12 Qualities of Great Film

PopcornBismillah ir Rahman ir Raheem

Assalam alaikum wr wb,

Hello and happy weekend!

Though it’s almost over.

My head is splitting so this one will be brief, I’m afraid.

Ted Hope said that we should all have a list of things we love about film. To avoid chaos and confusion. To elevate our work from good to great (this link via the Black Board. Discussion of it here). To know what to fight for and what to let go.

I’ve been struggling (yet again) with my rewrite for Mr. Wonderful. I hope – Ted Hope – this exercise will help me figure out how to fix it.

It’s a rookie screenwriting mistake, but I love it too much to let it go. And really, really, really – I do think there’s something there worth saving.

I’ve been collecting a list of films that just make my heart sing. Movies that made me sad when they ended.

This is the list and I hope it continues to grow.

Science fiction:

  1.  Alien
  2. Prometheus
  3. Blade Runner
  4. Star Wars: A New Hope
  5. Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back
  6. Back to the Future 1
  7. Signs
  8. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Drama (mostly):

  1. Half Nelson
  2. Fight Club
  3. Inglourious Basterds
  4. The Future
  5. Me You and Everyone We Know
  6. The Dark Knight Rises
  7. The Prestige
  8. Michael Clayton


  1. Crazy Stupid Love
  2. Tootsie
  3. Lars and the Real Girl
  4. The Odd Couple
  5. Billy Elliot
  6. In Bruges
  7. Death at a Funeral
  8. Manhattan Murder Mystery
  9. American Beauty

Just off the top of my head, this is what I perceive are some of the common traits of these movies. I’ll unpack the movies and the traits they contain one by one and add to them.

  1. Adults acting like children (not really bad adolescents)
  2. Looking at the true ugliness of human nature and not looking away.
  3. Looking at the true beauty of human nature and not looking away.
  4. Subverts expectations. Weird, freaky, disturbing.
  5. Love
  6. A dark, even disgusting, sense of humor.
  7. Understated.
  8. Ambitious
  9. Deals with questions about the nature of human existence.
  10. Beautiful to look at.
  11. Joyous.
  12. Funny

Now I’m off to rest my head.



5 thoughts on “12 Qualities of Great Film

  1. I love your list, Sabina. What I really love is that rather than trying to adhere to someone else’s checklist, you made your own list of what great film means to you. Brava!

    PS Hope you sleep well tonight and you feel better tomorrow.

    1. Thanks Shaula. Feel much better now. We often love very widely disparate kinds of movies, so I think it’s a useful exercise as a writer to see whether there is some similarities between them, some common essence that attracts us to all of them.

  2. It is interesting to see you building up a list of inspiring movies, i was preparing a mood board yesterday for a project I am working on. I see the same technique applies to many different activities

    1. I’ve tried vision boards in the past – are they the same as mood boards? But I find it very hard to get excited about images on a board for some reason. Though I can get excited about movies.

Leave a Reply