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What is a good word for “best example”? I would like to describe a film as the greatest example of its features.

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the "canonical example"? –  barrycarter Jan 21 '13 at 4:45

7 Answers 7

I would suggest epitome.

(the epitome of) a person or thing that is a perfect example of a particular quality or type: she looked the epitome of elegance and good taste

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How about Exemplar 1 (if you need a noun)

a person or thing serving as a typical example or appropriate model: the place is an exemplar of multicultural Britain

Or Exemplary 2 if adjective

serving as a desirable model; very good: exemplary behaviour

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Besides epitome, you might also want to consider,

  • Ultimate: 2 being the best or most extreme example of its kind: the ultimate accolade
  • Quintessence: 1 the most perfect or typical example of a quality or class: he was the quintessence of political professionalism
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I think 'quintessential' is the form they're looking for. –  Jim Jan 21 '13 at 4:24

Dictionary.com defines paragon as

a model or pattern of excellence or of a particular excellence: a paragon of virtue.

EDIT: Current usage of paragon in the context of films:


...leading as it does to the most famous movie scene of all time, is held up as a paragon for subsequent generations of aspiring screenwriters...

Black Swan: (blog title) "Dramatic Film Paragon."

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Here are 5880 references to the archetypal zombie movie, for example.

archetype: the original pattern or model of which all things of the same type are representations or copies : prototype; also : a perfect example.

Alternatives such pre-eminent, paragon, epitome, and even exemplar almost always have strong positive connotations. They don't work for a good example of something bad, such as an archetypal serial killer.

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That would be more to do with it setting a pattern. You couldn't say "28 days later" was an archetypal zombie movie, since the genre was so well-established already (you might argue it's the archetypal "fast-zombie" movie). Conversely, you couldn't argue "I Walked with a Zombie" was an archetypal zombie movie, as while it was very early, and a great film (personally my favourite zombie movie) the genre didn't follow it at all (indeed, it says something that it's my favourite - I don't like zombie movies). "Night of the Living Dead" on the other hand is a candidate because it was so-copied. –  Jon Hanna Jan 21 '13 at 3:17
@Jon Hanna: You can certainly produce an archetypal xxxx long after the first xxxx's were made. I'm sure lots of movie directors have set out to produce, for example, the archetypal western movie, but obviously for most of them the genre had been long-established before they made their attempt. Unforgiven is an archetypal western to my mind. –  FumbleFingers Jan 21 '13 at 3:30
What followed it, that made it an archetype? For that matter, "Citizen Kane", "Seventh Seal" and Derek Jarman's "Blue" are all great films I would say were not archetypal because nothing could ever copy them (though some performances and scenes in the first two where archetypal). Their very greatness is counter to their ever being archetypal. –  Jon Hanna Jan 21 '13 at 3:37
@Jon Hanna: You're ignoring M-W's alternate definition, a perfect example, which I'm perfectly comfortable with in modern casual conversation. The closely-related pattern, model sense isn't the only one people use, regardless of whether you think they should. –  FumbleFingers Jan 21 '13 at 3:49
@Jon Hanna: I'm not trying to persuade you to change the way you use the word. Just to accept that in practice lots of people use it in a way that's more synonymous with, say, quintessential than with ancestral, prototypical. –  FumbleFingers Jan 21 '13 at 15:59

"Par excellence". Usually placed after, rather than before the category you are claiming it is the best of, as per its original French use:

Pretty Village, Pretty Flame is the gritty war-movie par excellence.

It's a "still foreign-enough" loan-word that many people would italicise it in use.

Pre-eminent might also serve, though it more reflects how a film is seen, and its standing, so if you disagree with the general public, or the film you are going to describe is under-rated in your view, then it won't work:

Cross of Iron is the pre-eminent gritty war-movie.

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"A is the quintessential example of B."

quintessential - adjective

representing the most perfect or typical example of a quality or class: he was the quintessential tough guy—strong, silent, and self-contained

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It's very helpful to our community if you can edit your answer to include the definition for your word. Thanks! –  Kristina Lopez Jan 21 '13 at 19:18
@KristinaLopez: Sure thing. I've edited my response. –  Jordan McQueen Jan 21 '13 at 19:34

protected by RegDwigнt Jan 21 '13 at 13:05

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