The Top Ten Movies of my Childhood

             I love movies. Always have. From family movie night, to watching during the rainy days of summer, to going out to theaters with friends, I have always been drawn to movies. I eventually majored in the subject at college and have since broadened my understanding of the art of film making and analysis. This knowledge has led me to examine what I watched as a child and take a look at the movies I played so many times that I wore out the tape to the VHS. There was just something about them that captivated me and kept me coming back and they may have had something to do with the way I am today. So here is a brief rundown of the basic plots and what I think and remember about these gems from my past.

 10. Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory

            This is probably on the list for many people in my generation. This movie became a beloved treasure when it was put on T.V. and allowed it to gain an audience that it missed during its run in theaters. The story is of a young boy, Charlie, who finds a golden ticket that grants him the once in a lifetime chance to tour the most amazing chocolate factory in the world. This was a world-wide contest and there are other children who are getting the tour as well. However, their bad personalities and manners get them into a lot of trouble.  Filled with memorable characters, songs and settings this is a movie that really captures the imagination.

             The chocolate factory is full of images that are so stimulating to the imagination that it makes us believe that with a little ingenuity anything really and truly is possible. We also feel for Charlie, as he seems like such a good kid but has to struggle with the fact that he and his family are so poor that they can barely afford to eat. Willy Wonka on the other hand is such an amusing and mysterious character that we can’t get enough of his antics. This is a standout film for many of us growing up.

            I honestly can’t remember a time when this wasn’t a part of our movie library. This is a movie that has been with me for as long as I can remember and I still find parts of it mesmerizing. My favorite scene takes place when we are shown the beginning of the chocolate factory where Willy Wonka sings “Pure Imagination” and lets the group roam free for a bit. We get to see things like a tree with chocolate fruit, lollipops growing out of the ground, and the infamous chocolate river. How awesome would that be to see something like this in real life?  I’ve seen this movie far more than I’ve read the book it’s based on so I don’t recall if the scene where they have the boat ride through the tunnel is in the book but if it is I seriously need to re-read it. While I don’t remember being freaked out by it I can agree that it’s a strange thing to have in a kid’s movie. I remember I used to really like the part where Charlie and his grandpa Joe take Fizzy Lifting Drinks and float around for a while and have to burp to get down. I can burp on command so if that ever happened to me I’d be ready.

9. Back to the Future

        Great Scott! For those of you who haven’t seen this classic, it is about a teen named Marty McFly who accidentally gets sent back in time from 1985 to 1955. His friend Doc Brown is an inventor and scientist who has built a time machine out of a

DeLorean DMC-12. By using something called a “Flux Capacitor” and with plutonium as fuel the car can time travel once it reaches a speed of 88 mph. When testing it, Doc and Marty are attacked and in all the confusion Marty is sent back to when his parents were teens. Even worse is that his Mom has fallen in love with him, which threatens his very existence. He must now find a way to get his Mom and Dad together while also trying to figure out a way back to his own time.

            This movie is a lot of fun. The characters are extremely interesting as they all have very strong traits. Marty is that everyman type of guy who the audience can identify with as he reacts to things as most of us would. Doc is eccentric but loveable and is very entertaining to watch. The main villain, Biff, is so over the top that he is like every bully who ever lived rolled into one person. There are so many memorable lines and moments in this movie and is still a part of pop culture today. The story is well written and plays out naturally, and through every twist and turn it never fails to keep us interested.

            I was two when this movie came out and my parents must have taken me to see it in theaters because it caused a situation where I repeated some of the language that I heard. Not to go too in-depth, my parents took me, my siblings, and their extended family to a museum. There was a room dedicated to a large battle scene and when I saw it I yelled at the top of my lungs “Holy Shit!” My Mom nearly died of embarrassment, but everyone else thought it was hilarious. To this day it is still one of my Dad’s favorite stories.

8. Gremlins 2: The New Batch

          The Gremlins are back! This time in New York and they have access to genetic altering formulas, T.V. stations and office supplies. Things are about to get crazy. The main trio of hero’s, Gizmo, Billy, and Kate, are along for this insane ride as well. There are three rules when dealing with Mogwai (Gizmo): Don’t get them wet, Keep them out of the Sun, and Never… NEVER feed them after midnight. So when Gizmo is taken to a high-tech office building, he gets hit with water. This causes Mogwai to multiply, and the offspring never seem to be as nice and easy-going as Gizmo. These new guys then eat after midnight, which triggers them to change from cute furry things to green slimy monsters. They go on a rampage and tear up the whole place and it’s up to Billy, Kate and Gizmo to stop them. That third rule we skipped? Sunlight kills them. Can they be stopped before the sun goes down, or will they be let loose on New York City?

