• Mark Mathews

The Greatest Films that Changed My Life (as a kid)

Updated: Oct 16, 2019


Last week I wrote a blog about the songs that had shaped me during my younger years (read it HERE) and it made me actually regress, reminisce and think about other things that had influenced me. Films were also key and, much like my musical tastes when I was a nipper, a lot of films in the beginning were fed to me on the reg by my Dad.

So, here are a selection of some of the most influential films from my youth...that I can remember - there has been drugs and booze since then!

Duel

My Old Man, would tape films off TV that he thought myself and my brother should watch - regardless of the age rating. It was his way of teaching us culture and art, so as we had 'taste' in later years!

Duel is possibly most famous for being Steven Spielberg's feature film, directing debut, but it's a whole lot more than that.

Written originally as a short story for Playboy magazine, the idea was picked up and made into a straight to TV film by the NBC network. It was so successful on TV that NBC decided to shoot more scenes to increase it's running time, allowing it to have a worldwide theatrical release.

The long and the short of the story is a Salesman, David Mann, (played by Dennis Weaver), is on a business trip when he overtakes a lorry. The Lorry driver, clearly not happy with this, decides to overtake him in retaliation. This infuriates Mann and so he overtakes the lorry once more and drives off thinking that is the last of it. However, whomever is driving the lorry (We never see the drive, other than once seeing cowboy boots and on another occasion his arm) clearly becomes enraged by Mann's actions and decides to seek revenge, hunting Mann down.

It's a road rage movie before the term was even invented.

The simplicity of the story should not be reason to think this is a simple piece of work - This is a thriller that does the genre total justice. I remember first watching it and being on the edge of my seat, possibly shitting myself as I was that young! I've watched it countless times since and it still has a purity about it that is seldom seen these days. The story is frightening, but not in a cheap way (There are no sudden loud noises or a slasher appearing from behind the door of the 'room you shouldn't enter' Blah Blah Blah!). No, Duel has a real psychological edge that makes you fully embrace and understand the severity of what is happening and this in turn makes you fear for the safety of Mann - played exceptionally by Dennis Weaver. The fact that we never get to see the driver of the truck only adds to this claustrophobic feeling of impending doom, which the first, Blair Witch Project, used brilliantly also. Incredible.

The Poseidon Adventure

Another one recommended by the Big Dog, (my Dad), was The Poseidon Adventure and I remember sitting down watching it as a family. It was this film that sparked a fascination in my brother and myself for disaster movies, watching such awesomeness as:The Towering Inferno, Airport and Juggernaut.

We just loved to watch shit go bad.

The Poseidon Adventure follows the final voyage of the SS Poseidon, an ocean liner that crosses the Mediterranean sea. Now, as we all know the Mediterranean sea is world renowned for some of the most horrific tsunamis known to man...Oh...right...maybe not...OK, well suspend your belief here for a second then, as the old SS Poseidon gets bitch slapped by an almighty tidal wave, turning her over and leaving the Cruisers on board (No Jane McDonald, unfortunately) fighting for their lives to get out and get saved.

There are some genuinely intense and uncomfortable scenes (some of which I can't mention because they would be termed, spoilers) and some brilliant performances, especially when yet another life is lost (there is a fair amount of death and loss in the movie, probably owing to these movie executives from the seventies not being such a bunch of pussies when it comes to plot, as they appear to be these days) and Reverend Scott (Played by Gene Hackman) screams blue murder at his God. Sure, it is slightly formulaic by todays standards, and there is definitely a bit of seventies cliché's to get over, but it's still a fun and exciting film to watch.

The Naked Gun/Airplane

I've grouped, The Naked Gun and Airplane together because they are, in my eyes, from the same family (the 'Jim Abrahams Family') and I devoured these at the same time. I think, if memory serves me correctly, I saw Naked Gun first and then Airplane, but who's to know, and frankly, who cares?

When I saw these films it was very much like the first time I heard The Beatles - Like a hidden secret that I had discovered. The jokes were so infantile and stupid and yet beautifully hilarious. Leslie Neilson found his niche in these films and I became (as I was prone to do as a kid) obsessed with them. I watched and rewatched The Naked Gun countless times, to the point of knowing all the words. The end baseball scene is still something I can watch over and over again now.

Oh yeah, it also had a murderer (possibly!) in it, in the shape of OJ Simpson. Cray-Cray!

The Shinning

Another of Dad's recommendations was, The Shinning, which as an 11 or 12 year old, was pretty fucking freaky. Yep, whilst everyone was watching shit like, The Karate Kid, I was being psychologically haunted by Jack Nicolson's character, Jack Torrence, in The Shinning.

Yeah, I said that about, The Karate Kid. I hated it then and I hate it now. Utter bollocks and I stand by that.

Ahem.

Anyway, it seems ludicrous to describe this classic film, because I think it is rarer to have not seen it than to have seen it - but that said, if you've not seen it, I've not really got any time for you anyway. Come back when you've watched it.

