Are ‘Movies’ and ‘Films’ Really Two Different Entities? (Why you’re not as high-brow as you think).

On April 20th, the holiday of all holidays, me and some newly formed friends discussed a favorite topic of mine… Movies. About mid-way through the discussion of films we’ve seen, which ones we liked, which ones we disliked, one person said something interesting. “What people don’t understand is that there is a difference between a movie and a film.” “Transformers” he said, “is a movie, but Blue Is The Warmest Color is a film.” There was silence in the room as everyone nodded their heads but the statement wasn’t sitting right with me. Of course I had heard that point before, it was even something I believed whole-heartedly at some point, but since then I’ve begun to reject it.

“But I liked Transformers, and I didn’t like Blue Is The Warmest Color“, I said.

There lies the crux of this whole idea. Someone saying there are movies, and then there are films, is essentially saying that Films are of a higher quality than Movies, but aren’t they all Motion Pictures? Where does that distinction of Motion Pictures even come from? Is it the budget that determines where a Motion Picture falls in the two categories? Is the number of screens it plays on, or the opening weekend box office haul? Is the amount of CGI what makes it a ‘movie’? The story? The acting? The Cinematography? Creating such a schism in the world of Motion Pictures creates many questions.

When looking up ‘Film’ in a dictionary one will find: 1. a thin flexible strip of plastic or other material coated with light-sensitive emulsion for exposure in a camera, used to produce photographs or motion pictures. 

If someone were to say that a Film is a motion picture that is shot on actual film, and a movie is a motion picture shot on a digital format, then I would have to give them that, that actually makes sense, however we all know that that is rarely how people make the distinction between a Film and Movie. Typically people act as if the distinction is determined by the quality of the product, but I’m also calling that bluff. In my shitty opinion, the determining factor of what constitutes a ‘film‘ or a ‘movie’ in the minds of my fellow Film enthusiasts (or Film buff, enthusiast seems presumptuous) is the entertainment factor of a motion picture. A film that is technically great, but doesn’t make an overwhelming amount of effort to entertain it’s viewer is typically considered a film. Not to say that this type of motion picture isn’t entertaining whatsoever, this just means it doesn’t go to any great lengths to entertain every audience; it’s niche and the filmmakers know it’s niche, and they expect the film’s audience to be niche. So, already it sounds like how a film is classified as a film or a ‘movie’, is very much a matter of perspective. That is why the people that try to create this distinction are my least favorite kinds of people; often times they just think the films that they like are superior to the ones they don’t. Is Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy not considered ‘film’ but a movie because it was massively entertaining, well funded, and a box office powerhouse? Well Nolan’s Batman trilogy was shot on actual film so, no matter what, it is a ‘Film’. But what about Hitchcock’s Psycho? Or any of Hitchcock’s films for that matter. Was Hitchcock not both auteur Filmmaker, and, Hollywood hit maker? Film itself, that celluloid strip being exposed to light, by today’s standards, is no longer an accessible medium. Independent, or niche, films that people consider “high-brow”, are  pretty much shot on digital anyway. There are hardly any Filmmakers left shooting strictly on film, it has become a rich man’s format sadly. 

What’s clear to me is that what separates these two entities, films and movies, from each other really, just depends on opinion. What one may find good or bad, depending, on what one may like. The only difference between a movie and a film, is perception. Those that tell a room full of people that “there are movies and then there are films”, have let their perceptions become universal law. In my opinion someone that makes that kind of statement just hasn’t seen enough films. Perhaps they should expand their horizons beyond The Oscars 10 best picture nominees and formulate their own opinions about the motion pictures they watch. But that’s just my opinion.


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