The qualities that make a film perennially viewable

Prior to the advent of digital reproduction, if you wanted to see a movie, you went to the theater. And if you wanted to see it again, you went back to the theater. Throughout my life, certain films have resonated in such a way that they’ve merited multiple trips to the theater.  

The Hateful Eight is the most recent film that has gotten richer with each viewing; I’ve seen it 5 times and counting. Watching the film in 70mm for the second time, I could focus on the cinematography. On the third viewing, I luxuriated in the rhythms of Tarantino’s dialogue, which is akin to fine poetry.

Image via The Hateful Eight.
Image via The Hateful Eight.

I’ve watched Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange 16 views since college.  Actually, I’ve seen every Kubrick film too many times to count.  On subsequent viewings, I can begin to appreciate the artistry and craftsmanship on new levels with each viewing.

Other movies that warranted multiple viewing were those of Ingmar Bergman, Lina Wertmuller, Fellini, Kurosawa, and I’d have to throw in John Schlesinger’s Midnight Cowboy and Peter Bogdanovich’s The Last Picture Show.   

We all have films that resonate personally at certain times in our lives. Films that become more powerful with each viewing. The same elements that make a film memorable can do the same for television commercials.


A powerful story immediately hooks readers with a riveting premise and delivers through carefully structured narrative. But film storytelling has different demands than other forms. Screenwriters must tell a story taking into consideration the tools and techniques of the trade. Storytelling for cinema must transcend words on a page and embrace more abstract devices like visual and aural devices.


Compelling dialogue walks a fine line between mimicking believable natural language, imparting critical plot information, and invoking a rhythm that keeps viewers in the flow of the story.


Effective casting becomes a visual shorthand. When the perfect actor is cast in a part, less direction is required. The character will easily come alive and feel authentic to viewers.


One of the director’s chief jobs is overseeing the artistic direction of the project. Through careful artistry, the director and other stakeholders take an abstract idea and make it tangible to viewers.


Like finding key actors, finding the best director for a particular project is critical to its success. The director is involved in every element of a film – from visualizing the script to mentoring actors. This intimate understanding of the project ensures its coherence of vision.


An infinite array of technical combinations are up for consideration when it comes to cinematography. The cinematographer considers depth, spatial relationships, lenses, exposure, light, contrast, textures when developing a powerful visual campaign. If any one variable is changed, it changes everything, including the audience’s reception of the film.


Through editing, all of the elements are tightened, and the viewer’s experience of the film is intensified.

When each of these elements comes together, they harmonize, creating a film that leaves an indelible print on the viewer’s memory. These are the movies that we return to over and over again, taking away something new with each visit.