One opinion that I hear expressed over and over is that movies have progressively gotten worse. This sentiment is often heard from comedians, cynical film snobs and even general movie goers. It is expressed in many different ways, from films have lost their magic to they don’t make movies like they used to.
This take on films and the film industry is something that not only gets on my nerves, but is also utterly false.
One reason why I see this contrarian opinion as being so ridiculous is not that I don’t think the majority of films released now are bad, which they are, but rather because it has always been like this. Just as a large percentage of the films released nowadays are bad, 20-30 years ago we most likely had the same ratio. People will point out the classics and greats from yesteryear but they don’t seem to mention all of the bad films released alongside those classics.
We do not remember the bad or even the mediocre but only the great. Twenty years from now no one will remember Yogi Bear 3D but they certainly will remember Inception. It is simply a matter of perspective as this point of view was certainly also common in the 70’s, when people looked back on the 50’s. Now from our new perch we can see and appreciate all the truly great films released in that decade.
Another reason people hold this view is that when we look back on the films of our childhood we see them through a thick layer of nostalgia. We do not see the films as we would see them today, but rather see them in the same idealized way we see our childhood. Many remember films like The Goonies or Tron as being classics, but in reality are they are in no way great films. This will always happen as we often remember films being much better than they really are. It is important, however, to remember this as we romanticize decades of film.
As we look back on our own golden age of film, we must remember that twenty years from now audiences will be romanticizing about this decade of film. People will often confuse nostalgia for greatness, and I for one am guilty of this, but it is important to remember that behind that layer of great films, lies a graveyard of terrible movies long forgotten. Movies have not gotten worse, we just selectively remember the great films and ignore the bad.