I wouldn’t know the first thing about directing, writing or producing an actual film. Does that stop me from acting uppity in conversations with friends about movies? Not at all. I am incredibly prone to treating my loved ones like aliens when they tell me they’ve never seen Roma. I will not hesitate to launch into an endless monologue packed full of pretentious judgement at the mention of Quinton Tarantino’s name. You got me – I might be a bit of a movie snob. A closeted film bro, if you will.
However, I will give myself due credit. I’m usually not snobby about the movies you might expect one to be, and. I probably won’t fight tooth and nail to defend Fight Club. You’ll never catch me advocating for Starwars. I understand how revolutionary The Matrix was for the film industry, but movies like that do not need my advocacy. Skinny white male film majors with non-prescription spectacles and an “ironic” mo have that shift well and truly covered.
This is a list of movies that, for one reason or another, had a lasting impact on me after seeing them. Lots of them are just on this list because they’re movies that I like. I think that’s a valid reason to say that a film is good and forces my loved ones to watch them. Basically, if you and I were having a movie night, these are movies that I would say we should watch. Then I would promptly talk all the way through the film. Enjoy the list.
1. Romeo + Juliet (1996)
It’s not an uncommon opinion, but Baz Luhrmann’s rendition of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet is one of the most beautiful and clever film adaptations ever made. I don’t remember how old I was the first time I watched it – I was probably about 9 or 10, and I didn’t understand it even slightly, but I know I loved how it looked. The tacky 90’s surf-church-grime aesthetic blew my tiny confused mind. Particularly, the fish tank scene stuck in my brain to the point I wanted a fish tank wall in my room. I thought Claire Danes was the most beautiful girl on earth, and I wanted to look just like her when I grew up. As I got older, I understood the movie’s actual plot and cultural significance. I wasn’t at all upset when we had to study it in year 10 English, and arguably it’s a big part of my snobby annoying hyper fixation for Shakespeare at large. I also came to absolutely adore its soundtrack. Quindon Tarver’s version of “When Doves Cry” is one of the few reasons I’ll listen to music on Youtube.
2. Clueless (1995)
For my 9th birthday, my grandmother gifted me a caveman-Esque DVD, a hard copy of the 1995 classic teen rom-com, Clueless. I played that DVD until it was a handful of spinning dust. It’s hard to put my finger on why I love it so much. It’s definitely not the storyline, but the soundtrack is fantastic, the colour scheme is bright, and the sassy one-liners have had a much more substantial impact on me than they should. This movie is largely responsible for building my vocabulary. I re-watch this movie on my birthday every year. I recently learned that a character from New Girl shares this birthday tradition. I just want to say that I did not copy her.
3. Mistress America (2015)
Mistress America is a slightly unconventional coming-of-age comedy co-written by Greta Gerwig and her partner. Gerwig also co-stars in the film, and it’s a good thing she does because I’ve been obsessed with her work since I saw this movie. She went on to produce the latest re-imagination of Little Women and had an incredible body of work before that. My love for this movie is entirely rooted in its writing. Its script is unfathomably witty, insanely clever, fast-paced and cripplingly awkward. Most weirdly, I think it had a massive impact on the way that I write and the way that I view storytelling in general.
4. Kill Bill (2003)
This was the first Tarantino movie I watched. By memory, my Dad insisted I watch it, you know, for the sake of my enormous bank of pop-culture knowledge. I didn’t know how I’d feel about it – I was never a big fan of violence. But, naturally, I didn’t account for how incredible it is written, filmed and produced. I don’t love it for the gore, but I do love how it utilises cinematic techniques and storytelling in a truly inventive and exhaustive manner. Plus, of course, Uma Thurman is excellent.
5. Little Shop of Horrors (1987)
This is my favourite musical. I do not say that lightly. It’s ridiculous, historical and comforting. The whole thing is underpinned by questions of morality and silly jokes. It’s a horror jazz musical about a carnivorous plant, and it’s so stupid, in the absolute best way. The 1986 film adaptation is impressively produced and gloriously cast. I’m not sure it’s had a lasting impact on me in a meaningful way, but at a minimum, the “Dentist!” number pops into my head at least once daily.
6. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010)
This is a movie that I bring up way too much. I love when movies have silly little pop-up messages regarding the storyline. Again, this movie is just ridiculous and awkward and an asset to my pop-culture knowledge. The soundtrack always pops into my head; I reference it at least once a day. It’s packed full of satire and irony, which I love, and the cast gets more and more successful in their later careers as time goes on.
7. The Hunger Games (2012)
My mum didn’t want me to watch this as a spritely 11-year-old, and she didn’t like the idea of a bunch of children running around killing each other. At the time, I was up in arms about that perspective. The older I get, the more I understand why she was so disturbed by it. But, I read all the books, I had a huge love for every character, and I think it taught me a lot about the limitations of capitalism and dystopia as a genre.
8. James and the Giant Peach (1996)
I love all of Henry Selik’s work, and this was probably my first exposure to it. I love the storyline, the absurdity, the musical aspect, and of course, it taught me not to step on bugs because they have feelings too.
9. A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004)
This was probably my favourite movie growing up, and it also taught me a considerable amount of words I had no business knowing at that age. It’s hard to put my finger on exactly why I love it so much. It’s very sentimental; I love the characters, the storyline, the overall visual cues of the movie, and the lore associated with Lemony Snicket. Also, Meryl Streep is in it, and that’s enough to make me love any movie.
10. Stand By Me (1986)
Stand By Me is just one movie you must watch at some point. It’s a commentary on friendship, childhood curiosity and adventure. It’s got the beautiful old movie look and feel, and its lasting impact on storytelling is undeniable. We see ripples of this film through modern pieces of media like Stranger Things, and of course, Stand By Me by Ben E. King is a beautiful iconic song even if you don’t like the movie.
11. Fantasia (1940)
I had a small classical music phase when I was younger – partly due to learning to play the piano and seeing Fantasia for the first time. I wouldn’t recommend it if you don’t like classical music or have some particular love for Disney history, but I stand by it as an important movie for me.
12. My Girl (1991)
My sister and I watched this over and over growing up. Why did we feel the need to re-traumatise ourselves by watching Macaulay Culkin’s character die every time we watched it? I don’t know. But it’s a great movie. The soundtrack is legendary, and everything I said about Stand By Me applies to this movie too.
13. The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)
I love this movie for the same reasons I love Scott Pilgrim, but this one is a tad more solemn. It’s a huge comfort movie of mine, and I find that cinematography incredibly well-done, and it’s a beautiful movie visually. I think the soundtrack made me slightly less boring when I first saw it. Though admittedly, it did misrepresent the reality of adolescence for me, and I found myself a bit disappointed as a result. I do come back to watch this movie at least once a year.
14. Inside (2021)
I suppose Inside isn’t really a movie, so much as a weird semi-documentary musical comedy special made in Bo Burnham’s room. I wasn’t a big fan of Bo Burnham before he put this project out, and he’s not, particularly what I like about it. I love how rich it is as a piece of media, though. I could talk about it for hours. I have talked about it for hours, unfortunately for my friends and family. I like that it gave us all something to discuss during lockdown last year. Every time I watch it, I notice more about it. I think about it at least once a day because it’s a very easy avenue to talk about life after the pandemic.
“Yes, you do have to go watch all of these movies now.”