12 Films That Have Stayed With Me

On Facebook we tend to get tagged in different things. Luckily I have my settings set to not automatically post something if I’m tagged in it. It saves me the trouble of having to clear out my own page’s wall of free Oakley sunglasses, earn thousands of dollars shopping, or the never ending crowdfunding posts from actors and filmmakers I don’t even know. On occasion some cool posts from friends come along as in this case.

My friend Bob got tagged in a post to list the “12 films that stayed with you” which he in turn tagged me to do one as well. Any film list is always a joy and a hardship. Hardship because I tend to put way too much thought into it. One of the rules is not to put too much thought into it which I disobeyed immediately. When I say disobeyed I’m not being sardonic. I was tagged almost two weeks ago! I mentioned to Bob that I wanted to turn this into a blog post and he thought it was a great idea so he did the same which gave him the chance to expand on his picks. You can see his list over at his blog Constriction Pictures.

Another thing was you could not use two films from the same director twice. I also added an extra one for myself. I am not going to use any film that is among my top ten because otherwise I would just post those. While the films I am posting are favorites I am keeping my top ones out of this. I also will not re-use any film I already used in a previous blog post about films that stayed but in a more disturbing way. You can read that here.

So here are my picks for the 12 films that have stayed with me. They are listed in alphabetical order.

AKIRA (1988)

Akira

This film changed my view on what an animated film could be. I first saw this in the fall of 1992 having heard about it from some friends. Up to this point the only animation I had seen was any Disney kids film and the cartoons on TV. This was the first time I saw an R rated adult aimed animated film. It was an eye opener for many reasons. It was violent which shook me having not seen graphic violence animated before. It was complex (perhaps too complex). The animation was stunning. It had detail unlike any other animated film I had seen. What makes it more amazing, especially today, was that it was all hand drawn.

I couldn’t shake the film because it worked on so many levels for me. To this day it is my favorite animation film of any kind. And yes, the original English dub, despite it’s inaccuracies, is still my favorite.

BATTLE ROYALE (2000)

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An infamous film that is among one of the early films I really heard about on the internet, along with Cannibal Holocaust, as films that took on the “infamous” label and became films I had to see but couldn’t. At least not easily since neither had been released at the time in the U.S.

A film about a high school class sent to participate in the Battle Royale, a kill until there is only one left game, that is sanctioned by the government for one class to do every day. It is needless to say over the top violent and just as engrossing and exciting. This is hyper reality and done in the best way possible.

To say it is unlike anything I had seen before is an understatement and one that is just as incredible the 40th time I watch it as it was the first time. Having watched it recently I can say that with all sincerity. One that has stayed with me all of these years.

CREEPSHOW (1982)

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My love of Creepshow knows no bounds. I have often posted about how much this film means to me so I’ll keep this short. Having coming across the original comic book adaptation months before the film came out I was fascinated as it was, in many ways, also my first introduction to a horror comic. When the film came out I begged my dad to take me to see it and I was completely fascinated by how the film brought that comic I read a hundred times to life. I also watched the entire story of “The Crate” from the lobby window. I think it took several years before I could watch that story in full.

I was introduced to the genius of both Stephen King and, one of my idols, George A. Romero. It was also my first anthology film and I loved it because I felt each story was told perfectly. I never felt like, as is the case in some anthologies for me, that you’re waiting to get through some stories to get to a better one. Each of these is so entertaining and frightening. I was both traumatized and highly inspired (creatively of course) by it.

I’ve written so much about Creepshow over the years I fear I’ll ramble on and on about it so I’ll cut it short but it is no doubt a film that stayed with me and has to this very day.

THE DARK CRYSTAL (1982)

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Jim Henson‘s brilliant The Dark Crystal is, despite its current cult status, is still vastly underrated in my opinion. I saw this film as a kid in the theatre but I had a much different reaction than most. The film was heavily criticized at the time because how could the creator of The Muppets have made this dark fantasy film. I still remember some of the reactions in the crowded theatre from both parents and kids. Except for one. Me. I loved every last second of it.

Much like George Lucas, Jim Henson knew how to create a world. A living world in fact. That is what makes this film so incredible. There are things going on that you don’t even notice the first, second, or even third time you see it. His world and his characters have a life that exists outside of the 90 minute run time. My eyes were constantly filled with wonder and I was thrilled by the adventure we were on to restore the Dark Crystal.

The film is dark. I guess because I’ve always been drawn to “darker” movies even as a kid this never bothered me. If anything it made me love it immediately. I would watch it over and over everytime it was on TV and on home video plus revisiting it again at several theatrical showings over the years.

