What’s the statute of limitations on spoilers? (Friday Question Fun)

Previous Friday Question Fun entries

There are only seven more Fridays left in 2012, you guys…How crazy is that?!

This week’s question is a bit esoteric and I’m sure there will be a wide range of answers:

What is the statute of limitations on spoilers?

With the Internet, it’s hard to keep things completely unspoiled given the wealth of information at our fingertips but I think most of us do our best to actively avoid spoilers when possible. However, there are some films that are just common enough that their endings or plot points have been spoiled given their age. For example, if I said King Kong falls off the Empire State building, is that a spoiler? The original film is close to 80 years old now. Surely that is beyond being a spoiler…Right?

Personally, I think 5 years is a pretty acceptable length of time. If you haven’t seen the movie in 5 years then do you really care about spoilers at that point? The flipside is that we can’t see everything, even if we want to and sometimes things just fall by the wayside. I certainly wouldn’t go out of my way to spoil anything for anyone, regardless of time elapsed, but I would probably stop bothering with “spoiler warnings” after about 5 years.

What about you?

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61 responses to “What’s the statute of limitations on spoilers? (Friday Question Fun)

  1. I don’t think you can put a specific time frame on it, I personally am of the option that it’s alright to spoil something if it’s clear that someone doesn’t mind or when you mention it ahead of time you will talk about something specific, then it’s up to someone else to decide what to do. Even with very old films I won’t reach much about them to try and watch them knowing as little as possible. With some movies it’s impossible to do though and I’m alright with that.

  2. Oh gosh. Let me get this out of the way: I hate reading a review that says something like “Warning: Spoilers” to preface it. It bothers me, because aren’t reviews for people who are interested in those respective movies? In that case, I doubt they want it spoiled for them.

    I guess a few spoilers is okay for me, but HUGE spoilers (i.e. twist endings, surprising changes/deaths of characters) get on my nerves. It ruins my experience.

    • I’m not a fan of spoiler warnings but for a slightly different reason; I think it’s acceptable to read reviews on movies you may have spoiled for you, but also I don’t think a review needs to outline the plot in such detail that it gets spoiled. Then it’s less of a review and more a summary.
      Still, I think there is definitely caution needed when reading anything of a film/show/whatever that you haven’t seen if you are weary of having anything spoiled.

  3. Now THAT’S a damn good question.

    I think if its a TRUE spoiler (people use the term spoiler for any freaking movie detail nowadays, not just Psycho/Sixth Sense type twists) then you should always be a little cautious, but once a few years have passed and its ingrained in pop culture, its people’s own damn fault for not having seen it.

    That said, its always been good policy not to reveal anything spoiler-rific at least til the movie hits DVD, so people have a chance to catch it at home!

    • Thanks!
      I’m a bit over-sensitive to what people may and may not consider spoilers. Personally, I’m very lenient on it, I just don’t want to know how a film ends, everything else is pretty much fair game. I try to accommodate all views on it, though.
      I like the rule of thumb for home video releases lessening the burden of things.

  4. For me, I try not to spoil any film. Take SAW for example, thats now 8 years old, but I reckon there are still plenty of people who havent seen it. The ending (in my opinion) is one of the greatest ever endings, so spoiling it now would ruin the film. Since I want to try and make people watch something, even if just 1 person does so on my recommendation, if I dont ruin it they are happy and hopefully surprised 🙂 Good question Andy.

  5. When I do reviews I try not to include any spoilers, no matter how old the movie or book. Now I did mention that the ship Titanic sinks in my Titanic review. Not sure if that is a spoiler though. Should I have written: Spoiler Alert on that? Please delete my comment if yes.

  6. Good question. Well, it all depends on the situation. Everyone knows the ending of King Kong and we all know the endings of most historical films. I dislike spoilers but if a movie is great sometimes I’ll forget about them.

    • Even knowing the ending to some movies doesn’t deteriorate the experience for me. Without seeing some films, but knowing their endings, I have never let that mar the experience of any film, regardless of how good it is.

  7. Great question! And relevant! I just wrote a long winded review for The Craft 1996. I still put my spoiler warning up even though by today’s standards it is ancient. Okay, not as ancient as the original King Kong, but pretty damn old. I think that some readers are going to finger point and scream when you include spoilers no matter how old the film is. But I agree with you, a five year limit seems fair enough. But for all those folks who have seen the films, there will be a just as large amount who have not. Hmmmm.

    • Haha thanks!
      Personally, I think the Internet’s sensitivity to spoilers is a bit out of hand but I also try to please everyone’s sensibilities. I would likely have included a spoiler warning on a film from 96 for a post here, but in casual conversation I would not have prefaced it with anything.

  8. I can’t remember who it was, but I read someone’s opinion on this that basically said anything that happened in the first half hour of the movie, or had been shown in the trailer, was exempt from a spoiler warning. Personally I don’t like giving away the ending in a review, no matter how old the movie is. The point of my reviews is to bring movies to the attention of folk who might have missed them. Giving away the ending would be counterproductive as well as just a bit rude. My one caveat to that general rule is when something has become part of popular culture in and of itself, like King Kong, or “Luke, I’m your father” for example. Good question Andy.

    • I agree, I don’t think I would ever intentionally spoil the ending of any film in a review. I try not to even give out too much detail of the plot, I prefer a simple setup of the film’s events and then let the reader decide if it’s something that sounds like an interesting premise.

