Why I Hate Ranking Films

I had a bit of an epiphany today my friends. I realized talking to my friend that I had begun to feel very negatively about La La Land. This is strange because I really did enjoy the film and gave it an A-. It was a bubbly, beautiful breath of fresh air. My opinion of the film was pretty much the same from when I saw it and yet I felt negative about it. What had changed? Well, I thought about it and realized it is ranking! Ranking may just ruin movies for me.

Last year when I created my best of 2015 list I sat down at end of the year and thought about the films I liked the most. I also tried to have a variety on the list so it wasn’t all the same kind of movie. This was challenging but overall produced a list I am happy with.

However, this year has been different. I have been keeping a 2016 movie ranking over on letterbox all year. Whenever I see a movie I put it on this list and move it around as I ponder it. This seemed like a great way to keep track of the movies I’ve seen and my opinions on the year as a whole.

But there’s a BIG problem!

Let’s take today for example. When I saw La La Land I said I didn’t think it was as good as Moana and Sing Street. These both had better songs and I connected more with them emotionally. But I still had La La Land very high because I really did love it. The problem comes is in justifying its placement on the list I kept thinking about the flaws and the reasons why it ‘deserved’ to be where it is at. It’s like I had to focus on the flaws in order to make my ranking valid.

The challenge is I have tons of films I loved/liked for different reasons. For example, Manchester by the Sea took me a bit to get into but certain scenes affected me the most of any film in 2016. How do I rank that vs a film like Pete’s Dragon, which I did not cry as much but it dazzled me throughout. How do you even compare films in completely different genres? I’m sitting making my list trying to decide if I like Hacksaw Ridge better than Your Name? It’s impossible. The two movies have nothing in common, but I loved them both.

Another example is I thought Hell or High Water was basically a perfectly executed film except for one plot hole. This plot hole doesn’t matter to me but where do I rank it? Like I said I have about 30 films that I love about the same so it forces me to nitpick these small problems that I don’t really care about just to differentiate them for the ranking.

And yet I feel compelled to do top 10 lists because I enjoy reading them and it does provide closure for the year. Perhaps my strategy last year is the best way- just make the top 10 list at the end of the year and move on instead of it being this ongoing thing?

I know some people have algorithms and charts that help quantify their rankings but I don’t like that. There may be a movie which on paper has issues but impacted me more than a more technically perfect film.

What do you think? How do you think I should go about ranking films? Can you relate to what I am saying about comparing films can make a viewer focus too much on the problems? I would love to hear your insight.

In the meantime, I have decided to make my list private and am not going to share any more rankings with you guys or on social media until I have settled this problem and seen the remaining films. I want something to be a surprise!

11 thoughts on “Why I Hate Ranking Films

  1. I would be lying if I was not going through something similar myself. It is very challenging to get through, since sometimes, a rank does not really get through what you were trying to say throughout the review, and just giving it a letter, or a number just…. dims it. But at the same time, rankings and ratings keeps things more organized for some people, and is a more concise way to organize their thoughts. It all depends on the person, and it is about their interpretation. Some people benefit greatly from not ranking films, while others don’t.

    You may not do this yourself, but sometimes I look back at my old posts, and see something that shocks me, or I feel slightly different or off about what I wrote, and gives me doubts and thoughts about revisiting it. Do whatever makes you feel good, and what is most beneficial to you.

    1. I totally do that with my old posts. On my youtube channel I’ve been going through the Disney canon again and in some cases on rewatch I’m easier and some tougher. My Disney Canon ranking is going to be definitely different than after the blog.
      When we did the Canon rewatch on rotoscopers.com we didnt do grades and I didnt miss it at all but I agree with you it does help things feel organized and helps the reader.
      I think just making the list at end of year instead of it being an ongoing thing is what I need to do. That way it doesnt have these negative effects

  2. I feel it has to do with what you want your list to reflect. I’m a big believer in that there’s a difference between your “favorite films” and the “films you think are best”. The former is purely subjective and based solely on enjoyment whilst the latter is more objective and looked at technically (granted even the study of the technical nature of film is subjective, but there’s still some structure involved). It’s when the two lists get blurred that problems occur. So I think you have to decide whether you want your moviebox list to reflect your favorites of the year (how you enjoyed them) or the ones you think are best (basically which ones you’d praise most technically). Or you could have 2 lists going on.

    For example, my live-action Disney blog’s films are ranked and rated just to determine what I think are the best films, not necessarily my favorites. I update the list after every review I post. Many times it happens that the films that get A’s are my favorites, but there are many films that have gotten low grades that I like a lot and vice-versa. That’s one of the reasons I use rubrics because I know if I didn’t and just gave letters to films, it’ll be more subjective and based on my likes rather than I actually thought it was a well-made film. With the exception of Polyanna (and I rank that to being one of the first films I reviewed so I was still getting used to the film rating game), my method has overall worked fine for me.

      1. Definitely you have to explain your grade. Hopefully the review does that but sometimes a few words after the review or your box helps

    1. Yeah you make a good point about best vs favorites. I think that is a good way to go about it. I guess it’s just hard because I have a different experience with each film so ranking is hard. One might make me laugh while another will make me cry. Which experience is better? It’s tough.
      At the very least I’m glad I realized it was making me focus too much on flaws. I think I just need to keep ranking as a fun thing but not have it be such a part of my thoughts. I agree with you on some low ranking movies I enjoy quite a bit despite the flaws.

  3. I know exactly what you mean, sometimes I find myself internally rating a film or thinking of how I’ll write a review while I’m watching it instead of just enjoying the movie! Then afterwards I agonise over whether I should be giving certain films a high or low score. I find when ranking movies its best to go with your heart and go with movies that make you feel something. There can be films you technically admire and think you should love but they can’t compare with the movies that just blow you away or touch your heart even if others may not hold the same film in such high regard or think others are more ‘worthy’.

  4. If you hat it, dont do it, that’s what I suggest. Movies should be something you love, and if lists are too systematic and are detracting from your enjoyment, just dont do it. Make an alphabetical list of your favourites if you want to without ordering them. Or try to take the view that rankings don’t have to be set in stone, they can be fluid. You are human, your mind and perceptions can change.

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