            This is a follow-up to the original Gremlins movie, though the tone is much lighter and funnier this time around. There are still some scary moments to it but overall it plays out as a comedy instead of horror. The joy of this movie is how self-aware it is as there are several self referencing and self-deprecation humor thrown in. There is a scene where a film critic is giving a negative review of the first movie only to get pounced on by Gremlins before he can finish. The whole movie takes place inside a building, but this isn’t really a handicap as there are so many various settings inside that it doesn’t really feel confined. For example there is a genetics science lab that the Gremlins invade and find various vials to drink. This causes them to mutate into things like bats, spiders, vegetables, and the Phantom of the Opera.

            I saw this long before I saw the original movie so when I finally did sit down and watch it I wasn’t prepared for how scary it was compared to the sequel. I was probably eight or nine when I saw this for the first time. I remember that we bought this movie from a video rental place that was going out of business, and I think the only reason we got it was because it was cheap and it caught my eye for whatever reason. What I find amusing is that because I first saw it on tape there was a scene that I never even knew existed until a few years ago. In the original cinematic run, there was a part where the Gremlins break the film strip and start to mess around with the projector. This prompts a cameo by Hulk Hogan to get things going again. On the VHS release of the film they changed this part to make it seem like the Gremlins have broken your VCR and are going through the cable channels. They eventually run into John Wayne and after a shoot out the movie resumes. It wasn’t until I bought the DVD that I saw the original Hulk Hogan part and even though it’s good, I was disappointed that they didn’t include the alternate scene somewhere in the bonus features. I was never scared of this one and was able to laugh at all the slapstick humor that is present throughout, but now that I’m older I can appreciate some of the other gags, like the bat signal making an appearance as well as one of the pods from the body snatchers films being held by Dracula himself, Christopher Lee.

7. Who Framed Roger Rabbit

          Imagine a world where humans and cartoons lived and worked side by side. Now imagine that a Toon is accused of killing a human. Who Framed Roger Rabbit is like a detective film noir and a wacky Saturday morning program blended together. The main protagonist, a private eye named Eddie Valiant, has a deep dislike of Toon’s and a growing drinking problem. To earn some cash he takes a job from cartoon tycoon R.K. Maroon that involves following and taking pictures of Jessica Rabbit, the wife of Roger Rabbit. When confronted with the pictures of his wife playing patty cake with Gag King and owner of Toon Town Marvin Acme, Roger has an emotional breakdown and leaves in anger. The next day police find Acme dead and Roger is the main suspect and Judge Doom will stop at nothing to capture and eliminate the rogue Toon. Roger goes to Valiant for help and the detective reluctantly goes along with it and begins to unravel the murder/frame up mystery while confronting his own issues.

            This movie is like a kids dream come true. It combines live action and animation so well that you immediately buy into the world that it presents and wish that you could be a part of it. Just think of how cool it would be to work and live near cartoon characters. It’s surreal to see both Warner Bro. and Disney characters in the same movie side by side. Not only do Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse share a scene together, there are other classic characters like Porky Pig, Woody Woodpecker, Goofy, and Tweety making cameo appearances. The movie is well paced and has a good balance of funny and serious material so when those elements appear they never seem out-of-place. The overall story is well done and the characters are developed nicely.

            I always remember being impressed with the way the cartoons were put into the movie. It didn’t look choppy or obvious and when the situation is reversed and we get to see Toon Town, the same effect and quality is done for Valiant. I always enjoyed the Roger Rabbit character as he seems like the type of guy who just wants to do what makes him happy, but somehow managed to get in trouble at every turn. I’m a big fan of animation so this movie was right up my alley and even after repeated viewings I always liked the story. This is one of those movies that become better as you get older as there are lots of jokes and references that kids miss. I now have a new appreciation for it since I can understand all the humor and messages and themes that are being made and because I have some understanding of film elements I can enjoy aspects of the movie even more. I was so intrigued by how there are multiple film genres at work in addition to using classic character types that I ended up writing a research paper about it in college. Movies that can reach multiple generations are ones that tend to leave its mark and Who Framed Roger Rabbit remains one of my favorites.

