You don’t have to watch that movie

Jonas DoerrOpinion Columnist 

An innocent sophomore is sitting at a table in the Caf, sipping from a big red cup of water. All is peaceful. But then his friend walks up to him pointing to something on his phone.

“Have you seen this?” The friend pulls up the Wikipedia plot summary from an obscure movie from the ‘80s. “It’s sooo good. You have to see it.”

The sophomore’s eyes widen. He starts to tense up and quiver. Some voice inside his head starts screaming, “NOOOOOO!”

But it’s too late. The fatal words have been said. His quivering hand reaches for his backpack. He pulls out his laptop. He tries to break away, but it’s too late. The movie is already on his screen.

Two hours later, the spell finally breaks. He slams his laptop shut, exhales loudly, and leans back in his flimsy, wooden chair. He realizes some new friends are sitting at the table with him now. “Guys, you wouldn’t believe what I just watched. You absolutely have to see this movie.”

They turn towards him with looks of pure horror. But it’s too late. Their hands are already reaching for their laptops, and the cycle begins again.

For many amateur movie critics, a simple “good” or “bad” is not enough. Analyzing the various parts of a movie or show and saying what made it superior or awful is often too much. Instead, they have to give the most manipulative of all reviews: “You have to watch it.”

At that point, what is there to do? If one does not watch the movie, they are insulting their friend’s glowing review, implying that the friend has bad taste in movies. Plenty of people think their friends have bad taste in movies, but letting them know is a bad strategy for keeping friends around.

Plus, the movie or show might be an important cultural knowledge base. Who knows how many references one will miss if they don’t watch all 400 episodes of Grey’s Anatomy or if they haven’t watched Harry Potter front to back 13 times? That’s 272 and 255 hours respectively, for the record. That time definitely could not be used in a more effective way.

It might seem like there is no other option. One simply must watch the movie.

But wait! I have a secret to tell you: you don’t have to watch it.

Believe it or not, it is possible to survive not watching a movie that you “have” to watch. In fact, by not watching that movie, one can not only survive, they can thrive, they can jive, and they can Live Laugh Love!

If you’re worried about missing cultural references, don’t worry. It’s impossible to stay on top of every reference. It’s estimated that there are about half a million movies out there. Considering that humans live on average just under 700,000 hours, if you never slept and only watched movies, you could just get through half of them. But that doesn’t account for shows as well.

There will always be some references people get and some they don’t. It’s much faster and, may I say, vibey-er to learn how to laugh off a reference one doesn’t get than to try to catch up on every single piece of media, which means that really there is no movie you have to watch.

Perhaps the argument could be made that a movie or show is simply too good to miss. However, someone who argues that sitting in place for two hours staring at flashing LCD pixels is the peak of human experience might be missing something. Some movies are better at creating emotional peaks and valleys, but watching someone else feel something is nothing compared to feeling it oneself. 

This doesn’t mean that it’s wrong to watch movies. It’s not if it’s for the right reason. Watching a movie because of peer pressure won’t be fulfilling, but watching one out of genuine interest can be. You should choose a movie that has themes and ideas that seem appealing, and perhaps it will reveal some important truths about life while being fun.

Even better, choose a movie that’s not at all your usual type. Expand your horizons and do something new. If you like dramas, watch a comedy. If you like action, try romance. If you like horror, try a historical show. It may be less comfortable since it’s unfamiliar, but it is likely to give you new perspectives, help you understand people, and learn something new.

Whatever you choose to watch, be careful. Recommend movies, but do it carefully. Never, never, never say the forbidden words: “You have to watch this movie.”