The Horror genre is not really my cup of chai - There is more cheap, boring, dross than anything good. So, when something comes along that is psychological, genuinely frightening, and relatable (A man being driven to Madness is a relatable thing as opposed to a bunch of stupid twats that stay a night in a 'Haunted' castle or something equally as uncreative) it makes for something infectious and appealing.

I think, (My memory might be lying again to me, it is fair to say), that this was my first introduction to Jack Nicholson and to this day my love for the man has never wained. And who hasn't said 'here's Johnny" at the top of their voices at least a thousand times? Exactly. Mega.

Terminator 2: Judgement Day

I had to do a toss up between Terminator 2 and Aliens here and the former won out because

after watching Terminator 2: Judgement Day, I wanted a motorbike, a shot gun and a leather jacket so bad. I never really wanted to dress like Ripley.

The impression this film made on me as an early teenager was indescribable...but I'll attempt to describe it anyway!

To use musical analogies, I relate seeing this film to when I 'discovered' Oasis - It felt like it was a film for me, or 'us' - the kids. It had everything: Violence, action, humour and, lest we forget, the greatest motorcycle chase on celluloid! I often pretended to be in that same chase whilst riding my push bike around Maidstone.

Good old imagination of the yoot.

This was no dumb action movie though, this had heart and a strong sense of itself and what it intended to be. It is still, without a shadow of a doubt, in the top five of my all time favourite films with such an iconic soundtrack.

I personally feel they should have left the franchise after this film, but you know what these greedy Hollywood execs are like.

Pulp Fiction

Pulp Fiction was the game changer. This film was like nothing myself or any of my friends had seen. In fact, I'd probably go as far as saying that anyone that watched it felt the same - I recall my Dad being equally blown away by it.

Pulp Fiction was the epitome of cool, with it's sassy, wise talking cast (an enviable array of big hitters like Bruce Willis, Harvey Keitel, Christopher Walken and Tim Roth, not to mention bringing the career of John Travolta back to life and framing Samuel L. Jackson in the lime light) and incredible soundtrack, but the way in which Quentin Tarantino's story unfolded in a non-linear fashion was the most extraordinary thing I had ever watched. It really opened my eyes to the possibilities within creating art and probably more importantly it taught me that the 'rules' or agreed processes that we are led to believe as the 'correct way' to do things, were actually a load of old bollocks and in fact going renegade and breaking those rules was far more interesting and satisfying.

Pulp Fiction turned me on to Tarantino in a big way and I was a huge fan of all his films up to and including Jackie Brown. After that I'm not arsed.

Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels

An ex-girlfriend bought me Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels on VHS for my birthday when I was 17 and it was the best thing to come out of that shitty relationship - Every cloud, eh?

In a very similar vein to Pulp Fiction, Lock Stock... had street-wise, likeable characters that summed up the word, cool. But unlike the former, it was set in London, which made it a world that was that tiny bit closer to me.

I loved the humour afforded to all the quirky characters, I was in awe of the way in which the multiple storylines intertwined bringing them together at the end, but most of all, the fucking music! Oh the music was just glorious! A selection of nineties Britpop hits, sixties soul classics and alternative Indie tunes made up the track listing of the film. Not since Trainspotting (another mega important film I had to wrestle with adding to this list!) had a British film infused the story with such high calibre, contemporary music. It was fucking awesome!

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

I saved the best till last. Still my all time favourite film and one that I can't see ever being removed from the number one spot. I can watch this film over and over again and I still never get bored. The film is of course, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, the third in the Spaghetti Western, Dollars Trilogy (the previous films being, A Fist Full of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More) and it is the most wonderful piece of cinema I've ever seen.

My Dad taped this off the TV for me and told me to watch it as I 'might' like it! Ha! Little did he know that I would watch it so much (religiously, on a Sunday for over a year!) that I would wear the VHS down so it was unwatchable and I learnt all the words to it - and I mean ALL the words. My Mum used to come into the front room and see me mouthing the script back at the TV. Mental.

Set during the American Civil War, we follow, the man with no name (Clint Eastwood), Tuco (Eli Wallach) and Angel Eyes (Lee Van Cleef) as they race to find treasure ($20,000 to be precise) that has been buried somewhere in the desert by a soldier. On first galnce it appears to be a regular treasure hunt story, but it is so much more than that - what Sergio Leone is really dealing with at the heart of the film is the human condition. Every facet of being human is explored and shown, from morality of man, to birth, death and conflict and everything else in-between.

The way it is shot is beautiful, the sound design incredible (the opening scene is a lesson in how sound design is done) and obviously, no one can forget the score by Ennio Morricone. The sheer brilliance of this film can be felt through the influence it has had on Directors since, such as Quentin Tarringtino, Robert Rodriguez, Martin Scorsese, Robert Zemeckis and Robert Rodriguez

The greatest film EVER made. Absolute FACT. Believe.

What films had an influence on you as a kid? Let me know in the comments beow.

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