ByAlisha Grauso, writer at
Editor-at-large here at Movie Pilot. Nerd out with me on Twitter, comrades: @alishagrauso
Alisha Grauso

For our Movie Pilot Fanzine: First Timers, we dove into that feeling of watching a life-changing movie for the first time. Whether it became part of our childhood memories, blew our minds as teenagers, or influenced us as adults, we all have a story about a movie that inspired us.

We asked some of our Creators to share their movie memories. Here are their stories.

Douglas Fenoff - The Little Mermaid (1989)

I was five years old and my mother had just brought home a VHS copy of Disney's The Little Mermaid. As a boy, you know, we're typically led away from princess movies in general, but this was different. As I sat there, my brother and sister beside me, I - breaking with the two of them - could not divert my eyes from the screen. For me, there was this immediate and symbolic connection between myself and Ariel. We both wanted things we couldn't have, dreamed of another life that seemed so far out of reach, we both felt we belonged somewhere other than where fate had deemed us to be.

When she sang, the pain in her voice even before she meets Eric, resonated volumes about just how badly she felt her home was not among her sisters and father. I remember during the scene in which she sits defeated on the pier as Prince Eric sails off with Ursula in disguise, the utter disappointment of having worked so hard for a dream that seemed irrevocably shattered became all too familiar for me. I remember crying alongside her because I knew what it felt like to be broken to pieces by someone you truly loved. But, alas, in the end - through hardship and courage - she got her wish, she found the place where she belonged.

It was here that I really think Disney was bringing forth this social message to children that you can do what you dream, you can achieve the seemingly impossible, and you can be happy. That’s definitely the first time a movie made me truly feel something, like maybe I was destined to do the same.

Matt Creamer - Toy Story 3 (2010)

I'm going to have to go with seeing Toy Story 3 in theaters for the first time. I fondly remember being in that theater shedding a tear for my boy Andy when he makes the ultimate decision to pass down his toys to a little girl who falls in love with them. It made me feel the same way when I said goodbye to the many toys that I owned and played with as a child. I grew up with the character of Andy and I, too, was going to college the same time he was, so it resonated. I will always remember Toy Story 3 for that very final moment.

Franco Gucci - Back to the Future Part II (1989)

It’s not always easy to have an open mind when watching a movie for the first time. Thanks to the thousands of trailers and details released for almost every upcoming film, we have, whether we want to or not, preconceived notions about them.

This is why I cherish being blown away when watching Back to the Future Part II for the first time even more. Five years ago, my introduction to the incredible time-traveling franchise was through the first Back to the Future, and while the movie made my jaw drop quite a few times, the second installment completely stole my heart.

Back to the Future Part II accomplished something that few films are able to do: It made its world feel welcoming. In particular, movies need to get audiences to fall in love with their characters because the characters are the ones getting you through the movie and connecting you to the story. Therefore, a compelling character should make you tear up whenever they’re sad, laugh when snarky comments are thrown and cheer when they accomplish their goals and saying Back to the Future Part II pulled it off for me would be the understatement of the decade.

The relationship the film and characters forged with me made me want to be next to Doc and Marty – whether they were in the DeLorean or in a crime-ridden city controlled by Biff Tannen - as they tried to fix their screw ups and take part in their hilarious banter.

My connection to the story was so deep that, even though I knew everything would be okay by the end, I was genuinely concerned whenever Marty, Doc and Einstein (name subject to change) were in trouble. It even took a concept I don’t believe in (time travel) and made me completely buy into it while also having a story that I fully enjoyed, perfectly balancing levity, humor, drama and more serious themes without making me feel for a second that I was watching disjointed stories.

The way in which it expanded on their take of the ever-complicated, headache-inducing concept of time travel was nothing short of amazing to me. It explained it in a way that was easy to follow without dumbing down the story, making me feel like an expert on the subject. And it's for all of this that Back to the Future Part II is my favorite movie of all time.

