Answering the impossible question: What is your favourite?

Fear of sharing my favourite anything

When I was in Bible college, my New Testament professor asked the class to share our favourite book in the New Testament. Listening to all of my classmates, and hearing their answers were not surprising. Some chose one of the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life or some of Paul’s more encouraging letters, but when the time came for me to answer the question, I confidently replied, 1 Corinthians. 

Without becoming overly dramatic, after providing my answer time seemed to stop. The class went quiet, my teacher paused going through the role and did something unexpected. He laughed and then said in a sarcastic tone, ‘In all my years of teaching, no one has ever given 1 Corinthians as an answer.’ This response can be left open to interpretation, and I will not speculate on his intentions, but it did cause me to pause to answer the question of what my favourite is in much of anything. 

How do you choose a favourite?

In choosing a ‘favourite’ of anything it means that the choice needs to go through a multitude of filters of life experience and becomes exceptionally personal. It might be easy to answer the ‘favourite’ question at a younger age, but as time passes these answers mean more and are not easy to comment on with complete absolution and certainty. 

Favourite film – The impossible question

Many years later and due to the nature of my work of critiquing films, a similar question comes along regularly. ‘What is your favourite film?’ 

After attempting to stop the nervous tick that comes with this query and taking a breath to go through the thousands of films I have viewed in my lifetime, I have come to realise that it is a harmless question. I see this as a litmus test for a person to determine if my reviewing perspective measures up to their standard or it may be a means of beginning a conversation on film. This is why it is worth remarking on, a love of talking about film. 

The problem is that it is an impossible question to answer. It triggers a series of categories in my brain of genre, director, era, actors, country of origin and mere personal preference. Moving past the fear of being judged by the answer that might come forth, people need to understand this is not a question that can be given without a great deal of angst and consideration. 

Some critics think they can answer this question, but most of them change their tune each year. This statement can be proven by doing a quick online search for this answer; the query would bring forth a multitude of lists and film choices. Confirming the fact that it is not an easy question to take on for someone who sees multiple films per week.

Here are three options

IMDb’s top 10 of all time

 1 The Godfather (1972)

 2 The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

 3 Schindler’s List (1993)

 4 Raging Bull (1980)

 5 Casablanca (1942) 

 6 Citizen Kane (1941) 

 7 Gone with the Wind (1939) 

 8 The Wizard of Oz (1939)

 9 One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) 

 10 Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

Rotten Tomatoes top reviewed films

 1. Wizard of Oz (1939)

 2. Citizen Kane (1941)

 3. Get Out (2017)

 4. The Third Man (1949)

 5. Call Me by Your Name (2018)

 6. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

 7. The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1920)

 8. Paddington 2 (2018)

 9. All About Eve (1950)

 10. Inside Out (2015)

Empire Magazine’s Top 10 of all time

 1.  The Godfather (1972)

 2.  Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

 3.  Star Wars Episode V:  The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

 4. The Shawshank Redemption  

 5.  Jaws (1975) 

 6.  Goodfellas (1990) 

 7.  Apocalypse Now (1979) 

 8.  Singin’ in the Rain (1952)

 9.  Pulp Fiction (1994)

10.  Fight Club (1999)

I will admit, I love some of these films, but admittedly I wonder how some of them made any list. That is a discussion for another day.

These lists contain similarities, but what they prove is that this is not a simple question to address. The organisations represented have algorithms to make this decision, editors who are willing to make these calls or they are reliant on their readers to help in the process. Whatever means they utilise to come to the answer, the subjectivity to the question is undeniable. The challenge is to not react to these lists is to not respond in the same manner as my college professor because of some of the films chosen.

What is the answer to the impossible question? 

All that being said, what is my answer? The impossible question gets answered with a list of twenty. These are films I love to watch and would be willing to see multiple times. They are not in any particular order, but they would be films I would be ready to view any night of the week. They are films that I have watched so many times, I have lost count. This list is purely subjective, no categories or review rankings. 

These films are merely ones that I enjoy. Which might cause some readers to laugh, but it is my list. 

Remember this is a list of films I just enjoy watching…

Reel Dialogue’s Russ Matthews favourite films of all time

 1. Blade Runner 

 2. Moneyball

 3. Bull Durham

 4. Inception

 5. Star Wars IV: A New Hope

 6. The Matrix

 7. The Usual Suspects

 8. The Incredibles

 9. Groundhog Day

 10. Baby Driver

 11. The Princess Bride 

 12. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

 13. Monty Python and the Holy Grail

 14. Ocean’s Eleven

 15. La La Land

 16. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

 17. Guardians of the Galaxy

 18. Hugo

 19. Rear Window

 20. Field of Dreams

There you go, I am now completely exposed.

I hope you can appreciate all that it took to compile this list and understand that it will change. 

Analyse the list, watch the films, have some fun and get out to the cinema.

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Russell Matthews

Russell loves film and enjoys engaging in discussions about the latest cinema offerings and then connecting this with the Gospel. He has worked for City Bible Forum for over 10 years, is a reviewer for Insights Magazine and Entertainment Fuse and has a blog called Russelling Reviews. He moderates events for Reel Dialogue which connect the film industry with the general public.