The Movies of My Life

I’ve long believed that you can learn a lot about a person by the books they read, the movies they watch, and the music they listen to. As mass-market media production grows ever-more commoditized and commercialized with each passing year, so grows our access to independent, original, and foreign creations. I believe our consumption reveals that much more about who we are now than ever before, given the options available. Whether it be our willingness to be challenged, our intellectualism, our preferences, or even just our need for simple entertainment, the media we consume says a lot about us.

An acquaintance recently shared a list of his favorite movies from each year that he’s been alive. Movies are such a great reflection of who we are, as opposed to music and books, thanks to comparatively fewer numbers. In seeing his list I realized, immediately, how little he and I had in common. Sure, I had seen the majority of the films on his list (movies are great for establishing shared experiences between strangers), but only two of the thirty-odd choices struck me as a choice I’d make. Which gave me an idea…

Instead of posting another collection of bookish links today, I’m going to focus on movies. The favorite movies of my life!

Thanks to the searchable, database website Letterboxd, I was able to quickly peruse hundreds of the most popular films released from each of the 41 years I’ve been on this planet. The list below represents a compilation of my personal favorite movies from each year, not the movie I consider the best or the most impactful. In doing this exercise, rewatchability was prioritized over artistic merit or cultural importance. Essentially, I asked myself, over and over for each year, “If I could only watch one of these movies ever again, which would it be?”

The 70s

1975 – Jaws
1976 – Rocky
1977 – Saturday Night Fever
1978 – Animal House
1979 – Apocalypse Now

The 70s, I realized quickly, had a few outstanding films that stood the test of time, and then heaps of crap (this issue presents itself 25 years later). But it also provides the first glimpse into the “very bad nerd” whose website you’re currently reading. No Star Wars? Nope, sorry. I don’t even like Saturday Night Live that much but I’d rather watch it over Star Wars any day. Honestly, it was hard to not choose Pete’s Dragon for nostalgia’s sake.

The 80s

1980 – Caddyshack
1981 – Chariots of Fire
1982 – Fast Times at Ridgemont High
1983 – A Christmas Story
1984 – Sixteen Candles
1985 – The Breakfast Club
1986 – Stand By Me
1987 – Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
1988 – Bull Durham
1989 – Say Anything

Perhaps it’s just because the advent of the VCR and movie rentals happened to collide with the brilliance of John Hughes (the director responsible for a disproportionate number of these selections), which, in turn, coincided with the prime of my adolescence, but for my money, the mid to late 1980s were a golden age of movies. At least in terms of comedies. It was incredibly hard to pick a single movie from 1985-1988. Clue, The Goonies, Ferris Bueller’s Day off, Platoon, Princess Bride, Top Gun, and Dirty Dancing were just a handful of the movies I had to weed out. It’s always easy to make fun of the 1980s, especially in terms of pop music and fashion, but damn if it wasn’t one of the best decades for movies.

The 90s

1990 – Goodfellas
1991 – Point Break
1992 – Singles
1993 – Tombstone
1994 – Pulp Fiction
1995 – Casino
1996 – Happy Gilmore
1997 – Seven Years in Tibet
1998 – The Wedding Singer
1999 – Office Space

Ah, my high school and college years. These were probably the easiest selections to make as, frankly, each year had only a few movies that really jumped out to me. The toughest choice I had in this lot was selecting Point Break over The Silence of the Lambs. Again, I won’t hesitate to name SotL the superior film, but if I only had to watch one again? No doubt, I’m paddling out with Johnny Utah. I’d also mention here that 1997 is, in my estimate, one of the worst years for movies — good thing I had a wedding to look forward to. There were a few unsung classics and there was Titanic, a movie I wouldn’t rewatch if doing so saved it from sinking.

The 00s

2000 – High Fidelity
2001 – Amelie
2002 – Whale Rider
2003 – Lost in Translation
2004 – Shaun of the Dead
2005 – Waiting…
2006 – Casino Royale
2007 – Into the Wild
2008 – Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit
2009 – The Hangover

Another collection of years with few choices that really spoke to me. The late 90s and early 00s were really lacking, with the exception of 2000. I had a hard time choosing between High Fidelity and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Almost Famous, and O’ Brother Where Art Thou. But 2001 and 2007 were just like 1997 and I had a hard time picking something. Think about it: Zodiac and Hot Fuzz were ranked as 3rd and 4th most popular films of 2007 on Letterboxd. For me, Into the Wild was a no-brainer of a choice, a movie based on a book that left a big mark on me as a teen, but still… And no, I really don’t even like The Hangover, but it was either that or Adventureland.

The 10s

2010 – The Fighter
2011 – Midnight in Paris
2012 – Moonrise Kingdom
2013 – 42
2014 – Ex Machina
2015 – The Martian
2016 – Train to Busan

I wish I could say these were as hard to pick as those in the 80s, but I can’t. So many movies of late — quality ones at that — are super hero flicks. And I just can’t get into them (you’ll notice I couldn’t get into Raiders of the Lost Ark, Harry Potter, Jurassic Park, or any of the other huge franchises either). For many of these years, there was just one movie I’d even consier putting on this list. And in 2013, I struggled to even name one. 42 is really good. It’s my favorite of the year by default, apologies to the legion of Frozen fans among you.

Which brings us to 2017. I haven’t seen any of the new films yet this year, but I’m looking forward to The Dark TowerIt, The Zookeeper’s Wife, and Fate of the Furious which, if I had to pick one, would be my favorite big-budget action franchise. In fact, we just watched Furious 7 again the other night with friends. Such ridiculous fun, those movies!

So now it’s your turn. How many of these would you agree with? Where do we differ? If you’ve got a few minutes, take a handful of years and share your picks in the comments or, if you’re feeling ambitious, put a list together like I did, post it, and share the link. I’m always up for some recommendations!

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