There’s no easy way to know if the new movies in theaters are going to be good movies or bad movies, especially if the film is sitting firmly in the ‘coming soon’ section of your watch list. You can take an educated guess, or you can follow my handy guide and never watch a bad movie again.
Trust the Headliners
I promise you, no one knows how to pronounce Zendaya or Chalamet, but as soon as you see these names on a poster, you can be assured that you’re going in for a fantastic film. Good actors are not just good because they act well, they’re good because they know how to pick good projects. Actors are a brand, and the films that they choose to be in helps develop their brand for audiences and viewers.
That’s why Dwayne Johnson is in a lot of adventurous movies that need a big, strong brave minority, or why DeNiro doesn’t do many romantic comedies. That’s just not their brand. Actors’ brands don’t just have to be their genre, but the quality of the film they’re in as well. That’s why legendary actor Daniel Day-Lewis is in so few films. He waits, then picks and chooses fantastic films to work in. That’s why even directors like Quinten Tarantino restrict themselves to making so few films. That’s why, when you see certain actors on a bill for a film, you can trust that you’re getting your money’s worth.
Trailers and Previews
Speaking of posters, marketing often reflects the film’s quality as well. When marketers try to sell the film, they often don’t have that much to work with, and only get some preliminary shots and CGI moments to promote. If the film is a good one, then even those few tidbits will reflect a high-quality film and you can you can trust that the rest of the film has a lot to offer. This is a double edged sword, however. If the trailer for a comedy is all jokes, or for an action film is all action, then there’s a good chance that that’s the best the movie has to offer. They’re literally playing their aces to try to lure you in, and have nothing more to offer once you’ve paid for your ticket- or your subscription for the month. If the trailer is too good, then the movie may not be.
So compare these two trailers and ask yourself which film you’d enjoy more.
Your Own Instinct
The final, and most important ingredient, to figuring out a good if a movie is going to be a good one or a bad one is your own gut. Do you think you’re going to enjoy the movie? Do you enjoy other movies like this one? Have you seen movies like this? Did the buzz about it interest you? I know this sounds rudimentary, but the truth is that you can’t force yourself to watch stuff that you know you’re not interested in. If you sat me down to watch The Greatest Showman, I can assure you that no matter how good it is, I’m not going to enjoy the experience as much as I would if you strapped me to a chair and forced me to watch something like Moonfall.
Sure, films like The Power of the Dog will get a thousand mentions at the Academy Awards, and I don’t doubt the Benedict Cumberbatch (I spelled that correctly on the first try- whoop whoop!) is phenomenal in it. I also know that there’s not much traditional entertainment in Dune, but I do know that it’s my favorite genre and I know that I’ll enjoy it regardless of how many nominations it gets. Again, one of my favorite sci fi films is Oblivion, and it is barely even remembered anymore. No one except you will know what you will enjoy, so feel free to trust your gut.
Film is an art, and art is subjective, regardless of the technical aspects of things. It’s why I watch so many Vin Diesel films or horror films. I know that they’re not applicably “good” works, but they entertain me. What more could you want?
There’s not much else that goes into predicting a good film without investing a significant amount of time into researching it, and no one really has time for that. But by identifying the track records of the actors you can begin to trust their judgements for the projects they’ve chosen. If you happen across the trailer and it’s a little too good, then you can err on the side of caution. Combining these two predictors and you can have a pretty intelligent conversation about whatever film that’s being talked about by the cooler or being played on a loop for your Instagram ads.