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Generations of Film: The Movies That Shaped Our Lives

3 April 21 words: LeftLion Screen Team

Films have the power to shape our identities and the way we see the world, as well as transporting us back to simpler times. We asked our screen section writers to each share three movies that left an impact on them at three different stages over the course of their lives...

Ashley Carter - Editor

Aguirre: The Wrath of God dir. Werner Herzog

Spartacus (1960)
When I was around six or seven, I used to sit with my Mum while she was ironing on a Sunday. Inevitably there’d be some large-scale classic film on, but the one that doubtlessly had the biggest effect on me was Spartacus. I don’t think I’d had any sort of interaction with the fascinating, alien world of Ancient Rome before, and to my young eyes it felt like finding El Dorado.

Once Were Warriors (1994)
My initial memories of Lee Tamahori’s brutal exploration of domestic violence within a Maori family came about a decade before I’d even seen the film. Growing up in New Zealand, I remember the fanfare that surrounded it’s release, and the film’s star, Temuera Morrison, would jog past our house every morning. It’s a tough watch, but a superb one. 

Aguirre: The Wrath of God (1972)
University was the first time that I’d been exposed to a world of cinema beyond Tarantino, Scorsese and I’m ashamed to say, Guy Ritchie. Aguirre felt like that bit in The Wizard of Oz where it transforms into colour. Werner Herzog’s insanity bled into every frame, and Klaus Kinski’s piercing blue eyes were as intriguing as they were terrifying. I was fortunate enough to meet Herzog a couple of years ago at Sheffield Documentary Festival, and I’m happy to report that he’s every bit as batshit in real life as you’d hope.

Jamie Morris - Screen Co-Editor

Godzilla dir. Ishiro Honda

Tarzan (1998)
I had quite the impressive collection of Disney VHS tapes as a kid, but few got rewound and rewatched as much as Tarzan. Its uplifting story, lush jungle setting and Phil Collins soundtrack put me in a trance with every viewing, and it remains an all-time favourite to this day.

Godzilla (1954)
A film that really broadened my horizons as I got older was Godzilla, which saw me venture into both pre-colour and foreign-language cinema simultaneously. I liked it enough as a teen to watch its thirty-something (and counting) sequels and reboots one after the other over a single summer.

Oldboy (2003)
Since then, stumbling upon Oldboy was probably the most impactful cinematic experience I’ve had to date. I watched it for the first time when it received a theatrical re-release in late 2019, and was left completely stunned by its macabre imagery and plot twist to end all plot twists.

George White - Screen Co-Editor

Monsters, Inc. dir. Pete Docter

Monsters, Inc. (2001)
This might not have been the first film I actually watched, but it is definitely the first to leave a mark. Pixar is a master of combining exciting family-friendly entertainment with utterly heartbreaking emotional beats, and Monsters, Inc. is one of its finest outings. The scene where Sulley says goodbye to Boo absolutely broke me. I still don’t think I’ve recovered… 

Lost in Translation (2003)
Before this I’d never really appreciated film as an art form. I mean, I’d fallen in love with Marvel movies - but as Scorsese says, they’re not really cinema… Just kidding, but this was the first film I’d really watched where there was no action or explosions, just a beautifully-told story about the need to feel like you belong. It’s a masterpiece I’ve revisited countless times since. 

Before Sunset (2004)
As lockdown forced me into a kind of Groundhog Day scenario, but without the joyful wit of Bill Murray one-liners, I’ve been relying on films as a means of travelling the world. Before Sunset, the shortest but most impactful of the Before trilogy, not only transported me to the glorious streets of Paris but threw me into one of the most intoxicating on-screen relationships of all time.

Hollie Anderson

Little Women dir. Greta Gerwig

Mary Poppins (1964)
Apparently, Mary Poppins was the first film that I ever labelled as a “favourite.” I would constantly play our taped copy until it drove my parents to despair. I can’t quite remember what made me love it so much – probably the cartoon penguins? 

Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)
Then, when I was a teen, my English Lit teacher played Glengarry Glen Ross for us. She re-enacted Alec Baldwin’s speeches and taught us about the failed American Dream. It’s a brilliant film that taught me to look at life more carefully (and, slightly more cynically).

Little Women (2019)
More recently, a film that has really stuck with me was Little Women. Not only does it have a pure and wholesome storyline, but it feels wonderfully festive, too. And despite the characters being very young and the plot being set in the 1860s, the feminist messages still hit home even now. 

Manvir Basi

Boyhood dir. Richard Linklater

Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
On the big screen, this film was a visual sensation like no other, as you rooted for Frodo to save Middle Earth. Yet, when the credits rolled, and you entered the humdrum of normal life, you were left feeling slightly at a loss. An experience that only cinema can deliver.

Raging Bull (1980)
Seeing Raging Bull at university blew my mind. Pietro Mascagni’s beautiful score combined with the black and white imagery turned it into an almost religious experience. Only later did I realise that this was the sense of awe one has when in the presence of great art.

Boyhood (2014)
Despite missing this film when it came out, this is a personal favourite of mine. Not only is it a time capsule of my generation growing up but it shows how through the medium of film, a personal story can transform itself into a universal story that everyone connects to.

Roshan Chandy

Taxi Driver dir. Martin Scorsese

Jurassic Park (1993)
As a dinosaur-loving child of the early 2000s, Jurassic Park was the film responsible for my love affair with cinema. I remember first watching it at the age of five in Bangkok and falling in love with the dino effects, the action, the spectacle. No one understands big-budget popcorn entertainment better than Steven Spielberg and Jurassic Park has heart and humour to boot. I especially love the water rippling when the T-Rex first attacks and the raptor kitchen stakeout. Scared me shitless as a child…

When Harry Met Sally (1989)
When Harry Met Sally was responsible for my first childhood crush in the magical Meg Ryan. Her girl-next-door charm is what keeps me coming back to Rob Reiner and Nora Ephron’s anti rom-com classic. I remember first watching it on a flight to India back in 2011. The fake orgasm scene in the diner is hilarious.

Taxi Driver (1976)
Anyone who’s felt like they don’t quite fit in and an outsider on society’s fringes will relate to Taxi Driver’s Travis Bickle. I identified with his social awkwardness around attractive women and his desire to be seen and heard by a society that has consistently rejected him. I also found the “you talkin’ to me?” mirror monologue to be the most iconic film scene of all time (really!)

Katie Green

The Sound of Music dir. Robert Wise

The Sound of Music (1965)
This film tells the story of Maria sent to look after the Von Trapp children, discovering they’re missing out on their childhood, due to their strict father. Maria introduces them to the beauty of music, and eventually finds love between her and the Captain, all during World War Two. A heart-warming family classic with a memorable soundtrack. 

Rocky (1976)
Rocky Balboa – or the Italian Stallion – is an amateur boxer looking for his big break. When he gets the offer to fight heavyweight champion Apollo Creed, it's an offer he can’t turn down. Meanwhile, he finds love with local shopgirl Adrian. A classic underdog story with a bit of romance sprinkled in it. 

Dirty Dancing (1987)
Teenager Baby Houseman ventures on holiday with her family to the Kellerman’s Resort. Whilst there she meets dance teacher Johnny Castle. Even though they may not get on at first, it’s dancing that brings them together, where they have the “time of their life”. A coming of age dance drama with a great soundtrack, a great cast, and an ultimate favourite of mine.

Thomas Griffiths

Fantasia: The Sorcerer's Apprentice dir. Paul Dukas

Fantasia (1940)
As a child I would repeatedly watch my VHS copy fascinated by the music and the animation. Looking at the film now I realise the scale of the project, perhaps Disney’s greatest experiment, this was far from being a film for children and probably why I remember it so well.

Forrest Gump (1994)
In my early teens I would see TV showings of a film called Forrest Gump. Intrigued, I decided I should watch and see what the fuss was about. I realised cinema is capable of combining music, editing, cinematography and acting to take you through multiple decades in just two hours.

