…not exactly ‘Seminal’. These are movies that strongly influenced later developments in my life.

The Academy Awards are this Sunday. As happens around this time each year, I tend to reflect on films that warped shaped my brain forever. We’re going to do an old-fashioned Top Ten here.

Here are the rules:

* It can not be a film I first saw on cable. This eliminates ‘The Princess Bride’.

* It can not be a film I first saw via VCR rental. This eliminates ‘Back to the Future’.

* It can not be a film I first saw via DVD purchase. This eliminates ‘Sky Captain & The World of Tomorrow’…

Worst purchase I ever made.

SHOCKINGLY NOT ON THIS LIST: All three of the Toy Story movies.

HONORABLE MENTION: Raiders of the Lost Ark (Age 6, Summer 1981). The climax made me allergic to the Horror genre.

10) Hoosiers (Age 13, February 1988). I’m already cheating here. I saw this basketball classic in the theater of a Norwegian cruise ship. I saw it three times that week. Gene Hackman is a disgraced coach who comes to small town Indiana to breathe some air into a team on life support. A film that makes you rise up alongside the underdogs.

9) The Empire Strikes Back (Age 5, Summer 1980). I saw this a great many times (I used to say 30, but cannot confirm nor deny that number) at a movie theater in Massapequa. My mom and I sat in the front row… most of the time. Pretty sure I learned that all endings are not happy from this movie. And my dark side was likely ignited in watching it.

And the Darth Vader nightmares have not gone away.

Yes, even though I know he was a whiny teenager.

8) Who Framed Roger Rabbit (Age 13, Summer 1988). The Toontown convergence of animated characters from different studios was an event for anyone growing up watching Disney & Looney Tunes. It seemingly ushered in a potential new era for Disney theme parks too, but the follow thru was poor. The bits, the language, and the style are wrapped in a brilliant package all these years later. It is ‘The World of the Play’ in glorious cinematic wonder.

7) Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade (Age 14, Summer 1989). My favorite of the Indy movies. The blockbuster action movies at the time (‘Die Hard’, ‘Lethal Weapon’) featured the hero with snarky humor, so we saw a light touch added from the crazily dark Temple of Doom’. Adventure, comedy, war, religion, family – the third part of this trilogy (what? there’s a 4th one?) mixes this sensational cocktail together and garnishes it with the most charismatic star of the 60’s & 70’s – no, not Burt Reynolds – Sean Connery.

Nazis + Holy Grail is simple addition in my mind.

(In hindsight, this is the movie that you could make the argument for the 1st or 3rd Toy Story movies replacing)

6) Rain Man (Age 14, March 1989). Dustin Hoffman’s performance was mesmerizing. First time I could acknowledge character immersion. Charlie is my favorite Tom Cruise role too. A road movie. A movie about growing up. Lost in the numerous impersonations of Raymond that followed.  I also learned enough to be able to connect in this way.

5 – tie) Beauty & the Beast (Age 17, November 1991) & Aladdin (Age 18, November 1992). Never mind the leaps in animation, and the music, and the characters, the former introduced me to pacing. To this day I love myself a good prologue. I always want there to be an ‘I want adventure in the great wide somewhere’ number to reveal character ambition (see also: ‘Raising the Stakes’). It might be so overdone in your mind, but take a listen to the lyrics of ‘Be Our Guest’ and you will want someone to sing you off to sleep as you digest.

The latter was just taking in Robin Williams’ energy. He is give a full-bodied performance with his voice. You can hear it. I only knew about giving 100% in sports terms up until that point.

4) Jurassic Park (Age 18, June 11 1992). Yes, the T-Rex and the velociraptors are awesome. They are. But so is the dramatic tension. And the use of the score. And it’s Agatha Christie like fashion in picking off the other characters. This was the first movie that made me feel like my number one did while I was watching it.

3) Glory (Age 15, early 1990). This was an accidental viewing at the Douglaston movie theater in Queens. A couple of other movies were sold out and we ended up at ‘the new Matthew Broderick movie’. I thought about this for a week after seeing it. It haunted me. My mind was blown. I got more out those couple of hours than I did out of any history class – and I love history!  There was something about how this regiment banded together to charge Ft. Wagner that left me speechless. The performances of Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman, and, especially, Andre Braugher (amongst others) were amazing.

2) WALL-E (Age 33, Summer 2008). The only movie to make it from my 20’s & 30’s. God, do I love this movie. It struck fear in me! Where all the other films on this list were somewhat educational or just plain heightened my fantastical bone, this movie hit me where I lived because I learned that I did not want to live my life alone! I was so afraid that a time would exist where I wouldn’t have a true connection. It shook me. Never mind the fact this film is just plain beautiful with it’s boy meets girl wonder and homages to Chaplin.

1) Star Wars (Age 2.5, Summer 1977). We can all argue that I don’t really remember seeing this movie at this age. That I probably remember it more when it was re-released in 1979 – when I cried when it was over… and then cried again when I lost my Kenner Star Wars toy catalog they handed out at the Lynbrook movie theater on Long Island.


Regardless, imagination began that day. And that hasn’t gone away.

Now I am left to wonder just how many movies on this list @NewYorkCliche has seen…


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