What Makes Dialogue Great in Movies

Dialogue is not exactly cinematic. It’s just people talking to each other, and it’s not always fun to watch either, since it’s often just words spewed to further the plot. But what makes some dialogue scenes so much better than others? Is it good dialogue like a real conversation?


Nope. Dialogue should seem real on the surface, but it also needs to reveal things about who the character is, who they’ll become, and what point they’re trying to do. In dialogue, it’s all about the character.

Channel Criswell goes deep into dialogue in movies and starts with that wonderful opening scene in The Social Network where you pretty much find out everything you need to know about that movie’s version of Mark Zuckerberg. In that one opening scene, you find out he’s a genius, that he’s socially awkward, that he’s an asshole, and that he’s obsessed with success. It’s a dialogue scene that richly details the character and reveals his motivation for everything that’s about to happen. It’s great.

Check out the rest of the video essay, which explains the difference between functional dialogue and great dialogue.

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Dr Emilio Lizardo

This has nothing to do with dialogue, but that opening seen bothers me because the numbers don’t add up.

The most generous definition of “genius IQ” puts about 2.5% of the population in that group. 2.5% of the 7 billion people in the world is 175 million, or less than the population of the US. So no, there are not more geniuses in China then there are people in the US.

I apologize for this comment.