         

6. Terminator 2: Judgment Day

          The future is a bleak place as man and machine are at war. The only hope the humans have is a man named John Connor which makes him the prime target of Skynet, the A.I. that controls the machines. Skynet devised a plan to send an assassination machine, known as a Terminator, back in time when Connor is more vulnerable. The first attempt was at his mother, Sarah, before John was born. It failed. This time around Skynet now targets John himself while he is a child. The Resistance sends a protector for John as they did before, but things are now different. Its machine pitted against machine with the hope of humanity hanging in the balance.

            This is one of those rare sequels that is not only on par with the original, but surpasses it. The effects are still amazing to watch which makes the main villain, the T-1000 that much cooler when he takes on new forms and weapons. The story is very well written and the characters develop and a good pace. But of course it’s the action scenes we all remember, and for a good reason. Each gun fight and chase sequence is done uniquely and are full of awesome moments.

Ok, so get this: my parents wouldn’t let me watch Ren & Stimpy, The Simpsons, South Park, Pee Wee Herman, and with the exception of Batman Forever, anything with Jim Carrey in it. But T2 was fine, cursing and violence and all. You’d think that might have a negative effect, but I’m not a violent person in the least and I rarely curse. What it has done though, was made me appreciate and pay attention to the development of character. The way that each of the main characters goes through a change and learns something is one of the reasons this movie works so well. We taped this off the T.V. when some channel was running commercial free and uncensored movies as a way to try to get you to buy their services. What I didn’t realize was that they must have cut out a lot to make it fit a certain time, because when I watched this movie on DVD for the first time, I was shocked at all the footage I hadn’t seen. It was like seeing it for the first time in a way as I got to see more of the Miles Dyson character, who was largely cut out of the version I grew up watching.

5. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

          A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away… The Empire rules the galaxy with an iron fist. The Rebel Alliance, a group of freedom fighters, has placed their hopes in Princess Leia who has obtained the plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the Death Star. When her ship is attacked by Darth Vader, she puts the plans into a droid named R2-D2 and along with his droid counterpart C-3PO they set escape the ship to a nearby planet. It is there they meet Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi who make it their mission to deliver the plans safely and to help defeat the Empire.

            If you’re a fan of sci-fi then this is required viewing and pretty much sets the tone for the genre. As a kid I was amazed with the special effects and the concept of space battles and spaces stations really captured my imagination. As I got older and learned more about not only film but literature as well I have come to like the story even more. This movie was used a good deal in my film study classes for looking at classic character types such as the youthful hero (Luke), the reluctant hero (Han), the fallen hero (Vader) and so on.

            I was tempted to include the entire original trilogy as one entry since I tended to watch them back to back, but I realized that the first one, episode IV, was the one that drew me into the story first and was the one I watched the most. After watching it I would go outside and find a stick and pretend it was a light saber and have duels with my friends. Then we would ride our bikes and pretend to be flying X-Wings on our way to fight with TIE Fighters and the Death Star itself. What more can I really say about this movie that hasn’t been said? It’s a world-wide phenomenon for a reason and it remains as one of my favorites.

4. Raiders of the Lost Ark

            The year is 1936 and WWII is raging on. The U.S. gets wind that the Nazis are looking for an occult object of power so they enlist the one man with enough knowhow to unravel the clues and is tough enough to fight any Nazi that gets in his way. Indiana Jones sets off on an adventure to find the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazi’s can and to keep it out of their hands.

            Indiana Jones became a household name with this movie and for good reason; its action packed and has a sense of humor that lasts through the entire thing. The story is very well done and with all the twists and turns it takes as well as the situations Indy gets into, you are never ever bored. There are some really cool visuals to go along with this adventure, like the giant boulder in the beginning of the movie and the unveiling of the Ark at the end.