The Red Shoes (1948)
Today, I continue to enjoy films that mix all the factors I fell for as a child and as a teenager, and no film does this on a scale like The Red Shoes. Featuring a twenty-minute ballet and a look into pressures of creativity, it has become my favourite film.

Joanna Hoyes

Pride & Prejudice dir. Joe Wright

Anastasia (1997)
I loved Anastasia as a child because she was different to other animated princesses; she seemed quirkier and less girly. As an adult, I’m very interested in the true origins of the story - the film is semi-based on the story of Tsar Nicholas II and his family. Plus, the songs are great! 

Pride & Prejudice (2005)
Everything about this film enchants me every time I re-watch it, from the love story to the cast to the score to the costume to the humour. I’m a big fan of Keira Knightley so her turn as Elizabeth Bennet is perhaps my favourite portrayal of a classical literary character. 

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (2009)
I watched this in the cinema with a group of school friends. There’s a scene where the camera pans across Dumbledore’s office just after Snape has killed him, it’s very tense and atmospheric and my friend Owen chose this moment to turn to me and whisper: "Why’s there a bowl of potatoes in Dumbledore’s office?"

Chris King

Forrest Gump dir. Robert Zemeckis

Back to the Future (1985)
The film that made me fall in love with the sci-fi genre and time-travel especially, Marty McFly’s accidental trip in time is the film that embodies my childhood. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen it with my dad and it will always remind me of simpler times.

Forrest Gump (1994)
Entering my teenage years, Forrest Gump was easily my favourite film. Tom Hanks is a true acting legend and Forrest is perhaps one of his all-time best performances. Combine that with the emotional rollercoaster he goes on, and you have one of the best films of all time.

Hot Fuzz (2007)
With the riggers of adult life now in full swing, sometimes I need a light-hearted comedy to cheer me up and Hot Fuzz never fails to do that. The best of the Cornetto trilogy, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are at their comedic best here. A murder-mystery that ends in a shoot-out with a cult in a idyllic English village—what’s not to love?

Alex Mace

Alien dir. Ridley Scott

Finding Nemo (2003)
Despite setting my course for megalohydrothalassophobia—a lot of letters to just say ‘scared of big things underwater’—it will forever be a place of childhood comfort. I’m not sure what resonated most, the gorgeous aquatic vistas, the familiar fear of losing a parent or Thomas Newman’s evergreen (blue?) score; whatever it was has earned a place in my memory. 

Transformers (2007)
Taste was never an issue when I was a teenager. I liked big robots, explosions and the odd swear word to make me feel rebellious so the debut instalment in the now mercilessly tiring Michael Bay-lien franchise kept 13-year-old Alex very happy. 

Alien (1979)
I’ll happily die on this hill and say that Ridley Scott’s Alien is one of the best films ever made. People may look upon it slightly out of favour for hatching the regrettable Aliens three and four but no amount of early 90’s CGI cringe can rob the original of its true majesty. Dark, eerie and legitimately horrific at times; they really don’t make ‘em like they used to.

Sebastian Mann

The Evil Dead dir. Sam Raimi

Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1992)
At eight years old, Terminator 2 blew my mind. The thrilling blend of action and cyberpunk terror gripped me in a way nothing ever had, and that brief glimmer of hope at the film’s climax moved me to tears. It remains my pick for the best action film ever made. 

The Evil Dead (1981)
Before Spider-Man, Sam Raimi made The Evil Dead, a super-low-budget horror flick with his brothers and friends. Their passion shows in every frame and while it may be far from technically perfect, it’s joyously gory fun with a fantastic central performance from the charismatic Bruce Campbell. You can’t go wrong. 

Badlands (1973)
Martin Sheen takes Sissy Spacek through a whirlwind of young love and infamy in Badlands, Terrence Malick’s meditative debut. It’s like a lyrical and dreamy Bonnie and Clyde, set in the 1950s but existing out of time. Badlands is Malick’s most straightforward film, but for me, it’s his most enchanting.

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