Why I Don’t Like Top 10 Lists

It’s the end of the year. And with the end of the year comes the need to reflect upon everything that has happened over the last 300-odd days (reflection pieces always seem to appear before the year actually ends). It seems like everyone has or will have a “Top 10 Movies of 2014” List. Having reviewed films for the Trojan Tribune all year, it would make sense for me to have one of these lists. I will not. I really don’t like these sorts of lists, for a variety of reasons.

The idea of using a year as the measurement system is so arbitrary. It becomes even more confusing when taking into account that many movies have more than one release date. Large studio films are able to put their movie in thousands of theatres at once, but that’s not the case for many films. Foreign-language films are often made in one year, but don’t get released in the U.S. until a later year. Other films might not get a studio to release them past large cities, if at all. And what about festival films? A movie could be in several film festivals in one year, but then not get released to the general public until a following year.

Just because a movie doesn’t have a large studio backing, doesn’t mean that it’s not a great film. Studios can choose not to buy or distribute movies to a large audience for a variety of reasons other than quality. In 2011, The FP premiered at SXSW, a large film festival in Austin, Texas. It didn’t get distributed until 2012, and the largest release it saw was 28 American theatres. It’s a crazy, unmarketable film that doesn’t appeal to a large audience, but it’s also one of my personal favorites. There’s always gonna be another hidden gem.

At the end of the day, there’s just too many movies. It’s hard to keep track of the number of films made because not every film that gets made that gets into a film festival. And not every film that gets into a festival gets released. Plus, with the increasing omnipotence of the internet, many films are able to be made and released without the studio system. That said, generally around 500-1000 movies get released in the United States alone. Around the world, it’s ten times that number. There is literally not enough time to watch all of the movies made in a given year. High profile critics are able to see a lot of films, but very often they miss some of the smaller ones because they are reviewing films with significance to a large number of people.

The whole “Top Ten of the Movies That I’ve Seen” excuse is also pretty ridiculous. I’ve seen 50 movies that were ‘released this year’. If I made a top ten list, I’d be telling people about the top 20% of movies that I’ve seen. And there are so many movies that I want to see that I haven’t had the opportunity to yet. How many foreign language films have I seen this year? None. Documentaries? One. I’m always a fan of recommending movies, but calling something the best of a year is incredibly short-sighted.

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