How to Decide if a Movie is Good or Bad

Written by Brenden Bell.

There are so many creative and wonderful films out there; some we love and some we hate. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference. What makes a movie good? What makes it bad?

If you’re confused, this article is for you. I’m going to give you some practical tools to assess a film based on both subjective and objective factors, and then take you through a film so you’ll be comfortable doing this yourself in private.

Download the worksheet here as a PDF: An Objective Journey into Subjectivity.

Then, follow along as we learn how to decide if we think a movie is good or not. The analysis of the film is based on a point system. Each positive answer is given one point, while negative answers are given zero points. The final section asks you to rate your answer on a scale of 1-5; the point value is equal to this scale.

If a movie got more than 16 points it’s probably a movie you’re ok with watching, more than 21 then it’s probably a good film. More than 30?? Probably an all time favorite for you.

Let’s test it shall we?

I’m going to take you through it with one of my least favorite films: The Phantom Menace.

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Our first step is to fill in the information in the text box in the left corner of the worksheet. You’ll reference back to these as needed.

If you’re confused about how to tell who your main character is, it’s usually the character who is the most changed at the end of the film.

The theme/thematic material is the big idea behind the film; the idea the filmmaker wants you to take away from the film. If you’re still confused, check out this blog to explain it a bit more.

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Once this is done you can move on to the next several sections of questions; you want to answer as honestly and fairly as you can. They revolve around story, character and theme.

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  • the first question refers to your ability to write the story in a sentence from the previous section. If you’re unable to do so simply (as I was for this movie, then the answer is no). The rest are fairly self-explanatory.
  • The next two sections play fairly similarly, both with one question taken from the information you gave in the first written portion.

The next section of questions is a bit more objective, focusing in on the artistry/craftsmanship involved in the various departments involved in the filmmaking process. Movies you love can be made poorly, and films you hate can have good aspects to them. This section helps add a bit of objectivity to your subjective opinion of a film.

Rather than YES/NO the positive distinction is HELP while the negative distinction is DISTRACT. Ask yourself, did the following aspects of filmmaking HELP tell the story, or did they DISTRACT from the story and feel out of place? If you didn’t notice either way, then you can assume they were natural and helped tell the story.

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For this section, when I had mixed feelings (such as production design), I decided to go positive. Your levels of grace and compassion are totally up to you.

The last section, and perhaps the most important. There is always a part of a movie for me which is indescribable and separate from the story, and other elements of filmmaking. I call this… THE X-FACTOR.

Ultimately, this section is a way to measure how much this film resonates with you on a personal level. A movie can be poorly made but resonate with you, causing you to generally enjoy it as a result. A movie can be executed brilliantly from a technical standpoint, but if it doesn’t resonate with you, then it’s not going to become one of your favorites.

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  • Each section should be filled out on a scale of 0 – 5: 0 meaning not in the slightest, and 5 meaning absolutely.
  • For the final question in this section, the emotion I am referring to should stem from the story and the contents therein, and should be divorced from poor quality in filmmaking or storytelling. If you’re angry at poor quality, then the answer would be no. If you’re angry because of the subject matter or the character’s choices or how the story turned out, then this film had an impact on you and the answer is yes… and is something you should unpack.

Final score for The Phantom Menace? …5/32.

According to my scale this means I “absolutely hate this movie to the point of offense.” This test is pretty accurate.

Now you try; think of a movie you’re unsure how you feel about and run it through this test.

Perhaps you’ll learn it’s a good film but you just didn’t connect with it emotionally. Try out a few different popular movies or some not so popular ones and let us know what points you gave them in the comments below.

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Live Presently, You Must

Written by Keaton Evans.

Ask the impossible, Yoda does not. Related directly to acting, this is. How it is I will, er, can show you… ah, forget it.

If you are as much of a Star Wars fan as I am, which I guarantee you’re not, you might remember the scenes from The Empire Strikes Back where Yoda is training the ever-growing Luke about the mysterious ways of The Force.

I think he has some key insight into what it’s like to live in the moment and how to concentrate. The Dagobah training scenes are rich with all sorts of sagely small green humanoid wisdom. But here I am going to translate some of the key ideas and show you how living in the moment will greatly reward you as an actor and how you can even do this on a busy set.

