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How 'Insane Letterboxd' became the Rotten Tomatoes of 'ridiculous' movie reviews: 'Movies are supposed to be fun'

·6-min read

As any film nerd will tell you, sitting down for a movie is just a small part of the process. 

For the true fanatics, it’s only a jumping-off point. After you see a new movie, then it’s time to debate — to find a friend, sit down and talk about what you saw. Whether it’s online or in-person, there are few feelings better than jointly geeking out with someone who loved (or hated) something as much as you did. 

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But then, of course, there’s the flip side of that joy — those conversations where things go so, so badly; where your friend’s opinion seems so wrong, you can’t even begin to understand it. 

Enter: “Insane Letterboxd.” The mega-popular Twitter account is sort of like the digital version of those crazy conversations, a home for some of the widlest, most hilarious TV and movie reviews on the internet — everything from saying Squid Game was a disappointment because there were “no squids,” to sharing stories about getting in a fight during a Fast & Furious film.

The account pulls its reviews from Letterboxd, a social media site where users post their own movie ratings and comment on reviews from their friends. But Insane Letterboxd doesn’t target the site’s most insightful reviews, or its most thoughtful ones. Instead, the page pulls the weirdest, funniest and most left-field opinions users can find.

It all started when Blake Austin, the account’s founder, first heard about Letterboxd. Austin is a life-long movie nerd. He had a film blog, and he even wrote movie reviews for his high school newspaper. But he quickly realized that Letterboxd was something different. It wasn’t just a new place to talk about entertaining movies; it was a place to talk about entertaining movie reviews.

“[The idea for Insane Letterboxd] sort of just came about from me and my friends texting the craziest reviews we could find to each other and laughing about them amongst ourselves,” Austin said. “Some of the reviews were just too weird and too good not to share.”

He started the page in late 2019, and it quickly gained traction. Today, his account has over 160,000 followers. At one point, Austin said, his account was actually more popular than the official Letterboxd Twitter page

“I don’t think [Letterboxd] liked that at all,” he said. “I still think they dislike me. They barely had a presence on Twitter when I started the page.”

Today, the actual Letterboxd account has about 20,000 followers more than Insane Letterboxd. That’s still impressive, considering that Austin does all the work himself — for no pay whatsoever. 

“I don’t do any form of [promotional] posts and I don’t make any money at all off the page,” Austin told In The Know. “So the whole thing has just organically grown into something way bigger than I ever expected.”

Austin said he probably receives about 100 submissions a day. Usually, those come in the form of Twitter DMs. A follower or fan of the account will find a particularly funny review, and then send it over.

Austin’s selectivity only makes that process harder. He said he’s very, very choosy with his posts; always suspicious of the sender and their intentions. As his account has grown, he’s had to watch out for reviews that feel like they were written specifically with Insane Letterboxd in mind.

“I try to avoid stuff that already has thousands of likes on Letterboxd,” Austin said of his process. “I like the obscure, weird reviews that people think no one is ever going to see — the stuff that doesn’t feel so manufactured to go viral.”

Austin is fine with reviews that are funny on purpose — he posts those all the time — but what he doesn’t condone is clout-chasing. That’s why, he said, he almost never posts reviews sent in by the Letterboxd user who wrote it. He’d rather share something that feels organic and original in its absurdity.

This is where Insane Letterboxd differs from review aggregators like Rotten Tomatoes or IMDb. While those websites are designed to group analysis together to build a consensus, Insane Letterboxd basically does the opposite. Austin looks for outliers. A glowing review of The Master of Disguise? He’s got it. A hilarious, fake pan of Parasite? He’s shared those, too. 

By chasing these rarities, Insane Letterboxd manages to exist as a sort of independent free state for movie nerds. Austin’s page isn’t exactly anti-criticism — it’s a bit more subtle than that — but it is going against the grain. The page brings a lot of levity to Film Twitter, a corner of the internet that, in Austin’s mind, can get a little too stuffy at times. 

“Film Twitter can be kind of a hive mind sometimes, and it has all these unwritten rules about what [movies] to like and what to scoff at,” Austin said. “So I hope that [the page] can, at the very least, help people take a step back from all the seriousness of Film Twitter and laugh a little, and maybe check out a dumb movie they wouldn’t normally watch.”

It’s impossible to measure how much Insane Letterboxd affects Twitter users’ viewing habits, but it’s clear it’s done something. Whether it’s pretending to misunderstand the Halloween movies or championing critically despised films, like the 2007 Eddie Murphy film Norbit, the page’s reviews have a knack for creating longstanding, mega-viral jokes. In doing so, Austin helped curate a unique kind of online space — one that can both mock and celebrate art in the same breath.  

Austin said he’s not sure he created a “community” within Film Twitter, but he did create a shared language — a dictionary of memes, inside jokes and reference points that all revolve around the same center. 

“I definitely see a lot of people that have been following long enough to be in on a lot of the jokes, which is always fun for me,” Austin said. “We’re still working on getting Norbit the respect and big-budget sequel it deserves, but we’re on the right track.”

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