  9. I’m not sure you can put a time limit on it to be honest. I watched The Sting for the first time the other day and if someone had told me exactly what happened in the end then I don’t think I would have watched it. I think it depends if something is spoiled that is of huge importance to the film. If it’s a relatively minor plot detail then it’s not an issue but if someone goes and spoils the end of The Sixth Sense or The Usual Suspects then it’s going to dramatically hamper the enjoyment.

    Also, being so close to the end of the year, what happens at the end? Sure you’ve already answered this, but are you disappearing?!

    • You really don’t think you would have watched the film? Then I have to ask; would you watch it again? You now know the ending so technically it’s spoiled. I don’t disagree with you, I’m just curious.

      Haha, I’m not disappearing…I’m not even sure I’ll make it to 300 films yet. If I don’t then that’s my goal for next year, but if I do make (I hope I do) then I’ll have to come up with a new goal, I suppose

      • Well there’s plenty of films that are older than five years old that I would like to see but just haven’t got around to watching yet but would be pretty annoyed if the ending was spoiled. But that’s only if what is spoiled is integral to the experience of the film. Tell me that ET nearly dies and that’s fine, but spoil the big reveal in Psycho and that’s a different kettle of fish.

        I get your point about rewatching a film though as, you’re right, it’s technically been spoiled then, but I (hopefully) will have already had that original experience of watching it unspoiled for the first time.

        Glad to hear you’ll be sticking around come the end of the year, gonna have to come up with something big to top this year. Maybe 305 films?!

  10. Excellent question Andy. I know people can’t help themselves. In critiquing an actor’s performance in a role it can difficult to not spoil a portion. If a part is especially bad I want to shout out how the actor sucks or how and why a movie rises above or fails miserably. So yes I use the spoiler tag sometimes and rely on the if its in the trailer it is open to commentary on.

    • There seems to be a lot of trailers that show shots of the final scenes of a film but for me, without the context of the film as a whole, it’s almost meaningless. I know a lot of people may disagree with me on that one.

  11. Five to tens years old is a reasonable amount of time. While discussing films like Psycho or The Sixth Sense, it can be hard to explain them without revealing the ending… I just wrote a review of ‘Seeking a Friend’ and may have spoiled the ending for some… But I edited it and put a spoiler warning, lol (my bad). Good question, Andy.

  12. Has everyone seen Citizen Kane? Of course not. There are always new generations of filmgoers that would like to experience the film as the original audience did. Why spoil what Rosebud means for them?

    Spoilers are NEVER ok unless you’ve prefaced in your review that you’ll be giving plot points away. But then that’s a thesis not a review in my opinion. Reviews should let people know whether they should see it and why, not what happens. That’s why people watch the film.

    • I totally agree about what a review’s purpose should be and I also agree it shouldn’t include spoilers when possible. I also think it’s on the reader to know that something that old should be aware that it may be considered common knowledge now.

  13. Andy, this is a great post and a great question. Love your use of the word ‘esoteric’ too! 🙂 I am not pro spoilers. They make me think “what’s the point?” But you’re right, you can’t wait for the whole world to watch something before you can finally discuss it frankly. What used to really piss me off would be watching my favourite soap with my Mum. Just as the credits were rolling, she’d always sadistically say “Oh, this is the night when such and such happens…” I’m sure she did it to annoy me. I wouldn’t bother watching the show if I was just going to read all of the spoilers beforehand… so maybe the answer is that it depends on the reasons for issuing/sharing spoilers… Good, thought provoking question.

    • Thanks!
      So it seems you’re also of the opinion that the onus is on the reader/listener. You didn’t have a chance NOT to hear spoilers for your soaps, but I’m sure if you were actively reading a synopsis online or something you would be a bit more cautious?

  14. I gave up putting spoiler warnings on my reviews because if you want to avoid spoilers, you probably shouldn’t read reviews in the first place.

    However, if I’ve never seen a movie that’s 80 years old, and someone tells me about a key part, it’s just as much of a movie-ruiner as it would be if the film was new.

  15. I kind of has an unofficial rule of one year after the movie is released on DVD/Blu-Ray. If you wanted to watch a movie you had plenty of opportunity to rent it. But I do always try and put spoiler warnings before saying too much just to be sure.

  16. Honestly, I’ve always felt that as long as the movie is in the theater that no one should write spoilers, but that’s just my opinion. I went to a journalism conference recently (in Chicago) and I went to “writing a kick ass review” workshop. I found out that it’s illegal to spoil any movie/TV show ever. I thought that was interesting, but kinda impossible to do. I mean, some of us just needs to know the spoilers. Plus, some of us just NEED to talk about the spoilers we just felt. I mean, I couldn’t stop talking about the ending to The Sixth Sense….I couldn’t help myself.

  17. I think 5 years is a good number. I might even go lower than that, maybe even just a year because if you haven’t seen it in a year you probably won’t.

    I would also say that it also depends on the popularity of a movie. Some movies are just so huge that it is inevitable that they will get spoiled. Most of those get spoiled in the spoon fed trailer.

    It’s probably easier for smaller movies to last five years unspoiled than something like Transformers.

    Good question.

  18. I believe I have made it clear in some of my reviews that I try to avoid spoilers like the plague and footage of Honey Boo Boo.

  19. a great debate/discussion here. As evident in this thread, there’s not an absolute answer with the exception that most will agree that spoilers should still be avoided.

    I tend to agree with Fogs’ here though. Most times after so long, it’s people’s own fault. I mean, if someone hasn’t seen The Little Mermaid yet, then how do they expect me to not tell them that they live happily ever after? haaha.

  20. I say if people really want to see a particular movie, they should have enough self-control not to read any review of that film.

    But if I have to give a time frame, I say when the movie in question is no longer shown in theaters.

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