When Marc from Go, See, Talk! put out the call for people’s most influential films, I never asked the question as to whether they were supposed to be films that influenced filmmaking as an industry, or ones that influenced the way I approached the world… So I made my list with a 50-50 chance of doing it right, which are far better odds than any other time I do it. I know that Marc was originally looking for some distinction between genres, but I didn’t quite play it that way – the heart wants what it wants.
8. Stand By Me (1986)
“‘Have gun, will travel’ reads the card of a man. A knight without armour in a savage land…”
Genre: Coming of Age
When did I see it: Age 13
Another one from Stephen King, besides offering a group of young actors whose careers I could chart throughout my own life, it offered me my first glimpse at lifelong friendships and how it is exactly that dudes get along with other dudes. I guess it’s the first example of a film that actually socialized me. I suppose it’s odd considering that none of the characters in the film remained friends forever, but I guess I’m not really all that close with the guys I went to see the film with way back then… If I remember correctly, we had to get a stranger to get us into the movie ’cause we were all under 14 at the time. (Jeez! That’s 22 years ago!)
7. Fight Club (1999)
“The things you own, wind up owning you.”
Genre: Uh, Psycho-Thriller?
When did I see it: Age 25
I have no doubt that this one will be showing up on a lot of people’s lists, and with good reason. This movie is all about lifestyle, counterculture, and stripping away all the extraneous bits around you to reveal your true self… Ironically though, this was the movie that started out my life’s single greatest binge of consumerism. The DVD release of Fight Club was what got me off my duff to purchase a DVD player, and about 550 DVDs and blurays later I think I am primarily defined by my collection. It’s the thing that reminds me why I’m doing the whole Film Cynics thing: to make something constructive out of all of that…waste? It’s violent, funny, dark, sexy, thought provoking, and might even give you the urge to punch your best friend in the face. In short, it’s awesome.
6. Star Wars (1977)
“Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side.”
Genre: Science Fiction
When did I see it: Age 3
It doesn’t get much more obvious than this one – Star Wars shaped so much about who am and what I’m interested in without making me solely obsessed with the movie itself. Lightsabers, the Millennium Falcon, the Force, Yoda, Chewie… all these things that slip into my everyday conversations, even in University or at work. Because it draws on so many sources from so long before it came around, it has a timeless quality that will always outshine the travesty of the prequels.
5. Tron (1982)
“How are you going to run the universe if you can’t answer a few unsolvable problems?”
Genre: Science Fiction
When did I see it: Age 7
I’d like to think of myself as a pretty computer savvy kind of guy, and while the march of civilization has innevitably made us all technobrats, I think that Tron gave me a bit of a head start to stay just a little ahead of the curve – or more accurately, to make me want to stay ahead of the curve. What some of the younger folk might not know is that Tron was also one of the first films that had parents convinced that their kids playing video games was an investment in their future – that there was some kind of link between computer aptitude and the high score in Space Paranoids. Honeymoon’s been over for that one for a while now, I guess.
4. Time Bandits (1981)
“Do you want to be leader of this gang?”
” No, we agreed: No leader!”
“Right. So shut up and do as I say.”
When did I see it: Age 13
I saw this film on Laserdisc as a fairly young boy, and if I’m not mistaken it’s what made me see film as an artform. Of course, my revelation wasn’t so well formed back then, but I saw incredible sets, fantastic costumes and vaguely familiar actors. Here was a movie that made proper use of time travel: to actually travel through time to more than one time and place. It also gave me a solid introduction to David Rappaport, who I was later able to watch on TV in The Wizard. There was something so identifiable about the character of Kevin, his room was a “real” kids room, and not something manufactured by a set designer into what they think a kids room might look like. If I could hazard a guess, I think I also must have liked the final confrontation involving cowboys, a rocket ship, a tank and Roman legionnaires. If I can fault this movie one thing, it’s at the heart of my contorted relationship with Gilliam’s films and their progressive decline in quality. Why did he have to have such a strong start? (And why is the Criterion Collection release of this DVD so light on features?)
3. Say Anything (1989)
“The rain on my car is a baptism, the new me, Ice Man, Power Lloyd, my assault on the world begins now.”
Genre: Romantic Comedy
When did I see it: Age 16
Without a doubt, Say Anything shaped my entire approach to romance for my teen years. I’ve always been slightly behind Cameron Crowe’s age curve for being able to really identify with his characters, and I guess that’s offered me something to aspire to down the road instead of right away. Not sure if that was the best way to go, as Lloyd seems to be a bit of a dud to me in retrospect. But the principle of finding something you love and going for it, whatever it is, is universal – and timeless too. The Peter Gabriel serenade is an iconic scene that perhaps isn’t quite as timeless, I wouldn’t even know what the modern equivalent would be, and how you’d avoid getting arrested for doing it if you tried.
2. Jerry Maguire (1996)
“Everybody loves you. Pisses me off.”
Genre: Romantic Comedy
When did I see it: Age 22
I doubt I’m the only guy who was inspired to write a mission statement or manifesto after watching Tom Cruise “just flip out” in another Cameron Crowe film for which I was behind the age curve. But yeah, as soon as I was done watching Jerry Maguire, I spent 2 weeks crafting up my own little manifesto to try to list out the way I would ideally like to live my life. I couldn’t tell you for the life of me where the heck it is now. I wouldn’t say this movie was particularly groundbreaking in any way, other than being able to strike a chord with so many people – this movie is quotable in a way that no other Cameron Crowe film before it, or after.
1. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
“My best friend’s sister’s boyfriend’s brother’s girlfriend heard from this guy who knows this kid who’s going with the girl who saw Ferris pass out at 31 Flavors last night. I guess it’s pretty serious.”
When did I see it: Age 12
It’s my most cherished film-related philosophy: There are two kinds of people in this world, the one’s who love Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and those who love Risky Business. The slackers and the sharks. I subscribe to the former camp – when I first laid eyes on this movie, Ferris Bueller was who I wanted to be: a clever, popular kid, skirting authority and enjoying adventures across an urban landscape. I suppose my embracing of the Ferris philosophy has been what’s led to me sitting at a computer and writing about movies instead of actually writing them, but I would submit that thanks to Ferris I’ve made sure to stop and smell a rose at every turn. Now, if only I could find a Cameron Frye sidekick and sing in a parade and I’d be all set.