This was an extremely hard list to create, in fact, each movie on this list could probably be replaced. With that being said, here is a list of five films that really impacted me as I transitioned through my teenage years. These films have stayed with me, and it seems like they always will. As you read, or glance, through each film that I have listed, I am sure you'll notice that some of these films were created well before I was even born. I think this is a testament to their quality. Not many films are able to withstand the test of time, to survive the different nuances that audiences bring with them as the years go on. Its fascinating.
The Place Beyond the Pines
The Place Beyond the Pines was not just a film that visually enthralled me, it rocked me to my core. The first half of the film focuses on Luke (played by Ryan Gosling), a stunt rider who uses his talents to rob banks as a means to provide for his lover (played by Eva Mendes) and their new born child. In the film, Luke’s decisions put him on a collision course with Avery, a young and ambitious police officer (played by Bradley Cooper). The result of this collision has lasting, detrimental effects for both parties involved. The remainder of the film, which ends up feeling like a second act, confronts pertinent themes like the depravity of systems and structures (local law enforcement, imbalance of privilege, etc.). All to say, this film was valuable, informative, and beautifully created. It was a sober reminder of the many things broken in this world, things that people don’t care to fix.
Stand By Me
Stand By Me is a classic, it has been described as the greatest coming of age film ever to be created. The film’s main characters are Gordie, Chris, Teddy, and Vern. While each character represents typical archetypes found in a “gang of friends” or “band of brothers” (i.e. the bad one, the meek one, the fat one, the funny one, etc.), the film goes deeper by exploring darker, more emotional topics. In the movie, Vern overhears that there is a dead body in the woods near some train tracks, and that nobody is aware it's there. Vern shares this information with his friends, and in an effort to attain small town fame, the boys begin their journey to find the body. The boys, along with the audience, discover that what makes the journey a powerful experience is not necessarily the destination or result, but rather the journey itself. The events that transpire during this couple-day trip changes them, forever.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, a film adapted from an article by the New Yorker, is such a beautiful and creative movie. Walter Mitty (played by Ben Stiller) is an employee at Life magazine, where he spends his days monotonously developing photographs for publication. All the while, he aches for real adventure, real emotion, real experiences. Walter finds himself frequently daydreaming. He drums up stories in his mind where he is the hero, and the world is his to engage. This movie taught me that our dreams at night, or when we doze off at work, can become a reality. There isn’t too much stopping us, except ourselves of course. Sure, we might not all be able to longboard around the Fjords of Iceland, but we all are capable of having real experiences. We should never deprive ourselves of this.
Donnie Darko is a movie that I deeply cherish and love. It is extremely strange and thought-provoking. In the movie, Donnie Darko (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) sleepwalks out of his house and sees a giant, demonic-looking rabbit named Frank. I know, I know, this sounds ridiculous. Frank tells Donnie that the world will end in 28 days (28 days and six hours and 42 minutes and 12 seconds to be exact), and from that point on, the movies takes the audience on a rollercoaster ride that is filled with brilliant dialogue, iconic imagery, and concepts that could be wrestled with for the rest of our lives. The film means a lot to me, and for anyone else that grew up curious and cynical (and probably a little pretentious). The people that loved this movie the most are those that genuinely did feel like the world was ending when they were a teenager. When we watch Donnie Darko, in a convoluted way, we see ourselves.
The Goonies is yet another classic film, one that I am sure most people are familiar with. It is about a gang of friends with unparalleled determination and a hunger for adventure. At the beginning of the film, we find out that a developing company plans to destroy the home of the boys. The group feels quite hopeless until they stumble across an old pirate map in the attic. They find out that this map leads to a wealth of treasure, treasure that could save the home that they care so deeply about. What ensues is an expedition filled with a range of experiences, boyish dialogue, and dangerous obstacles that kids probably shouldn’t be interacting with. I love The Goonies because it makes us feel like we can make a difference, no matter how young or small we are. It makes us feel like we are invincible.