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OPINION: Letterboxd Didn’t Ruin Film



 By: Viren Abroal (‘27) Letterboxd is a popular social media app where users can keep track of the movies they have watched, even providing the ability to rate films out of five stars. Those with an account are able to write reviews on films they have seen as well as comment on other reviews. The app also features the ability to create lists when multiple movies fall under a certain category for the creator. This includes a built-in “watchlist” feature to store specific films that a user would like to watch in their profile.

Creators Matthew Buchanan and Karl Von Randow from New Zealand established the company in 2011, with Buchanan stating that his intention with Letterboxd was to create a movie review system unlike IMDb allowing for users to see the general public’s thoughts on a film rather than just critics. He also hoped that the app would be treated more like social media, involving profiles, followers, likes on reviews and comments, and the ability to reply and discuss a review. 

Over a decade after its release, Letterboxd began to hit mainstream media and even began to attract attention from those who are less familiar with film as a whole. Up until this point, the app had a slow rise in popularity over the span of eleven years, likely attributed to the general interest of the common user and the lack of a breakout event that could attract the eyes of many people at once. The app has since been sold as of 2023.

Many users have discovered the app after the pandemic, quickly getting attached to the functionality of the app. However, some have expressed concerns regarding the future of the appreciation of film since the recent surge in popularity. For example, online writer Elif Karakaya pointed out a negative result of Letterboxd becoming a mainstream platform.

“Consuming films to have seen the classics, to increase the quantity of movies you have seen, rather than to simply enjoy the movie as a form of art, to appreciate it,” she stated, referring to Letterboxd’s effect on users.

Others who agree with Ms. Karakaya point out similar concerns surrounding the idea that Letterboxd has become more of a movie leaderboard than a movie review community. One author, Mr. Jacob Flasz, expressed similar ideals regarding the future of film-watching, assuming Letterboxd continues to grow in size and popularity.

“...[O]ne of the first things you see when logging onto your profile, as well as when you check someone else’s, is the total number of movies logged and the number of movies logged this year, it inadvertently created an innate pressure and drive to watch as many movies as possible and hence contributed to the sense of fear of missing out that my generation and those younger than me recognize as anxiety-inducing,” which Mr. Flasz identified as a key issue with the app.

While Letterboxd is still highly popular and often used by those of all ages, including famous movie director Martin Scorsese, who joined the network shortly after the release of his most recent film “Killers of the Flower Moon”, it has become clear that concerns are being drawn up regarding the rising popularity of the app, typically resorting to mentioning the “total number of movies logged” feature on each profile and how it may affect a user’s experience when watching movies, and the drive it creates for users to watch more films.

While this drive may be a factor in a Letterboxd user’s high number of watched movies on the site, it is highly arguable that the motivational factor of this Letterboxd feature is a positive result of the app becoming more mainstream. Watching more movies, despite whether they are truly being enjoyed or not, can open one’s mind to different styles of the art as well as the use of the art in other cultures. Even in situations where films fail to express a clear message or properly execute a simple storyline, it still shows all aspects of the film world to audiences.

“I use Letterboxd every time I watch a new movie, which is about once or twice a week. I would say Letterboxd has encouraged me to watch more movies, as I’ve watched movies that I would have never heard about if it were not for the platform,” said freshman Anansha Mishra, “I do not regret downloading Letterboxd because it helps me keep track of the amount of movies I’ve watched, while also allowing me to interact with my friends and others about movies that we have liked.”

Film is an artistic tool meant to tell stories and make audiences feel emotions. It is important to hear the stories of other people from different backgrounds and cultures. Even the worst movie imaginable can provide feelings to a user, though they may invoke the wrong feelings. Being motivated to watch more movies is not a restriction, and is more of an opening for non-cinephiles to expose themselves to different cultures. In a world where everyone restricts themselves to the same style of movie, franchises, or directors, audiences would be unable to relate to each other and feel the human connection that the art of film allows for.



 



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I was unfamiliar with Letterboxd until I read this article but concur with the author that a person watching more films--whatever the reason--is a positive cultural development. Experiencing films from numerous genres is like reading books of different genres or listening to music of different genres and, as the author implied, doing so amounts to a valuable--since ever more comprehensible--kind of education. I believe it inevitably makes one a more discerning viewer--and one more appreciative of truly great cinematic art. What constitutes great art is largely subjective; however, the more one sees, the more one knows; and the more one knows, the more deeply one appreciates. I don't see how deeply appreciating the artistic efforts of others--which is really …


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