Must See Categories

The following categories (inspired by the Key at the back of Peary’s GFTFF — see below) are my own attempt to determine why a particular movie may or may not be considered “must see” viewing for film fanatics. In my reviews, if I vote “Yes” on a particular movie, I list one or more of the following categories afterwards:


Controversial Film:
FreaksFilms in this category generated controversy during their release, for one reason or another — ranging from their content (i.e., Todd Browning’s Freaks) to their cost (i.e., Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate).


Cult Movie:
Big LebowskiFilms develop cults for any number of reasons; it’s my contention that hardcore film fanatics should know about these movies even if they don’t become personal favorites.


Cultural Window:
PixoteSome movies — regardless of their artistic merit — offer an invaluable opportunity to eavesdrop on a different culture or lifestyle; I consider these movies to be “must see” for everyone, not just film fanatics.


Foreign Gem
Late SpringThis category is reserved for films which may or may not be known by most American audience members, but are considered to be true masterpieces of international cinema.


Genuine Classic:
It's a Wonderful LifeMovies in this category are what people traditionally think of when they wonder what they “should” watch in their lifetime — titles such as Gone With the Wind, Casablanca, It’s a Wonderful Life, etc., which show up on countless “100 Best” lists, usually for a good reason.


Good Show:
So Long at the FairThis category is a catch-all for movies (such as 1950’s So Long at the Fair) which are, quite simply, a “good show”, and shouldn’t be missed by any devoted film fanatic.


Historically Relevant:
Jazz SingerThis broad category includes movies which were the first of their kind (i.e., The Jazz Singer); movies which document a fleeting moment in history (i.e., The T.A.M.I. Show); movies which typified or started a cinematic movement or gimmick (i.e., Godard’s French New Wave classic Breathless, or William Castle’s use of “Percepto” in The Tingler); movies of dubious cinematic value which were nonetheless hugely popular at the time of their release (i.e., Alan Parker’s Midnight Express); and experimental movies (i.e., Michael Snow’s Wavelength).


Important Director:
Fritz LangSometimes a film — regardless of its overall merit — is worth watching simply because it’s part of a renowned director’s oeuvre; hence this category.


Noteworthy Performance(s):
Diane Keaton Some movies may be worth seeing simply on the basis of one or more stand-out performances (i.e., Diane Keaton in Looking for Mr. Goodbar).


Oscar Winner or Nominee
OscarWinning (or being nominated for) an Academy Award permanently secures a movie’s place in cinematic history. While we may not agree with the Academy’s choices (see Peary’s Alternate Oscars, for instance), film fanatics should at least be familiar with the winning titles.


Representative Film:
PardnersFinally, certain movies may not necessarily hold intrinsic “must see” value, but are worth watching simply because they represent a particular genre or series (i.e., Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin in Artists and Models).




Peary’s Key

  • CC: Camp Classic
  • CM: Cult Movie
  • H: Film has a place in film history or is a critics’ favorite
  • PR: Personal Recommendation
  • S: Sleeper
  • T: Trash [Not essential viewing]
  • XXX: Porno [Not essential viewing]

Of Peary’s seven categories, I’ve only chosen to retain two (Cult Movie and Historical Importance). In my opinion, a movie which is hopelessly campy, a pleasantly surprising “sleeper”, or a personal favorite may be enjoyable to watch, but doesn’t necessarily guarantee its status as “must see” viewing for all film fanatics.

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