Movies are the ultimate median to impact a young audience. Books, radio, television graphic novels..none have the same combination of sensory inputs on a captive audience as a trip to the theater.
Movies can have positive impacts, negative impacts, inspire, teach and provide a level of escapism entertainment you can’t achieve anywhere else.
With all that being said, here are Geeky Daddy’s Top 15 Movies That Had An Impact On My Youth:
If you grew up in the 1980’s, you were a fan of Weird Al Yankovic. If you say you weren’t, your nose is growing…
I remember as a kid when my mother told me that they were making a Weird Al movie, I was so excited! What we got was what we should have expected: a feature length film of one of his albums: A bunch of funny sketches that were funny individually (Conan: The Librarian, Spatula City, Gandhi II…) but had absolutely no cohesiveness with each other in the least.
In other words, basically a feature length episode of Family Guy about 2 decades before Family Guy
While the finale result may not have been terrific…or great…or even that good honestly, the soundtrack made up for it!
14. Star Wars: The Phantom Menace
Not all impacts on our lives are positive ones. Enter 1999’s Star Wars: The Phantom Menace!
May 19th, 1999 is a date which will live in infamy for it was the day I realized that not all Star Wars content is good.
It was like a negative epiphany that came out of nowhere and slapped the naivety of youth off my face.
And for the record, I don’t buy for one minute that George Lucas intentionally wrote that horrendous 3rd-grade-reading-level dialogue so poorly on purpose!
13. Saving Private Ryan
On the opposite end of the spectrum from Phantom Menace is Steven Spielberg’s World War II masterpiece Saving Private Ryan.
Everything about this film was masterfully crafted.
The cinematography, the sound effects, the acting, the attention paid to even the slightest detail is incredible. From the opening D-Day scene to closing frames at the Normandy American Cemetery, this film does a remarkable job of putting you in the middle of the pain, hurt, inspiration, confusion, heartbreak and anguish that soldiers must endure in war.
‘War is hell’ and Spielberg communicated that beautifully.
12. Hard Boiled
Hard Boiled was my introduction to the sheer awesomeness of Hong Kong cinema including Chow Yun-fat, Tony Leung and John Woo (Prior to Woo falling a little to in love with the slo-mo feature on his cameras that he criminally abused in making Mission Impossible II).
In Hard Boiled, Fat plays the hard drinking super-cop ‘Tequila’ and wants to clean up Hong Kong’s underworld of crime. Leung plays the undercover….never mind…Let me sum it up a different way.
Fat is the John McClane of Hong Kong and he exchanges a $#!T ton of bullets with bad guys all over, around and inside Hong Kong! And rescues some cute little babies.
No action movie junky has truly lived until they have watched the tea house gun fight from this movie.
“Hey you guys!!!!”
Every adult has a secret fantasy of participating in a heist in some way. Whether it be in a massive shoot out through the streets of downtown Los Angles against Al Pacino (see Honorable Mentions list) or dragging a heavy safe with a couple of Dodge Chargers and destroying half of Rio De Janeiro (again see Honorable Mentions list).
Well the child friendly (and far less destructive) version of a heist story would be Goonies. Seeking a massive score to pay off his parents house, Sean Astin leads a team of other 80’s child actors on a treasure hunt to steal One-Eyed Willy’s treasure before a competing family of criminals can steal One-Eyed Willy’s treasure.
A popular theme of 80’s movies was to have a team of children take on a daring mission against adults and prevail against overwhelming odds (Iron Eagle, Red Dawn…) but Goonies proved to be the most fun and successful.
Side Note: Actor Jonathan Ke Quan (Data) began a long career of studying Taekwondo while filming Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. He has since assisted in stunt and fight choreography on movies such as X-Men and Jet Li’s The One.
10. Masters of the Universe
I have written previously about my great displeasure in the massive turd blossom that was 1987’s The Masters of the Universe.
In a nutshell, the producers had a meeting where one producer said “Hey, lets make a He-Man and the Masters of the Universe movie but, just for kicks, we will take out literally everything possible that made He-Man and the Masters of the Universe cool.”
The other producer then said ” I love where you are going with this, but just to throw some piss-icing on this sh!t-cake of a movie idea, let’s not make Skeletor look bad-ass or menacing in the least. In stead, let’s make him look as if he were the love child of Emperor Palpatine’s father and Emperor Palpatine’s father’s sister (with just a hint of The Count from Sesame Street)!”
