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A Personal Insight: The films that shaped me


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Film as a medium is extremely important when growing up. Whether you're introduced to it on your own, by parents or siblings, the films you watch can have a distinct impact on your personality and viewpoint of the world. It certainly did for me, in more ways than one. 

Thanks to my avid film-watcher parents, I was introduced to film at an extremely young age. Since then -and many Saturday film nights - I've been exposed to a plethora of films. So much so that said exposure wildly changed my aspiring, future career path from veterinarian to wanting to create, or write about, film. 

Below are ten films that made me, well, me. Believe me, I could've listed a hundred or so. 


The Lion King (1994)

As a kid, I was lucky to have grown up around the Disney animation renaissance. What started with The Little Mermaid in 1989 continued into the 90s and early 2000s with films like Beauty and the Beast (1991), Aladdin (1992), Pocahontas (1995), Hercules (1997) and Mulan (1998). I was born in '96, but my parents - and grandparents - has amassed a large collection of Disney VHS's for cousins (and themselves), meaning I was eventually given an abundance of films to obsess over. One of these, of course, was The Lion King.

You may think I'm over-exaggerating when I say that I nearly wore my tape of The Lion King out, but my parents would exasperatedly tell you of the days when I would sit in front of the television, watch the film, rewind, and repeat. I loved it. The animation mesmerized me, I adored the songs and characters and I just couldn't leave the film alone. 

Disney has been an avid love of mine since I can remember, and my love surrounding The Lion King is the first significant memory I have of that. 


Pokemon: The First Movie (1999)

Who else can say that they are three weeks older than the Pokemon franchise? A lot of people, probably. But being an avid fan of a franchise that has been with you since you could comprehend what it was is an extremely special attachment, and one that I have yet to grow out of. There have been lulls in my appreciation for the games, but it's always been there, in some shape or form. 

1999 though, oh boy. That was the year I was drowned in the video games, cards, merchandise, and anime. And what could be better than the release of the first movie on a yellow (yes, yellow) VHS tape that came with an exclusive Mewtwo card (that I proudly still own, along with the tape)?

I can distinctly remember a string of previews on the UK VHS tape that would play demos of games in the franchise for GameBoy and the N64. Because I didn't have an N64, I would pretend to hold a controller and play along with the demos.

I have so much nostalgia surrounding early Pokemon and that VHS. I'm glad I kept hold of the video and can watch it via an old video player we kept for my sake. Gotta love my parents for keeping hold of things we do not need anymore. 


Twister (1996)

There were a lot of films that had an impact on me growing up, and it's annoying that I cannot remember how or where I came across them. More often than not, I guess they happened to be on television. 

Twister was one of those films. Often lauded for the questionable acting of Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt, and over-the-top narrative, I was in absolute awe of the film. It was the pinnacle disaster film of the nineties and gave the world a perspective of a tornado's potential impact that hadn't been captured on film before due to limitations; limitations that were lifted thanks to the booming CGI industry. 

My fascination with tornadoes and weather phenomena as an adult definitely ties back to my first encounter with Twister, and I wouldn't have it any other way. 


Back to the Future (1985)

What I refer to as the catalyst of my love of film, Back to the Future absolutely floored me as a kid. I can't remember how I watched it, but I do remember that afterward, I knew that I wanted to do something that involved watching, making or writing about films. Fast-forward to the summer of 2017, and I would have graduated Film Studies at University, all thanks to a 1985 film about time travel. 

Back to the Future is just one of those films that tick all the boxes. The pacing is perfect, the characters are developed enough that you care about them but do not have an extensive backstory to dwell on, and the film overall was completely unique for its time. 

It's a rare feat when a film that you've watched multiple times can still have you questioning the narrative, i.e. the pinnacle sequence of Marty getting back to the future, and that slight nagging feeling in the back of my brain that always believes it's not going to work, even though I know it does.

That's Hollywood magic. 


Jurassic Park (1993)

E.T. may have been my first Spielberg experience, but Jurassic Park was the film that made Spielberg my favourite director. 

I've often, as a kid, wondered why Jurassic Park was such a good movie. Maybe it was nostalgia, maybe it was my love of dinosaurs; there had to be something within the film that made it so special, and not just how I personally reacted to it. Living in today's climate of over-saturated 'monster movies', it's easy to see what Spielberg did right with Jurassic Park, and what the recent sequels - and other monster flicks - have been doing wrong. 

