Awhile back I got “challenged” to one of those Facebook challenges. These are way better than You Tube challenges in that I don’t have to eat a loaf of bread (carbs much?) or a hot pepper, or cinnamon, or drink a gallon of milk (ew) or put tape on my face or dump any kind of liquid on my head. Facebook challenges are way easier, more cerebral. In this particular case someone asked me to name my to 15 most influential movies… which isn’t much of a challenge (I guess limiting the list to 15 can be a bit challenging) but this is more of a request really. Challenges should be feats of endurance, of strength… like in the old timey days, when one challenged another for things like honor, or some land.
“Good sir!! You shall not cross this bridge!”
“But I must cross this bridge!”
“Then sir, I shall challenge you for the right to cross this bridge!”
“Then so be it! What is your challenge?”
“I challenge you to list a food!”
“I thought that would be a bit more difficult… okay, well, you can cross the bridge I guess.”
So here we go: 15 most influential movies… but let’s face it… that’s not really what this is asking… it’s really asking what my 15 favorite movies are (which is kind of the same thing, but kind of different… for example: I’m currently co-writing a play about a spider/bear hybrid creature called the Tarantubear. I came up with the idea after watching movies like Octoshark, and Sharknado… which in this case were very influential films, but I wouldn’t call them my favorite films, and I really don’t want to put them on this list, and it’s my list anyway, so I’m gonna do what I want because that’s the way I roll sometimes).
Here we go… again: (and in no particular order because these are all my babies, and Sophie’s Choice did not make the list):
1) Jurassic Park- SWEET BABY JESUS I love dinosaurs… like love them. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve drawn dinosaurs, I’ve collected toy dinosaurs, I wanted to be a paleontologist when I was a kid. I literally dug holes in my back yard looking for dinosaur bones. My dad had to hide all the gardening hoes to keep me from ruining the grass. So, it’s no surprise that when Jurassic Park came out in 1994 I saw it like 23 times in the theater. TWENTY. THREE. TIMES. (maybe not that much). But between its original release in theaters, and it coming out on VHS, then DVD, then Blu-Ray (of which I had all 3), and it’s recent re-release in 3D no less in 2014, I probably have seen it well over 23 times. This is one of those quotable movies- and who wouldn’t want to quote Goldblum? This movie sits squarely in the middle of my pantheon of amazing movies. (Sometimes I like to forget that 2, and 3 exisited- except that 2 had a the T-Rex roaming around the city which was kind of cool, and 3 had William H. Macy in it which was also really cool).
2) ET- Because who doesn’t love intergalactic friendship? Here’s something interesting: I’m roughly the same age as Drew Barrymore (she’s one year older than me actually), so while I was supposed to relate to Elliot (and I did) I was far more fascinated with Gertie (Actually- that might be my old man brain playing tricks on me- cause immediately after ET she was in Firestarter, then a bunch of made for TV movies, and at some point I thought, “Oh, I kind of like this kid that’s my age!” and then she disappeared, and the next thing I know, she’s producing Charlie’s Angels, and I’ve lost interest). Sidenote aside: ET is awesome. It totally freaked me out as a kid. Seeing a pale ET half dead in a ditch scared the crap out of me, and I kind of wanted my house to be covered in a giant bubble after seeing that movie. Also flying bicycle is awesome- but only as a kid… if you were to tell me that I could ride a flying bicycle today I’d tell you to go to hell. As an adult, I’m not going to lie… ET saying goodbye to Elliot pulls on my hearstrings.
3) Superman- I’m not talking that weird stalker film starring the very underrated Brandon Routh from 2006, or that shit storm spectacle with the very ripped Henry Cavill from 2013, but the best Superman movie of all time… the 1978 version with the perfect Christopher Reeve. Fun fact: It’s the first movie my parents took me to see, and thus a comic nerd was born- or christened? Anyway… I don’t care that Margo Kidder went nuts and lost all her teeth, “You’ve got me? Who’s got you?” is one of the best lines of all of movie history… take that Rhett Butler. Superhero movies are all the rage these days, and some are absolutely fantastic (this isn’t the only one on my list)- but they all owe a great deal to the first “modern” day superhero movie.