Liam Dixon - Star Wars Franchise

Star Wars. When I was six years old, everyone was talking about The Phantom Menace and how awesome Darth Maul was. I had never seen this film and asked my father if he could go buy me the video so I could watch it. My father, a die-hard Star Wars fan, instantly went into full education mode and brought out his old toys and books from when he was younger. He then sat me down and we watched the original Star Wars trilogy together, refusing to let me watch the prequels before I had experienced the originals. We spent an entire day watching the original trilogy. From the Death Star explosion, to the Darth Vader reveal and his unmasking, I sat and witnessed the greatest story I'd ever been told open before my eyes.

A New Hope, Empire Strikes Back and Return of The Jedi all rank as my favorite films of all time, and for good reason! They hold many cinematic memories for me, such as the Death Star explosion marking the first time I was ever on the edge of my seat in suspense. And the Darth Vader twist marks the first and only time a film has left me dumbfounded at a reveal. To genuinely have been shocked at the Darth Vader reveal and not having had it spoiled for me beforehand was pretty amazing as well, especially when I grew up in the prequel era.

Not only does the original trilogy rank as my favorite of all time but they helped form the special bond that I share with my father. After we finished the original trilogy he, unwillingly, sat down and watched A Phantom Menace with me, and subsequently took me to see Attack of The Clones and Revenge of The Sith. Seeing my dad geek out for the first time in my life while watching Obi Wan and Anakin duel is a sight I will never forget.

Ten years later, in a weird twist of fate, I took my father to see The Force Awakens. Together we witnessed the Millennium Falcon take flight after so many years and we both sat in shock at the death of Han Solo. Then it hit me, the story had finally come full circle. My father created childhood memories for me with Star Wars, and now I am the one creating more memories for us by letting my father relive his childhood one more time. Thinking about the Star Wars saga brings back so many memories that I can't help but get worked up.

Ananda Dillon - Romeo + Juliet (1996)

In 7th grade I begged my parents to let me see Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet. I had turned 13 about a month previous and this would be my first PG-13 without their supervision. Despite the violence promised in the trailer and my Shakespeare-purist parents' skepticism, they agreed.

I went with a few girlfriends and for two hours I experienced the most transformative film experience I'd ever had. The film taught me that literature could be visual. That a film could evoke deep feelings. And that it could arouse those feelings with color and music and editing. Here was Shakespeare in a way I'd never imagined. I resolved then and there that I needed to understand the medium and all its capabilities. I never looked at a film the same way again and less than a decade later I'd declare Film Studies as my major in college.

Sam Plank - The Karate Kid (1984)

The Karate Kid was it for me. Brains might be able to get you far later in life, but when you're young and still in grade, middle, or high school, they can get you bullied.

Not being the most athletic kid growing up, I got picked on my fair share. There were always the daydreams in the middle of science class, ones where I would get back at the bullies, maybe with a surprise Chuck Norris-style roundhouse kick. But not until The Karate Kid came out did I actually have a movie that showed a kid actually doing what I'd always wanted to do.

Watching Daniel LaRusso get bullied throughout almost the entire movie only to come out on top? Perfect stuff for me and every other 98-pound weakling. I never did start fighting back, but seeing Daniel learn karate from Mr. Miyagi and kick butt on his bullies' turf never did get old, and never will!

Brandon Creighton - The Matrix Reloaded (2003)

I was 18 years old when The Matrix was released. Originally, I wasn't a huge fan of the movie. I mostly just enjoyed the ending when Thomas Anderson, a.k.a. Neo has an awakening and realizes his true destiny as "The One." I think at the time, I didn't fully understand what the Wachowskis were trying to set up in The Matrix Universe.

Fast-forward to January 26, 2003. I'm watching Superbowl XXXVII and I see a trailer for a movie that I was certain wouldn't happen. That trailer was The Matrix Reloaded. Keep in mind, this was a time when the internet wasn't as prevalent as it is today. So having knowledge of films years in advance wasn't as common. I don't think I have ever been more excited to witness a sequel to a movie as I was that day over 13 years ago.

Now let's fast-forward one more time. It's May 15, 2003. I'm 22 years old and had just moved to Las Vegas. I decided I was going to stay up late and treat myself to the midnight showing of Reloaded. I had spent the last few months replaying trailers online, filling in the blanks in my mind of what the story could be. I was beyond excited to see the film.