I’ve read that Jim Henson was hurt by the reaction and dismissal the film received. It hurt him more than anything else in his career. I don’t know if he lived long enough to know there are people who love the film and appreciate what he created. From the very first opening cue of that incredible score I have loved this film. Mr. Henson, wherever you may be, thank you.

THE FOG (1980)

Fog

This film not only stayed with me it introduced me to two things, VHS, and an idol of mine, John Carpenter. When we first got our VCR it was right before ABC premiered The Fog on TV. I recorded it making it the very first thing I ever recorded.

The story of a town overtaken by a fog with ghostly vengeful ghosts freaked me out. The opening scene alone with John Houseman telling the story by the campfire with Carpenter’s incredible music was enough to make me love this film. I watched it over and over and it marked the beginning of my home video life. It also made me realize that I needed to see more films from John Carpenter. Someone who would go on to inspire me like few others.

While my favorite John Carpenter film seems to evolve over time (currently Escape From New York holds that spot) I can’t deny my love for The Fog and everything it created for me.

HER (2013)

Her

The most recent of films on my list and also the most unexpected. I remember when the film came out and while it sounded intriguing it wasn’t something I ran out to see. Instead I caught it on cable one late night and it hit me unlike any film in quite some time and needless to say, it stayed with me.

Spike Jonze’s take on a love story is brilliant in that it uses a science fiction post modern premise, an artificial intelligence computer, as a way to showcase a very real take on relationships. Since it has this different take it actually opens up the viewer into accepting a story that if told straight with two regular characters might not be as engrossing. What does it mean to fall in love and how it affects who we are and what we bring to it from our past experiences? It is also a great way to show what it’s like to be in a long distance relationship when you don’t have that person sitting next to you but is just a voice.

The film is funny and touching and very honest and in the end one that I ended up watching every time I saw it was on. It really stayed with me and it made me reevaluate certain aspects of my life which is probably the biggest compliment I can give a film.

THE PERFECT WEAPON (1992)

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It’s no surprise that I love martial arts films of all shapes and sizes. So much so I studied martial arts while I was in high school. I found a place that taught Kickboxing and Kung Fu and Kali. During that time The Perfect Weapon came out and it changed more about me than I even noticed at the time. While the film is a fun action film it was one that really showed American Kenpo. There was something about it I became fascinated by and it opened my eyes to it and to the late Ed Parker. I asked my instructor at the time about it and he didn’t have much to say. Either from not knowing much himself or by dismissing it since it was not what he taught. I was just enthralled by the fast and explosive technique of it. I think it also spoke to me because it was very much a self defense and not a tournament based system which is what I was mainly being taught at the time.

When the film came out on video I watched it over and over and was both entertained by the film and fascinated by the techniques. Especially the opening scene which shows Jeff Speakman practicing a Kata, a series of moves together to form a long sequence.

20 years(!) later I finally sought a place that taught it and am now a Blue Belt working towards my Green. As I thought at the time, Kenpo is definitely for me. I love everything about it and it all began from a low budget action film I saw all those years ago. A film I love to this day. Also one I always watch right before I test for a new belt as a reminder of where it all began.

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My five belts (so far) in Kenpo.

RESERVOIR DOGS (1992)

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I was in my freshman year at film school when I first heard of Reservoir Dogs and a filmmaker named Quentin Tarantino. I went and saw a night show of Blade Runner¬† The Director’s Cut at a movie theatre that used to be by the school. I went on an evening after class. Before the film I saw a trailer for Reservoir Dogs and wondered what that was. It was unlike any of the other art house/foreign film melodrama trailers that were shown around it. When it opened I was unable to go despite wanting to badly since it played briefly and my school schedule by that point made going to the movies a hassle. One of my film teachers saw it and I asked him about it since I was dying to see it. He went on about the “useless violence” of the film and that the director was nothing but a sadist. The class went along with his assessment and opted not to see it. Me, already the film school outsider (a blog post for another time), wanted to see it all the more. When it came out on video I rented it right away and watched it. As soon as it ended I knew I had seen something special. I went the next day and bought the laserdisc and then proceeded to watch it over and over.

