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10 best youtubers for gaming video essays, according to reddit.

From Jacob Geller to Game Maker's Toolkit, there are tons of YouTube channels for video game fans or makers who enjoy in-depth analysis.

Although video games can be mindless fun at times, some of the biggest releases of the later half of this year have included The Last of Us: Part 1 and the upcoming God of War: Ragnarök , titles that serve to highlight video games as an art form to rival traditional media. When it comes to what makes games like these work, YouTube has any gaming enthusiast covered.

From essayists who focus on the storytelling element of video games like Jacob Geller to ones that go in-depth to take apart the mechanical side of creating video games like Game Maker's Toolkit or even GDC, these are the channels that Reddit thinks fans should be checking out.

Channel page for Game Developers Conference on YouTube

When most people think of video essays, they tend to think of channels where a single person presents their thoughts on a variety of topics but GDC is a little different. The name stands for Game Developers Conference and the YouTube channel presents clips and full talks from professionals.

Redditor rebilax13 comments that you can "never go wrong with GDC" as you get to "hear from the industry themselves." Whilst analysis from an outsider is always interesting, there's something about hearing developers, artists, and producers talk about their own methods of bringing video games to life that's uniquely insightful.

Writing On Games

The channel page for Writing on Games on YouTube

Focusing on game design and what makes video game narratives so powerful , Writing on Games presents video game essays and reviews in a sharp and engaging style that has won the channel many fans over the years. That includes Redditor Party_McFly710 who rates them as a top channel when it comes to "general story analysis" for video games.

Whilst the channel isn't afraid to criticize games for their shortcomings, a lot of their videos involve going in-depth and taking apart exactly why highly-rated games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild , Elden Ring , and The Last of Us are so effective. Even better, Writing on Games generally draws attention to small details and game elements that most people would never pick up on.


Channel page for Matthewmatosis on YouTube

Well-researched, well-edited, and interesting video essays often take a lot of time to put together, which is why they aren't always easy to find. For those who don't mind infrequent uploads, Matthewmatosis provides just that, presenting videos that very obviously have a ton of thought and time put into them.

Redditor GhettoRussianSpy says they "wholeheartedly recommend" the channel and calls it "thought-provoking." Whereas some channels attempt to make videos about the most relevant game to ensure views, it's obvious that Matthewmatosis simply pursues whatever interests him at that time, presenting a fascinating dissection of Death Stranding nearly a year after Hideo Kojima's divisive title was released.

Channel page for Racyevick on YouTube

For retrospectives on awesome older video games , there are few channels that do so as effectively and entertainingly as Raycevick. Redditor Malix82 recommends the channel for "lengthy deconstructions" of exactly how and why a game once "made waves" or came to be perceived the way it is.

With his "... x Years Later" series, which includes "Metro Exodus... 3 Years Later" and "Need for Speed: Most Wanted... 13 Years Later," Raycevick uses the advantage of hindsight to look at games from a different perspective to usual and sometimes even challenge people's perceptions. Along with covering a wide range of games from different periods, Raycevick offers something for everyone.

Noah Caldwell-Gervais

Channel page for Noah Caldwell-Gervais on YouTube

There are plenty of channels that offer extremely long-form and comprehensive video essays on games but very few go to the extremes of Noah Caldwell-Gervais whose "Thorough Look" series has episodes that break the 5-hour mark. It's not just quantity he provides though as, according to Redditor Frittenbudenpapst , "His analysis, critique and description of games is just stellar."

"Whilst his almost-exclusive use of gameplay footage might not appeal to those who like more flashy and visually engaging video essays, it helps him to effectively capture the feel of the games he talks about and that's something his fans appreciate. This is especially true as he often talks about games where the atmosphere is one of the most important elements.

Channel page for Whitelight on Youtube

Tongue-in-cheek humor and sharp critiques go hand-in-hand in Whitelight's video essays, which often take on critically-lauded or critically-panned games and offer an interesting take. Whilst it's not a channel for fans who like their video essays to be completely serious, there are good reasons why Redditors like BrandalfFTW consider him one of "the best."

For example, despite taking a more humorous approach to the YouTube format , Whitelight's critiques tend to be fairly balanced, taking into account arguments for and against the games he takes on. Whilst no viewer is likely to agree with all of his opinions, that's a part of the charm of Whitelight's channel.

Channel page for Hbomberguy on YouTube

Though Hbomberguy takes on everything from politics and conspiracy theories to TV shows, some of his most popular and most compelling videos are those where he simply discusses video games. Redditor AMtheVile is one fan who says they "really like" his video game content.

Though his approach to video games can be divisive, often taking extreme stances on beloved video game franchises like The Elder Scrolls and the Fallout series and presenting his views in an over-the-top, impassioned way, the level of effort he puts into making his videos well-researched and visually interesting is something anyone can appreciate.

Channel page for Ahoy on YouTube

With the description on YouTube reading simply "Insightful gaming videos," Ahoy manages to perfectly capture why fans love the channel's video essays so much. Although not exclusively about video games, with many historical videos as well, their visually striking and perfectly composed video game essays easily rival that of completely game-focused channels.

That's why Redditor GustavGarlicBread calls them "amazing" at what they do, adding that they have "extremely clean editing, and original music to top it all off." Whilst this means uploads are infrequent, each essay has so much originality that they're more than worth the wait.

Game Maker's Toolkit

Channel page for Game Makers Toolkit on Youtube

Presented by British video game journalist and game developer Mark Brown, Game Maker's Toolkit aims to deliver exactly what the channel name promises which is to help with the viewer's understanding of how games are made. Though this technical approach of drawing attention to how games are crafted is great for budding game developers, it's also fascinating as a fan of games too.

One of those fans is Redditor nas1992 who comments that the channel is their "favorite" when it comes to gaming video essays. Rather than focusing on a specific game in each video, Brown nearly always dedicates each one to a particular, and usually small, aspect of game design, providing a much more technical perspective.

Jacob Geller

Channel page for Jacob Geller on YouTube

Though he does consider specific elements of game design in his gaming video essays, the unique appeal of Jacob Geller's YouTube channel is that they often provide deep and interesting reflections on the thematic story elements of great games. For fans of the story-telling side of video game creation, there are few better than Geller.

Redditor Frosch90 recommends the channel for anyone "into a more intellectual and "artsy" approach to games." Taking in a variety of sources that go far beyond what most YouTube video essays consider, Geller's approach is just as thorough as those on the more technical side of video games which helps make each one a treat to watch.

NEXT: 10 Best YouTube Channels For Film Video Essays, According To Reddit

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The video essay boom

Hour-long YouTube videos are thriving in the TikTok era. Their popularity reflects our desire for more nuanced content online.

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A stock image illustration of a girl sitting on a couch, filming herself.

The video essay’s reintroduction into my adult life was, like many things, a side effect of the pandemic. On days when I couldn’t bring myself to read recreationally, I tried to unwind after work by watching hours and hours of YouTube.

My pseudo-intellectual superego, however, soon became dissatisfied with the brain-numbing monotony of “day in the life” vlogs, old Bon Appétit test kitchen videos, and makeup tutorials. I wanted content that was entertaining, but simultaneously informational, thoughtful, and analytical. In short, I wanted something that gave the impression that I, the passive viewer, was smart. Enter: the video essay.

Video essays have been around for about a decade, if not more, on YouTube. There is some debate over how the form preceded the platform; some film scholars believe the video essay was born out of and remains heavily influenced by essay films , a type of nonfiction filmmaking. Regardless, YouTube has become the undisputed home of the contemporary video essay. Since 2012, when the platform began to prioritize watch-time over views , the genre flourished. These videos became a significant part of the 2010s YouTube landscape, and were popularized by creators across film, politics, and academic subcultures.

Today, there are video essays devoted to virtually any topic you can think of, ranging anywhere from about 10 minutes to upward of an hour. The video essay has been a means to entertain fan theories , explore the lore of a video game or a historical deep dive , explain or critique a social media trend , or like most written essays, expound upon an argument, hypothesis , or curiosity proposed by the creator.

Some of the best-known video essay creators — Lindsay Ellis, Natalie Wynn of ContraPoints, and Abigail Thorn of PhilosophyTube — are often associated with BreadTube , an umbrella term for a group of left-leaning, long-form YouTubers who provide intellectualized commentary on political and cultural topics.