From the opening sequence to the last, I was at the edge of my seat and wide-eyed at the spectacle I was witnessing. What the Wachowskis did with The Matrix Reloaded was ground-breaking for its time. It has been one of very few movies I can say met my unbelievably high expectations and then surpassed them tenfold. I remember walking out of the theater shaking. I think I stayed up all night reliving the awesomeness that I had just witnessed. And more than that, it made me fall in love with the first Matrix film. I was able to piece everything together and the first movie now made complete sense to me.

I have seen some great films since then, of course. But nothing will ever compare to that experience for me. Maybe it was moving to a new city the first time by myself, maybe it was because it was my first theater experience in Las Vegas or because I had never been to a midnight showing before that. I'm not really sure. But The Matrix Reloaded hands-down is my favorite movie of all time and I will always cherish that memory of the first time I witnessed it.

RoAnna Sylver - Treasure Planet (2002)

You can spend your life searching for something, and not even know you were looking until you find it. Sometimes that's a person, or a place. Sometimes it's a movie. Disney's Treasure Planet was mine. I was 12 when my Mom took me to see it, and I didn't know it, but I needed it more than I'd need most things in my life. In a few ways, it might have helped save it.

This hidden gem isn't a better-known Disney film, and an in-space remake of a literary classic might sound strange, but all that is gold does not glitter, and - fine, no more puns. This movie isn't high on everyone's list, but sometimes that makes something even more important to you. Especially when it hits you very hard, in a sore, deep place.

Jim Hawkins was a troubled teen. So was I. He was growing up in a single-parent home. For a while, so was I. His deadbeat dad walked out on him and his hardworking mom. People wrote Jim off as a worthless, troublemaking punk. He'd even started to believe it. Then he finds a treasure map, goes on an adventure, and meets an old cyborg/pirate, Long John Silver. (I'm also chronically ill and disabled. Nice to see disabled people being awesome. I'd love some cool cyborg eyes, too.)

Silver asks Jim if his father was the teaching sort. He wasn't, and neither was mine. My biological father wasn't the leaving-and-never-coming-back sort like Jim's, but sometimes I wish he had been. Mine was the sort that left behind bruises and scars - physical and emotional - and led to me getting a restraining order when I was 16. I legally changed my name. I moved three thousand miles away. I started again.

Like the song goes...I'm still here.

Now I want to write something that does for a scared kid what Treasure Planet did for me. I want everyone reading this to know they have something golden and shining buried deep inside them, rarer than the loot of a thousand worlds and a million times more enduring.

Jim found his treasure (spoiler: it's metaphorical, inside all along!) and a happily ever after. Me, too. My Mom married an amazing guy, and he's my Dad in every way that matters. I'm writing my first book series, trying to use my words like lifelines. I can't believe how lucky I am to be included in the amazing Movie Pilot community, writing this right now.

Silver told Jim he was going to rattle the stars. I remember these words and try, every day. (For real. Dream tattoo? "RATTLE THE STARS") And I want to see you do that, too. No matter the squalls. I hope I'm there, catching some of the light coming off you that day. I'm still here. And so are you.

Jeremiah Paul - Spider-Man (2002)

Spider-Man. The original Spider-Man movie from 2002 will always hold a special place in my heart.

Anyone who knows me today knows that super heroes are very important to me. Superheroes impact nearly every part of my life: they've helped me through difficult times, they've made me laugh, and they've even made me cry. My obsession with superheroes didn't start, as it did for many, through comic books. In fact, I didn't even own my first comic book until I was in my later teenage years. My love of supers stemmed from my moviegoing experiences and the television shows I watched in my youth.

The earliest superhero movie I remember watching is Spider-Man. I wasn't even five years old at the time, but Spider-Man awakened my love for heroes. He inspired me. Here was an average, everyday kid who somehow happens upon greatness. He makes mistakes at first, but the culmination of his failures creates one of the most important superheroes ever imagined.

Despite being terrified by Willem Dafoe's Green Goblin, I remember going to bed that night dreaming of one day being like Spider-Man. The next day I decided I would create my own superhero. Combing my new found love of superheroes and my all time favorite love, pizza, I created the hero known as Pizza-Man. I wrote his backstory (very similar to the only two origin stories I had heard at that point, The Flash and Spider-Man), created his villain, and wrote his first story arc. I have been creating and writing, though through different characters and formats, since that day.

