What about my favorite movie makes it my favorite? What is it that makes this movie so special and important to me and simply just another drop in the bucket to somebody else?
I’ve thought about this question for a long time. A lot of my free time is spent thinking about my personal theories about cinema and the psychology behind it. Why do some things work and others do not? It is spent looking at masterpieces such as Come and See, The Graduate, or The Good The Bad and The Ugly, and not only analyzing what works but why it works so well.
Naturally, at the center of my analysis is the central question: what makes people like a movie so much, what about that movie speaks to their identity in a way that keeps them coming back. It wasn’t until today that i feel the answer has finally struck me.
To explain my theory I’d like to use my favorite film, Martin Scorsese’s 1990 gangster epic Goodfellas. The film centers around the life of Henry Hill, an Italian American gangster in New York in the mid-1900’s. The film chronicles his life alongside his best friends Jimmy Conway and Tommy Devito. Together, they live a glamorous life in the Mafia, that is until they start getting sloppy, and their inevitable demise arrives.
Goodfellas displays a mastery in every aspect of cinema, from the writing, to the acting, to the direction. However, a lot of movies do that, why is this movie my favorite?
Perhaps its the subject matter that makes this movie my favorite. However, there is nothing about a gangster’s life in the mafia that specifically relates to my experience.
However, there is something about the movie that I can identifiably say speaks to me. I can identify with the lifestyle portrayed in the film. There are two main fantasies of mine that the film relates to.
The first is my desire to be on top. Henry’s goal for the whole film is to be the top of the food-chain, which is why he decides to become a gangster in the first place, to him, “being a gangster was better than being president of the United States.” Watching him achieve this goal throughout the film is what spoke to me and my fantasy as a viewer.
Second, the film shows strong friendships between the three main characters. The relationship between these characters was something I as a viewer envied.
I feel that a movie, in order to be somebody’s favorite needs to speak to what the viewer wants. I further stress my point looking further at other films which are my favorites. For example, Bonnie and Clyde speaks to the kind of romantic relationship I want, Once Upon A Time in Hollywood speaks to the career I want.
Movies give us the things that we can’t have and therefore by speaking to these fantasies, these movies become our favorites, and can further inform the types of people we become. Our favorite movies define the type of people we want to be.