Then, believe it or not, things went down hill from there…
So why does this movie have a place on my distinguished impact list?
Because when it was released, I pressured my father to pay hard earned money to take my brother and I to the theater to see it. I followed up this mistake by convincing him to take me to see Iron Eagle II a few months later. It was over a decade before he allowed me to pick a movie again. And that movie was Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.
Dad doesn’t let me pick movies anymore…
9. Big Trouble in Little China
Big Trouble in Little China was my first introduction to John Carpenter unique film style, Kurt Russel and Kung Fu/Martial Art movies.
Kurt Russel’s portrayal of the inexplicably over confident Jack Burton had me hooked from the beginning to the point where I named my bicycle “The Pork Chop Express”
We can all agree that James Pax’s Lightning character was a Raiden of Mortal Kombat prototype right?
There have been rumors of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson staring in a remake of this film, but even with his ability to poke fun at himself, I don’t think even he can capture the magic to drive the Pork Chop Express!
8. Boiler Room
In high school and college, I always pictured myself one day as a Gordon Gecko type businessman. Wearing a power tie in a corner office of an office tower while brokering multi-million dollar deals over multiple phones at he same time.
I saw Boiler Room in theaters literally the day before I had my first interview at a brokerage firm. I was fired up, “ACTED AS IF” in the interview and I got the job!
I also burnt myself out and hated that job within a year. But hey, sometimes you have to learn what you don’t want to do before you know what you want to do.
It should probably be noted that Boiler Room came out came out in the year 2000 when investors where throwing literally millions of dollars at whatever dot com proposal happened to appear on their desk that morning (remember dogfood.com anyone?). It was in April of that year, when the government filed a suit against Microsoft, that the potential investors began to actually read the proposals, saw that most these hair brain ideas weren’t anticipating to see a profit for 30 years and the funding ran dry.
But those few months were a wild ride!
7. Last Starfighter
I remember staying up late at night with my older brother playing video games pretending we were ‘in training’ in case the Ko-Dan Armada ever reared their ugly heads around these parts!
The Last Starfighter tells the story of an average teenager recruited by an alien defense force to fight in an interstellar war. Remember what I said earlier about kids and dangerous missions in 1980’s movies?
This movie also got my brother and I interested in computers as it was one of the first films to use CGI graphics for it’s space ships and battles. Prior to it’s release in 1984, pretty much only the movie Tron had tried using this new technology so expansively.
I had also just seen Robert Preston in The Music Man at school and loved his portrayal as Centauri, the “lovable con-man.”
Why the defense force chose to place the arcade game/recruiting tool in a rural trailer park and not at an arcade in a mall or larger population center where it would have had greater exposure, we may never know…
And I love that I can apply the term “Death Blossom” to anything from a game winning shot in a pick up game of hoops to one of my kids explosively messy diapers and like-minded people know exactly what I am referring to.
6. Transformers: The Movie
#6 on the list is Transformers: The Movie (The animated 1987 edition before Michael Bay got his slo-mo exploding hands on the franchise).
I remember going to the theater to see my favorite cartoon on the big screen at 10 years old and in the first 30 minutes seeing Spike drop the S-bomb and Optimus Prime, as well as a half dozen other of my favorite Autobots, “bite the rust” (get it?). I was shocked and awed.
Hasbro invested some serious funds (by 1980’s standards) in this movie for promotion and voice talent. 80’s big names such as Judd Nelson, Leonard Nimoy, Orson Welles and the Micro-Machine Man all contributed their talents to this project.
I know “Micro-Machine Man” is not his real name, but if I had said John Moschitta Jr. how many of you would have known who that was without the assistance of Google?
An unknown additional impact this movie had on me was the changes Hasbro made to my other favorite cartoon movie G.I. Joe: The Movie, which was supposed to release months later.
Due to the negative backlash from parents over the shocking death of Optimus Prime, Hasbro moved G.I. Joe: The Movie from a theater release to a home movie release and re-dubbed Duke’s death scene to have him “fall into a coma” instead. Because apparently being stabbed in the heart with a poisonous snake induces a coma (yeah, not “by”. “with”).
