What are the ingredients for a great movie?


Only 10 perfect movies have ever been made (“Casablanca,” “The Godfather,” “Gone with the Wind,” “Citizen Kane,” “The Wizard of Oz,” “Sunset Boulevard,” “Singin’ in the Rain,” “The Searchers,” “The Maltese Falcon” and “GoodFellas”).

There seems to be a common formula among these films. Most of them weren’t even expected to be anything special, but all of them got everything right.

For now, let’s pretend we’re attempting to make a great movie, because a perfect movie is out of our control.

The script is the most important thing in every movie. The dialogue needs to be sharp, smart and witty. The characters and plot need to develop as it moves along. There should be no point where the audience loses interest. Maybe the characters and plot are symbolic or easy to relate to without ever being clichéd. This is what draws audiences, as well as critics.

Let’s say I wrote an action film script that was fast-paced with smart, witty dialogue and surprising twists and turns with some great character development. Maybe it symbolizes society today.

A director must be signed on who understands the script and conveys the message and symbolism, without making it overbearing. They must bring out the best in themselves and in their actors.

Martin Scorsese is the best director living, closely followed by Steven Spielberg and then Christopher Nolan, Ben Affleck, David O. Russell and Joss Whedon. For an action film that is supposed to be very brisk, I would probably choose Affleck for his great work on “Argo” last year.

Actors are also essential to a great movie. There needs to be a lead actor who sets the tone for the movie and carries the emotional heft. For my lead, I’d choose Denzel Washington, the best actor out there right now. He’s playing an aging, sarcastic rogue.

Now comes the role of his understudy. I’ll pick Matt Damon. He would bring out the naivety in his character perfectly alongside Denzel’s character.

Then, there’s the guy sent to pursue them. Christian Bale fits those roles just fine. In this role, he’ll be playing a more complex version of that character who’s struggling internally because of the corruptness that surrounds him.

There also needs to be some wise-aleck character, the kind Robert Downey Jr. plays to perfection.

We’ll also add in Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a young agent, Natalie Portman as Bale’s wife, Anne Hathaway as a femme fatale, Gary Oldman as a corrupt official, Sean Bean as his right-hand man, and even Adam Sandler as a reluctant professor (Bruce Banner type). These heavy roles would allow for a lot of character development and bring out the very best in the performers who portray them.

Another important aspect is the cinematography, which needs to be atmospheric and symbolic (see: Wally Pfister in “Inception”).

The editing must not be choppy, but well thought through (see: Christopher Rouse in “The Bourne Ultimatum”). A scene can’t last too long. If interest starts waning, cut it.

The soundtrack tells much about a film. Songs and the score need to be reflective of the action occurring onscreen. For a movie like this, I’d choose U2, Coldplay and Lupe Fiasco, each of whom can bring some heavy themes in their music and mirror the internal complexities in the movie. Hans Zimmer would be a terrific choice for the score; just look at his music from “The Lion King” to “Inception.”

As you can see, making a great movie takes a lot of thought and work. But it’s all worth it in the end, for the sake of bringing the world a possible masterpiece and conveying your thoughts on things.

This is why cinema is the perfect outlet for storytelling and imagination.



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