It’s not an exaggeration to claim that I — and many of my fellow Gen Zers — were raised on video essays, academically and intellectually. They were helpful resources for late-night cramming sessions (thanks Crash Course), and responsible for introducing a generation to first-person commentary on all sorts of cultural and political phenomena. Now, the kids who grew up on this content are producing their own.

“Video essays are a form that has lent itself particularly well to pop culture because of its analytical nature,” Madeline Buxton, the culture and trends manager at YouTube, told me. “We are starting to see more creators using video essays to comment on growing trends across social media. They’re serving as sort of real-time internet historians by helping viewers understand not just what is a trend, but the larger cultural context of something.”

any video that starts with "the rise and fall of" I'm clicking on it no matter the topic — zae | industry plant (@ItsZaeOk) February 23, 2022

A lot has been said about the video essay and its ever-shifting parameters . What does seem newly relevant is how the video essay is becoming repackaged, as long-form video creators find a home on platforms besides YouTube. This has played out concurrently with the pandemic-era shift toward short-form video, with Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube respectively launching Reels, Spotlight, and Shorts to compete against TikTok.

TikTok’s sudden, unwavering rise has proven the viability of bite-size content, and the app’s addictive nature has spawned fears about young people’s dwindling attention spans. Yet, the prevailing popularity of video essays, from new and old creators alike, suggests otherwise. Audiences have not been deterred from watching lengthy videos, nor has the short-form pivot significantly affected creators and their output. Emerging video essayists aren’t shying away from length or nuance, even while using TikTok or Reels as a supplement to grow their online following.

One can even argue that we are witnessing the video essay’s golden era . Run times are longer than ever, while more and more creators are producing long-form videos. The growth of “creator economy” crowdfunding tools, especially during the pandemic, has allowed video essayists to take longer breaks between uploads while retaining their production quality.

“I do feel some pressure to make my videos longer because my audience continues to ask for it,” said Tiffany Ferguson, a YouTube creator specializing in media criticism and pop culture commentary. “I’ve seen comments, both on my own videos and those I watch, where fans are like, ‘Yes, you’re feeding us,’ when it comes to longer videos, especially the hour to two-hour ones. In a way, the mentality seems to be: The longer the better.”

In a Medium post last April, the blogger A. Khaled remarked that viewers were “willing to indulge user-generated content that is as long as a multi-million dollar cinematic production by a major Hollywood studio” — a notion that seemed improbable just a few years ago, even to the most popular video essayists. To creators, this hunger for well-edited, long-form video is unprecedented and uniquely suitable for pandemic times.

The internet might’ve changed what we pay attention to, but it hasn’t entirely shortened our attention span, argued Jessica Maddox, an assistant professor of digital media technology at the University of Alabama. “It has made us more selective about the things we want to devote our attention to,” she told me. “People are willing to devote time to content they find interesting.”

Every viewer is different, of course. I find that my attention starts to wane around the 20-minute mark if I’m actively watching and doing nothing else — although I will admit to once spending a non-consecutive four hours on an epic Twin Peaks explainer . Last month, the channel Folding Ideas published a two-hour video essay on “the problem with NFTs,” which has garnered more than 6 million views so far.

Hour-plus-long videos can be hits, depending on the creator, the subject matter, the production quality, and the audience base that the content attracts. There will always be an early drop-off point with some viewers, according to Ferguson, who make it about two to five minutes into a video essay. Those numbers don’t often concern her; she trusts that her devoted subscribers will be interested enough to stick around.

“About half of my viewers watch up to the halfway point, and a smaller group finishes the entire video,” Ferguson said. “It’s just how YouTube is. If your video is longer than two minutes, I think you’re going to see that drop-off regardless if it’s for a video that’s 15 or 60 minutes long.”

Some video essayists have experimented with shorter content as a topic testing ground for longer videos or as a discovery tool to reach new audiences, whether it be on the same platform (like Shorts) or an entirely different one (like TikTok).

“Short-form video can expose people to topics or types of content they’re not super familiar with yet,” Maddox said. “Shorts are almost like a sampling of what you can get with long-form content.” The growth of Shorts, according to Buxton of YouTube, has given rise to this class of “hybrid creators,” who alternate between short- and long-form content. They can also be a starting point for new creators, who are not yet comfortable with scripting a 30-minute video.

Queline Meadows, a student in Ithaca College’s screen cultures program, became interested in how young people were using TikTok to casually talk about film, using editing techniques that borrowed heavily from video essays. She created her own YouTube video essay titled “The Rise of Film TikTok” to analyze the phenomenon, and produces both TikTok micro-essays and lengthy videos.

“I think people have a desire to understand things more deeply,” Meadows told me. “Even with TikTok, I find it hard to unfold an argument or explore multiple angles of a subject. Once people get tired of the hot takes, they want to sit with something that’s more nuanced and in-depth.”

@que1ine link in bio #fyp #filmtok #filmtiktok #videoessay ♬ Swing Lynn - Harmless

It’s common for TikTokers to tease a multi-part video to gain followers. Many have attempted to direct viewers to their YouTube channel and other platforms for longer content. On the contrary, it’s in TikTok’s best interests to retain creators — and therefore viewers — on the app. In late February, TikTok announced plans to extend its maximum video length from three minutes to 10 minutes , more than tripling a video’s run-time possibility. This decision arrived months after TikTok’s move last July to start offering three-minute videos .

As TikTok inches into YouTube-length territory, Spotify, too, has introduced video on its platform, while YouTube has similarly signaled an interest in podcasting . In October, Spotify began introducing “video podcasts,” which allows listeners (or rather, viewers) to watch episodes. Users have the option to toggle between actively watching a podcast or traditionally listening to one.

What’s interesting about the video podcast is how Spotify is positioning it as an interchangeable, if not more intimate, alternative to a pure audio podcast. The video essay, then, appears to occupy a middle ground between podcast and traditional video by making use of these key elements. For creators, the boundaries are no longer so easy to define.

“Some video essay subcultures are more visual than others, while others are less so,” said Ferguson, who was approached by Spotify to upload her YouTube video essays onto the platform last year. “I was already in the process of trying to upload just the audio of my old videos since that’s more convenient for people to listen to and save on their podcast app. My reasoning has always been to make my content more accessible.”

To Ferguson, podcasts are a natural byproduct of the video essay. Many viewers are already consuming lengthy videos as ambient entertainment, as content to passively listen to while doing other tasks. The video essay is not a static format, and its development is heavily shaped by platforms, which play a crucial role in algorithmically determining how such content is received and promoted. Some of these changes are reflective of cultural shifts, too.

Maddox, who researches digital culture and media, has a theory that social media discourse is becoming less reactionary. She described it as a “simmering down” of the hot take, which is often associated with cancel culture . These days, more creators are approaching controversy from a removed, secondhand standpoint; they seem less interested in engendering drama for clicks. “People are still providing their opinions, but in conjunction with deep analysis,” Maddox said. “I think it says a lot about the state of the world and what holds people’s attention.”

no u know what i HATE video essay slander......... they r forever gonna be my fav background noise YES i enjoy the lofi nintendo music and YES i want a 3 hour video explaining the importance of the hair color of someone from a show i've never watched — ☻smiley☻ (@smiley_jpeg) January 19, 2022

That’s the power of the video essay. Its basic premise — whether the video is a mini-explainer or explores a 40-minute hypothesis — requires the creator to, at the very least, do their research. This often leads to personal disclaimers and summaries of alternative opinions or perspectives, which is very different from the more self-centered “reaction videos” and “story time” clickbait side of YouTube.

“The things I’m talking about are bigger than me. I recognize the limitations of my own experience,” Ferguson said. “Once I started talking about intersections of race, gender, sexuality — so many experiences that were different from my own — I couldn’t just share my own narrow, straight, white woman perspective. I have to provide context.”

This doesn’t change the solipsistic nature of the internet, but it is a positive gear shift, at least in the realm of social media discourse, that makes being chronically online a little less soul-crushing. The video essay, in a way, encourages us to engage in good faith with ideas that we might not typically entertain or think of ourselves. Video essays can’t solve the many problems of the internet (or the world, for that matter), but they can certainly make learning about them a little more bearable.

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The Best Video Essay Channels, Ranked

Cinephiles and film buffs owe it to themselves to check out these YouTube channels which brilliantly analyze and explain movies using video essays.

