Does Hollywood make good movies?

The typical Hollywood movie has: Quick short cuts with a predictable and often improbable story, superficial stereotype characters (either good or bad, etc), no obvious moral message, nothing difficult, no sex, no controversy, little need to think, and no lasting impression.

Opium (fast food) to the people

fast foodHollywood producers have so much money but still make a lot of films, which to me are nonsense, with or without expensive special effects. Some films are so "light" they remind me of easily digested fast food. And some stereotypes are almost racist (Frenchmen = funny & ridiculous, Germans = evil Nazis, Russians = just drinking vodka, Arabs = evil fanatics, etc).

This typical Hollywood movie and dramaturgy is not evil as such. I also like brainless relaxing entertainment and action. I love movies like Ben Hur, Star Wars, Terminator 2 and some, but not all, movies by Spielberg. They are masterpieces of their kind, great storytelling. But there has to be all kinds. Of American directors, at least Woody Allen breaks the pattern, but he is not in Hollywood either.

I think the typical Hollywood movie has become too dominant. I feel influenced by a superficial culture pattern, that is very far from my culture. European cultures are simply not as individualistic as the US culture. Hollywood movies often have a lone hero saving the world or making a fortune for himself. But collective action for political change or against injustices is rarely seen. Indeed, our cultures are different. Let there be differences!


As a propaganda medium, modern movies are probably more efficient than Goebbels and Lenin ever dreamt of. Now that Hollywood movies have reached a domination near to monopoly, I fear free speech & democracy is at risk. I sympathise with the French, who want restrictions on Hollywood movies.

Of course the movie industry is a business and needs to make money. But it must be possible to be artistic, to produce meaningful films as well. With state subsidies if necessary. I refuse to believe that consumers worldwide want only meaningless entertainment. Given a chance, film can be great art, rather than a product!

Per Ĺkesson, 1996

Lukas Moodysson

The Swedish film director said this in Los Angeles Times, 18 April 2003: "Hollywood is the antithesis of my work. Hollywood is so much about propaganda, money and brain-dead entertainment, it rarely deals with art or real life."

Daniel Cohn-Bendit

This gentleman is a German-French politician in the European Parliament. He wants the European Union to do just like France, impose quotas on US movies. As a way to give European cultures a chance to survive. He is not against American culture as such, he just feels that a mono-cultural one-dimensional world will be a poorer world. (2002)

Bad movies get Oscars

In 2000 I went to see American Beauty, just having received 5 Oscars (not me, the film). I expected plain simple entertainment, no qualities. I hardly got even that. Sure, there was some entertainment & funny scenes. But mostly it was to me a mix of American neuroses & prejudices. The story seemed to me superficial & improbable and I could not engage emotionally or intellectually. I live on a different planet. Sorry!

Some personal favourites

  • Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, 2004. The storytelling is non-linear on parallel conscious levels.
  • The Pianist (Roman Polanski, 2003, the art of survival)
  • Russian Ark (Alexandr Soukorov, 2002, fantastic story, all filmed in one shot which is world record)
  • Amélie (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 2001, this mix of fantasy and realism is enchanting)
  • Memento (USA. 2000) The story is told backwards!
  • Battle Royale (Japan, 2000, unpleasant fantasy about schoolkids who exterminate each other)
  • Buena Vista Social Club (Wim Wenders 1999, fantastic music)
  • Titanic (James Cameron 1997, "typical Hollywood" but the high realism & special effects are hard to beat)
  • The Odyssey (1997 TV production, closely following Homer's book)
  • Contact (1997, unexpected space travel based on great novel by Carl Sagan)
  • Bean (1997, Rowan Atkinson as a painter)
  • Forrest Gump (1994, IQ is not everything)
  • Meeting Venus (István Szabó about us Europeans loving to hate each other, 1991)
  • Delicatessen (1991, French cannibals)
  • Cyrano de Bergerac (Gérard Dépardieu with a long nose, 1990)
  • Himmel über Berlin / Wings of Desire (Wim Wenders with real angels, 1988)
  • Idi i smotri (Elem Klimov 1985, German atrocities in Byelorussia)
  • Amadeus (Milos Forman 1984, fine music & filmed in original settings)
  • Diva (love story by Jean-Jacques Beineix, 1981)
  • Blues Brothers (John Belushi 1980, good black music, good actors & car chases)
  • Die Blechtrommel / The Tin Drum (after Günther Grass 1979, yes you can refuse to grow up)
  • The Groove Tube (Ken Shapiro 1974, provocative satire about TV shows)
  • Cabaret (Liza Minelli 1972, based on good book by Christopher Isherwood)
  • Yellow Submarine (Beatles 1968, love & music defeats evil, with psychedelic graphics)
  • Zorba the Greek (Anthony Quinn 1964, cultural clash & great music)
  • The Third Man (Orson Welles, night scenes with artistic lighting, 1949)
  • Les Enfants du Paradis / Children of Paradise (Marcel Carné, 1944)
  • Münchhausen (Germany 1943, fine colour movie with actor Hans Albers and no Nazi politics)
  • Modern Times (Chaplin, 1936)
  • Intolerance (W D Griffith, pacifist & humanist, 1916)

... plus most films by Pedro Almodovar, Federico Fellini, John Cleese/Monty Python, Marx brothers, Jean Renoir, Stanley Kubrick, Peter Sellers, Krzysztof Kieslowski, Luc Besson, Zhang Yimou, Mel Brooks, Tony Gatlif and Woody Allen.

Also some films by Lars von Trier, Ethan & Nathan Coen, Emir Kusturica, Ingemar Bergman and Alfred Hitchcock.

Further reading

Constructive comments? Send a mail. Beware that I am not a film professional. The opinions on this page are purely personal.

revised augusti 2013

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