We all know that familiar feeling. That twinkle in time when you've watched a movie so powerful, so unique, so groundbreaking, you know nothing will be the same again. It's a moment that changes us forever. It takes us out of our lives, if only for an instant, transporting us somewhere new, an adventure of possibilities and truth.
This year, that moment came during a screening of A Monster Calls, the latest by visionary Spanish director J.A. Bayona. It's a movie which breaks you apart piece by piece, only to put you back together again, whole and evermore hopeful.
It's already set to become a modern classic, a movie to inspire and influence film fans for years to come. But what other movies sit on that list? Here are 12 films that influenced the writers at Movie Pilot and inspired our love affairs with film. And please let us know which movie changed your life in the comments section!
Pan's Labyrinth (2006)
While it's difficult to zero in on the film that has had the biggest effect on me, Pan's Labyrinth would certainly be in my top three. The movie is heartbreaking, and beautifully ties together two fundamental facets of life — the perception of fantasy and reality — in such a way that you, the viewer, have to confront your own feelings about both.
It has shocking violence (I don't think I've ever recoiled with such horror as at the scene where the captain smashes in that poor rabbit hunter's nose) mixed with the bloody history of the Spanish Civil War. But what makes Pan's Labyrinth unique is that this real-life horror is being experienced through the mind of an imaginative child. The movie conjures up questions around childhood trauma and coping methods, and cultural trauma as a whole, while encouraging each viewer to answer these questions for themselves. And, most importantly, it nudges us to embrace those hazy lines between imagination, fantasy and reality.
Back To The Future (1985)
While many movies have made an impact on my life — honorable mention to Fight Club for fueling my teen-angst nihilism, and But I'm a Cheerleader for the mandatory sexual awakening — I owe much of my nerdiness and interest in sci-fi to Back to the Future. My family and I watched the trilogy every Christmas and even at the tender age of five I was enthralled by the awesome car, snappy one-liners, and complex time travel plots.
So determined was I to understand the films, at age eight I remember drawing diagrams and painstakingly explaining the alternate timeline in Back to the Future Part II to my confused (and honestly not that interested) mother. No one in my family was surprised by my later career choices.
The NeverEnding Story (1984)
Imagine, if you will, a precocious kid with a huge imagination, one who loved nothing more than to get lost in a book. One who would get so lost in book that the real world would fade out as the fictional world unfolding in front of her eyes became so clear it was tangible. Now imagine that same little girl watching The NeverEnding Story for the first time and finding a kindred spirit in Bastian.
I can't say I actively remember The NeverEnding Story changing my life. It was a part of my life from such a young age that it naturally influenced who I was. It shaped my view of the world — that books are magic, that there are infinite possibilities in each one of us, that good will always ultimately triumph over evil. It taught me sadness, too, and that we will lose the things we love. Artax the horse's death scene in the Swamp of Sadness has stuck with me to this day. I was too young to know the word "suicide" then, but I remember it being my first sobering introduction to the fact that it's possible to be so sad that you just don't have it in you to go on living.
But The NeverEnding Story was ultimately a movie that taught me of the power of the imagination. As long as we are willing to keep telling stories, we can keep beating back the darkness and despair that also exist in the world. While my manner of storytelling has changed as I've grown up, it's not a stretch to say The NeverEnding Story is the reason I became a writer at all.
The Lion King (1994)
The Lion King was the first film I ever saw at the cinema, and to this day remains a firm favorite. I could barely contain my excitement when my uncle offered to take my brother and I to see the latest Disney movie. Somewhere along the way, Uncle Rick got hideously drunk. When Mufasa tragically fell to his death, I became aware of a man loudly sobbing in the theater. It was Uncle Rick. I remember looking from teary-eyed Simba on screen to my equally distraught uncle sitting beside me. Seeing a grown man so visibly moved by the death of a cartoon lion made me understand, for the first time, the emotional impact that film can have on even the most rugged of souls.
E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
After seeing Star Wars in its initial run, that spectacle defined what I wanted out of movies — the more ships and aliens, the better. E.T. didn’t initially seem interesting to me at all. Sure, there, was an alien in the film, but it wasn’t cool-looking, and the film seemed to take place in someone’s back yard. I saw the movie anyway, of course, and the film captivated me. It was frightening in ways I couldn’t easily pin down, and also moving. Later I realized E.T. was powerful to me at the time because the kids in the film looked like my friends, their neighborhood was just like my own. Connections to familiar things made the story have far more resonance than a removed fable like Star Wars. E.T. was my first step to understanding that movies could do more than show us far away things; they could show how our lives might intersect with wonders. That helped me see the world in a different light, and realize that movies could be infinitely more than entertaining effects showcases.
By Jase Peeples
Black Beauty (1994)
While most kids couldn’t wait to get their tiny mitts on whatever animation Disney was churning out next, my impressionable seven-year-old self only had eyes for 1994’s classic Black Beauty — at first, admittedly because it fueled my borderline psychotic obsession with ponies, much to the horror of my poor parents, who remained adamant that they were never, ever going to let me keep one in our tiny two-bedroom London flat.
However, after seeing it once, there was no turning back, and rewatching the bittersweet story told from a horse's-eye view of our complex human world became a Saturday morning ritual. Years on, and one scene continues to rip my heart out at the mere thought of it — the moment that sees Beauty watch his precious friend get carted off through the cruel and crowded streets of London. R.I.P., sweet Ginger.
Despite the fact that the movie continues to be marked as a children’s classic, it certainly doesn't pander to a young audience — and perhaps that’s why it continues to be so significant to this day.
Romeo + Juliet (1996)
Do you really want to mess with Shakespeare? Movie adaptations of the Bard's plays are rarely great. But Baz Luhrmann tore up the rule book and threw everything at Romeo + Juliet, transporting the star-crossed lovers to Verona Beach, where hip-hop blares from the speakers of droptop muscle cars while the warring Capulets and Montagues threaten damage with their semi-auto pistols (branded Sword and Dagger). Players on both sides appear mentally unhinged, not least of all cross-dressing scene-thief Mercutio, adding an extra dimension to the otherwise irrational hatred between the two families.
Set pieces like the Capulet ball drip with so much opulence that Luhrmann's epic begins to feel like opera. Purists hate Romeo + Juliet, obviously, but to me it was not just the beginning of a love affair with Luhrmann — the rare director who subscribes to a philosophy of "more is more" — but the first movie that made Shakespeare cool.
By Jack Carr
Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (2004)
While I was busy being a sullen, pretentious 16-year-old goth who hated everything about pop culture, including basically all movies (because BOOKS, duh!), Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind appeared and slapped me with all the poignant emotion and poetic beauty that cinema can throw at you. Its conveniently romantic story arc also helped me to violently make out with the pink-haired boy of my dreams who I had managed to beguile on MSN. Win-win, really.
By Karly Rayner
Despite being a film wildly inappropriate for a child to watch for a number of reasons, seeing Titanic at age eight or nine exposed me to the awe-inspiring world of Hollywood blockbusters. Not only did the film's sheer scale blow me away, but it's also one of the first films that truly evoked overwhelming emotion. Footage of bodies hitting propeller blades and babies being laid to bed for an endless sleep was altogether too much. It made me realize just what power films have, to be able to elicit such a wide range of feelings from audiences. Basically, I was a staunch, emotionless child until Jack and Rose's tragic love story taught me how to feel, and now I'm the type of person who cries during ads for postage stamps (true story). Thanks, James Cameron.
A Monster Calls opens Stateside on January 6, 2017. Which movie changed your life? Let us know in the comments below!