If you’re a die-hard movie fan, you don’t have to be a hardcore collector to know that you can find a lot of your special features free on YouTube – from movie trailers and top-ten lists to reaction videos and cast-and-crew interviews. But the crème de la crème for any budding cinephile is YouTube ’s subculture of video essayists.

The best of these content creators, particularly those focused on dissecting and analyzing film and television, give viewers a lot of food for thought, making them consider things they hadn’t before, even when it comes to movies they have watched 100 times. There is an embarrassment of content out there, but this article seeks to separate the wheat from the chaff – we are recommending only the channels with the best, most refreshing, and most original analysis. If you're a film lover or budding buff, you owe it to yourself to check out these great video essay channels.

What’s So Great About That?

UK creator and pop-culture academic Grace Lee makes video essays examining themes and form in both horror and animated media; she has an affinity for the deeper, more unexpected thoughts evoked by her favorite genres. Whereas many content creators are quippy or sarcastic, Lee’s voiceover narrative approach is one of measured thoughtfulness.

Related: Explained: How Twin Peaks Changed Television

While her output as What's So Great About That? is not as large as some other creators on this list, that is far from a bad thing as Lee seems to focus more on quality than quantity. Each video discusses fairly narrow topics within a given property – examples include the “treachery of language” in the work of David Lynch or the concept of the “unnatural” in the original Evil Dead film.

You might mistake Canadian vlogger Sarah Z (pronounced “Zed”) for your best friend. She sits on the couch with a cup of coffee and speaks directly to you, a monologuist spending hours on end about all of her opinions, from toxic fandoms to true-crime documentaries.

But these monologues are not the boring, meaningless yarns that you might expect. Rather, Sarah’s channel is an ever-deepening trove of incisive and engaging media analysis encased in a shell of light and fluffy entertainment. The whole thing is driven by Sarah’s palpable excitement and enthusiasm for the topics she is covering, and a penchant for long, detailed videos that are extensively researched. Some videos will even stretch far beyond the one-hour mark, including a 90-minute video on geek culture and a full two hours on Dear Evan Hansen .

Another Canadian creator steps up to the plate in the form of Sage Hyden , a fantasy novelist whose essay channel Just Write seems particularly preoccupied with film’s place in the cultural conversation. In particular, Hyden is fascinated with the messages that movies send us, what they are trying to communicate (consciously or subconsciously), and how they shape our perceptions and prejudices.

For topics that can sometimes land on the serious side, Hyden’s tone and writing style are conversational and often funny, and his insights are fairly eye-opening. Topics include Willy Wonka and its relationship to misconceptions about poverty, the importance of the original Mulan film, and the cinematic lineage of the modern murder mystery Knives Out .

If you consider yourself an outsider or find yourself disagreeing with most of your friends on their favorite movies, you might find a mutual kinship with creator Yhara Zayd , whose videos examine film and television through lenses both personal and political. Zayd’s is not the kind of detached analysis you can expect from many YouTubers; rather, though she is very well-researched, she is also full of unapologetic hot takes, and her videos are brimming with the caustic personality of a modern-day Pauline Kael.

Related: These Are the Best Marilyn Monroe Movies

In some ways, Zayd has crafted the perfect synergy between the highly-opinionated critic and the relentless deconstructionist, enthusiastically dissecting and questioning the images and media we regularly consume. She also has a distinct knack for self-awareness, gazing inward as she gazes outward, a quality which separates her content from that of many of her peers. Zayd covers such divergent subjects as the commodification of the great Marilyn Monroe, reflections of housing discrimination in 1980s horror films , and the under-appreciated legacy of Not Another Teen Movie .

For something a little less personal but no less fascinating, it is worth checking out the prolific Susannah McCullough and her channel The Take . McCullough and her extraordinary team make what are probably the best “Explained” videos you’ll be able to find, along with character breakdowns, deconstructions of tropes, and the lessons movies can teach us. They’ve got videos that deconstruct and explain Donnie Darko , The Sopranos , Get Out , and many, many more. They’ve also nerded out with full series on different franchises, including detailed character analyses in shows such as Friends and Breaking Bad .

The writing is smart but accessible, and the arguments are utterly convincing. The videos themselves are breezily edited and full of poppy visuals. The channel also covers many, many genres and types of movies, so you are sure to find something on a movie or TV show you love. The Take offers incisive film analysis in a context that is fun and completely unpretentious.

Maggie Mae Fish

Decadent, performance-driven vlogs like ContraPoints and Philosophy Tube are all the rage these days, and film buffs finally have their own version in the form of Maggie Mae Fish . Ms. Fish is a singular, idiosyncratic voice who pivots wildly from dedicated film scholar to sketch-comedy caricature and back again. She typically sits center-frame in a variety of ornately designed sets, dressed in colorful outfits, while she patiently spoons out detailed, thoughtful analysis over the course of long videos.

For any video-essay enthusiast, Fish is the real deal – wickedly entertaining, subversive, accessible, and always thought-provoking. Her recent two-video series on Twin Peaks is catnip for any fans seeking a new perspective on the show – and an excellent dressing-down of Twin Perfect’s infamous 4.5-hour breakdown. She also deconstructs auteur theory through the works of David Lynch and Stanley Kubrick, and spends two hours discussing Loki ’s debt to Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker .

Lindsay Ellis

When it comes to distinct personalities, no vlogger quite matches the likes of the controversial but brilliant Lindsay Ellis . She is a brand unto herself, with an over-the-top, self-deprecating style that can only be described as a hopped-up, sleep-deprived, but no less informed, Adam Curtis. She is often seen drinking wine in her videos, breaking down popular media like Disney movies, musical adaptations, and The Lord of the Rings franchise.

Ellis is one of the originals of the medium, and her work is so singular that her influence has likely extended to all the other creators who occupy this list. Some of her most brilliant work includes “The Whole Plate,” a nine-video series that completely deconstructs the first Transformers film through the lenses of gender, sexuality, and film studies. Her most iconic work includes 40-minute videos ranting about the film adaptations of Rent and The Phantom of the Opera . Due to recent Internet events, she has stopped making videos on YouTube, but her existing videos are still there for all to see and are absolutely worth checking out.

Every Frame A Painting

Sometimes the most obvious answer is still the best one. Taylor Ramos and Tony Zhou’s gorgeous video series Every Frame A Painting is still the benchmark against which all other video essayists are judged. You’ve probably seen their video on Edgar Wright and visual comedy, or the one on silence in the films of Martin Scorsese. The channel has been defunct for several years now, but the content still feels as fresh and original as it did when it was first published.

The topics covered are narrow and unexpected, but they all work extraordinarily well. The writing is tight and evocative, and Zhou’s voice is unforgettably soothing and inviting. The editing is also crisp and beautiful. Ramos and Zhou have become so renowned for their work that they were even invited to contribute to David Fincher’s Voir , a video essay project for Netflix.

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The best video essays of 2023

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best video essay channels reddit

Looking at the year’s notable video essays, many grapple with issues at the heart of contemporary media itself. There are dissections of video-playing tools, exposés of how corporations restrict access, contrasts between tropes and reality, and thorough investigations of trends in plagiarism and/or fabrication. As the essay landscape refines, it seems to peer inward as much as out.

On the making of this list: I’ve been trying to stay up to date on video essays for a while, and have been contributing to lists and/or voting in polls about the best videos made each year since 2018. Over this time, doing these kinds of roundups has gotten exponentially more difficult. As YouTube has grown to become a mega-business hosting powerful creators (part of the general trend of social media video sites becoming the new primary forum for cultural influence), I’ve seen essayists I once thought of as niche accrue follower counts in the millions. It’s been surreal. For this year’s list, I tried to shake things up by keeping the essayists who have appeared in previous editions to a minimum, along with the usual considerations about incorporating a diversity of creator backgrounds and video style. Once again, the videos are presented simply in order of publishing date.

[Also, I’m going to preface this with a mega mea culpa: It was absolute malpractice of me to not include Platformer Toolkit by Game Maker’s Toolkit in the best video essays of 2022 list . I don’t have a good excuse, either; I just straight up missed the essay at the time it came out, and then overlooked it during my catch-up phase at the end of the year. But an essay about game design that instructs you on its ideas by letting you actively engage with them through interactivity feels like a breakthrough in the form.]

