There have been few things in my cinema-loving life that have drastically changed the way I interact with movies.
In the beginning, I was a child. My favorite movies included “Barney’s Great Adventure,” “The Land Before Time,” and “Rugrats in Paris.” I grew up, and graduated to objectively better child-friendly movies like “The Wizard of Oz” and “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.” I lived this way, with a casual, typical relationship with movies, until high school.
High school is when I discovered the VHS tapes and DVDs at my local public library. I was just starting to appreciate the art of film when I realized I had all the classic movies, for free, available to take home and watch any time I wanted. It opened up a new world for me. Before, I might have been able to tell you which movies were good and why. But I had missed out on a lot of the classic films and the library let me play catch-up. One of the first “classics” I brought home, I remember, was “Kramer vs. Kramer.” I felt so cool, watching this movie that won Oscars but would have otherwise probably not appealed to me at the time.
Then, my sophomore year of college, I started this blog. It was my first college film class that sparked my interest in movie criticism, I think, but after getting a couple of my earliest movie reviews (“Rio” and “The Hangover II“) published in a small, local, print publication, I sought a way to share my thoughts more readily. That’s how this thing was born. Now, almost 10 years have passed and I’ve made more than 900 posts on my blog.
After college, I moved to Columbus and started earning a real salary. That first full year living in a big city, I saw more movies in theaters than I ever had (more than I have any year since).
But everything was pretty much the same until one night in 2018, after seeing the thriller “Searching” in theaters. That’s when the app Letterboxd was brought to my attention. I downloaded it right away. It was free, it was movie-related…I had nothing to lose. Little did I know it would quickly turn into the most-used app on my phone.
For the unfamiliar, Letterboxd is an app (and a website) that allows users to track, rate, and review every film they consume (and rate every film you have seen prior to downloading the app). The diary function lets you log when you see a movie, leave a rating out of five stars, and leave a review for the movie. Users can follow each other, like and comment on reviews, and engage in movie discussions.
Many users enjoy the list function, which lets you craft lists or search for other users’ lists. Need a list of movies set in Boston or a list of films directed by women? You can find it here. And Letterboxd lets you filter to see which movies you have watched before, order movies from most-liked to least-liked, and more. You can sort by year, genre, country, language, etc. Do you want to look up which animated movies from the 1950s you like best? You can! (For me, it’s “Alice in Wonderland.”)
You can keep a dedicated Watchlist. If you tell Letterboxd which streaming services you subscribe to, they’ll tell you when a movie on your Watchlist is now streaming on one of those services. You can search to find the best-liked movies on any particular streamer, too, if you’re unsure what to watch on Netflix tonight.
Also check out the four favorite movies every user is allowed to pick, which appear right under their name at the top of their profile. You’ll know right away whether your friends have good taste or not.
I’m in awe of how much I can discover on this app. So far, I’ve rated nearly 3,000 films, films that I remember seeing since my earliest days of watching movies. That said, there are plenty more that I know I’ve seen but refuse to rate until I see them again (I’ve been holding out on the “Lord of the Rings” movies all this time because I can’t remember well enough how much I liked each one).
You can also pay $19/year to upgrade to a Pro subscription, or $50/year for a Patron subscription. For a Pro subscription, the ads disappear and the app speeds up a bit (or, at least, that’s what I discovered…if you’re impatient, I found that for as little as $1.58/month you can have a much more efficient Letterboxd experience) and you’re also treated to an end-of-the-year wrap-up (like Spotify Wrapped). At any time, you can also see more insights from you whole life in film. I can see that, for me, Tom Hanks and Samuel L. Jackson are my two most-watched actors of all time, with both starring in around 40 films I have seen.
With a Patron subscription, you also get a banner at the top of your profile with a picture from your favorite movie (or the one currently occupying your first favorite slot, at least). But mostly, your $50/year is a donation to ensure that Letterboxd is able to continue on forever. I hope it does.
You don’t have to watch movies daily to enjoy Letterboxd. If you ever watch movies for more than just background noise, it’s a great resource for keeping track of what you’ve seen and what you thought. Even if you stick to the free version and only use it once a month, why not give it a try?
And if you do, be sure to follow me. Because for every movie I review on my blog, I’m reviewing another five or six on Letterboxd. Enjoy!