Revisiting the Site: Best Movie vs. Favourite Movie: Is There a Difference?

(CS: I've been thinking a lot about the discussion of 'best' in art. I decided to look back at the article where I tried answering that question.)

The 2022 Oscars are a week away. (Speaking of Oscars, is anyone interested in me making my far too early Best Picture nominee predictions? I'm supposed to do them right after the awards, but this year I haven't followed much regarding what I am supposed to do on this site.) This is the time where everyone starts predicting who will walk away with the statuettes, and endlessly argue over who really should have won or been nominated. A thing that even I have done endlessly, even if I have been writing and discussing movies long enough to recognize it is all futile. 

There is prestige with the awards show, and there have definitely been worthy winners, but Scott Martin and I have mentioned several times on The Movie Breakdown that the awards show is rarely about the actual best. And the reality is that despite all the debating and hoopla, the best in terms of art is always subjective.
Despite that subjectivity, we love declaring what is the best. At the end of the year, most critics compile lists of what they feel are the top ten best movies of the year. I've been doing it since I started professionally writing about movies in 2012, and I confess it is something I look forward to every year. I like being able to champion those movies that connected with me in a special way.

Many critics stuff their lists with movies released in the last two months, though there are some critics that prefer to scatter it with the big summer adventures. No matter who makes the lists, they tend to stir a lot of comments from readers complaining how wrong the critic was to leave off a certain movie or to rank another so high. Just like how many will whine about how wrong the Academy was to award a movie with the moniker of the best, when really it was Cosmic Sin or Old. (CS: One of these movies is unwatchable while the other is pretty stupid but has its charming moments. I am always rooting for M. Night Shyamalan even if he directed a movie where a six-year-old gets pregnant. Uck)

Fans and critics like spending ridiculous amounts of time explaining why someone shouldn't have declared that movie the best. I've seen many commenters spend time analyzing a best of list and breakdown down why it was wrong and misguided.

In a vain attempt to stop the arguing from erupting, the list maker will often inform their reader or listener or viewer that the lists are subjective. Just like I've written a thousand times on here, all movie reviews or even any critiquing on art is subjective and just the view of the person who is declaring it.
Often the reviewer will mention how star ratings don't matter for lists and sometimes a movie that got a lower score will rank higher than a movie that scored better in their initial reviews. The reason is often because the person rewatched the movies and their opinions were altered or one movie turned out to age better in the person's mind. A movie that didn't leave much of an impression at first can continue to haunt the reviewer for the remainder of the year. Opinions can change and sometimes a movie becomes gold on that second or third rewatching (Get Out got better and better each time that I revisited it, which is why it ended up ranking higher at the end of the year compared to the mid-year).

Some reviewers and critics will start their lists by saying that the movie may not necessarily be the best movies but rather their favourite movies. I have also seen some critics and reviewers rebrand their list to Favourite Movies of the Year rather than Best of the Year.

I call shenanigans.

When looking at something subjective like art and in this case specifically movies, I don't believe there is any difference between best and favourite. The best movies for a specific person happen to also be their favourite movies. When I eventually list my Best Movies of 2022, I will also be listing my favourite movies, and I am well aware that my list will be different than every other critic. If that wasn't the case and the best movies of 2022 were objective and provable then there would be no point of Scott and I having separate lists for our end-of-the-year shows. (CS: I also feel a star rating reflects how much a movie connected with you rather than trying to make some objective score for a movie. Again. a four-star rating is just as much a favourite as a great movie.)

Now, you can determine what is great cinematography or a great acting performance or even a well-written script, but as a whole package, it is much harder to decide what is the best movie. You can even admit a movie is well-directed or has amazing acting, but it still does not resonate with you. If a well-made movie falls flat or doesn't connect, then you're not going to call it one of the best of the year. The best movie for a person is one that emotionally connects with them and affects them in a deep way that they are still thinking about days later. One person's best can be another person's slog. (CS: Like Blonde which has to be one of the most divisive movies of the past several years along with mother!)

This also applies to star ratings. If I give four stars to a movie, I am not saying it has perfect cinematography or the best acting but rather the movie that left an unshakeable impact on me. It was a movie that I loved and is one of the best through my eyes and heart. The criteria can and do change from movie to movie. There is no formula that makes a movie get four stars and land the best of the year. It just does, and as a reviewer, it is my job to try to communicate the journey to how it got there for me personally.

This is also why I hate labels like 'guilty pleasure' or 'so bad that it is good', because they just come off as someone embarrassed that they liked something that others have deemed garbage. For me, if you like it then you like it. If you want to rewatch it, then it has some type of value. It is the job of the critic to figure out why a movie worked. I stand by liking The Lone Ranger or Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets even when no one else seemed to agree. I am not feeling guilty about it.

Now, a favourite does not have to mean fun or enjoyable. I have connected with movies that are dark or even depressing, but they've spoken to me in some way and have made a deep connection. Usually, movies like that have challenged me or given me a new perspective, and for those reasons, I feel they are one of the best movies. Movies like mother!13thThe RevenantUnder the Skinor 12 Years a Slave were not feel-good movies, but they were powerful movies that left a mark on me and I thought were important. I am glad I have seen each of them and still think about them often, which is why all of them made my Best of the Year lists from their respective years. (CS: A favourite movie does not need to be a fun or uplifting movie. It just needs to burrow deep into your soul and refuse to leave.)

When my best-of-the-year list arrives for 2022, realize that what I am saying is that these are my favourite movies, but also, that they are favourites because I think they are the best for what I want out of a movie. (CS: Mostly true to what I stand by in 2024. And yes, there will be movie reviews on the way and end-of-the-year lists when 2024 finishes.)