Practices of Viewing by Johannes Binotto

Johannes Binotto is a Swiss researcher and lecturer who has been adding to his “Practices of Viewing” series for several years now, and every installment preceding 2023’s videos, “Ending” and “Description,” is well worth checking out. With each essay, Binotto examines a specific element of the media viewing interface, and how they affect an audience’s engagement with it. Some subjects, like fast-forwarding, pausing, or muting, may seem like obvious touchstones, while others, like sleep, are more out-there approaches to the conversation.

A History of the World According to Getty Images by Richard Misek

This technically debuted last year, making the rounds at film festivals, but it was made available online this past spring, so I’m including it here. A History of the World According to Getty Images is a great example of a work embedding its own ethos into its construction. Misek, another academic, is scrutinizing how for-profit companies (specifically Getty Images) mediate information that’s supposed to be available for all. In practice, a great deal of visual material that’s technically in the public domain can only be accessed in decent quality by paying an archive like Getty. Misek circumvents this by paying the fee to use select footage in this essay and then making this essay itself available for anyone to cite and clip from, putting that footage out into the world for real.

The Faces of Black Conservatism by F.D Signifier

I feel that video essays that consist mainly of the creator talking directly into a camera stretch the definition of the term – to me, the best cinematic and argumentative potential of the form lies in the power of editing. F.D Signifier’s contrast between fictional depictions of Black conservatives and the reality of how they appear across media exemplifies is what sets him apart in this genre: not just the depth of his thought (though it is considerable), but also the playful ways in which he presents the objects of his discussion. The running gag here in which he films himself holding hairstyling tools over the heads of various people on his screen had me laughing harder with each appearance.

Games That Don’t Fake the Space by Jacob Geller/Why We Can’t Stop Mapping Elden Ring by Ren or Raven

I don’t actually think this is the best essay Jacob Geller released this year (that would be either “Games that Aren’t Games” or “How Can We Bear to Throw Anything Away?” ), but it pairs so incredibly well with Renata Price’s essay (an impressive video debut building on her experience as a games critic) that it felt more appropriate to present them as a double feature. Both videos are sharp examinations of the ways that video games conjure physical space. Geller illuminates the shortcuts and tricks games often employ through examples of ones that, as the title suggests, don’t use such devices, while Price analyzes the impulses beneath what one could call the “cartographic instinct” in open-world games.

Why Do Brands Keep Doing These Crazy Influencer Trips?? by Mina Le

It’s been encouraging in recent years to see Le grow more confident in her mixing of media in her videos on fashion and film/television. You might remember the controversy around Shein granting influencers a limited hangout in a clothing factory this past summer. Le contextualizes this story by delving into the wider, supremely odd world of sponsored tours. If you watch this on your phone, the transitions between Le speaking to the camera and the clips of TikToks and other videos and photos flow together in a manner not unlike how one would scroll a social media feed, creating queasy resonance between message and medium.

Feeling Cynical About Barbie by Broey Deschanel / The Plastic Feminism of Barbie by Verilybitchie

I present these two videos not as a contrarian attack on Barbie (a film I enjoyed), but to highlight the important role of considered critical voices that dissent against prevailing opinions. Both Maia Wyman and Verity Ritchie unpack the issues with a heavily corporate product attempting to capitalize on feminist sentiment. Ritchie emphasizes the history of Barbie the brand and how the movie fits into it, while Wyman reads more into the specifics of the film’s plot. Together these videos do a good job of elaborating on legendary critic Amy Taubin’s Barbie reaction : “It’s about a fucking doll !’”

TikTok Gave Me Autism: The Politics of Self Diagnosis by Alexander Avila

There’s a lot of social media discourse over who can and can’t — and should or shouldn’t — claim the label of “autistic.” As someone who’s struggled with both the logistics and appropriateness of sussing out whether I’m on the spectrum, this video hit me hard. There are parts that feel like they veer so far into philosophical query that they threaten to obfuscate rather than elucidate the subject, but the essay as a whole is undeniably compelling. Avila’s own confessed stake in the question of self-diagnosis is itself affecting. This is the most searingly personal video on this list, uniting self-inquiry with rigorous research.

Chaste/Unchaste by Maryam Tafakory

This years shortest entry is a deceptively simple interrogation of the concept of “chastity” as defined by Iranian censorship standards. Takafory is a veteran of the academic essay scene, and I’m delighted by the opportunity to present her work to a wider audience. The video’s text is minimal, and its visuals are simply a montage of clips from Iranian films, but the implicit question of propriety grips the viewer with each cut.

Journey to Epcot Center: A Symphonic History by Defunctland

This is the most boundary-pushing essay on this year’s list. Completely lacking commentary, it instead emphasizes visuals and reenactment in telling the story of how Disney’s Epcot park went from concept to realization over the decades. Kevin Perjurer also provides a detailed set of notes that are meant to be read along with watching the video, further demanding one’s full attention. This is a direct acknowledgement of how we use the internet, the windowed experience of browsing and watching videos. I don’t think everything works; many of the reenactments, while impressively professional, feel somewhat redundant. But I’d prefer a creator take big swings that result in a few flaws rather than play it safe, and I hope both Perjurer and others continue in such an experimental vein.

Plagiarism and You(Tube) by Hbomberguy

Harry Brewis is popular enough that he doesn’t need any boost, but even in the very brief period since this video’s release as of the time of writing, Plagiarism and You(Tube) has made seismic impact on the YouTuber scene . Does it need to be almost four hours long? Maybe not. Yet the sheer volume of evidence it pulls together to support various accusations of plagiarism does seem vital. The main focus of the piece, James Somerton, went into lockdown over the fairly comprehensive evidence presented against him (and has since attempted to apologize ). I’m seeing conversations flourish around the endemic problem of plagiarism on the internet and what is to be done about it, and a surge of creators recognizing and calling out others who have taken their work without credit. There’s a deeper issue at play here, which is that the growth of YouTube entertainment has come with a truly daunting mountain of crap content that nonetheless attracts views (and thus dollars).

On the subject of low quality standards on YouTube, beyond plagiarism, Todd in the Shadows’ recent exhaustive effort to fact-check various false claims Somerton has made in his work is a useful supplement to this video.

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28 of the Best YouTube Channels for Storytellers

Published by justin on october 22, 2017 october 22, 2017.

UPDATE: This was originally a 23 channel list, but since then I’ve added 5 more. You may want to bookmark this page, since I’ll probably keep adding more channels over time.

I have a new binge-watching habit. But it’s not on Netflix.

No, it’s weirder than that: it’s YouTube video essays.

If you haven’t spent much time in this sector of YouTube, here’s how a video essay usually works: an expert (or a superfan) uses a mix of video, animation, infographics, academia, and humor to explain a complicated subject in simple terms. Think of them as mini-lectures, delivered in a bite-sized format you’ll actually want to finish.

While there’s usually just one voice or presenter onscreen, these channels are often made possible by a small team of collaborative researchers, editors, designers, and animators. (And, if they get popular enough, sponsors.) So, in essence, each video essay is a (usually) brief episode in a loosely-related series on a topic, made either by one artist or by a branded team with a shared vision.

I’ll show you some of what I think are the best YouTube channels for storytellers in a moment. But first, let’s tackle one basic question:

What Does It Take to Make a Great Video Essay?

YouTube is full of video essays on every subject imaginable, from history and science to music, writing, video games, film, and more. From the channels I’ve explored over the past year, I’ve identified five traits that help the best video essays reliably rise above the rest:

  • A clear and well-supported premise in each essay
  • A consistent voice and tone across all videos
  • Simple yet effective visuals
  • EITHER a compelling narrative OR a satisfying setup and payoff
  • I can easily explain what I just learned to someone else

Each of the following channels excels in at least one of these areas, and often in all five. They’re also fantastic examples of how to structure a headline hook that attracts attention and then holds it throughout the length of the video.

The result?

Not only will these channels teach you something you didn’t know, but they’ll do it in a way you’re more likely to connect with, enjoy, remember, and want to share with others.

With that, let’s take a(n alphabetical) look at…

Austin McConnell

Channel Focus: Half weird pop culture, half media analysis.

Why Do I Dig It? Laid-back delivery, low-key comedy timing, and detailed dives into media I wouldn’t have explored otherwise — like the underground world of China’s bootleg Star Wars comics.

Beyond the Frame

Channel Focus: Explaining the pros and cons of TV and film language.

Why Do I Dig It? Every video feels like a short film school lesson.

Channel Focus: Politics, history, and weird quirks of math and science.