Listed below are some techniques I like to use to help me live in the present. They are quick and easy and shouldn’t take you any longer than ten minutes.

  1. A quiet place, you must find

Did you notice in Episode V how Yoda greeted all his neighbors on his daily walk to the local Dagobah supermarket before he met Luke? No? Neither do I. In fact we never see another sentient soul on the entire planet besides our little green friend.

That’s because Yoda (R.I.P.) understood it’s best to be alone when you do any kind of training. Including the training of living in the present moment. Take a page from Yoda’s book. Find a place on set or location, where you are about to film, that is quiet and away from the distraction.

If you’re up on the acting ladder you’ll have a trailer. Find that quiet place. The green room is a great place. The honeywagon is great too, if you have nowhere else.

  1. Your body, stretched it must be

Yoda was also quite the advocate for stretching. Now, while we never see him actually stretch, except for his hand when he lifts Luke’s freaking X-wing out of the mud. Now the stretching we see Luke do is not quite the same as what I have done, although the idea remains the same.

In that quiet place, your Dagobah, as I’ve now decided to call it, the first thing to do is to stretch. If you’re not wearing standard jedi garb then that’s ok. As long as the clothes are not too restricting, you can do the basic stretching techniques.

Try touching your toes, reaching for the sky, or my personal favourite: swinging your arms in giant loops.

Not only is stretching great for getting you relaxed and in the right mindset, but according to healthguidance.org, it also helps warm you up, increases your range of motion, and improves your posture. Stretching has a multitude of benefits. As you can see, and now so can Luke, Yoda knew what he was talking about.

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Do or do not. There is no try.

  1. For success, close your eyes and breathe deeply, you should

Did you notice in the movie how when Yoda focuses The Force he closes his eyes? Well the same goes for training yourself to live in the present moment. I (almost) guarantee that when Yoda was reaching out with The Force he was breathing deeply. If you zoom in on him in the scene where he lifts Luke’s X-Wing you can just see Yoda’s chest (Oz’ hand) move up and down in the same pattern a human would if they were breathing deeply. My point? Yoda was onto something… that genius!

After stretching, pull a concentrated Yoda. Pretend you are lifting something with The Force while your eyes are closed and your breathing is deep. This is great for calming your mind and getting the distractions like the threat of the empire or your friends’ death in Cloud City off your ol’ noodle.

But seriously, according to Harvard Medical School, deep breathing can slow the heartbeat and lower or stabilize blood pressure. It’s great for helping you to live in the present moment.

Here’s a link to the article about deep breathing which goes more in-depth:  https://hms.harvard.edu/

  1. All around you, sounds are. On sounds, focus

Yoda talks about how The Force is all around us. It’s in the rocks, the trees, that possum you saw the other night, even in your very own computation device.

I believe that sounds are all around you. And I know from trying that while you are breathing deeply you focus on listening it makes all the difference in the world in pulling you into the present. Simply listen. Hear the birds, the cars, the talking, white noise, cats meowing, dogs barking. Then after you simply sit and listen to all the sounds, even if they are faint, try listening to only one sound. This will help your concentration. As you have to concentrate on one sound you will learn to concentrate on only one thing, that is your script later when you are waiting for the next shot.

  1. Now the time to focus on your role, it is

The last step in your jedi training, er, present-moment training, is to focus on the most important part of your job: your role. As you have used the instructions of the universe’s most trusted whatever-species-Yoda-is, you are ready to live in the moment and focus not on the distractions around you, but on your character.

In the moments of deep breathing with your eyes still closed, think of the background of your character. Think of their history and relationships. Think about your character’s overall objective and their objective in the upcoming scene. In this way you will be ready to live in the present moment by focusing on your role and it will be that much easier to live truthfully under imaginary circumstances.

The distractions of everything else will fall into the background. You will be able to concentrate on that which is most important.

Through these steps you have found your Dagobah, you’ve stretched your body, you’ve deeply breathed, you’ve listened, and you’ve focused on your character. You journey towards the darkside WON’T be complete now! Hurrah! Suck it Palpatine!

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Pictured: a wrinkled sap who doesn’t live in the present.

Hopefully these steps will help you to live in the present moment and prepare you for the scene you are about to take part in. Well, as they say in Yoda’s swamp town: “bye”!