How do you measure the importance of a film in the air of modern pop culture? How much money does the movie make at the box office? Should it be part of a movie franchise? Is it trending movies on Twitter, Instagram or TikTok?
Or…is it the film that builds and commands a rabid cult audience that will relentlessly discuss and investigate its baffling plot to help its legacy stand the test of time?
If we follow this last criterion, then Principle could unequivocally be the biggest and most important movie to be released in the 21st century, according to Google
Don’t confuse me: Principle maybe not the most popular new century movie. Google Trends confirmed it. Giant blockbusters like Avengers: Endgame and the Fast and Furious franchise are adored globally; auteur films like There is no country for old people and there will be blood have remained relevant since their shared publication in 2007; and devil, Principlethe director of enjoyed his own resounding success with The black Knight and Creation. All of these movies have enjoyed great success on Google over the years.
But let’s dig a little deeper below the surface. Because for my research, it’s not about which movie is the most popular-it’s about which movie is the most confusing. The one that raises the most questions. The one who has his constantly updated Reddit page. One who inspires Dissection of 17,000 words who tried to answer all the outstanding questions. One that sends people down a seemingly endless internet rabbit hole as they try to figure out the logic of time travel and the disjointed plot of Christopher Nolan’s time puzzle.
During an individual search, Principle wasn’t the most viral movie keyword on Google. But when I searched for “Tenet Explained”? And I compared this keyword search with other well-known confusing movies? There was simply no contest. Extremely confusing 21st century movies like Shutter Island, Midsommar, Donnie Darko, American Psycho, and Black Swan did not hold the candle Principle. Nolan’s 2020 thriller also dazzlingly eclipsed classic films like The Shining, Psycho, Jacob’s Ladder, Brazil, and 2001: A Space Odyssey. No film from any period by any director (including Nolan himself) could keep up.
I want to clarify that it was not just an afternoon of research on Google Trends. I spent two weeks researching hundreds of different movies, deeply layered thrillers (We, looper, Fight Club, Se7en) to complicated science fiction projects (Sun, Arrival, Interstellar, Under The Skin) to socially relevant dramas (She, Mother!, Mulholland Drive, Prisoners) to cult horror films (Hereditary, Get Out, Signs, The Lighthouse) to the ever-growing list of foreign films that have found wider audiences over the years (Perfect Blue, The Lamentations, Your Name, Oldboy). My search parameters ranged from the last 365 days to the last five years to the last 18 years. And none – and I mean absolutely none–of these films almost matched Principlegargantuan amount of research in the past two years alone.
And that should come as no surprise once you’ve seen the movie. Terms like entropy and posterity are thrown around willy-nilly. You are forced to understand complicated entities like turnstiles, time clamp maneuvers and the “algorithm”. And once you think you’ve got the mind-blowing logic of Principle understood, the characters (and everything around them, from cars to explosions to bullets) are suddenly “inverted” and recede in time and space.
From the very beginning, Principle had quite a bit to do for his impending tradition. Nolan has spent more than a decade contemplating the history of Principle and more than five years developing the screenplay. And then after being delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Principle became one of the first major films to hit theaters in the summer of 2020. But love at first sight was the film’s release on HBO Max on May 1, 2021 (much to Nolan’s dismay). Suddenly, this wild time travel experience was available to the masses, which catapulted manic discussions about Principlethe serpentine plot of epic proportions. Anyone and everyone who was confused about this movie had the entire internet at their disposal to figure it out… and it could very well be true that no one has cracked it yet.
How could chaos become more contagious? How does the labyrinthine logic of Principle twist and bend even more? With a sequel or an entire franchise, of course. John David Washington has already pointed out that he would like to be part of a sequel, and the movie more than laid the groundwork for that possibility with its reveal of the closing scene. And it turns out that several other top-ranking movies in my Google Trends search were part of franchises: Matrix, Star Wars, Blade Runner, Alienetc
In the two years since Principle, the momentum has not really slowed down. In fact, in the age of the Internet, it has only intensified. With the film available on HBO Max for anyone with a subscription to watch anytime, we’re in for a new era for movies that can so easily command a cult army of diehard fans.