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From an early age, I remember my mom and dad forcing me to
sit with them in the living room as they popped in films such as "Blazing
Saddles," "Annie Hall," "It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad World," "Sleeper," "My Favorite
Year," "The Frisco Kid," "The Odd Couple" and dozens of others. As a Jewish kid growing up in middle Georgia,
these films, I suppose, kept me close to my, as Ted Cruz might call it, "New
The memories of all these films led me to spend a lot of
time thinking about what I will share with my child as he grows up. The films I mentioned before will definitely
be on the list, but those are my parents' films. I started to wonder what MY films would
be. What movies from MY life have
influenced me and when will I start showing them to my son?
So I spent a Sunday afternoon creating a list of 75 films that
I can't wait to show my kid. For the sake of this article, I whittled the list down to 10
This is not a list of the 10 greatest films of all
This is also not a list of the 10 best kids movies or holiday movies or movies to show your kids or movies for a rainy day or movies about a certain theme.
This is not even a list of movies you should be watching with
your kids now (in fact, you should most definitely NOT be watching the vast
majority of these movies with your kids now)
This is much more important. This is my personal list. I challenge each of you to come up with
your own personal list. If nothing else,
we have the duty, opportunity and privilege in sharing our world with our
children. This list of movies is a
simple way to share my world with my son. And I can't wait to start sharing that world.
When I was 10 years old, I wanted to be Mikey. I wanted to have a group of silly, diverse,
thrill-seeking friends to go on adventures. "The Goonies" introduced me to a world where kids could be in charge. Kids could be leaders. Kids could be incredible. Screenwriter Chris Columbus didn't talk down
to us. He respected us. He told us that we were capable of
awesomeness. I want to go back in time
and remember that feeling.
Why is "The Goonies" important to me? Let me put it this way. When I started film school at Columbia
University, on the very first day, our professor went around the room and asked
us all what film influenced us. What
film made us want to go to film school? As
he went around the room, each and every person talked about the films of
Kurasawa, Goddard, Truffaut, Bergman and Lean. I talked about "The Goonies."
TO THE FUTURE
If I wanted to be Mikey from "The Goonies" at the age of 10,
I quickly evolved to wanting to be Marty McFly soon after. That's right, only in the movies, can a child
dream of being someone named MARTY McFLY.
BUELLER'S DAY OFF
If you're starting to see a theme here, I am too. I clearly loved movies about the smart,
clever and adventurous male teenager going on an adventure of a lifetime.
Ferris Bueller was my immediate idol. He was awesome, funny, clever, and he had it
all. I have a vivid memory of sitting in
a movie theater with my mom and dad, watching a character I had never seen
before (though I suppose I saw slight incarnations of him in the previous two
movies I mentioned).
When Ferris jumped on a float and sang "Twist and Shout" as
the entire city of Chicago danced, I knew who I wanted to be. I wanted to be Ferris Bueller. Or at the very least, I suppose I wanted to be
a Beatle. Maybe that's why Ferris sang
(or lip-synced to) "Twist and Shout." Now that I think of it, Ferris Bueller was my generation's John Lennon. I wonder if he'll hold up for my son's
I'm not looking forward to my son learning how evil we once were (and sadly, in many ways, still are) but I am looking forward to the conversations that will make him a better person.
As I write this, I'm starting to wonder if I'd have a
different list if I had a daughter. Perhaps not. At least I'd like
to think that it wouldn't be different. However, I am noticing that my movie list is very "boy-centric." Now that I think about it, I suppose these
movies were made by men, for men. I
think I'm learning a little something as I write this.
Sorry for that tangent. My 4th movie, however, is that one that might have helped
shape me the most. This wasn't about
adventure or being clever or a high stakes ticking clock. This was about meditation. This film was about what it's like to breathe
as an adolescent boy with friends. I'm
so glad I saw this film before puberty because as I entered those pubescent
years, it was nice to have this film in mind. It posed questions about life that I still ponder today. Specifically, "If I could only have one food
to eat for the rest of my life?" (My
answer: Chicken parm.)
