I’ve been a geek as long as I can remember, and I think a few of the things that helped me along were some of the movies I watched as a child. My dad didn’t help much with that. He would often flip through channels on the television and come upon a movie and stop and go, “That’s a classic!” to which I would respond, “Is it any good?” and he would go, “No, it was awful.” Thus, I grew up on “Dad Classics” also known as bad movies. My dad also had a thing where any time someone would say “them” as in, “Oh, its them” he would say, “You mean giant ants?”. Starting to understand my dad yet? However, somewhere in my childhood are some movies that I firmly believe shaped aspects of my geekiness, some good and some bad. Here are the ones I think influenced me the most.
I used to watch this with my dad when I was like, 12. Mom let us. Just barely. In a nutshell, Heathers is about getting revenge on the snobby “popular” girls who make fun of everybody else. I was always everybody else. I’m not sure there was a time in my life when some aspect of my geekiness didn’t make me an outcast until college. So, since I couldn’t feed draino to the snobby girls, I watched a movie where they did instead. I think I really liked it because the “heroes” of the movie are a nerdy, geeky, smart girl and a seriously strange, somewhat geeky, although mentally unstable, guy. That was me and my crowd, and I wanted to believe we could win too, or as much of a win as a cynic can dream of!
9. Big Bird Goes to China/Japan
I’m sure I grew up with Sesame Street the show, but most of what I can remember are the movies and the specials. These two in particular I used to watch over and over, and this is probably the start of my love of Asian culture, also helped along by Kung Fu, The Legend Continues and the Jewish side of the family tradition of going out for Chinese all the time (yes, that’s totally true). I learned to use chopsticks when I five. I learned all about the Phoenix, so when I learned there was one in the X-men, I thought that was seriously awesome. I learned that “Ohio” is a way to say hello in Japanese. I adored the tea ceremony and the clothes. I have always wanted to visit both China and Japan. Someday. For now, Epcot versions will have to do.
8. Never Ending Story
This is one of the ultimate fantasy movies of my childhood. I loved the world, the creatures, everything. However, I especially liked the fact that in the end, the boy was creating it all with his imagination. I love the concept of breaking down the fourth wall, which this is very close to, by giving the audience the perspective of the reader. A flying dog, come one!
7. Breakfast Club
This is one of the those classics that seems to hit everyone, not just necessarily the geeks, I’ll give you that. However, what really struck me about it was how much I related to Ally Sheedy’s character. I was more than a little weird, wore a lot of black, and no one really liked me. It was another one of those moments where I was like, wow, if that character can be presented well in a movie, maybe I’m not that strange, just haven’t found the right people yet. I also like the fact that she and Anthony Michael Hall make it clear to the rest that they get to have this experience and then go back to being fun and popular, being a geek and an outcast is much harder to overcome, but the end of the movie gave this outcast geek hope.
Did I ever love Clue. Both the movie and the game. It was a pure logic puzzle first of all, which, if you haven’t noticed, I kind of love. I was also Professor Plum, always. The women were silly. Me and my husband rarely play the game anymore because he was also Professor Plum and it nearly broke us up, well, not really, but you know what I mean. We can play Simpson’s Clue though, no Professor Plum there. Anyway. This was a great movie to keep your mind racing while enjoying the cheesy comedy. I especially like the fact that there are multiple possible endings! Anyway, a logic puzzle in a movie = awesome.
5. Batman (1966)
Yes, the old one. I’m not sure when I first saw this movie, but I feel like I must have watched it about 20 times before I was 15. I didn’t read comics or know much about superheroes, but I loved the cheesy lines, the crazy gadgets, the BAM POW fight scenes, and especially Robin with the “Holy bill of rights, Batman!” or “Holy atomic pile, Batman!”. This was definitely not a typical young girl movie, and I was distinctly aware of that fact. However, I think it instilled in me both a love of cheesy dialogue and gadgets and a love of superheroes that has lasted, even though I’m still not much of a comics reader. I think it’s a time problem more than anything. I’ve never been excited about the new Batman movies, but I don’t mind seeing Jack Kelly (you’ll want to IMDB that!) play young Batman, he’s so cute!
4. Ghostbusters II
Yes. That says II, the second one. The one with the Statue of Liberty walking around NYC and saving everyone. That’s the one I liked and my grandmother had on VHS and I watched about a million and half times since I was always antisocial at family gatherings. First of all, Ghostbusters is about a bunch of scientists who get super-excited about science. I was always an Egon fan too. Then, they use science to save NYC! For a budding young scientist, who happens to also have a serious side interest in the paranormal (X-files fanatic!), this was gold. I like them both plus the tv cartoon, but the slime, Statue of Liberty, and Vigo will always hold the top place for me!
You can’t mess with E.T. The original cut that is. It was one of my earliest introductions to the concept of aliens, something that the scifi geek in me has never lost since (they are already among us, be ready). It was also my first introduction to the idea that if you discover something really, really cool, don’t tell anyone. Anyone. Ever. I also loved the gadget building. Turning a Speak and Spell (which I remember, btw) into an intergalactic communication device? I so wanted to try that. I also adored the ride at Universal Studios. Now, I pretty much hate Universal Studios as a company and their customer service doesn’t match Disney’s in any way, but their rides really are great. Getting to ride into the world of E.T. was a child’s dream. Oh, then I forced the family on Jaws to see the big shark get electrocuted, hehe. Have I mentioned I was not a typical little girl?
2. Flight of Dragons
You may or may not have heard of this cartoon. I had it on VHS and watched it over and over. It had everything. It had magic, and dragons, and science. Fighting good against evil and trying to understand what good and evil really are. The board game that he plays at the beginning and the end was the first thing I thought of when I started learning DnD and other similar games, like Munchkin. I love the idea of the existence of a magical realm and a realm of science that coexist side-by-side, even if they can’t really exist at the same time. As a scientist and a pagan, I can only imagine how much this movie helped convince me to follow both paths. Also, my husband just bought me the DVD for my birthday a few months ago. We watched it. Still awesome.
1. The Hobbit
Yes, the Rankin-Bass musical, animated version. I adored this movie. I also read the book a few times as a child. My mother was actually the one who like this one, she was known to break out into “That’s what Bilbo Baggin’s hates” on random occasions. I still know most the songs in this movie, and it was probably one of the first musicals I really learned. One of the ways I knew my husband was the one was because he had The Greatest Adventure on one of his mix CDs! This movie began my obsession with being an elf, learning how to write in runes (and runes in general, have I mentioned pagan?), and following the maps that came with the book just like the one in the movie. I pined after a ring that would make me invisible (until later reading Lord of the Rings). I loved the fact that the little stumbly thief saved the day on numerous occasions. I adored riddles and played at them with my mother. I can still recite “Stand by the grey stone when the thrush knocks, and the last light of the setting sun will shine upon the keyhole” and I know I can because we got the movie from Netflix a few weeks ago. I think dwarves are wonderful and want to fly with Eagles. This is clearly the single most influential thing for my geekdom in so many ways, and I know that’s true for a number of others of you out there! I definitely want my future child to grow up on this and Flight of Dragons as their favorite cartoons, just like I did!
So, I have some running themes of Fantasy, and science, and geeks coming out ahead, and adorable little boys running the show. I know these aren’t the only movies that influenced me, but they are ones I keep going back to and I think will always hold a place in my heart.
What movies helped make you the geek you are today?