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21 Useful Tips For Being A Better Movie Buff

04 September 2012 | Other Lists | by David Zou

I treat cinema as serious art,that’s why I watch movies like I’m learning it in some art school,but I did not start it like this way,I learned all the methods by myself in the last decade.If you treat movies as pure entertainment,this post is not for you,but if you really want to watch movies in new eyes and make the best of each movie you see,I hope this post is useful for you.

movie watching tips

Here are my tips for being a better movie buff:

1.Don’t be afraid of the spoilers,great movies never live on the story alone.

2.Quit ASAP when you feel the movie is boring or you can’t enjoy it,don’t force yourself into some masters’ work,you may need time to accumulate  your experience in both life and movies.

3.Find a community in which you can talk about movies comfortably and learn things everyday,no matter it’s a group of blogs,a Facebook group or a forum,cinema is too big a world to be know-it-all.

4.It’s always better to watch movies on the big screen than anywhere else,but that doesn’t mean you need to go to cinema every week,watch a classic film for many times is always better than watching a poor new movie,why not save some money to buy some DVD/Blu-rays of classic movies you love?

5.Don’t trust lists that much,Citizen Kane is great only when you accumulate enough cinema knowledge to fully appreciate it.


6.Read reviews after watching a movie but think of it yourself first,you don’t need to borrow critics’ words to brag,you need to find your own exploring eyes.

7.Watch a movie from all aspects,not only the story,but the cinematography,the score,the set design,the score,the editing,the mise-en-scene,etc.etc,like The Fashions in Rear Window and The Visuals in The Conformist.

8.When you encounter a superb movie,watch it again shortly after the first time,analyze why you consider it as a superb movie.

9.Focusing on a certain directors’ work during a span of time,do a director marathon,would be great if you watch his works in chronological order.

10.Watch a certain number of black&white movies each month.


11.Do the homework before watching a movie,like looking up the background of the story,the movement,the director online.

12.Watch an appropriate movie at an appropriate time,like watching a Tarkovsky film in the morning of a weekend and watch some comedies when you are back from work in weekdays.

13.Never give up on a director based one film you saw,you don’t like 2001: A Space Odyssey doesn’t mean you won’t like Dr. Strangelove.

14.Don’t set boundaries of your exploring,always try new things,try to watch a silent,a cult,a South Korean film,being adventurous is not always good in life,but it’s always good in movie-watching.

15.Collect the DVD/Blu-ray of your favorites,watch the special features and listen to the commentary,take notes when it’s necessary.


16.Don’t set goals of how many movies you should watch each month,movie-watching is a very casual thing,and it’s always the quality that matters most.

17.View the whole cinema as a connected universe,try to compare movies to each other and figure out the influences of which on which,make movie lists like what I’ve done on my blog,it would be much more fun.

18.Always write downs your thoughts soon after watching a movie,no matter it’s short or long,you need to catch that flashy idea which would otherwise soon disappear.

19.You need to watch more than one movies in a certain period or movement to let the feeling flow,if you just watched Breathless and liked it,why not try 400 Blows and other French New Wave movies in the next few days?

20.Recommend your favorite movies to the people around you,if you can,send them DVD/Blu-rays as presents,you want them to see those movies because that’s what you are.


21.Finally,take care of your eyes,otherwise the 21 tips above is useless,and spend more time with your family than watching movies,because that’s your responsibilities,in a certain way,you owe them,but you don’t owe movies a god damn thing.

So,how many tips above you already followed and what are some of  your own unique tips you’d like to share here?





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  • Interesting list. I agree with some of these, particularly your thoughts on not giving up on a specific director. However, some of the other ones seem very limiting. I don’t agree with #2 to quit a movie if it’s boring. There are some films that might seem slow but don’t really come together until they’re finished. I sometimes don’t even realize how much I liked (or disliked) a movie until days afterward. For #11, I also don’t think doing homework before watching a movie is the right way to go either. I’ve found that it can alter my perceptions of the movie before I see it and cause me to enter with preconceived notions.

    • Thanks,Dan.I know some of the tips would be controversial so let me explain.

      Boring and slow pace is not the same thing here,Barry Lyndon is a very slow-paced movie,but the plot is always forward and there is the character development there,so it’s not a boring film.What I mean boring here,is when someone who hasn’t seen many art films yet,and someday he watches Tokyo Story or Mirror,he might find it boring,that’s not a problem,because as what I said,it’s because his experience is not enough,both in film knowledge and life.

      What I mean doing homework in #11 is not knowing the story first,but know the background in some degree.Like when I watch a Italian Neo-Realism film,I’d like to know the historical background in Italy at that time,or when I watch Farewell My Concubine,I want to know what Cultural Revolution is,these would prepare me to understand the story better,because sometimes the director does not have enough time in the film to explain every history event to the audience.Before you watch TDKR,you need to watch BB and TDK no matter you watched them or not,that’s also what I mean homework here.

  • Some great advice here.

    I love no. 1. Many students have told me that they didn’t like a certain movie because they “saw the twist coming.” My response is always to say that if the movie were only about the plot twists then there would never be any reason to watch it again. Vertigo is endlessly rewatchable even after you know what’s coming. Because it’s not about story. It’s about psychology and emotions.

    I also like no. 12. But you should add that Tarkovsky should both be watched in the morning and with a full pot of coffee!

    • Thanks,Mike.Yeah,from the plot to everything else is a giant step forward.That’s also the reason why Hitchcock and Kurosawa are always worshiped for the wrong reason,they’ve got great stories,but the film technique they apply are the real charisma of cinema.

      #12,yeah,I should add that,we should not forget how much those coffee companies owed to those cinema masters.

  • “watching a poor new movie,why not save some money to buy some DVD/Blu-rays of classic movies you love?” Good advice, David

    • Thanks,Chris,too many people around me made such mistake so I felt like pointing it out.

  • Some very good tips here, David. A lot of them are obvious things, but it’s helpful to see them all written out like this.

    • Thanks BT,Yes,I also find some of them cliches,but you never know,some people may still need them!