I told everyone I knew about the film but no one was interested. When True Romance was coming out I told people it’s written by the guy that wrote Reservoir Dogs. No one was interested. I went opening weekend to sit in a theatre with maybe seven other people there. I was just as impressed by his writing that I knew I had to follow this guy’s career. When Pulp Fiction was announced I told people how excited I was for it. “Oh right. You like that Taran … what’s his name? That guy. Whatever.” When Pulp Fiction came out of course we all know the rest. Then everyone I tried telling about him loved him. While I wasn’t alone in noticing the genius of Tarantino I sure felt alone. In the days before the internet I was definitely alone at a film school(!) for admiring this new filmmaker.

I loved this film from the opening Madonna speech to the closing cut to black. It stayed with me because it was exactly everything I wanted to see. Something I wasn’t getting anywhere else. A new filmmaker who had his own voice. It also helped that he was just a big movie geek and I no longer felt so alone.

 

REVENGE OF THE NINJA (1983)

Revenge Of The Ninja

My love of martial arts films is vast and it doesn’t take much for me to enjoy one. However, there are, what I would call, the epitome of each sub-genre. The ninja sub-genre of the martial arts genre belongs to the great Sho Kosugi and my favorite of his films is Revenge Of The Ninja.

I remember seeing the oversized VHS box of this at the video store as a kid and was mesmerized by the artwork on the cover. Luckily my parents were pretty open to renting me R rated films. So they rented it for me and I loved every part of it. I became so enthralled by ninjas and martial arts that I would rent this film all the time. It became one of those I would rent every other weekend it seemed. At one point I bought a wooden ninja sword and went around pretending to kill all of my friends in true ninja fashion. Much to their dismay.

To this day I love this film a ton. I was probably the most excited person in the world when it came out on Blu-ray last year.

 

STAND BY ME (1986)

Stand By Me Spanish

Stand By Me, based on the Stephen King story, is about four 12 year old boys. I saw this film when I was 12 years old. Needless to say it was quite an experience. While it takes place in a different decade than I was living there is still an honesty about where boys are at that age. It’s a real transformative age. While I never went looking for a dead body, well, not a real dead body, I felt like I was one of the characters. They were like my friends. Our conversations were more or less the same. At least in the general sense. The film’s honesty about the characters is what makes it so amazing.

A lot happened in my life when I was 12 and this film helped me deal with it in many ways. I also can’t watch the film without being emotional on some level by the end. It has stayed with me so much that it made me realize how much it was apart of my own 12 year old self. As much as anything that happened in my own life.

THE TERMINATOR (1984)

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I remember seeing the commercials for The Terminator and wanting to see it so badly but wasn’t able to until it came out on video. While it seemed like a cool science fiction film what I wasn’t ready for was just how amazing it really is. While it was a low budget film it never came across that way. It told its story with a vengeance. The young movie me who had an affinity for low budget filmmaking was fascinated how this film was made. I took notice of the then unknown director, James Cameron.

I loved his story telling and how he knew the “tricks” of directing to get around not having tons of money. Ironic since he’s gone on to make some of the most expensive films ever made. Though I still argue he’s one of the few that puts every cent on the screen. It was a clear instance of loving the film and the process all at once.

This film not only opened my eyes to James Cameron but really helped mold who I would become. Striving to make films that go beyond their budget limitations. It led to me pulling off a simple effect in a student film that made everyone in the class especially the teacher ask me how I did it. I learned from the best.

ZOMBIE (1979)

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My fascination with movies has been there for as long as I can remember. So many aspects sparked my curiosity. Some of them weren’t just me wondering how a film was made (knowledge of which was hard to come by in the years before the internet) but also what a film that almost seemed taboo was actually about. While my parents were pretty open to renting me R rated movies they were skeptical if it seemed like it would be too much. A few films I would have to wait until I was a little older but that didn’t stop me from obsessing over the VHS box at the video store. One of those films was Lucio Fulci’s Zombie.

The box cover featured the same image of the rotting corpse that is used on the one sheet (pictured above). Being one of the Wizard Video big boxes it stood out all the more on the video store shelf. I would stare at it for the longest time. When no one was looking I would pick it up and glance at the back. There was a sense that some movies I just shouldn’t watch until I was older so they had a certain taboo about them. I would always wonder, “What is THAT film about?”

Finally the day came when I rented it and it was everything I had hoped it would be. Scary zombies, topless women (I was a teenage boy by this point), tons of gore, and a great atmosphere of dread. Plus it has the infamous scene of a zombie attacking a shark. It was also one of my early introductions to Italian horror films.

To this day it is one of my favorite horror films as it is one of the ones that actually matched my young imagination on what a film called Zombie could actually be. And it was.

 

 

So there are my 12 picks. Ask me tomorrow and half of these might be different but these are no doubt films that have stayed with me.

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