Films That Shaped Me

My love of film has over the years become a distinct part of me. Aspects of myself are derived from the lessons I’ve learnt from movies: the characters I’ve idolised and the stories I’ve devoured. My life has undoubtedly been impacted by popular media, something that I have no qualms about; who doesn’t want to be the hero that they see on the big screen?

Sharing your favourite film with someone, or a moment from a movie that took your breath away, encapsulating feelings you could never fully describe yourself with words, feels like sharing a piece of your soul. Here are five movies that I feel have impacted me the most – from enabling me to feel more myself than before to being a place of solace in darker times.

The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-2003). I’m starting out by cheating and talking about three films all at once: Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy. There’s no set of films that have had a greater impact on me personally. Primarily, due to my family’s utter devotion to them. The love for The Lord of the Rings in my family runs so deep that it may as well be carved into our bones. My entire life, stories of hobbits in The Shire and dragons hidden in mountains and heroes trekking across huge, unforgiving landscapes have acted as background noise to the comings and goings of my family home. The three films have become a constant comfort for us all, and landmarks from the series act as bookmarks for my younger childhood: going to the Warner Bros’ Rings exhibition in London; traipsing around trying to find a not sold-out showing of The Return of the King; the figurines of orcs and goblins that lined the bookshelves in our living room. Tolkien’s world is ingrained into my family’s own mythos, our shared love of hobbits, elves and wizards a cultural touchpoint that links us all. Anyone who’s encountered these works is aware of the stream of love, compassion and friendship that lies at the heart of them, but the fondness my own family holds for the trilogy creates a greater personal meaning for them that I will always cherish.

The Truman Show (1998) will perhaps always be my favourite film because it was the movie that inspired me to go into film studies. It follows the titular Truman Burbank, a man unknowingly living his life as the main character of a TV show, The Truman Show, with all his ‘friends’ and ‘family’ actually being played by actors. At the cusp of his thirtieth birthday, Truman, the only ‘true-man’, begins to realise that his life is not what it seems, and strives to break free of his TV prison. The Truman Show enthralled me in a way that no film ever had before. It was the first film that made me consider movies beyond simply being entertainment, and instead what they could tell us about the world around us and warn us of what the world may become. I began to see films in a whole different light, and fell quickly in love with them. Now, with a film joint-honours degree and a masters in film studies on the horizon, I can ultimately trace it all back to that first watch. The Truman Show never, in my opinion, gets enough of the credit it’s due, especially from Jim Carrey’s performance in the title role. Everyone needs to watch it immediately.

Charlie’s Angels (2000). Is McG’s early noughties chick-flick about three badass women kicking butt in scandalous outfits a cinematic masterpiece? Probably not. But I love it all the same. To say that the film had a chokehold on me in my mid-teens is a bit of an understatement. (I blame being a little bit in love with Lucy Liu.) It’s absolutely ridiculous but so much fun. I think I adore it because the three leading ladies are so feminine, and yet so badass at the same time. They don’t need to be masculinised in order to beat the bad guys, and they completely own their femininity. It’s girl-power without feeling forced; Diaz, Barrymore and Liu feel like they are genuinely friends and just there to have a good time. The costuming treads a thin line between objectification and self-empowerment, but to say that this film isn’t an instant self-esteem boost whenever I watch would be a lie. Give me a life as a confident ass-kicking detective with my two besties any day. 

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975). All I need to say about this iconic movie is that it’s ridiculously, unashamedly, gloriously camp, and I love it so much that I dressed as Dr Frank N Furter for my 20th birthday. Frankie 4 eva. 

Brokeback Mountain (2005). I feel like every young gay remembers where they were when they first saw Brokeback Mountain. When I first saw it, I was curled up in my first-year university room, desperately trying to get through my watchlist before term started. Brokeback Mountain was a film that I knew about (I feel like any queer film fan kind of has to know about it), but had just never gotten around to seeing. Gay representation in film for me up until that point started and ended with the ‘gay best friend’ stereotype, with films like GBF, Mean Girls and Burlesque. I’d never really encountered anything explicitly queer in film above easy comedies and campy musicals.

Suddenly Brokeback comes along, and it’s heart-wrenching, painful, passionate and real. Jack Twist and Ennis Del Mar love each other so much it hurts; faces crash together as they kiss, fists are bunched in shirts, punches are thrown. I’d never seen that intense kind of love on film before, let alone with a queer couple. It opened the door for me in terms of the possibilities of representation. I watched Brokeback at a turning point in terms of my own LGBTQ+ identity. I’d just come to university, and finally felt able to explore my sexuality. Ennis and Jack’s yearning for freedom, and the beauty of their love, really struck a chord with me. I know I’m not alone in these feelings and that many share my experience of Brokeback. It’s kind of beautiful that a lot of young queer people may be linked together by the fact they found Brokeback in a time of confusion and fear, and saw the beauty and passion of queer love for the first time. It’s a film that sticks with you for a long time, and I doubt it will ever leave me, nor would I want it to. 

Photo courtesy of Avel Chuklanov

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