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 the movies that defined them.
Comedy: I remember going to see Airplane! in Manhattan and being a couple of minutes late. It was a packed house and a friend and I had such a hard time finding seats because we could not stop laughing! I am a die hard lover of slapstick comedy and of the Three Stooges and Abbott and Costello, but back in the 80s, when cerebral comedy was ruled by Woody Allen and his ilk, this film was so damn refreshing. It is unapologetic farce. It never takes itself seriously and delivers gag joke after gag joke at a machine gun pace. Even if it flies against all rhyme and reason. I immediately loved it for that alone! A couple of my favorite scenes: The line of passengers waiting to deliver the hysterical lady her dose of violence. I love the adorable scene where the young girl tells the young little boy she likes her coffee black…like her men!
Horror: John Carpenter’s Halloween is my pick, but this was very hard because even though The Exorcist scared the crap out of me way more than Halloween ever did, Halloween managed to leave a long lasting impression on me. It struck a deep nerve in me that forever carved and shaped what I was to perceive as the horror genre. Similar to the inflection George A. Romero nearly perfected in Night of the Living Dead, Carpenter disrupts our daily, normal, routine lives by sticking a maniac into the mix — on Halloween no less. The evil that is outside is trying to get inside and in the form of an unassuming escaped maniac named Micheal Myers. Carpenter changed how I view cinema and the darkness that dwells out there. The genius of the music and camerawork is also worth noting.
Acton/Adventure: Jaws is my favorite film of all time. I am sure that the genre it’s in can be debated because it has elements of drama and horror. In the end, it is full of adventure and plenty of suspense and action. I saw this when I was 8 years old at a matinee with my mother, and once that music started during the Universal Pictures logo I was changed forever. This was a movie! Through and through. This is why I wanted to direct and write for the movies. A monster that lurked in the sea that ate unsuspecting people and forced the townspeople to close the beaches and have a constable, salty old fisherman and scientist go out and kill it? It gets no better than that! Jaws has great music, great believable portrayals throughout, realistic dialog and even a landlocked villain in the form of the Mayor. For me, though, the best part was that this sea monster really exists.
Science Fiction: I was so pissed that I got to the theater late and missed the opening scroll of The Empire Strikes Back on a winter night in 1983. I got there just in time to see Luke get swiped off his Tauntaun by that snow beast. But that was OK. I caught up with what I had missed. Many, many times after. I thought the first Star Wars had left an impression that would never go away but after Empire ended (even with me missing the opening) all that just flew out the window. Lucas set the bar extremely high with A New Hope, but blasted past that at warp speed with Empire. I was just thrilled that we were getting to know these character better. More of their likes and dislikes. More of their personalities and more action and suspense! We were introduced to Yoda and Lando who were and still are 2 of the best Star Wars characters around. It also boasts the best of the John Williams scores. What makes this a film that defined me was that it had, above all else, eye popping effects, emotion and drama, including best revelation in all sci-fi film history. And you all know what I’m talking about.