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The Worst Question You Can Ask a Cinephile

Tips to nail the unanswerable.


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Akos Peterbencze

3 years ago | 4 min read

Photo: Gerd Altmann on Pexels

There was a time before the Coronapocalypse when I used to go out and meet new people. It’s not my favorite thing to do. Socializing is like trying to hold your breath as long as you can but with opinions. Opinions are awkward, funny, and sometimes painful. I know people who lost great friends to opinions. They also function really well to scare women away.

At these social gatherings, a good icebreaker is to talk about movies. Everybody loves films, and those who don’t are hopefully having a good time behind bars. They are as evil as those who say they don’t enjoy music. If you accidentally meet one of them, the best thing to do is run as fast as you can.

I live for films, so I often use them to generate conversations even though I’m fully aware of “The Question” that is inevitable. When someone asks me, it immediately becomes clear that they don’t watch as many of them as I do. They believe there are only like a hundred of them out there and expect you to respond bearing that in mind. Here it is:

“What is your favorite movie?”

When I hear that question, all the confidence I managed to maintain up until that point evaporates from my body in a blink of an eye. I start sweating, my heartbeat increases, and I can barely breathe. I’m verging on a combination of a heart attack and a mental breakdown.

There are so many wrong answers. The Lord of The Rings or Amélie are great examples. But even a seemingly correct one like The Godfather can be counterproductive. Certain situations can determine a carefully thought-out response.

Remember, opinions are dangerous. Especially when you’re trying to impress a woman. Star Wars in that case won’t bring you any success, neither does Fight Club.

Assuming that she doesn’t have terrible taste, you might want to try Into the Wild, and that will set you up for a good night. If that’s not the case, Harry Potter and Forrest Gump are on the table too, just to be on the safe side. The Shawshank Redemption might be risky at that point.

With men, the equation is a lot simpler. You can choose any famous gangster flick, and if you want to seem a little bit more sophisticated than the vast majority, give a shot with Raging Bull or The Taxi Driver.

If you happen to be among intellectual males who drink expensive wine and handcrafted beer, you can try any Paul Thomas Anderson film, preferably There Will Be Blood. That’s an especially potent choice if they are also litterateurs.

In popular clubs and fraternity parties, choosing The Social Network might make you seem like a cool guy. They probably heard about David Fincher, but if you want to follow that up with a mention of the Zodiac or Se7en, you should make sure that they are, in fact, aware of his filmography. You don’t want to hit and miss.

House parties are minefields for people like me. If you’re only a guest who doesn’t know many of the other guests, you should talk to the host or the person who invited you before walking into a trap. Once, at a similar event, I mentioned Ben Affleck’s Gone Baby Gone to a girl, and she never spoke to me again. It was an excellent choice for the wrong person. I learned from my mistake.

Photo: Lucas Pezeta on Pexels
Photo: Lucas Pezeta on Pexels

If you find yourself in the company of a group of people who pop pills like Tic Tacs, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is always a winner. You might score some points with Trainspotting too, but make sure they aren’t British.

If you’re in a situation where you realize that the majority of the dudes and chicks around you are considerably younger, let’s say in their early 20s, you can choose anything from the Marvel or DC universe. Just be aware that some of them will grow invisible horns and devil eyes by hearing the name of Christopher Nolan and The Dark Knight. The chance is relatively low for that, and most of them will come close to an orgasm when you pronounce his name, but it’s always better to watch out for enthusiastic haters.

These days people tend to be more pretentious than ever, so if you want to please them out of necessity for getting a job offer, for example, bring up the Safdie brothers, and explain how they’ll become the Coens of their generations. If you feel that they look at you as a snob, you can save the day by mentioning Anthony and Joe Russo and how they built a multibillion-dollar empire portraying The Avengers.

Whatever you do, never say that Casablanca or Citizen Kane is your favorite movie. They’ll know instantly you’re a liar. If you decide to take a risk and go with Tarantino, you can say Pulp Fiction but never Reservoir Dogs because people will feel that you’re just pissing against the wind on purpose. Anything from Fincher is good unless it’s the Panic Room or Alien 3.

Now that we went through some essential options, you can get out there and put this knowledge to good use. Remember: stay calm, breathe, and never mention Rian Johnson or Lars von Trier, and everything is going to be alright.

Good luck, champ!

More Inadvisable picks: Joker, The Shining, Interstellar, Fast & Furious, The Big Lebowski, Jurassic World, The English Patient, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and for the love of God, not The Last Jedi.

More Recommended picks: The Truman Show, Unbreakable, No Country for Old Men, Goodfellas, Heat, Intouchables, Terminator 2, or the ultimate favorite Die Hard.

Akos Peterbencze is a freelance writer who writes about pop culture, mental health, and true crime. Find more of his articles on Medium or email him.

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Akos Peterbencze

Freelance Writer. The Weakest Superhero. Saving the world through pop culture, mental health, and true crime. Be my ally: rb.gy/3shdg5


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