film, Psycho is a great black and white slasher film that leaves the audience on the edge of their seats.
Top 10 with both
- The Revenant
- The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
- Pulp Fiction
- Big Fish
- Star Wars (IV-VI)