When Is It Time To Stop a Movie?

This is a topic I was thinking about just recently. It was likely inspired by some godawful Netflix or the like. There are many schools of thought on this but essentially it’s something I’ve never been consistent with and it’s also an emotional visceral decision rather than an intellectual one, so I thought it was worth some examination. Without further prelude: Do you have a hard and fast rule regarding when to just stop watching a movie?

Clearly the environment one finds themselves in will impact how heavily you debate it. I’ve only theatrically ever walked out of one film, Jumanji. While I don’t necessarily regret the decision, the thought of “I’d rather be home and I should be leaving” did factor in. Either way, that’s the only precedent and while I’ve been tempted I’ve not done it again.

The stop or move on question comes into play a lot more when dealing with home video, more specifically on Netflix.

Some films, such as the one referenced in the picture Satan’s Little Helper, have the Train Crash Effect on you as a viewer, which is to say no matter how bad it is you have to keep watching. Regardless of the fact that I never even grew an ironic fondness of the film it was good fodder for joking.

Some films, of course, are so terrible they actually hurt your eyesight. The prime example of this would be Dollman, a film that’s the antithesis of Demonic Toys inasmuch as its so bad it’s offensive. That film I turned off within 10 minutes.

Which brings us to the argument of time; Syd Field’s theory that you typically know if you like a film within the first 10 minutes has some basis in fact but isn’t gospel. It’s more a guideline emphasizing the importance of a strong start to screenwriters. Few, if any, endings have ever salvaged a film in my mind. Many endings have ruined films. Usually, the cut-off is the mid-point. One film I saw recently really started to collapse around that point and few improve beyond it.

Is the 50% rule set in stone in my mind? Sadly, it’s not that easy. I’ve rarely stopped a movie past that point, but I have found redeemable qualities or scenes beyond it in the past when all that had preceded said point had been irredeemable.

I’m given further pause by films I nearly quit on very early on but I stuck with and eventually loved. The most notable example being Dogville. Eventually I got past my resistance and really started to appreciate what was happening. That does complicate things and is a case against ever turning anything off.

While I certainly understand the philosophy behind not wasting one’s time any further the allure of the unknown and the possibility of something to latch on to is compelling.

When watching a film as a group it’s easy to make it a democratic process. The question can be raised: “Are we done with this?” If there’s no consensus you can tune out in some fashion, which is an option when viewing solo but then why even keep the movie playing?

I suppose this is a roundabout way of putting my thoughts down and hoping for some insight from without that will lead me to a conclusion but in all likelihood it will remain an instinctual decision. If I think there’s something I can glean or catch from continuing I shall, if it’s pointless I shan’t. What are your thoughts?


  1. Micki Mihich · June 1, 2012

    Wenders, Scorcese and many others follow the 10 inute rule as well. Scorcese says that after a certain age you already know what’s coming and whether it’s good or not. I really haven’t reached that point yet – like you, I’ve been surprised before in a positive way and that possibility keeps nagging in my head until I’m done with the film. Of course, disapppointments are the great majority, alas, but as a film lover I just keep going… I’ve stopped less than half a dozen films in my life and one of them I’ve decided to revisit lately so let’s see what happens… But I wish I had the foresight – there are so many films to watch and so many things to do in life that it reall makes you crazy… 🙂

  2. Edmund Charles Davis-Quinn · June 1, 2012

    When you reach the boredom point, and would rather watch something on the DVR or even something vapid like Two Men and a Baby. “Monster House” was one I gave up on. Heard good things, just HATE the stop-action style animation Zemeckis loves.

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