Why Do I Dig It? He’s a poster boy for how to make data interesting.

Coffee Break

Channel Focus: Deconstructing modern life and digital trends.

Why Do I Dig It? Great quick examples of how to frame and support an argument.

Every Frame a Painting

Channel Focus: Deep dives into the styles and trends that shaped the history of film.

Why Do I Dig It? Every video is like a slightly longer film school lesson.

Extra Credits

Channel Focus: It varies. I found them through their fantastic series of historical explainer videos, but they also explore video games, psychology, and more.

Why Do I Dig It? Two reasons. First, they make history lively by structuring their videos as narratives about their subjects’ needs and desires. Second, their innovative use of universally cute icons to represent various historical figures has an unusual effect: it humanizes everyone equally, which allows the audience to invest themselves emotionally in all sides.

Films & Stuff

Channel Focus: Examines what makes a scene, moment, or entire film work… or why it goes wrong.

Why Do I Dig It? Uses popular films to examine the power of specific storytelling tropes.

Half as Interesting

Channel Focus: Weird and obscure trivia about history and geography.

Why Do I Dig It? Quirky content, briefly well-explained.

Hello Future Me

Channel Focus: Analyzes writing and storytelling from a structural perspective: what’s the best way to convey information, and how do cultural tropes affect the way we process stories?

Why Do I Dig It? VERY instructive without being dismissive; uses a wide array of examples from popular culture to show recurring examples of writing techniques and variations. Less of a “one size fits all” guide, and more of a “menu of solutions” approach. (Plus, a solid sense of humor.)

Ideas at Play

Channel Focus: Close looks at the intangible aspects of storytelling, like editing, soundtracks, laugh tracks, and other aesthetic choices that change how we process the onscreen information.

Why Do I Dig It? Clear explanations plus high-quality production values.

In Deep Geek

Channel Focus: Deep deconstructions of Game of Thrones , Westworld , and more.

Why Do I Dig It? Anyone who tells a story will benefit from considering its construction with the same degree of detail that Robert, the host of this channel, applies to the minutiae of what makes stories like Game of Thrones tick. His narrative analysis works more like a scientific inquiry: he’ll ask a question or pose a theory, and then evaluate it from all sides before coming to a conclusion. (Bonus: Robert’s conversational tone and pace are incredibly soothing to listen to.)

Jenna Moreci

Channel Focus: “Tough love” writing advice from a self-published author.

Why Do I Dig It? Jenna’s blunt, sarcastic style is filled with useful advice that aspiring writers need to hear. (Bonus: Check out my quick Q&A with Jenna here .)

Jenny Nicholson

Channel Focus: Deconstructing the downside of your favorite pop culture tropes.

Why Do I Dig It? Jenny’s no-budget aesthetic and disarming delivery is deceptively sharp and consistently dry, and her analysis of why most films are broken is deadly accurate.

Channel Focus: Weird facts and sports trivia, brought to life by (purposely) bad infographics.

Why Do I Dig It? Every video Jon creates is a work of 8-bit art with a nugget about the truth of the human condition buried inside.

Channel Focus: Analyzing films and TV to find out why some stories work and some don’t.

Why Do I Dig It? Channel creator Sage Hyden digs deep into story structure to explain how the format of our media affects the kinds of stories we tell. For example, this video will change the way you think about animated movies.


Channel Focus: High-level overviews of huge pop culture topics.

Why Do I Dig It? These are perfect “introduction to ___” videos for anyone who’s always wondered “what’s the deal with ___?”

Karsten Runquist

Channel Focus: Analyzing story structure in film and TV.

Why Do I Dig It? Runquist exposes narrative tricks hiding in plain sight — like during the first few minutes of Stranger Things — in such a way that you suddenly feel like you knew them all along.

Channel Focus: Explaining how life works, both literally and figuratively.

Why Do I Dig It? Possibly the best union of animation and narration on YouTube. Plus, they make super-complex subjects infinitely easier to understand.

Lessons from the Screenplay

Channel Focus: Comparing finished films to their screenplays to find the building blocks that help good scripts become great movies.

Why Do I Dig It? Each video explains a core storytelling technique through visual examples that make what could be dry theories into easily-remembered demonstrations.

Lindsay Ellis

Channel Focus: Cynically exploding the problematic tropes of pop culture.

Why Do I Dig It?   Every video is like a dyspeptic film school lesson.

Channel Focus: Explaining how video games work via examples of good and bad game design.

Why Do I Dig It? When you’re playing a video game, you rarely have time to stop and appreciate how it was built. Every video Mark adds to his Game Maker’s Toolkit series helps you appreciate the multiple systems and creators at work behind the interactive experiences we often take for granted.

Movies with Mikey (on Chainsawsuit)

Channel Focus: Irony-drenched movie analysis that’s almost as long as the movies themselves.

Why Do I Dig It? Deep, smart, wry deconstructions that pull no punches.

Patrick (H) Willems

Channel Focus: Functional film analysis, sometimes on a shot-by-shot basis.

Why Do I Dig It? Willems is an aspiring director who treats every essay like it’s his own short film.

The School of Life

Channel Focus: Love, relationships, and identity.

Why Do I Dig It? Blunt advice, delivered by often beautiful and always emotionally evocative animation.

Terrible Writing Advice

Channel Focus: Storytelling flaws, cheap stereotypes, overused ideas, and bad writing habits.

Why Do I Dig It? The writing “advice” is good, but the details embedded in the animations are even better.

Channel Focus: The oddities of science, math, and statistics.

Why Do I Dig It? Simple explanations of scientific laws and theories, often with easy-to-remember examples.

Channel Focus: Vox Media’s subset of videos that focus on the art, science, and business of pop music.

Why Do I Dig It? Part history lesson and part musicology course, host Estelle Caswell explains how musical trends work using anecdotes and visual aids.

Channel Focus: Pop culture meets philosophy.

Why Do I Dig It? In addition to being one of the highest-quality video essay channels on YouTube, every Wisecrack video analyzes a piece of pop culture from multiple angles — artistically, sociologically, philosophically, and more.

Two Quick Caveats About This List

I study a lot of film and media, so my list of the best YouTube channels is obviously biased in that direction. Also, I’m frustrated to note that my list is mostly made up of white guys, which highlights of the apparent lack of diversity in the video essay field. I’d like to expand this list in both directions, and you can help me out.

So, if you (or someone you dig) are doing great video essays on other topics or from other perspectives, I’d love to see what you’re working on. Tweet me or leave a comment below so others can see what you’re up to!

Want More Posts About Storytelling?

Subscribe to my newsletter and catch every new post! (I send an email weekly-ish.)

You may also enjoy…

What Makes Game of Thrones So Addictive?
How Jordan Peele Changed Get Out from Script to Screen

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NunyaBiznuss · February 17, 2022 at 3:48 pm

The list is incomplete without Mrballen

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malarkodi · June 14, 2019 at 12:20 pm

Hi, I am eager to become a storyteller in both in Tamil and English languages. Kindly guide me to start working on my passion.

Thank you, Best Regards,

' src=

Aishwarya Tiwari · November 27, 2018 at 5:14 am

I think that was a pretty researched and exhaustive list. Just a minor suggestion, you should have mentioned the facf that the list will comprise video essayists that discuss films and related spheres extensively, it’d have been better :) Regardless, thanks for creating this list. Means a lot. Can’t wait to devour the various channels that are now new additions to my subscriptions. Love from India!

15 Best Ideas To Create Viral Videos On YouTube · May 7, 2019 at 8:04 am

[…] And in this way, you can attract the attention of so many people. In a word, become the most interesting storyteller on YouTube. […]

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11 best video essays youtube channels to follow.

best video essay channels reddit

Are you a movie fan looking for engaging content on YouTube? Then check out these best YouTube channels for the latest video essays, film analysis, reviews, and more. Get ready to explore the world of cinema and the amazing stories that come with it. Whether you're a Marvel or DC enthusiast, there's something in store for you. Dive into this list and discover the best YouTube channels for video essays, movie reviews, analysis, and more!

Thomas Flight

Thomas Flight Youtube Channel

Thomas Flight is a YouTube channel focused on discussing movies through video essays. The channel dives deep into the themes, hidden symbolism, and production values of films, giving viewers an appreciation and understanding of the film industry and the stories that are being told on the big screen. Thomas Flight has become a go-to source for viewers looking to further their understanding and appreciation for film. With a blend of commentary, analysis, and fun facts, his videos provide a comprehensive view of the art of filmmaking.

