It is difficult for anyone to list their “top five” for virtually anything, but it is even more difficult when it comes to films. New films are always being written, we are always seeing new releases, watching old films we’ve never seen, and even re-watching our favorites with a new perspective or point of view. Film is such a fluid art form; our love for one film can change as quickly as we experience change in our own lives. This is all a rather poetic way of me saying that my top five films likely would not be the same tomorrow, or the day after, or the day after. It is impossible for me to choose five that will be my favorite for the rest of my life. So, instead, I have decided to list the five films I think influenced who I am the most, the films that make me wonder who I would be without them.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
(J.J. Abrams, 2015)
I would be remiss if I didn’t start here. Star Wars has been a huge part of my life since I was born. I grew up watching the movies, dressing as the characters, playing with the toys and action figures, and even writing my own Star Wars stories. When I saw The Force Awakens in theaters (opening night, no less), I felt something incredibly magical. It was the first Star Wars film I had seen in the theater, having been too young when the prequels came out, and it meant so much more to me than words can even capture. I remember cheering when the movie began and how amazing it was to see my heroes on the big screen, as well as meet new ones. Re-watching it now still makes me feel the way I did then. It takes me back to that time of excitement and brings me so much joy. This is the new generation of Star Wars, this is my generation.
Raiders of the Lost Ark
(Steven Spielberg, 1981)
It makes sense that this film would come next. I must note this serves as a stand in for the entirety of the Indiana Jones trilogy––if my top five list could just be Indiana Jones, well, I’d be okay with that. Raiders of the Lost Ark is arguably Spielberg at his best: well-written, well-directed, and incredibly well cast. If I had to choose one movie to show everyone I know as a means to get to know me, Raiders would certainly be it. So much of my childhood, my creativity, and my love for film comes from this franchise. I cannot even begin to imagine my life without it. To me, this film has everything that films should have: adventure, intrigue, romance, and, of course, punching Nazis.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
(John Hughes, 1986)
Easily the most comedic out of all five of these films, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is my comfort film to end all comfort films. Wherever I am in life, there is always something to be gained by watching Ferris Bueller. It always makes me laugh, and sometimes it even makes me cry—the art museum scene never fails to choke me up at least a little. I think everyone can see some aspect of themselves on-screen when watching this. We all want to be Ferris, yet we all have a little bit of Cameron in us, too. This film always comes hand in hand with a certain kind of hopefulness and appreciation for the simple things in life that I always love.
(Greta Gerwig, 2017)
If I had to choose one coming of age film to define me, it would be Lady Bird. Everyone has their own experiences, their own hopes, their own dreams, yet there is something so universal about growing up during this time period that Lady Bird manages to capture. Christine, or Lady Bird, has an intensity to her emotions that every teenager can relate to. Each character with which she interacts in this film tells their own story, and it is not difficult to find parallels to your own life. Greta Gerwig truly captured the universality of youth with her genuine depiction of teens and growing up. I recall watching this a few weeks before I left for college, and it left a lasting realization that I was in fact growing up—I don’t know if I’ve ever cried as hard at a film as I did that evening.
Inside Llewyn Davis
(Joel & Ethan Coen, 2013)
What is there to say about this film that I haven’t already said? This is, without a doubt, the film that made me want to pursue film. Inside Llewyn Davis is such an intimate character piece, albeit one that can feel hopeless at times. The soundtrack is absolutely a factor in this film’s significance; it wouldn’t be the same without the melancholic folk music that accompanies it. It moves as slow as it needs to and employs music as its storyteller. With every re-watch, it leaves a lasting impression upon me.