Recently, my favourite TikToks have been clips from classic movies. They suck me in like nothing else. Clips from Mrs Doubtfire (1993), To Wong Foo (1995), Love Actually (2003) and even TV shows like Fleabag (2019).
This is a huge shift from 15 years ago. I remember being a small child – about aged 8 – when the first iPhone came out. For film buffs – including my parents – it was unspeakable to even think about watching a movie on an iPhone. At the time, around 2008, iconic film director David Lynch said the following; “If you’re playing the movie on a telephone you will never in a trillion years experience the film, you’ll think you have experienced it, but you’ll be cheated,” he said. He changed his tune by 2017, even giving advice on the size of the screen and the quality of the image and the sound when it came to how to watch the Twin Peaks reboot. But he still assumed that you’d be watching the whole thing at one time…
TikTok has edited that experience – along with many others. TikTok accounts dedicated to just sharing clips of movies have followers in the hundreds of thousands, or even more. Clips seem to be saturating everyone’s FYP, regardless of individual taste — or perhaps because of it.
Oftentimes the accounts posting films in parts will wait between posting one scene and posting the next bite, invoking on a micro scale the kind of serialised anticipation offered by Twitter threads and Wattpad fanfics. The cliffhanger feel boosts the accounts ability for virality and keeps us hooked. This is especially true for the thriller genre for which TikTok edits build the suspense in various chapters.
Now for the obvious question; “why not just go sit down and stream the whole movie?” But that’s not the point. Watching a movie on your own, in a traditional 90-plus minute widescreen format, does not allow for the kind of participatory jubilee occurring around and on top of these clips. A TikTok clip of the middle of the movie throws users into the deep end. The context is set from the get go and users can comment and even argue over a very specific occurrence within a larger plot.
The clips often don’t even mention the name of the year of the movie – a clear piece of engagement bait encouraging users to ask in the comments ‘name of the movie?’. This has even become a trend in itself with an account sharing a clip of Meryl Streep in Mamma Mia and users commenting ‘the name of the movie is Devil Wears Prada’ as a humorous acknowledgment of Streep’s iconic breadth of roles.