I probably have ADHD.
For the most part, I’ve learned how to compensate for my easily distracted mind and it’s not an issue anymore… except for watching movies. Strange, I know.
It can take me weeks to finish any movie I start so I’ve been known to drop most.
In college, one of my professors said that watching a movie is living a dictatorship. Everything you see, hear, and feel is controlled by the director. Unlike books, there is little room for your imagination.
Perhaps that’s why I find a lot of movies frustrating. My mind is constantly jumping back and forth, and while I can read a book with few issues, television, and especially movies, are a challenge on my admittedly short patience.
This isn’t an unusual problem for people like me, but I have found ways to make movies a regular part of my life.
Here’s my advice for those who are easily distracted to do the same.
Make Watching Movies a Social Event
Most of the time, I prefer to watch movies with other people. It’s a reliable way I’ve found to sit for the entire runtime without running away myself.
Being around other people creates a bubble of energy. This energy helps to electrify the experience in a special way. I love to pre-game a movie with family or friends because it makes me excited to see it in a way watching it alone often doesn’t.
During the movie, it’s fun to share looks and feed off the emotional energy of others. I don’t talk during movies, but just because you aren’t talking doesn’t mean it isn’t a shared social event.
Afterward, I like to go out to eat, or, if I’m watching a movie at home, talk about it over dinner. Doing all of this makes watching the movie feel special, and it’s often something I think about fondly for weeks.
Get together with someone and watch a movie together. Hang out, take someone on a date — whatever you do, when you make a movie a social event, you’ll watch it all the way through if that’s what other people are doing too.
Choose Fast-Paced Plots
The best type of plots to watch if you get easily distracted are the visually shiny ones, like action, blockbuster, fantasy, horror, and science fiction.
These plots are often archetypal and follow a hero’s journey, which means even if they have layers of complexity, they tend to move quickly and are somewhat predictable.
But, like music, that predictability is usually subverted in a small way which excites interest. This is what creates desperate stakes for the protagonist and develops an emotional resonance of familiarity, but mystery, for the audience. Often these are the same movies you’ll watch again and again.
Comedy to a lesser degree also applies, but I’ve found that comedies are easy to drop if they don’t belong to one of the genres I just mentioned. This is because even though the lines might be individually hilarious, some comedies can seem like a long sketch where the plot is an afterthought. That doesn’t work for easily distracted minds.
Select Films with Protagonists Like You
However, you’ll probably find that there are slower and more plodding movies that you love and watch again and again, or movies that capture your interest in genres that you often avoid. I usually find movies with protagonists who are like me more interesting than ones that aren’t.
Some slow movies I enjoyed are all the adaptations of Jane Austen’s Emma. It’s a story about a young woman making serious social follies because of her pride and boredom. Women, such as myself, tend to like Emma because the titular character closely resembles the mistakes they make as modern women with friends and lovers.
It’s not always easy to find movies with protagonists that represent you, and I’m not just talking about what a protagonist looks like, rather how their plot relates to your own lived experience.
The best thing you can do is to watch trailers or read descriptions with an eye for a protagonist who seems to be your fictional mirror. Try to identify their personal conflict and see if it resonates. If it does, you might like the movie even if it has faults or is part of a genre you don’t normally watch.
Another option is to follow the career of an actor or actress you liked in one movie. Most tend to get typecast or choose movies similar to the ones they did before.
Abandon Movies You Don’t Like
I spent a lot of years trying to push through movies I didn’t like.
Don’t do that.
Unless you’re getting paid or it’s relevant to your career, abandon movies you don’t like. If you’re fifteen minutes into a movie and you find yourself looking at your phone or walking to the kitchen, leave the theater or turn off your television.
Watching movies is supposed to be a leisure activity, so stop thinking of it as an achievement or an exercise of completion.
This can be hard to do if you were excited about a movie and spent weeks hyping yourself up for it. But if the movie is on and you’re no longer interested… why lie to yourself?
The truth is that few people care if you watched a particular movie or not. It can seem that way sometimes when people talk about a movie they liked and you feel excluded, but there is so much content available now that even the most avid movie watcher is unlikely to watch the same movies as someone else.
Forgive yourself for letting go of a movie you didn’t like and watch the one you’d like better instead. You deserve it.
Make Watching Movies About You
I hope these strategies I gave you will help you finish your next movie, but what I want you to remember more than anything else is that this bizarre problem, though annoying in this era of binge streaming, shouldn’t be one you stress over.
By making it a social event, choosing fast-paced and relatable protagonists, as well as abandoning movies you aren’t interested in you’ll make it a fun experience you’ll look forward to.
Watch movies for enjoyment. Don’t just watch movies to finish them.