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Thinking Outside the Letterboxd: How Letterboxd Shaped my Cinephile Lifestyle

Bethan discusses how the social media platform started her obsession with cinema.

I’ve loved movies for longer than I can remember; as a child I would ask my mum to put on The Lion King every day. But more recently, my personal taste had stopped growing – I’d re-watch the same movies over and over again, the few films I’d catch just in time at the cinema or films I had to watch because of my studies (yes, I’m looking at you, John Wayne). I feel that I’m not the only person who feels like this, that we as a generation seem to be drawn to revisiting our most beloved films as a nostalgia kick. But after discovering a new social media platform, I was able to think outside the box and explore new films and genres, thanks to Letterboxd.

Credit: Letterboxd

I assume if you’re reading this you might have already heard of Letterboxd – but if not, in a nutshell, it’s an increasingly popular social media platform where film-fans can log, rate, and review films on their online film diary, organised their viewings with lists, and join a growing cinephile community to like, comment and interact on friends’ activity. Some may say the first rule of Letterboxd is you do not talk about Letterboxd, but I’ve converted 90% of my friends to Letterboxd-lovers; I seem to be a self-employed Letterboxd advocate. It is super easy to use, with a website and an app – I’d recommend it to everyone, and well, I already do.

I joined back in 2014 whilst at university, after searching for a similar platform to ‘Goodreads’. I ended up only using it for 7 weeks, disappearing after logging only 23 films with coursework taking up most of my time. Luckily, I was still very organised in recording the films I watched, so thanks to the diary feature I was able to backlog all my films spanning over three years and transfer it into my Letterboxd when I became active again.

I finally broadened my horizons towards the end of 2017, when I discovered the film challenges on Letterboxd – especially getting involved in the monthly Scavenger Hunts. The Scavenger Hunt is hosted by a different user every month, made up of one task per day – usually based on the host’s personal taste – for the scavengers to hunt for films that fit into that category. The tasks range from directors, actors, genre, film length and even more! There are so many films I have found through these challenges that I wouldn’t have even considered watching, such as anime films like Perfect Blue or Your Name. I ended up really loving them (they even made it onto my all time favorite films list). Plus finding films that I never thought I’d watch, and I’ll never ever watch again – I wasted precious minutes of my life watching Movie 43.

Perfect Blue (1997) – source: National Amusements

I follow all the other challengers, who all like and comment on each other’s lists and reviews. It’s created a really supportive and diverse community of tastes and opinions. I didn’t really write reviews until I got involved in the challenges, thinking that my opinions didn’t really matter. But the challenges encourage to review each film – with reviews ranging from a single sentence (like mine) to full-length detailed reviews, I now review most of the films I watch on Letterboxd and my confidence has really grown to be able to get involved in other projects, like The Simple Cinephile!

There are also other themed challenges throughout the year, such as the Queer Film Challenge, The Weekly Animation Challenge, Hoop-tober – anything that takes your fancy or you can even create your own; it’s really easy to make lists and get involved! I’ve really utilized Letterboxd’s features to help me grow as a cinephile, especially lists; writing lists to track all of my favorite films, making notes of my cinema trips, taking part in the challenges, and my own personal New Year’s Resolutions. Last year’s was to take part in every Scavenger Hunt in 2018 which I did; now this year’s is to watch every film that features Domhnall Gleeson, because he is excellent and surprisingly quite accessible on streaming channels.

About Time (2013) credit: Universal Pictures

But my favorite part of Letterboxd is my annual stats as a Pro member, which appear for every year I’ve been active, and neatly arrange my viewing habits into “most watched” categories with actors, directors, genres and more (and as a millennial I do love personalized info-graphics). I especially love the lifetime stats, with percentage wheels including Oscar Best Picture Winners, IMDb Top 250, Edgar Wright’s 1000 Favorite Movies, and 1001 Movies To See Before You Die to tick off as you continue using the site. I’m nowhere near completing any of these wheels, and probably never will as nearly all of them feature some form of Jurassic Park, and I’m too scared of dinosaurs to watch it. All of your followers can see your stats so unfortunately I can’t hide my the few embarrassing facts about “My Life in Film”, but I really enjoy seeing everyone else’s stats in my friends list to see a snippet of their personality through their film tastes.

So, I just wanted to thank the dedicated staff of Letterboxd for creating and maintaining a site for such a huge community of cinephiles, allowing us access to exclusive Q&A content, and making joining accessible and free for everyone. Thanks to Letterboxd, my confidence has grown, and my film taste has improved. If I hadn’t become such a huge fan of this cinematic community, I would still be watching The Lion King every single day and I honestly will be using this social media platform as long as it exists.

So if you’ve gotten this far and you still don’t have an account, sign up! Create lists! Join challenges! Make friends! And most importantly, watch films!

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Bethan is a devoted Disney enthusiast from Liverpool, UK. She has watched The Lion King almost 500 times, and this year she hopes to watch every Domhnall Gleeson film, ever. Find her over on Twitter, Instagram & Letterboxd @bethanellen ✌️

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