4) Sneakers- I feel like this is a movie that gets forgotten about these days. This is a fucking fantastic movie. Let’s go down the list of actors: Robert Redford, Sir Ben Kingsley, Sidney Poitier Dan Ackroyd, River Phoenix, and David Strathairn. It’s an awesome spy, heist, comedy who-done-it movie. There are times when it seems like Redford is phoning it in- but it’s such a fun movie, who the hell cares? What’s really amazing about this movie is that it might be more relevant today that it was when it came out in 1992 (it’s basically about government agencies spying on other government agencies- sound familiar CIA?) Also, Dan Ackroyd plays a tech genius who likes to spout out crazy conspiracy theories… which makes me wonder if any of his lines were scripted, or if they just turned the camera on him and let him go.
5) Ghostbusters- I really feel like I don’t have to write anything about this movie. The cast is amazing. I do tend to wonder if the movie would have been the same had John Belushi not died (the part of Peter Venkman was originally written for Belushi), and rumor has it the roll was also offered to Michael Keaton and Chevy Chase (both turned it down). Also Winston Zeddemore was supposed to be played by Eddie Murphy (but he turned it down so he could do Beverly Hills Cop). All you need to know is that the movie came out in 1984, and people still sing the songs, and still go to Halloween parties as a Ghostbuster… and I did cover my eyes during the library scene when I first saw it in the theater.
6) The Muppet Movie- This is me we’re talking about, and if you know me, you knew this was going to be on the list. I’m not talking about the 2011 movie (which is the best Muppet movie since Jim Henson’s death) but the original 1979 Muppet Movie. Sure everyone knows The Rainbow Connection- and for good reason, but look up “I’m going to go back there someday.” The song Gonzo sings at the campfire… Dave Goelz (the voice of Gonzo) breaks your damn heart singing that song, and I think it’s the only other song that totally encapsulates the Muppet Movie and the Muppets perfectly… a bittersweet, touching, heartfelt song about finding your place in the world (no matter how strange you may be) and finding your friends to go along with your- all being sung by felt. Plus the Steve Martin and Carole Kane cameos are funny as hell.
7) The original Star Wars Trilogy- This is a bit of a cheat… because it’s three in one- but because I was a young boy when they all came out it was basically one long trip to the movie theater and to Toys R Us for me. Here’s what’s fantastic about growing up with the movies in the late 70s and early 80s- we got the cool Star Wars, the cool Indiana Jones, the cool Muppets, the cool Ghostbusters… it was a magical time, and Star Wars was at the center of it. It was like The Hunger Games but way better- and what’s more- these movies were actually very influential… sure George Lucas was cribbing from Joseph Campbell, and Homer, and all sorts of Mythology, but what the hell did I care? I was 8 at the time, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to go read the Power of Myth, or Edith Hamilton any time soon. All I knew was Darth Vader was a bad ass, Luke lost a hand, and Leia made it clear that I was a heterosexual.
8) Jaws- Spielberg is totally bogarting the list!! He certainly deserves it though. Let me say this… I’m terrified of the ocean. I dated a girl once who loved going on cruises, and while I would have gone on a cruise with her (eventually- if the whole thing hadn’t exploded into a fiery mess) I would have made her watch Jaws at least five times before going on said cruise… maybe as a passive aggressive attempt to get her to not go on a cruise. Jaws is scary as shit. It’s the first ever bonafide mega hit movie. It was so scary it affected tourism in beach towns. Seriously- look up The Jaws Effect. Modern day kids, you can have your Paranormal Activities and Purges all you want… you want to know how to make a real horror film, watch Jaws. (or maybe Psycho- but that didn’t make my list so…)
9) The Princess Bride- The Princess Bride always makes me think of The Pirate Movie (a “modern day” remake of The Pirates of Penzance- which also used a story within a story format… and I would constantly compare the two movies, until my mom let me know that The Princess Bride was a far better movie- and she was right). The Princess Bride is action packed and funny and endlessly quotable- plus Fred Savage. I feel like everyone wanted to be Westley, unless of course you wanted to be Inigo Montoya… who got the absolute best line. Who didn’t want to give Andre the Giant a big hug? Does anybody want a peanut? (to be fair I can also quote The Pirate Movie… how does the Pirate King have such big muscles? 202 push-ups a day).
10) Ferris Bueller’s Day off- I mean- who didn’t want a day off like that? I still imagine horns playing and a black dance troop clapping and stomping whenever I hear Twist and Shout. I was a little too young to get into the super popular teen coming of age stories of the 80s (Pretty in Pink, 16 Candles, the Breakfast Club) but Ferris was right up my alley (Though I remember thinking Jennifer Grey was cute- a suspicion that would be definitely confirmed when Dirty Dancing came out the year after Ferris Bueller’s Day Off). Looking back I’m sure I could glean some knowledge about living life to its fullest or some crap… all I knew at the time was Ferris Bueller was cool- and so was Matthew Broderick by default (even if he did make an awful Godzilla movie). Plus it was the first movie where I realized characters could break the forth wall. Mind blown.
