I rarely trust recommendations fed to me by algorithms. I’ve cooked inedible recipes, been led astray by BookTok, and fallen for viral snippets of songs. But there’s one group that never fails me: fancam creators.
For the uninitiated, there’s a whole world on social media of viral, fan-made videos featuring one or more celebrities or characters, typically set to music, called fan edits. Drilling down from there, fancams typically feature only one celeb or public figure, whereas vids tend to use footage from TV shows and movies. The particular fancams that are serving as my de facto film school are the ones slice together clips of 40-plus-year-old actors’ specific roles to unexpectedly sexy hyper-pop songs.
Sorry to cinephiles everywhere, but the surefire way to get me to watch a film isn’t a gripping trailer, stellar reviews, or even an actor or director’s reputation, it’s whether or not a stan account felt inspired enough to create a scintillating fancam of the male lead. If a performance inspires fans to crack open Adobe After Effects and select a Kim Petras song, chances are it’s something I want to see. The more unlikely the film and song combination, the more intrigued I am.
I lack a great breadth of knowledge of cinema, and two years ago I sought to change that by setting the modest goal of watching 10 movies a month. However, the sheer number of movies I haven’t seen overwhelms me, so I turn to fancams to guide me.
Recently, I was stopped dead in my tracks by a series of clips from Anatomy of a Fall, featuring the graying French actor Swann Arlaud running his fingers through his hair and talking with his hands while wearing an assortment of black sweaters, all set to Rina Sawayama’s “Comme Des Garçons (Like The Boys).” Reposted and captioned, “LAWYER FROM ANATOMY OF A FALL FANCAM LAWYER FROM ANATOMY OF A FALL FANCAM,” the original post reads, “swann arlaud as vincent renzi the dilf twink lawyer in anatomy of a fall” (which is part of a search optimization practice standard to fancam makers).
This particular fancam was my introduction to the French crime thriller, and I was seated in a theater mere days after the video came across my feed. It’s a film I likely wouldn’t have seen without the lure of a gorgeous, elfish man, set to pop music that shuts my brain off. Anatomy of a Fall was a riveting watch, and while it wasn’t my favorite film, I am glad a fancam exposed me to a foreign film.
Anatomy of a Fall was hardly the first excellent movie experience I’ve had because of a fancam. During the Twitter showdown over who is hotter, Al Pacino or Robert De Niro earlier this year, someone shared a clip of Pacino running around in Dog Day Afternoon, juxtaposed with “The Dog Days Are Over” by Florence and the Machine. Needless to say, I was not disappointed by this 1975 Sidney Lumet classic — and it was something I probably wouldn’t have stumbled upon myself without these fancams.
These fancams often provide little context for the film — sometimes even forgoing the title, leading me down a rabbit hole — or for that particular fancam muse’s role in it.
The song choices can be quite literal, as is the case with “The Dog Days Are Over,” or in this fancam of Cillian Murphy as Jonathan Crane in Batman Begins, where a snippet from “Just Dance” — “half psychotic, sick, hypnotic” — plays on a loop.
These fancams often take a movie that has a predominantly male target audience and offer a different, sluttier perspective on it. Instead of focusing on how gritty Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins is, the fancam focuses on Murphy looking hot and embodying Lady Gaga lyrics.
Other Murphy fancams, like one of his Red Eye character set to “SOS” by Rihanna, feature more absurd music. Someone help me!
While trailers may give away too much of the plot, fancams move so fast that all you really know is that an actor’s performance (and looks) warranted this response — that and which diva the fancam artist assigned him.
I know a film is really good when it’s not a Gen Z fancam muse like Timothée Chalamet or Paul Mescal. The more random, the better. During the lead up to Oppenheimer‘s release, my timeline filled with fancams of Watching the Detectives, a rom-com Murphy starred in alongside Lucy Liu in 2007; my favorite is soundtracked by Mariah Carey’s “Fantasy.”
Film people may scoff at my method. However, a fancam implies a cult following of likeminded viewers, and it ultimately expands my horizons beyond the typical social media accounts posting spoon-fed hype for upcoming releases. Fancams embody the best part of consuming entertainment through social media: stumbling upon people with such passion that it drives others to engage with the media they love.