“It’s the thought that counts” is not a sweet sentiment. It is a dire warning, provided you read it right.
Somehow, this adage that was clearly designed to remind folks that they should actually, meaningfully think about the presents they give has been bastardized into a shorthand response for “I hate it, but at least you tried.” So, unlike the billion other gift guides out there, what follows is not some laundry list of links to Amazon products (shop local if you can, yo).
Instead, let’s talk about how to make the thought count when it comes to getting presents for your movie lover. Because, just like embarrassing usernames on websites, everybody has at least one of those in their life.
Know the Difference Between “Fun Collectable” and “Future Trash”
You know what makes me sad? Throwing away something with a Doctor Who logo on it. Guess what I have to do in January literally every year?
Knowing that a person is a fan of a particular franchise, film series, director or actor doesn’t mean that any random crap that just refers to said fandom is a good gift. Most of it is not. Most of it is garbage. The crucial question to ask is whether or not the item itself is inherently worthwhile, not just the branding on it. That’s the first big tip: Work backward.
If you know that your movie lover is constantly sporting graphic T-shirts, go someplace like Redbubble or other sites where artists design unusual, innovative takes on movie stuff. Sites like those or someplace like Mondo or eBay also have unique posters or art prints, provided your cinephile is cool about you dictating how she uses her wall space.
Another mini-tip: It’s totally cool to get your film buff a smaller, framed version of something rather than a colossal poster. A super-rad, totally unusual art piece that’s small is actually a killer gift. Likewise, although mass-produced coffee mugs with Star Wars logos on them are lazy AF gifts, getting an offbeat print on a coffee mug can be a meaningful gesture. Again, depending on the gift receiver’s caffeine intake and cupboard space.
All of this is about starting with the item itself and not the franchise/fandom. I promise you, someone somewhere has made a themed version of whatever object it is you think Mr. Movie Lover would want. I’m sure there’s a candle that smells like Yoda’s toe cheese and a Godfather tackle box out there.
Oh, one last warning: It gets tricky with the kind of off-beat, kitschy items from places like Thinkgeek or Etsy. If it’s just something to put on a desk or shelf, be sure it’s something wicked cool or it is just more junk to dust. And if it’s an item you think is funny, don’t buy it for them. Just tell them about it. Floating trash islands in the ocean are made entirely of “funny gifts.”
Nothing Says “I Love You” Like Enabling
If you’re unaware, there are soon to be something like eleventy flajillion different streaming services. Most vexingly, all of them have a minimum of at least one must-see exclusive on them. We have left the hellish confines of cable TV for a different internet-based nightmare, one in which we may have to know what a Quibi is.
One of the best gifts to give is a subscription to a niche or new service that your movie lover either hasn’t subscribed to yet or decided they couldn’t financially justify. I’ve given horror enthusiasts a subscription to Shudder and arthouse obsessives a subscription to The Criterion Channel. It’s basically like giving them a whole ton of stuff that they don’t have to actually find a place for, which is the best kind of stuff.
Alternatively, ignore the myth that says gift certificates are bad or cold, sterile presents. They sure can be if they’re chosen semi-randomly at a checkout line when you remember you forgot to buy something for someone. Fun fact: That’s how Chili’s gets 95% of its business these days. The expense of going to the movies adds up fast for people who love them. I promise you, it is not like handing your friend a bag of crusty dollar bills. A gift card to a theater you know they love means they may see a movie they may not have otherwise or they may snag some theater-specific swag they would have skipped.
Beyond that, here’s a really cool idea: The vast majority of theaters will let you rent out a screening for a pretty reasonable amount. I promise you, giving someone the gift of watching a movie they love on the big screen with their friends is an all-timer. Combine that with a poster for the event that you can frame? You’re winning the holidays.
Above all else, just remember “It’s the thought that counts” is the stargate to incredible gift giving, not giving a Stargate trashcan.