Films that defined us

All of us have particular movies we’ve seen, whether as an adult or child, that stay with us in a way others hadn’t before. They’re special experiences we hold onto, whether it was because you saw them with a close friend or the film connected with your life in a personal way. These are movies that define us, and we’re breaking down each by genre. Each week, one of our contributors will list their movie.


Action/Adventure: As a child, one of my favorite films was “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.” I was 10 years old in the summer of 1989, the prime age for Indiana Jones, and had seen the other two Indy films on Beta Max. But this was the first one I remember seeing and experiencing in the theater. It was magical. The theme song still gives me chills and gets my heart pumping for those thrilling action sequences. Harrison Ford owned this iconic role and Sean Connery was a wonderful compliment to a script full of mystery, suspense and action.

Science-fiction: This one was easy. I can still clearly remember going to see “Return of the Jedi” for my brother’s birthday party. It’s the only Star Wars film to be released in theaters (minus the rerelease and prequels) in my lifetime, so I had to choose this one. I can remember being captivated as Luke pulled off Vader’s mask as we all got a first look at the old man within. I was glued to the screen and hooked on Star Wars for life. I felt so much angst during the fight scenes between Luke and Vader and loved watching the ewoks battle storm troopers. It’s a movie memory that will always stay with me.

Drama: I’m a huge Stanley Kubrick fan, and I could easily put a Kubrick movie in here for every category, but that’s another list. But his epic war film “Paths of Glory” is not only one of the best dramas I’ve ever seen, but one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. It’s a masterpiece from its incredible performances by Kirk Douglas and Adolphe Menjou to the incredibly smart script and stunning visuals by Kubrick. One of the most epic shots is in the opening sequence of the camera panning, seemingly forever, through the trenches of a French platoon as bullets fly overhead, wounded soldiers weep, men vomit in their helmets and soldiers prepare for battle. This is a poignant film with a clear message delivered in a powerful fashion.

Horror: I can honestly say “The Exorcist” still scares the hell out of me — no pun intended. I was 8 years old when I saw this movie. My sister was babysitting me and she rented it not knowing what and how scary it really was. We grew up Catholic. My brother told me it was real, and when I asked my mother if it was she said, “Yes, honey, it is.” That only scared me more. I didn’t take a bath alone for months or go in the basement by myself for years. This is by far the most scared I’ve ever been by a movie. Gives me the willies just thinking about it.

Animation: I think the movie that taught me to love animation for its ability to tell stories that are wild, yet refined, focused and with a heart and imagination, was Walt Disney’s classic “Alice in Wonderland.” The story is wild and spontaneous, sometimes visually scary to a small child with wicked characters who are vicious and insane. It also had a great sense of humor, was visually a masterpiece, and wildly imaginative. I devoured the books after seeing the movies and to this day I’m still a big fan. This film showed me that animation could be more than just princesses and romantic songs and it shaped my taste in animation for life.

Comedy: I am serious, and stop calling me Shirley. I love a silly but smart sense of humor, and that’s just what you get in “Airplane.” It’s the kind of movie I own and have seen dozens of times, but no matter how many times I’ve seen it, I find something new to laugh at. It’s just loaded with silly humor, spoofs, one-liners, word play, zany characters and just ridiculous gags that makes me laugh until my stomach hurts. I saw this as a child, and I missed tons of jokes, but really loved the ones I understood. This is a classic camp comedy and has withstood the test of time.

Family/Children: There are a bunch of great kids movies, like “Back to the Future” or “The Goonies.” This was a tough choice, but for me “The Karate Kid” stands out above the rest because it had such a fantastic blend of action, comedy and at its heart, a meaningful, coming-of-age drama. I think I’ve seen this movie in the theater more than any other film. It seemed like my brother and I were going to see it every weekend. We would karate kick each other silly, wear kung-fu pajamas, and I even took a karate class. But as a film, I still watch this one on a regular basis and I take something new away from it with every viewing.


14 responses to “Films that defined us

  1. All of these picks are fantastic films.

  2. I love this! It’s so fun to read about other people’s picks! Can’t wait to read more installments of this segment!

  3. The Star Wars movies and John Cusack movies, like One Crazy Summer, Better Off Dead, etc, defined my childhood via HBO.
    Paths of Glory is one of my top ten films.
    Great psot, I would like to see more of this segment as well.

  4. Hey Erik,

    Thanks for the props. Paths of Glory is in my Top 10, too.

    Not all these movies are the best I’ve seen, but they’re ones that certainly shaped my taste. I think that’s the spirit of this feature. We’ll have one each Sunday, so keep reading!


  5. Great series. I’ll be watching for them.

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