So what makes a good movie and how do you find the right project?

Below the masters of cinema share their thoughts on what they consider to be a good movie and the key elements that make a successful movie – if anyone is going to know the formula it’s these guys.

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A film is never really good unless the camera is an eye in the head of a poet.

Orson Welles

I realise more and more that reality on the screen, which used to be the thing to aim at, is a sort of bore. I don’t mean that the audience should sit there and say, “Oh, that’s unreal”. But movies are a kind of dream and I think they should have an unreal edge to them, and that’s what I try to do. 

David Lean

As a filmmaker, I believe in trying to make movies that invite the audience to be part of the film; in other words, there are some films where I’m just a spectator and am simply observing from the front seat. What I try to do is draw the audience into the film and have them participate in what’s happening on-screen.

Peter Jackson

A good movie is three good scenes and no bad scenes.

Howard Hawks

I want to tell stories which require something of an audience, by way of thought, argument, emotion, because I’m more often in an audience than I am a maker of films, and that’s the kind of movie I want to see.

Anthony Minghella

I believe what Walt Disney said “For every laugh there should be a tear.” I love movies that make me cry, because they’re tapping into a real emotion in me, and I always think afterwards “How did they do that?”

John Lasseter

Everything’s always about page-turning, right? What’s next? So, if you create questions for audiences, then they’ll want to know the answer. Or they begin to formulate possible outcomes. That’s the game we play when we’re hearing a story unfold. That’s part of what sucks us into a movie.

Ron Howard

A good picture, is long on action and short on dialogue.

John Ford

I think audiences get too comfortable and familiar in today’s movies. They believe everything they’re hearing and seeing. I like to shake that up.

Christopher Nolan

A good opening and a good ending make for a good film provide they come close together.

Federico Fellini

The strogest human emotion is fear. It’s the essence of any good thriller that for a while, you believe in the Bogeyman

John Carpenter

The most important parts of a film are mysterious parts – beyond the reach of reason and language.

Stanley Kubrick

Any good movie is filled with secrets.

Mike Nichols

A film must be made with the heart, not the mind. I think today’s young filmmakers have forgotten this and instead they make films through their calculations. That is why Japanese films no longer have an audience. In all honesty, films must be made to target the hearts. During the time of Yasujirô Ozu, my mentor, and also in my time, no filmmaker made films based on theory and calculation, and that was why Japan’s cinema was capable of shaping its golden years. Young filmmakers use techniques to humiliate the audience. This is wrong. We must serve cinema and make a film that would stimulate the audience. Ultimately, the aim should be to make an artistic film. That’s simple, isn’t it?

Akira Kurosawa

I like happy endings in movies. I think life has a happy ending. When it’s all said and done, it’s all something worthwhile, and I want my movies to reflect that. There are enough things to be sad about. When you pop in a movie, let the message be one that’s one of hope.

Jon Favreau

The formula for making a picture is to find a single problem which is sufficiently enthralling to hold the attention of the people who are watching the play unfold, and yet not sufficiently difficult to demand uncomfortable concentration.

Alfred Hitchcock

If it’s a good movie, the sound could go off and the audience would still have a pretty clear idea of what was going on.

Alfred Hitchcock

The secret to film is that it’s an illusion.

George Lucas

Pictures are for entertainment, messages should be delivered by Western Union.

Samuel Goldwyn

You know when Hollywood does a great big blockbuster that really wraps you up in a world, and lets you believe in extraordinary things that move you in some way, in an almost operatic sensibility? That to me is the most fun I have at the movies.

Christopher Nolan

To feel is to primary, to understand is secondary. First feel, experience – and then understand. Self-evidently, the main thing for the public is to have an experience. Later they can bring intellectual processes to bear. That’s always a pleasure. And eventually the intellectual process, itself, may elicit a new feeling.

Ingmar Bergman

I’d rather entertain and hope that people learn, than teach and hope that people are entertained.

Walt Disney

I am interested in entertaining people, in bringing pleasure, particularly laughter, to others, rather than being concerned with ‘expressing’ myself with obscure creative impressions.

Walt Disney

To make great movies, there is an element of risk. You have to say, “Well, I am going to make this film, and it is not really a sure thing.”

Francis Ford Coppola

Pictures that will live on for years, like ‘The Birth of a Nation’ and ‘Gone With the Wind,’ had great historical events in the background.

William Wyler

There should be a point to movies. Sure, you’re giving people a diversion from the cold world for a bit, but at the same time, you pass on some facts and rules and maybe a little bit of wisdom.

George Lucas

Commercial Success

The public has an appetite for anything about imagination – anything that is as far away from reality as is creatively possible.

Steven Spielberg

I don’t try to guess what a million people will like. It’s hard enough to know what I like.

John Huston

If there’s something that can be formulated, regulated, give you security, then nobody would lose money. Every movie would be successful. And that’s certainly not the case.

Ang Lee

There’s no Back to the Future IV and there shouldn’t be a Back to the Future IV. I don’t think there should ever be a fourth sequel to anything. Three is a dramatic number. It’s a three-act structure. Four is even. Four is boring.

Robert Zemeckis

If the boy and girl walk off into the sunset hand-in-hand in the last scene, it adds 10 million to the box office.

George Lucas

I win my awards at the box office.

Cecil B. DeMille

The theatrical marketplace is a challenge. What do you have to do to get someone to purchase a movie ticket to your movie? You have to do something that they’ve never seen before; you’ve got to enthrall them in a new way.

Richard Linklater

I don’t believe that the public knows what it wants; this is the conclusion that I have drawn from my career.

Charlie Chaplin

Motion-picture audiences like cheerfulness and don’t like to see too much suffering. They really don’t want the great truths brought home to them, and strongly resent having pessimism of any sort thrust in their faces.

Charlie Chaplin

Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends.

Walt Disney

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Related articles:

Filmmaking Quotes
Writing the Screenplay Quotes
Shooting the Movie Quotes

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