If you’re a fan of movies, and you hang around on any of the social media sites, you can’t possibly have helped but notice at least one person you’re following taking part in The 30 Day Movie Challenge in the last year or two. It’s a lot of fun choosing your favourite movies, actors, genre films, etc., but I was a little concerned that it encourages people to stay within their own bubble, to stick to what they know.

For me, at least, part of the enjoyment of film lies firmly within the joy of discovery, of finding treasures, old and new, and understanding what makes them work. With that in mind, I have created my very own challenge, one that I hope you will use to not only expand your knowledge of film but encourage you to think a little more critically about the stuff you watch: Why it works; why it doesn’t; what is good; what is great and, importantly, why.

There are no real hard and fast rules on how long you take to complete the challenge. You can do it in thirty days if you want to, take longer if you like, there’s no restrictions or time limit.

The rules on what to watch are pretty loose, just try to stay within the stated restrictions and remember to try and step outside your comfort zone. I’ve provided explanations, links and suggestions where I think they might be helpful, or necessary. Also, a calendar (at the bottom of the page) for you to save and print if you wish (right click on the image and save to your computer).

The Challenge

Day 1 – A movie you’ve always promised yourself you’d watch but, for whatever reason, never actually got around to seeing.

Sounds simple enough, so what is the point of this challenge? Well, the chances are that one of those films you always promised yourself you’d watch is generally regarded as a classic but you’ve never been in the right mood to actually sit down and stick it in the dvd player/stream it/whatever. Put Explosion Robots 6 to one side tonight, no more excuses.

Day 2 – Watch a silent movie.

Watching silent movies is a great way to understand storytelling and structure. Focus on how a story is told without wordy exposition; how, without audible dialogue, the actors convey character and emotion; think about how music is used to describe the characters, heighten the purpose of the scene and provide thumb-nail sketches of the characters.

Here‘s a link to a Google search, if you need any help

Day 3 – Watch any foreign language/subtitled movie

Watching a subtitled film made in a language foreign to your native tongue means having to concentrate and multitask, therefore it’s a great idea to turn off your phone or tablet and isolate yourself from distraction. 

Here‘s a link to a Google search, if you need any help

Day 4 – Watch any movie made in the 1930’s

Any movie made (according to IMDb.com) between 1930 and 1939

Here‘s a shortcut to a Google search, if you need any help

Day 5 – Watch any movie made in the 1940’s

Any movie made (according to IMDb.com) between 1940 and 1949

Here‘s a shortcut to a Google search, if you need any help

Day 6 – Watch any movie made in the 1950’s

Any movie made (according to IMDb.com) between 1950 and 1959

Here‘s a shortcut to a Google search, if you need any help

Day 7 – Watch any movie made in the 1960’s

Any movie made (according to IMDb.com) between 1960 and 1969

Here‘s a shortcut to a Google search, if you need any help

Day 8 – Watch any movie made in the 1970’s

Any movie made (according to IMDb.com) between 1970 and 1979

Here‘s a shortcut to a Google search, if you need any help

Day 9 – Childhood

Watch a movie that attempts to capture what it is to be a child, whatever that means to you. Here’s a few suggestions, but the choice is yours: The Way Way BackTo Kill a MockingbirdThe 400 Blows, Boyhood, Whistle Down The Wind, Stand By Me, Pather Panchali, Kes, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Spirit of the Beehive, My Neighbour Totoro

Day 10 – Life

Watch a movie that celebrates life, explores what it means to be alive or, in some way, represents to you the meaning of life. Some suggestions: UntouchableIkiruThe Shawshank Redemption, Babette’s Feast, Persona, Inside Out, Cast Away, Nashville, Harold and Maude, Wild Strawberries, Easy Rider, The Man Who Fell to Earth

Day 11 – Love

A Rom-Com? A weepie? A serious examination of what it means to be in or out of love? How about the love of “things”, power, ideals or material wealth? The choice is yours, here’s a few suggestions, though: Mr. Smith Goes to WashingtonPunch Drunk Love, In the Mood for Love, Brokeback Mountain, Brief Encounter, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Amour, Before Midnight, Jules et Jim, Singin’ in the Rain, There Will be Blood, Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans

Day 12 – Pleasure

Pick a film about indulgence, the pursuit of epicurean delight, Bacchanalian gratification or, indeed, the lack of satisfaction and happiness found in excess. A few suggestions: The Great Beauty, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Salo, Tampopo, Scarface, In The Realm of the Senses, Intolerance, Shame, The Great Gatsby, The Exterminating Angel, Saturday Night Fever

Day 13 – Duty

Think about responsibility and moral obligation, whether to an individual, an organisation or a philosophy. What is lost and what is gained? Some suggestions: Aguirre, The Wrath of GodMotherSaving Private Ryan, The Burmese Harp, The Best Years of Our lives, The Wages of Fear, Sicario, Touch of Evil, The Act of Killing, Seven Samurai, Zodiac, Strangers on a Train, Tokyo Story, The Babadook, Hobson’s Choice, Tender Mercies

