The web is filled with lists. They are popular. I like them. I make them. I try to make the effort to compile lists that are, at least most of the time, well thought out. They can be a lot of work, and thus, they tend to make me not want to write anymore for a while when I make too many of them. The reason for this is two-fold. First is the compilation of the list. I spend a lot of time thinking about how these lists should be laid out. Second is the writing. Boy is there a lot of writing involved. Sometimes I look back on what I write in some lists and consider myself to sound somewhat asinine.
The one thing I think that makes lists popular is they can be informative. If you are looking into discovering a new band or musical artist, a new author or a new group of movies from a particular actor or director, a list can be an informative way to delve into this new material. However, some lists are not well-complied, not well-thought out, and as a result, are deceptive.
This brings me to my gripe. If you are going to have a list entitled "The Best/Greatest Movies of All Time", you had better be prepared to defend your case. I am fairly confident that most cannot, and that is why I am writing this. I'm pretty sure anyone who would take the time to write a list of that title would consider themselves to be "into movies", so my charge for those of you who meet the criteria that is about to be laid out is to SEE MORE MOVIES.
First. If you are writing a list because you just saw a movie and you loved it, then you are probably under the age of 18 and should just stop writing now as, unless you have grown up in a home where truly great cinema is highly regarded, there's a good chance you will probably say something stupid like "The Dark Knight is the greatest movie of all time." Well, it isn't. It's good, but it doesn't come close to the greatest movies of all time. This is what I call the hype factor. This is generally highly effected by the younger audience and has one simple rule: whatever film is popular at the moment is the greatest movie of all time. The hype factor is nothing more than collective promotion of a film that a large number of people saw who wish to build further hype for that movie through aggrandizement and hyperbole.
Next is the idea that the last movie to win some award is automatically the greatest film of all time. This can be trumped very easily. It was 1942 at the Ambassador's Hotel. The 15th Academy Awards are in full effect and the winner of the coveted Outstanding Motion Picture (Best Picture) Oscar is How Green Was My Valley. Good movie. But how many times does this one come up in conversation about great cinema? How about how many times compared to Citizen Kane? Well, How Green Was My Valley beat Citizen Kane, a film that is one of the forerunners in the argument of what truly is the greatest film ever.
When you consider a list, you have to word things very carefully. If you make a list called My Favorite Movies, and post it, I may or may not agree with you. Hell, I may think you're an idiot, but then again you may think the same about me. Still, since you said it was your favorite movies, that makes it your opinion, which is difficult to trump. However, if you create a list called the "Best" or "Greatest Movies of All Time" you had better be prepared to make your case, because by using that wording, you are no longer sharing your opinion but are stating an argument for your list. You had better be prepared to defend it. If you can explain to me, logically, how Inception is a greater film than the Godfather, and it actually be a reasonable argument, not something stupid like "Because Inception was AWESOME!!!!" then you really deserve some sort of medal. You really do.