Implicitly Pretentious

Implicitly Pretentious Youtube Channel

Implicitly Pretentious is a YouTube channel featuring a variety of high-quality video essays exploring a variety of topics in great detail. These video essays are presented in an entertaining and thought-provoking way and provide viewers with an engaging way to learn about topics ranging from art, culture, and philosophy to history and popular culture. As the channel's title suggests, Implicitly Pretentious delivers contemplative and sometimes controversial observations with a hint of pretentiousness.


troyoboyo17 Youtube Channel

Troyoboyo17 is a YouTube channel created by Troy, a self-proclaimed fanboy and nerd. On the channel, you can find video essays about geek and nerd culture, with lots of rewrites and reworks of classic works. Troy brings a fun and unique perspective to the topics he covers, making his videos worth watching.

Rowan Ellis

Rowan Ellis Youtube Channel

Rowan Ellis ' YouTube channel focuses on topics related to video essays, film criticism, feminism, queer and LGBT topics. She offers insightful analysis and reviews of movies and TV shows, and her work is filled with thought-provoking observations. She also covers a variety of topics, making her channel a great source for those interested in these topics.

HiTop Films

HiTop Films Youtube Channel

HiTop Films is a YouTube channel created by Alex Hunter that focuses on the exploration of movies, comic books (DC Comics and Marvel Comics) and video essays. It is a great resource for fans of all three topics, providing interesting analyses and pieces of short films. HiTop Films offers high-quality content that any movie, comic book, or video essay enthusiast would enjoy.

Kitty Monk Youtube Channel

Kitty Monk is a YouTube channel that produces engaging video essays focusing on the characters and stories of popular cartoons like The Owl House, Star vs the Forces of Evil, Steven Universe, and Disenchantment. Fans of these shows and animation in general will enjoy in-depth character analysis in an entertaining format.

oliSUNvia Youtube Channel

OliSUNvia is a YouTube channel owned by Alice Chapelle, Khadija Mbowe, Tara Mooknee, and Grayson. It focuses on creating video essays and other content related to social commentary and internet analysis to appeal to Gen Z audiences. It also features collaborations with popular YouTubers like Philosophy Tube and others. The channel provides thoughtful, accessible content that encourages viewers to engage with topics related to art, culture, politics, and more.

Movie Overload

Movie Overload Youtube Channel

Movie Overload is a YouTube channel dedicated to exploring film and television. Their videos cover various movie franchises like Star Wars, Pirates of the Caribbean, Harry Potter and Marvel/DC's MCU. One can find video essays, analysis videos and more engaging content about the movies we love, perfect for movie addicts.

Quality Culture

Quality Culture Youtube Channel

The Quality Culture YouTube channel offers a wide range of informative video essays, music, film, TV, and book analysis. It provides deep insight and thought-provoking analysis into various aspects of culture. Quality Culture allows viewers to engage with culture in a new and creative way.

The Leftist Cooks

The Leftist Cooks Youtube Channel

The Leftist Cooks YouTube channel features informative video essays presented by Neil Farrell and critically acclaimed Irish comedians. Additionally, the channel brings you closer to nonbinary and trans YouTubers, as well as offering an engaging explanation of critical theory and liberal topics. Enjoy the unique perspective and humour from Neil Farrell Entertainments!

jacob saul Youtube Channel

Jacob Saul's YouTube channel is a great source for film and video analysis. He produces video essays and short films, which break down popular films and explore the creative vision of filmmakers. His content is educational and entertaining, allowing viewers to gain a deeper appreciation of films and movie-making.

Understanding the Impact of Video Essays on Social Media

Video essays are a relatively new concept on social media. They are an opportunity for users to express their creative ideas and thoughts through a visual medium. They often combine media elements such as music, visuals, voiceover, and narration to present complex topics in an oral format. Due to their creative and engaging potential, video essays have quickly gained popularity on various social media networks.

The impact of video essays on social media is both positive and negative. Positively, video essays allow viewers to creatively express their opinion and engage in meaningful conversations in a way that traditional text-only posts cannot. They help to spark conversations and captivate the attention and interest of viewers, making for an engaging online experience. Additionally, video essays have changed the way topics are debated, discussed, and portrayed on social media.

Conversely, video essays have also caused a few negative impacts. They have brought forth a massive influx of competition with creative and content creation becoming more competitive than ever. Additionally, the shallow nature of some video essays have exposed viewers to low quality, plagiarized content. As a result, social media users may become desensitized to the poor quality of some video essays being circulated. Such negative impacts could lead to a decrease in viewership and engagement, ultimately leading to a decline in quality of the content being created on social media.

Overall, video essays have had a profound influence on social media, bringing with them both positive and negative impacts. It is important to be mindful of the potential impacts that they can have on social media spaces. With this in mind, their engaging nature can still be used as a powerful platform for users to express their creativity and reach out to an audience.

Exploring Different Styles of Video Essays

Video essays are one of the most creative and contemporary forms of communication out there. They provide a robust and innovative way to express one’s views, opinions, and stories. From creative documentaries to thoughtful critiques, video essays serve as a powerful and dynamic tools for visual communication.

Video essays are highly diverse, allowing different styles of exploration and expression. For instance:

  • some video essays are highly analytical, breaking down complex topics into digestible parts.
  • Others are more narrative-driven, weaving a story in an emotionally-charged and captivating format.
  • There are also video essays that use humor to make a point, such as parody or satire.

No matter what, each video essay brings a unique perspective and flavor to the visual communication landscape.

Understanding these different styles of video essays can help you better communicate your ideas, tell stories, and generate creative and engaging content. Whether you're starting your own project or just indulging in other people’s work, exploring the many flavors of video essay styles is an inspiring and stimulating experience. It can also push the boundaries of what’s possible by exposing you to new ideas and techniques. Get started today and discover just how powerful and dynamic video essays can be.

Strategies to Create Engaging Video Essays

Creating engaging video essays can be quite a challenge. After all, videos can take much more effort and time compared to regular written essays. However, with the right strategies, you can easily make sure that your video essays will stand out to your viewers. Here are some strategies to create engaging video essays.

Firstly, consider what kind of essay you’d like to create . Visuals can provide a great emphasis on topics and ideas. Think about how you can use your chosen medium (video) to best express the message that you’d like to communicate. Your video could be a persuasive informational essay or a humorous sketch, or something else entirely. Figure out what works best for the essay and what best fits your message.

Secondly, it's important to focus on production quality . Once your video is complete, viewers should be able to concentrate on your message without being distracted by technical issues. This means making sure that sound and video quality are excellent, the motion edited cleanly, and transitions and effects are used sparingly. If you can, consider investing in quality equipment and software to help you out.

By using these strategies, you can create compelling video essays that will have an impact on your viewers. It might take some extra effort compared to writing regular essays, but it’s worth the effort if you want to stand out. With the right strategies, you can express your ideas more effectively and create engaging video essays that will stay with your viewers for a long time after they’ve seen it.

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Hello, my name is Arthur Tilling! I'm an avid gamer and entertainment connoisseur. I've been spending my time exploring the fascinating, ever-evolving worlds of video games, board games, and all types of entertainment for the past few years. I'm passionate about uncovering the secrets of the gaming industry, and I'm dedicated to sharing these insights to help others enjoy.

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Top 15 Video Essayists on Youtube

  • Posted on June 27, 2017
  • By Bruno Savill De Jong
  • Leave a comment

best video essay channels reddit

Great art inspires further art. This inspiration can be found within films, but the criticism and analysis of film can also be viewed as artwork itself. Online Video has allowed talented and thoughtful people an accessible outlet to describe their experiences with various creators, and document their responses towards it.

Without going into a full deconstruction of the online Video Essay (which can be found here ), it allows for a combination of film criticism and filmmaking, combining entertainment and insight into a single entity. While obviously, as in any emerging medium, multitudes of content makers whose talent does not match their eagerness exist, I have listed several whom I believe make appreciation and understanding of films better through their own creations.

The above image is from a Video Essayist examining the film  Drive  (2011)  using the Quadrant system. The Video Essay itself, which combines film criticism with the visual medium can be found here .

