An Updated List of Red Flag Movies

If they say they love Joe Swanberg, run

Focus Features
You In Danger, Girl

Who is the scariest bro? Is it the gaslighting skater without a bed frame? The Goldman analyst who doesn’t care about your feelings but will take you to a $500 omakase experience? Or is it the internet’s favorite boogeyman — the film bro? The actual answer is the bro who has been to six months of therapy and knows all the lingo but has done none of the introspection, but that’s a topic for another day. Let’s talk about the fellas who are armed with only a Wolf of Wall Street 4k steelbook and a dream.

The film bro has become something of a staple of viral tweets and TikToks. You’re guaranteed at least two retweets if you post “Ladies, if he has a Pulp Fiction poster… get outta there.” A funny sentiment — we’ve all met that guy — but one that needs an update. It’s time for us to move past Fight Club and American Psycho, those movies are too popular to get a good read on the people who like them. A BuzzFeed list of “red flag movies” has The Social Network on it, for christ’s sake, let’s all take a deep breath and collect ourselves.

What are the real red flag movies, the ones that immediately tell you that a man (or, sorry, a woman) is about to waste your time? Here are my picks, rated on a scale of one to five red flags.

Hard Eight

Every so often you will encounter someone who thinks that Paul Thomas Anderson’s debut film is “actually his best.” While Hard Eight is good, especially for a debut, these people need to get a grip. They are saying this to be contrarian, to get you riled up and playing defense over your love of The Master or Phantom Thread. You don’t need to do it. Red flag.

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All Joe Swanberg Movies

If a guy every tells you that he really fucks with Joe Swanberg, run. This is a man who does not wash his sheets regularly. This guy will trick you into thinking he’s on your team by talking about how Swanberg has worked with two of your favorite people, Greta Gerwig and Jake Johnson. Do not let him work his dark magic on you, bum a cigarette and keep it moving.

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The Virgin Suicides

Women can have red flags, too! If Sofia Coppola is someone’s favorite director: rock on. If this is their favorite movie of hers, take a step back. Like Hard Eight, this is Coppola’s very impressive debut. The people who ride for this movie — and I mean really ride for it — have all spent too much time on the internet. They are probably recovering Tumblr users who mourned the death of Rookie Mag and own that one Dusen Dusen bathrobe (guilty on all charges). It’s not that this movie is bad, but I think if its biggest fans were taking their iron pills regularly they would have enough energy to finally check out Marie Antoinette.

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This is a time travel movie for people who revel in pointing out plot holes. Finally! A movie that has done all the work to figure out how horrible time travel would actually be. Except the thing about time travel movies is that they don’t need to make sense (more on that later), no one should be docking points away from Back to the Future because Marty’s parents should recognize their present day son as the guy who sang “Johnny B. Goode” at their prom. Primer bros do not want to have fun, they want to show you a flowchart that explains how time travel works. Send yourself six hours into the past and keep yourself from chatting them up.

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It’s so important to recognize your own red flags, and one of mine is that I love Tenet. I’ll talk to anyone about Tenet, and I’m keenly aware that it’s annoying when I do. Unlike Primer, this is a movie about how traveling through time shouldn’t make any sense. It’s too long (could be longer) and is mostly about Christopher Nolan trying to make a cool-looking movie (mission accomplished, brother). Tenet hive is a community of dweebs who will try to make you understand what a “temporal pincer movement” is — you see, the red team is moving forward in time while the blue team is moving backward, although technically that’s called being inverted and you achieve that by walking through what’s called a turnstile. I’m annoying myself! Do you really want to have that conversation with your partner?

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Men — and it’s only men — who like this movie are usually, in my experience, dumb as rocks. Not necessarily evil or manipulative, they’re just simple boys who like seeing guys who they wish they look like get really muddy and drive a tank. That being said, the two stars of this film are Brad Pitt and Shia Labeouf, so I would be wary of anyone in 2023 loudly singing its praises.

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Noah Baumbach makes movies about miserable men, and most of them are at the very least compelling. Greenberg is just miserable, and the people who love it delight in being misanthropes. The only case in which being a Greenberg guy is not a red flag is when said guy grows up and becomes a Meyerowitz Stories guy. Even then it’s iffy, so tread lightly.

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Citizen Kane

I agree that it’s good, stop yelling at me!