Who else is excited for the re-release of Transformers: The Movie in theaters next month?
The Transformers’ rock ‘n’ roll soundtrack was also one of the 1st CD’s I ever purchased.
5. Killer Klowns from Outer Space
There are things in life that impact you so negatively that once you have experienced them, you will never forget. I have 2 such experiences in my life:
One was the odor that emitted from a student that I got stuck sitting next to for an entire semester in college. For some unknown reason he only ate gas station food.
He would unwrap a suspicious looking roast beef sub and the smell of diesel would permeate the entire room to the point that everyone was scared to death of a static electricity spark. And don’t get me started on his gas station sushi flatulence…
The other is the memory of watching Killer Klowns from Outer Space at way to young of an age. This movie was chuck full of crazed-ass clowns creating carnivorous balloon animals, cotton candy style cocoons and killer shadow puppets.
I am now 40-years-old and a father and I am still deathly afraid of clowns.
Only thing that scares me more than a clown is a mime, which are pretty much just mute, French clowns
Combine Star Wars (which you will see that I love) with the comedic genius of Mel Brooks and you have a can’t miss formula! Enter Spaceballs: The Movie!
Spaceballs successfully poked fun at Star Wars, Star Trek, Aliens, Planet of the Apes and probably a couple other sci-fi franchises. In true Mel Brooks style, it also poked fun at multiple religions, races and politics.
In other words, it was a movie that unfortunately probably would not find a financial backer in today’s ‘politically correct’ climate.
Although we do seem to hear the annual whispers about an upcoming Spaceballs 3: The Search For 2 so there is hope.
3. Empire Strikes Back
Empire Strikes Back is usually regarded as the best of the Star Wars movies (original, prequel or Disney era) for great reasons: the special effects, the characters and the most shocking reveal in cinema history.
This was the first Star Wars film to feature a Lawrence Kasdan script of a George Lucas plot and the improved dialogue and characterization was evident throughout the film.
The iconic bounty hunter Boba Fett made his feature film debut in Empire and while he initially met his demise in the Sarlacc pit, he did live on in the old ‘Star Wars Expanded Universe.’
Anybody interested in this character, science fiction or military fiction needs to read some of the work that Karen Travis did with this character and the Mandalorian world. Her Republic Commando series was by far some of the best novels of the expanded universe.
Empire also proved to be a true ‘space opera’ in that it showed you don’t need a happy ending to tell a terrific story.
2.Raiders of the Lost Ark
One of my greatest loves his history. Another is watching Nazis get their faces melted.
I got to enjoy both of these loves in the first in the Indiana Jones series: Raiders of the Lost Ark.
This movie was the cinematic equivalent of the 1992 basketball ‘Dream Team.’ George Lucas created plot and characters, Lawrence Kasdan script writing and Steven Spielberg directing.
Tom Selleck has the originally casted for the role of Dr. Jones but the producers of Magnum P.I. wouldn’t let it happen do to scheduling conflicts. It would be interesting to see how the ‘stache could have pulled off the role.
High Road to China was a good attempt but does not count. For anything.
1. Star Wars A New Hope
Just to be clear: I love the Star Wars universe. I mean a lot!
I mean I love Star Wars probably almost as much as vegans love telling people that they are vegan. And that is A LOT!
Fairy tales are timeless stories that hold their meaning over multiple generations and Star Wars: A New Hope is the greatest fairy tale ever told. A young farm boy receives the help of an old wizard to rescue a princess held in an evil castle by a dark villain. It all just happens to take place in space.
The story, the breath taking special effects, unique characters and the most iconic villain in film history! This film create the bar to which all other sci-fi and adventure movies are held to even to this day.
While Empire Strikes Back was a better movie, A New Hope still had the greatest impact of them all.
Every time a young Geeky Daddy was channel surfing and came across the iconic FOX logo and signature trumpets playing on the screen, I would have to stop on the channel for a moment and wait to see if this was Star Wars beginning.
It was hard limiting this list to only 15 movies so here is the list of honorable mentions:
Honorable Mention: Ghost Busters, Heat, Princess Bride, Fletch, North By NorthWest, Fast Five, Red Dawn, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn, Airplane, Mystery Science Theater 3000, The Matrix
What do you think of our list?
What movies impacted you growing up?
Please comment with your movie picks and share.