15. Folding Ideas

On every list, there is the dreaded position of being last, and this time that unfortunate lands on Dan Olson of Folding Ideas. This is not because I find Olson sloppy or unintelligent, truly he might be the smartest media analyst on this list, but he falls to the final spot for not really being a Video Essayists. Olson is an academic, explaining and deconstructing visual storytelling to teach his audience, rather than analyse particular content. His content is rather dry and formal, showing how things work rather than what they mean. But this is important work, and his breakdown of narrative techniques provides fascinating insights into essential components of the visual medium, beneath their surface, and how they unfold in our minds.

Favourite Video: The Art of Editing and Suicide Squad

Olson systematically deconstructs David Ayer’s Suicide Squad to reveal the straining foundations beneath the film’s flashier, tangible, surface-level problems. This video demonstrates how the misuse of film language can subconsciously make us feel uneasy about a film without precisely knowing why, and how missteps and rewrites of a movie can irrecoverably damage the core of a product.

14. Thomas Flight

Audience’s reactions to films cannot be wholly quantified, but of chief concern to Thomas Flight is exploring how filmmakers specifically intend to create a response to their creations. Flight’s analysis and style can sometimes be fairly standard, but the content he creates is certainly useful, and the insights he gives certainly productive.

Favourite Video: Nightcrawler Incriminates Its Viewers

Flight’s essay on Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler examines one of the film’s most fascinating aspects; the way it commentates and reflects upon its audience. Flight looks at several aspects of the film, detailing how and why the directors used Nightcrawler ’s main character to explore the system he participated in, and the world around him that we, as an audience, contributed to.

13. Royal Ocean Film Society

Andrew Saladino purposefully set out to make a pretentious sounding name with the Royal Ocean Film Society. But his perchance for pretention and obscure filmmakers and movies should not distract from the in-depth content he provides. Saladino intentionally examines less popular creators and topics to broaden the landscape, and while his ‘outsider’ approach doesn’t exactly translate to his own style (Saladino very much operates within the tried and tested method of ‘talking over film clips’), the effort to introduce new ideas to what can seem a very self-referential market is commendable. While it cannot hope to change the tides of modern online film discourse, the Royal Ocean Film Society is able to charter new land in what can be discovered.

Favourite Video: The Rise (or Return?) of Christian Films

Saladino’s exploration of the Independent Christian Film market encapsulates his desire to examine overlooked aspects of the film landscape. Modern Christian films are immensely successful, yet received hardly any discussion, and Saladino dissects both the reasons behind this quiet shift in the film industry, and its future repercussions.

12. Now You See It

Rather than focusing on an individualistic movie or filmmaker, Now You See It is more focused on exposing the common tropes and story conventions found throughout films. The different effects of using the same techniques and themes, whether it be Gangsters, Endings, Swearing or Milk, are analysed in a condescend format, showcasing the similarities and contrasts in their usage. The magical power of a topic is demonstrated once you understand the context and intent behind its implementation. Now You See It sets out to reveal what is hiding in plain sight in films, encouraging us to see their importance, rather than just watching it.

Favourite Video: Milk in Movies: Why do Characters Drink It?

I wasn’t kidding about the Milk video. It also happens to be my favourite. Now You See It undertakes a seemingly innocuous and underused narrative device, the drinking of Milk, and deconstructs the narrative logic behind its place in the script. This also leads to a unexpected but quite accurate description of Mad Max: Fury Road . Drawing on both social context and audience reactions, Now You See It demonstrates with this video how no topic, or liquid, is small enough to be dismissed without worthwhile insight.

11. What it All Meant

Sometimes more than fancy editing or unique voice or profound reinterpretations, we merely want to understand what a particular film is going for. This is the service What it All Meant provides, giving succinct and rather blunt analysis of various famous movies. There is something effective about his understated delivery and visuals, laying out an explanation paired with multiple examples makes the underlying meaning seem apparent. In other ways, What it All Meant seems to most utilise the video format, matching a thematic musing to it the film purely through what is seen, not what is being said. The connection between the two, what grafts meaning onto the artwork, is done by us.

Favourite Video: Pulp Fiction

What it All Meant takes a single through-line in it’s analysis of Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction ; Respect. Proceeding to show how this single concept is an undercurrent in the film, and how a film as wild and tangential as Pulp Fiction can really be unified in this collective theme. This video also showcases a greater dexterity with editing and visuals than the standard ones, utilising split-screens and diegetic dialogue to further illustrate his points. As he points out in the video, maybe there is no one definition of respect, like there is no one meaning of Pulp Fiction , or any film, merely a collage of human experience and concepts into a soft, shapeless, pulpy mess.

10. Needs more Gay

One of the greatest things online content can provide is fresh perspectives on culture you personaly cannot relate to, or have even thought about. By focusing upon Queer theory and LGBTQ+ themes in Popular Culture, Needs More Gay fills a crucial gap in my hetero-normative knowledge. The host Jamie Maurer (or ‘Rantasmo’) investigates LGBTQ+ culture’s representation in both mainstream media (going from current TV/Films to classics like The Wizard of Oz ) to completely low-budget obscure sub-genre films exclusive to the gay community. Even where you think no analysis can be gained, Needs More Gay demonstrates discussions of sexuality are pervasive and relevant throughout most of media.

Favourite Video: Top Gun

The supposed ‘gayness’ of Top Gun is something that has been circling around the film’s reputation for a while now, and Maurer investigates both the origin of this claim, and it’s legitimacy. He both dissuades and affirms the validity of the film’s supposed homoerotic undertones, revealing how the male gaze and masculine expectations play into this view on it. Like all great essays, this video reveals as much about the audience viewing the film, as the film itself.

9. Wisecrack

Wisecrack has become the premier of commercialised Video Essays. Making their beginnings with Thug Notes , which broke down classic literature from a ‘street smart’ angle, through to Earthling Cinema that used an alienated perspective to movies, Wisecrack uses subversive comedy to explain high-concept art in universal languages. While this style can appear patronising at times, Wisecrack possesses a deep and rich empire of content, bringing down intellectual concepts to a level everyone can understand and appreciate.

Favourite Video: The Philosophy of Kanye West

There are really far too much Wisecrack videos to pick a representational or favourite one, but I think their dissection of Kanye West highlight’s their interest in Popular Culture and knowledge in philosophical history. The research of both their subject and philosophical thesis emerges from the video, which places Kanye’s music and public personality as an existentialist demand for purpose and meaning. However much you may disagree with their conclusions, Wisecrack demonstrates the wit and wisdom to make a convincing argument.

8 . Innuendo Studios

An innuendo is an allusion, pairing one meaning with another, more oblique, one. What Ian Danskin aims to do with Innuendo Studios is match high concept ideas with culture that is normally not perceived that way, creating links that transcend society. Most often this analysis focuses on Video Games, but always with a focus on storytelling techniques and the cultural context surrounding it. Danskin’s series on the Gamergate movement is essential viewing for its deconstruction and historical breakdown on the harassment and anger within it. The content Danskin produces is always highly learned and insightful, if sometimes infrequent, and like all good innuendos, will mean you cannot look at the same thing the same way again.

Favourite Video: It’s Not Easy Being Blue

I never really cared about ‘90s icon Sonic the Hedgehog, but after this video I did. Danskin manages to breakdown the paradox of Sonic’s iconographical status, being both a relic of the past yet also constantly reinvented for the present. Beyond the surface however, Danskin tells the tale of a mascot who wants to satisfy everyone, but in trying to do so disappoints them all individually. Somewhow, Danskin turns Sonic into a beautiful metaphor for the strained artist, doing all he can to please his large audience, not understanding that in the modern age, those audiences have split into followers.

7.   Lessons from the Screenplay

While many naïve filmgoers may view the screenplay simply as the lines and actions which the Directors and Actors follow, Michael Tucker understands the strategy and differences that comes from the screenplay. By comparing the screenplay to the finished product, Tucker explores how differences emerge from the reinterpretation by the director, and how the story is structured around specific points of writing. By unearthing the originating point for the films examined, Tucker teaches us what can be gained from the root of the story.

Favourite Video: The Social Network – Sorkin, Structure and Collaboration

Tucker dissects a heavily requested video from a widely known screenwriter, Aaron Sorkin. This video does a good job of understanding why Sorkin is such a notable and memorable figure, revealing the strong foundations beneath Sorkin’s noticeable flare. The breakdowns of individual scenes, and how the screenplay balances character motivations with exposition and witty dialogue to transform a Facebook biopic into one of the greatest films of the 21 st century. Tucker also does a fantastic job of highlighting how a great screenplay is paired and adapted with a great director in David Fincher, and how his specific creative vision is paired with Sorkin’s unique style, into a collaborative masterpiece.

