So you want me to like your movie?


One of the most exemplary movies! Amadeus (1984)

As anyone learns in Ancient History 101 at any university, bias is probably the single most important thing when reading historical texts. It’s important to put yourself in the mind of the individual who wrote it and imagine:

These things allow you to apply a critical light to any text and question the authenticity of what’s written on the page, in hopes we can get a more accurate picture of the truth.

It’s always helpful when people recognise and call out their own biases, so that we can use that to check and balance their writings or statements. Of course, self-stating biases is also biased, as people will be more reluctant to disclose biases they are less proud of. But, it’s better than nothing.

In light of this, I am writing down a list of biases that have highly likely coloured my Top 50 Films of All Time list. You can use this if you like to figure out why I’ve ranked these films the way I have. If a movie is high in my Top 50 but doesn’t fit any of the categories below, you can rest assured I probably think the movie is really good from a much more objective perspective.

Pro-tip, if you’re making a movie, and you want me to like it - like, really really like it, check off as many of these as you can.

So, without further ado, a list of eight things you should do to make me like your movie, in priority order:

  1. Make the central plot about the difficulties and experiences mastering, or generally being the best in the world, at one’s trade, craft, or skill.
    • I am a total sucker for films that are all about the challenges of being THE BEST. Bonus points if it comes at the expense of all else in their life. Bonus points if that trade, craft, or skill is explored lovingly in the film in detail.
    • Exemplary movies: Railroad Man (1999), Amadeus (1984), The Wind Rises (2013), Whiplash (2014), Waterboys (2001)
  2. Set the movie in a war, especially World War II, or about the events preceding the aforementioned war.
    • I specialize in war films to some extent, and always enjoy a new perspective to conflicts. I’ve written a whole article about it even. Bonus points for historical accuracy and a focus in teaching history.
    • Exemplary movies: In This Corner of the World (2016), Schindler’s List (1993), The Wind Rises (2013), Inglorious Basterds (2009), The Sound of Music (1965)
  3. Set your movie in Japan, or secondarily, Taiwan.
    • I would be catastrophically failing at my task if I didn’t acknowledge this one. I really do love East Asian cinema, and the percentages of East Asian film vs. all other nations in my Top 50 speak volumes to this.
    • Exemplary movies: Literally anything made in the above countries.
  4. Highly prioritise music in your film.
    • This one is less specific, but if the music plays above the typical level of importance in the movie, it will do well in my books. This could include musicals, movies with music as the central theme, or just exceptional soundtracks.
    • Exemplary movies: Linda Linda Linda (2005), Amadeus (1984), Whisper of the Heart (1995), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), The Sound of Music (1965), Sister Act (1992)
  5. Make the overall mood of your movie sad.
    • For some reason generally any movie that is a downer I tend to reflect more positively on. I’m not sure if this is because it’s… cool to be sad? It feels more genuine?
    • Exemplary movies: Lost in Translation (2003), Once Were Warriors (1994), Yi Yi (2000), Still Walking (2008), Amadeus (1984)
  6. Include strong law themes and debates.
    • Bonus points for courtroom dramas. Bonus points for thrilling case making.
    • Exemplary movies: 12 Angry Men (1957), The Castle (1997)
  7. Feature the actors Harrison Ford, Bill Murray, Bae Doona, or Tony Leung.
    • No matter the movie, if these guys are in it, it will be a better movie.
    • Exemplary movies: Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Lost in Translation (2003), Linda Linda Linda (2005), Chungking Express (1994) in respective order
  8. Include strong religious, especially Christian, symbolism and themes.
    • Bonus points for Catholicism. Bonus points for Nuns.
    • Exemplary movies: Amadeus (1984), Belfast (2021), Sister Act (1992), The Sound of Music (1965), Stations of the Cross (2014)

Let me know if you see other recurring themes in my Top 50 films!