The internet’s obsession with ranking movies

Anghus Houvouras, Sight & Sound’s Top 100, Jeanne Dielman and the internet’s obsession with rating movies…

A few weeks ago, Sight and Sound magazine announced the latest list of 100 best movies. The once-in-a-decade cinematic honor asked 1,169 filmmakers to rank their favorite films. As with any curated list, it can be a great reference for anyone interested in finding new works that may not have been exposed, and can create a dialogue between film lovers when discussing great works of art and the filmmakers responsible for their existence.

But this is the internet, so instead it becomes a huge point of contention and everyone loses their minds over what movies are or aren’t on the list and the associated ratings. Within an hour of release, I saw over a hundred different Twitter posts with film critics and columnists crying bloody murder over the placement of certain films. The brightest is Chantal Akerman Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles in the number one spot.

Like many of you, this was a movie I had never heard of. Its existence was a mystery until I saw it Sight and Sound decade list. I think the natural instinct of any motion picture would be curiosity and the need to explore and engage with something undiscovered. Unfortunately, movie lists bring out the worst in so-called movie fans, and it all boils down to arguments over placement and hyperbolic grandstanding between movie columnists and fans.

It’s both telling and embarrassing when people get hyperbolic about a “Top of the List” that doesn’t have a favorite movie. “Why isn’t the movie I like on this list” or “Why isn’t the movie top rated in my opinion?” rants from angry kids saying. York Times critic AO Scott’s “Best of 2022” list:

Where does this crippling sense of entitlement come from? Why do people look at a list of subjectively selected artistic endeavors and get angry that a film they enjoyed didn’t make the cut? He criticizes the one who doesn’t put it Top Gun: Maverick Do those on the “best of” list owe the reader anything but their honest opinion? Of course not.

At some point, cinematic rankings and lists became less about starting a conversation and more about starting a flame war. This moment happened probably ten minutes after the first Sight and Sound The list was published in 1952. No doubt when the film community learned of the listing by telegram or carrier pigeon, someone ran to their typewriter and furiously hammered away at the keys to rant about the tragedy of its release. Gone with the wind and this rating Le Jour Se Leve above The Birth of a Nation it was an unpardonable levity.

For those interested in ‘Best of’ lists; stop trying to turn cinema into a competitive sport. Forget the numbers next to those movies and explore the ones you haven’t seen yet. Educate yourself in quality cinema recommended by those who have spent their lives learning it as an art. No, you’re not expected to agree with every selection, and there are certainly movies you love that won’t be included.

Only one of my ten favorite movies of all time made the movie Sight and Sound Top 100 list. That’s not to say that I have poor taste in movies, and that I shouldn’t have a knee-jerk reaction to start an argument about why movies that I personally love are on the list. It’s just a collection of different ideas that can help new people get exposed to great art.

The Internet has allowed hyperbolic movies to spread their rage to a wider audience. But the sad reality is that ranting and raving about any subjective list of artistic achievements will always be sound and fury and mean nothing.

Anghus Houvouras

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