Film reviews have adopted a new format lately, one that doesn’t necessarily diminish the traditional journalistic approach of written reviews but rather opens up an easily accessible and admittedly more entertaining method. Since its inception in 2005, YouTube has grown to become a major player in the way ordinary people’s voices are heard. This gave rise to film reviews on behalf of ordinary, often charismatic cinema goers with a stunning influential reach. While there’s many channels that offer more professional and in-depth film reviews, the main focus here will be on three channels that seem to form the Holy Trinity of popular YouTube film critics – Jeremy Jahns, Chris Stuckmann, and Schmoes Know.
On a side note, the written review versus the video review has been a highly debated topic among film critics. While many would prefer to have a video review as it provides not only a more visual representation of the product to accompany the critics’ opinion, but a more relatable, personal level of intimacy as if directly connecting with the viewer like an old friend. I won’t dive into the debate on which format is more important, but rather I’d like to explore the great influence in which the aforementioned three juggernauts of YouTube film criticism seem to have over a large majority of viewers. Through their overall presentation, seemingly avoiding the more conventional methods of reviews, these channels have managed to break into the mainstream limelight in unprecedented ways that almost overshadow the written review format.
Jeremy Jahns, a prolific YouTube film critic, has amassed over a million subscribers on his channel, with daily to weekly video uploads covering not only film reviews, but overall news, opinion pieces, and occasionally video game reviews. As his subscriber count stands now, Jahns is the most subscribed film reviewer on YouTube, with the numbers slowly rising by the hundreds with each new upload. So what’s the reason behind his massive following? In other words, what does Jahns have that keeps curious viewers coming back?
Firstly, Jahns’ presentation is, in some ways, iconic in its own right. Using a very simplistic layout of a red background screen, often wearing a black suit, Jahns offers his thoughts and opinions on movie reviews through relatively casual dialect. He connects with his audience by speaking more on terms of an enthusiastic fan than a professional critic, making him instantly relatable. His rating system is also unique to his style, avoiding the numeric or alphabetical ratings in exchange for very simple worded phrases relative to film, often played to comedic effect like the ratings “It’s a good time if you’re drunk” or “Dogshit” for the worst films of the year. Jahns’ effortless ability to seem down-to-Earth and have passionate fanboy outbursts makes his reviews extremely entertaining to watch while also being insightful on the film he’s reviewing.
However, Jahns plays to a more wider demographic base that favours, for the most part, mainstream blockbusters and the biggest films of the year, with only occasionally dabbling in the avant garde or arthouse that warrants playing to an entirely different spectrum of film-goers that simply doesn’t suit his style of review. This is where Chris Stuckmann comes in.
Personally, I find Chris Stuckmann to be the great equalizer of wider appeal in content. Not only does he provide an extremely well-structured, compelling criticism of film, he explores a broader market of cinema that makes him favourable for viewers wanting to get an outside perspective on the lesser known and niche cinema. These include avante garde, arthouse, and independent movies while also balancing the bigger blockbusters of the year. Stuckmann, like Jahns, speaks on a more personal level that plays to his personality strengths, appearing very humble and passionate about his topics. More interestingly, Stuckmann provides occasional anime and video game reviews, further extending his reach of influence.
Stuckmann’s weekly uploads of specific shows, such as his Hilariocity Reviews that explore extremely bad films in comedic but well-structured outbursts, and superb Analysis videos that make light of the hidden themes and meanings behind more layered films, gives him an edge in the YouTube film community that spans an impressive reach of over 900,000 subscribers and growing. Stuckmann is also one of the first published authors of YouTube’s film critics. “The Film Buff’s Bucket List” is a well-written, personal venture into his recommended list of movies over the years that have come to inspire him in many ways. However, where Jahns and Stuckmann are two lone wolf’s in the community, no other channel has collectively expanded on a more business-driven approach to film criticism quite like Schmoes Know.
Initially consisting of friends Kristian Harloff and Mark Ellis sitting behind a camera discussing movies, Schmoes Know is now a daily film show that has grown to feature several members with entertaining sub-shows and opinions all revolving around the topic of film. Schmoes Know still retains their scheduled movie reviews mostly between Harloff and Ellis, with not much being changed in the way of presentation. Harloff and Ellis seem to bounce off each others opinions, sometimes to some conflicting degrees, which makes for a bulk of the entertainment: Harloff seems to represent the average film-goer while Ellis speaks more on behalf of an extreme fan. However, they gel very well together and you get a clear sense of their opinions without ever feeling like they’re personally attacking each other or butting heads.
This double-edged method of film criticism can often work favourably in gaining valid opinions as both sides present their own arguments for the other to either dispute or agree with. Watching the Schmoes find an equilibrium in their opinions is very insightful as they both exude the charisma of fans who feel strongly about films enough to speak their minds. Admittedly, it’s not the most structured or coherent reviews on YouTube, but they make up for it through compelling points that both need to be taken into consideration once the final score is tallied up, giving viewers a concise understanding of what two individuals may or may not agree upon. Schmoes Know are also one of the only YouTube film critics to be verified by Rotten Tomatoes.
I’d love to talk more in-depth about other great film channels that all have big followings, but the three above sum up the essential YouTube film critic “experience”, if one may call it that. With video reviews becoming more and more prevalent in modern film criticism, YouTube has housed a handful of film-lovers that speak on a personal level without ever breaching their style, be it from the perspective of a fast-talking, enthusiastic movie lover, an analytical, well-versed film buff, or a couple of average Schmoes just discussing film, there’s a variety of these critics who are increasing their view count and influential reach by the day. What does this mean for the future of film criticism? That remains to be seen, but perhaps this should inspire writers to approach film with the same enthusiastic love that they all share.