Day 14 – Faith and Religion

Love it or loathe it, religion dominates virtually every aspect of human life whether you’re Christian, Muslim, Atheist, Pastafarian (sic.), whatever. Watch a film that examines belief and religion’s impact upon the characters or plot. Alternatively, watch a movie in which a character’s strength of belief (in whatever) impacts upon the story and those around them. A few ideas: Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter… and Spring, Black Narcissus, Ida, Timbuktu, Night of the Hunter, The Last Temptation of Christ,  Andrei Rublev, 12 Angry Men, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Previous Lives, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, Religulous, The Passion of Joan of Arc

Day 15 – Death

Inevitable, I suppose. Watch a movie about death, be it impending death, sudden death, loss, grief or anything else you can think of that represents “the end”. Some suggestions: A Matter of Life and Death, Wings of Desire, All that Jazz, Dead Man, The Fountain, Biutiful, Three Colours: Blue, Love and Death, Solaris, Truly, Madly Deeply, Ponette, Don’t Look Now, Up, The Mourning Forest

Day 16 – Watch any film from the BFI’s top ten list of greatest movies chosen by critics

Click here to find the list

Day 17 – Watch any film from the BFI’s top ten list of greatest movies chosen by directors

Click here to find the list

Day 18 – Watch any from film from the BBC top ten list of greatest movies of the 21st Century

Click here to find the list

Day 19 – Colour

Watch any movie (not black and white – unless it’s Schindler’s List – obviously) and think about the use of colour. Has the director/director of photography used a hyper active palette of colours or is the film muted and washed out? Think about how the use of colour affects the storytelling, does it enhance or hinder?

Day 20 – Movement

Watch any film you like but pay attention to movement: is the camera constantly on the move or does it remain still? How about the characters and their movement both in and out of frame? What about the background? Is it static or always moving? How does movement affect the movie? (Hint: Akira Kurosawa was a master of movement, especially in his Samurai/Historical movies)

Day 21 – Time

Pick any movie you like and, this time, pay attention to the passing of time and the structure of the film within it. Does time move in a linear pattern (ie. is there a beginning, middle and end in that order) or does the director/writer mess with temporal structure (like in Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction or Christopher Nolan’s Memento and Dunkirk, are there flashbacks/flash forwards?), and does it work, were you able to follow the narrative?

Day 22 – Season/Weather

Watch any film you wish but think about how the season it is set in or the effects of weather affect the storytelling. Does a movie set in deep Winter affect more than just the costumes the characters are wearing? What effects do scorching heat or constant rain have on the plot?

Day 23 – USA/UK Director

Choose a film by any of these directors: Alfred Hitchcock, Brian De Palma, Robert Altman, Mike Leigh, Sidney Lumet, Billy Wilder, Alexander Mackendrick, John Ford, Kelly Reichardt, David Lean.

*Try to chose a movie you’ve never seen or a director whose work is unfamiliar to you

Day 24 – European Director

Choose any film by one of these directors: Werner Herzog, Federico Fellini, Luis Buñuel, Ingmar Bergman, Agnes Varda, Pedro Almodovar, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Jean Renoir, Krzysztof Kieslowski, Michelangelo Antonioni

*Try to chose a movie you’ve never seen or a director whose work is unfamiliar to you

Day 25 – Asian Director

Choose a movie from one of these directors: Akira Kurosawa, Edward Yang, Satyajit Ray, Wong Kar-Wai, Yasujirô Ozu, Bong Joon-ho, Naomi Kawase, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Park Chang-wook, Satoshi Kon

*Try to chose a movie you’ve never seen or a director whose work is unfamiliar to you

Day 26 – Rest of the World Director

Watch a movie by one of these directors: Asghar Farhadi, Abbas Kiarostami, Andrei Tarkovsky, Peter Weir, David Cronenberg, Ousmane Sembène, Margot Benacerraf, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Atom Egoyan, George Miller

*Try to chose a movie you’ve never seen or a director whose work is unfamiliar to you

Day 27 – Watch a movie you consider to be a masterpiece

This one is down to you alone, I can’t give you any choices or suggestions, all I want is for you to think about why you consider this movie a masterpiece and how would you defend it if someone challenged your opinion.

Day 28 – Rethink a movie

Again, this is all up to you. Maybe watch a movie you hated or, at least, disdained. What made critics love this film? Maybe you missed something that everyone else saw or maybe everyone else is wrong. You could watch a film you loved when you first saw it but have since cooled on or something you didn’t particularly like but have warmed to. It’s your call.

Day 29 – Favourite movie ending

What’s your favourite final scene of a movie? Was it what you expected or did it throw you a complete curve-ball? Is it something iconic or something that deserves to be iconic. It might fill you with joy or fill your eyes with tears… maybe both. Once again, it’s your call.

Day 30 – Treat yourself

Congratulations. You’ve made it to the end of the article even if you’ve not made it to the end of the challenge. Watch your favourite ever film. Visit the cinema and blow a weeks wages on popcorn and ice creams. Go and buy that dvd you’ve always wanted. It’s completely up to you. Go on, knock yourself bandy, you deserve it.

You might, as a consequence of finishing this challenge, have just unlocked new avenues of cinematic delight and learned how to think a little more critically, that was my ambition in creating this but, whatever, I hope you had fun.


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