This thing went around on Facebook a few weeks ago and I got nominated to for it. I had a think and I couldn’t be bothered to do it for ten days running. I wanted to have a proper think about it and come up with real answers, but I also didn’t want to overthink things and lose the spontaneity of it. That’s why this list has come out a little odd. Some of these are among my favourite films of all time; others are films that I will watch if I happen upon them while flicking channels but I don’t own them. One of them I’ve seen only once and honestly have no strong desire to see again. It’s an eclectic list, with entries from the 1930s all the way up to a couple of years ago. Here it is then: not my top ten films of all time; just ten films that had a big impact on me for one reason or another.
Dead Poets Society
I have to be very careful when flicking channels late at night. If I come upon certain films, I know I’m just going to sit there until they’re finished. Dead Poets Society is one of those. I first saw it when I was about 15: a rented copy from the local (non-chain) video shop. I was captivated by it then and still am today. It’s the film that made me first think about how great it would be to be a teacher. It’s the vision of what teaching is that I have always tried to model myself on: bringing students out of themselves, unlocking their love for learning. It also makes me cry every time at the end when they get up on their desks. That display of loyalty and love is sublime and works every time.
This was the first David Lynch film that I ever saw. I had watched Twin Peaks and thought that was it. When I found out that there was a whole other world to experience I was so happy. Blue Velvet is my favourite of all David Lynch’s films. I love the story, the colours, the camerawork, the music, everything. I hear the soundtrack every time I walk along a quiet street and I adore the idea of looking beneath the perfect surface of things to reveal what is rank and diseased at its heart.
12 Angry Men
hands down my favourite film of all time and it always will be, ever since my brother sat me down in front of it and said, “Watch this, you’ll like it.” I’ve written over a thousand words about why I love it so much for Taste of Cinema and you can read that here if you like. I won’t retread the ground I’ve already walked except to say that it is a masterpiece of tension and drama and it’s lived with me ever since I saw it.
Raiders of the Lost Ark
One from childhood. That love of action and adventure that is inspired by a simple story told brilliantly. It’s all action with a touch of the supernatural that makes this a wonderful, timeless classic. Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Paul Freeman and Ronald Lacey are all brilliant in their respective roles. The hat, the coat, the dead monkey, the fight with Pat Roach, everything about this film is seared into my memory and every action film I see I can’t help comparing it to.
I only saw this once, at the cinema. It’s inclusion here is the one that doesn’t quite fit. I liked it, don’t get me wrong. I have no desire to see it again anytime soon. I loved the ending when it (spoilers) turned out that the whole thing wasn’t a simulation and he really had wiped out the aliens. How did it have an impact on me? It gave me the final impetus to get on with writing my book. I was searching for a main character and somehow, out of this, Paul Armstrong was born. I also like the idea of someone being thrust into this voyage to outer space and having to take on adult responsibilities and deal with situations beyond his years. That’s how Paul came into being. The thing about Paul is that I didn’t want him to be special like Ender. I didn’t want him to have amazing abilities. I wanted him to be normal and have to rely on others to get things done. So, thanks Orson Scott Card and the film-makers for giving me the inspiration I needed.
The Adventures of Robin Hood
This was a childhood staple and I used to watch it all the time when I was young. I can recite the script pretty much by heart and it was something I could share with my family. Something we could all sit down and watch and enjoy together. The sword fight at the end is a classic but beyond that, it’s just a very warm, comfortable film. It reminds me of childhood, I suppose.
This was the first film I saw the cinema after returning from a period of travelling. My brother told me that I HAD to see this film, which I had heard absolutely nothing about since I was in the developing world for three months prior to its release. I was blown away by it. Not so much the whole ‘bullet time’ thing. That wasn’t the thing that got me. It was the idea behind it; that everything was a dream. I loved the concept that we were implanted into this fake world. It made me think and it’s always great when a story does that. Plus, the ability to learn anything just by downloading it into your head was very appealing. “I know kung fu.”
Inherit the Wind
This is such a great courtroom drama. This film had an impact on me because of the great arguments between Spencer Tracy and Fredric March. To hear the two of them thunder away at each other and their witnesses gave me all kinds of pointers about public speaking. I love the back and forth of it and how wonderfully written it is. Gene Kelly is the icing on the cake as the cynical reporter. I love the way that this film brings out the idea that religion and science don’t necessarily have to be in conflict with each other, as long as people on both sides of the argument are willing to budge just a little bit. I’ve always loved Spencer Tracy and this is my favourite of his roles.
This is a simple one. It had a big impact on me because I had such a crush on Kim Cattrall after seeing it as a 13 year old. She’s absolutely captivating in this film. If I was to deconstruct myself over this, I would probably have to be a bit worried about why the character of Emmy appeals to me so much. Is my idea partner one who is only alive when I am with her and turns to a lifeless piece of wood when I am not in her presence? Put that way, it seems a little weird but it’s a funny film and James Spader is hilarious in it with his slicked hair.
Last of the ten, this was another one that lived with me through childhood. I always thought it was about 8 hours long and the idea of sitting down and watching all of it in one go was completely unrealistic. However, I would find myself watching it a little bit at a time every morning before I went to school. I love this film and it’s soundtrack by Miklos Rozsa. Stephen Boyd makes a wonderful villain and its a film full of great moments from the chariot race to the crucifixion.
There you go. That was an eclectic list. I don’t know how many film lists have been written that feature Mannequin and Ben Hur but there you go.
Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed it, please check out some of my more ordered lists and articles below. You can find out more about me and my own writing project here. In the meantime, thanks so much for reading this.
All the best,