Towards a Canon movie, one tweet at a time

Dylan Roth

Last Thursday afternoon, I decided to keep myself busy by creating one of those “1 Like = 1 Opinion” Twitter games. You may have seen this sort of thing before, where for every user who likes a particular post, you have to add another entry to some list, like “1 Like = One Hot Take about New York”. You hope to get enough engagement to feel nurtured by the attention, but not so much that you run out of things to say and start spouting nonsense. It’s a well-honed format, so if you want to create a new one, you need to give it an extra twist.

Looking to post movie content and engage with friends and followers, I chose to add the element of time. My prompt was, “1 like = 1 favorite movie from each year, working backwards from 2022.” I put together a quick image using a screenshot by John Carpenter In the mouth of madness, posted it on Twitterand followed it up with my responses dating back to 1964, commensurate with the respectable but not overwhelming number of sweet, sweet Faves I received from the public.

The next day I got a second little treat: my game was spreading, first to friends on Twitter, then to After far reports inspired to take up the challenge. By the end of Friday, my prompt had become the Movie Twitter meme of the day and continued from there. In my 13 years on Twitter, I’ve never gone viral on purpose, even though I chose not to watermark the image and now watched my baby pop up on people’s feeds with hundreds of thousands of likes. subscribers without credit. So even though my picture went viral, technically speaking, I didn’t.

There were, however, silver linings to be found. I enjoyed the conversations started by my goofy experience, and ultimately brought something valuable to the world of Film Twitter. In addition, I had the opportunity to document the phenomenon and, it is no coincidence, to monetize this shit.

Throughout the weekend, I reserved every instance of the meme that popped up on my screen, whether I knew the poster or not. I dug through some examples of strangers looking for popular replies, leading me to threads, leading me to quote retweets from more threads, etc. I created a spreadsheet and recorded each poster’s favorite movie of each year, whether they died out in a decade or made it all the way to the birth of cinema. I tried to be consistent by using results from the first 50 lists I found, not rejecting anything, which totaled 1,849 data points. While not exactly scientific, it provides a window into the Film Twitter subculture, a self-selected sample of people who have the confidence to challenge someone to ask for their favorite 1973 movie. (This group represents disproportionately individuals who have Letterboxd accounts.)

My study yielded some interesting results, revealing which films and filmmakers are most commonly accepted and which eras generated the greatest variety of culturally significant films. What massive successes do respondents still support? What flops are they looking forward to hitting? Over time, do opinions resemble each other or do they diversify? I was surprised by some of the findings, although others were very predictable.

Anyone who has spent time among American moviegoers this year would easily guess that Everything everywhere all at oncestar Michelle Yeoh, the indie darling of director duo Daniels, was the most-chosen favorite movie of 2022. EEAAO was one of the most dominant competitors in my sampling (as well as my own pick), chosen by 14 of the 50 listing builders. Historic Tollywood Blockbuster RRR came in far behind with 4 picks, tied with Jordan Peele Nope, which was released only a week ago. Other recent years have been much more competitive: No film ran away with 2021 (where the first ones were The green knight, Pigand The power of the dog) or 2020 (divided by Birds of prey, The invisible Manand Palm Springs). 2019 Welcomes Two Of Moviegoers’ Favorite Modern Films, Bong Joon-ho’s Best Picture Award Parasite (9 votes) and the famous snubbed thriller of the Safdie Brothers Uncut Gems (10 votes). There were, however, heavy favorites throughout the 2010s. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) and get out (2017) were both box office hits that won cinephile approval, and no film dominated its year more completely than Mad Max: Fury Roadwhich received nearly half of all 2015 votes.

When it comes to contemporary movies, however, some titles are considered box office failures, but are popular with people who post about the movies online. The year 2016 was won hands down by The good onesa detective comedy by Shane Black which has barely recovered its budget but has since gained a vocal cult following. 2011 winner and runner-up, Nicolas Winding Refn’s Conduct and Joe Cornish Attack the block, are both independent darlings. While nearly every Edgar Wright feature has received at least one vote (no one craned their heads to Last night in Soho), his best performance by far in our sampling was Scott Pilgrim vs the Worldwho won 2010 with 7 out of 38 votes. The Coens’ comedy A serious man beat out the hugely popular Tarantino Inglourious Basterds for 2009. The Wachowski Box Office Bomb speed racer won a competition in 2008 against charts The black Knight and WALL-E and critical favorites In Brugge and Synecdoche, New York.

