Though we might think that what makes a film great is subjective, there are definite criteria that points to it being a standout piece of art. There are tons of lists of the greatest films of all times, and what do they have in common? The six areas of brilliance are the script, characters, acting, timing, sound, and visuals (No Film School). In order for a film to be truly great, it needs to excel in all those spheres.
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For scripts, if the dialog is clunky and unnatural, it is usually noticed by audiences and critics alike. No matter how amazing the plot is or how beautiful the visuals are, if the script is pretentious or awkward, then the film does not float. Also, having weak opening and/or ending dialog certainly contributes to a sour taste in the audience’s mouth (Grove, E.).
Characters are often the focal point of a film. They are the drivers of plot and scenes. The main aspect of characters in films that is important is whether or not they are believable. It is a fine balance between exaggeration of real life and vagueness (Nicholson, J.).
In order for a film to be great, the acting obviously has to be on par with the rest of its components. Critics usually go after actors whose work is flat, over the top, or unconvincing. It is part of the casting director’s job to find actors that will fit in the role perfectly, and that will act in a way that will be Oscar-worthy. This is perhaps the most difficult part of getting a film right, as it is the main characteristic of a film that people criticize, besides plot.
The timing, or a pace, of a film is often what keeps film viewers staying or leaving. A great film commonly slows down for emotional moments, and speeds up for action scenes—just like a novel does with its pacing. If a movie seems to take too long, or ends too swiftly, audience members usually feel that it either dragged on, or they did not get their money’s worth (raindance).
Sound is more essential to the film-viewing experience than most would believe. The sound, especially music, adds layers and emotional content to the film that nothing else can. A great film will have an impressive score, and one that aligns with the plot and mood of the film.
Finally, the cinematography should be stunning. This part of film is often what makes A-list movies different than B-list movies. The type of camera used, the angles employed, the filters of the lens used, and much more add to the overall experience—which allows viewers to become engrossed in the film.
Though most people say “to each one’s own” when it comes to films, there are exact criteria that critics and official film industry professionals use to gauge the greatness of films. These elements comprise script, characters, acting, timing, sound, and visuals. Without the successful undertaking of these aspects, a film might be a cult gaff, but never a cult classic.
No Film School. (2017). What Makes a Film Great? Here Are 6 Elements to Watch For. [online] Available at: http://nofilmschool.com/2016/02/6-elements-great-film [Accessed 25 Sep. 2017].
Nicholson, J. (2017). What Makes a Great Film?. [online] Moviepilot.com. Available at: https://moviepilot.com/posts/3537706 [Accessed 25 Sep. 2017].
Grove, E. and Grove, E. (2017). 10 Common Elements Of Award Winning Screenplays – Raindance. [online] Raindance. Available at: https://www.raindance.org/10-common-elements-of-award-winning-screenplays/ [Accessed 25 Sep. 2017].
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