            I fondly remember this movie as a family favorite for movie night. Again, considering the content this is a bit odd to have on a list of childhood movies, but at the time there was no PG-13 rating so when I was first shown Raiders; it was purely up to my parent’s discretion. This was one of the movies that made the PG-13 rating come into existence and looking back it defiantly deserves it, if for nothing else, the part where the villains faces melts off. The first time I saw that scene it scared the heck out of me. The second time I saw it I was a little freaked out. From the third viewing on my reaction was “This is… AWESOME!” My favorite part is, of course, where the guy with the swords is trying to intimidate Indy, and Indy just shoots him. Probably one of the funniest scenes in an action movie ever made.

3. Return to Oz

            Dorothy can’t stop dreaming about her adventure to Oz which is worrying her aunt and uncle. Dorothy is sent for treatment but before it can happen she escapes and winds up back in Oz. Things are not as she remembers though, as the Emerald City and all its inhabitants have been turned to stone, and the Nome King has taken control. She meets new friends such as Billina, Tik-Tok, Jack Pumpkinhead and The Gump on her quest to restore Oz and stop the Nome King.

            If you went into this movie thinking it was going to follow the same style and tone as The Wizard of Oz, then you would have had one hell of a shock. This movie can be downright creepy with images like Mombi, who can take off and replace her head, and the Wheelers who pursue Dorothy and her friends. Its factors such as this that may have been why the movie didn’t do well when it was released in 1985, which is a shame considering how cool some of the effects and visuals are. Jack Pumpkinhead in particular is an impressive figure to look at. The story is a combination of L. Frank Baum’s novels Ozma of Oz and The Marvelous Land of Oz, and does a nice job with it overall.

            When I was growing up, we didn’t have the Disney Channel. Every now and then they would give those who weren’t subscribing it a free trial in hopes that parents would give in and pay for it. I don’t think they ran commercials at this point since it was a paid channel so when they ran movies it was without interruption. It was during one of these times when we taped Return to Oz off the T.V. and I’ve been a fan of it ever since. I know a lot of other kids thought this was a scary movie, and in comparison to its predecessor it is, but I never had a problem with it. I was never bothered too much by what I saw, though I do admit to being creeped out a little when Mombi was doing her thing. The way the characters are designed has always been an aspect of the movie that I have really liked and have come to respect. Even today after seeing plenty of other movies I still find Jack and Tik-Tok impressive as well as their ability to show emotion, despite having only a jack-o’-lantern and a mouth-less metal face to work with. This is another VHS that has sadly been worn out and I have yet to replace it.

2. Ghostbusters & Ghostbusters II

            Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters! New York City has become spook central and its up to Egon, Peter, Ray, and Winston to put a stop to all these ghosts, and make a huge profit while they’re at it. Dana, their first customer, comes to them when she hears the word “Zuul” in her fridge. It is a sign that Gozer the Destructor is coming and intends to bring about the end of the world. Five years later the spirit of Vigo the Carpathian tries to do the same by using “Mood Slime” to channel evil energy and find a human baby to transfer his life force into. Once again the Ghostbusters investigate and eliminate ghosts in an attempt to stop Vigo and get rich in the process.

            The first Ghostbusters movie is considered one of the best comedies ever made and has spawned toys, an animated series, and video games and has cemented its position in pop culture. The sequel, though entertaining, wasn’t as well received but is still an enjoyable watch. The special effects for the ghosts and equipment are very impressive but thankfully don’t overshadow the performance of the Ghostbusters themselves. With guys like Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd involved there are plenty of funny moments and memorable lines in both movies.

            I know I’m cheating a little bit by having two movies in one spot but there is a method to this madness. I saw Ghostbusters 2 first and it was a few years later before I saw the original. While I’ll admit that the first movie is better, the sequel is what introduced me to the concepts of catching ghosts and teaming together to do it. I also really like the part where they make the toaster dance. Know how things like Gremlins, Wheelers, and killer robots didn’t scare me? Well, there was one part in Ghostbusters 2 that scared me to the point where it made me change the way I did things for a while. The scene is when Dana is going to give her baby a bath only to discover that slime had taken over the tub and was trying to grab her. I was a little kid when I saw this and seeing something evil come out of a bathtub was horrifying. Before you laugh too hard, think about it for a second; that was something I could instantly relate to. I didn’t live in New York City, I didn’t see ghosts, I didn’t know any scientists or anything like that, but I took baths. So for weeks I refused to use my bathtub and instead used my parents shower because I was afraid that slime would come out of my tub and get me.

