Why Most Movies Are Just OK

Why Most Movies Are Just OK

Movie quality falls along a bell curve: Plenty of bad Mall Cop and Saw movies, far fewer stellar hits like Mad Max or Spotlight that get easy Oscar praise. The overwhelming majority will just be standard, two-unremarkable-hours-of-easy-consumption fare. Why do so many movies fail to make an impact, either good or bad, on viewers?

My BFF doesn’t actually like me, a story in four acts. Screengrab: The Epidemic of Passable Movies

In his latest video, Nerdwriter has an easy answer:

Why Most Movies Are Just OK

As Nerdwriter explains, a really good movie will look at something in the human experience (loss, heroism, romance) and approach it with complexity and empathy. A bad movie will approach it in an overly simplified and ham-handed way. Like in Saw where people are tortured half to death because they’re drug dealers or deadbeat dads. But a passable movie will look at something, then approach it in terms that the audience is already familiar with from watching other movies, using cliches as a shortcut to say something deep:

When passable movies observe human experience, they observe it not through the lens of real life, but through the lens of other movies. There is this huge library, this huge vocabulary of actions built up over the years that people you know don’t really do, but which happens so often in TV and movies that they’re familiar enough to an audience that they become, well, passable for human motivations.

So if you’re watching a decent, docile movie chances are it’s just a hodgepodge of movies you’ve already seen, checking off all those little boxes needed to be decent. And nothing else.

The Cheapest NBN 50 Plans

It’s the most popular NBN speed in Australia for a reason. Here are the cheapest plans available.

At Gizmodo, we independently select and write about stuff we love and think you'll like too. We have affiliate and advertising partnerships, which means we may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. BTW – prices are accurate and items in stock at the time of posting.