5. MISSISSIPPI BURNING
I don't recall any specific lessons on the history of
segregation and racism in America although I'm sure they happened in school. I do however remember vividly walking out of the
theater with my mother and father after seeing "Mississippi Burning" one Friday
night. I remember realizing for the
first time that my parents grew up in a time where these kinds of travesties
actually took place. I was horrified,
shocked and eager to know everything they could tell me about American history
and the shame that occurred.
One early lesson I learned from my parents: Though you should never get your history
lessons from motion pictures, they definitely help facilitate the
conversations. And this particular film
was so well done.
I'm not looking forward to my son learning how evil we once
were (and sadly, in many ways, still are) but I am looking forward to the
conversations that will make him a better person.
As "Annie Hall" was so influential to my early life as a
movie lover, "Bullets Over Broadway" remains one my three favorite Woody Allen
films—and it came out while I was a freshman in college. This
is Woody from my generation.
Watching it in a crowded auditorium at Kenyon College, I've
never heard the howling of laughter come with such force.
As I studied film in graduate school 10 years later, it's
incredible how many times I would go back to what Woody was doing in this
movie. This isn't just a fun
comedy. This is a work of genius, and it
is often used as a litmus test for friends. My kid better freaking love this one as well.
When I talk about litmus tests, there is no greater one than
"Waiting For Guffman."
I hate to speak in hyperbole (that's a lie, I totally speak
in hyperbole every freaking minute of the day) but this might be the funniest
movie ever made.
I was a senior in College, working on my thesis in my
bedroom, and my roommates had a bunch of people over in our living room. They were HOWLING with laughter every 20
seconds. I came out, wondering what the
hell was going on. And for the first
time, I saw "Guffman" on our screen. I
went back to work. I had a deadline.
The next day, I popped the movie in the VCR to see what the
fuss was about. And then began my love
affair with the funniest comedy ever made.
Years from now, when my son watches "Waiting For Guffman"
for the first time, I will be praying that he loves it.
I won't go on too long about this movie, because it's on
here mainly because it's one of my all-time favorite films. Many of my all-time favorite films aren't on
this list, so why this one?
Max Fisher (the protagonist) is the next generation of
Ferris Bueller. And the film is just
fantastic. I remember watching it in a
theater by myself in Manhattan and I thought to myself, I have not seen this
before. Isn't it great to be surprised?
Sadly, we live in a much different world than when we were
children. I sort of hate that this film
is even on my list when there are a ton of comedies that I left off this
10. "Elephant" makes the list because I
think we all have a responsibility to teach our children the ramification of
gun violence, specifically in the schools.
When I was in grad school, Gus Van Sant came to show a small
group of us his new film "Elephant." I
actually expected to hate it. I'm a lover of simple stories with clear
beginning, middle and ends. I had heard
this film was not that. And I was
"Elephant" is a heartbreaking, gorgeous and important film
that asks the viewer to marinate in a horrible and tragic day in an American high school.
The movie contains violence and blood and grief, and some
will say that it is inappropriate for teenagers. I respectively disagree. I hate to sound all preachy, but every parent, and I mean EVERY PARENT should watch this film
with their teenager. And then discuss.
If I actually had to pick just one single movie out of my
entire list, I think it would be "Little Manhattan." This is a film I discovered while in graduate
school. While discussing great films
about kids, a friend of mine mentioned that he'd just seen this one and he
thought it was fantastic.
I watched it and I
wished that this film was out when I was a kid. If Woody Allen made a movie about two kids falling in love for the first
time, this would have been it. When I
was going through puberty and having all those horrible, awkward, scary,
strange and disgusting "feelings" when I was 12, this film could have gotten me
I don't want to necessarily use this list to recommend any
movies to any of you. But that being
said, I really want to recommend this movie to every single parent out there!