So for this reason alone I have to include the sequel but when I finally did discover the original, I couldn’t stop watching it. I love the idea of the paranormal extermination business and the gear that they had. While I never had the toy proton pack as a kid, I did have the ghost trap, the fire house, and bunch of the action figure. Granted this was based more off the cartoon than the movie but I was way into it. The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, Slimer, and Gozer are all awesome characters and made for great villains to pretend to fight with when playing outside with friends. Nostalgia aside, this is without a doubt one of my favorite movies and one of the best parts is that as I got older the movie got better. As a kid I was drawn into the idea of catching ghosts and liked it based just on that, but as an adult I can now understand the humor that I simply didn’t get or even pick up on back then. It seems like each time I watch Ghostbusters I find something new while what is already there never gets old. 

 

1. The Brave Little Toaster

          After years of being left in a remote cottage, five appliances decide to set out into the world and find their owner. Toaster, Lampy, Blanky, Radio, and Kirby go through being lost in the woods, crossing rivers, escaping being turned into spare parts and more in search of “The Master” and in doing so bring their friendship with each other closer together.

            This movie has a lot going for it in terms of its quality of animation, story, music, and voice acting. Many members of Pixar Animation Studios had a hand in its production which may be why there is more going on then what it seems. The tone of the movie is a lot darker than what Disney usually produces as there are themes of abandonment, loneliness, consumerism, insanity, and death present. However, there are some positive things to draw from as the five hero’s go through self discovery, self-worth/fulfillment, teamwork and true friendship. Quite deep for a kids movie huh? The four songs that are done each have a unique quality to them as they can both depict the mood that the characters are in as well as send a message. For example the song “Cutting Edge” sung by the more up-to-date appliances, has a theme of consumption and greed while the song “City of Light” has a hopeful and cheerful tone to it.

            This was another movie that we had taped off the T.V. when Disney was showing their channel for free and without commercials. As a kid I didn’t totally pick up on all the dark tones but there are a few parts where it is unavoidable. Ironically, the darkest song in the movie, “Worthless,” is my favorite out of the bunch. It is being sung by junked cars while they are being picked up by a giant magnet and put into a trash compactor. I think the idea of appliances walking around and talking is what charms us as kids since we see stuff like toasters and radios in our daily lives. This was one of the first movies that I wore the tape out of and I went many years without seeing it. It wasn’t until a year or so ago when I decided to hunt down the DVD and watch it again. I’m happy to say that unlike a few other cartoons and movies of my youth this one holds up really well. What has kept the movie interesting for me is looking at the undertones that are going on while still enjoying the songs and adventures they go through. The Brave Little Toaster is still one of my favorite movies and a fond memory of my childhood.

            When I look at those ten movies and then at myself, I can see a connection in how I react and understand things in addition to how my personality and talents developed. I tend to be more on the creative side when it comes to how I think and my comprehension skills are good. To bring this back to a movie example, when I went to see Inception I had heard that people were saying that you needed to watch it twice to understand what’s going on. Not only did I understand it the first time around, I was able to explain the stuff my friends missed. I did end up seeing it twice but only because I saw it with different friends. Because I grew up watching movies that had in-depth stories, plot twists, and character development my attention to detail and ability to write are better defined. My attention span is also good since I am used to devoting time to finish something. If you look at a typical cartoon or sitcom they are usually a half an hour-long. Take out commercials and that leaves roughly twenty minutes so any story or plot has to be started and resolved in that timeframe. Movies can range from an hour and half to three hours long which allows plenty of time to develop story and characters which may be why I am able to follow along without any problems. My understanding of how film elements function has enhanced the skills I’ve been using since I was a child which makes movie watching that much better. These ten movies started my love of the art of film and are a cherished part of my childhood.

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2 Responses to “The Top Ten Movies of my Childhood”

  1. Flash Says:

    There is a TV station that shows the old Animated series “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.” It follows the stories as they were written, but in a significantly lighter tone than Return to Oz. Also, did you know Return to Oz was featured in Disney World’s nighttime parade for a while?

    P.S. GREMLINS! I loved number two when I was little, also.

  2. Mom Says:

    You neglected to say we never use language like that at home speaking of the movie, “Back to the Future” Also, as a young boy, you were not allowed to see Roger Rabbit.

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