The dinosaurs/monsters aren't central to the narrative; it's the people. The questions they pose and the development and journey they embark on is what makes the narrative of Jurassic Park so endearing, along with a tension surrounding the situations they are placed in and the decisions they make. Jurassic Park is an insanely intelligent film, appealing to both adults and kids without feeling forced. 

It has an aura of wonder and raises philosophical questions that attract and cater to both demographics with ease and is just, well, damn perfect. 

And, of course, a shirtless Jeff Goldblum kinda seals the deal. 


The Matrix (1999)

I went through many phases in my childhood of wanting to emulate fictional characters on-screen, and Neo was the ultimate hero. There were many days where I'd glide through the house in sunglasses pretending to rebel against the machines with ease, imagining that I could actually jump-flip around instead of only being able to do a pathetic handstand here and there. 

I may have been young, but The Matrix made such an impression on me growing up, especially when it came to studying film. It was the first time I'd appreciated the use of colour palettes and cinematography, whilst (obviously) fawning over Keanu Reeves. 

And much to my Dad's behest, the soundtrack introduced me to industrial rock, a genre that I would fall deeply in love with in my teen years, a love that is still going strong now. It's your fault, Dad. Don't blame me. 


Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)

A questionable choice of film to be watching at a young age (then again, so was The Matrix), but my parents sure knew how to start me and my brother off young. We're both as obsessed with over-the-top violence, bloodlust and gore as any Tarantino film fan.

I'm glad that we were exposed to it at a young age under the guise that it was 'make believe'. There's no doubt that we'd have a weird complex with horror if it weren't for that. 

The female characters of Kill Bill - namely The Bride (Uma Thurman) and O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu) - were important role models for me growing up. Through them I saw how badass and confident a woman can be, and how effortlessly they're able to control a room and handle themselves with complete efficiency, power, and prowess. 


Speed (1994)

Forgetting that a sequel was ever made, Speed is a damn-near perfect 90s action film and it needs to be talked about more. 

Obviously, my Dad showed me Speed on one of our legendary Saturday film nights as a family. It's non-stop, the exhilarating action probably had me hanging off my parents in fear and excitement - especially when it came to the decapitation of Dennis Hopper on top of a subway train which I can distinctly (and horrifically) remember. 

With its superbly simple premise and stellar casting choices, Speed is one of those films that whenever it's on television, I have to watch it again and again. It hits all the right boxes, keeps you nearly falling off your seat, doesn't rely heavily on special effects and has you - or at least me - swooning over Keanu Reeves.


The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

A collective effort on my parents' part, The Silence of the Lambs was introduced to me without prior knowledge as to what the film was about - other than through my Dad's embarrassingly hilarious impressions of Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) throughout my childhood. 

If I'd known this film relied heavily on the FBI and behavioural science, I would have been all over it sooner than I was. The Silence of the Lambs has such an impact on me in rekindling my love of forensic/ behavioural science, and how the FBI investigates and handles subjects such as the fictional Lecter and Buffalo Bill (Ted Lavine). 

The cinematography of the film has always stood out to me also, but it was only on a recent viewing that I was blown away by Tak Fujimoto's close-ups in certain scenes where Clarice (Jodie Foster) would converse with either her superior or the two serial killers.

They all look directly at the camera. I haven't seen this done so expertly - and distressingly - than in this film; just thinking about it makes my skin crawl. 


Die Hard (1998)

Oh, where do I even start with Die Hard. If you've seen Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Jake Peralta and I share a similar, slight obsession with the film in question. 

I can't even describe my love for this film without going off on a tangent, so I'll keep it short and sweet. It has a perfect pace, perfect characters, a perfect setting ... you get t the idea. And this wasn't a film I'd been introduced to in my formative years, oh no. I only saw the film a year ago, and I watched it way too many times since. 

My recent love for Bruce Willis due to a Moonlighting binge (thanks, Mum), and my first viewing of The Fifth Element (thanks, uni), Die Hard was obviously the next logical thing to watch. 

In the wise words of John McClane, 'Yippi-ki-yay, motherf**er.'


Rebel Without a Cause (1955)

Ending on a classic, Rebel Without a Cause is a timeless piece of cinema that everyone needs to have seen once in their lives. 

I've always had an infatuation with James Dean. One where I'd never seen any of his films, only through seeing iconic photos of him from his short-lived career in the 50s and his now world-renowned icon status. Rebel Without a Cause seemed the most logical in what film of his to watch first (there are only three), and it quickly became one of my cherished favourites. 

Its overarching theme of isolation and confusion amongst teens and adults is overpowering and emotionally draining, yet it still has a strange sense of innocence to the narrative that carries the film off on an incredible journey, that in turn makes it completely timeless.


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