It's not a single memory, but rather a movie that had tremendous impact on who I would become as a person. I guess when Peter Parker was told "with great power, comes great responsibility," he didn't realize he would inspire a little boy to follow his dreams.

Braxter Timberlake (Point of Geeks) - Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

One of my earliest movie memories is having my passion for film ignited by watching Terminator 2: Judgment Day.

I was visiting family in New York as a young kid and convinced the grownups to take me along. As we waited in the movie theater lobby, I remember staring at my shoes. Then I looked up until it felt like I was looking at the ceiling and I realized I was staring Chevy Chase dead in the eyes. At the time in 1991, my little child-mind thought the night couldn't get any cooler. I mean it was Chevy Chase, after all — he could never go out of style.

Then I actually sat down and watched T2, a movie that stretched my imagination in ways that it never had before. I first became aware of Computer Graphics that day. Along with that, through the power of screenwriting and directing, the Terminator I knew to be a mechanical monster became a protector and friend.

It made me wonder what was going on behind the camera for the first time. How was the magic made? And who was this wizard named James Cameron? What does a director do? I never stopped asking questions and wanting to find out EVERYTHING I could about filmmaking since that day. And that's the reason why I'm still asking them now.

Tisha Mae Eaton - The Princess Diaries (2001)

The first time that I saw The Princess Diaries, I had just had an operation on my legs, as I have cerebral palsy. My mom knew I was miserable, unable to move around and having just moved from where I had spent my whole life to a new, completely unfamiliar area.

I was 12 years old, right at that awkward time where you don't like anything about yourself. But in the movie, here was this average girl, with bushy hair, eyebrows and glasses just like me, being transformed into not just a beautiful young woman, but someone with confidence and a strength that she gained from within. For an awkward girl that many people found weird, Mia Thermopolis was a savior, someone that I could identify with in both a visual and emotional way.

At a time when I didn't have any friends, Mia became a character as close to me as a best friend, and at such a young age that was something that I desperately needed. She made me want to strive to be a better person and not let how others perceived me dictate how I felt about myself.

In the movie, her bodyguard, Joe, quotes Eleanor Roosevelt to her: "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent". Both she and Mia remind you it is ok to be yourself, even if it is as a "freak" as long as YOU like who you are. That is a lesson that has stayed with me to this day.

Jared Ficiur - LOST (2004)

One of my favorite first memories is not of a movie, but of the first season of LOST. The show itself is polarizing, even among its own fans, but I burned through the first season in a single week. That was the first time I'd ever binged a show, and it began a new love of mine for the medium of television. LOST helped begin an era of television that was more long arc-based, with mystery and mythology and deep characters and huge deaths that are all a standard part of today's television. Say what you want about how LOST ended (personally, I loved it) it really changed television, and my love for it, forever!

Derek Walters - Movies In General

I've got WAY too many memories while watching movies and television shows, that I could make a series out of them all...but I'm not gonna do that now.

I don't think I'd be writing for Moviepilot/Creators (which is such an awesome company, community, and second family), if it hadn't for movies and my love for them. About 12-13 years ago, my parents got me started on movies, all kinds of 'em. It depended on my age really, but from Toy Story to The Matrix to The Incredible Hulk, from classics to comedies to action, I was watching movies! All different kinds, and all because of my parents (including all the superhero movies I watch on a regular basis — just putting that out there).

Because of that, movies have inspired my drawings, my writings, and other things in my life. Just like books, movies temporarily take me to a whole other world. It's especially nice when my life seems too crazy and I can't get out of the house to take a breather. So I just watch a flick to keep my mind off the crazy for a short while. I guess you could say that movies take/have taken up a pretty substantial part of my life.

But as I put those things aside for a moment and REALLY think, I'd have to say that my favorite movie moment is actually moments, the times when I'm totally awestruck with wonder and amazement at what some movies can give and what they've just done, like bringing comic book moments to the screen. All in all, I love when a movie makes me feel like I did when I was three or four years old, and just discovering movies for the first time.


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