Ask anyone who is a serious cinephile what their favorite films of all time are, and you’d get an answer similar to “That’s impossible to narrow down.” It’s not that they are trying to get around answering the question. The truth is that it’s hard to pick and choose which films have made the most impact on your life, let alone classify them as favorites.
That said, Back to the Future will always be my number one —my first love— no matter what. It was the film that started my passion (and obsession) with film. Michael J. Fox‘s performance as Marty McFly led me to seek out more starring roles of his, which in turn led me to Family Ties.
I first stumbled across Family Ties while strolling through a HMV store, a now-defunct (at least in Canada) entertainment retailer chain. HMV and its “2 for” deals allowed me to build up quite the collection of films and television series. In thinking about it right now, I might owe being a cinephile more to Family Ties and HMV than I do to Back to the Future. Family Ties cemented my love of Michael J. Fox as an actor and the eighties as a time period I adored while HMV provided me with the outlet to find Fox starring and eighties films. Together, they were the perfect pair.
Yet, beyond Back to the Future, I’d be hard-pressed to come up with anymore films that managed to make a noticeable change in my life. In brainstorming how I was going to write this editorial, I kept finding myself connecting movies and movie experiences with specific memories. I realized that for me it wasn’t so much how movies had changed my life, but how my life had changed movies.
I will always remember seeing Marvel’s The Avengers in the theater and being absolutely blown away with what Feige and Marvel Studios had pulled off. But I’m also going to remember how my first girlfriend made out with my classmate at a party the night before.
For the rest of my life, every time I watch About Time I will recall how both my second and third girlfriends compared our relationship to Tim and Mary’s. Next time I binge Bates Motel, I’ll shake my head in disbelief that I suggested to my second girlfriend on our first date/hangout that we watch this show. I was absolutely mortified when I remembered that Norma Bates gets raped in the very first episode. Add that to me talking about Blazing Saddles later that night and bringing up the “ol number six” scene, I still wonder how I manged to land a second date with her.
The first (and so far only) time I saw Interstellar was at the movie theater in my second girlfriend’s hometown. I’ll remember how the back row’s armrests could be lifted up to create a cuddler’s paradise.
Being in that theater made me realize that it was the same place I had seen Lilo & Stitch as a kid, a memory that I had always struggled to figure out where I had actually seen it. However, I’ll never forget the movie theater where I first had DOTS candy, the same place where I saw Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
I waited for Jurassic World to start while staring in absolute shock at a picture of my friend’s new tattoo (a picture I continue to use as an icebreaker in a game of “what’s the worst tattoo and where would it be?”). I asked for my money back at a screening of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire because the theater owner had continued to let people in even though there were no more seats available.
Even if it’s only for a passing moment, these memories return to me whenever I pop the movie’s disc into the Blu-ray player. They are instances of how my life has changed and grown since I last watched the movie.
However, there is another side to how life can change a movie. When my third girlfriend broke up with me last year, I found myself searching for my life in the movies, desperately hoping they could provide me with the answers I couldn’t get in my real life.
At the same time, it felt like the movies I had watched with her during our relationship were suddenly deemed hazardous materials. I was scared to rewatch films I had seen for the first time with her, films that I had fallen in love with for their story or message, because I didn’t know how I would look at them now.
So I turned to some of my favorite movies and shows for guidance. I binged How I Met Your Mother and re-watched coming-of-age tales like The Breakfast Club and The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I took the life lessons they offered and reflected them against my life. And over time, I healed.
I watched (500) Days of Summer the other night for the first time and the last ten or so minutes really hit me. I wished my 2018 self would have watched this movie after the break-up because I think it would have helped him move on a lot quicker.
Earlier, I stated that no true cinephile can narrow down their favorite films, and that’s because different films come in and out of our lives at different times. I could watch a movie today and think nothing of it. But, I could watch that same movie again in five years, and connect with it on a whole ‘nother level.
Movies will always be a part of my life, and vice versa. I look forward to seeing which one makes a bigger change on the other in the future.
Since, after all, my future hasn’t been written yet. No one’s has. The future is whatever we make it. So make sure the next film you watch is a good one.
It might just change your life.