Do Actors Watch Their Own Movies?

Article Image
Photo Source: Jacob Lund/Shutterstock.com

Although it might seem that actors would love to watch themselves onscreen, they’re often their own worst critics, making self-viewing more cringe than captivating. Here’s insight from industry experts on the benefits and drawbacks of actors watching their own work, plus a rundown of who watches their own movies and who refuses.

JUMP TO

Do actors watch their own work?

Homelander The Boys“The Boys” Courtesy Amazon Prime

It varies, depending on the actor and where they are in their career. Aspiring actors usually watch themselves performing different takes when submitting self-taped auditions to ensure they choose the best one. They may be asked by coaches to watch their own performances to develop, improve, and expand their skills. And when an actor completes their first film, they’ll usually watch it due to the novelty and excitement of playing a role for the first time.

Some actors who have been in the industry for longer may prefer not to watch their movies. They might enjoy performing, but are not interested in watching the film itself; or they might avoid watching their movies to prevent being self-critical and negatively affecting their future performances.

Benefits of watching your own movies as an actor

Watching movie

Liu zishan/Shutterstock

Watching your work can help you add nuance and depth to your performance. By observing your filmed performance, you can identify the elements of your craft that need refinement. 

“Watching my own movies ignites a whirlwind of emotions,” explains actor Monique Candelaria (“Lovecraft Country,” “Snatchers,” “Breaking Bad”). “These emotions range from anxiousness, fear, excitement, and finally, relief. It’s not always easy to watch my own work knowing it’s probably been two to four years since we shot the film, so I would hope that I’ve honed my skills more since then—but I feel that it’s the only way to grow. So, I use each project as a stepping stone to acknowledge my overall development and make a note of where I would like to go in the future.”

Here are some benefits of watching your work:

Learn and grow your craft

If you can watch your own work using a lens of constructive criticism rather than critique, it can help you build on each performance and grow as an actor. 

“I think there are pros and cons to watching your own work,” explains actor Jennifer A. Goodman (“The Unseen,” “Conrad”). “I think if we can remember we were selected for that role for a reason, be proud and accept where we are, enjoy the work versus critique it, we can truly allow ourselves to celebrate the work versus harbor in it. I know a lot of actors that won’t watch themselves. I feel watching myself allows me to see where I am and where I can grow. But that’s just me.”

“The benefits of watching your own work: learning from your own mistakes,” says actor Edward Finlay (“2 Fast 2 Furious,” “South Beach,” “11th Hour Cleaning”). “Maybe catching certain ‘technical’ things, that no one may see but you, and fixing them or tweaking them for future performances.”

Take pride in your work

It’s important to take pride in your work, not simply focus on what you could have done better. Enjoying the movie you helped bring to life is a great payoff after working hard to deliver your performance. 

“After deeply being engrossed as the character in a story, place, and time, watching it for the first time back is like an out-of-body experience,” says Finlay.

Enjoy the movie and its special effects

If focusing solely on your performance isn’t for you, it’s still possible to enjoy the movie as a completed work. You can watch your colleagues perform, see any dazzling special effects, and see how the film comes together. 

Experience an audience’s reaction

It can be a uniquely rewarding experience to watch an audience react to your performance—whether they laugh, cry, or scream.

Revel in the nostalgia. Some actors enjoy watching their past performances as a reminder of the experience, whether because of a particularly impactful role or due to excellent colleagues.

Actors who watch their own movies

Samuel L. Jackson, John Boyega, Keanu Reeves, and Jennifer Aniston

Ga Fullner/Fred Duval/Joe Seer/Tinseltown

  • Samuel L. Jackson stated he loves watching his own films and has bought tickets to his films for friends and families.
  • John Boyega said he “likes to see the visual effects come together.” Imagine playing a role in a film like “Star Wars” and missing the fantastic visual effects used to create a cinematic masterpiece.
  • Keanu Reeves mentioned that he enjoys being part of the audience reacting to the movie. He asked a friend to go see his film “John Wick” with him before it left theaters.
  • Jennifer Aniston said she likes the nostalgia that came while watching old episodes of “Friends,” and that it always made her laugh.

Drawbacks to watching your own movies as an actor

Movie

Kzenon/Shutterstock

Seeing yourself onscreen can leave room to be self-critical, which might lead to adverse effects on future performances.

Here are some drawbacks to watching your own work:

You are your biggest critic

You may decide you could have played a scene better or that you should have made different choices while delivering a key line. The problem is that the movie is done, and it can’t be changed.

“Essentially, it’s great to be able to see yourself, and it’s fun of course,” says Goodman. “But sometimes I find we are our own worst critic, and we can really impact our self worth if we don’t separate how we see ourselves versus others. For me, it’s good to see where I am in my performance and then work with a coach and focus on where I can improve, but sometimes I find myself harping on how I look or I end up comparing myself to others.”

You don’t see what the camera sees

If you’re self-critical, you might decide you don’t like something about yourself: the way your features look onscreen, the way you laugh or cry, the way you walk or run. This can make you overly self-conscious and adversely affect your acting going forward. You may try to force specific reactions for aesthetic purposes, which could harm the authenticity of the performance—and as any actor knows, delivering a real emotion, instead of focusing on appearances, is what makes great acting. 

You have no input on the final cut

Actors usually don’t have input on what goes into the final cut of the movie, so if they don’t like something about their scene, they may just have to live with it. Some actors might become frustrated at the notion.

Actors who don’t watch their own movies

Javier Bardem, Helena Bonham Carter, Megan Fox

DFree/Tinseltown/Featureflash Photo Agency/Shutterstock

  • Javier Bardem said he’s too judgmental when watching his work and doesn’t like how his features appear onscreen.
  • Helena Bonham Carter stated she doesn’t watch her own work because she doesn’t believe she’d learn anything from it. 
  • Johnny Depp refuses to watch anything he acted in, but rather stays “as far away” as he can. “If I can, I’d try to stay in as profound a state of ignorance as possible,” he said.
  • Megan Fox admitted to being insecure about seeing herself in films and that she avoids watching herself onscreen.
  • Tom Hanks revealed he doesn’t watch himself because it makes him focus only on what not to do.

More From Actors + Performers

Recommended

Now Trending