Fitz’s Elements for a Good Movie…

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Hi all…

After watching Bug, I started thinking about the various elements that make up (IMHO) a good movie. It was an interesting exercise, that I thought I’d share here.

  • Plot or Story – Something needs to happen to something else in a meaningful way. This can be character vs. character, character vs. setting, character vs. himself, but CHANGE or the POSSIBILITY of change has to be the result.
  • Characters – The people in the story. Characters need to be more than one-dimensional and have some aspect of truth to them. The best characters, for good or ill, have aspects we can relate to personally.
  • Dialog – How do the characters interact with each other for exposition? They talk together or to themselves. Is it written fluidly like we hear every day from regular folks? Or was it written for robots to speak aloud? Does the imagery evoked by the spoken words make us feel emotion? Or do they fall flat?
  • Acting – If we have characters, you have to have people (real or CGI) to become them on screen. Actors and actresses do more than recite lines – they can show raw emotion in their body language, on their faces, and in their actions. If you have a bad actor performing a role, you’ll know it. But not even a good actor can save a bad script sometimes.
  • Cimetography – How well was the movie filmed? Does it use wide panoramic shots or close, shaky, claustrophobic shots to expose the mood of a scene? Too much or too little of any technique can take away from the best intended movie.
  • Special effects – CGI, physical effects, and costumes are all used to show action or the effects of action or to enhance the action in a movie. This can be as simple as makeup or explosions or as complex as making the transition from physical props to digital effects look seamless.
  • Music and Sound Effects – And last, but definitely not least, is the sound for a movie. This is everything from the voices you hear, to the explosions or bullets flying, and the music used to set the scenes. For me, music can make or break a movie. Sometimes it can elevate a so-so movie to greatness.(For some great examples of this, check out Soundtrack Geek, which has some of the best soundtrack reviews on the web.)

Each of these elements goes into the making of a movie. Most of them find their way into television. And quite a few of them also find their way into books. Storytelling elements are universal across mediums, which is what makes them great.

If none of these things is done well, a movie is typically a waste of time IMHO.

What do you think? Are these universal elements of storytelling? How do you apply them when you see a movie at home or on the big screen? Are there other elements that I missed?

Let me know!


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  1. I totally agree. What I said (or meant to say) was that if at least one of these isn’t done well, the movie is typically a waste. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy it more if there are MORE than one of them done well. 🙂

  2. True the elements you mention are a requirement for a good movie. But when I think of them in relation to the movie that you mention having watched, BUG, I think it does not compute. Ashley Judd is awesome as an actress and delivers an incredibly believable character, however even tho she does exactly that in BUG, I still hated the movie. The dialog illustrated the “crazy” aspect wonderfully; but still I hated it. Special effects? Effective for the story line. Music and sound effects? I’ve managed (thank gawd) to erase it from my brain so I can’t say…. what I can say is that no matter how well executed the vital parts of this movie were, the finished product stunk so bad. Not really sure how else to put it.

    petras last blog post..Who is John Hancock?

  3. you guys don’t know much about Asian way of story telling. the way u explained about the plot is the western way(christian,jew,muslim).fore western people history is linear. according to that their story’s are also linear. u cant understand this thinking that way. for Asians history is somthing happening again and again. therefore they make story’s nonlinear way.

  4. @ranasinha – Though I can appreciate the Asian way of telling stories, with a more fluid use of time and space, I’m more of a Westerner at heart. So I apologize for leaving out the Asian method of spinning tales, but ultimately the same rules apply in my book. If I enjoy the movie, it gets a good review. 🙂 Thanks for your comment!

  5. I agree with you on the elements of a good movie but I would add
    unpredictability – if a movie is predictable it takes away the fun
    a great ending – a movie can sometimes be saved by a great ending
    what do you think?

  6. @Pedro – That’s a good point. Though some movies are predictable. Take Titanic for example. You knew the ship was going to sink. But it was fun getting there. It’s a tough balance to get right.

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