Leave your Letterboxd goggles at the theater door.
Credit: Ian Moore / Mashable

Picture this: It’s 2020. You’ve finished your workout and are about to chill with a movie. The film you’re diving into faced criticism, but you’re diving in anyway. Suddenly, a song from the film plays, making you pause. This is the world of movie buffs.

Even well-known director Christopher Nolan once found himself puzzled by an intricate film. Criticism is everywhere these days. Nolan highlighted the art of film critique during his New York Film Critics Circle award acceptance speech. He emphasized the professionalism and expertise needed to appreciate films beyond simple opinions.

Among the plethora of platforms enabling film critique, Letterboxd stands out. It serves as a social hub for movie enthusiasts to discuss, discover, and share recommendations, likened to a movie-centric Goodreads. Started in 2011, it saw a surge in popularity during the lockdown era of 2020, growing its user base significantly.

As users flocked to the platform, discussions flourished. From debates on review quality to the shift in film discourse dynamics, Letterboxd has become a focal point for movie aficionados. Noteworthy filmmakers like Martin Scorsese and notable personalities have embraced the platform, adding to its credibility and cultural impact.

So why has this humble platform founded by web designers from the ’90s become the hub of movie discussions, overshadowing even the films themselves?

Users have turned platforms like Letterboxd into a new age “weather app” for film enthusiasts, constantly engaging and expressing their views on movies.

Mashable’s tech and culture reporters delve into the pervasive talks surrounding Letterboxd and the phenomenon of broadcasting opinions on the internet.

The ascent of Letterboxd and the online film community landscape

Elena: The constant chatter contradicts the platform’s essence, with users often focusing more on their opinions rather than the films.

Chase: Indeed, the platform’s evolution from a cinephile’s sanctuary to a mainstream arena has led to diverse discussions across various forums, raising chaos and critical conversations.

Elena: Reflective jokes often overshadow thoughtful reviews on the platform, straying from the initial vision of creating an “anti-social media” space for film buffs.

Chase: The rise of Letterboxd resonates with the struggle to maintain stable film communities on mainstream social media platforms, signaling a shift towards more nuanced film engagement avenues.

Despite its growing popularity, Letterboxd faces scrutiny for shaping film discussions around personal identities rather than the art itself, emphasizing numerical ratings and social validation over genuine critique.

‘Top Four’ in the limelight

Chase: The concept of “Top Four” on Letterboxd, where users showcase their favorite films, has become a cultural barometer for movie quality, sparking debates and speculations.

Elena: The editorial team’s focus on celebrities’ Top Four choices further amplifies this trend, turning it into a viral sensation across platforms like TikTok, equating it with a mark of taste and identity.

As the Top Four phenomenon gains momentum, the line blurs between genuine appreciation and performative preferences, often leading to backlash and controversy around highbrow picks.

The aftermath of the Poor Things cast’s Top Four revelation underlines the clash between popular taste and cinematic exploration, raising questions about audience comprehension and cultural acceptance.

The shadow of statistical obsession on the web

Elena: Letterboxd’s proliferation as a platform for film evaluation has spurred a metrics-centric approach, encouraging users to prioritize quantity over quality in movie consumption, aligning with wider societal trends of data-driven validation.

Chase: The allure of numerical reinforcement and social validation continues to fuel a culture of prescriptive taste-making on Letterboxd, resonating with users’ desire for recognition and affirmation in the digital realm.

Elena: While the platform remains a valuable resource for movie discovery, the obsession with numbers overlooks the intrinsic value of film critique and appreciation, overshadowing the essence of cinematic artistry.

As social media platforms evolve into arenas for performative validation, the shift towards public, identity-driven accounts on Letterboxd reflects a broader trend in digital engagement, emphasizing popularity and visibility over genuine expression.

Social Media

Chase, Social Good Reporter

Chase DiBenedetto
Social Good Reporter

Chase is a part of Mashable’s Social Good team, covering stories related to digital activism, climate justice, accessibility, and media representation. Her work sheds light on how these themes intersect with politics, popular culture, and fandom, often with a touch of humor.

Mashable Image

Elena Cavender

Elena, Mashable’s tech reporter and Gen Z specialist, focuses on trends in platforms like TikTok and digital culture. She recently graduated with a degree in American History and brings a Gen Z perspective to her work. Reach out to her at [email protected]or follow her@ecaviar_.