Exploring Letterboxd, the (Social?) Network for Movie Fans

Valerie Hoke
October 12, 2018

Ever heard of Letterboxd?

I wouldn’t be surprised if the answer is no.

But before I explain, let me give you a little personal background.

When I was in high school, I was convinced that I didn’t like movies. I preferred the medium of TV for the ability to return to the same characters and story on a continual basis rather than growing attached to movie characters for two hours and then being done with them forever.

Look at this poor, misguided soul.

It wasn’t until the very end of my time in college when I realized that whoa, okay, movies are actually a really important cultural cornerstone, and refusing to watch them because of some half-baked notion that they bored me was a bad idea.

So, I began on a quest to catch myself up on classic and culturally significant movies that I somehow had never watched. Think: Jaws, Star Wars (yes, I never saw Star Wars until college), Goodfellas, the works. What I needed at the time was Letterboxd.

Founded in 2011, Letterboxd is online network centered around the concept of movie fans rating, ranking, sharing opinions, writing reviews, making lists, and having conversations about film. People use it to chronicle their own watching habits, make lists of movies they want to see, or make arguments as to why someone’s hot take on A Star is Born is garbage.

Letterboxd more or less revolves around the highly gratifying feeling of clicking the little eyeball on any given film to notate that you have indeed watched it.

For the last 10 minutes of every movie I watch, I’ve got that app open, finger hovering over the button, waiting to make it Letterboxd official. Obviously, I know that all three of my followers are waiting on the edges of their seats to see what I watch next, and I cannot let them down.

When you add up all those movies you’ve watched, they create your Letterboxd film history, which, TBH, is just as easy to obsess over as an Instagram grid.

Look how pretty it is! These are all of the most recent movies I have watched, organized by release date. (I can also organize them by decade or genre if I want to feel especially full of myself.)

Then, of course, there are the movies you haven’t yet watched. Letterboxd’s watchlist feature is the missing piece of my movie-catchup quest that I never knew I needed. Gone are the days of me scrolling through Netflix and failing to remember any of the movies I need-slash-want to watch; now, I just head to my good ol’ watchlist. (Whether or not those movies are actually on Netflix, Amazon, or Hulu is another discussion.)

Behold, my current watchlist:

Feel free to shame me for the movies on this list that you can’t believe I’ve never seen. (Looking at you, Matt Ray. I will watch Wonder Woman someday.)

Obviously, there’s a more social part to this network, too. That’s where ratings and reviews come in. When users (who range from ordinary folks like me to legitimate film reviewers for esteemed publications) write reviews, they tend to fall in two categories. Here are two examples, both from the 2014 film Nightcrawler.  

The intellectual:

And the stream-of-consciousness:

Same tbh.

And finally, there are the lists.

Lists are where Letterboxd thrives. They are full of piping hot takes that can be both helpful and infuriating.

To illustrate, here’s my very own ranking of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) movies.

What are numbers 6–20? You must see for yourself. If you disagree, you can fight me. (Or we can have a respectful and riveting conversation.)

Lists are a great way to get into the brains of people (especially prominent writers or film critics) who have taste levels you aspire to emulate. And obviously, they expose users like me to genres, directors, and subject matter that might not get enough attention in the mainstream media. 

Will Letterboxd ever be a central part of social networking as we know it? Nah. But it’s a cool little online community full of people who want to engage with the movies they watch on a level that goes deeper than just, well, watching them. Everyone has a movie (or two or three or sixty) that they associate with special memories or parts of their lives, so it only makes sense that there is way to keep a movie diary of sorts online.

If you’re on Letterboxd (or if you want to try it out) follow me at valperiepal. You’ll have a front-row seat to seeing exactly how I spend my weekends.