Looking further afield, some generational classics still seem rock solid. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, The matrix, jurassic park, The Raiders of the Lost Ark, Extraterrestrialand star wars won 2003, 1999, 1993, 1981, 1979, and 1977, respectively, all by significant margins. On the other hand, some classics faced such stiff competition that no film could be crowned the clear winner. American psycho and O brother, where are you? came neck and neck for 2000. 1994 was a tie between pulp Fiction and In the mouth of madness (although his picture appearing at the top of every listing was surely a help). Who Framed Roger Rabbit? barely out die hard for 1988, just like The princess to be married more RoboCop for 1987. 1980, where popular answers were the brilliant and The Empire Strikes Backwas too close to call, just like 1985 with Ran and Back to the futureand 1976, which was Rocky versus. Taxi driver. Not even The Godfather was sure, winning 1972 by one vote over Bob Fosse Cabaret, within any reasonable margin of error. Strong competition was not enough to cloud the 1982 result, however, as The thing beat out the other beloved (and higher-grossing) sci-fi movies of the year HEY, blade runnerand Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan.

Some years offer such a variety of beloved films that no favorite has emerged. Twenty-five different films have been named favorites for 2008, with Brick and batman begins being the only choices on three occasions. No film was nominated more than twice for 1998 or 1995, even though half of the lists in our sample spanned the 90s. the story did not tighten up. The years 1975 (Jaws, Monty Python and the Holy Grail), 1971 (fiddler on the roof, McCabe and Mrs. Miller) and 1970 (Patton, Catch-22) offered no obvious favourites. Only eight of our lists went all the way to 1965, but each named a different movie for that year. The diehards were united just a few years before 1950, with The third man and Citizen Kane each receiving a majority of votes for 1949 and 1941.

Looking at the big picture, some interesting trends emerge across multiple lists. Most users avoided repeating the directors (sometimes apologizing for the repeats), but that didn’t stop some filmmakers from making numerous appearances in the sample data. Only one participant in my sample named two Quentin Tarantino films, but his entire filmography between 1994 and 2012 is in our data. Fifteen films by the Coen brothers (including that of Joel Macbeth’s Tragedy) were selected, but no participant contributed more than two. The filmmakers who appeared most often in my data without running away with a given year were Spike Lee, Hayao Miyazaki, and Paul Thomas Anderson.

But our real winners were the contributors Colette Arrand and MightyGodKing, which each responded to their subscribers’ request to complete the game, going all the way back to the birth of cinema in 1887 and skipping as few years as possible. Their picks for this year were Capybara walking and Man walking around a corner, two of the earliest sequentially stitched photographs in history. MightyGodKing earned his title by not making a blank until 1917 and picking one film each from a total of 121 years. There may be more users who have completed the entire challenge, but while several people in my sample received triple-digit Likes, only two have braved the full movie story, and I salute them .

Personally, I’m happy to have played a small role in keeping moviegoers busy throughout the weekend. I received validation from seeing wiser moviegoers praising some of my personal favorites and some common recommendations from unaffiliated sources. (Obviously I really need to watch the 1958 classic from Hammer Films Dracula Horror.) And while many popular picks perpetuate the Film Bro adoring male author stereotype, the most exciting data on my chart was when multiple listings highlighted a movie I was unfamiliar with, like United languagesa 1989 documentary about the black gay community, or Marked to kill, a 1967 yakuza drama. Most encouraging of all, reading the lists from top to bottom revealed that individual tastes aren’t confined to any particular genre. Horror Fans Know Horror Best, But The Same Person Who Chooses black christmas for 1974 could choose Tampopo for 1985. Even those who prefer highbrow drama will tip their hats to a great action flick, and everyone enjoys a good laugh. We can establish a consensus, but there is no single definition of great cinema. Even most people have more than one.

Towards a Canon movie, one tweet at a time


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