11) Unforgiven- “You just shot an unarmed man!” “Well, he should have armed himself.” This movie is fantastic. It kinda sorta revived the western (I’m making that up- though Tombstone did come out a year later, so did Wyatt Earp). It reminded everyone why Clint Eastwood was a bad ass, and Gene Hackman got to talk yell a lot which is always cool. This is the movie that made me want to learn how to ride a horse… I never did learn, but the impetus was there.
12) The Avengers- Uma Thurman and Ralph Fiennes are so good together in this 1998 remake of the television classic… so good, that I really don’t remember seeing this movie at all, but rather wishing it were a movie about a movie about the combined forces of Captain America, Iron Man and a slew of other spandex clad heroes… and I’d only have to wait 14 years for that to happen. I remember sitting in the theater when the trailers for Marvel’s The Avengers first started showing- the trailer, and my heart would start to race a bit. Here’s what’s funny- at the time we were also getting trailers for The Hunger Games first movie, and the last part of the Twilight series Breaking Dawn. And I was sitting in the theater watching these trailers with my then at the time girlfriend and I would tease her about the teen fic movies, asking her if she needed a tissue after fan girling over the prospect of these movies… and then the Avengers trailer played, and I’ll be damned if a tear didn’t well up in my eye… just one, in the left eye (it’s the sensitive one). I’ve been reading comics since I was 10-years-old (roughly) so seeing the culmination of Marvel Studio’s grand movie project was a good quarter century in the making for me… it was a grand spectacle. Seeing Cap and Iron Man on screen at the same time changed my life.
13) Citizen Kane- Here is my one pretentious movie. There were others that I thought about putting on here: Dr. Strangelove, Annie Hall, Godfather pt II, all movies which I love… but if you’re going to put a critical darling on your list, go with the best. Honestly, I can only watch Citizen Kane- MAYBE once every five years or so… maybe… it’s long, it’s not very exciting in parts- but this film is most definitely a work of art. There are camera tricks in that movie that I don’t know how to pull off today… and that movie was made in 1941 (the slow push into the picture of the newspaper staff that comes to life- how did he do that?) and the way Wells plays with the lights and darks of the film- gorgeous. On top of all that, knowing that the film is about William Randolph Hearst- who went out of his way to ruin the film just adds a layer of awesome to the film. It made me think running a newspaper would be cool… I’m guessing it’s not so cool nowadays.
14) Waiting for Guffman- This movie made me laugh. Any of Christopher Guest’s movies could be on here- Best in Show is awesome, A Mighty Wind is great, and yes, This is Spinal Tap is hilarious- but Waiting for Guffman is the first Guest movie I saw in the theater- and so it’s the one that makes the list. This is the movie that convinced me I was going to marry Parker Posey (that didn’t happen).
15) The Lion King- The list has to end somewhere; and why not with the best Disney film of all time? (That isn’t a Pixar film). So maybe Disney cribbed the story from Kimba the White Lion- We’ve already established the George Lucas did the same thing. I love this movie. I love the songs, I love the humor; I love the suggested lion sex. It proves the Ferris Bueller is still a bad ass. It’s super emotional: if you’re not at least welling up when Simba realizes Mufasa is dead after being trampled by wildebeests then you may not be human… you might be part hyena. It’s basically the Shakespeare and Homer for kids… and it’s awesome.
So, there you have it. Challenge accepted and completed! What do I win? I thought about tossing in the original animated Transformers movie (1986) a movie I can quote in its entirety (it was Orson Wells final film: fun trivia fact). Or the original Die Hard, or T2, or The Rocketeer, or Better Off Dead, or Gross Pointe Blank (which introduced me to the concept of Shockabuku). And Maybe I do love watching the movies Twister, and Day After Tomorrow, 2012, and Independence Day (I love popcorn disaster movies). And though Woody Allen is probably a horrible human being, Annie Hall and Purple Rose of Cairo are really great movies. And I do love Wes Anderson movies… and holy hell His Girl Friday and Bringing Up Baby and Royal Wedding (all old musicals) are some really fine movies- but I didn’t put any of those movies on the list.
So there you have it. My list of 15 movies with commentary in a long boring blog post. I hope you all enjoyed it, now let’s all go get some pizza… Steve’s buying!