6. Movies with Mikey

Beyond style or format or even ideas, it is the personality and enthusiasm of the creator which draws you into their artwork. The energetic, tangential and rapid breakdowns from Mikey Neuman are a pure celebration of his favourite cinema, even if he admits they are not all the greatest films. His wonderful, sometimes lyrical, occasional annoying scripts weave over his best experiences of film, and his pure energy eclipses any failings these films may have as only slight hindrances. You shouldn’t assume his informal, quick delivery and style is laziness however, as Neuman demonstrates his talent and commitment to these videos with his editing and research, which is inserted elegantly within the videos. Movies with Mikey remains a fresh, wholly positive outlook on current cinema, that has no intention of slowing down.

Favourite Video: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

One of the best things these videos can do is change your opinion on a film, rather than simply reaffirm it. I never particularly cared for the 2005 adaptation of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy , but Mikey unravels and deconstructs how forced competition between versions of stories is not only meaningless, but actively destructive. This video almost serves as a thesis for Movies with Mikey, elaborating on the positive aspects of film in fresh styles, aiming to share joy with others, and avoiding being the best or ‘correct’ so that we can be happy with what we have.

5. Kaptain Kristian

While the content of videos is obviously important, the flare and presentation can be impressive in itself. Purely aesthetically, Kristian Williams‘ creations are visual love letters to all aspects of media; film, comics, music and television. The respect for artistry, and revere for cultural impact is found with his work, and his crisp, flowing editing style consistently engages the viewer with whatever topic is explored. On a visceral level, the elegance of Williams’ essays heightens the subject matter, rendering the content greater by the images and sounds, as well as the words.

Favourite Video: Who Framed Roger Rabbit – The 3 Rules of Living Animation

Krisitian Williams looks at how live-action and animation were combined in Who Framed Roger Rabbit , and establishes the effort placed into minute details to make the combination as effective as possible. Typical of Williams’ videos, smooth music underlines script notes, annotated clips and exterior references to collage a complete picture of the process. While discussing the seamless nature of Roger Rabbit ’s animation, Williams also highlights the tight, smooth process of his own creations.

4. Lindsay Ellis

Rather than the previous quick, stylised and somewhat flashy video essays, Lindsay Ellis operates from a standpoint of experienced knowledge of filmmaking. Beginning as a more comedic reviewer as the ‘Nostalgia Chick’ on That Guy with the Glasses (now Channel Awesome), Ellis outgrew these limitations to grant detailed explanations and applications of film theory. She presents both long-formed explorations of specific films and genres, while also regularly producing Loose Canon , where the representations of iconic characters across time and media are examined. Her series The Whole Plate , a 12-part (!) dissection of Michael Bay’s Transformers films and their relation to film studies, is also essential viewing. Ellis’ dry wit and clear intelligence makes her dives into studies of cinema both impactful and meaningful.

Favourite Video: How Three-Act Screenplays Work (and why it matters)

I’m not certain this is really Ellis’ best work, as her divulgence into Mel Brook’s use of satire and The Producers greater demonstrates her skill and historical knowledge of film, and her demolition of Joel Schumacher’s Phantom of the Opera is visceral fun, but this video serves as a useful introduction to both Ellis’ style and knowledge. She outlines the fundamentals of film theory, and how they are implemented in various movies, which still holding her signature delivery. Appropriately, her explanation of the foundation of most mainstream movies provides a neat primer for the rest of her extensive oeuvre.

3. The Nerdwriter

Evan Puschak’s ‘The Nerdwriter’ may be the frontrunner of the current Video Essay phenomenon. While others have been creating before him, few do so with the frequency and diversity of Puschak’s content. He grapples not only with all forms of art (including films, TV, comics, painting, poetry and music), but has gained large success with his sociological and political analysis. What stands out to Puschak for me however is not only his obvious skill with editing and research, which grant each of his videos a captivating essence, but the tender way he gently unravels the layers of artwork he adores. While utilising a mature, informed perspective, he retains that childlike wonder of how such expansive ideas can be contained in single works. The passion and inquisitiveness of being a ‘nerd’ has never felt so appealing.

Favourite Video: A Serious Man: Can Life Be Understood?

Puschak’s catalogue of videos is so expansive and diverse that picking one favourite was extremely difficult (other recommendations are of Casey Neistat , Mulholland Drive , Vertigo , The Prisoner of Azkaban , The Prestige , In Bruges and many, many more), but this penetrating, but also lyrical, look at the Coen Brother’s A Serious Man highlights many of Puschak’s strengths. Starting from the text of the film itself, he magnifies the character’s searches for meaning within the film into an existentialist musing on the desire for interpretation itself. Minute details and grandiose themes are paired together with style to create a solid, if implicitly futile, explanation of a fantastic film.

2. Kyle Kallgren (Brows Held High/Between the Lines/Summer of Shakespeare)

I feel that often ‘pretentiousness’ is used as a deflective from further investigation, a shield from trying to actually explain what ‘Art House Films’ are attempting to say. Kyle Kallgren, while often commenting on the absurdity, is unafraid of immersing himself in obscure and purposefully bizarre topics. Kallgren began on Channel Awesome with comedic-centred recaps of Art House films, providing humorous reactions to their grotesque content, but transferred into a genuine attempt to explain why these films were created, and why they mean something. His Brows Held High examines the nominal highbrow movies, while Between the Lines gives a broader analysis of how topics in popular culture (from Washington D.C., to Superheroes, to Dictators) have mutated over film history, and his Summer of Shakespeare videos look at how Shakespeare has been adapted into the cinematic medium. In doing these videos, Kallgren provides incredibly rich insights, which encourage film audiences to venture into more obscure territory, and keep their sights set upwards.

Favourite Video : Brows Held High – Holy Motors: Man without a Movie Camera / Between the Lines – Inception and the Surreal / Summer of Shakespeare – Jean-Luc Godard’s King Lear: A Movie About No Thing

I am really cheating with these selections, but using an example from each of Kallgren’s shows hopefully demonstrates the range of insights and topics he can cover. His deconstruction of Holy Motors tackles an extremely difficult French Art House movies, picking apart not only the context behind the filmmaker, but how it relates the understanding of filmmaking itself.

Meanwhile his breakdown of Inception is one of the best I’ve ever seen, understanding the origin’s of Nolan’s film coming from other Surrealist movies, creating an instructive and strangely personal video that grants renewed appreciation for the movie.

Finally, the analysis of Godard’s King Lear takes a purposefully nonsensical film, and extrapolates both the likely intention from the famous auteur, and how it closely pertains to it’s original Shakespearian source.

1. Every Frame a Painting

Of everyone on the list, Tony Zhou is one of the most influential creators here. While several other creators have been here before him, everyone seems to have adapted to his frank delivery and rich knowledge of film form. It is this examination of form , how camera techniques or soundtracks or whatever are utilised that separates Zhou from a mere descriptor of a film’s themes, to a curator of how these themes are reinforced by the medium. By forcing his viewers to inspect not only what filmmakers do, but how they do it, and how the craft on a single scene can embody the skill used throughout their entire creation.

Favourite Video: Jackie Chan – How to do Action Comedy

Every Tony Zhou video is worth watching. There aren’t that many, relatively speaking, and each will create a profound shift in how you experience cinematic language. But personally, his tribute to Jackie Chan’s use of editing and composition demonstrates both his understanding of the form, and how Zhou is able to effectively communicate these ideas to the audience. Using multiple examples (and counter-examples), Zhou demonstrates how the efficiency of Jackie Chan’s action is not only in his personal skills, but how the film form bends to accommodate his techniques.

Did You Know?

  • Raindance Film Festival is considered one of the  top fifteen film festivals in the world ?
  • Raindance has a Higher Education programme offering  HND, BA and MA in Filmmaking and Screenwriting ?
  • Raindance members support indie film, and enjoy a  range of benefits
  • Let Raindance guide you on your filmmaking pathway. call +44 (0) 207 930 3412 or email [email protected]

best video essay channels reddit

Currently studying English at University of Edinburgh, Scotland. Have a passion and interest for vivisecting and reassembling all forms of media, from plays to films to comics. Also for using nice and fancy words like ‘vivisecting’.

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